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Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican leaders call climate crisis a ‘devastating injustice’

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20, 2016. / Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I released an unprecedented joint message on Tuesday, calling the climate crisis a “devastating injustice.”

The three Christian leaders said that there would be “catastrophic consequences” for future generations unless the world took responsibility for environmental damage.

“The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” their statement, issued on Sept. 7, said.

“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.”

The pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed the joint text on Sept. 1. The message brought together the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, respectively the world’s largest, second-largest, and third-largest Christian communions.

“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the three men wrote.

The joint statement highlighted the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1-12.

“As world leaders prepare to meet in November at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and consider what the choices [sic] we must all make,” it said.

Pope Francis noted in an interview aired on Sept. 1 that he hoped to travel to Scotland to take part in the conference.

“It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there,” he said.

In their joint message, the pope, the patriarch, and the archbishop said: “In our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures and the saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see in the moment.”

“The concept of stewardship -- of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment -- presents a vital starting point for social, economic, and environmental sustainability.”

They concluded: “All of us -- whoever and wherever we are -- can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation. Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment.”

“This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

Vatican releases synod on synodality preparatory documents

Synod on the Family meeting in the Synod Hall in Vatican City on Oct. 21, 2015. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican released Tuesday a preparatory document and handbook for the 2023 synod on synodality to be reviewed by all Catholic dioceses in the world over the next six months.

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” the new document states, quoting Pope Francis.

“This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”

The Vatican published on Sept. 7 the 22-page preparatory document, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and the 42-page vademecum, or handbook, for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The handbook includes prayers, a description of synodality, the objectives of the synodal process, and the main questions to which the local Catholic communities are asked to give feedback. It underlines that dioceses should focus on “maximum inclusion and participation” among baptized Catholics in the diocesan synod process.

The preparatory document has been released for a period of “pre-synodal discernment” that will influence a second draft of the text to be published before June 2023.

According to the Vatican, the preparatory document is “a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the People of God in the particular Churches” for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The diocesan phase

During the diocesan phase, each bishop is asked to undertake a consultation process with the local Church from Oct. 17, 2021, to April 2022.

The handbook says that dioceses should organize local gatherings for “synodal consultation,” and also enable individuals to give their feedback directly to the diocese.

It recommends that multiple parishes come together for these “synodal consultation meetings” so that “a range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups” take part.

The preparatory document, handbook, and questionnaire are to be reviewed by dioceses, as well as superior generals, unions, and federations of consecrated life, international lay movements, and Catholic universities during this phase.

The diocesan synod process should “tap into the richness of the lived experience of the Church in their local context,” the handbook says.

Main questions to be considered

Questions are included at the end of handbook, which says that the “fundamental question” to be considered by the dioceses and the bishops over this multi-year process is as follows:

“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

In considering this, dioceses will receive and report feedback on the following:

  • What are difficulties, obstacles, and wounds in the local Church?

  • What is the Holy Spirit asking of us?

  • In our local Church, who are those who “walk together”? Who are those who seem further apart?

  • How is God speaking to us through voices we sometimes ignore? How are the laity listened to, especially women and young people? What facilitates or inhibits our listening?

  • How does the relationship with the local media work (not only Catholic media)? Who speaks on behalf of the Christian community, and how are they chosen?

  • How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?

  • What hinders the baptized from being active in mission? What areas of mission are we neglecting?

  • To what extent do diverse peoples in our community come together for dialogue? What are the places and means of dialogue within our local Church?

  • How are divergences of vision, or conflicts and difficulties addressed? What particular issues in the Church and society do we need to pay more attention to?

  • What relationships does our Church community have with members of other Christian traditions and denominations?

  • How does our Church community identify the goals to be pursued, the way to reach them, and the steps to be taken? How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church?

  • How do we promote participation in decision-making within hierarchical structures? Do our decision-making methods help us to listen to the whole People of God?

What is synodality?

The preparatory document describes synodality as “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church.”

“The Synodal Process is first and foremost a spiritual process. It is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates. Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment,” the handbook says.

The handbook describes the synodal journey as an experience of “authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.”

The synod on synodality will open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis will “inaugurate the synodal path” over the weekend of Oct. 9-10 with an opening session and a Mass. All dioceses are invited also to offer an opening Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

“The purpose of the first phase of the synodal journey is to foster a broad consultation process in order to gather the wealth of the experiences of lived synodality, in its different articulations and facets, involving the pastors and the faithful of the particular Churches at all the different levels,” the preparatory document says.

“We recall that the purpose of the synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but ‘to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands,’” it says, quoting from Pope Francis’ address at the opening of the youth synod in October 2018.

The Vatican held a press conference on Sept. 7 to discuss the newly released documents.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of Synod of Bishops, spoke on a panel, along with undersecretaries Sr. Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín. Myriam Wijlens and Fr. Dario Vitali, consultors for the synod, also answered questions as part of the panel.

At the press conference, Grech said that synodality is “the mature fruit” of the Second Vatican Council.

“The synod is not a parliament,” the cardinal said.

“A synod is an experience of everyone listening to the Holy Spirit,” he added.

Pope Francis greets Afghan refugees after Vatican documentary screening

Pope Francis greets people after a documentary screening at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 03:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with recent arrivals from Afghanistan on Monday evening after a documentary about his life and teaching was screened at the Vatican.

The Holy See press office said that the pope arrived in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall on Sept. 6 at the end of a showing of the film “Francesco” to greet around 100 people exiting the screening.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Among them were about 20 people who had arrived from Afghanistan in recent weeks, to whom the pope addressed words of affection and comfort,” the press office said.

Vatican News reported that the refugees, who fled the chaos of Kabul airport, included four brothers and sisters between 14 and 20 years of age, who arrived in Italy with help from the Community of Sant’Egidio. It added that the siblings were forced to leave behind their parents who were trapped in refugee camps in Iran.

Pope Francis greets ‘Francesco’ director Evgeny Afineevsky at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greets ‘Francesco’ director Evgeny Afineevsky at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 6, 2021. Vatican Media.

The screening was arranged by the film’s Israeli-American director, Evgeny Afineevsky, and the Laudato Si’ Foundation.

The documentary sparked headlines worldwide when it was premiered in Rome in October 2020 as the film included comments by the pope endorsing the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. A CNA analysis concluded that the comments were heavily edited.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Following global media coverage, the Vatican’s Secretary of State asked papal representatives to share with bishops some clarifications regarding the pope’s comments.

The clarifications explained that the pope’s remarks did not pertain to Catholic doctrine regarding the nature of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but to provisions of civil law.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Vatican News said that Afineevsky spoke to those gathered for the screening, recalling his own family’s migratory journey from Russia to Israel to the United States.

Afineevsky told the online news site Deadline: “When the movie finished [the pope] was downstairs waiting for them. He wanted to meet everybody and greet everybody…”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“He is a human being who cherishes being close to the people, cherishes the moment he can spread love, joy in their lives -- not easy lives. And he always remembers that he can be in their place [as a refugee]. He said it many, many times: ‘It can be you or me.’”

Afineevsky added: “He’s somebody who is trying to bring light to their plight. He’s trying to bring the spotlight of the media towards them and to show to the world how important it is to help them, integrate them.”

After greeting those who attended the screening, the pope returned to his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, and the event’s organizers distributed food parcels to the guests.

After his Sunday Angelus on Sept. 5, Pope Francis urged countries to offer refuge to people fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.

“In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” the pope said.

“May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”

Pope Francis prays for victims of Hurricane Ida

Pope Francis makes the Sign of the Cross April 18, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis prayed Sunday for the victims of Hurricane Ida, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people in the United States.

“I assure you of my prayers for the people of the United States of America hit by a strong hurricane in recent days,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus address on Sept. 5.

“May the Lord welcome the souls of the dead and support those who suffer from this calamity,” the pope prayed from the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Hurricane Ida was one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall on the U.S. mainland. The category 4 storm first hit Louisiana last week with sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour.

The storm went on to hit the northeastern U.S. with record-breaking rainfall causing flooding in New York City and New Jersey, which was also hit by tornadoes amid the storm.

Recovery efforts are underway in both Louisiana and the Northeast. U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit New Jersey and New York on Sept. 7 amid the clean-up efforts.

Catholic Charities USA has said it will direct 100 percent of the funds raised through texts of “HurrIda” to 41444 to its agencies with residents impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux
Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux

Hurricane Ida resulted in the deaths of 12 people in Louisiana and at least 44 people in New York and New Jersey, Reuters reported on Sept. 4.

Among the victims of the hurricane were six elderly people evacuated from their nursing homes in Louisiana ahead of the storm.

The bishop of Houma-Thibodeaux in southeastern Louisiana told CNA on Sept. 3 that many parts of his diocese were still without running water and electricity nearly a week after the storm.

Of the diocese’s 39 churches nearly all, 36, were damaged in the storm. Some of the churches suffered severe damage.

Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux
Damage from Hurricane Ida. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux

“We've taken a significant blow and we just need some help right now,” Bishop Shelton Fabre told CNA.

“And we trust that that help will come and that God will provide. So, you go forward and hope.”

Although the physical damage from the storm was extensive, Fabre said that he was “grateful” that unlike in other storms, there was not a widespread loss of life due to Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida made landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed over 1,500 people.

And despite the significant losses, Fabre explained to CNA that he has been thankful for the outpouring of support his diocese has received. Anyone who wishes to help, he said, can do so by contacting the Catholic Charities of Houma-Thibodeaux, as by praying for the diocese.

“We're grateful for the good people who have come forward to help us,” he said.

“And hopefully there will be more people coming forward to help us because we will need the help. We'll need their prayers and their financial assistance and assistance in helping us to rebuild this really, really beautiful part of the kingdom of God that is the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux.”

Pope Francis: Find time for silence with the Gospel every day

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at this Angelus address on Sept. 4, 2021 / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that silent prayer with the Gospel is the “secret to spiritual health.”

“Do we remember to listen to the Lord? We are Christians, but sometimes with the thousands of words we hear every day, we do not find a few seconds to let a few words of the Gospel resound in us,” the pope said in his Angelus address on Sept. 5.

“Jesus is the Word: if we do not stop to listen to Him, He passes on. ... But if we dedicate time to the Gospel, we will find the secret to our spiritual health.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Speaking from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the pope told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that spending time in silence with the Gospel is like “medicine” for one’s spiritual life.

“Every day a little silence and listening, fewer useless words, and more of the Word of God,” Pope Francis recommended.

He said that it is a good thing to turn to the Lord with prayer requests, but above all, it is important to listen to the Lord.

“Jesus asks this of us. In the Gospel when they ask Him what is the first commandment, he answers: ‘Hear, O Israel.’ Then he adds ... 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart ... and your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28-31). But first of all, he says, 'Hear, O Israel,’” the pope explained.

Pope Francis said that today many people have “an interior deafness” that Jesus can touch and heal. This “deafness of heart” can lead to a deadening of awareness of the needs of those around us, he said.

“Taken up with haste, by so many things to say and do, we cannot find time to stop and listen to those who speak to us. We run the risk of becoming impervious to everything and not making room for those who need to be heard. I am thinking about children, young people, the elderly, the many who have less need for words and preaching, and more to be heard,” Francis said.

“Let us ask ourselves: how is my capacity to listen? Am I touched by people’s lives, do I know how to spend time with those close to me?”

The pope said that this especially applies to priests, who need to be attentive to listening to the people in their parishes.

He said it also applies family life, where there can be a temptation to speak without really listening.

At the end of his Angelus address, the pope prayed for the people of Afghanistan that they may be able to "live with dignity."

"In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection," the pope said.

"May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors."

The pope also prayed for the victims of Hurricane Ida, one of the most powerful storms to ever make landfall on the U.S. mainland.

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 4, 2021. Vatican Media/CNA

Pope Francis applauded Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity for their "heroic service" on the feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta.

The pope expressed hope that his attendance at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest next Sunday and his visit to Slovakia will be days "marked by adoration and prayer in the heart of Europe."

"Jesus, I wish to be open to your Word ... Jesus, heal my heart from being closed, heal my heart from haste, heal my heart from impatience," the pope prayed.

“May the Virgin Mary, open to listening to the Word which became flesh in her, help us every day to listen to her Son in the Gospel and our brothers and sisters with a docile heart, with a patient heart, and with an attentive heart."

Pope Francis: Promote a culture that prioritizes human dignity

Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican on Sept. 4, 2021. / Vatican News/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2021 / 07:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Saturday that politics needs a renewal after the pandemic through the promotion of a culture that prioritizes human dignity.

“The pandemic, with its long aftermath of isolation and 'social hypertension,’ has inevitably also challenged political action itself, politics as we know it,” Pope Francis said on Sept. 4.

“It is therefore a question of working simultaneously on two levels: cultural and institutional,” he said.

The pope told members of the organization, Leaders Pour la Paix (Leaders for Peace), that helping others to understand the root causes of problems can be considered an “education for peace.”

“It is important to promote a ‘culture of faces,’ which places the dignity of the person at the center, a respect for his or her story, especially if they are wounded and marginalized,” he said in an audience with the group at the Vatican.

“It is also a ‘culture of encounter’ in which we listen to and welcome our brothers and sisters, with trust in the reserves of good that are in the hearts of the people.”

Leaders Pour la Paix is an organization founded by the former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin that brings together high-level government representatives from around the world.

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations, are among the its board of leaders, along with Kamal Kharazi, the former Iranian foreign minister, and Quan Kong, a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

The group of 36 world leaders aims to reduce conflicts through prevention by alerting public opinion and decision-makers on risky situations and their consequences, according to its website.

Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix. Vatican Media/CNA
<p>Pope Francis meets with members of Leaders Pour la Paix. Vatican Media/CNA</p>

Pope Francis encouraged the members of the organization to pursue peace through multilateral institutions.

“It is urgent to encourage dialogue and multilateral collaboration, because multilateral agreements better guarantee the protection of a truly universal common good and of the weakest states than bilateral ones,” he said.

The pope underlined that this is “a particularly critical historical moment” in which the pandemic has not yet been overcome and its economic and social consequences are weighing heavily on “the lives of the poorest.”

“Not only has it impoverished the human family of many lives, each one precious and unrepeatable; it has also sown much desolation and increased tensions,” Francis said.

“Faced with the worsening of multiple converging political and environmental crises - hunger, climate, nuclear weapons to name a few - your commitment to peace has never been so necessary and urgent.”

Pope Francis: Foundation helping mothers and children is ‘a sign of hope’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Arché Foundation at the Vatican, Sept. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday hailed a foundation that has helped vulnerable children and mothers for the past 30 years as “a sign of hope.”

The pope told members of the Arché Foundation that he was grateful for their work during a meeting in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sept. 2.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Your welcoming communities are a sign of hope first of all for them, for these women and their children. But they are also a sign of hope for you who share your lives with them; and for the volunteers, the young people, the young couples, who in these communities experience service not only for the poor -- which is very good -- but even better with the poor,” he said.

The Arché Foundation was founded by Fr. Giuseppe Bettoni in Milan, northern Italy, in 1991 to help HIV-positive children and their families. Today, the foundation offers support and care services to vulnerable children and their families.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his address, the pope thanked Bettoni for his 30 years of service, joking that the young-looking priest must have begun the project after his First Communion.

He noted that the foundation’s name is an Ancient Greek word meaning “beginning.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said: “You have called it Arché, which recalls the origin, the beginning, and we know that in the beginning there is Love, the love of God.”

“All that is life, all that is beautiful, good and true comes from there, from God who is love, just as human life comes from a mother’s heart and womb, and just as Jesus came from a mother’s heart and womb, who is Love made flesh, made man.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He continued: “And so, in this logic, in the beginning, there are the faces: for you, they are the faces of those mothers and children whom you have welcomed and helped to free themselves from the bonds of violence and mistreatment. Also migrant women who carry in their flesh dramatic experiences.”

He said that the group ensured that the familiar icon of the Mother and Child did not remain simply “a pretty picture.”

“You have translated it into a concrete experience, made up of stories and specific faces,” he said. “This certainly means problems, difficulties, hardships... But at the same time, it means joy, the joy of seeing that sharing opens up paths to freedom, rebirth, and dignity.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He observed that the foundation would shortly inaugurate a house in Rome that will be home to a new community.

“May it be a place where you live God’s style, which is closeness, tenderness, and compassion. And may the structure always be at the service of people, not the other way around,” he said.

“May the Holy Spirit always renew in you the joy of the Gospel, and may Our Lady protect you. Please pray for me too. Thank you!”

Pope Francis appoints Benedictine priest as Swiss Guard chaplain

Fr. Kolumban Reichlin, O.S.B., the new chaplain of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Pontifical Swiss Guard’s new chaplain is the Swiss Benedictine Fr. Kolumban Reichlin, who completed part of his studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

Reichlin, 50, was appointed chaplain by Pope Francis on Sept. 1 and will take up his new position in October.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard was established by Pope Julius II in 1506 and is charged with serving and protecting the pope.

Members of the world’s smallest but oldest standing army -- known for its colorful striped Renaissance-era uniforms -- are responsible for Vatican security together with the Vatican gendarmes.

The Vatican military’s new chaplain entered the Order of St. Benedict in 1991 at Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland. He studied for the priesthood at the Einsiedeln seminary and at Saint Meinrad in St. Meinrad, Indiana, which is affiliated with the Swiss abbey.

Swiss Guards in the Protomartyrs’ Square in Vatican City, May 6, 2015. .  Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Swiss Guards in the Protomartyrs’ Square in Vatican City, May 6, 2015. . Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Reichlin has also studied history and liturgy in Bern, Freiburg, and Rome. In his monastery, he was responsible for pilgrimages and was also a part of liturgy commissions.

From 2009 to 2020, the priest was provost of the Provostry of St. Gerold in Austria, a church and monastery founded in the High Middle Ages, which has belonged to the Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln since the 13th century.

New Swiss Guards recruits are sworn in at a ceremony at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. .  Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
New Swiss Guards recruits are sworn in at a ceremony at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. . Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

It is believed that St. Gerold may have lived there as a hermit in the 11th century.

Since 1958, the monastery has been used as a church meeting place and educational center hosting art exhibits, musical performances, and seminars.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its own oratory inside Vatican City where members regularly attend Mass, and ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms sometimes take place.

The Church of Saints Martin and Sebastian of the Swiss was built in 1568 by Pope Pius V to be the Swiss Guard’s private chapel. It is located just behind the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square on the north side, next to the Swiss Guard barracks and the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis has often encouraged members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard to be strong in their faith while they carry out their service at the Vatican.

“The time you will spend here is a unique moment in your existence: may you live it with a spirit of brotherhood, helping one another to lead a life rich in meaning and joyfully Christian,” he told new recruits during an audience on Oct. 2, 2020.

Pope Francis asks Catholics to pray that world makes ‘courageous choices’ to protect environment

Pope Francis greets supporters of the Laudato Si’ Movement at his general audience at the Vatican, Sept. 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month that the world makes “courageous choices” to protect the environment.

He made the appeal in his prayer intention for September, released on Wednesday.

“We pray that we all will make courageous choices for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, rejoicing in our young people who are resolutely committed to this,” reads the prayer intention, issued by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network on Sept. 1, the day the Church marks World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “It makes me very happy to see that young people have the courage to undertake projects for environmental and social improvement, since the two go together.”

“We adults can learn much from them, because in all matters related to care for the planet, they are at the forefront.”

“Let us take advantage of their example and reflect on our lifestyle, especially during these moments of health, social and environmental crisis.”

“Let us reflect on how the way we eat, consume, travel, or the way we use water, energy, plastics, and many other material goods, is often harmful to the earth.”

“Let us choose to change! Let us advance with young people towards lifestyles that are simpler and more respectful of the environment.”

At the end of 2020, Pope Francis established the global network that promotes his monthly prayer intentions as a Vatican body.

He elevated the status of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, formerly known as the Apostleship of Prayer, through a papal decree called a chirograph.

The pope decreed that the network, founded in France in 1844 and focused on the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, would now be a papal institution based at the Vatican. It is now known as the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network” Vatican Foundation.

In a press release, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network explained that this month’s video accompanying the prayer intention “has the support of BIP, one of the principal consultancies in Europe with more than 3,500 employees throughout the entire world.”

The network quoted Nino Lo Bianco, the president of the international consultancy firm, as saying: “Our mission as a company is to aspire to sustainable and integrating economic growth that values and protects our planet.”

“We’ve decided to support Pope Francis’ message to all of humanity because we’re firmly committed to participating actively in the development of solutions and activities oriented towards improving and administrating a positive impact on communities and the environment through our work.”

Commenting on the pope’s September prayer intention, Fr. Frédéric Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “Once again, Francis’ words cannot leave us indifferent. In the face of the ecological crisis, it is urgent that we change our lifestyle to make it reflect simplicity and solidarity. Are we aware of this urgency?”

“When the pope speaks to us of integral ecology, he’s telling us that everything is interconnected in our lives. Words are no longer enough to protect our common home.”

“Let us pray that we will act with the courage of the young, to live a more austere and ecologically sustainable life that will ensure our future. In Laudato si’, Francis proposes to us a path, a return to simplicity, to fraternity with Creation and those most in need.”

Concluding his video address, the pope said: “Let us pray that we all will make courageous choices, the choices necessary for a simple and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, taking inspiration from our young people who are resolutely committed to this.”

“And they aren’t foolish, because they are committed to their own future. This is why they want to change what they will inherit at a time when we will no longer be here.”

Pope Francis: Choose faith in Christ over formalities

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sept. 1, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis asked Catholics to reflect on how they live the faith, and to strive to put Christ at the center of their actions to avoid falling into mere formalities.

“Does the love of Christ crucified and risen again remain at the center of our daily life as the wellspring of salvation, or are we content with a few religious formalities to salve our consciences?” the pope asked in his weekly message Sept. 1.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, he continued: “Are we attached to the precious treasure, to the beauty of the newness of Christ, or do we prefer something that attracts us momentarily but then leaves us empty inside?”

“The ephemeral often knocks on the door of our days, but it is a sad illusion, which makes us fall into superficiality and prevents us from discerning what is really worth living for,” he added.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis’ weekly catechesis centered on a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, in which the Apostle says: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?”

The pope began his message by underlining that the Scripture passage and its message comes from St. Paul, not from him.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“This is not something new, this explanation, not something of mine: what we are studying is what St. Paul says in a very serious conflict with the Galatians,” he emphasized.

“This is simply a catechesis on the Word of God expressed in the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians; nothing else.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He noted that St. Paul is “not courteous” with the language he uses to address the Galatians. In other letters, Paul calls them “brothers” or “dear friends,” but here is angry, the pope explained, pointing out that he calls them “foolish,” which is also sometimes translated as “stupid.”

Paul “does so not because they are not intelligent, but because, almost without realizing it, they risk losing the faith in Christ that they have received with so much enthusiasm,” Pope Francis said. “They are foolish because they are unaware that the danger is that of losing the valuable treasure, the beauty, of the newness of Christ” and they may miss “the possibility of attaining a new, hitherto unhoped-for freedom.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

St. Paul is “shaking up their consciences: this is why it is so forceful,” he stated. “He takes them back to the starting point of the Christian vocation.”

According to Francis, “Paul’s intention is to compel Christians to realize what is at stake, so they do not allow themselves to be enchanted by the voice of the sirens who want to lead them to a religiosity based solely on the scrupulous observance of precepts.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Even when we are tempted to turn to superficiality, however, God still bestows his gifts on us, he said.

“Even today, people come and harangue us, saying, ‘No, holiness is in these precepts, in these things, you must do this and that,’ and propose an inflexible religiosity, the inflexibility that takes away from us that freedom in the Spirit that Christ’s redemption gives us,” the pope continued.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He warned Catholics to “beware of the rigidity they propose to you: be careful.” Inflexibility, he said, does not come from the Spirit of God.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Francis pointed to St. Paul’s letter as a good source to help people to not listen to “these somewhat fundamentalist proposals that set us back in our spiritual life.”

“Despite all the difficulties we may pose to His action, God does not abandon us but rather abides with us in His merciful love,” the pope concluded.

“He is like that father who went up onto the terrace every day to see if his son was returning: the love of the Father never tires of us. Let us ask for the wisdom always to be aware of this reality, and to turn away the fundamentalists who propose to us a life of artificial asceticism, far removed from the resurrection of Christ. Asceticism is necessary, but wise asceticism, not artificial.”