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Munich abuse report: Vatican editorial director says don’t look for ‘scapegoats’

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 08:15 am (CNA).

An official at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication responded on Wednesday to a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

In an editorial published by Vatican News on Jan. 26, Andrea Tornielli, the dicastery’s editorial director, wrote: “The words that were used during the press conference to present the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, as well as the 72 pages of the document dedicated to the brief Bavarian episcopate of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have filled the newspapers in the past week and have triggered some very strong comments.”

“Predictably, it was Ratzinger’s four and a half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators,” he said.

The more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese in southern Germany, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

In an article that was also published on the front page of the Jan. 26 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican official underlined that the pope emeritus did not evade the questions of the law firm commissioned to draw up the report.

Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to Westpfahl Spilker Wastl as it compiled the report.

“The reconstructions contained in the Munich report, which — it must be remembered — is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence, will help to combat pedophilia in the Church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” Tornielli wrote.

“Only by avoiding these risks will they be able to contribute to the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.”

It cannot be forgotten that as pope, Benedict XVI “promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers, special laws to combat pedophilia,” Tornielli said.

He pointed out that Benedict XVI was the first pope to meet several times with abuse survivors during his papal trips.

“It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” he wrote.

“It is precisely in this penitential image that the heart of Benedict’s message lies. The Church is not a business, it is not saved only by good practices or by the application, even if indispensable, of strict and effective norms.”

“The Church needs to ask for forgiveness, help and salvation from the Only One who can give them, from the Crucified One who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.”

The Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the study’s conclusions “after a first reading and examination.”

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said on Jan. 24 that the 94-year-old was carefully reading the extensive report and would make a statement once he had finished examining it.

Tornielli highlighted words that Benedict XVI said “with extreme lucidity” during an in-flight press conference in May 2010.

He wrote: “Benedict XVI recognized that ‘the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a truly appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church needs deeply to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need for justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.’”

Pope Francis on day of prayer for Ukraine: ‘Please, no more war’

Pope Francis during his general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Jan. 26, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 04:28 am (CNA).

At the beginning of the Catholic Church’s day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, Pope Francis made an earnest appeal to those in power: “Please, no more war.”

“I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 26.

“Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions.”

The pope urged people not to forget the more than five million people who died in Ukraine during World War II.

“Think that more than five million were annihilated during the time of the last war. They are a suffering people; they have suffered hunger, they have suffered so much cruelty and they deserve peace,” Francis said.

“May the prayers and invocations that are being raised to heaven today touch the minds and hearts of those in positions of authority on earth, so that dialogue may prevail and the good of all be put before the interests of one side. Please, no more war.”

Pope Francis called for Jan. 26 to be a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine during his Angelus address last Sunday amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, will preside over a prayer for peace in Ukraine in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere at 5:30 p.m. local time, the same time as Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidio will gather in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 23.

“Those who pursue their own interests, to the detriment of others, disregard their human vocation, as we were all created as brothers and sisters.”

Catholic bishops in Europe have also expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) said.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said earlier this week that rising tensions with Russia pose “a great danger” to the whole of Europe.

“The current situation represents a great danger for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the entire European continent, which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe,” their appeal, also signed by other bishops, said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

In their joint message, the bishops of Ukraine and Poland called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“Today, the quest for alternatives to war in resolving international conflicts has become an urgent necessity, since the terrifying power of the means of destruction are now in the hands of even medium and small powers, and the increasingly strong ties existing between the peoples of the whole earth make it difficult, if not practically impossible, to limit the effects of any conflict,” they said.

“Therefore, drawing on the experience of previous generations, we call upon those in power to refrain from hostilities. We encourage leaders to immediately withdraw from the path of ultimatums and the use of other countries as bargaining chips.”

“Differences in interests must be resolved not by the use of arms, but through agreements. The international community should unite in solidarity and actively support endangered society in all possible ways.”

Pope Francis to parents: Never condemn a child

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday never to condemn their children.

At his Jan. 26 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope encouraged parents to turn to St. Joseph for help, including those whose children are of “different sexual orientations.”

He said: “I am thinking at this moment of so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”

Speaking off the cuff, he added: “And I am thinking, too, of parents in the face of their children’s problems: Children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent maladies — how much pain is there! — parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.”

“Parents who see their children leaving because of an illness, and also — even sadder, we read about it every day in the newspapers — children who get into mischief and end up in a car accident. Parents who see their children not progressing in school and don’t know how... So many parental problems. Let’s think about it: how to help them.”

“And to these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”

The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience to “St. Joseph, a man who ‘dreams,’” in the ninth installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November 2021.

He emphasized the saint’s sensitivity to dreams, which he said were “considered a means by which God revealed himself” in biblical times.

“Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly,” he said.

The pope recounted the four dreams of St. Joseph described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the first, an angel told the saint not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

“Life often puts us in situations that we do not understand and that seem to have no solution,” he said.

“Praying in these moments — this means letting the Lord show us the right thing to do. In fact, very often it is prayer that gives us the intuition of the way out.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never allows a problem to arise without also giving us the help we need to deal with it.”

In the second dream, Joseph grasped that the Infant Jesus was in danger and the Holy Family needed to flee to Egypt.

“In life we all experience dangers that threaten our existence or the existence of those we love,” the pope reflected. “In these situations, praying means listening to the voice that can give us the same courage as Joseph, to face difficulties without succumbing.”

In the third dream, St. Joseph heard that it was safe to return home and, in the fourth, that he should settle in Nazareth, away from Archelaus, the son of Herod.

“Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer,” the pope commented. “God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness.”

The pope underlined that prayer was an active practice, always connected to charity.

“Prayer, however, is never an abstract or purely internal gesture, like these spiritualist movements that are more gnostic than Christian. No, it’s not that,” he said.

“Prayer is always inextricably linked to charity. It is only when we combine prayer with love, the love for children in the cases I just mentioned, or the love for our neighbour, that we are able to understand the Lord’s messages.”

“Joseph prayed, worked, and loved — three beautiful things for parents: to pray, to work, and to love — and because of this he always received what he needed to face life’s trials. Let us entrust ourselves to him and to his intercession.”

After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.

Speaking to English-speaking Catholics, he highlighted the day for prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, which he announced at last Sunday’s Angelus.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from the United States of America. Today, I especially ask you to join in praying for peace in Ukraine. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

The pope also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on Jan. 27.

He said: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope told pilgrims that he was unable to move among them at the end of the audience because of a temporary “problem with my right leg.”

He said: “A ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing.”

With a smile, the 85-year-old added: “They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but... I don’t know.”

Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for many years. He spoke about it shortly after his election in 2013, saying it was “very painful” and “I don’t wish it on anyone.”

He suffered a resurgence of the condition at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, which forced him to cancel public appearances.

The pope ended his general audience address by reciting a prayer:

St. Joseph, a man who dreams, teach us to recover the spiritual life
as the inner place where God manifests Himself and saves us.

Remove from us the thought that praying is useless;
help each one of us to correspond to what the Lord shows us.

May our reasoning be illuminated by the light of the Spirit,
our hearts encouraged by His strength
and our fears saved by His mercy. Amen.

Pope Francis: ‘The Lord wants us to trust one another’

Pope Francis presides at the celebration of Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Jan. 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2022 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Tuesday that God wants Christians to trust one another, “despite the errors of the past and our mutual wounds,” as he marked the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The pope was preaching on Jan. 25 in Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, which contains the tomb of St. Paul the Apostle, in the presence of Orthodox and Anglican leaders.

“On our journey of fellowship, may we never fail to hear [Jesus’] words of encouragement: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Matthew 28:5.10),” he said.

“Let us not fear to put our brothers and sisters ahead of our own fears! The Lord wants us to trust one another and to journey together, despite our failings and our sins, despite the errors of the past and our mutual wounds.”

The live-streamed ceremony fell on the last day of the 55th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, dedicated to the theme “We saw a star in the East, and we came to worship him,” inspired by Matthew 2:2.

At the start of the service, the Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul, the pope venerated the saint’s tomb, with Metropolitan Polykarpos, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Pope Francis began his homily by thanking the two men for their presence. He also greeted students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Switzerland and Anglican students from Nashotah, Wisconsin.

He reflected on the example of the Magi — also known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings — who came with gifts to worship the Child Jesus shortly after his birth.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the decisive stage of the journey towards full communion requires ever more intense prayer, it requires worship, the worship of God,” the pope said.

“The Magi, however, remind us that worship demands something else of us: first, we must fall to our knees. That is the way: bending low, setting aside our own pretenses in order to make the Lord alone the center of everything. How many times has pride proved the real obstacle to communion!”

“The Magi had the courage to leave behind their prestige and reputation in order to humble themselves in the lowly house of Bethlehem; and as a result, they found themselves “overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10).”

“To humble ourselves, to leave certain things behind, to simplify our lives: this evening, let us ask God for that courage, the courage of humility, the one way to come to worship God in the same house, around the same altar.”

At the end of Vespers, before the Apostolic Blessing, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed the pope.

He referred to Paul Couturier, a French priest who helped to establish the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Koch said: “The ecumenical movement, as Paul Couturier, the great protagonist of spiritual ecumenism, so beautifully put it, is like an invisible monastery where Christians of different Churches in many countries and continents pray together for the unity of the Church.”

“This evening we too participate in this invisible monastery, gathering together with you, Holy Father, to pray and adore the Child in Bethlehem.”

“We thank you most sincerely, Holy Father, for your constant encouragement to tread the path of unity and reconciliation.”

The Swiss cardinal thanked the pope especially for proclaiming St. Irenaeus of Lyon a Doctor of the Church with the title ‘“Doctor unitatis.”

“Your decision is also a promising sign for ecumenism,” he said.

Pope Francis honors newly beatified El Salvador martyrs for their ‘heroic example’

Four martyrs are beatified at a Mass in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Jan. 22, 2022. / Camilo Freedman/APHOTOGRAFIA/Getty Images.

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has commended the “heroic example” of four martyrs killed in the 1970s and 1980s who were recently beatified in El Salvador.

Franciscan Father Cosme Spessotto, Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, and two lay companions were declared blessed at a beatification Mass in San Salvador on Jan. 22.

“They stood by the poor, bearing witness to the Gospel, truth, and justice even to the point of shedding their blood,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address the following day.

“May their heroic example inspire in everyone the desire to be courageous workers of fraternity and peace.”

Blessed Cosme Spessotto was shot by a machine gun while kneeling in a pew near the tabernacle on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 14, 1980.

The Franciscan priest, who had come to El Salvador as a missionary from Italy, had offered Mass earlier that evening for a university student who had been killed by the military. He remained in the empty church in prayer when two people entered the parish and killed him.

According to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Spessotto did not support either the left-wing guerillas or the right-wing paramilitary groups that were clashing in El Salvador at that time, but sought dialogue and reconciliation between the parties and tried to help the weakest and the poor.

Despite this, Spessotto had received death threats. His superiors suggested that he leave El Salvador, but he expressed a desire to stay.

Spessotto wrote: “To die a martyr would be a grace I do not deserve. To wash away all my sins, faults, and weaknesses with the blood shed for Christ would be a free gift from the Lord for me. As of now I forgive and pray for the conversion of the authors of my death."

Born in 1923 in the northern Italian province of Treviso, Spessotto entered the minor seminary at the age of 12 and made his religious profession as a Franciscan as Europe was engulfed in World War II in 1940.

After he was ordained a priest in 1948, he expressed a desire to his superiors to be sent to China as a missionary but was sent instead to El Salvador in 1950.

He built a parish church in San Juan Nonualco, where he served as a missionary for 30 years before he was martyred at the age of 57.

The Vatican decree on his martyrdom was published on May 26, 2020.

The three other beatified martyrs were all born in El Salvador.

Father Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest and professor of pastoral theology educated in Europe, spoke out boldly to condemn the repressive action of the military and the ruling oligarchy against the poor and the marginalized, according to the Vatican.

He was driving back with five other people in the car on March 12, 1977, from a Mass offered as part of a novena in preparation for the feast of St. Joseph, when the vehicle was attacked by armed men.

The priest was instantly killed, along with a 16-year-old boy named Nelson Rutilio Lemus, who often assisted at Mass, and Manuel Solórzano, a 72-year-old catechist and father of 10.

St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador at the time, was deeply shaken by the assassination and personally presided over the funeral Mass.

“In the motivation of love, there cannot remain absent justice, there can be no true peace and true love on the basis of injustice, violence, intrigue,” Romero said, according to the Vatican’s martyrdom decree.

“True love is what brought Rutilio Grande to his death together with two farmers. This is how he loved the Church, he died with them, and with them he presented himself to the transcendence of heaven.”

About 5,000 people, 25 bishops, and 600 priests were present at the beatification Mass in San Salvador’s Plaza del Divino Salvador del Mundo, according to Suyapa Medios.

Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, an auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, gave the homily at the Mass.

"Our martyrs can help us recover memory and hope so that we do not give up the dream of a reconciled and peaceful country, a country as our God wants it: just, fraternal, and supportive,” the cardinal said, according to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

Vatican finance trial: Prosecutors again charge Cardinal Becciu with subornation of perjury

President of the Vatican City State Tribunal Giuseppe Pignatone / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2022 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

Prosecutors in the Vatican’s ongoing financial fraud trial have requested subpoenas for four defendants who were excluded from the trial late last year, and will reintroduce a charge of subornation of perjury against Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

The Jan. 25 hearing was the latest in the Vatican’s historic trial to prosecute Vatican collaborators and officials in connection to the Secretariat of State’s investment in a London property for 350 million euros ($396 million).

The trial, which began in July 2021 with 10 defendants, had encountered procedural problems. In October, the court ruled that the office of the prosecutor — called the Promoter of Justice — needed to re-do part of the investigation into several of the defendants.

Meanwhile, the trial had proceeded with six defendants, including Becciu, the highest-ranking cleric to be tried by the tribunal of Vatican City State in recent history.

On the morning of Jan. 25, the Promoter of Justice submitted paperwork for the re-indictment of Raffaele Mincione, Fabrizio Tirabassi, Nicola Squillace, and Msgr. Mauro Carlino.

The charge of embezzlement against Tommaso Di Ruzza, the former director of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, has been dropped.

Becciu, who for the first time was not present in the courtroom during a hearing, will again be charged with subornation of perjury, the crime of persuading a person to commit perjury.

Becciu is also charged with embezzlement and abuse of office. He has vigorously denied all the charges.

The start of Tuesday’s hearing was delayed for over two hours due to the filing of the requests for subpoenas.

Court President Giuseppe Pignatone said at the 40-minute hearing that the next court date, scheduled for Feb. 18, would be the first with the parallel investigations reunited into one trial.

Pignatone is also expected to give his decision on Feb. 18 regarding objections presented by defense lawyers on Tuesday.

Becciu’s lawyer is still calling for the trial to be thrown out, and complained on Tuesday that out of 255 computer files seized by prosecutors, only 16 have been released for examination by defense lawyers. And of those 16, the lawyers said, none would qualify as “forensic copies.”

Defense lawyer Fabio Viglione also asked the court to nullify the charges because, he said, in questions to star witness Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, prosecutors insinuated there was an immoral relationship between Becciu and another defendant, Cecilia Marogna.

According to Viglione, the defendant has the right not to be questioned on matters of morality.

Judge Pignatone asked the promoter of justice to confer with the defense attorneys on what documents they were missing by Jan. 31.

NY auxiliary appointed by Pope Francis will be one of world’s youngest bishops

Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat. / Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2022 / 05:49 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed two new auxiliaries for the Archdiocese of New York, one of whom will be one of the world’s youngest bishops.

The Vatican announced on Jan. 25 that Father Joseph A. Espaillat and Father John S. Bonnici will be ordained as bishops.

Born on Dec. 27, 1976, Espaillat will be the youngest bishop in the United States once he is consecrated.

The 45-year-old is the director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Renewal for New York archdiocese.

Espaillat launched a podcast and YouTube series called “Sainthood in the City” in 2021.

In a video promoting the launch, Espaillat, who also goes by Father J, said that the podcast would include discussions on faith, music, sports, fashion, and pop culture.

“We’re going to talk about Pop Smoke. We’re going to talk about Kanye. We’re going to talk about Kim Kardashian. We’re going to talk about everything under the sun, and Cardi B,” Espaillat said.

Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat takes part in the podcast and YouTube series ‘Sainthood in the City.’. Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.
Bishop-elect Joseph A. Espaillat takes part in the podcast and YouTube series ‘Sainthood in the City.’. Screenshot from Centro Católico Carismático YouTube channel.

A featured speaker at Steubenville Youth Conferences, Espaillat says that he loves ministering the sacraments, playing softball and basketball, writing poetry and rapping.

He was ordained in 2003 and has served as the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish in the South Bronx since 2015.

Espaillat attended Cathedral Preparatory School in Manhattan before studying at Fordham University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1998.

While in St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, Espaillat earned a Master of Divinity degree in Theology and a Master of Arts degree in Theology, specializing in Church history.

He has served as a director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of New York, a pastor at St. Peter’s parish in Yonkers, and as a parochial vicar at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Manhattan.

Bonnici, 56, has served as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York for 30 years.

He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington (1995) and a licentiate degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute (1992) in Rome, where he also studied at the Pontifical North American College and the Gregorian University (1987-1990) before his ordination.

Bonnici previously served as director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office for six years and as the pastor of St. Columba in Chester from 2008 to 2021.

He was born in New York on Feb. 17, 1965, and earned a Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and philosophy from St. John’s University in Queens, New York in 1987.

Bonnici’s most recent assignment was as pastor of St. Augustine parish and Saints John and Paul parish in Larchmont.

Bonnici and Espaillat’s episcopal ordinations will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on March 1.

The Archdiocese of New York has a total population of 6.2 million, 2.81 million of whom are Catholic. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has served as the archbishop of New York since 2009.

"Pope Francis has selected two outstanding priests, both experienced pastors, to serve the people of God of this archdiocese as auxiliary bishops," Dolan said in a statement on the archdiocese's website.

"I look forward to working even more closely with Bishop-elect Bonnici and Bishop-elect Espaillat, as they undertake this new role in their priesthood."

With the addition of Bonnici and Espaillat, there will be a total of five active auxiliary bishops serving the Archdiocese of New York.

The youngest bishop in the world is 40-year-old Bishop Cristian Dumitru Crişan, an auxiliary in Romania, according to

Bishop Andriy Rabiy, an auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, is the current youngest bishop in the United States at the age of 46.

How St. Irenaeus helped save the early Church from schism

St. Irenaeus depicted in the apse of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Charleston, South Carolina. / Andrew Gould via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

St. Irenaeus once helped to save the 2nd-century Church from schism. Today, the newly declared “Doctor of Unity” is the patron saint of a group of theologians working on current problems in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.

According to the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, the newest Doctor of the Church understood that “diversity in practice does not imply disunity of faith.”

During the “Paschal Controversy” in the 2nd century, Irenaeus played a decisive role in mediating the dispute over the date of Easter.

Two principal traditions existed in the early Church at the time. In much of Asia Minor, Easter was celebrated on the 14th Nisan (the Jewish Passover), an observance known as Quartodecimanism. But in Rome and much of the East, the feast fell on a given Sunday — a divergence that also had implications for fasting practices.

When Irenaeus was serving as a presbyter in Lyons, in modern-day France, he was sent to Rome in 177 to mediate a resolution to the controversy.

Irenaeus wrote: “The disagreement in the fast only speaks for our agreement in the faith.”

The saint “successfully intervened with Pope Victor to lift the excommunication of the Quartodecimans and thus avert a schism,” the Irenaeus group told CNA on Jan. 23.

The 26 Catholic and Orthodox theologians who make up the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group discussed Irenaeus’ role in the Paschal Controversy during its most recent meeting in Rome.

It was during this meeting that Pope Francis first revealed that he planned to name Irenaeus the 37th Doctor of the Church with the title “Doctor of Unity.”

The pope made this official on Jan. 21 with a decree signed during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Following the decree’s promulgation, the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group told CNA why Irenaeus was an apt choice for the title “Doctor of Unity.”

“As a native of Asia Minor who eventually became a bishop in the West, Irenaeus in his person reflects the close interconnection between East and West in the early Church,” the group told CNA.

“His writings address critical issues such as the ‘rule of faith,’ apostolic succession, the canon of scripture, all of which are key elements of the faith held in common by Catholics and Orthodox.”

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group is comprised of 13 Catholic theologians and 13 theologians from various Orthodox Churches (Constantinople, Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, America).

The group has met annually since 2004, alternating between Catholic and Orthodox majority countries, including Italy, Russia, France, Romania, Austria, and Greece.

In line with the joint working group’s style, its responses to CNA’s questions were co-written by a Catholic and an Orthodox representative of the group and then approved by both of its co-secretaries: Assaad Elias Kattan, chair for Orthodox Theology at the University of Münster, and Johannes Oeldemann, the Catholic director of the Johann Adam Möhler Institute for Ecumenism.

“Irenaeus has left us a magnificent theological legacy written in a way particularly dear to the Orthodox, because it integrates intellectual and spiritual motifs, and at the same time so cherished in the West that his main writings have been preserved in Latin,” the group said.

With the new papal decree, Irenaeus became the first saint to hold both the titles of martyr and Doctor of the Church.

In the wake of the decree, some have raised the question of whether there is historical proof that Irenaeus was truly a martyr.

The St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, however, explained why it holds that Irenaeus should have both titles.

“Though he is venerated as a martyr by both Catholics and Orthodox, there is little information about the actual manner of his death,” it said.

“However, martyrdom is not only measured by factual suffering, but also by a love expressing that eagerness to go through whatever God allows to happen. Irenaeus, in this sense, was at least a martyr of desire.”

“Moreover, in his influential writings, he was a powerful witness (‘mártys’ in Greek) to Christian faith, certainly deserving the title of martyr and ‘Doctor of Unity.’”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has welcomed the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group’s work over the past 18 years as a valuable support for the international Roman Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

The group’s next meeting will be held in Romania in October 2022.

“The teaching of this saintly pastor and teacher is like a bridge between East and West: this is why we call him a Doctor of Unity, Doctor Unitatis,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Jan. 23.

“May the Lord grant us, through his intercession, to work together for the full unity of Christians.”

Pope Francis: Global synodal path ‘a great opportunity to listen to one another’

Pope Francis listens to a boy called Emanuele at St. Paul of the Cross parish, Rome, on April 15, 2018. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2022 / 04:18 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Monday that the two-year global consultation process leading to the Synod on Synodality is “a great opportunity” for Catholics to listen to one another.

Writing in his World Communications Day message, released on Jan. 24, the pope expressed concern that people were “losing the ability to listen,” both in the Church and wider public life.

“A synodal process has just been launched,” he wrote. “Let us pray that it will be a great opportunity to listen to one another.”

“Communion, in fact, is not the result of strategies and programs, but is built in mutual listening between brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis formally invited the world’s Catholics last October to take part in a consultation process leading to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.

In his new message, entitled “Listening with the ear of the heart,” the pope reflected on biblical passages illustrating the importance of listening.

“Among the five senses, the one favored by God seems to be hearing, perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being more free,” he wrote.

“Listening corresponds to the humble style of God. It is the action that allows God to reveal himself as the One who, by speaking, creates man and woman in his image, and by listening recognizes them as his partners in dialogue.”

The pope lamented what he described as an absence of listening in public discourse.

“The lack of listening, which we experience so often in daily life, is unfortunately also evident in public life, where, instead of listening to each other, we often ‘talk past one another,’” he observed.

“This is a symptom of the fact that, rather than seeking the true and the good, consensus is sought; rather than listening, one pays attention to the audience. Good communication, instead, does not try to impress the public with a soundbite, with the aim of ridiculing the other person, but pays attention to the reasons of the other person and tries to grasp the complexity of reality.”

“It is sad when, even in the Church, ideological alignments are formed and listening disappears, leaving sterile opposition in its wake.”

The pope signed the message on Jan. 24, the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists.

He urged members of the media to develop their listening capacities.

“Communication does not take place if listening has not taken place, and there is no good journalism without the ability to listen,” he said.

“In order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time. To recount an event or describe an experience in news reporting, it is essential to know how to listen, to be ready to change one’s mind, to modify one’s initial assumptions.”

The pope suggested that listening to society was more critical than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“So much previously accumulated mistrust towards ‘official information’ has also caused an ‘infodemic,’ within which the world of information is increasingly struggling to be credible and transparent,” he said.

He particularly encouraged journalists to tell the stories of migrants.

“Everyone would then be free to support the migration policies they deem most appropriate for their own country,” he wrote.

“But in any case, we would have before our eyes, not numbers, not dangerous invaders, but the faces and stories, gazes, expectations and sufferings of real men and women to listen to.”

Quoting the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis in 1945, the pope underlined that there was also a great need for listening in the Church.

He said: “It is the most precious and life-giving gift we can offer each other. ‘Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the word of God.’”

World Communications Day, established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 29, the day that some countries will mark the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, transferred from the preceding Thursday.

The theme of this year’s commemoration, the 56th, is “Listen!”

Concluding his message, Pope Francis compared the Church to a choir.

“With the awareness that we participate in a communion that precedes and includes us, we can rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each person is able to sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes,” he said.

Pope Francis: The Word of God rekindles hope

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2022 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

On Word of God Sunday, Pope Francis reminded Christians that God speaks to them through scripture, filling them with hope and guiding their journey of faith.

“The word is at the center: it reveals God and leads us to man,” the pope said Jan. 23.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the fourth annual Sunday of the Word of God, during which he for the first time formally conferred upon lay Catholics the ministries of lector and catechist.

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media

In his homily at Mass, Francis reflected on the “God of closeness” who guides us by his word.

God “wants to relieve the burdens that crush you, to warm your wintry coldness, to brighten your daily dreariness and to support your faltering steps,” the pope said. “This he does by his word, by the word he speaks to rekindle hope amid the ashes of your fears, to help you rediscover joy in the labyrinths of your sorrows, to fill with hope your feelings of solitude. He makes you move forward, not in a labyrinth, but on a daily journey to find him.”

Following the proclamation of the Gospel, the candidates for the ministries of catechist and lector were called by name, to which they responded: “Here I am.”

Pope Francis established the ministry of catechist as an instituted, vocational service within the Catholic Church last May.

The newly instituted ministry is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith. The ministry lasts for the entirety of life, regardless of whether the person is actively carrying out that activity during every part of his or her life.

The pope changed Church law in January 2021 so that women can be formally instituted to the lay ministries of lector and acolyte.

A lector is a person who reads Scripture — other than the Gospel, which is only proclaimed by deacons and priests — to the congregation at Mass.

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media

In his homily, Pope Francis noted that “in this celebration, some of our brothers and sisters will be instituted as lectors and catechists.”

“They are called to the important work of serving the Gospel of Jesus, of proclaiming him, so that his consolation, his joy and his liberation can reach everyone,” he said.

“That is also the mission of each one of us: to be credible messengers, prophets of God’s word in the world,” he continued.

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media

He encouraged everyone to be passionate about sacred scripture, and to be willing to immerse themselves in the Word of God, which “reveals God’s newness and leads us tirelessly to love others.”

He also warned about the temptation to rigidity, which he called a perversion and an idol.

“Let us put the word of God at the center of the Church’s life and pastoral activity,” he urged. “In this way, we will be liberated from all rigid pelagianism, from all rigidity, set free from the illusion of a spirituality that puts you ‘in orbit,’ unconcerned about caring for our brothers and sisters. Let us put the word of God at the center of the Church’s life and pastoral activity. Let us listen to that word, pray with it, and put it into practice.”

After the homily, Pope Francis continued with the rite of conferral for the ministries of lector and catechist.

He began with the lectors, who knelt one-by-one before him to receive a Bible. Francis prayed over each one with the words: “Receive the book of holy scripture and faithfully transmit the Word of God, so that it may germinate and bear fruit in the hearts of men.”

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media

Those being instituted as catechists also knelt before Pope Francis, who handed them each a silver crucifix, while saying: “Receive this sign of our faith, seat of the truth and charity of Christ: proclaim him by your life, actions and word.”

Two people from the Amazonian region in Peru were formally made catechists by the pope, along with other candidates from Brazil, Ghana, Poland, and Spain.

The ministry of lector was conferred on lay Catholics from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana, and Italy.

Pope Francis declared the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time a special day for celebrating the Word of God when he issued the apostolic letter “Aperuit illis,” in 2019, on the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin in the fourth century.

The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is the Vatican department responsible for promoting the Sunday of the Word of God.

Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis conferred on Catholics the lay ministries of catechist and lector at a Mass for the Sunday of the Word of God on Jan. 23, 2022. Vatican Media

Out of concern for the continued spread of COVID-19, around 2,000 people attended the papal Mass, a small percentage of the basilica’s total seating capacity.

Everyone who attended received a book with commentary from the Fathers of the Church on the fourth and fifth chapters of the Gospel of Saint Luke.