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Pope Francis: An alliance between old and young will save the family

Pope Francis with a surprise visitor on stage at the General Audience in the Vatican on Aug. 17, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Aug 17, 2022 / 06:19 am (CNA).

Pope Francis Wednesday emphasized the family’s need for healthy relationships and dialogue between the young and the elderly.

“The alliance — and I am saying alliance — the alliance between the elderly and children will save the human family,” the pope said at his weekly audience Aug. 17. “If this dialogue does not take place between the elderly and the young, the future cannot be clearly seen.”

Near the end of the pope’s general audience, which took place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, a young boy approached Francis while sitting on the stage.

An unknown little boy approached Pope Francis near the end of the audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA
An unknown little boy approached Pope Francis near the end of the audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA

Pope Francis spoke to him in Italian, greeting him and asking his name, though the little boy did not respond. “During the audience, we spoke of the dialogue between the elderly and the young,” the pope said to those watching, as he gestured to the boy. “He was courageous, this one.”

The sandy-haired child stood next to Francis for the remainder of the audience, including the singing of the Our Father in Latin and the pope’s final blessing. Afterward, Francis traced a cross on the boy’s forehead.

Pope Francis called the little boy who approached him during the general audience Aug. 17, 2022, "courageous.". Pablo Esparza/CNA
Pope Francis called the little boy who approached him during the general audience Aug. 17, 2022, "courageous.". Pablo Esparza/CNA

The 85-year-old Pope Francis, who usually stands for the prayer and blessing, remained seated on Aug. 17. He has been suffering from a knee injury forcing him to use a wheelchair or walk with a cane for several months.

While the pope was greeting the different language groups toward the end of the audience, one of two Swiss Guards on stage with him appeared to lose his balance and fall toward the floor momentarily. The Swiss Guard immediately got back up, according to photographer Pablo Esparza, who witnessed the event.

A Swiss Guard appeared to lose his balance, or faint, and fell to the ground toward the end of the general audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA
A Swiss Guard appeared to lose his balance, or faint, and fell to the ground toward the end of the general audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA
A Swiss Guard fell during the pope's general audience Aug. 17, 2022, but immediately got back up, according to a witness. Pablo Esparza/CNA
A Swiss Guard fell during the pope's general audience Aug. 17, 2022, but immediately got back up, according to a witness. Pablo Esparza/CNA

In his address, the pope said “it is painful — and harmful — to see that the ages of life are conceived of as separate worlds, in competition among themselves, each one seeking to live at the expense of the other: this is not right.”

“Old age,” he said, “must bear witness — for me, this is the core, the most central aspect of old age — old age must bear witness to children that they are a blessing.”

“This witness consists in their initiation — beautiful and difficult — into the mystery of our destination in life that no one can annihilate, not even death. To bring the witness of faith before a child is to sow that life. To bear the witness of humanity too, and of faith, is the vocation of the elderly.”

According to the pope, “the witness of the elderly is credible to children,” and “young people and adults are not capable of bearing witness in such an authentic, tender, poignant way, as elderly people can.”

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from a wheelchair after the general audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA
Pope Francis greets pilgrims from a wheelchair after the general audience Aug. 17, 2022. Pablo Esparza/CNA

He praised when an old person can lay aside any resentment he or she feels at growing old in order to bless life as it comes.

“There is no bitterness because time is passing by, and he or she is about to move on. No. There is that joy of good wine, of wine that has aged well with the years. The witness of the elderly unites the generations of life,” he said.

“May the elderly have the joy of speaking, of expressing themselves with the young, and may the young seek out the elderly to receive the wisdom of life from them,” the pope wished.

What you need to know about Pope Francis’ next consistory

A consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 28, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Aug 17, 2022 / 05:31 am (CNA).

On Saturday, Aug. 27, Pope Francis will place a red biretta on the heads of 18 bishops and two priests, declaring them to be cardinals “to the glory of almighty God and the honor of the Apostolic See.”

Here’s what you need to know:

What is a consistory?

A consistory is a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals. The pope can convene them for several different reasons.

One of the most common reasons for a consistory is to create new cardinals. The ceremony in which the pope makes cardinals is an ordinary public consistory.

In addition to the red biretta, at the Aug. 27 ceremony, Pope Francis will also place a ring on the hand of each new cardinal while saying: “Receive this ring from the hand of Peter and know that, with the love of the Prince of the Apostles, your love for the Church is strengthened.”

The pope will also assign each new cardinal a church in the Diocese of Rome, called a “titular church.” This further links the cardinal to Rome and to the pope, who is the Bishop of Rome.

The other members of the College of Cardinals, clergy, Catholics, and members of the public may all attend a consistory to create cardinals.

Another consistory the pope may convene is an ordinary consistory to vote on the causes of new saints, the last step before a formal canonization can take place.

There are also extraordinary consistories, which every cardinal is expected to take part in, barring a serious reason.

The three consistories of August

The consistory to create cardinals on Aug. 27 will be an ordinary consistory, open to the public.

A second public ordinary consistory will immediately follow it for cardinals to give their approval for the canonizations of two blesseds: Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, an Italian bishop and founder of the Missionaries of St. Charles, and Artemide Zatti, an Italian immigrant to Argentina who was a nurse and Salesian Coadjutor Brother.

Pope Francis has also called for an extraordinary consistory to take place Aug. 29-30.

With this third consistory, the pope has asked the world's cardinals to come to Rome to discuss the new constitution of the Roman Curia, Praedicate evangelium.

This will be only the third extraordinary consistory of Francis’ pontificate and the first to take place in seven years.

At the end of the two-day meeting, in the afternoon of Aug. 30, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with the new cardinals and the entire College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

A trip in the middle

In between all of these consistories, on Aug. 28, Pope Francis will travel for half a day to the central Italian city of L’Aquila for an important annual event, the Celestinian Forgiveness.

The Celestinian Forgiveness (Perdonanza Celestiniana in Italian) is a legacy of Pope Celestine V, who reigned from July 5, 1294, to Dec. 13 of the same year, when he resigned.

Both a controversial and revolutionary figure, Celestine V established the Celestinian Forgiveness, which offers a plenary indulgence to all who, having confessed and repented of their sins, go to the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L’Aquila from Vespers on Aug. 28 to sunset on Aug. 29.

In L’Aquila, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass outside the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio before opening the church’s Holy Door.

He will also make a private visit to the city’s cathedral, which is still in disrepair after sustaining severe damage in a 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people in L’Aquila and the surrounding area. Following the visit, he will greet the family members of people who died in the quake.  

132 cardinal electors

With the August consistory, the College of Cardinals will have 132 cardinal electors — that is, cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for a new pope in a conclave.

Of these 132 cardinals, Pope Francis will have chosen 83, 62% of cardinal electors. By the end of 2022, when six more cardinals will have turned 80 years old, this percentage will be 65.

The quorum for the election of a pope is two-thirds or 84 cardinals. At the end of 2022, the cardinals created by Pope Francis will only be two less than the quota necessary to elect a successor.

In the Aug. 27 consistory, Pope Francis will also create four new cardinal non-electors, men over the age of 80. Pope Francis had initially named five but later accepted a Belgian Catholic bishop’s request not to be made a cardinal.   

An unconventional date

This will be Pope Francis’ eighth consistory to create new cardinals, but the first time the ceremony has been held in August, typically a time of rest in Rome and the Roman Curia due to the intense summer heat.

The last time a cardinal was created in August was over 200 years ago, in 1807, when Pope Pius VII made Francesco Guidobono Cavalchini a cardinal “in pectore,” or in secret. The new cardinal’s name was not announced until the following year.  

Pope Francis on the Assumption: ‘Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power?’

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus address at St. Peter's Square, Aug. 15, 2022. / Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Aug 15, 2022 / 14:24 pm (CNA).

Reflecting on the Visitation during his Angelus address on Monday, Pope Francis reflected on the raising up to heaven of the humble handmaid of the Lord, and how that attitude is to repeated in our lives.

In the Magnificat Mary intends “to tell us … that God, through her, has inaugurated a historical turning point, he has definitively established a new order of things. She, small and humble, has been raised up and – we celebrate this today – brought to the glory of Heaven, while the powerful of the world are destined to remain empty-handed,” the pope said Aug. 15 in Saint Peter’s Square for the feast of the Assumption.

“Let us look at ourselves, and let us ask ourselves: will this prophetic reversal announced by Mary affect my life? Do I believe that to love is to reign, and to serve is power?”

Pope Francis continued: “Do I believe that the purpose of my life is Heaven, it is paradise? To spend it well here. Or am I concerned only with worldly, material things? Again, as I observe world events, do I let myself be entrapped by pessimism or, like the Virgin, am I able to discern the work of God who, through gentleness and smallness, achieves great things?”

The Magnificat, he said, is the “canticle of hope.” He reflected on the description of the Lord who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”

“As we listen to these words, we might ask ourselves: is the Virgin not exaggerating a little, perhaps, describing a world that does not exist? Indeed, what she says does not seem to correspond to reality; while she speaks, the powerful of the time have not been brought down: the fearsome Herod, for example, is still firmly on his throne. And the poor and hungry remain so, while the rich continue to prosper.”

But the meaning of the Blessed Virgin’s canticle is not a historical description, but a prophecy, the pope said.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Dives ends up “empty-handed” after his death, he reflected.

“Our Lady … announces a radical change, an overturning of values. While she speaks with Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb, she anticipates what her Son will say, when he will proclaim blessed the poor and humble, and warn the rich and those who base themselves on their own self-sufficiency.”

“The Virgin, then, prophesies with this canticle, with this prayer: she prophesies that it will not be power, success and money that will prevail, but rather service, humility and love will prevail. And as we look at her, in glory, we understand that the true power is service – let us not forget this: the true power is service – and to reign means to love. And that this is the road to Heaven.”

In the Magnificat, Mary “sings of hope and rekindles hope in us. Mary today sings of hope and rekindles hope in us: in her, we see the destination of our journey,” Pope Francis said.

“She is the first creature who, with her whole self, body and soul, victoriously crosses the finish line of Heaven. She shows us that Heaven is within reach.”

He affirmed that heaven is attainable “if we too do not give in to sin, if we praise God in humility and serve others generously. Do not give in to sin.”

God is close to us, with compassion and tenderness, he added. 

“Our Mother takes us by the hand, she accompanies us to glory, she invites us to rejoice as we think of heaven,” he concluded. “Let us bless Mary with our prayer, and let us ask her to be capable of glimpsing Heaven on earth.”

Pope Francis: Faith is like fire, not a lullaby

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims during the Angelus Aug. 14, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 14, 2022 / 05:23 am (CNA).

The fire of faith should spur us to conversion, not lull us into complacency, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

In his weekly message on the Gospel, the pope reflected on a passage from St. Luke, who wrote: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!’”

“Faith is not a ‘lullaby’ that lulls us to sleep, but rather a living flame to keep us wakeful and active even at night,” Francis said Aug. 14.

The pope delivered his reflection on the flame of faith from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Afterwards, he prayed the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, in Latin, before sharing some concluding remarks.

“The Gospel,” he said, “does not leave things as they are; when the Gospel passes, and is heard and received, things do not remain as they are. The Gospel provokes change and invites conversion.”

According to Francis, the fire of the Gospel does not give a false sense of peace, but spurs people into action.

“It is just like fire: while it warms us with God’s love, it wants to burn our selfishness, to enlighten the dark sides of life — we all have them — to consume the false idols that enslave us,” he said.

The pope said Jesus is inviting each person to be rekindled by the flame of the Gospel. To illustrate this point, he quoted from the book “The Discovery of God,” by Henri de Lubac, a 20th century theologian and Jesuit priest.

“As Father de Lubac said — faith in God ‘reassures us — but not on our level, or so to produce a paralyzing illusion, or a complacent satisfaction, but so as to enable us to act,” he emphasized.

He also suggested everyone ask themselves if they are passionate about the Gospel, if they read it often, and if they carry it with them.

“Does the faith I profess and celebrate lead me to complacent tranquility or does it ignite the flame of witness in me?” he said, proposing the question for reflection. “We can also ask ourselves this question as Church: in our communities, does the fire of the Spirit burn, with the passion for prayer and charity, and the joy of faith? Or do we drag ourselves along in weariness and habit, with a downcast face and a lament on our lips? And gossip every day?”

Do an interior examination on these questions, Francis said, so that like Jesus, we can say “we are inflamed with the fire of God’s love, and we want to spread it around the world, to take it to everyone, so that each person may discover the tenderness of the Father and experience the joy of Jesus, which enlarges the heart — and Jesus enlarges the heart — and makes life beautiful.”

Pope Francis closed his message by asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

After the Angelus, he drew attention to a humanitarian crisis in Somalia and some parts of the neighboring countries.

“The people of this region, already living in very precarious conditions, are now in mortal danger due to drought,” he explained.

Lamenting that war diverts attention and resources away from other places, he expressed hope that the international community will respond to the emergency.

The fight against hunger and the promotion of health and education, he said, “are the goals that demand the greatest commitment.”

Pope Francis also recalled the Aug. 17th anniversary of Saint Pope John Paul II’s entrustment of the world to Divine Mercy, which was carried out at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, 20 years ago in 2002.

“And we ask the Lord [for a] special mercy, mercy and compassion, for the tormented Ukrainian people,” he added.

In phone call, Zelenskyy thanks Pope Francis for praying for Ukraine

Pope Francis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. / Quirinale.it/President.gov.ua via Wikimedia.

Rome Newsroom, Aug 13, 2022 / 04:45 am (CNA).

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that he spoke with Pope Francis over the phone on Friday and thanked the pope for his prayers and humanitarian support.

In a tweet posted on Aug. 12, Zelenskyy wrote that he had briefed the pope on Russia’s “horrible crimes” and aggression against Ukraine.

“Our people need support of world spiritual leaders who should convey to the world the truth about acts of horror committed by the aggressor,” the Ukrainian president said.

Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, reported that this is the third time that Pope Francis has spoken with Zelenskyy since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly six months ago.

The ambassador added that Ukraine would be happy to welcome the pope for an official visit to help with the peace process.

Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his interest in a potential visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

On his return flight from Canada, the pope reiterated his interest in traveling to the war-torn country. In July, the Ukrainian foreign ministry renewed its invitation for Pope Francis to visit.

“I said I would like to go to Ukraine. Let's see now what I find when I get home,” the pope said in the in-flight press conference on July 30.

Pope Francis is scheduled to participate in September in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Kazakhstan, where he could potentially meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who is expected to participate in the congress.

At the end of his Angelus address on Aug. 7, Pope Francis welcomed the departure of the first grain ships allowed to leave ports in Ukraine.

“This step demonstrates that it is possible to dialogue and to reach concrete results which benefit everyone,” the pope said.

“Therefore, this event also presents itself as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that, following this path, there can be an end to combat, and that a just and lasting peace might be reached.”

In Rome, a setback for Father Vincent Capodanno sainthood cause

Father Capodanno with fellow Marines in Vietnam / null

Denver Newsroom, Aug 12, 2022 / 09:40 am (CNA).

There is a new obstacle for the sainthood cause of Father Vincent Capodanno, the “grunt padre” who died on a Vietnam battlefield as a military chaplain to U.S. Marines. Consultants to the Vatican body tasked with judging possible saints have recommended the suspension of Capodanno’s cause, though his backers are appealing the decision they say is only preliminary.

“It is the firm conviction of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, that Father Capodanno is enjoying the bliss of heaven and it is felt that raising the exemplary service of this distinguished priest to the altars would serve the Church and especially the Chaplain Corps of the USA,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services told CNA Aug. 11.

Broglio’s archdiocese is responsible for launching the priest’s canonization cause.

At the Vatican, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints is responsible for canonization decisions. 

In May, an advisory panel of theological consultants considered the “positio” document prepared by the postulator and its arguments in favor of and against Capodanno’s beatification.

The consultants voted to recommend to the dicastery that Capodanno’s cause be suspended.

Broglio characterized the recommendation as “a consultative vote” for the dicastery, previously known as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

“The body only makes a recommendation to the congregation,” the archbishop said. “The postulator has already petitioned the congregation to appeal the decision and allow the postulation to respond to some of the questions raised by the theologians.”

Broglio said the dicastery has the responsibility “to determine if the process can continue.”

Capodanno, a member of the Maryknoll religious order, was a U.S. Navy chaplain who served in the Vietnam War with U.S. Marines. Enlisted Marines are informally known as “grunts,” and he acquired the moniker “the grunt padre.” 

When in combat he would put the well-being of Marines above his personal safety. The priest would move among the wounded and dying on the battlefield to provide medical aid, comfort, and Last Rites.

He died on the battlefield Sept. 4, 1967 after shielding a Marine from enemy machine gun fire.

In 2006, the Congregation for Saints declared him a Servant of God, a first step to possible beatification or canonization.

The Father Capodanno Guild, a private Catholic association that promotes the priest’s canonization cause, also responded to the consultants’ recommendation to suspend the beatification cause.

The recommendation is “not what we have been praying for,” the guild said on its website Aug. 8. Nonetheless, it added, the decision is “not the end of our journey.”

“Other causes have had to struggle through the process in Rome,” the guild said. “Let us pray for the will of God and arm ourselves with faith, hope, and trust.”

“Initial engagements with congregation leaders have emphasized the widespread interest in the cause,” the guild said. “These leaders have responded that the possibility to move forward exists and should be pursued.”

The theological consultants have written individually to Dr. Nicola Gori, the postulator of Capodanno’s cause to express any concerns.

The Fr. Capodanno Guild summarized these concerns and suggested possible responses to them.

One consultant voiced concern that the positio focuses mainly on the last year of Capodanno’s life and shows little evidence of his spiritual growth. The guild said this focus is appropriate because it is proposing beatification under the standard that the priest gave freely of his own life.

For another consultant, the fact that Maryknoll has not pursued Capodanno’s cause is a matter of concern. To this, the guild suggested a reply that the Archdiocese for Military Services took responsibility for the cause of one of its own chaplains. “Maryknoll is now supporting our efforts,” the guild said.

Another concern about the priest being “fastidiousness about his appearance” prompted another possible explanation: “This reflects the strong Italian family that he grew up in and was reinforced by the Navy and Marine Corps. It is not an indication of sinful pride.”  

“With ongoing military actions in the world today (think Ukraine), raising someone from the military for veneration may not be appropriate for our Church,” one consultant wrote.

To this, the guild responded: “No one likes war especially those who serve their countries in them. One of the most important things for these serving men and women is to have access to the Sacraments. Our chaplains selflessly give of themselves to provide these Sacraments. Pope Francis pushes strongly to ensure that chaplain priests are available for militaries.”

If the appeal of the consultants’ decision is supported, there could be a chance to submit more evidence for Capodanno’s beatification cause.

Vincent Robert Capodanno was born on Staten Island in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. In 1957 he was ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal Francis Spellman, then vicar of the U.S. Military Ordinariate.

He entered the Maryknoll religious order and served as a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1958 to 1965. After he successfully petitioned his Maryknoll superiors to release him to serve as a U.S. Navy chaplain, he arrived in Vietnam during Holy Week of 1966.

He held the rank of lieutenant and took part in seven combat operations.

During the Operation Swift campaign, Fr. Capodanno was injured by an exploding mortar round which caused multiple injuries to his arms and legs and severed part of his right hand. He continued to tend to the wounded and nearly lost his hand to shrapnel. Despite his wounds, he refused care so that medical supplies could go to his injured Marines.

The priest directed Marines to help the wounded and continued to move about the battlefield, encouraging them with his words and example.

While seeking to aid one particular Marine, he put his own body between the wounded man and an enemy machine gunner who opened fire. He died from 27 bullet wounds.

He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Navy Bronze Star medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, and the Purple Heart Medal.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services has scheduled a memorial Mass for Fr. Capodanno Sept. 6 at the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

What is the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life?

null / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 09:47 am (CNA).

A controversy over a book and statements made on Twitter has recently drawn increased attention to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

In late June, the academy's official Twitter account began promoting a Vatican-published book synthesizing a 2021 seminar on ethics, in which a participant discussed "the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases."

The pontifical academy said in an Aug. 8 press release that the seminar discussed "all the issues related to the ethics of life … including contraception and sexual matrimonial morality." Euthanasia was also a topic of the seminar.

Some of the promotional posts for the seminar and subsequent book received pushback in media reports and from Catholic Twitter users who said they presented wrong or confusing information about the Church's teachings.

The academy's Twitter account called the negative responses "insults and out-of-control criticism" by "fake accounts." On Aug. 10, several of the Tweets had been deleted.

A screenshot of a press release shared on Aug. 8, 2022, via a now-deleted Tweet from the Pontifical Academy for Life.
A screenshot of a press release shared on Aug. 8, 2022, via a now-deleted Tweet from the Pontifical Academy for Life.

A member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Spanish-based bioethicist Elena Postigo, distanced herself from the book, which is titled "Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges."

"The book is not an official statement but the seminar records in which 20 people made their personal statements. Many members didn't know about it and are astonished," Postigo shared on Twitter.

What exactly is the institution which started this controversy?

The beginnings

The Pontifical Academy for Life is one of several academic and cultural institutions which bring together experts in their fields to discuss issues of relevance to the Church and the world.

St. Pope John Paul II founded the Pontifical Academy for Life in February 1994.

In the document establishing the academy, the motu proprio Vitae Mysterium, he wrote that the institute has "the specific task to study and provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium."

Venerable Jérôme Lejeune, a French pediatrician and geneticist who opposed the use of prenatal testing for the purposes of carrying out elective abortions, was the academy's first president, though he died from lung cancer in April 1994, just a few weeks after its founding.

Before his death, however, Lejeune managed to draft the academy's first bylaws and a declaration to be signed by members of the academy stating that "before God and men we bear witness that for us every human being is a person" and that "from the moment the embryo is formed until death it is the same human being which grows to maturity and dies."

The 2016 changes 

Pope Francis approved new statutes for the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2016, the first significant reform of the institution since its beginning. The statutes are due to expire at the end of this year, after going into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, for five years.

The use of the declaration of pro-life belief drafted by Lejeune was dropped in the new statutes, and membership in the academy was changed from a lifetime term to a renewable five-year term.

The statutes also say members, or academicians, appointed by the pope, can be of any religion, though they should "promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church."

An academician can have his or her membership revoked, the statutes say, "in the case of a public and deliberate action or statement manifestly contrary to said principles, or seriously offensive to the dignity and credibility of the Catholic Church and the Academy itself."

The structure

The academy is headed by president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who Pope Francis appointed in August 2016. Paglia had been president of the Pontifical Council for the Family before it was merged into the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Under the president, there is the chancellor, Monsignor Renzo Pegoraro, and a board of directors called the governing council.

With the 2016 reforms, most of the 139 previous academicians' terms were ended, and new members appointed.

Academicians of the Pontifical Academy for Life can be clergy, religious, or laity and are chosen from among the top experts in law and bioethics issues around the world.

Members are categorized in one of four ways: Ordinary members and honorary members are chosen by the pope. In contrast, corresponding members and young researchers are selected by the academy's president and governing council.

There are currently 51 ordinary members and two honorary members, according to the Vatican's 2022 Pontifical Yearbook. Corresponding members appear to be around 90 in number, while there are about 13 young researchers who must be under 35 years old to qualify.

Most members were appointed in the summer of 2017.

Carl A. Anderson, the former Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, is among the academy's ordinary members after being reappointed in 2017 along with 27 other former members.

Other Americans in the academy include Kathleen M. Foley, a neurologist and secretary of the board of directors of Physicians for Human Rights; John M. Haas, president emeritus of the National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Ignatius John Keown, a professor of Christian ethics at Georgetown University.

Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, are also ordinary members based on their bioethics backgrounds.

Recent controversies 

Some 2017 appointments to the academy garnered criticism, in particular, that of Nigel Biggar, an Anglican theologian, who has previously supported legalized abortion up to 18 weeks and expressed qualified support for euthanasia.

A few other members, including Father Maurizio Chiodi, have also expressed a belief in the morality of contraceptive use in marriage, which the Catholic Church considers a grave sin.

The changes to the statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the appointment of Archbishop Paglia as president, and the nomination of some non-Catholic members were also the subject of disagreement among some Catholics.

Controversy included disappointment at the removal of French geneticist Lejeune's declaration of fidelity to the pro-life teachings of the Church.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2017, Paglia defended the revised statutes.

"I think [critics] will find that the new Statutes require a stronger commitment on the part of Members to the Church's pro-life teaching than do the old," he said.

"In that context, however," he added, "I also want to point out that the Academy's absolute fidelity to the Church's Magisterium in no way means that we are unable to undertake joint initiatives or enter into dialogue with persons who do not share our Catholic belief and commitment."

Earlier this year, a Jesuit-run Catholic journal came under fire from over 50 organizations for an article supporting legalized assisted suicide written by a Pontifical Academy for Life member.

In his article, Father Carlo Cassone, SJ, a moral theology professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, argued that an Italian bill to legalize assisted suicide could be "an acceptable 'imperfect' law."

The academy's chancellor, Father Pegoraro, also appeared to express sympathy for the idea in an interview with French Catholic newspaper La Croix. 

In another Twitter controversy, the Pontifical Academy for Life received over 200 responses, most negative, to a post on Apr. 6, 2021, marking the death of the dissenting theologian Hans Küng.  

The influential and controversial Swiss theologian, who rejected papal infallibility, Catholic teaching on contraception, and the moral impermissibility of assisted suicide, was described on the academy's Twitter as "a great figure in the theology of the last century whose ideas and analyzes (sic) must always make us reflect on the Catholic Church, the Churches, the society, the culture." 

In 2019, a week after Swiss bishops published guidelines stating pastoral caregivers should not be present during a person's death by assisted suicide, Pontifical Academy for Life President Paglia told journalists he would be willing to hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he did not see that as lending implicit support for the practice.

Fabrizio Mastrofini has been the Pontifical Academy for Life's social media manager and press officer since 2017.

Pope Francis: The desire for ‘eternal youth’ and ‘unlimited well-being’ is delusional conceit

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 10, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Aug 10, 2022 / 04:48 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that it is “delusional” to try to stop the natural passage of time in pursuit of “eternal youth” and “unlimited well-being.”

Speaking at his live-streamed general audience on Aug. 10, the pope pointed out that from the Christian perspective, the passing of time “is not a threat, it is a promise.”

“The conceit of stopping time — of wanting eternal youth, unlimited well-being, absolute power — is not only impossible, it is delusional,” Pope Francis said in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life; it is life, but one that leads you toward a fuller life … a life which finds fulfillment only in God.”

The pope underlined that life on earth is best understood as a “novitiate,” a preparation for an eternal life in heaven that will be “superior to the time of our mortal life.”

“We are apprentices of life, who — amid a thousand difficulties — learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone,” he said.

“We are imperfect from the very beginning, and we remain imperfect up to the end,” Francis added.

He explained that life is not meant to “be wrapped up in itself in an imaginary earthly perfection.” 

Life “is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death — because death is a passage. Indeed, … our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever,” the pope said.

With this reflection, Pope Francis concluded a cycle of catechesis on old age that he began in February. 

During this time, the 85-year-old pope has faced health problems that limited his mobility, particularly an injury to his right knee.

For his final catechesis on old age, the pope walked slowly using a cane as he made his way onto the stage of the audience hall. He later greeted the crowd from a wheelchair.

Pope Francis underscored that old age should be a time of “expectation” that brings one closer to life’s fulfillment in God. 

“In the fulfillment of God’s promise, the relationship is inverted: the space of God, which Jesus prepares for us with the utmost care, is superior to the time of our mortal life. Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment,” Pope Francis said.

“Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation. This is why old age is wise. God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight,” he said.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis prayed for Cuba, where a lightning strike at an oil facility set off multiple explosions of fuel storage tanks and caused a devastating fire. 

The pope also expressed his continued concern for Ukraine, where people are “still suffering from this cruel war,” and for migrants. 

In total, Pope Francis gave 16 reflections on the dignity of the elderly in his audiences this year. He has not yet said what will be the next topic for his weekly catecheses when he starts a new cycle next Wednesday morning.

“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfillment. The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise. And the best is yet to come,” Pope Francis said.

Cardinal Tomko, oldest living cardinal, dead at 98

Cardinal Jozef Tomko in 2018 at a shrine on Mount Zvir, above the village of Litmanová, Slovakia. / Sirocan69 via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Rome Newsroom, Aug 8, 2022 / 04:53 am (CNA).

Cardinal Jozef Tomko died early Monday morning in Rome at the age of 98. At the time of his death, the Slovakian-born cardinal was the world’s oldest living member of the College of Cardinals.

Tomko died at 5:00 a.m. Aug. 8 in his apartment, where he was under the care of a dedicated nurse after hospitalization on June 25 for a cervical spine injury, according to Vatican News. He had returned home from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Aug. 6.

The Slovak bishops’ conference invited people to pray for Cardinal Tomko in a message announcing his death on Aug. 8.

The conference said more information about the cardinal’s funeral in Rome and his burial at St. Elizabeth Cathedral in Košice, Slovakia, will be announced soon.

Tomko was a member of the College of Cardinals for over 37 years after St. Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in the consistory of May 1985.

A confidant of John Paul II, Tomko had been secretary general of the Synod of Bishops for almost six years at the time he was created cardinal.

Two days later, on May 27, 1985, he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He served in that position until his retirement in 2001 at the age of 77.

For the following six years, Tomko served as president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. In this position, he attended several international events as Vatican envoy.

Tomko was born in the small village of Udavské, Czechoslovakia, in the northeast part of what is now known as Slovakia.

After beginning his studies for the priesthood in Bratislava in 1943, he was sent to study at the Pontifical Lateran University and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from which he received doctorates in theology, canon law, and social sciences.

He was ordained a priest in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome in 1949. As a priest, he continued his studies, did pastoral work, and later served as vice rector and rector of the Pontifical College Nepomucenum, a theological seminary for Czech men.

Tomko was also co-founder of the Slovak Institute of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Rome.

From 1962 he served as an assistant in the doctrinal office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He headed the same office from 1966. During that time, he was chosen as one of the special secretaries for the first synodal assembly of 1967.

He was appointed under-secretary of the Congregation for Bishops at the end of 1974.

After naming Tomko secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II consecrated him a bishop in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel on Sept. 15, 1979.

In the 1980s, the Slovak prepared and oversaw three ordinary general synods, a particular synod of the bishops of the Netherlands, and an extraordinary synod on the 20th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.

Tomko was also active in the area of ecumenism on an international level. 

Pope Francis: Put your trust in God and his care for you

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus address Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2022 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Hold fast to trust in God and stay alert to his presence in your life, Pope Francis said during his weekly Angelus address on Sunday.

“Let us walk without fear, in the certainty that the Lord always accompanies us. And let us stay awake, lest it happen to us that we fall asleep while the Lord is passing by,” he said Aug. 7.

The pope spoke about letting go of worry and anxiety before reciting the Angelus, a Marian prayer, from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“At times we feel imprisoned by a feeling of distrust and anxiety,” Francis said. “It is the fear of failure, of not being acknowledged and loved, the fear of not being able to realize our plans, of never being happy, and so on.”

Fear, he added, leads us to “struggle to find solutions, to find a space in which to thrive, to accumulate goods and wealth, to obtain security; and how do we end up? We end up living anxiously and constantly worrying.”

Francis pointed to the day’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, in which, he said, “Jesus reassures us: Do not be afraid.”

“Trust in the Father who wants to give you all that you truly need. He has already given you his Son, his Kingdom, and he will always accompany you with his providence, taking care of you every day. Do not be afraid — this is the certainty that your hearts should be attached to,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus, the pope said, makes two fundamental exhortations to his disciples: to “not be afraid,” and to “be ready.”

“There is no need to worry and fret for our lives are firmly in God’s hands,” he said. “But knowing that the Lord watches over us with love does not entitle us to slumber, to let ourselves succumb to laziness.”

“On the contrary, we must be alert, vigilant,” he continued. “Indeed, to love means being attentive to the other, being aware of his or her needs, being willing to listen and welcome, being ready.”

Vigilance also extends to our responsibility over the goods God has entrusted to us, he said, pointing to life, faith, family, relationships, work, our home, and creation.

“We have received so many things. Let us try to ask ourselves: Do we take care of this inheritance the Lord has left us? Do we safeguard its beauty or do we use things only for ourselves and for our immediate convenience?” he said. “We have to think a little about this — are we guardians of the creation that has been given to us?”

“St. Augustine said, ‘I am afraid that the Lord passes by and I do not notice;’ of being asleep and not noticing that the Lord passes by,” Francis said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us, who welcomed the Lord’s visit and readily and generously said, ‘Here I am.’”

After the Angelus, Pope Francis said he was glad that the first ships carrying grain had been allowed to leave the ports of Ukraine since the outbreak of war in February.

“This step demonstrates that it is possible to dialogue and to reach concrete results for everyone’s benefit,” he said. “Therefore, this event also presents itself as a sign of hope, and I sincerely hope that, following in this direction, there might be an end to combat and that a just and lasting peace might be reached.”

Francis also expressed his sorrow for the Polish pilgrims who died or were injured in a bus crash in Croatia on Saturday.