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Pope Francis meets with bishop of murdered lay missionary

Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Diocese of Huarí, Peru, May 6, 2021. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, May 7, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met with a delegation Thursday from the diocese in Peru where Nadia De Munari, an Italian lay missionary, was murdered last month.

Bishop Giorgio Barbetta, the auxiliary of Huarí diocese, came to Italy to offer a funeral Mass for De Munari, who was killed while serving among the poor as a Vincentian missionary in Peru.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“A beacon illuminated Nadia’s life,” Barbetta said at the funeral on May 3 in Schio, Italy.

De Munari brought this light to Nuevo Chimbote, the community where she served in Peru, Barbetta said.

In Nuevo Chimbote, the bishop explained, 80,000 people live “in shacks made of mats, often without light, water and sewers,” he said.

It was in this poor neighborhood that De Munari ran multiple kindergartens, daycare centers, and a primary school, serving around 500 children

“Just a few weeks ago, Nadia was worried about the children and had brought together the teachers to resume activities following the quarantine. She was running towards the good, but she was stopped by violence,” the bishop said.

On the morning of April 21, De Munari was found unconscious in a pool of blood with head injuries in the missionary center where she lived in Nuevo Chimbote.

According to the local newspaper Diario de Chimbote, she had been attacked in the early hours of April 21 at the “Mamma Mia” home run by Operation Mato Grosso organization.

The missionary was taken to the Eleazar Guzmán Barrón regional hospital, where the attending physician said that she had fractures to her jaw, forearm, and neck, as well as several cuts to her head and face.

She was later transferred to a clinic in Lima, where she died April 24. She was 50 years old.

There is an ongoing police investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis received Bishop Barbetta and priests from the Peruvian diocese in a private audience on May 6. The group showed the pope photographs and shared memories of the late missionary.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a message, dated April 27, on behalf of Pope Francis, saying that the pontiff offered prayers for the eternal repose of her soul.

The telegram said that Pope Francis condemned “this new and unjustifiable episode of violence, which is added to the many others in which missionaries have lost their lives while performing, with self-denial, their service to the Gospel and assistance to the most needy and defenseless.”

Barbetta said that De Munari’s life and blood had “become a seed” that has taken root.

“In Nuevo Chimbote, no one will be able to forget her … This seed will take root again in the hearts of many young people and those who receive this seed will feel pain and love, indissolubly united. But from pain, from non-sense, from coldness, they will discover love. it will be able to give life to the desire of God … because as Nadia often repeated ‘don't keep life for yourself, give it as a gift.’”

Cardinals’ council discusses pandemic recovery, curial reform with Pope Francis

A view of St. Peter's Basilica from within the Vatican. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 7, 2021 / 04:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals met online Thursday to discuss the Church’s response to the economic and social fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in different parts of the world, according to a Vatican statement.

Each of the seven cardinals described the situation in their respective regions and “the commitment of the Church in favor of health, economic recovery and the support offered to the most needy,” the statement from the Holy See Press Office said.

Pope Francis also participated in the May 6 meeting, connecting virtually from his residence in Vatican City.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was the ongoing revision of the draft of the new constitution to govern the Roman Curia, known as Praedicate evangelium.

According to the Vatican, the Council of Cardinals discussed “the working methodology that will have to be implemented for the revision and correction of some normative texts following the future entry into force of the next apostolic constitution, as well as the further perspectives opened by the text in preparation.”

The group of cardinal advisers, sometimes referred to as the C9 because it previously had nine members, was established by Pope Francis in 2013, to “assist him in the governance of the universal Church,” as well as to revise the text of the 1988 apostolic constitution Pastor bonus.

At one of the council’s first meetings, it was decided that projected revisions to Pastor bonus would be substantial enough to warrant an entirely new constitution.

The cardinals have been working on drafting and revising the text since 2014, soliciting feedback from bishops’ conferences last year. An updated draft was presented to Pope Francis last summer and suggestions from Vatican departments are being evaluated. But the Vatican has given no projected date for the constitution’s publication.

The cardinal members of the council are Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay; Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa; Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising; Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State.

The Council of Cardinal’s next meeting is scheduled for June.

Anthony Fauci, Deepak Chopra speak at first day of Vatican health conference

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the White House Jan. 21. / Alex Wong / Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

At the first day of an online Vatican conference on “exploring the mind, body, and soul,” Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the evolution of the scientific community’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the difference between acting based on instinct and acting from data.

Fauci, an immunologist and chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, responded to questions from CNN journalist Sanjay Gupta, who asked him how much doctors “have to rely on faith, not just religious faith, but your own system of belief,” when confronting something new, like COVID-19.

“I think you have to rely on it when you’re starting with nothing,” Fauci said. But he added that “as more solid scientific information becomes available, you pull away a bit from the kind of experience, instinct and get more into the reality of the evidence you have.”

He said there are some people “who don’t appreciate the evolution of understanding and the evolution of knowledge, that you’re going to change some of your viewpoints because the data itself will not necessarily change, but additional data changes the status of your knowledge.”

“Your knowledge may be minimal and you’re acting on quote ‘faith,’ as it were, versus the true, substantive evidence in data, which really gives you a much better foundation,” he said. “So that’s the way I look at it.”

Fauci spoke near the beginning of a three-day international conference on “Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul: How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health,” taking place virtually May 6-8.

It is the fifth conference of its kind organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Cura Foundation, which describes itself as “a nonsectarian, nonpartisan, public 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to improve human health globally.”

Cura Foundation president Robin Smith and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi gave the opening remarks.

Ravasi said that “the body is a fundamental reality of human existence and of communication,” and pointed to Christianity’s central mystery, the Incarnation.

He said the conference would be organized around three themes, which he described as three stars that light up the sky: the body, the soul, and the mind.

The cardinal added that the conference would involve dialogue with different experts and people on these themes, and that people’s visions on the issues would differ.

Deepak Chopra, a leading figure in the New Age movement, was part of a discussion with Dr. Rudolf Tanzi about inflammation and the brain, moderated by surgeon and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Chopra and Tanzi are co-authors of the book “The Healing Self” about “how a positive attitude can trigger health,” according to Oz.

In the context of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Parkinson’s disease, Chopra gave his lifestyle advice for decreasing stress-based inflammation, including good sleep, mind-body coordination, exercise, emotional resilience, food, mindfulness, and yoga.

Oz asked Chopra about “the mind’s role in healing the body.”

Chopra said: “One of the fundamental questions in science is called ‘the hard problem of consciousness’: How do we experience thoughts, feelings, emotions, insight, intuition, inspiration, creativity, vision, even reverence for God?”

The question, he continued, is “how does the brain do that? Is the mind doing the brain or the brain doing the mind? And right now, the conversation seems to be neither is doing each other.”

“Consciousness is more fundamental. We experience it subjectively as the mind and we experience it objectively as the body and the brain, but the brain is part of the body,” he said.

This “consciousness,” he suggested, is “what spiritual traditions call the soul and cognitive scientists call the conscious agent.”

Oz asked Chopra “what gives you this essence, that soul? Where does that come from in your cosmology?”

Chopra said that “right now cognitive scientists, those who believe in this framework, say that that soul, or that conscious agent, is an aspect of a universal consciousness which religions might call God.”

“It doesn’t matter what you call it... there’s an underlying field of awareness, of consciousness, which modulates itself and differentiates itself into conscious agents which we call souls.”

The Vatican health conference also features the CEOs of large pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, along with celebrities active in medical philanthropy, global health advocates, policymakers, physicians, and religious leaders.

The conference’s website lists more than 100 speakers, including Kerry Kennedy, Cindy Crawford, John Sculley, Brandon Marshall, Joe Perry of the rock band Aerosmith, and Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

Pope Francis to hold general audience with the public on May 12

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican, Sept. 16, 2020. / Vatican Media. Other photos: Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Members of the public will be able to attend Pope Francis’ general audience next week after a six-month absence due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household announced May 6 that the pope’s general audience next Wednesday will take place in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.

It said that people wishing to attend the May 12 audience will be able to access the interior courtyard via the Bronze Doors, located under the right-hand colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

Pilgrims will be required to observe safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The courtyard has a capacity of around 500 or so socially distanced and masked participants.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household said that pilgrims will not need entrance tickets to attend the audience.

General audiences are usually held in either St. Peter’s Square or the Paul VI Audience Hall. But when the pandemic first struck Italy in March 2020, the pope transferred his general audiences to the library of the Apostolic Palace, where they took place without public access.

The first live-streamed general audience from the library occurred on March 11, 2020.

The Vatican experimented with holding the audiences in the San Damaso Courtyard in September last year. The first audience at the venue with members of the public took place on Sept. 2.

In the following weeks, Pope Francis sometimes sat close to attendees, many of whom he would spend a long time greeting individually before and after the event.

In October, the audiences were transferred to the Vatican’s larger Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and Pope Francis kept his distance from pilgrims.

The Vatican decided to move the audiences behind closed doors again when a person at the pope’s Oct. 21 audience was found to have been positive for COVID-19.

Pope Francis held his last Wednesday audience with the public on Oct. 28. He told participants that he would be staying up on the stage and not greeting each of them as he liked to do.

“I would very much like to come down and greet each one of you, but we must keep our distance, because if I come down, then a crowd immediately forms to greet me, and this is contrary to the measures and the precautions we must take in order to face this ‘lady’ that is called COVID and harms us so much,” he said.

Starting Nov. 4, the pope gave his general audience catechesis and greetings via live video from his study in the Apostolic Palace.

At the end of December and through January, Pope Francis also delivered his Sunday Angelus address via live stream.

But in February, he began once again to give the address from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where groups of masked pilgrims typically stand some distance apart from each other to prevent the transmission of the virus.

At the end of his address on Feb. 7, he said: “I am happy to see you again gathered in the Square, even those habitué [regulars], the Spanish nuns here, who are always good; come rain or shine they are there! And also the young people of the Immaculate... All of you. I am pleased.”

‘We are ready to give up our lives’: 34 new Swiss Guards take oath to protect the pope

Swiss Guards at the ceremony in Vatican City's San Damaso Courtyard on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

Vatican City, May 6, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Thirty-four new Swiss Guards were sworn in Thursday in an elaborate ceremony in Vatican City in which the guards promised to protect the pope, even “sacrificing if necessary also my own life.”

Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old from Davos, Switzerland, was among the new Swiss Guards to take the oath on May 6.

“It is a great honor for me, for all of us. … We’ve prepared for weeks, for months for this day,” Bossi told EWTN News.

“I’ve always wanted to serve God in a way, and I wanted to serve the Catholic Church,” he said.

Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old Swiss Guard who was sworn-in on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News.
Gian Andrea Bossi, a 20-year-old Swiss Guard who was sworn-in on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News.

The swearing-in ceremony for one of the world’s oldest standing armies took place on the 494th anniversary of the Sack of Rome, the battle on May 6, 1527, in which 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII from mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Empire.

The ceremony began with three Swiss Guards blowing trumpets from the loggia, and then the guards marched to the sound of drums in a solemn procession.

/ © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
/ © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

Due to coronavirus restrictions, only the families of the guards and the press were allowed to attend the ceremony held in Vatican City’s San Damaso Courtyard. In 2020, at least 13 Swiss Guards tested positive for COVID-19.

As part of the schedule this year, the family members of the new guards prayed Vespers on the evening of May 5 in the church of Santa Maria della Pietà in the Vatican’s Teutonic College. Later, the “deposition of the crown” ceremony took place in commemoration of the guards who died during the Sack of Rome.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin also offered Mass with the Swiss Guards in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.

Swiss Guards attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News
Swiss Guards attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on May 6, 2021. / Colm Flynn/EWTN News

Gérald Crettaz, the father of one of the new Swiss Guards, 23-year-old Baptiste Crettaz, said that he was very proud of his son for taking the oath.

“In our current world, where everyone is quite selfish and self-centered, my son is committed to something bigger, something wider that doesn’t belong to him, but to everyone. I think it is fantastic and it is so generous,” Crettaz said.

During the ceremony itself, each new recruit approached the flag of the Swiss Guard as his name was called out. Firmly grasping the banner with his left hand, the new guard raised his right hand and opened three fingers as a sign of his faith in the Holy Trinity.

A new Swiss Guard makes his oath on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
A new Swiss Guard makes his oath on May 6, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

While holding up his fingers, the guard said aloud: “I, (name), swear diligently and faithfully to abide by all that has just been read out to me, so grant me God and so help me his saints.”

In English, the full oath reads: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff Francis and his legitimate successors, and also dedicate myself to them with all my strength, sacrificing if necessary also my life to defend them. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the see is vacant. Furthermore, I promise to the Commanding Captain and my other superiors respect, fidelity, and obedience. This I swear! May God and our Holy Patrons assist me!”

Swiss Guards march into San Damaso Courtyard May 6, 2021. / Courtney Mares/CNA
Swiss Guards march into San Damaso Courtyard May 6, 2021. / Courtney Mares/CNA

Swiss Guards -- known for their colorful striped Renaissance-era uniforms -- are responsible for Vatican security together with the Vatican gendarmes. The Vatican military was established by Pope Julius II in 1506.

Candidates for the Pontifical Swiss Guard are required to meet strict requirements. Each recruit must be a Catholic unmarried male at least 5 feet, 8 inches tall and between the ages of 19 and 30. Swiss citizenship is required, as is a letter of good standing from the candidate’s parish priest.

“It is something that only we, Swiss people, can do, and it is important to show that there still are young people ready to be committed to promote some values,” new Swiss Guard Baptiste Crettaz said.

“The fact that we are ready to give up our life for the Holy Father represents a strong meaning,” he said.

The “deposition of the crown” Swiss Guard ceremony on May 5, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool
The “deposition of the crown” Swiss Guard ceremony on May 5, 2021. / © EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool

The Vatican approved an expansion of the size of the Pontifical Swiss Guards three years ago from 110 to 135 men. Despite the new recruits, it remains the smallest army in the world.

“I am excited to see the Vatican, to get to know the pope … also to be closer to the Church, to the faith, to grow in the faith,” Bossi said.

“In the end it is to serve God, to serve the Church, to protect the faith and defend the pope,” he said.

Pope Francis received the new Swiss Guards in the Vatican Apostolic Palace ahead of the ceremony. The pope recalled that some former guards had discerned the priesthood after their service, while others went on to form their own families.

“I pray that those who begin their service now may also respond fully to Christ’s call, following him with faithful generosity,” he said.

“May these years that you will spend here be an occasion for a deepening of your faith and an even stronger love for the Church. I accompany you with my prayers and I thank you for choosing to make a few years of your life available to the Successor of Peter.”

Pope Francis prays for pandemic-stricken India

Pope Francis leads a prayer vigil at the Vatican, Oct. 3, 2015. / Mazur/

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that he is praying for the people of India as they face a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

In a message dated May 6 to Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the pope expressed his “heartfelt solidarity” with the country’s 1.3 billion population.

He wrote: “At this time when so many in India are suffering as a result of the present health emergency, I am writing to convey my heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness to all the Indian people, together with the assurance of my prayers that God will grant healing and consolation to everyone affected by this grave pandemic.”

“My thoughts go above all to the sick and their families, to those who care for them, and in particular to those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.”

He continued: “I think too of the many doctors, nurses, hospital workers, ambulance drivers, and those working tirelessly to respond to the immediate needs of their brothers and sisters. With deep appreciation, I invoke upon all of them God’s gifts of perseverance, strength, and peace.”

India reported a daily high of 412,000 new infections on May 5. The country has recorded more than 21 million cases of COVID-19 and over 230,000 deaths as of May 6, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center,

Actual infection and death rates could be higher than those shown in the official statistics, with medical staff at some hospitals reporting shortages of oxygen required to keep patients alive.

The outbreak has had a profound impact on India’s Catholic minority. Local media have reported that at least 14 Catholic priests died of COVID-19 in the country between April 20 and April 23, and five priests died in 24 hours in the western state of Gujarat on April 17.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, an auxiliary bishop of Ranchi archdiocese, in Jharkhand state, said last week that he had driven priests with COVID-19 to hospital because no ambulances were available.

He held back tears as he described the dire health situation in his eastern diocese in an interview with Colm Flynn of EWTN News.

“I have seven priests in hospital right now, and those are the lucky ones who found a hospital bed. I have another seven seminarians who are sick, lying in their beds in a house close to the hospital. I took them to a house for the aging because there was no place in the hospital,” Mascarenhas said.

“I lost a priest, 30 years old, just one year of ordination ... five days ago. And it hurts,” the bishop said, recalling that he was with the young priest and “fed him coconut water until the last.”

Catholic aid groups, including Catholic Relief Services and Caritas India, are mobilizing relief efforts.

Concluding his message to Cardinal Gracias, the pope said: “In a particular way, I am united to the Catholic community in your country, with gratitude for its works of charity and fraternal solidarity carried out in the service of all; I think especially of the generosity shown by so many committed young people.”

“I join you in commending to the Lord’s infinite mercy the faithful who have lost their lives, not least the great numbers of priests and men and women religious.”

“In these days of immense grief, may we all be consoled in the hope born of Easter and our unshakeable faith in Christ’s promise of resurrection and new life.”

Pope Francis sends video message to Argentina for feast of Our Lady of Lujan

Pope Francis touches a statue of Our Lady of Luján at his general audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 2, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 6, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a video message to Argentina Thursday ahead of the feast of Our Lady of Luján.

“I wish to be close to you … when all you bishops will gather to pray the rosary for the health of the Argentine people. I will accompany you from here,” Pope Francis said in the video published on May 6.

Our Lady of Luján is the patron saint of Argentina. Since 1630, the 14-inch terracotta statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception has been venerated by the Argentine people.

When Pope Francis served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he used to make frequent pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, where he would also hear confessions, according to Vatican News.

“Remember all that the Virgin has accomplished in your homeland. Let yourselves be accompanied by her, and accompany her in her journey,” the pope said in the message.

The feast of Our Lady of Luján, on May 8, commemorates how the icon first came to the city of Luján in the 17th century.

As a Portuguese ranch owner tried to take the statue from Buenos Aires via caravan to his ranch, the oxen pulling the statue’s cart stopped moving near the Luján river about 42 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

After much failed coaxing, the ox-driver unloaded the image and found that the oxen moved again. The caravan took this as a sign that the Virgin Mary wanted the statue to be venerated at that place. Our Lady of Luján is now honored as the foundress of the city of Luján.

Many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Luján’s intercession. Pope Leo XIII honored the statue in 1886 with a papal coronation. Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Luján patroness of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay in 1930.

On the May 8 feast day, the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján will lead Pope Francis’ rosary prayer marathon, which is taking place throughout May.

The pope noted that Church leadership in Argentina is also using the feast to convene together to prepare for the celebrations leading up to the 400-year anniversary of the Marian image in 2030.

“It is a very long journey, but one that goes by quickly, one that must be done,” he said. “A journey to commemorate what the Virgin did there, she wanted to stay there. A journey of memory, of years and years of pilgrimage, of searching, of miracles, of daughters and sons who journey to see the mother.”

“May God bless you all and may the Virgin keep you. And please, do not forget to pray for me,” he said.

Pope Francis: Migrants bearing brunt of ‘aggressive’ nationalism and ‘radical individualism’

Pope Francis washes the feet of migrants and refugees during Holy Thursday Mass March 24, 2016. / L'Osservatore Romano.

CNA Staff, May 6, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that “aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” exposed during the pandemic, are having a severe impact on migrants worldwide.

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, issued May 6, he said that the coronavirus crisis had highlighted the deep divisions between human beings.

“Our ‘we,’ both in the wider world and within the Church, is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” he said.

“And the highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, those living on the existential peripheries.”

The World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated annually on the last Sunday in September. This year it falls on Sept. 26.

In his message for the day’s 107th commemoration, entitled “Towards an ever wider ‘we’,” Pope Francis addressed what he called a “twofold appeal,” to Catholics and the wider world, to embrace those on the margins.

He urged Catholics “to make the Church become ever more inclusive.”

“In our day,” he wrote, “the Church is called to go out into the streets of every existential periphery in order to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytizing, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone.”

“Among those dwelling in those existential peripheries, we find many migrants and refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking, to whom the Lord wants his love to be manifested and his salvation preached.”

He appealed to those outside the Church to work with Catholics to build “a future of justice and peace.”

“Our societies will have a ‘colorful’ future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges. Consequently, we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace,” he commented.

He continued: “Today’s migration movements offer an opportunity for us to overcome our fears and let ourselves be enriched by the diversity of each person’s gifts. Then, if we so desire, we can transform borders into privileged places of encounter, where the miracle of an ever wider ‘we’ can come about.”

The pope argued that greater solidarity was also necessary “to ensure the proper care of our common home.”

He said: “Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development.”

“A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”

In an intervention prepared for a Vatican press conference launching the pope’s message, Cardinal Michael Czerny noted that the text developed themes in the pope’s latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti.

Referring to the pandemic, he said: “We are all suffering in different ways. What happens when the survivors in a lifeboat must all help to row to shore? What if some take more than their share of the rations, leaving others too weak to row? The risk is that everyone will perish, the well-fed and the starving alike.”

Czerny, the under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, added: “Widening the Good Samaritan attitude -- overcoming selfishness and caring for all -- is essential to survival.”

During the press conference, a video campaign for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees was presented, featuring Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso describing the situation on the border between Mexico and the United States.

He said: “I’ve found the most rewarding opportunities of my life serving here at the border. I’ve learned that borders can be vibrant places of encounter and welcome -- encounters that enrich us. I’ve learned that we are all interconnected as one human family. We stand or fall together. We build walls and fences which divide us. Today people of faith need to be bridge builders.”

Speaking via video link, Bishop Paul McAleenan, an auxiliary bishop of the English diocese of Westminster, said that the pope’s message offered encouragement to Catholics in the U.K.

He said: “Pope Francis draws our attention to the interconnectedness of humanity: my decisions and actions here affect others who are far away.”

“Three areas in particular directly affect the human family today. The decision of the United Kingdom to reduce its aid budget compounds the suffering of the world’s poorest. Nations engaging in the arms trade bring endless misery to those in places of conflict. Our contribution to the climate emergency results in droughts, disasters and displacement thousands of miles away. Understanding the reasons for migration must include the acknowledgement that we are not blameless.”

Also speaking via video link, Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said that in her work she witnessed the lack of solidarity that Pope Francis described in his message.

“Faced with those who fled their homes and sought sanctuary, the asylum system builds walls of suspicion to stop them receiving the protection they need,” she explained.

“It detains them and enforces destitution. Destitution makes many vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and they speak of the sense of losing themselves through years struggling at the margins.”

She highlighted the success of a project in which religious congregations and families welcome homeless asylum seekers into their homes.

She said: “Together, they create a counter-culture to the hostile public policies that render people homeless and marginalized.”

“In small, concrete ways, we can all participate in this shared project to recompose a common human family. For there are treasures to be found when we strive together to break down walls that divide us. The dream of one human family is a dream worth realizing.”

Pope Francis closed his World Day of Migrants and Refugees message with an appeal to people to “dream together” of a better future for all humanity.

He concluded with a prayer:

Holy, beloved Father,
your Son Jesus taught us
that there is great rejoicing in heaven
whenever someone lost is found,
whenever someone excluded, rejected or discarded
is gathered into our “we”,
which thus becomes ever wider.

We ask you to grant the followers of Jesus,
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.
Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the “we” of community and of the Church,
so that our earth may truly become
what you yourself created it to be:
the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Reform may be coming to the chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis prays the rosary before an icon of Our Lady of Help in St. Peter's Basilica May 1, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/Vatican Pool.

Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 20:19 pm (CNA).

That members of the chapter of St. Peter’s Basilica were prevented from participating in Pope Francis' rosary for the end of the pandemic has fueled speculations that the pope will reform both the chapter and the organization of St. Peter's Basilica.

The Chapter of St. Peter was established in 1043 by St. Leo IX. It was intended to guarantee a regular prayer in St. Peter and, in the earlier years, to assist the pope in managing the goods of St. Peter's patrimony.

The patrimony consists of several donations to the papacy, including real estate, in and outside Rome. According to a source who served as a member of the chapter, "it is complicated to give comprehensive figures of the patrimony. Management of an important chunk of it was already transferred to APSA."

The Chapter of St. Peter is chaired by the Archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica and is composed of him, the chapter's vicar, and 34 members. The members are chosen among the most remarkable personalities of the Catholic Church when they retire.

They are "professionals of prayer," according to Benedict XVI, who labeled them as such in 2007 during a private audience with the members of the chapter. The commitment to prayer is central in their activity. Until the middle of the 20th century, the chapter members had to be in the basilica on a daily basis to pray the hours, be in adoration, and serve in the liturgical celebrations.

Members of the chapter are now mainly involved on Sundays and feasts or in the commemoration of the Roman Pontiffs. They also take part in celebrations with the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

Some of them went to the Basilica May to participate in the rosary for the end of the pandemic presided by Pope Francis. The Italian newspaper Il Messaggero broke the news that the chapter members were denied access to the basilica.

Il Messaggero also stresses that the "members of the chapter seem to be Pope Francis' target" and adds that the Chapter of St. Peter is "one of those sectors the Pope wants to bring some order to."

According to a chapter source who spoke to CNA under condition of anonymity so as to speak freely, the rejection of the chapter members May 1 is not an indication of papal hostility against their members.

"They (the organizers) simply were not counting with their presence, and so there were no spots for them to sit," the source said.

Due to COVID restrictions, all the spots in the basilica are strictly regulated, and it is then harder to include people who are not on the list or who come unannounced.

But according to the same source, even if the episode was not linked to any perceived papal hostility to the chapter, its reform is underway.

The reform "will mostly deal on the role of the chapter members," the source told CNA, and explained that its members will keep their prayer duties in the basilica, and they will be more involved in liturgical celebrations. Since the Vatican has prohibited private celebrations at the basilica, chapter members will celebrate some of the authorized Masses.

The important changes, instead, will be coming on the financial side. The chapter members got a compensation for their services, funded directly with the revenue of St. Peter's patrimony. For some, this was a way to secure income to retired clerics, for others it was a contemporary form of sinecure. After the 2020 pandemic, Pope Francis cut their monthly salary. The members of the chapter were reimbursed for their service thanks to a solidarity fund set up by St. Peter's Basilica.

Most likely the rest of the real estate and goods belonging to St. Peter's patrimony will be transferred to APSA, which will be designed as a sort of Vatican central bank. At the end of the reform, all the Vatican investments will be centralized and managed by APSA.

The first dicastery transferring its funds to APSA has been the Secretariat of State. The process will also likely involve all the other Vatican dicasteries with their patrimony, such as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Vatican City State Administration.

The reform of the Chapter of St. Peter will go along with a reform of the organization and schedule of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis already decided to forbid private Masses. Mauro Cardinal Gambetti, the new archpriest, wants to go further and have only two Masses per day, in Italian, broadcast by the Vatican communications service.

According to the CNA source, "these reforms have generated expected turmoil among the chapter members," but “there is very little, if anything, (we) can do about it.”

Catholic cycling champion who saved Jews during World War II honored in Assisi

Gino Bartali (1914-2000) competing in the 1938 Tour de France. / Public domain

Vatican City, May 5, 2021 / 09:10 am (CNA).

A cycling champion and devout Catholic who helped to save more than 800 Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II was remembered in Assisi Wednesday on the 21st anniversary of his death.

Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi led the singing of the Marian antiphon “Regina Coeli” at 12pm local time on May 5 in Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, now housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943 -1944, to remember the man declared “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in 2013.

“Bartali was a great witness, [whose example] helps us to become more Christian, more human…” Sorrentino said. Even in the difficulties of the present time, “Bartali gives us a hand, with his example, his courage, and his faith.”

During World War II, Gino Bartali used his position as a famous road cycling champion to support the Italian Resistance and help, with others, to save the lives of more than 800 Italian Jews.

Using cycling training as a cover, Bartali transported photographs and forged documents between Florence and Franciscan convents in the surrounding regions where Jews were hidden. He also carried messages and documents for the Italian Resistance.

Bartali also assisted the Assisi Network, an underground network of Catholic clergy who hid Jews in convents and monasteries during World War II, by taking Jews from the hiding places to the Swiss Alps in a wagon with a secret compartment attached to his bicycle. If he was stopped, he said that the wagon was for training.

The cyclist, who twice won the Tour de France, also personally hid a Jewish family in his cellar, saving their lives, according to one survivor.

Gino Bartali with his son Andrea. / Courtesy of the Bartali family.
Gino Bartali with his son Andrea. / Courtesy of the Bartali family.

His reputation and popularity as Italy’s top cyclist before the war meant that he was mostly left undisturbed by the Fascist police and German troops, who did not want to risk upsetting his large fan base by arresting him.

Nevertheless, he was once taken in for questioning by the Nazi intelligence agency and the Italian RSS, and his life was threatened. Bartali never revealed what he had done. Even after the war, he spoke little about his accomplishments.

The cyclist used to say, “Good is done, but not said. And certain medals hang on the soul, not on the jacket.”

Bartali married in 1940 and was the father of three children. He died in 2000 at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack following a heart bypass operation. He had received the last rites 10 days prior.

In an obituary for the Guardian newspaper, Tim Hilton wrote: “Bartali was a genuinely religious man, making his devotions public and, in return, becoming the Vatican’s favorite sportsman -- he was personally blessed by three popes.”

“He would set up shrines in his hotel bedrooms when he rode the Giro [d’Italia] and the Tour de France, and, on some mountains, children from summer camps sang canticles as he pedaled past, a priest conducting their infant worship.”

When he was not traveling to compete, Bartali lived in Florence. But he was very attached to the city of Assisi, which is just over 100 miles to the southeast in the region of Umbria.

Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943-1944, in Assisi, Italy. / Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.
Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943-1944, in Assisi, Italy. / Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.

In 1937, Bartali became a Carmelite Tertiary. He built a private chapel in honor of his brother who had died in a racing accident the year before. The chapel was consecrated by Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, the archbishop of Florence.

That chapel is now part of Assisi’s Memorial Museum. Bartali’s granddaughter, Gioia Bartali, said that this chapel “has always represented an indelible memory of our family.”

“In 1937, my grandfather Gino took his vows as a Carmelite Tertiary following the untimely death of his beloved brother Giulio, who died in an accident during a cycling race,” she told CNA’s Italian-language partner agency ACI Stampa.

“Following that tragic event he decided to stop racing,” she noted, “and it was only thanks to the comfort of his faith and the love of my grandmother Adriana that he decided to get back in the saddle, to win again, thus dedicating his victories to the Virgin Mary.”

Gino Bartali with his granddaughters Gioia and Stella. / Courtesy of the Bartali family
Gino Bartali with his granddaughters Gioia and Stella. / Courtesy of the Bartali family

She said the chapel was created that year, with a few simple objects placed in a small room in Bartali’s house.

“An altar consecrated to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, which allowed him to have Mass celebrated [at home], thus managing to practice his faith with devotion and humility,” she said.

Bartali left the chapel to Gioia’s father, Andrea, in his will. At the request of Andrea, Gioia and her sister, Stella, donated the chapel to the bishop of Assisi.

Speaking about Assisi, she said that “no place more than the seraphic city could have celebrated the heroic deeds of a great sportsman and man of faith, who became a protagonist in the dark years of the war, saving hundreds of Jews in total silence and without asking for anything in return.”