Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: Children’s deaths in Israel-Gaza conflict ‘terrible and unacceptable’

Pope Francis delivers a Regina Coeli address at the Vatican. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 16, 2021 / 06:31 am (CNA).

Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal Sunday for an end to surging violence in the Holy Land.

Speaking after the recitation of the Regina Coeli May 16, the pope expressed alarm at the Israel-Gaza conflict which has left more than 100 people dead, many of them children.

He said: “In these days, violent armed clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel have taken hold, and risk degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction. Numerous people have been injured, and many innocents have died.”

“Among them there are also children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it.”

The pope also lamented intercommunal violence involving Jews and Arabs within Israel.

He said: “Furthermore, the crescendo of hatred and violence that is affecting various cities in Israel is a serious wound to fraternity and peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if there is not an immediate opening to dialogue.”

“I ask myself: where will hatred and revenge lead? Do we really think we will build peace by destroying the other?”

He appealed for calm in the region, urging local leaders and the international community to help secure peace.

“Let us pray unceasingly that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers,” he said, before reciting a Hail Mary for the conflict’s victims, especially children.

The pope gave his live-streamed Regina Coeli address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where pilgrims stood wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He reflected on the Gospel reading (Mark 16:15-20) for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which is celebrated on Sunday in Italy and other countries, but on Thursday at the Vatican.

He said: “Usually, as we know, farewell scenes are sad, they give those who remain a feeling of loss, of abandonment; but this does not happen to the disciples. In spite of their separation from the Lord, they are not disconsolate, on the contrary, they are joyful and ready to leave as missionaries in the world.”

Like the disciples, he said, we too should rejoice to see Jesus ascending into heaven because the Ascension completes his mission among us.

Pointing upwards, the pope said emphatically: “He is the first man to enter heaven, because Jesus is man, true man, he is God, true God; our flesh is in heaven and this gives us joy.”

“At the right hand of the Father now sits a human body, for the first time, the body of Jesus, and in this mystery each of us contemplates our future destination. This is not at all an abandonment; Jesus remains forever with the disciples, with us.”

The pope said that this should give Christians not only a sense of security but also of joy because Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit.

“Jesus has gone to heaven: the first man before the Father. He left with the wounds which were the price of our salvation, and he prays for us. And then he sends us the Holy Spirit, he promises us the Holy Spirit, to go and evangelize. Hence the joy of today, hence the joy of this Ascension Day,” he said.

“Brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Ascension, as we contemplate heaven, where Christ has ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, let us ask Mary, Queen of Heaven, to help us to be courageous witnesses of the Risen Lord in the world in the concrete situations of life.”

After praying the Regina Coeli, the pope noted that Sunday was the start of “Laudato si’ Week,” inspired by his 2015 environmental encyclical and organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

He also asked for a round of applause in honor of the German priest Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan, who was declared blessed in Rome on May 15.

“May his apostolic zeal be an example and guide to all those in the Church who are called to bring the word and love of Jesus to every environment,” the pope said, pointing out a group of pilgrims holding a large image of the new blessed and waving white scarves.

‘Do not lose hope’: Pope Francis offers Mass for Myanmar’s Catholics in St. Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for Burmese Catholics in St. Peter’s Basilica, May 16, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 16, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday for Burmese Catholics, urging them not to lose hope as their homeland is engulfed by violence.

In his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica May 16, the pope encouraged people not to fall into despair as security forces in Burma repress protests following a military coup.

He said: “Please, do not lose hope: even today, Jesus is interceding before the Father, he stands before the Father in his prayer. He stands before him with the wounds with which he paid for our salvation. In this prayer Jesus prays for all of us, praying that the Father will keep us from the evil one and set us free from evil’s power.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Francis, who became the first pope to visit the Southeast Asian country in November 2017, offered the live-streamed Mass at the Altar of the Cathedra, beneath the amber stained-glass window depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove.

The congregation -- drawn from Rome’s small Burmese community, which consists mainly of students -- sat socially distanced and masked as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

Religious sisters proclaimed the first and second readings in Burmese. The responsorial psalm was also sung in the official language of the ethnically diverse country, also known as Myanmar, where approximately 100 languages are spoken.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The Gospel reading for the Mass was John 17:11b-19, in which Jesus prays for his disciples before his Passion. In his homily, the pope encouraged Burmese Catholics to learn from Jesus’ example how to face the painful and dramatic moments of their lives.

He said: “Dear brothers and sisters, in these days when your beloved country, Myanmar, is experiencing violence, conflict, and repression, let us ask ourselves: what we are being called to keep?”

“In the first place, to keep the faith. We need to keep the faith lest we yield to grief or plunge into the despair of those who no longer see a way out.”

The military seized power in the early hours of Feb. 1, detaining the country’s elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with Burma’s President Win Myint.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

After nationwide protests, Burma’s new leaders launched a crackdown that included police firing live rounds at protesters. The advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that 790 people have died in the violence as of May 15.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In addition to repression, Burma is facing steep rises in food and fuel prices. The United Nations World Food Programme reports that up to 3.4 million more people will go hungry as a result of pre-existing poverty, the coronavirus crisis, and political instability.

The pope said: “To keep the faith is to keep our gaze lifted up to heaven, as here on earth, battles are fought and innocent blood is shed. To keep the faith is to refuse to yield to the logic of hatred and vengeance, but to keep our gaze fixed on the God of love, who calls us to be brothers and sisters to one another.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, Pope Francis has called repeatedly for harmony in the country, which has a population of 54 million people and borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand.

In his homily, he stressed the importance of unity in a nation that has been marked by internal conflicts since it secured independence from Britain in 1948.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He said: “This is a deadly disease: the disease of division. We experience it in our hearts, because we are divided within; we experience it in families and communities, among peoples, even in the Church.”

“Sins against unity abound: envy, jealousy, the pursuit of personal interests rather than the common good, the tendency to judge others. Those little conflicts of ours find a reflection in great conflicts, like the one your country is experiencing in these days.”

“Once partisan interests and the thirst for profit and power take over, conflicts and divisions inevitably break out. The final appeal that Jesus makes before his Passover is an appeal for unity. For division is of the devil, the great divider and the great liar who always creates division.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for an end to violence in Burma in March. Speaking at his general audience on March 17, the pope referred to an image circulating on social media of a Catholic nun kneeling before police, begging them not to attack protesters.

He said: “I also kneel in the streets of Myanmar and say: ‘Stop the violence.’ I too stretch out my arms and say: ‘May dialogue prevail.’”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

There are around 750,000 Catholics in Burma -- roughly 1% of the population, which is 90% Buddhist. Pope Francis named Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon as the country’s first cardinal in 2015, in a mark of support for the Catholic minority.

The pope encouraged Burmese Catholics in Rome to strive to be builders of fraternity.

He recalled that in his prayer before his Passion, Jesus asked God the Father to consecrate his disciples in truth.

“Keeping the truth does not mean defending ideas, becoming guardians of a system of doctrines and dogmas, but remaining bound to Christ and being devoted to his Gospel,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He continued: “At times, we Christians want to compromise, but the Gospel asks us to be steadfast in the truth and for the truth, offering our lives for others. Amid war, violence, and hatred, fidelity to the Gospel and being peacemakers calls for commitment, also through social and political choices, even at the risk of our lives. Only in this way can things change.”

At the end of the Mass, a Burmese priest thanked the pope for bringing international attention to the crisis in his country.

He said: “This Mass is a great occasion for healing, not only for us here, but for thousands of Catholics in Myanmar and for the diaspora throughout the world.”

Concluding his homily, the pope said: “Dear brothers and sisters, today I wish to lay upon the Lord’s altar the sufferings of his people and to join you in praying that God will convert all hearts to peace.”

“Jesus’ prayer helps us keep the faith, even in times of difficulty, to be builders of unity and to risk our lives for the truth of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis and John Kerry meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis meets with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, May 15, 2021. / Vatican News.

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry on Saturday.

Kerry is in Europe to meet with government officials and business leaders ahead of the Nov. 1-12 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the State Department said.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

At the time of publication, the Vatican had released no information about what the two men discussed, in line with its usual custom for papal meetings with non-heads of state. It noted the audience in its daily bulletin and released photographs of the meeting.

Pope Francis is reportedly considering a visit to Glasgow for the climate conference, and local authorities are said to be preparing for the possibility.

Kerry told Vatican News that he thought the pope would attend the event.

He said: “His encyclical Laudato si’ is really a very, very powerful document, eloquent and morally very persuasive. And I think that his voice will be a very important voice leading up to and through the Glasgow conference, which I believe he intends to attend.”

“So, we need everybody in this fight. All the leaders of the world need to come together and every country needs to do its part. And I think, I think his Holiness speaks with a moral authority that is quite separate. It’s unique and we need all the power we can bring to the table.”

Ahead of his meeting with the pope, Kerry delivered a keynote speech at the “Dreaming of a Better Restart” conference, a closed-door meeting in Vatican City on May 14.

The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, included panel discussions on debt relief for developing countries and climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, both spoke at the Vatican event via video link.

Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz came to the Vatican to take part in the one-day event, as did economic ministers from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, France, and Germany.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, and Félix Tshisekedi, head of the African Union, were also featured speakers.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

Kerry, a baptized Catholic, previously met Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014 and 2016, when he served as U.S. Secretary of State during the Obama administration.

He also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, during his last visit.

The 77-year-old diplomat visited St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of May 14, where he was shown Michelangelo’s Pietà up close.

After meeting with Italian and Vatican officials in Rome, the climate envoy will travel to London to meet with U.K. government representatives hosting the COP26 summit and then to Berlin to meet with German officials.

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

Kerry told Vatican News that the pope could exert an influence far beyond that of most other leaders.

He said that “because he is above politics and outside of the hurly-burly of day-to-day, national conflict, etc. I think he can sort of shake people a little bit and bring them to the table with a better sense of our common obligation.”

/ Vatican News.
/ Vatican News.

“And I think that the Vatican may be a small entity, but the flock is enormous on a global basis and His Holiness, Pope Francis, has the ability to help galvanize action from countries. He has the ability to be able to affect citizens in many different countries all at the same time and have them call on their governments to be responsible, to do what we need to do to preserve the planet.”

“So, I think that the world has a special respect for Pope Francis and there is no question that he has already been a significant leader in this endeavor. And we look to him for further guidance and help in getting this job done.”

This report has been updated to include John Kerry’s comments to Vatican News

Polyglot priest beatified after miraculous healing of unborn baby

Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan is beatified at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, May 15, 2021. / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Vatican City, May 15, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A polyglot priest and founder of the Society of the Divine Savior was beatified at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on Saturday.

Bl. Johan Baptist Jordan, also known by his religious name of Francis Mary of the Cross, was declared blessed during a Mass offered by Rome’s vicar general, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.

/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.
/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.

Pope Francis approved the beatification of Francis Mary of the Cross last summer, after recognizing a miracle through his intercession involving the unborn child of a couple in Brazil.

The couple, lay members of the Salvatorian family, asked for Francis Mary of the Cross’ intercession for the healthy birth of their child after she was diagnosed with a severe form of skeletal dysplasia during the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Months later, the baby girl was born completely healthy on Sept. 8, 2014, the anniversary of Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross’ death. Now six years old, she attended the beatification Mass with her family in Rome.

Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan was born to a poor family in a German village in 1848. His father died when he was 15, and though he felt called to the priesthood from a young age, he was forced to work for a time as an itinerant laborer and painter to support his family.

As he traveled around Germany for work, he witnessed the effects of the anti-Catholic Kulturkampf, a conflict between the government of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Catholic Church. This motivated him to start his priestly studies.

Though he struggled with the sciences, he quickly showed an aptitude for foreign languages, even presenting one essay for his graduation examination in eight European languages, and another essay in four other languages.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Freiburg in 1878 and shortly afterward sent to Rome by his bishop to study Syrian, Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek.

In Rome, he began to feel a call to start an apostolic movement uniting priests and laity. While visiting the Holy Land and Lebanon in 1880, the call to do so grew even stronger.

Back in Rome, Francis Mary of the Cross founded the Catholic Teaching Society. Later, Baroness Maria Therese von Wüllenweber joined the society as its first female member, taking religious vows together with two other women. She was beatified in 1968.

The Catholic Teaching Society continued to spread across Europe, and then to the region of Assam in India.

In 1893, Francis Mary of the Cross gave his religious communities the names Society of the Divine Savior and Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, commonly known as the Salvatorians.

With the outbreak of World War I, Bl. Francis Mary of the Cross moved the administration of the society from Rome to Tafers, Switzerland, where he died on Sept. 8, 1918, at the age of 70.

Today the Salvatorian Family has 3,100 members in 45 countries on six continents. Its mission is to make Jesus known and loved through all ways and all means.

/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.
/ Pablo Esparza/CNA.

In his homily at the priest’s beatification Mass May 15, Cardinal De Donatis said: “Bl. Francis of the Cross fully understood the evangelizing power of this apostolic communion, of the harmony between the people who proclaim the Gospel.”

“Our diocesan community of Rome, which since the time of the Apostles is the cradle of many figures of holiness, today is again in celebration, because a new star comes to illuminate the sky and is added to the ranks of the blessed,” the cardinal said.

“Francis of the Cross Jordan can be considered a full son of the Church of Rome,” he said, noting that Rome is where “he spent the years of his formation; here he received as a gift from the Spirit the founding charism that inspired him to establish the early Apostolic Society on Dec. 8, 1881, in Piazza Farnese. Here, in Via della Conciliazione, rest his mortal remains.”

“Today where it all began, in the city of Peter and Paul, where his endeavor took its first steps, he is beatified,” De Donatis said. “The Church recognizes that he was transfigured in the death and resurrection of Christ and now lives in Him among the blessed. Francis of the Cross lives in Christ!”

Pope Francis to anti-pedophilia group: ‘Your work is more necessary than ever’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Meter association in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, May 15, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 15, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told an anti-pedophilia group Saturday that its work is “more necessary than ever.”

Speaking to members of the Meter association in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on May 15, the pope noted that the internet is facilitating child abuse.

He said: “Your work is more necessary than ever because, unfortunately, the abuse of children continues. I refer in particular to the solicitations that take place through the internet and the various social media, with pages and portals dedicated to child pornography.”

“This is a scourge that, on the one hand, needs to be addressed with renewed determination by institutions, and, on the other hand, requires an even stronger awareness on the part of families and the various educational agencies.”

He added: “Even today we see how often in families, the first reaction is to cover everything up; a first reaction that is always there in other institutions and even in the Church. We have to fight with this old habit of covering up. I know that you are always vigilant in protecting children even in the context of the most modern media.”

The Guardian newspaper reported in February that the rapidly expanding volume of child abuse material online is threatening to overwhelm U.K. police.

It said that the U.K.’s child abuse image database contained 17 million unique images, with half a million more added every two months.

In his address, the pope noted that the Meter association, based in the city of Avola, Sicily, dates back to 1989, “when few people talked about this scourge.”

Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, the association’s founder, decided to dedicate his life to combating abuse in the late 1980s when he first became aware of the exploitation of minors on the internet as a student at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

He began sharing his research with police around the world, leading to hundreds of arrests and the liberation of abused children. He formally established the association in 1996.

The pope said: “Over the years, with your generous work, you have contributed to making visible the Church’s love for the smallest and most defenseless. How often, like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel, have you reached out with respect and compassion, to welcome, console and protect!”

“Closeness, compassion, and tenderness: this is God’s style. How many spiritual wounds you have bound up! For all this, the ecclesial community is grateful to you.”

Describing child abuse as a form of “psychological murder,” the pope said that all states had a duty to protect the young and identify traffickers and abusers.

“At the same time, denunciation and prevention in the various spheres of society -- schools, sports, recreational and cultural organizations, religious communities, and individuals -- are more than ever a duty,” he said.

Concluding his address, the pope reflected on the association’s logo, which features a large letter “M” drawn by children evoking the idea of a womb. Inside the “M” are 12 stars, symbolizing the Virgin Mary’s crown.

He said: “She, a caring mother, fully intent on loving her Son Jesus, is a model and guide for the entire association, encouraging us to love with evangelical charity the children who are victims of slavery and violence.”

“Charity towards our neighbor is inseparable from the charity that God has for us and that we have for him. For this reason, I urge you always to root your daily activity in your daily relationship with God: in personal and community prayer, in listening to his Word, and above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity and bond of charity.”

The Vatican has a commission for healthcare facilities, but there is little trace of it

St. Peter's Basilica. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Vatican City, May 15, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

In 2015, facing scandals in the healthcare sector, Pope Francis established a Pontifical Commission for the Activities of the Public Juridical Persons of the Church in the Healthcare Sector. The board of the Commission was renewed in June 2020. However, there is no trace of the Commission in the Annuario Pontificio.

The absence of the commission is striking, especially considering it has a dedicated page on the Vatican website. Even so, it is not among the organs listed in the Roman Curia page on the Vatican website.

The commission was designed as an organ of the Roman Curia, attached to the Secretariat of State and its regulations. The commission's objective was to control and supervise how the health facilities managed by religious congregations manage money and assets.

The Ccmmission was established in 2015, following a series of scandals that affected some Catholic healthcare facilities.

The most important is known that of the crack of the IDI, the Dermopathic Institute of the Immaculate, which had found itself 800 million euros in debt due to systematic embezzlement of funds by some administrators and had had to declare bankruptcy in 2012. In 2015, the Secretariat of State acquired the hospital, pulling it out of the bankruptcy administered by the Italian state, through a for-profit partnership with the religious order that had owned and managed the hospital.

Recently, the Fatebenefratelli Hospital on Tiber Island risks being sold after another financial crash.

Not to mention the case of the Camillians, an order that manages 114 hospitals in the world, founded by St. Camillus de Lellis in the 16th century with the specific task of "giving complete service to the sick person" and "being a school of charity for those who share the mission of assistance to the sick." 

In 2013, Fr. Renato Salvatore, superior of the Camillians, was arrested because he organized the kidnapping of two Camillians friars to be re-elected as general superior. Fr. Salvatore wanted to secure the re-election to keep control over the Hospital of Santa Maria della Pietà in Casoria, near Naples.

When Pope Francis established the commission in 2015, he stressed that its aim was that of "contributing to the more effective management of activities and the conservation of assets while maintaining and promoting the charism of the founders."

The board of the commission was appointed in 2015 and renewed in June 2020. The president is still the same: Monsignor Luigi Mistò, president of the Holy See's Health Assistance Fund, is president.

Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz, the undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, joined the commission to replace Msgr. Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, who was secretary of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers until its suppression and absorption into the integral human development dicastery.

Out Mariella Enoc, president of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital board, owned by the Holy See. Still, Giovanni Barbara, professor of commercial law, a consultant to Mariella Enoc, joined the Commission.

Other members: Renato Balduzzi, full professor of Constitutional Law at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan and former Minister of Health in the Monti government; Fabrizio Celani, national president of the Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers; Maurizio Gallo, entrepreneur in the consulting and institutional relations sector and also involved in the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation; and Saverio Capolupo, tax magistrate.

On Feb. 16, 2019, Pope Francis appointed Capolupo as a consultant for the Vatican City State, particularly for the structures provided for by the state's legal system in economic, tax, and fiscal matters. Capolupo, among other things, was called to chair the Luigi Maria Monti Foundation, which manages the IDI, after the foundation had been led for a concise period by a son of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception who had founded the hospital, Father Giuseppe Pusceddu.

Sister Annunziata Remossi, an official of the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was confirmed as secretary of the commission. At the same time, Fr Marco Belladelli, ecclesiastical assistant of the Catholic Union of Italian Pharmacists, was appointed director of the Commission Office, "With the right to participate, with voice and vote, in the activities of the same."

All names that stood to testify how the commission's work should continue and continue with experts.

There are various hypotheses for why the commission is not included in the Pontifical Yearbook, all speculations.

The first is that being an active commission until the pope decides otherwise is not considered an organ of the Curia in all respects, even though the statutes say the opposite.

The second is that the Vatican does not want to publicize the commission's work too much, considering that it must intervene in challenging and complex situations.

The third is that the commission is not considered active because the meetings have almost not taken place – according to a source familiar with the commission, the board met twice and virtually after the new membership was announced.

However, it remains a mystery why such an organ is not present in the 2020 pontifical yearbook.

Pope Francis to discuss climate change with John Kerry at Vatican

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. / Public domain.

Vatican City, May 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis will meet Saturday with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who is also a keynote speaker at a Vatican conference on financial solidarity and climate change.

Kerry, who currently serves as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, is in Europe to meet with government officials and business leaders ahead of the Nov. 1-12 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the State Department said.

Pope Francis is reportedly considering a visit to Glasgow for the climate conference, and local authorities are said to be preparing for the possibility.

Ahead of his meeting with the pope, Kerry was due to deliver a keynote speech at the “Dreaming of a Better Restart” conference, a closed-door meeting in Vatican City on May 14.

The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, has panel discussions on debt relief for developing countries and climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Raj Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, both spoke at the Vatican event via video link.

Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz came to the Vatican to take part in the one-day event, as did economic ministers from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, France, and Germany.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF, and Félix Tshisekedi, head of the African Union, were also featured speakers.

Kerry, a baptized Catholic, previously met Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014 and 2016, when he served as the U.S. Secretary of State during the Obama administration.

He also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, during his last visit.

The 77-year-old diplomat visited St. Peter’s Basilica on the morning of May 14, where he was shown Michelangelo’s Pietà up close.

After meeting with Italian and Vatican officials in Rome, the climate envoy will travel to London to meet with U.K. government representatives hosting the COP26 summit and then to Berlin to meet with German officials.

Pope Francis urges scouts to ‘spread light and hope’

Pope Francis meets with members of the Scouts Unitaires de France at the Vatican, May 14, 2021. / Vatican Media.

CNA Staff, May 14, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis urged scouts Friday to “spread light and hope” wherever they go.

Addressing members of the Scouts Unitaires de France, a Catholic scouting movement founded in 1971, the pope appealed to young people not to become apathetic when confronted with “the selfishness of the world.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

He said: “Never lose sight of the fact that the Lord is calling you all to fearlessly carry the missionary message wherever you are, especially among young people, in your neighborhoods, in sports, when you go out with friends, in voluntary work, and at work.”

“Always and everywhere share the joy of the Gospel that makes you live! The Lord wants you to be his disciples and to spread light and hope because he counts on your boldness, courage, and enthusiasm.”

The pope granted the audience to the group as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The worldwide scout movement was founded in 1907 by the retired British Army officer Robert Baden-Powell. Scouting was introduced to the French Catholic milieu by the Jesuit priest Jacques Sevin, who established the Scouts de France in 1920.

According to its website, the Scouts Unitaires de France began with 500 members in 1971 and has almost 30,000 today.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The pope said that the group was “a sign of encouragement to young people” amid the pandemic and the decline of social ties.

He praised its method of linking younger children with older ones “who protect and accompany the younger ones, patiently helping them to discover and bring to fruition the talents received from the Lord.”

He said: “The scout, with his willingness to serve his neighbor, is also called to work for a more ‘outgoing’ Church and for a more human world.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“To this end, you have the noble mission to witness wherever you are that, with your faith and your commitment, you can enhance the richness of human relationships and make them a common good that helps social renewal. Therefore, I urge you to be both dynamic Christians and faithful scouts!”

He praised the scouts for combining respect for others with care of the environment.

The pope also thanked couples who support the scouts, saying that they offered a witness to the beauty of marriage.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Concluding his address, he said: “I entrust the Scouts Unitaires de France to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. May she turn her merciful gaze upon each one of you and lead you to be faithful disciples of her Son.”

“I bless you all, your families, and the people who accompany you with their spiritual and material support. And I ask you, please, do not forget to pray for me.”

Pope Francis asks society which it values more: Children or money

Pope Francis attends the ‘General State of the Birth Rate’ event in Rome, May 14, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 14, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged Europeans on Friday to reflect on what they treasure, and whether they consider children to be the valuable gift they are.

Speaking at “The General State of the Birth Rate” event in Rome May 14, he said, “there is a phrase from the Gospel that can help anyone, even those who do not believe, to guide their choices.”

“Jesus says: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.’”

“Where is our treasure, the treasure of our society?” he asked. “In children or finances? What draws us, the family or revenue?”

The live-streamed event, held in the Conciliazione Auditorium, close to the Vatican, included presentations from company executives, journalists, actors, athletes, and Italian political leaders, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, reflecting on the problem of Italy’s birth rate, which is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.24.

The country faces a demographic crisis, as experts predict that the already low European fertility rate will be further affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already hit the Italian economy especially hard.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In his address, Pope Francis said that “if families are not at the center of the present, there will be no future; but if families restart, everything restarts.”

He emphasized that the first gift every person has received is the gift of life.

“It is a ‘first’ that in the course of life we forget, always intent on looking at the future, at what we can do and have,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

“A child is the greatest gift for everyone, and comes before all else,” the pope reflected. “This word is linked to children, to every child: first. As a child is expected and loved before it is born, so we must put children first if we want to see the light again after the long winter.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Societies, especially the more affluent and consumeristic have forgotten the primacy of this gift, Francis said: “In fact, we see that where there are more things, there is often more indifference and less solidarity, more closure, less generosity.”

“Let us help each other, dear friends, to regain the courage to give, the courage to choose life,” he urged.

The pope spoke about the importance of children for both sustainability and solidarity.

“We will not be able to feed production and protect the environment if we are not attentive to families and children,” he said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Noting the “explosion of births” during the reconstruction periods following World War I and World War II, he said that today too we find ourselves in a period of “restarting” after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot follow short-sighted models of growth, as if only some hasty adjustments were needed to prepare for tomorrow,” he argued. “No, the tragic number of births and the appalling numbers of the pandemic call for change and responsibility.”

He encouraged people to instill in the young a desire to pursue their dreams, to sacrifice themselves for others, and to do good in the world.

Sometimes, he said, the message that is transmitted is that “fulfillment means making money and success, while children seem almost a diversion, which must not hinder their personal aspirations.”

“This mentality is gangrene for society and makes the future unsustainable,” he underlined.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis also urged companies not to exploit their employees with unsustainable work conditions and hours, and to ensure they receive a fair amount of the revenue, as a contribution “to a priceless development, that of families.”

“It is a challenge not only for Italy, but for many countries, often rich in resources, but poor in hope,” he commented.

No shrine from China in the 'rosary marathon' against the pandemic

Credit: FreshStock/Shutterstock

Vatican City, May 13, 2021 / 10:15 am (CNA).

There was some hope that the Marian Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Sheshan, in the People's Republic of China, would be included among the shrines of reference for one of the daily rosaries for the end of pandemic called by Pope Francis during May. 

But the final list did not have that shrine, nor any other one in China. 

The Marian shrine of Sheshan is a reference point for Catholics in China. Every year, during May, the shrine is the destination of pilgrimages from all over the country, especially on her May 24 feast.

The shrine of Sheshan is located in the Diocese of Shanghai, where Bishop Taddeo Ma Daqin has been under house arrest since 2012.

For the second consecutive year, authorities have suspended pilgrimages to Sheshan arguing COVID-related restrictions.

The diocese said that "since the pandemic at home and abroad is not yet under control, and measures for the prevention of the pandemic are still in place in the nation, to comply with the requests and regulations of the municipal government [of Shanghai] … The annual May pilgrimage to Sheshan has been canceled."

This year restrictions, however, appeared to be arbitrary since the massive amusement park in Sheshan has reopened; and since March, places of worship have been reopened in many other provinces, albeit amid strict health measures.

Benedict XVI composed in 2008 a prayer for Our Lady of Sheshan and set the day of prayer for the Church in China on May 24. This decision followed his 2007 letter to the Catholics in China.

Fr. Gianni Criveller, an Italian missionary who lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and the People's Republic of China between 1991 and 2017, stressed with CNA that "since Benedict XVI established the day of prayer for the Church in China and indicated the shrine of Sheshan as a reference point, the Chinese government made the pilgrimages increasingly more difficult."

He added that the difficulties in getting to Sheshan varied according to the state of the Beijing – Holy See relations: when there were fewer tensions, the pilgrimages were more manageable, when tensions escalated, the pilgrimages were incredibly hard.

However, he said, "things were under increasing control of the Chinese government. Before, going from Hong Kong and Shanghai, and from there to Sheshan, was easy, while after establishing the day of prayer for the Church in China, it was not anymore."

In the first draft of the list of shrines involved in the Rosary Marathon, May 24 had no shrine indicated, just a "to be confirmed." This raised hopes that the shrine of Sheshan would be joining others around the world.

A source from China told CNA that there were "informal contacts" to explore if “things could happen” in Sheshan. But at the end, the Chinese shrine was not included. 

"The pandemic – said Fr. Criveller – “is an easy alibi, so the government can keep the shrine closed and at the same time not say that it does not want pilgrimages and prayer to take place."

Yet there is, on May 24, a feeble connection with China. The shrine of the day is that of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nyaunglebin, in Burma. The shrine is almost 160 kilometers from Yangon, whose archbishop is Charles Maung Cardinal Bo. Cardinal Bo, amid a severe crisis in his country, also had the strength to proclaim a week of prayer for the Catholics of China.

China is the "big absentee" in this extraordinary Rosary marathon. The Vatican has shown many signs of goodwill to China, and it renewed last year the agreement ad experimentum for the appointment of bishops. So far, China has not reciprocated.

The measures on religious staff announced by the State Administration for Religious Affairs in February of this year entered into force on May 1 in China.

The new regulations present several restrictions for religions. The UCA News agency stressed that "indirectly, the regulations state that the election of a Catholic bishop will be done by the system approved by the state under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, while Pope Francis or the Holy See will have no role in the process."

Devotion to Mary in China dates back to the time of the mission of Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Received by the emperor Jan. 22, 1601, Matteo Ricci brought 12 gifts, including the copy of the image of Maria Salus Populi Romani, kept in Santa Maria Maggiore in the chapel where St. Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his first Mass.

The Jesuits were also the proponents of the Sheshan devotion. In 1863, Jesuits acquired the shrine's hill, and in 1870 they vowed to build a basilica on that hill if Our Lady saved the diocese from destruction following a bloody revolt.

Our Lady listened to the prayer, and a year later, the first stone of the first Marian Basilica in Asia was laid. In 1874, Bl. Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence to pilgrims who visited the sanctuary, and in 1894 there were so many pilgrimages that it was decided to build a new church.

In 1924, the first Chinese synod, convened in Shanghai by the then apostolic delegate Celso Costantini, established that Our Lady of Sheshan be proclaimed "Queen of China."