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Pope Francis names master of ceremonies for Vatican papal liturgies

Msgr. Diego Ravelli in 2015/ / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2021 / 05:16 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday appointed Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli the Vatican’s next lead master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, replacing Msgr. Guido Marini, who held the post for 14 years.

Ravelli was also named head of the pope’s Sistine Chapel Choir.

A 56-year-old priest from northern Italy, Ravelli is one of several papal masters of ceremonies at the Vatican. He also served in the office of papal almoner for 15 years before being promoted to manager of the office in 2013.

He replaces Msgr. Guido Marini, who on Aug. 29 was promoted to bishop of Tortona, a diocese in northern Italy close to Genoa. The bishop-elect had been in charge of papal liturgies since his appointment as master of ceremonies by Benedict XVI in 2007.

Marini, 56, will be ordained a bishop by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 17.

Papal masters of ceremonies are responsible for organizing and overseeing all liturgical celebrations of the pope. The lead MC is usually at the side of the pope during liturgies both in Rome and abroad.

Ravelli was ordained a priest of the Association of Priests of Jesus Crucified, part of the Opera Don Folci association, in 1991; he then served in the Diocese of Velletri-Segni, which is just south-east of Rome.

In 2010, he received a doctoral degree from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. His dissertation, published in 2012, was a historical-liturgical study on the Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter celebrated in the Vatican. The study includes an analysis of the Lectionarium and the Sacramentarium of the Mass.

Ravelli was also an assistant master of ceremonies prior to his 2006 appointment as a full master of ceremonies.

Ravelli was rumored to be a possible replacement for Msgr. Guido Marini in 2017, before Pope Francis confirmed Marini in the position for another four years.

Also on Oct. 11, Pope Francis named Fr. Cristiano Antonietti, who works in the Secretariat of State as secretary of the nuntiature, as a master of ceremonies to fill the place left by Ravelli.

New JPII Institute president: My stance on Humanae vitae was misinterpreted

Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, president of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome. / Arnaldo Casali.

Rome, Italy, Oct 11, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, the new president of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome, officially took office on Sept. 22.

The 61-year-old French theologian’s appointment was made public on March 19 by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the institute’s grand chancellor, at the launch of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

Bordeyne, who specializes in moral theology, ecumenism, and the theological hermeneutics of Vatican II, succeeded Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, who led the institute since 2016.

Bordeyne had served as rector of the Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP) since 2011.

He is taking up his new post at a tumultuous time in the institute’s history.

Pope John Paul II founded the Pontifical Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family in 1982 with the apostolic constitution Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum.

Explaining why he was taking the initiative, he wrote that it was now “necessary to found a primary institute of studies whose special concern it will be to promote the basic theological and pastoral study of marriage and the family for the good of the whole Church.”

The new institute was based at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

In 2017, Pope Francis refounded the institute with the apostolic letter Summa familiae cura, issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”).

He decreed that the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family would now be known as the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

He explained that he was “broadening [the institute’s] field of interest, both in relation to the new dimensions of the pastoral task and of the ecclesial mission, and with reference to developments in the human sciences and in anthropological culture in a field so fundamental for the culture of life.”

He added that it was “essential that the original inspiration that gave life to the former institute […] continue to bear fruit in the broader field of activity of the new theological institute, effectively contributing to making it correspond fully to the current demands of the pastoral mission of the Church.”

In 2019, Francis approved the institute’s new statutes, which were criticized in a letter signed by more than 150 students and alumni. Amid the departure of senior staff, the group said it was concerned about “the loss of the formational approach, and therefore, of the identity” of the institute.

When Paglia unveiled Bordeyne as the new president, he said that the French monsignor’s mission would be to make the institute “even more universal.”

Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the institute’s refounding was meant to create a synthesis between the visions of John Paul II and Pope Francis.

“I agreed to leave the ICP a year before the end of my mandate with a spirit of service, to respond to the call of Archbishop Paglia,” Bordeyne told CNA via email, expressing his enthusiasm about the discovery of a “diverse teaching staff, old and new, who agrees with me in recognizing the formidable potential of this teaching and research institution.”

He continued: “I am looking forward to meeting with students from some 30 countries, as well as the vice-presidents of the seven international sections who will participate in our next council in Rome, Oct. 21.”

“I want to be able to develop with them the institute’s resources in terms of research and doctoral education.”

When the seasoned theologian’s appointment was announced, it was criticized in some quarters.

Thibaud Collin, a professor of philosophy at the Collège Stanislas de Paris, argued that Bordeyne’s nomination signaled a decisive abandonment of St. John Paul II’s legacy.

“In short,” he wrote, “the appointment as manager of a figure like Philippe Bordeyne confirms that the John Paul II Institute, in full hemorrhage of students, should for the sake of intellectual honesty change its name. It could be called, for example, the ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Institute.”

Critics pointed to Bordeyne’s writings. For example, in a reflection published by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix in 2015, he said that, although the encyclical Humanae vitae (on which the Institute’s curriculum is based), only recommends natural methods of fertility control, “it must be recognized, that the distance between the practice of the faithful and the magisterial teaching has widened.”

Questioned about this controversy, Bordeyne told CNA that his thought was misunderstood.

“Do not judge a theologian by taking a sentence out of context. You have to read him,” he said. “Contrary to those who ignored the 50th anniversary [in 2018] of the encyclical Humanae vitae, I devoted two articles to it.”

In 2017, the theologian also dedicated a book -- Divorcés remariés: ce qui change avec François -- to the sensitive question of the place of remarried divorcees within the Church. He was writing following the highly publicized family synods, in which he participated as an expert in 2015, and the subsequent apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Bordeyne said that his goal was to “show that Pope Francis’ pastoral approach is based on a moral tradition that is perfectly attested in the Catholic tradition, which is not uniform.”

“John Paul II already had the same courage and theological insight when he provoked the Church to open up a question that had seemed forbidden until then, by affirming in [the 1981 apostolic exhortation] Familiaris consortio that pastors are obliged to make distinctions between the moral situations of divorcees or remarried persons.”

John Paul II’s pontificate, according to Bordeyne, was particularly striking “for the breadth and coherence of his teaching.”

“Starting with Christ, the Redeemer of man -- which is the name of his first encyclical -- the holy pope has shed the light of the Gospel and of living tradition on all human realities,” he said.

Bordeyne praised the Polish pope for grasping the significance for evangelization of the passage to the third millennium by “canonizing a great number of lay people, on all continents, to support the proclamation of the Christian faith in all cultures.”

“I also remember his audacity in the way he approached conjugal love very directly, even in its corporal dimension,” he reflected.

“The institute that bears his name must study marriage and the family with this same breadth of vision, because the family is at the interface of all the human realities that Christ came to welcome, elevate and save.”

The theologian has long grappled with how to bring the Church into dialogue with the reality of families today.

In 2014, he published the book Répondre à l’inquiétude de la famille humaine (“Responding to the Concern of the Human Family”) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

Presenting the document in the light of contemporary issues, he said that “in the face of economic and cultural changes, the Church must accompany people more in their successive apprenticeships, especially in family life.”

In his view, the present crisis of marriage and family life has less to do with a loss of belief in the sacredness of marriage and more to do with diminished support from society.

“In any case, trust in God’s grace must help us to look with courage at all these situations and to discern how the Word of God comes to illuminate them with a new light,” he said.

“Theologians must allow themselves to be surprised by the Holy Spirit, who precedes them in the hearts of men and in cultural transformations.”

Nancy Pelosi leaves Mass in Rome due to security concerns

Paul and Nancy Pelosi during their meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 9, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 10, 2021 / 09:19 am (CNA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband left Mass at a church in Rome Saturday evening due to a “security incident,” the church’s rector said.

“You probably heard or saw the commotion. Unfortunately, I guess, there was a security incident and sadly Speaker Pelosi and her husband had to leave,” Fr. Steven Petroff, rector of St. Patrick’s Church in Rome, said in a video posted on social media.

“She was going to do our second reading today, but of course her safety is most important,” he said.

Veteran Rome journalist Joan Lewis told CNA Sunday that she had spoken to Petroff, who told her that the security concerns stemmed from restive demonstrations going on in the streets of Rome Saturday that were moving into the area where St. Patrick’s is located around the time of the 6 p.m. Mass.

“What Fr. Steve learned after Mass was that a large number of the anti-Green Card protestors were moving in the direction of Via Veneto and they appeared to be violent,” Lewis said in an instant message exchange with CNA. Lewis emphasized that Pelosi wasn’t the target of heckling, as some news reports suggested. You can watch Petroff addressing the incident during his homily in the Twitter post below.

A spokesman for Pelosi told CNA on Sunday that “it was Italian security officials who made the decision to pull the Speaker out of the church.”

Pelosi, a leading Catholic politician who has clashed with her local ordinary, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, over her support of abortion, traveled to Rome to give the keynote address at the opening session of the G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit on Friday. On Saturday, she and her husband, businessman Paul Pelosi, met with Pope Francis and other top Vatican officials.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that Italian security officials, not Pelosi's U.S. security detail, made the decision to remove her from the church.

How to pray the rosary more deeply

Missionary of Charity sister prays the rosary. / Daniel Ibanez

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2021 / 09:04 am (CNA).

It is interesting that in her appearances at Lourdes, Fatima and other locations, the Mother of God repeatedly recommends praying the Rosary. She does not invite us to pray the Divine Office, or to do spiritual reading, or Eucharistic Adoration, or practice interior prayer or mental prayer. All the mentioned forms of prayer are good, recognized by the Church and practiced by many saints. Why does Mary “only” place the Rosary in our hearts?

We can find a possible answer by looking at the visionaries of Lourdes and Fatima. Mary revealed herself to children of little instruction, who could not even read or write correctly. The Rosary was for them the appropriate school to learn how to pray well, since bead after bead, it leads us from vocal prayer, to meditation, and eventually to contemplation. With the Rosary, everyone who allows himself to be led by Mary can arrive at interior prayer without any kind of special technique or complicated practices.

This does not mean – and I want to emphasize this point – that praying the Rosary is for “dummies” or for simple minded people. Even great intellectuals must come before God as children, who in their prayers are always simple and sincere, always full of confidence, praying from within.

All Christians are called to the kind of interior prayer that allows an experience of closeness with God and recognition of his action in our lives. We can compare the Rosary to playing the guitar. The vocal prayers – the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be – are the central prayers of Christianity, rooted in Scripture. These are like the rhythm in a song.  

But simply strumming a guitar is not a song. And mindless repetition of words is not interior prayer. In addition to rhythm, keys are needed. The Mysteries of the Rosary are like the chords on the guitar. The vocal prayers form the framework for meditation on the Mysteries.

There are always these five chords to the rhythm of the repetition of the prayers, which make the lives of Jesus and Mary pass before our eyes. With meditation, we go on reflecting on what happens in each Mystery and what it means for our lives: At Nazareth, the Son of God is incarnated in Mary. In Holy Communion, He also comes to me. In Gethsemane, Jesus sweats blood. He suffers, is in anguish, and yet his friends remain asleep. Can I keep vigil with Him or do my eyes close with tiredness? On Easter morning, Jesus rises and breaks forth from the tomb. The first day of creation brought light. The first day of the week conquered death and gave us life. Christ can change the darkness in my life into light.

And so, our prayer begins to change into music. That is to say, it is no longer monotonous and boring, but now it is full of images and thoughts. And when the grace of God permits, it is also filled with supernatural illuminations and inspirations.

There is one more thing needed to have really great music, or to have a prayer that is even more profound and intimate: the melody that the heart sings. When playing the guitar, a voice is needed to interpret the song. When praying the Rosary, it is the song of our heart, as we place our own life before God, to the tempo of the prayers and meditations.  

It is this song of the heart that allows us to enter into the mysteries of the Rosary: For my sake you were scourged, and it was I who struck you. Forgive me! You have ascended into Heaven, Lord. I long for You, I long for your kingdom, my true homeland.

In contemplation, the person praying sees the mysteries pass before his eyes, and at the same time he abides in particular affections or movements of the heart before God. The one who prays sings the song of his own life, in which naturally there can arise specific desires: You wanted to be the son of a human Mother; help my sick mother! You were crowned with thorns; help me in this financial difficulty which I can't get out of my head. You sent the Holy Spirit; without You I don't have the courage or the strength to make a good decision.

With this understanding, the following tips can help those who pray the Rosary move from vocal prayer to meditation to inner contemplation:

1) Schedule the time

Our schedule is full of appointments. More or less consciously, we also plan out the time we're going to need for each task or appointment. Sometimes it is good to set aside 20 or 30 minutes to pray the Rosary, and write it down in the schedule. This “appointment” with Jesus and Mary is then just as important as all the other ones planned. For all of us, it is possible to set aside a time to pray the Rosary, at first, once, twice or three times a week.  Over time – and this is the goal – it will be easier to find a time to pray the Rosary daily.

2) Don’t rush

We can learn a lesson about prayer by observing people in love. During a romantic candlelit dinner, no one would be constantly looking at the clock, or choking down their food, or leaving the dessert to one side to finish as quickly as possible. Rather, a romantic meal is stretched out, maybe lingering for an hour to sip a cocktail, and enjoying every moment spent together. So it is with praying the Rosary. It shouldn't be treated as sets of Hail Mary’s to be performed as if one were lifting weights. I can spend time lingering on a thought. I can also break away from it. I can, principally at the beginning, simply be peaceful. If I keep this peaceful attitude and an awareness of how important this 20-minute “appointment” is, then I will have prayed well. It will have been a good prayer, because my will is focused on pleasing the Beloved and not myself.

3) Savor the experience

Saint Ignatius recommends what's called the “third form of prayer,” which consists in adjusting the words to the rhythm of one's own breathing. Often it is sufficient in praying the Rosary to briefly pause between the mysteries, and to remember that Jesus and Mary are looking at me full of joy and love, recognizing with gratitude that I am like a little child babbling words every so often to in some way affirm that I love God. To do this, it can be useful to pause and take a few breaths before resuming vocal prayer.

4) A gaze of love

The vocal prayers of the Rosary only provide the rhythm of the prayer. With my thoughts, I can and should go out from the rhythm to encounter the Mystery which is being contemplated. This is more clear in German, where the mystery is announced not only at the beginning of each decade, but before each Hail Mary. It’s a time to look your Beloved in the eyes and let Him look back, with eyes full of love. 

5) Allow yourself to be amazed

One of the first and most important steps for inner prayer is to go from thinking and speculation to looking upon and being amazed. Think of lovers who meet, not to plan out what they're going to give each other or what they might do on the next vacation, but to enjoy the time together and to rejoice in each other. Looking at a family photo album is very different from looking at a history book. In the photo album, we see people who are important to us, whom we love – and even more – who love us! That's how our gaze at Jesus and Mary ought to be in the Rosary.

6) Allow your “inner cameraman” to notice details

Some people close their eyes while praying in order to concentrate. Others find it useful to focus their eyes on a certain point (such as a crucifix). Either way, what is important is for the eyes of the heart to be open. Praying the Rosary is like going to the movies. It's about seeing images. It's useful to ask yourself: Who, What, Where am I looking at when I contemplate the birth of Jesus, or his crucifixion, or his ascension into Heaven? And on some occasions, like a good cameraman does, come in for a close-up image of some detail: contemplate the warm breath of the ox that's warming the Child, the pierced hand of Jesus that spread so much love, the tears in John's eyes as he gazes at Jesus rising up to Heaven.

7) Pray in words, mind, and heart

The words accompany, the mind opens, but it is the heart that has the leading role in prayer. All the great spiritual authors agree that inner prayer is about dwelling in the affections, that is, the inner sentiments and movements. Teresa of Avila says very simply: “Don't think a lot, love a lot!” An elderly lady was ruefully complaining to me that she could not reflect while praying her daily Rosary, and that in that situation she could barely say “Jesus, Mary, I love you!” I congratulated the lady. That is exactly what praying the Rosary ought to lead us to.

This commentary was first published April 26, 2017.

Pope Francis greets Colombian nun freed 4 years after kidnapping by Islamists in Mali

Pope Francis greets the recently freed Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2021 / 07:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis greeted a Colombian nun on Sunday, shortly after she was freed four years after being kidnapped by Islamists in Mali.

The pope blessed Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti before a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica launching a worldwide synodal process.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Sr. Gloria, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, was kidnapped in southern Mali in 2017.

The Malian presidency announced that she was released on Oct. 9 after “four years and eight months of combined efforts of several intelligence services.”

It posted photographs on social media of her meeting with interim president Col. Assimi Goïta, accompanied by Cardinal Jean Zerbo of Bamako.

“We prayed a lot for her release. I thank the Malian authorities and other good people who made this release possible,” the cardinal told AFP.

Armed men kidnapped Sr. Gloria in Karangasso, about 90 miles south of the town of San, near the border with Burkina Faso, on Feb. 7, 2017.

The men forced her to hand over the keys to the community’s ambulance. The vehicle was later found abandoned. Three other sisters were present at their house but escaped.

The kidnappers were going to take the youngest nun, but Sr. Gloria reportedly volunteered to take her place.

The Colombian nun had served in Mali for 12 years before her abduction.

Her community administers a large health center in the country, as well as a home for some 30 orphans.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Earlier this year, she was allowed to give proof that she was alive with a handwritten note in which she asked people to pray for her.

In the 11-line message sent to her brother Edgar Narváez Argoti via the Red Cross, she wrote: “I send everyone my warmest greetings. May the good Lord bless you and grant you health. I have been a prisoner for four years and now I am with a new group.”

She identified the group who held her as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, an Islamist organization in West Africa and the Maghreb.

In her message, she asked: “May they all pray a great deal for me. May God bless them all. I am hopeful that God will help me to regain my freedom.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Mali is currently under the leadership of Goïta, who led two coups in a span of nine months, first ousting the country’s democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020 and, in May this year, the interim leaders who were to head the country’s transitional government.

Following the May 24 coup, Mali’s constitutional court named Goïta as transitional president of Mali until the country holds elections.

The move attracted criticism, with Catholic leaders in the country calling it a “seizure of power outside the legal process.”

Mali is struggling with an Islamist insurgency that began in the north in 2012 and has spread to Burkina Faso and Niger, with a rise in kidnappings.

Agenzia Fides reported in September 2020 that Sr. Gloria’s mother died at the age of 87 while awaiting her daughter’s release.

Pope Francis at the Angelus: ‘Is your faith tired and do you want to reinvigorate it?’

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2021 / 06:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered advice on Sunday to Catholics who feel that their faith is “tired” and wish to reinvigorate it.

In his Angelus address on Oct. 10, the pope outlined a three-step process for personal renewal.

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Oct. 10, 2021. Vatican Media.

“Is your faith, my faith, tired, and do you want to reinvigorate it? Look for God’s gaze: sit in adoration, allow yourself to be forgiven in Confession, stand before the Crucified One. In short, let yourself be loved by him,” he said.

“This is the beginning of faith: letting ourselves be loved by Him, who is Father.”

The pope offered the advice while reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 10:17-30, in which Jesus urges a rich young man to “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor … then come, follow me.”

Giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that everyone could see themselves in the rich young man because he wasn’t named in the Gospel.

He said: “The man begins with a question: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Notice the verbs he uses: ‘must do,’ ‘inherit.’ Here is his religiosity: a duty, a doing so as to obtain; ‘I do something to get what I need.’”

“But this is a commercial relationship with God, a quid pro quo. Faith, on the other hand, is not a cold, mechanical ritual, a ‘must-do-obtain.’ It is a question of freedom and love.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope, who earlier celebrated a Mass opening the two-year process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality, asked his listeners to consider if their faith was primarily a matter of duty or a “bargaining chip.”

“The first thing to do is to free ourselves of a commercial and mechanical faith, which insinuates the false image of an accounting and controlling God, not a father,” he said.

He continued: “Jesus, in the second step, helps this man by offering him the true face of God. Indeed, the text says, ‘Jesus looking upon him loved him’: this is God!”

“This is where faith is born and reborn: not from a duty, not from something that is to be done or paid for, but from a look of love to be welcomed. In this way, Christian life becomes beautiful, if it is based not on our abilities and our plans, but on God’s gaze.”

The pope said that in the third and final step, Jesus invited the young man to give generously of himself to others.

“It is perhaps what we are missing too. Often, we do the bare minimum, whereas Jesus invites us to do the maximum possible,” he commented.

“How many times are we satisfied with doing our duties -- the precepts, a few prayers, and so on -- whereas God, who gives us life, asks us for the impetus of life!”

The pope noted that in the Gospel reading, Jesus began by listing the Commandments and ended with a “positive proposal.”

He said: “Faith cannot be limited to ‘do not,’ because Christian life is a ‘yes,’ a ‘yes’ of love.”

Concluding his meditation, he said: “A faith without giving, without works of charity, in the end makes us sad: just like that man whose ‘face fell’ and returned home ‘sorrowful,’ even though he had been looked upon with love by Jesus in person.”

“Today we can ask ourselves: At what point is my faith? Do I experience it as something mechanical, like a relationship of duty or interest with God? Do I remember to nourish it by letting myself be looked at and loved by Jesus? ... And, attracted by him, do I respond freely, with generosity, with my whole heart?”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis welcomed two beatifications taking place this weekend.

He said: “Yesterday, in Naples, Maria Lorenza Longo, a 16th-century wife and mother of a family, was beatified. A widow, she founded in Naples the Hospital for the Incurables and the Capuchin Poor Clares.”

“A woman of great faith and intense prayer life, she did all she could for the needs of the poor and the suffering.”

He added: “Today, in Tropea, Calabria, Fr. Francesco Mottola, founder of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart, who died in 1969, was beatified.”

“A zealous pastor and tireless proclaimer of the Gospel, he was an exemplary witness of a priesthood lived in charity and contemplation.”

After asking for a round of applause for the new blesseds, the pope noted that Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day, marked by the Vatican with a message by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The pope acknowledged those suffering from mental health issues, as well as suicide victims, including young people.

“Let us pray for them and their families, that they will not be left alone or discriminated against, but welcomed and supported,” he said.

As he greeted pilgrims in the square below, he pointed out a large image of Mother Maria Bernardetta of the Immaculate, a professed sister of the Poor Sisters of St. Joseph, held by visitors from her birthplace of Montella, southern Italy.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

She spent time in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, and was a friend of the future Pope Francis from 1979 until her death in 2001. The Vatican announced the opening of her cause in 2019.

“Let us pray for her prompt canonization,” the pope said, concluding his Angelus address.

Pope Francis launches 2-year synodal path with call to ‘encounter, listen, and discern’

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica opening the worldwide synodal path, Oct. 10, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis formally launched the two-year global consultation process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality on Sunday with a call to “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say.”

Preaching at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 10, the pope said that Catholics taking part in the synodal path should strive to “become experts in the art of encounter.”

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

“Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems, as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another,” he said.

“Time to devote to prayer and adoration -- this prayer that we neglect so much: to adore, to make room for adoration -- listening to what the Spirit wants to say to the Church.”

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

“Time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms, vocations, and ministries.”

The live-streamed Mass, attended by around 3,000 people, was the second of two weekend events officially opening the two-year global consultation process.

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

The first was a “moment of reflection” on Oct. 9 featuring speeches from the pope, Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., the synod’s relator general, and others.

The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality would open with a diocesan phase 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, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” at the Vatican in October 2023.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 10:17-30, in which Jesus challenges the rich young man to “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor … then come, follow me.”

He said that the Gospels often showed Jesus in the midst of a journey, meeting people and listening to their deepest concerns.

“Today, as we begin this synodal process, let us begin by asking ourselves -- all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity -- whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity,” he urged.

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

“Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’?”

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

“Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, together. Let us look at Jesus, who encounters the rich man on the road; he then listens to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life.”

The pope built his homily around three verbs -- “encounter, listen, and discern” -- that he hoped would mark the synodal path.

He noted that when Jesus encountered the young man, he was fully present to him and did not “keep looking at his watch to get the meeting over.”

“Everything changes once we are capable of genuine encounters with Him and with one another, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are,” he observed.

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

Pope Francis said that Jesus’ meeting with the rich man showed that listening was an essential feature of true encounters.

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

He said: “Let us ask frankly during this synodal process: Are we good at listening? How good is the ‘hearing’ of our heart?”

“Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected, or judged?”

He continued: “Participating in a synod means placing ourselves on the same path as the Word made flesh. It means following in his footsteps, listening to his word along with the words of others. It means discovering with amazement that the Holy Spirit always surprises us, to suggest fresh paths and new ways of speaking.”

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

The pope acknowledged that learning to listen was “a slow and perhaps tiring exercise” for bishops, priests, religious, and laity.

“Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. Certainties often close us off. Let us listen to one another,” he encouraged Catholics.

The pope said that encounter and listening should lead to discernment.

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

“We see this in today’s Gospel,” he explained. “Jesus senses that the person before him is a good and religious man, obedient to the commandments, but he wants to lead him beyond the mere observance of precepts.”

“Through dialogue, he helps him to discern. Jesus encourages that man to look within, in the light of the love that the Lord himself had shown by his gaze, and to discern in that light what his heart truly treasures.”

“And in this way to discover that he cannot attain happiness by filling his life with more religious observances, but by emptying himself, selling whatever takes up space in his heart, in order to make room for God.”

The pope described the synod as “a journey of spiritual discernment” guided by God’s word.

Vatican pool.
Vatican pool.

“That word summons us to discernment and it brings light to that process. It guides the synod, preventing it from becoming a Church ‘convention,’ a study group or a political congress, because it is not a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“In these days, Jesus calls us, as he did the rich man in the Gospel, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models; and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time. And the direction in which he wants to lead us.”

Pope Francis ended his homily by wishing participants in the synodal path a good journey together.

He said: “May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Spirit. Let us not miss out on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter, listening, and discernment. In the joyful conviction that, even as we seek the Lord, he always comes with his love to meet us first.”

Texas ‘heartbeat’ abortion law temporarily reinstated amid legal fight

The Texas capitol. / Ricardo Garza/Shutterstock.

Denver Newsroom, Oct 9, 2021 / 07:49 am (CNA).

A federal court on Friday evening issued a ruling allowing a Texas state law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, to take effect again amid an ongoing court fight.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Oct. 8, reversing an Oct. 6 decision by a lower court. At least six Texas abortion clinics had resumed performing abortions after the Oct. 6 ruling, the New York Times reported, drawing strong criticism from pro-life groups.

Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—around six weeks gestation— except in medical emergencies.

The law, which first took effect Sept. 1, allows for awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits against those who perform or "aid and abet" illegal abortions; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law. 

The Oct. 6 ruling had barred Texas from actions such as awarding damages to successful lawsuits or enforcing judgments in such cases. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that ruling.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List praised the Friday ruling.

“We are pleased the 5th Circuit has reinstated the Heartbeat Act while litigation continues. Every day this law is in effect, unborn children with beating hearts are saved and mothers are protected,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in an Oct. 9 statement.

Pro-life leaders have pointed out that the Texas state legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and $100 million in annual funding for the Alternatives to Abortion program.

Paired with the additional funding for mothers in need, the "Heartbeat Act reflects the clear will of Texans to both protect unborn babies in the law and provide compassionate support for women and families," Dannenfelser said.

In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it, and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision. 

President Joe Biden – a Catholic – called the law “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights,” and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.

He directed federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to review what actions could be taken “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”

As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law and “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.

In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions,” and requested a preliminary injunction to block the law.

In late September, two non-Texas residents sued a Texas abortion doctor who announced he had performed an abortion in violation of the new law. A Texas pro-life group criticized those lawsuits, however, calling them “imprudent” and “self-serving," since neither were filed for pro-life reasons. 

It is unclear how many lawsuits have been filed to date under the Texas law.

This story has been updated with additional comment.

Archbishop Cordileone discusses satanists' support for abortion

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. / Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 9, 2021 / 06:34 am (CNA).

Abortion is a “satanic practice,” the archbishop of San Francisco said in a recent interview.

“When we figure that, what is it, one in four pregnancies in our country ends in an abortion, we are literally in the grip of the devil,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on Oct. 7.

The archbishop appeared on the show to talk about his “Rose and a Rosary for Nancy Pelosi” campaign hosted by the Benedict XVI Institute. The campaign invites Catholics to pray and fast for the conversion of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who backs abortion legislation, including the Women’s Health Protection Act. For every person that signs up, the campaign will send a rose to the California Democrat.

He addressed Speaker Pelosi’s position, and challenged those who equate abortion with health care.

“It’s another one of the smokescreens they use,” the archbishop said. “The smokescreen of choice, the smokescreen of health care, of reproductive choice, and so forth.”

As an example, he pointed to the Satanic Temple, which recently criticized Texas’ new abortion law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected and enables private citizens to enforce the ban. 

The temple condemned the law “precisely on the grounds of it’s a violation of their religious liberty,” the archbishop said. “They need to have access to abortion to carry out their rituals. It’s a satanic practice.”

According to its website, the temple professes seven tenets, including “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”

The group also claims that it doesn’t believe in the "existence of Satan or the supernatural." Instead, it argues, “To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.” At the same time, its members have engaged in activities that appear to mock Christiainity, from creating a “Snaketivity” around Christmastime to publicizing a purported black mass.

To combat abortion, the archbishop called for prayer and fasting. 

“We need prayer and fasting if we have any hope that God will bless us in turning our nation back to a culture of life,” he concluded.

Pope Francis and Nancy Pelosi meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis meets with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican, Oct. 9, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Oct 9, 2021 / 05:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday.

At the time of publication, the Vatican had released no information about what the pope and Pelosi discussed, in line with its usual custom for papal meetings with non-heads of state.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

But it noted the audience in its daily bulletin for Oct. 9, saying that the House Speaker was accompanied by her husband, the businessman Paul Pelosi, and entourage.

Photographs released by the Vatican showed that Pelosi also met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The first Italian-American Speaker of the House was in Rome to give the keynote address at the opening session of the G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit. She also met with the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The day before her audience with the pope, the 81-year-old discussed the environment, migration, and human rights during a visit to the Vatican.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announced the visit on Oct. 8 in a post on its Twitter account.

Pelosi was accompanied to the Vatican on Friday by Patrick Connell, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

On the same day, the White House announced that former U.S. senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana is President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pelosi, a Catholic mother of five, has clashed repeatedly with the archbishop of her home diocese over her support for abortion.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone launched a prayer campaign last month aimed at inspiring “a conversion of heart” among politicians supporting abortion.

“A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the San Francisco archbishop said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“I am therefore inviting all Catholics to join in a massive and visible campaign of prayer and fasting for Speaker Pelosi: commit to praying one rosary a week and fasting on Fridays for her conversion of heart.”

Cordileone urged Catholics and people of goodwill to sign up for the “Rose and a rosary for Nancy Pelosi” campaign.

Nancy Pelosi with Vatican Secetary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Vatican Media.
Nancy Pelosi with Vatican Secetary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Vatican Media.

A rose will be sent to the Speaker “as a symbol of your prayer and fasting for her,” he explained.

In May, Pelosi said that she was “pleased” with a Vatican letter to the U.S. bishops which addressed Communion for pro-abortion politicians. She claimed that the Vatican had instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the issue.

In response, Cordileone said the Vatican was in fact promoting “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion politicians, “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart.”

“Speaker Pelosi’s positive reaction” to the letter, he noted, “raises hope that progress can be made in this most serious matter.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In July, Cordileone criticized Pelosi after she cited her Catholic faith while defending efforts to permit federal funding of elective abortions.

“Let me repeat: no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it,” he said.

Pelosi had a 15-minute audience with Benedict XVI in 2009.

The Vatican said that the German pope “took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis is expected to receive Joe Biden on Oct. 29, in the U.S. president’s first official visit to the Vatican since his inauguration, according to sources at the Apostolic Palace.

Joe Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history, is due to attend the G20 summit in Rome on Oct. 30–31.

In a statement after the papal audience, Pelosi described the meeting as a “spiritual, personal and official honor.”

She said: “His Holiness’ leadership is a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant and the poor, and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone.”

“His Holiness’ encyclical Laudato si’ is a powerful challenge to the global community to act decisively on the climate crisis with special attention to the most vulnerable communities. I expressed the gratitude of those working on climate action in the Congress for the immense moral clarity and urgency that His Holiness continues to bring to the climate crisis, and how we continue to cherish his address to the Joint Session of Congress in 2015.”

She continued: “His Holiness commands our attention to honor the Gospel of Matthew by serving ‘the least of these,’ lifting up those who have been left out or left behind, especially in the time of COVID.”

“In San Francisco, we take special pride in Pope Francis, who shares the namesake of our city and whose song of St. Francis is our anthem. ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, may we bring love. Where there is despair, may we bring hope.’”

This report was updated at 08:50 MDT with Nancy Pelosi’s statement.