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Pope Francis: Christ the Good Shepherd ‘looks for us until he finds us’ when we’re lost

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on April 21, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 21, 2024 / 09:36 am (CNA).

Pope Francis reflected on the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd during his Regina Caeli address Sunday, noting that it is a role characterized by his sacrificial love.

“Jesus explains that he is not a hired man who cares nothing for the sheep but a man who knows them,” the pope said on April 21, the fourth Sunday of Easter, which is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday because it is the theme of the day’s Gospel. “It is true, he knows us, he calls us by our name and, when we are lost, he looks for us until he finds us.”

Pope Francis explained that Christ’s role as a shepherd introduced a new logic, observing that he is not acting as a guide or “the head of the flock” but is instead “living in symbiosis” with his people.

“This is what the Lord wants to tell us with the image of the Good Shepherd: not only that he is the guide, the head of the flock, but above all that he thinks of each of us as the love of his life,” the pope said to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ address and Regina Caeli prayer on April 21, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ address and Regina Caeli prayer on April 21, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis emphasized the sacrificial component of the role of the shepherd, observing that Jesus “is not just a good shepherd who shares the life of the flock” but “is the Good Shepherd who has sacrificed his life for us and has given us his Spirit through his resurrection.”

The pope asked the faithful to meditate upon this sacrificial dimension of the shepherd so that we bear in mind that “for Christ, I am important, irreplaceable, worth the infinite price of his life.”

“It is not just a way of speaking,” the pope added, “he truly gave his life for me, he died and rose again for me because he loves me and he finds in me a beauty that I often do not see myself.”

The pope also cautioned against the temptation to measure our value based on “trivial things,” such as “the goals we achieve” or “on whether we succeed in the eyes of the world, on the judgments of others.”

“In order to find ourselves, the first thing to do is to place ourselves in his presence, allowing ourselves to be welcomed and lifted up by the loving arms of our Good Shepherd,” the pope said.

The Holy Father also drew attention to Sunday’s celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which he observed as an “opportunity to rediscover the Church as a community characterized by a polyphony of charisms and vocations at the service of the Gospel.”

Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the pope renewed his appeal for peace in the Middle East, imploring leaders not to “give in to the logic of vengeance and war” but instead to let “the paths of dialogue and diplomacy prevail, which can do a lot.”

“I pray every day for peace in Palestine and Israel and I hope that those two peoples can soon stop suffering,” he said.

Pope Francis to canonize new female saint known as ‘an apostle of the Holy Spirit’

Blessed Elena Guerra. / Credit: Oblates of the Holy Spirit

Rome Newsroom, Apr 20, 2024 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Elena Guerra, paving the way for the canonization of a new female saint known as “an apostle of the Holy Spirit.”

A friend of Pope Leo XIII and the teacher of St. Gemma Galgani, Elena Guerra (1835–1914) is known for her spiritual writings and her passionate devotion to the Holy Spirit.

Guerra wrote more than a dozen letters to Pope Leo XIII between 1895 and 1903 in which she urged him to exhort all Catholics to call upon the Holy Spirit in prayer.

The pope heeded Guerra’s request and published three documents on the Holy Spirit during their correspondence, including a letter asking the entire Church to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit leading up to Pentecost in 1895 and his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Divinum Illud Munus, in 1897.

“Pentecost is not over,” Guerra wrote. “In fact, it is continually going on in every time and in every place, because the Holy Spirit desired to give himself to all men and all who want him can always receive him, so we do not have to envy the apostles and the first believers; we only have to dispose ourselves like them to receive him well, and he will come to us as he did to them.”

Guerra is the foundress of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit, a religious congregation recognized by the Church in 1882.

Pope John XXIII called Guerra “a modern-day apostle of the Holy Spirit” as he beatified her in 1959.

The life of Elena Guerra

Born into a noble family in Lucca, Italy in 1835, Guerra was well-educated and formed in her faith.

For much of her 20s, Guerra was bedridden with a serious illness, a challenge that turned out to be transformational for her as she dedicated herself to meditating on Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.

Guerra felt the call to consecrate herself to God during a pilgrimage to Rome with her father after her recovery. She attended the third public session of Vatican I in St. Peter’s Basilica in April 1870 and later met Pope Pius IX on June 23, 1870.

“At the sight of Pope Pius IX she was so moved that, upon returning to Lucca, she vowed to offer her life for the pope,” according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

Against the wishes of her family, in her mid-30s Guerra formed a religious community dedicated to education, which eventually became the Oblates of the Holy Spirit.

One of her students, St. Gemma Galgani, wrote in her autobiography about the strong spiritual impact of her education by the Oblate sisters. Guerra personally taught Galgani French and Church history and exempted Galgani from the monthly school fee when her father fell into bankruptcy.

During her correspondence with Pope Leo XIII, Guerra also composed prayers to the Holy Spirit, including a Holy Spirit Chaplet, asking the Lord to “send forth your spirit and renew the world.”

The religious founder faced difficulties in the last years of her life when some of her sisters accused her of bad administration, leading her to resign from her duties as superior.

Guerra died on Holy Saturday on April 11, 1914. Her tomb is located in Lucca in the Church of Sant’Agostino. The Oblate sisters whom Guerra founded continue her mission today in Italy, Cameroon, Canada, Philippines, and Rwanda.

The miracle

Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to Guerra’s intercession that involved the healing of a man named Paulo in Uberlândia, Brazil, in 2010 after he fell from a tree and ended up in a coma with a serious brain injury. After undergoing a craniotomy and decompression surgery, the man’s situation worsened, and 10 days after his fall the protocol was opened to declare brain death, according to the Vatican.

While he was in a coma, members of the Charismatic Renewal organized prayer for Paulo’s recovery, asking everyone to pray for his healing through the intercession of Blessed Elena Guerra. On the 10th day after they began praying to Blessed Elena, doctors found an unexpected improvement in his condition, and within less than a month he was discharged from the hospital in good condition.

The pope officially approved the miracle during an audience with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, on April 13.

During the audience, the pope also approved the martyrdom of Servants of God Cayetano Clausellas Ballvé, a diocesan priest, and Antonio Tort Reixachs, a layman and father, both killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of Sister Teresa Lanfranco, an Italian religious from the Congregation of the Daughters of Santa Maria di Leuca, who died in Rome in 1989.

The Vatican will announce the canonization date of Blessed Elena Guerra at a later time.

Pope Francis names Filipino priest an auxiliary bishop of Sacramento

Pope Francis on April 20, 2024, named Father Reynaldo Bersabal as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, California.  / Credit: Steve German/Diocese of Sacramento

Rome Newsroom, Apr 20, 2024 / 07:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has named Father Reynaldo Bersabal as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, California. 

The Vatican announced on Saturday that the priest ordained in the Philippines and incardinated into the Sacramento Diocese in 2004 will be consecrated as a bishop.

“I am grateful to His Holiness and honored to have my brother, Bishop-elect Rey Bersabal, as a co-worker for the Episcopal ministry in this favored part of the Lord’s vineyard,” Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento said in a Saturday statement on the diocese’s website.

“Bishop-elect Rey came as an immigrant priest bringing the rich cultural heritage of the Filipino people,” Soto continued. “He became part of a presbyterate and people that is a global Catholic kaleidoscope of faith and charity radiating the historic credal customs from Portugal, Italy, Ireland, China, Poland, Africa, and more. Bishop-elect Rey has learned a lot and given much during his 25 years as a priest in Sacramento.”

Bersabal was born in Magsaysay in the province of Misamis Oriental in the Philippines on Oct. 15, 1964.

He was ordained a priest April 29, 1991, for the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines was incardinated in the Diocese of Sacramento 13 years later.

In Sacramento, he served as the parish vicar of St. James Church in Davis and St. Anthony Church in Sacramento before being named the parish priest of St. Paul Church in 2003.

Bersabal was also the parish priest of St. John the Baptist in Folsom from 2008 to 2016 and St. James in Davis from 2016 to 2022.

The 59-year-old priest has served the parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Sacramento since 2022.

“The years of pastoral experience working in the parishes of the geographical and demographically large Diocese of Sacramento will be one of the strengths he brings to his new ministry,” Soto said. “His understanding of Catholic faith and mercy springs from lived experiences of families striving to follow the Lord Jesus in our turbulent times.”

“I am grateful to Bishop-elect Rey for saying ‘yes’ to the Holy Father’s invitation to the college of bishops,” Soto continued. “I ask all the clergy and faithful of the diocese to join me in praying for our brother, Bishop-elect Rey Bersabal, so that he may always walk first as a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus and be co-worker and companion cultivating the verdant Sacramento Valley for a lasting harvest of mercy and joy.”

The Diocese of Sacramento serves more than 1 million Catholics in 20 counties covering 42,000 square miles of Northern California from San Francisco Bay to Sacramento and the Oregon border, according to a diocesan media release. The diocese includes more than 100 parishes, 42 elementary and secondary schools, and various social service and family support organizations throughout the region.

This story was updated at 1:38 p.m. ET on April 20, 2024, with comments from Bishop Jaime Soto.

Pope Francis issues motu proprio on Vatican judiciary retirement age and benefits

Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2024 / 10:07 am (CNA).

In the latest move in Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican judiciary, the pope issued a new motu proprio on Friday on the retirement age and benefits for cardinal judges and magistrates in the Vatican’s court system.

The April 19 motu proprio states that Vatican magistrates will retire at the end of the judicial year in which they turn 75 and cardinal judges at the age of 80, unless Pope Francis asks them to remain in office beyond the age limit.

Magistrates and judges who wish to resign from office before the retirement age can only do so with the approval of the pope.

The pope also has the prerogative to dismiss magistrates unable to fulfill their duties at any time. Upon the termination of their duties, magistrates will retain the rights to assistance and welfare provided to Vatican citizens and employees.

The motu proprio, which will go into effect the day after its publication, amends the Church’s Law on the Judicial System of Vatican City State. 

The changes stipulate that the pope can appoint the president of the court’s successor to serve as an assistant in the year leading up to the president’s retirement.

The amended law also states that magistrates who have retired are entitled to full pension benefits from Vatican City State regardless of whether they receive other payments of a similar nature accrued in another country. 

Other articles in the motu proprio enumerate the laws governing the salary structure, retirement benefits, and civil liability for Vatican magistrates.

Pope Francis wrote in his brief introduction to the amendments that “the experience gained over the last few years in the administration of justice has led to the need for a series of interventions relating to the judicial system of the Vatican City State.”

He said that the changes aim to promote “the professional dignity and economic treatment of the ordinary magistrates of the Tribunal and the Office of the Promoter of Justice.”

Ex-Jesuit, alleged abuser Rupnik listed as consultant in 2024 Pontifical Yearbook

Father Marko Rupnik. / Credit: Screen shot/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 18, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Father Marko Rupnik, a priest dismissed from the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 2023 — accused since 2018 of having committed serious sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse against at least 20 women in the Loyola Community that he co-founded in Slovenia — continues to appear as a Jesuit and consultant to the Vatican in the 2024 Pontifical Yearbook.

The information appears on page 1346 of the yearbook, where the list of the consultants of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is published. The entry reads “P. Rupnik Marko Ivan, S.I.” The abbreviation “S.I.” stands for “Societas Iesu,” the Latin name for the Society of Jesus.

Rupnik was dismissed from the Jesuits on June 15, 2023. The decision was made public in a statement noting that on more than one occasion he ignored the restrictions imposed by his superior and refused to respond to his alleged victims and to address his past actions.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, contacted the director of the Vatican Press Office, Matteo Bruni, to ask him how it is that Rupnik appears in the Pontifical Yearbook but did not receive a response by time of publication.

The debate on Rupnik’s art

Rupnik is also a famous Catholic artist whose works — especially mosaics — are found in many pilgrimage sites around the world. An important part of the ethical debate surrounding Rupnik’s case is whether his artwork should be removed out of respect for his victims.

An April 15 editorial in the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, argued: “His distinctive mosaics were commissioned for a purpose: to lift minds and hearts toward God. They are no longer capable (if they ever were) of achieving that purpose,” therefore they should be removed.

Father Eduardo Hayen Cuarón, a Mexican priest and exorcist, wrote on X April 15: “I found the mosaics of Father Marko Rupnik to be amazing, especially those at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington.”

“It's a shame that they have to be removed now. The reason? After the accusations against him for abusing several nuns, his works of art no longer fulfill their function of elevating the spirit toward God,” the priest commented.

Blogger and former atheist Leah Libresco on April 16 commented on X that “if you want to defend Rupnik’s art, you have to be advocating for justice for Rupnik and reparations for his victims. Part of why people are going after the art is because there has been so little progress in pursuing consequences for the man.”

Catholic radio show host Al Kresta quoted from the Register editorial April 16 on X: “While it is far short of the sort of justice that this case demands, we have reached beyond the point in the Father Marko Rupnik scandal when concrete steps must be taken to remove the disgraced artist’s ubiquitous mosaics from public display.”

The Rupnik case

Bishop Daniele Libanori, the Vatican investigator who uncovered allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse by Rupnik, said the claims are true, according to a letter he sent to Italian priests obtained by the Associated Press. Libanori now serves as the Holy Father’s supervisor for Consecrated Life.

Rupnik was excommunicated in May 2020 for hearing the confession of one of his victims with whom he had sexual activity, but the sanction was lifted two weeks later.

The Society of Jesus dismissed Rupnik from the order in June 2023, and the Diocese of Koper in Slovenia incardinated the priest in August that year stating that it did so because “no judicial ruling has been issued” against him.

In October 2023, Pope Francis lifted the statute of limitations and asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the case in order to allow a process to take place after it had been determined that “there were serious problems in the handling of the Father Marko Rupnik case and lack of outreach to victims.”

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

Pope Francis: The temperate person is balanced by both principle and empathy

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 09:14 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday presented the fourth and final cardinal virtue of temperance in his ongoing catechetical series of vices and virtues by noting that temperance itself is crucial for living a happy, balanced life.

“The gift of the temperate person is therefore balance, a quality as precious as it is rare. Indeed, everything in our world pushes to excess. Instead, temperance combines well with Gospel values such as smallness, discretion, modesty, meekness,” the pope said to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. 

“In a world where many people boast about saying what they think, the temperate person instead prefers to think about what he says,” the pope said. “He does not make empty promises but makes commitments to the extent that he can fulfill them.” 

Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope noted that “the temperate person succeeds in holding extremes together: He affirms absolute principles, asserts nonnegotiable values, but also knows how to understand people and shows empathy for them.”

The pope opened his reflection on temperance by looking to Aristotle’s “The Nicomachean Ethics,” an ethical treatise on the art of living. Francis noted that according to the Greek philosopher, man’s flourishing and the ability to live a happy life is realizable only by “the capacity for self-mastery, the art of not letting oneself be overcome by rebellious passions.”

This reflection on Artistolean ethics sets the foundation for an understanding of virtue present in the Church’s teaching. “Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods,” the pope said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

For the pope, temperance, as expressed in ancient thought and in the Church, can be summarized as “the virtue of the right measure,” a point he made by contrasting it with those who are “moved by impulse or exuberance,” which makes them “ultimately unreliable.” 

Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on April 17, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis explained that being temperate does not always require one to be “peaceful” or with a “smiling face.” Instead, in certain situations, “it is necessary to be indignant, but always in the right way.”

“A word of rebuke is at times healthier than a sour, rancorous silence. The temperate person knows that nothing is more uncomfortable than correcting another person, but he also knows that it is necessary; otherwise, one offers free reign to evil,” the pope observed.

Following the blessing at the end of the general audience, Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Ukraine and in Gaza, imploring that “prisoners of war” and the “tortured” be freed. 

“The torture of prisoners is a very bad thing; it is not humane,” the pope said. “Let us think of the many tortures that harm the dignity of the person and of the many tortured people.”

Pope Francis: Sharing our encounter with Christ makes our encounters ‘even more beautiful’

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer on April 14, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 14, 2024 / 10:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his concern over escalating tensions in the Middle East following Iran’s missile attack Saturday against Israel, a concern he raised after imploring Christians to share their stories of encountering Christ, which he said would create a richer and more beautiful environment for all.

“I follow in prayer and with concern, even pain, the news that has arrived in the last few hours on the worsening of the situation in Israel due to the intervention by Iran,” the pope said to all those gathered before him in St. Peter’s Square on April 14.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to stop any action that could fuel a spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict of war. No one should threaten the existence of others,” he added.

On Saturday evening Iran launched over 300 drones and missiles on military targets in Israel in retaliation for an Israeli attack on the Iranian Embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus on April 1, which killed seven.  

Pope Francis also renewed his exhortation for peace as the Israel-Hamas war continues unabated, calling for “the Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side, in security, it is their deep and legitimate desire, and it is their right.”

Before the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the pope also exhorted Christians to share their personal encounters with Christ, noting that it is “the most beautiful thing we have to tell.”

The pope made this reflection against the backdrop of today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, where two disciples, returning from Emmaus, meet with the apostles in the upper room and recount their encounter with Christ.

“Jesus arrives precisely while they are sharing the story of the encounter with him,” a message, the pope observed, that for us today underscores “the importance of sharing the faith.”

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican hold banners during the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer and address by Pope Francis on April 14, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican hold banners during the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer and address by Pope Francis on April 14, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope observed that today, this message is often drowned out by the frenzy of messages, which are often “superficial” and “useless,” and which often reveal “an indiscreet curiosity or, worse still, arise from gossip and malice.”

“They are news that have no purpose, on the contrary, they do harm,” the pope continued.

Amid the deluge of counterproductive messages, Pope Francis called on Christians to share their personal testimonies of encountering Christ, “not by being a lecturer to others, but by sharing the unique moments in which we perceived the Lord alive and close.”

While acknowledging that it can often be a “struggle” to discuss these encounters with family, friends, and the broader community, the pope advocated persistence in doing so as it will make our personal “encounters” and social environments “even more beautiful.”

In closing his address, the pope called upon all Christians to conduct a series of interior examinations, asking ourselves: “Have I ever spoken about it with someone? Have I ever simply made a gift of it to family members, colleagues, loved ones, and those I associate with? And finally: Am I, in turn, interested in listening to what others have to tell me about their encounter with Christ?”

Vatican sends letter to French embassy over tribunal decision in nun’s dismissal case

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 13, 2024 / 14:41 pm (CNA).

The Holy See on Saturday confirmed that it had sent a diplomatic letter to the French embassy over a French court ruling involving a Canadian cardinal’s alleged wrongful dismissal of a nun.

A French court in Lorient, in Brittany, earlier this month had fined Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, along with several other parties, for the October 2020 wrongful dismissal of Sabine Baudin de la Valette, whose religious name was Mother Marie Ferréol.

Baudin de la Valette, 57, had reportedly lived in the French monastery since 1987 without any significant incidents, but in 2011 she denounced “serious abuses and facts” happening in the community. 

She was dismissed from the community after a visit from Ouellet. It was never made public what exactly the Vatican accused her of, though the former sister reportedly said the dismissal decree “accused her of having an evil spirit but gave no concrete reasons.”

On Saturday, meanwhile, Vatican News reported that Director of the Holy See Press Office Matteo Bruni confirmed to reporters the Vatican Secretariat of State’s transmission of a “Note Verbal,” or a diplomatic message, to the Embassy of France to the Holy See.

The letter addressed the “alleged decision of the Tribunal of Lorient in France in a civil dispute concerning the dismissal from a religious Institute of Ms. Sabine de la Valette (formerly Sister Marie Ferréol),” Bruni told reporters. 

“A potential ruling from the Lorient Tribunal,” Bruni told journalists, “could raise not only significant issues concerning immunity, but if it ruled on internal discipline and membership in a religious institute, it might have constituted a serious violation of the fundamental rights to religious freedom and freedom of association of Catholic faithful.”

Ouellet, who previously served as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, “never received any summons from the Lorient Tribunal,” Bruni said. 

The Vatican learned of the tribunal’s decision “only from the press,” Bruni said on Saturday. 

The court also accused the religious community, among other things, of not correctly following the dismissal procedure. There was no prior warning and no reason for the dismissal from the community.

In addition, the court said, the community breached its duty of care when dismissing Baudin de la Valette, who was not offered any financial compensation that would have enabled her to “enjoy appropriate civil living conditions after 34 years of religious life and service to her community in the spirit of justice and charity as set out in canon law.”

Papal Foundation announces nearly $15 million in global grants, humanitarian aid

Pope Francis blesses an unborn baby during the Papal Foundation's annual pilgrimage in Rome on Friday, April 12, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Apr 12, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

The Papal Foundation, a U.S.-based organization that provides funding for Catholic projects around the world, announced on Friday the distribution of nearly $15 million in grants, scholarships, and charitable aid “to care for those in need and grow the Catholic faith around the world.”

The group said in a press release that it would be distributing nearly $10 million in 2024 alone to more than 100 projects and recipients in several dozen countries. Among the beneficiaries include efforts at “providing for basic needs such as access to clean water,” “constructing schools and renovating classrooms,” and “translating Church teachings for evangelization.”

The money will also go toward “restoring Churches, convents, and seminaries in desperate need of repairs,” “providing students in remote areas with transportation to further their education,” and “building health care facilities.”

The foundation was founded 35 years ago in response to a wish from Pope John Paul II. Stewards with the organization donate their personal money to support projects specifically identified and requested by the pope, who is made aware of needs through his nuncios, or ambassadors, around the world.

Pope Francis meets with members of the Papal Foundation on Friday, April 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with members of the Papal Foundation on Friday, April 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The Papal Foundation describes itself as “the only charitable organization in the United States that is exclusively dedicated to fulfilling the requests of the Holy Father for the needs of the Catholic Church.” On Friday the organization said it would also be providing more than $800,000 via its St. John Paul II scholarship program, which “will enable more than 100 priests, women religious, and seminarians to study in Rome.”

The Holy Father met with the Papal Foundation on Friday during the group’s annual pilgrimage to Rome this week. The organization was scheduled to be in Rome from April 9–13. 

During the audience at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Pope Francis told the group’s members that their work “enhances the integral development of so many, including the poor, refugees, immigrants, and nowadays the increasingly large numbers of those affected by war and violence.”

“Through these various worthy initiatives,” the pope said, “you continue to help the successors of Peter to build up many local Churches and care for large numbers of the less fortunate, thus fulfilling the mandates entrusted to the apostle by Our Lord.”

David Savage, the group’s executive director, on Friday described it as a “a blessing to support this mission of cooperation and collaboration, bringing together laity, clergy, and Church hierarchy to address priorities identified by the Holy Father and care for his flock around the globe.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the chairman of the Papal Foundation’s board of trustees, on Friday quoted the Gospel of Luke, saying: “To whom much is given, much shall be required.”

“In a society where the divide between rich and poor continues to grow, stewards of St. Peter of the Papal Foundation recognize their responsibility to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first,” the prelate said.

Pope Francis reinstates papal title ‘Patriarch of the West’ in Pontifical Yearbook

Pope Francis presides over Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 31, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 12, 2024 / 09:50 am (CNA).

In the 2024 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio,” or Pontifical Yearbook, released this week, Pope Francis reinstated the ancient, honorary pontifical title of “Patriarch of the West,” reversing Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 decision to suspend the title. 

This honorific designation has reappeared among the list of “historical titles” used to designate the theological and temporal reality of the pontifical office. Those include Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, among others.

Following Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to drop the title in 2006, the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity (then the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) issued a statement noting that it had become “obsolete” and “no longer usable.” 

The dicastery argued that the cultural and geographic understanding of the West had expanded from Western Europe to also cover North America, Australia, and New Zealand. 

“The renunciation of this title is intended to express historical and theological realism and, at the same time, to be the renunciation of a claim, a renunciation that could be of benefit to ecumenical dialogue,” the dicastery said at the time.

The title “Patriarch of the West” was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore and was used for centuries, though it was not until 1863, during the pontificate of Pope Pius IX, that the title first appeared in the Annuario Pontificio. 

Aristomenis “Menios” Papadimitriou, a historian of religion at Fordham University specializing in modern Christianity, told CNA via email that any attempt to read into the decision would run the risk of being “mainly speculative” and “not grounded in a serious understanding of ecclesial administration.” 

But Papadimitriou noted that “at the heart of it lies the question of the historic and contemporary meaning of the episcopal honorific of ‘patriarch’ and [the life] of that term through the vicissitudes of history.”

Neither the dicastery nor the Holy See Press Office has released a statement explaining Pope Francis’ decision to reinstate the title. 

This is not the first time Pope Francis has made changes to the papal titles in the Annuario Pontificio, the more-than-2,400-page long official directory of the Catholic Church’s global leadership and structure.

The honorifics were previously published above the volume’s short papal biography, but as of 2020 they are listed below that biography in smaller font and identified as “Historical Titles.”

According to Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, the 2020 decision was “intended to indicate the link with the history of the pope” rather than “historicizing” the titles themselves.

That same year, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Vatican’s former doctrinal chief, rebuffed the move, calling it an act of “theological barbarism.” 

He argued that the revised yearbook mixed the term “Vicar of Christ” with designations that “have nothing to do with primacy and have only grown historically but [have] no dogmatic meaning, such as ‘Sovereign of Vatican City State.’”

Nikos Tzoitis, an analyst in the press office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and former spokesperson for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, argued in an April 6 article that the pope’s decision to reintroduce the honorific of Patriarch of the West “is part of the rediscovery of confraternity.” 

“In this way, he wants to emphasize the importance of the lost synodality in the Lord’s Church, which expresses his Body and has synodality as a tool,” Tzoitis wrote.

Pope Francis has cemented ecumenical dialogue as one of the main priorities of his pontificate.  

In 2014 Francis, during an apostolic visit to the Holy Land, met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in 1964. 

That was the first formal meeting of a pope and ecumenical patriarch since 1438, marking a paradigm shift in the ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. 

“We need to believe that, just as the stone before the tomb was cast aside, so too every obstacle to our full communion will also be removed,” Pope Francis said during his 2014 address with the Ecumenical Patriarch.