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Pope Francis: It’s never too late to begin again

Pope Francis gives his Angelus address on Dec. 26, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

St. John the Baptist reminds us that Advent is a privileged time to turn back toward God — something it is never too late to do, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“And let us remember one thing: with Jesus, there is always the possibility of beginning again. It’s never too late,” the pope said in his Angelus message Dec. 4.

“Let us listen to John the Baptist’s appeal to return to God,” he continued. “And let us not let this Advent go by like days on the calendar, because this is a moment of grace, a grace for us too, here and now.”

In his speech before the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the message of St. John the Baptist to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

“There is always the possibility to begin again. Be courageous,” the pope urged, adding that Jesus “is near to us and this is the time of conversion.”

Pope Francis said “everyone might think: ‘I have this situation inside, this problem that I am ashamed of.’ But Jesus is next to you. Begin again. There is always the possibility of taking a step forward. He is waiting for us and never gets tired of us. He never gets tired.”

The pope’s message, spoken from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, focused on the day’s Gospel from St. Matthew.

He explained that St. John the Baptist, who “wore a garment of camel’s hair” and ate “locusts and wild honey,” was inviting everyone to conversion.

John the Baptist “was an austere and radical man, who at first sight might appear to be harsh and could instill a certain fear,” Francis said. “But then again, we can ask ourselves why the Church proposes him each year as our primary traveling companion during this Season of Advent. What is hidden underneath his severity, behind his apparent harshness? What is John’s secret? What is the message the Church gives us today with John?”

John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, was “allergic to duplicity,” he said, pointing out that when the Pharisees and Sadducees, known for their hypocrisy, approach him, John had a strong “allergic reaction.”

St. John the Baptist’s response to the Pharisees can give us a lot to think about, Francis said, including asking ourselves if we are like the Pharisees, who judge others, and think we have our lives under control, who think “that we don’t need God, or the Church, or our brothers or sisters on a daily basis.”

“Advent,” the pope continued, “is a moment of grace to take off our masks — every one of us has them — and line up with those who are humble, to be liberated from the presumption of the belief of being self-sufficient, to go to confess our sins, the hidden ones, and to welcome God’s pardon, to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended.”

“This is how to begin a new life. There is only one way, the way of humility — to be purified from the sense of superiority, from formalism and hypocrisy, to see ourselves, along with our brothers and sisters, as sinners, and to see Jesus as the Savior who comes for us, not for the others, for us, just as we are, with our poverty, misery and failings, above all with our need to be raised up, forgiven and saved,” he said.

PHOTOS: Vatican Christmas tree lighting ceremony 2022

The Vatican’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2022 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Vatican. A large hand-carved wooden nativity scene was unveiled in St. Peter Square on Saturday night at the Vatican’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga presided over the ceremony on Dec. 3. Due to heavy rain and thunderstorms, the celebration took place inside Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall with a video live-stream from St. Peter’s Square of the Christmas tree lighting .

The Christmas tree is a nearly 100-foot-tall white fir from Rosello, a mountain village with around 182 inhabitants in the central Italian region of Abruzzo.

The tree was adorned with ornaments made by children at a psychiatric rehabilitation center in Italy. Other decorations for the tree were crafted by residents at a nursing home and schoolchildren from Abruzzo.

The tree is adorned with ornaments made by children at a psychiatric rehabilitation center in Italy. Other decorations for the tree were crafted by residents at a nursing home and schoolchildren from Abruzzo. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The tree is adorned with ornaments made by children at a psychiatric rehabilitation center in Italy. Other decorations for the tree were crafted by residents at a nursing home and schoolchildren from Abruzzo. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The outdoor nativity scene is made of life-sized figures hand carved out of alpine cedar trees from Italy’s northeasternmost region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Vatican nativity scene 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Vatican nativity scene 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The scene includes a wooden grotto with an ox, donkey, angel, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. The wooden figures will also have tradesmen and tradeswomen typical of the area where the nativity was made, a shepherdess, and a family and children.

Vatican nativity scene 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Vatican nativity scene 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Vatican has placed a nativity scene in front of St. Peter’s Basilica for the Christmas season since the 1980s. For about a decade, the Vatican has asked different countries or Italian regions to lend the nativity to be displayed. In 2021, the scene came from Peru.

This year the Vatican is also displaying an indoor nativity scene donated by the government of Guatemala inside the Paul VI Hall, where Pope Francis receives many audiences in December.

Pope Francis spent time in silent prayer in front of a nativity scene handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala on Dec. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See
Pope Francis spent time in silent prayer in front of a nativity scene handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala on Dec. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See

The Holy Family and three angels were handmade by Guatemalan artisans in the local tradition using large golden crowns for the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

Pope Francis spent time in silent prayer in front of the nativity scene set up in Paul VI Hall on Saturday morning ahead of the ceremony.

In an audience with delegations from the communities that donated the nativity scenes and the Christmas tree, the pope said that the Christmas tree with its lights is a reminder of Jesus who “comes to illuminate our darkness, our existence often shrouded in the shadow of sin, fear, pain.”

The lights on the Vatican's nearly 100-foot Christmas tree were lit on Dec. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
The lights on the Vatican's nearly 100-foot Christmas tree were lit on Dec. 3, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“Yes, God loves us so much that he shares our humanity and our lives. He never leaves us alone; He is by our side in every circumstance, in joy as in sorrow. Even in the worst of times, He is there, because He is the Emmanuel, the God with us, the light that illuminates the darkness and the tender presence that accompanies us on our journey,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis blesses nativity scene made by craftsmen in Guatemala

Pope Francis spent time in silent prayer in front of a nativity scene handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala on Dec. 3, 2022. / Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis blessed a nativity scene on Saturday that was handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mario Búcaro led a delegation that traveled from the Latin American country to be present for the nativity scene’s inauguration in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 3.

"It is the first time in history that our country presents a nativity scene in the Vatican, a beautiful work of sacred art, personally delivered to Pope Francis and, therefore, also a gift from the people of Guatemala in anticipation of Christmas," Búcaro said.

Guests of the Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See at the nativity's inauguration. Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See
Guests of the Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See at the nativity's inauguration. Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See

The nativity scene was made by the combined effort of more than 30 artisans. It features the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, wearing large golden crowns, in a manger surrounded by angels.

Nativity scene handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala. Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See
Nativity scene handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala. Embassy of Guatemala to the Holy See

At the nativity’s inauguration, Pope Francis explained that the nativity scene tells of “the birth of the Son of God who became man to be close to each of us.”

“In its genuine poverty, the nativity scene helps us to rediscover the true richness of Christmas,” the pope said.

“Simple and familiar, the nativity scene recalls a different Christmas from the consumerist and commercial one. … It reminds us how good it is for us to cherish moments of silence and prayer in our days, which are often overwhelmed by frenzy.”

In St. Peter's Square, the Vatican has also displayed an outdoor wooden nativity scene hand carved from alpine cedar trees from Italy’s northeasternmost region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Pope Francis recommended silent prayer and contemplation of the Christ child in a nativity scene as an intimate experience of God’s humility and tenderness.

Pope Francis blessed a nativity scene that was handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala on Dec. 3, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis blessed a nativity scene that was handmade by artisan craftsmen in Guatemala on Dec. 3, 2022. Vatican Media

“And if we really want to celebrate Christmas, let us rediscover through the nativity scene the surprise and wonder of littleness, the littleness of God, who made himself small, who was not born in the splendor of appearance, but in the poverty of a stable,” Pope Francis said.

The Guatemalan nativity scene will remain on display in Paul VI Hall until January 8, when the Church celebrates the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Pope Francis: The Church has a duty to welcome people with disabilities

Pope Francis celebrates the International Day of Disabled Persons at the Vatican on Dec. 3, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis celebrated the International Day of Disabled Persons on Saturday at the Vatican with a group of children with disabilities and their families.

In a private audience inside the Apostolic Palace on Dec. 3, the pope greeted each of the families present and said: “Your witness is a concrete sign of peace, a sign of hope for a more humane and fraternal world for everyone.”

Pope Francis underlined his desire for all Christian communities to be true places of “belonging and inclusion.”

“There is no inclusion if it only remains a slogan, a formula to be used in politically correct speeches,” he added.

The pope said: “Promoting recognition of the dignity of every person is a constant responsibility of the Church: it is the mission of continuing over time the closeness of Jesus Christ to every man and woman, especially those who are most fragile and vulnerable.”

The United Nations proclaimed Dec. 3 the annual International Day of Disabled Persons 30 years ago.

More than one billion people, about 15% of the world's population, live with some form of disability, according to the UN.

Pope Francis released an official message for the 2022 International Day of Disabled Persons in which he asked people to be “mindful of the sufferings of all those women and men with disabilities who live in the midst of war, or have been themselves disabled as a result of warfare.”

The pope also expressed gratitude for the participation of people with disabilities in the Church’s Synod on Synodality process.

“The Synod, above all by its invitation to journey together and to listen to one another, can help us understand how in the Church – also with regard to the disabled – there can be no us and them, but a single us, with Jesus Christ at the center, where each person brings his or her own gifts and limitations,” he said.

“This awareness, founded on the fact that we are all part of the same vulnerable humanity assumed and sanctified by Christ, eliminates arbitrary distinctions and opens the door to the participation of each baptized member in the life of the Church.”

Pope Francis added: “Encounter and fraternity break down the walls of misunderstanding and overcome discrimination; this is why I trust that every Christian community will be open to the presence of our brothers and sisters with disabilities, and ensure that they are always welcomed and fully included.”

Pope Francis’ watch auctioned off and proceeds set a world record

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Dec 2, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

A watch worn by Pope Francis was sold Wednesday at a charity auction and set a new world record for the brand.

The LaViolette Scholarship Foundation auctioned off a Swatch Once Again watch Nov. 30 that Francis had worn for much of his pontificate.

The watch, which can be found at the brand's official store for $55, was finally sold for $56,250 — more than 1,000 times its retail value — making it the Swatch watch for which the most money has ever been paid.

Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, sent a letter to the Holy Father in May telling him about the life of Brian LaViolette, a teenage watch collector who died at the age of 15 in a swimming accident.

In the letter, Ricken asked the pontiff to donate one of his cheapest watches to be auctioned by the LaViolette Foundation, which offers financial help for students to go to college.

The Holy Father agreed to the request and the auction of the watch joins those of other famous people such as Fred Savage, Joe Theismann, Terry Bradshaw, Condoleezza Rice, and Randall Park.

It’s not the first time that Pope Francis has donated things for auction.

Less than a year after being elected pope, Harley-Davidson gave the pope a motorcycle that, after he autographed it, was sold for $285,000.

The money raised was used to renovate the “Don Luigi Liegro” shelter, which welcomes the homeless or jobless.

Then in November 2017, Lamborghini gave one of its most exclusive cars to the Supreme Pontiff, who decided to auction it off and allocate the money to numerous charitable works.

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

Pope Francis: The effects of the war in Ukraine are being felt all over the world

Pope Francis with members of the group Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2022 / 05:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that the war between Russia and Ukraine is an example of the “globalization of problems” with the far-felt effects of the energy and food crises.

In a message to heads of state and other civil authorities participating in a high-level conference on geopolitics in Rome on Dec. 2, the pope said that the food crisis in particular is affecting “a growing number of people all over the world, especially in the poorest countries.”

“The Ukrainian conflict is in fact producing enormous repercussions in North African countries, which depend for 80% on grain from Ukraine or Russia,” Pope Francis said.

“This crisis urges us to consider the totality of the real situation from a global perspective, just as its effects are global.”

The pope explained that “just as it is not possible to think of tackling the energy crisis apart from the political one, one cannot at the same time solve the food crisis apart from the persistence of conflicts.”

“Nor can the extent of human suffering be taken into consideration without taking into account the social crisis, in which, for economic or political gain, the value of the human person is diminished and human rights are trampled upon,” he added.

The pope’s message was delivered to the Rome Med - Mediterranean Dialogues conference in Rome this week. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosts the annual high-level meeting.

Pope Francis also received an audience on Dec. 2 with members of the organization Leaders Pour la Paix (Leaders for Peace).

“We cannot forget that the sacrifice of human lives, the suffering of the population, the indiscriminate destruction of civilian structures, the violation of the principle of humanity are not ‘side effects’ of war, no, they are international crimes. This we must say and repeat,” the pope told the group.

Pope Francis with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022. Vatican Media

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.

“Using weapons to resolve conflicts is a sign of weakness and fragility,” Pope Francis said.

“Negotiating, proceeding with mediation and starting conciliation requires courage.”

Ukrainian archbishop appeals for release of Catholic priests captured by Russian troops

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 8, 2022. / news.ugcc.ua.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2022 / 05:20 am (CNA).

Two Catholic priests captured by Russian troops are “being tortured without mercy,” the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said Thursday.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk issued an appeal to international authorities on Dec. 1 to help facilitate the release of Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Heleta, who have been held in captivity for more than two weeks.

“We have received the sad news that our priests are being tortured without mercy,” Shevchuk said.

“According to classic Stalinist methods of repression, confessions to crimes they did not commit are being extracted from them. In fact, our two heroic pastors are daily threatened under torture with death.”

The Ukrainian archbishop asked Catholics around the world to pray for the release of the priests.

“Our request is for the immediate release of the two priests, who have no fault other than that of loving their people, their Church, the community entrusted to them,” he said.

“I appeal to diplomatic representatives and to international human rights organizations, asking them to do everything possible to save the lives of these heroic pastors. And I ask all the faithful of our Church in Ukraine and abroad, all Christians, all people of good will, to pray for the salvation of these two priests.”

According to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the two Redemptorist priests had chosen to stay in territory under Russian occupation to serve the local Greek Catholic and Latin-rite Catholic communities.

“Subsequently, some military objects were placed in the church in order to accuse them of the illegal possession of weapons,” Shevchuk said.

Levytskyi and Heleta were taken from their parish, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the coastal city of Berdyansk on Nov. 16 and accused of having committed “subversive” and “guerrilla” activities by the Russian National Guard.

The Ukrainian Catholic Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Donetsk denied the accusations, calling the detention “unfounded and illegal,” and demanded the prompt release of the clerics.

“At the time of the search of the church and the adjacent rectory and premises of the parish, both priests were already under arrest; that is, they could not control these premises and the actions of the Russian National Guard in any way,” the statement from the local church said.

“They cannot bear any responsibility for the weapons and ammunition allegedly found in those places. This is clear slander and a false accusation.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. Vatican Media.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. Vatican Media.

In an interview published earlier this week, Pope Francis described Ukrainians as “a people who are martyred.”

“If you have a martyred people, you have someone who martyrs them,” the pope told America Magazine.

“When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in. Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryati and so on,” Francis added.

The pope’s comments elicited a strong response from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called Pope Francis “un-Christian” in a televised speech on Thursday.

“Pope Francis calls for talks but also recently made an incomprehensible statement, completely un-Christian, singling out two Russian nationalities into some category from which atrocities can be expected during hostilities,” Lavrov said, according to Politico.

The Russian foreign minister added: “Of course this doesn’t help the cause and the authority of the Holy See.”

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December is for volunteer not-for-profit organizations.

“The world needs volunteers and organizations committed to seeking the common good,” the Holy Father said in a video appeal released Dec. 1. 

“This is a word that many today would like to erase: ‘commitment.’ And the world needs volunteers who commit to the common good,” he said. 

The pontiff called volunteers who work with not-for-profit organizations “artisans for mercy.”

“Being a volunteer who helps others is a choice that makes us free; it opens us to other people’s needs — to the demands of justice, to the defense of the poor, to the care of creation. It means being artisans of mercy: with our hands, with our eyes, with our attentive ears, with our closeness.”

He added: “The work of volunteer not-for-profit organizations is much more effective when they collaborate with each other and with governments.”

“By working together, however few resources they have, they do their best and make the miracle of the multiplication of hope a reality. We have a great need to multiply hope,” Pope Francis continued. 

The Holy Father concluded the video message with a prayer: “Let us pray that volunteer not-for-profit and human development organizations may find people willing to commit themselves to the common good and ceaselessly seek out new paths of international cooperation.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

This Catholic priest fought narcos in Colombia, now he is to lead the peace process

Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia / Father Silverio Suárez

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 08:40 am (CNA).

A Catholic priest has been named the second in command of the National Police of Colombia.

In his three-decade-long career in the police force, Major General Silverio Ernesto Suárez has often found himself in perilous situations on the front lines of Colombia’s battle against illegal drug trafficking.

Once he was in a police helicopter that was nearly shot down by guerillas. In another instance, in the 1990s, a car bomb blew up the seven-story police building where he was posted.

But unlike his colleagues in the police force, Suárez can hear confessions and offer last rites because he is a Catholic priest.

Suárez told CNA that he sees his dual roles of priest and police general as a vocation to “save souls and save lives.”

Father Silverio Suárez. Courtney Mares / CNA
Father Silverio Suárez. Courtney Mares / CNA

He did not feel the call to become a Catholic priest until an experience he had after entering the police force at the age of 32. After an older police officer was covered in gasoline, set on fire, and died from his burns, Suárez spent a lot of time reflecting on “how ephemeral life can be.”

In conversations with the general chaplain of the police, he rethought what he wanted his life’s mission to be.

“What struck me the most was the police motto, which was ‘God and country.’ I wanted to give my life to serve God and serve my country. This was what I was looking for in my life,” Suárez said.

He had already received a solid Catholic formation from his family and as a layman at an Opus Dei center that had cultivated in him a love for the Eucharist and the sacraments.

Yet Suárez faced some hurdles in his newfound desire to become a priest. The minister of defense rejected his request to enter the seminary for the Military Ordinariate of Colombia.

“I gave our Lord a blank check,” Suárez said. “If it is my decision and it is not from God, it will not happen. I abandoned myself in the hands of God … and from one moment to the next, the doors miraculously began to open.”

Twenty days after Suárez’s original application had been rejected, the minister of defense fell into a major scandal and was replaced. Suárez’s appeal to enter the seminary was accepted.

Suárez was ordained a priest at the age of 39 after completing training not only in philosophy and theology but also to be a police captain.

“I only slept three hours at night,” he recalled. “I did my second year of theology at the same time as my police promotion course.”

After his ordination, Suárez understood his mission was to help transform “the hearts of policemen.”

He volunteered for police patrol shifts from midnight to 6 a.m. While on patrol, he had long conversations with the men he was posted with; sometimes, he would hear their confessions or invite them to pray the rosary together.

Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with fellow members in uniform. Father Silverio Suárez
Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with fellow members in uniform. Father Silverio Suárez

One particular conversation with a colleague stands out in his mind: “Two days later, he was killed in a terrorist attack and we buried him.”

“I have seen so many comrades become victims of violence, who have been kidnapped and … were kept in the worst living conditions,” he added.

As a priest, Suárez also comforts and ministers to the families of his colleagues who have been kidnapped or killed.

In Colombia and other South American countries including Chile and Venezuela, it is not unusual for priests to be full members of the police force, Suárez said. He insists that “being a policeman and a priest is absolutely compatible.”

“What is the mission of the priest? Above all, serve God and serve your fellow men. What is the mission of the police? … To save lives, to defend life,” he said.

When asked about the use of violence, Suárez said that when his life has been in danger, he has had to defend himself, but fortunately, he has not had to kill anyone.

He has also devoted much of his time to serving prisoners and perpetrators detained by the police.

“In the detention rooms, there is barbaric overcrowding. In places where there were 150 inmates … they had to sleep squatting or sitting down because there was no place to lie down,” he said. “I bring them [clean] clothes. Many of them are very poor.”

He also offers Masses for the detainees and hears confessions. In some cases, Suárez has paid the bail, something that frustrated his police colleagues.

Suárez said that corruption within the police force is a serious issue, which is why he believes that good police training and formation are so important.

Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with Pope Francis. Father Silverio Suárez
Father Silverio Ernesto Suárez, Major General of the National Police of Colombia, with Pope Francis. Father Silverio Suárez

For the past year, Suárez, now 61 years old, was assigned to Rome, where he has been working to strengthen relations between the Colombian police force and the Italian police through a joint training program. The posting also gave him the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.

Drug trafficking continues to be the biggest problem facing Colombia, Suárez said, and the death toll inflicted by the cartels has been enormous.

In his new role as a major general and the second in command of the national police, Suárez will focus much of his work on Colombia’s difficult peace process.

“For the sake of finding peace and reconciliation, the effort is worth it,” he said.

Almudena Martínez-Bordiú contributed to this report.

Pope Francis praises ‘fruitful’ theology of Benedict XVI

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI greet each other at the 65th priestly ordination of Pope Emeritus XVI at the Clementine Hall. / © L’Osservatore Romano

CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 05:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday praised the role of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his theology for the Church.

Speaking at the 2022 Ratzinger Prize award ceremony at the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “We all feel his spiritual presence and his accompaniment in prayer for the whole Church.”

”But this occasion is important to reaffirm that the contribution of his theological work and, more generally, of his thought continues to be fruitful and effective.”

The Ratzinger Prize was launched in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, the prestigious award was given to Jesuit Father Michel Fédou and Professor Joseph H.H. Weiler.

Father Michel Fédou, SJ, (left) and Professor Joseph H.H. Weiler, recipients of the Ratzinger Prize 2022 with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Dec. 1, 2022. Vatican Media
Father Michel Fédou, SJ, (left) and Professor Joseph H.H. Weiler, recipients of the Ratzinger Prize 2022 with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Dec. 1, 2022. Vatican Media

Pope Francis said: “As we know, Benedict XVI personally participated in [Vatican II] as an expert and played an important role in the genesis of some documents; and then he was called to lead the ecclesial community in its implementation, both alongside St. John Paul II and as pastor of the universal Church.”

Benedict “helped us to read the conciliar documents in depth, proposing a ‘hermeneutic of reform and continuity,’‘’ he said.

His predecessor from Bavaria, the pontiff added, had provided “a solid theological basis for the Church’s journey: a ‘living’ Church, which he taught us to see and live as communion, and which is on the move in ’synod’ — guided by the Spirit of the Lord, always open to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and serving the world in which it lives.”

Pope Francis speaking at the Ratzinger Prize award ceremony at the Vatican, Dec. 1, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaking at the Ratzinger Prize award ceremony at the Vatican, Dec. 1, 2022. Vatican Media

The Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation announced Oct. 7 that Fédou and Weiler would receive the prize from Pope Francis.

Fédou has been teaching dogmatic theology and patristics at Centre Sèvres, a Jesuit institution in Paris, since 1987. He is a member of several theological organizations and commissions regarding ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans and Orthodox Christians, according to a Vatican communiqué.

The 69-year-old native of Lyon, France, is the author of several works, mainly about patristics and Christology.

In him, Pope Francis said, ”we recognize and pay tribute to a valiant heir and continuer of the great tradition of French theology, which has given the Church masters of the stature of Father Henri De Lubac and solid and courageous cultural enterprises such as the Sources Chrétiennes, whose publication began 80 years ago.”

Famous for his role in defense of the display of crucifixes in public schools before the European Court of Human Rights, Weiler is a legal scholar at many universities in the U.S. and the U.K., including at Harvard and New York University, as well as in other places.

The 71-year-old native of Johannesburg, South Africa, was the president of the European University Institute of Florence and is the author of many works about constitutional and international law as well as human rights.

In his book “A Christian Europe: An Exploratory Essay,” the scholar coined the term Christophobia, a phenomenon papal biographer George Weigel has written about extensively.

Noting that Weiler is the first adherent of the Jewish faith to be awarded the prestigious Ratzinger prize, Pope Francis noted an objective of Benedict‘s ”personal theological work had been from the beginning the sharing and promotion of all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council.”

Father Michel Fédou SJ (left) and Professor Joseph H. H. Weiler. Fondazioneratzinger.va
Father Michel Fédou SJ (left) and Professor Joseph H. H. Weiler. Fondazioneratzinger.va

Last year’s winners of the Ratzinger Prize were Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz and Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger.

Candidates for the prize are chosen by the scientific committee of the Ratzinger Foundation and presented to the pope, who approves the winners.

The Ratzinger Prize has been awarded yearly since 2011 to two or three scholars. The scientific committee members are appointed by the pope.

Members until recently have been Cardinals Angelo Amato, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany. President of Pope Benedict XVI Institute Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella stood in for Cardinal Amato.