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What has the Vatican already said about discerning Marian apparitions?

The Medjugorje Youth Festival, in its 34th edition, held July 26–30, 2023, at the site of alleged Marian apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. / Credit: Radio MIR Međjugorje

Rome Newsroom, May 14, 2024 / 13:52 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández will unveil guidelines for discerning Marian apparitions and other supernatural phenomena on Friday, but it is not the first time that the Vatican’s doctrine office has issued a directive for how the Church should respond to news of an alleged apparition.

Fifty years ago officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith identified how the emergence of mass media had created an environment in which news of an alleged apparition could spread rapidly and quickly draw larger crowds than in past centuries thanks to the ease of modern travel. 

Officials from the congregation met to discuss problems that could come up in examining apparitions in November 1974 and agreed on a procedure for Church authorities to follow in the case of a reported apparition.

The Vatican’s doctrine office made these norms public with the approval of Pope Paul VI in 1978, just three years before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was named the prefect of the congregation.

First, when a Church authority is informed of a new purported apparition or revelation, specific criteria should be used to judge whether or not cult or devotion should be allowed.

Criteria that would lead to a negative judgment on the alleged apparition included:

  1. Doctrinal errors attributed to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the saint during the apparition or revelation

  2. Evidence of a search for profit or gain from the apparition

  3. Gravely immoral acts committed by the recipient of the apparition or their followers

  4. A psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies

  5. Clear errors concerning the facts of the apparition

Criteria that would lend itself to a positive judgment permitting some public devotion included:

  1. A serious investigation into the alleged apparition establishes with “moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the facts.”

  2. The recipient of the apparition exhibits the qualities of honesty, a morally upright life, psychological health, and docility toward Church authority

  3. Revelations include true theological and spiritual doctrines that are immune from error

  4. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit

The 1978 norms identify the local bishop as the competent authority with the responsibility of evaluating an alleged apparition in his jurisdiction. If he finds that it meets the positive criteria, he can permit some public devotion under his oversight, judging it as “pro nunc nihil obstare,” or “for now, nothing stands in the way.”

After years have passed, the bishop at the request of the flock can express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character of an apparition taking into account the spiritual fruit that has been generated from his new devotion.

The doctrine office noted that the regional or national bishops’ conference can also intervene in the case of an alleged apparition with the consent of the local bishop. 

The Holy See can also intervene if asked by the local bishop or by a qualified group of the faithful. The Vatican also has the prerogative to intervene directly due to the universal jurisdiction of the pope and has the responsibility to intervene in “graver cases, especially if the matter affects the larger part of the Church” after consulting the local ordinary.

It is not yet clear how the new norms to be published by Fernández will change the procedures or competent authorities for dealing with an alleged apparition established by the Vatican in the 1970s. It is clear that the media environment has evolved in accelerated and unanticipated ways in the past 50 years, making it possible for a supposed Marian apparition to go viral worldwide in a matter of hours, which could necessitate a change in the way that the Church responds to such phenomena.

Regardless of what the new changes will bring, the Catholic Church will continue to consider Marian apparitions under the category of private revelations. According to paragraph 67 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, private revelations “do not belong … to the deposit of faith.”

“It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

Pope Francis: Do not abandon grandparents and elderly; remain close to them

Pope Francis presides over a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on July 23, 2023, for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. / Credit: Pablo Esparza/EWTN

CNA Staff, May 14, 2024 / 12:47 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday urged families around the world to remain close to grandparents and elderly family members, imploring loved ones to spend time with older relatives who may be facing “solitude and abandonment.”

The Vatican released the message ahead of the fourth World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, which takes place on July 28 this year. The pope first announced the annual observance in 2021.

Francis noted that the Bible contains numerous examples of the “fear of abandonment, particularly in old age and in times of pain.” The theme for this year’s observance is “Do Not Cast Me Off in My Old Age,” a reference to Psalm 71. 

“All too often, loneliness is the bleak companion of our lives as elderly persons and grandparents,” the pope said. 

He noted that when serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires he “would visit rest homes and realize how rarely those people received visits. Some had not seen their family members for many months.”

War often leads to high rates of elderly abandonment, the pope said. “How many of the elderly are left alone because men — youths and adults — have been called to battle, and women, above all women with small children, have left the country in order to ensure safety for their children.”

Another prejudice against the old, the Holy Father argued, is the claim that they “rob the young of their future.”

“There is now a widespread conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of the social services that they require, and in this way are diverting resources from the development of the community and thus from the young,” the pope wrote.

“This is a distorted perception of reality. It assumes that the survival of the elderly puts that of the young at risk, that to favor the young, it is necessary to neglect or even suppress the elderly.”

Citing the biblical example of Ruth remaining by Naomi’s side in the latter’s old age, the Holy Father urged families: “Let us show our tender love for the grandparents and the elderly members of our families.” 

“Let us spend time with those who are disheartened and no longer hope in the possibility of a different future,” he wrote. 

“In place of the self-centered attitude that leads to loneliness and abandonment, let us instead show the open heart and the joyful face of men and women who have the courage to say ‘I will not abandon you’ and to set out on a different path.”

In announcing the observance in 2021, Pope Francis said that grandparents and elderly family members “remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, to transmit to young people an experience of life and faith.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots,” the pope said at the time.

In 2023 the pope marked the day’s third observance by holding an intergenerational Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“How much we need a new bond between young and old,” Pope Francis said at the time, “so that the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing.”

Israeli embassy blasts Yemeni laureate for ‘genocide’ comments at Vatican event

Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011, attends the Trento Economy Festival 2023 at Palazzo Geremia on May 25, 2023, in Trento, Italy. / Credit: Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, May 14, 2024 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See on Monday sharply condemned a Yemeni Nobel laureate’s comments on Israel’s alleged “genocide” in Gaza.

“The world is silent in front of the genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” said Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist on Saturday during a closing event at a Vatican meeting on global peace.

The activist was among the 30 Nobel laureates invited to the Vatican’s second annual World Meeting on Human Fraternity, a two-day event organized by the Fratelli Tutti Foundation, which takes its name from Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical.  

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See slammed Karman’s remarks in a Monday press release, saying that the basilica “was contaminated by a flagrant antisemitic speech.”

“In a context where the aim was, supposedly, to talk about peace to create a more humane world, a propaganda speech full of lies was allowed to take place,” the press release said. 

“Talking about ethnic cleansing in Gaza while Israel allows large amounts of human aid into Gaza on a daily basis is Orwellian. We also regret that such a speech was made without anyone feeling the moral duty to intervene to stop this shame,” the embassy’s letter added. 

Prior to delivering her speech, Karman wrote on X that she would talk about the “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” in Gaza, writing that “humanity is being slaughtered” there.

Suggesting that the international community has done “nothing” to “stop these massacres,” Karman said in the social media post: “I will also demand that the final statement of the summit condemn these massacres and demand an immediate cease-fire.”

Reuters reported that the activist’s speech was met with “a loud round of applause” by those in attendance after she mentioned the conflict in Gaza. 

Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told the Italian news wire ANSA that the remarks “should have no influence on bilateral relations” as the “shameful statement was not made by the Vatican or on behalf of the Vatican.” 

“However,” Schutz continued, “I expect the Vatican to make an effort to prevent its good intentions and hospitality from being abused by others, as happened in this case.”

“I would expect the Vatican to distance itself from them loudly and clearly.”

The Holy See’s and Israel’s bilateral relations have been stressed in recent months amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Last November, Pope Francis spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in an undisclosed phone call where the pontiff reportedly remarked that it is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror.” 

This was followed by comments from the pope in December when two women were killed outside of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City — the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip — purportedly by an Israeli sniper. Pope Francis labeled the incident an act of “terrorism.” Israeli forces denied having carried out the killing.

On Feb. 13, the Israeli embassy castigated Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, over his comments on the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip. 

Parolin reiterated the Holy See’s position that Israel has a right to self-defense, but he added that this defense is conditioned on the principle of proportionality, “and certainly with 30,000 deaths it is not.” 

The Israeli Embassy to the Holy See issued a sharp rebuke of the cardinal’s remarks, calling them “deplorable,” a term the embassy later retracted, stating that the use of the word resulted from a translation error. 

Don't antagonize the elderly, pope says in grandparent's day message

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The elderly must not be accused of saddling younger generations with their medical expenses and pensions -- a notion which foments intergenerational conflict and drives older people into isolation, Pope Francis said.

"The accusation that the elderly 'rob the young of their future' is nowadays present everywhere," the pope wrote in his message for World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, a church celebration that will take place July 28.

Even in the most advanced and modern societies "there is now a widespread conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of the social services that they require, and in this way are diverting resources from the development of the community and thus from the young," he wrote in the message released May 14.

Such a mentality "assumes that the survival of the elderly puts that of the young at risk, that to favor the young it is necessary to neglect or even suppress the elderly," he wrote.

Yet the pope stressed that "intergenerational conflict is a fallacy and the poisoned fruit of conflict."

"To set the young against the old is an unacceptable form of manipulation," he wrote.

The pope's message expanded on the theme chosen for this year's world day which was taken from the Book of Psalms: "Do not cast me off in my old age."

The logo for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly 2024.
This is the logo for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly 2024, which will be celebrated July 28. (CNS photo/courtesy of Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

The 2024 celebration marks the fourth edition of World Day for Grandparents and the elderly. In 2021, Pope Francis instituted the world day to be observed each year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the liturgical memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

In his message for this year's celebration, the pope emphasized that "God never abandons his children," even as they grow weak and "can risk appearing useless." But today, a "conspiracy surrounding the life of the elderly" often results in their abandonment by those close to them.

"The loneliness and abandonment of the elderly is not by chance or inevitable, but the fruit of decisions -- political, economic, social and personal decisions -- that fail to acknowledge the infinite dignity of each person," he wrote.

The pope explained that such a phenomenon occurs "once we lose sight of the value of each individual and people are then judged in terms of their cost, which is in some cases considered too high to pay."

Unfortunately, he said, the elderly themselves can succumb to this cost-benefit mindset; "they are made to consider themselves a burden and to feel that they should be the first to step aside."

Pope Francis identified the decline of communal structures in society and the widespread celebration of individualism as other factors behind the isolation of the elderly, "yet once we grow old and our powers begin to decline, the illusion of individualism, that we need no one and can live without social bonds, is revealed for what it is."

Pope Francis blesses an elderly woman.
Pope Francis greets 100-year-old Lucilla Macelli before celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, marking World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly July 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope then recounted the Bible story in which the elderly Naomi encourages her two daughters-in-law to return to their hometowns after the death of her husband and children since she sees herself as a burden to them. "Her words reflect the rigid social and religious conventions of her day, which apparently seal her own fate," the pope wrote.

While Orpah returns home, grateful for the encouragement, Ruth "is not afraid to challenge customs and inbred patterns of thought" and "courageously remains at her side," he wrote.

The pope encouraged all people to "express our gratitude to all those people who, often at great sacrifice, follow in practice the example of Ruth, as they care for an older person or simply demonstrate daily closeness to relatives or acquaintances who no longer have anyone else."

Pope Francis also pointed out how in poorer countries elderly people are often left alone because their children are forced to emigrate, and in regions ravaged by conflict young men are called into conflict while women and children flee for safety, leaving elderly people alone in areas "where abandonment and death seem to reign supreme."

In a statement released with the pope's message, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, which organizes the world day, lamented the "bitter companion" that is loneliness in the lives of elderly people.

"Attending to our grandparents and the elderly," he said, "is not only a sign of gratitude and affection, but a necessity in the construction of a more human and fraternal society."

The cardinal's message was also accompanied by pastoral guidelines and liturgical resources for parishes and dioceses. The guidelines suggest that Catholics visit the elderly people within their own community, share with them the pope's message and pray together.

The document said that to involve the elderly in the day, "older people can be asked to offer special prayers for young people and for peace."

"The ministry of intercession is a real vocation of the elderly," it said.

Pope Francis: The devil is threatening the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with division

Pope Francis meets with members of the Syro-Malabar Church on May 13, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 13, 2024 / 16:53 pm (CNA).

In a meeting with Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil and members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis urged unity and obedience amid a long-simmering liturgical conflict that continues to rock the Eastern church.

As some fear an imminent schism in the ancient Eastern-rite church, the pope stressed the importance of unity, saying: “Apart from Peter, apart from the major archbishop, there is no Church.”  

He urged the faithful present at the Vatican’s Consistory Hall to “press forward” in obedience to the Church, saying: “You are obedient, and where obedience is present, there is the Church. Where there is disobedience, there is schism.”

What is going on in the Syro-Malabar Church?

The Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic rite in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the rite are often referred to as “St. Thomas Christians,” as its origins are believed to date back to the missionary preaching of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Today there are more than 5 million Syro-Malabar Catholics across the world in dioceses — or eparchies, as they are called — in India, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. 

For decades Catholics in the rite have been bitterly divided over whether priests should face the altar (“ad orientem”) or toward the people (“versus populum”) during the celebration of the Mass, which Syro-Malabar Catholics call “the Holy Qurbana.” 

In 1999 the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Archiepiscopal Church attempted to resolve the conflict by decreeing that all priests in the rite should uniformly face the people during the Liturgy of the Word and then face the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. 

This decree did not end the dispute, however, as several dioceses have continued refusing to implement the change, preferring to celebrate Mass facing the people.

Finally, the pope himself got involved when he set a hard deadline on eparchies to implement the decree by Christmas Day 2023. 

Reportedly, most of the parishes in the rite complied with the pope’s deadline, but protests, Mass disruptions, and tensions persist.

Controversy over that question resulted in violence, caused hundreds of Syro-Malabar priests to defy their bishops, and led to fears of a new schism.

Pope addresses controversy 

The pope condemned the division emphatically on Monday, saying that such arguments over the Mass are “incompatible with the Christian faith” and show a “grave lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament.” 

He called the rampant division within the rite the work of “the devil, the divider,” who he said “creeps in and thwarts the most heartfelt desire that the Lord expressed before dying for us: that we, his disciples, be ‘one,’ without division and without breaking communion.”

“The guiding criterion, the truly spiritual one that derives from the Holy Spirit, is communion: This requires us to do a self-examination of our dedication to unity and our faithful, humble, respectful, and obedient care for the gifts we have received,” he said.

Francis called on Thattil and other bishops and priests in the rite to foster discussion with dissenting forces, saying that “guarding unity is not a pious exhortation but a duty.”

“Let us meet and discuss without fear, that is fine, but above all, let us pray, so that the light of the Spirit, which reconciles differences and brings tensions back into unity, may resolve disputes,” he said, adding that the “dangerous temptation to focus on one detail, and an unwillingness to let it go, even to the detriment of the good of the Church … stems from a self-referentiality, which leads to listening to no other way of thinking but one’s own.”

In the same vein, he condemned previous efforts by “some members of the faith” to Westernize — or Latinize — the Syro-Malabar Church, which he called one of the “indispensable treasures in the life of the Church.” 

Pope Francis meets with members of the Syro-Malabar Church on May 13, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with members of the Syro-Malabar Church on May 13, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“The Christian East allows us to draw from ancient and ever-new sources of spirituality; these become fresh springs that bring vitality to the Church,” he said, urging Syro-Malabar Christians to retain their self-identity as a “sui iuris” — self-autonomous — rite, “so that your great liturgical, theological, spiritual, and cultural heritage may shine ever more brightly.” 

The pope also announced that he is officially granting the rite jurisdiction over Syro-Malabar immigrant Christians living in the Middle East.  

“I wish to help you, not supersede you,” the pope said before going on to add that “because the nature of your Church sui iuris empowers you not only to examine carefully the situations and challenges that you face but also to take appropriate steps to address them, with responsibility and evangelical courage.” 

How to obtain a plenary indulgence during the 2025 Jubilee

Pope Francis opens the Holy Doors at St. Peter's Basilica to begin the Year of Mercy, Dec. 8, 2015. / Credit: L'Osservatore Romano

Rome Newsroom, May 13, 2024 / 14:43 pm (CNA).

The Vatican issued a decree on Monday outlining the many ways that Catholics can obtain a plenary indulgence during the 2025 Jubilee Year.

The decree signed on May 13 by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, provides Catholics with the opportunity to gain indulgences by making pilgrimages, prayerful visits to specific churches, or by practicing works of mercy during the holy year.

A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ to remove the temporal punishment due to sin.

The indulgence applies to sins already forgiven. A plenary indulgence cleanses the soul as if the person had just been baptized. Plenary indulgences obtained during the Jubilee Year can also be applied to souls in purgatory with the possibility of obtaining two plenary indulgences for the deceased in one day, according to the Apostolic Penitentiary.

To obtain an indulgence, the usual conditions of detachment from all sin, sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the pope must be met. (See end of article for more on this.)

Here are some of the many ways one can obtain indulgences during the 2025 Jubilee Year:

Make a pilgrimage to Rome

Catholics who make a pilgrimage to Rome during the 2025 Jubilee Year can obtain a plenary indulgence by visiting at least one of the four major papal basilicas: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, or St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In addition, an indulgence can be obtained by spending time in prayer in several other churches in Rome:

  • Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem  

  • Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls

  • Basilica of St. Sebastian

  • Sanctuary of Divine Love (the “Divino Amore”)

  • Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia

  • Church of St. Paul at Tre Fontane (the site of St. Paul’s martyrdom)

  • The Roman Catacombs 

The Apostolic Penitentiary also grants a plenary indulgences specifically for making pilgrimage to churches in Rome connected to great female saints: 

  • Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (tomb of St. Catherine of Siena)

  • St. Brigid at Campo de’ Fiori (St. Brigid of Sweden)

  • Santa Maria della Vittoria (St. Teresa of Ávila)

  • Trinità dei Monti (St. Thérèse of Liseux)

  • Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere (St. Cecilia)

  • Basilica of Sant’Augustino in Campo Marzio (St. Monica)

Perform works of mercy

The jubilee year is a time when Catholics are especially encouraged to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Apostolic Penitentiary lists visiting prisoners, spending time with lonely elderly people, aiding the sick or disabled, and helping those who are in need as instances to obtain an indulgence. Practicing the works of mercy, it says, is “in a sense making a pilgrimage to Christ present in them.”

Indulgences for works of mercy can be received multiple times throughout the jubilee year, even daily, according to the decree. 

If the indulgence is being applied to the deceased, two plenary indulgences can be obtained on the same day. 

The decree says: “Despite the rule that only one plenary indulgence can be obtained per day, the faithful who have carried out an act of charity on behalf of the souls in purgatory, if they receive holy Communion a second time that day, can obtain the plenary indulgence twice on the same day, applicable only to the deceased.”

Fast from social media, defend life, volunteer

Acts of penance can also obtain a plenary indulgence. The Vatican lists several options, including:

  • Abstaining for at least one day a week from “futile distractions,” such as social media or television

  • Fasting

  • Donating “a proportionate sum of money to the poor”

  • Supporting religious or social works, especially in the defense of life in all phases

  • Offering support to migrants, the elderly, the poor, young people in difficulty, and abandoned children 

  • Volunteering in service to your community

“The jubilee plenary indulgence can also be obtained through initiatives that put into practice, in a concrete and generous way, the spirit of penance which is, in a sense, the soul of the jubilee,” the decree states.

Visit your local cathedral

Catholics can also gain a plenary indulgence by making a pious pilgrimage to their cathedral or to another church or shrine selected by the local bishop.

The Apostolic Penitentiary asks bishops to “take into account the needs of the faithful as well as the opportunity to reinforce the concept of pilgrimage with all its symbolic significance, so as to manifest the great need for conversion and reconciliation.”

Vatican II formation

The Vatican decree also says that Catholics can get a jubilee indulgence “if with a devout spirit, they participate in popular missions, spiritual exercises, or formation activities on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, held in a church or other suitable place, according to the mind of the Holy Father.”

Pray in these basilicas

In addition to the churches already listed, other sacred places around the world have also been designated as places of pilgrimage where one can obtain a plenary indulgence:

In Italy:

  • Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

  • Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi

  • Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto

  • Basilica of Our Lady of Pompeii

  • Basilica in St. Anthony in Padua

In the Holy Land:

  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

  • Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem

  • Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth

The decree further indicates that “any minor basilica, cathedral church, co-cathedral church, Marian sanctuary, any distinguished collegiate church or sanctuary designated by the diocesan bishop or Eparchy for the benefit of the faithful” can be designated. Bishops’ conferences can also indicate national or international sanctuaries as sacred sites for a jubilee indulgence.

Conditions in all cases

In order to obtain any of the plenary indulgences listed above, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

1. Detachment from all sin, even venial.

2. Sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the pope. These three conditions can be fulfilled a few days before or after performing the works to gain the indulgence, but it is appropriate that Communion and the prayer take place on the same day that the work is completed.

A single sacramental confession is sufficient for several plenary indulgences, but frequent sacramental confession is encouraged in order to obtain the grace of deeper conversion and purity of heart.

For each plenary indulgence that is sought, however, a separate holy Communion and a separate prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father are required.

The prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father is left up to the choice of the individual, but an Our Father and Hail Mary are suggested.

Vatican norms for Jubilee indulgence include pilgrimage, penance, service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pilgrims passing through the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica during the Holy Year 2025, going to confession, receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the pope can receive an indulgence, but so can inmates in prison and those who work to defend human life or assist migrants and refugees.

Fasting "at least for one day of the week from futile distractions" such as social media also can be a path toward a jubilee indulgence, according to norms published by the Vatican May 13.

Pope Francis said he will open the Holy Year at the Vatican Dec. 24 this year and close it Jan. 6, 2026, the feast of Epiphany. But he also asked bishops around the world to celebrate the Jubilee in their dioceses from Dec. 29 this year to Dec. 28, 2025.

For centuries a feature of holy year celebrations has been the indulgence, which the church describes as a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for their sins.

"Every sin 'leaves its mark'" even after a person has received forgiveness and absolution through the sacrament of reconciliation, Pope Francis wrote in the document proclaiming the Holy Year. "Sin has consequences, not only outwardly in the effects of the wrong we do, but also inwardly, inasmuch as 'every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death, in the state called Purgatory,'" he wrote, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The norms for receiving an indulgence during the Holy Year were signed by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience and with the granting of indulgences.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, speaks at a conference at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University in this file photo from May 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

The basic conditions, he wrote, are that a person is "moved by a spirit of charity," is "purified through the sacrament of penance and refreshed by Holy Communion" and prays for the pope. Along with a pilgrimage, a work of mercy or an act of penance, a Catholic "will be able to obtain from the treasury of the Church a plenary indulgence, with remission and forgiveness of all their sins, which can be applied in suffrage to the souls in Purgatory."

The Rome pilgrimage, Cardinal De Donatis said, can be to the papal basilicas of St. Peter's, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran or St. Paul Outside the Walls. But also to one of the churches connected to outstanding women saints and doctors of the church: St. Catherine of Siena at the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva; St. Brigid of Sweden at Campo de' Fiori; St. Teresa of Avila at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria; St. Thérèse of Lisieux at Trinità dei Monti; and St. Monica at the Church of St. Augustine.

Pilgrims to the Holy Land also can receive the Holy Year indulgence by praying at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem or the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Pilgrims enter through Holy Door
Pilgrims make the sign of the cross as they pass through the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica in this file photos from August 2000. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

For those who cannot travel abroad, local bishops around the world can designate their cathedral or another church or sacred place for pilgrims to obtain the indulgence, the cardinal wrote, asking bishops to "take into account the needs of the faithful as well as the opportunity to reinforce the concept of pilgrimage with all its symbolic significance, so as to manifest the great need for conversion and reconciliation."

People who cannot leave their residence -- "especially cloistered nuns and monks, but also the elderly, the sick, prisoners and those who, through their work in hospitals or other care facilities, provide continuous service to the sick" -- can spiritually join a pilgrimage and receive the indulgence, according to the norms.

Visiting the sick or a prisoner, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or welcoming a migrant, "in a sense making a pilgrimage to Christ present in them," can be another way to receive the indulgence, the cardinal said, adding that an indulgence could be obtained each day from such acts of mercy.

"The Jubilee Plenary Indulgence can also be obtained through initiatives that put into practice, in a concrete and generous way, the spirit of penance which is, in a sense, the soul of the Jubilee," he wrote, highlighting in particular abstaining on Fridays from "futile distractions" like social media or from "superfluous consumption" by not eating meat.

"Supporting works of a religious or social nature, especially in support of the defense and protection of life in all its phases," helping a young person in difficulty or a recently-arrived migrant or immigrant -- anything involving "dedicating a reasonable portion of one's free time to voluntary activities that are of service to the community or to other similar forms of personal commitment" also are paths toward an indulgence, he said.

"Despite the rule that only one plenary indulgence can be obtained per day," Cardinal De Donatis wrote, "the faithful who have carried out an act of charity on behalf of the souls in Purgatory, if they receive Holy Communion a second time that day, can obtain the plenary indulgence twice on the same day," although the second indulgence is "applicable only to the deceased."


U.S. Bishops to Meet June 12-14 in Louisville; Assembly to Be Live Streamed

This release has been edited to include the National Review Board's update to the bishops on the plenary agenda.


WASHINGTON - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather for the 2024 Spring Plenary Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, June 12-14. The public sessions on June 13 and 14 will be livestreamed on the USCCB website.

The public portion of the assembly will begin with addresses by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, who serves as president of the Conference.

During the plenary, the bishops will receive updates on various issues and initiatives. The meeting agenda is not yet finalized and therefore, subject to change. However, it is expected to include updates on: the Committee on Migration; the bishops’ national mental health campaign; the Synod on Synodality; the Task Force for a National Directory for Instituted Ministries; the National Eucharistic Revival and the National Eucharistic Congress; and the National Review Board. The bishops will also hold a consultation on opening the cause for beatification and canonization of Adele Brise.

Votes are expected on a number of action items including:

  • Three action items on liturgical texts pertaining to the Liturgy of the Hours, presented by the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship.
  • Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults, by the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
  • Keeping Christ’s Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry, a pastoral plan for Native American and Indigenous Ministry by the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs.

Prior to the public sessions, the bishops will spend time in prayer and fraternal dialogue with one another. They will also be reflecting on positioning the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) for the future. For a half-century, grants made possible through the annual CCHD collection have gone to help community organizations working to empower people striving to overcome poverty. Now, the bishops have begun the process of discerning the next 50 years.

Over the past several years, including during the pandemic, the CCHD maintained its level of support for those in need, despite a decline in donations. Last year, the CCHD started a review to explore ways to renew the mandate and mission of CCHD. The bishops will spend time prayerfully discussing the best way to adapt to the post-pandemic needs and resources, while at the same time continuing a steadfast commitment to helping the poor and disenfranchised emerge from the cycle of poverty.

Public sessions of the assembly will be held on the afternoon of June 13 and the morning of June 14, and livestreamed at: -- news updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations, and other materials will be posted to this page. Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media can use the hashtag #USCCB24 follow on Facebook (, as well as Instagram (, Threads (, and X, formerly known as Twitter (@USCCB).


Pope Francis on Mother’s Day: Let us pray also for mothers in heaven

"We reflect with gratitude on all mothers, and let us also pray for mothers who have gone to heaven. We entrust mothers to the protection of Mary, our heavenly mother," said Pope Francis on May 12, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 12, 2024 / 10:45 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Pope Francis entrusted all mothers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking everyone to remember to also pray for all the mothers who have gone to heaven.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on May 12, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a round of applause to celebrate all mothers.

“Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries today. We reflect with gratitude on all mothers, and let us also pray for mothers who have gone to heaven. We entrust mothers to the protection of Mary, our heavenly mother,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also asked for the Virgin Mary’s intercession to help in life’s journey toward heaven.

“May Mary, she who has already arrived at the destination, help us to walk together with joy toward the glory of heaven,” he said.

The pope noted that Italy and many other countries celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday. He said that Jesus shows us the way to heaven “step by step,” like a mountaineer ascending a summit, in the Gospels and through the sacraments.

“What are these steps that must be taken?” he asked. “Today’s Gospel says: ‘preach the Gospel, baptize, cast out demons, pick up serpents, lay hands on the sick’ (cf. Mk 16:16-18).”

“In summary, perform the works of love: to give life, bring hope, steer away from any form of wickedness and meanness, respond to evil with good, be close to those who suffer.”

Pope Francis added that the more we do these “works of love,” the more “we let ourselves be transformed by his Spirit.”

“It is he who awakens us and communicates to us, with his Word and with the grace of the sacraments, the beauty of the homeland toward which we are headed,” the pope said.

After praying the Regina Caeli prayer in Latin, the pope asked people to pray for peace in Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and Ukraine.

“Dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the ascension of the Lord who sets us free and wants us to be free, I renew my appeal for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” he said.

Pope Francis added that he wanted to assure “the Holy See’s readiness to facilitate every effort in this regard, especially for those seriously wounded and ill.”

The pope extended greetings to pilgrims visiting Rome from Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Austria, and Germany. Pope Francis also gave thanks to a band from Germany who performed in St. Peter’s Square as a tribute to the late Pope Benedict XVI. 

The entirety of today’s Regina Caeli reflection by Pope Francis can be viewed below.

International summit on climate change to bring California, New York governors to the Vatican

Govenor Gavin Newsom of California. / Credit: Karl_Sonnenberg/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, May 11, 2024 / 12:38 pm (CNA).

The Vatican’s latest bid to tackle climate change will bring together politicians and researchers from around the world for a three-day conference next week featuring a series of roundtable discussions and culminating in the signing of a new international protocol that will be submitted to the United Nations.

The joint summit, “From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience,” will be held at the Vatican from May 15–17 at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens.

The conference — organized by the two pontifical academies — brings together policymakers, civic leaders, researchers, and lawmakers from the United States and other countries, including Italy, Kenya, and Sweden.

This year’s U.S. invitees include Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul as well as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

“Massachusetts deeply values our close relationship with Italy and the Vatican City State, and we see this trip as an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties and strategize on future opportunities for collaboration,” Healey said in an official press release from the Massachusetts governor’s office.

Healey will deliver a keynote address titled “Governing in the Age of Climate Change” on the first day of the summit, while Newsom and Hochul will both deliver addresses on the second day. 

“This year holds unprecedented significance for democracy and the climate, two intertwined issues which will define our future,” Newsom said last month. 

“With half the world’s population poised to elect their leaders amidst a backdrop of escalating political extremism, and global temperatures hurtling towards alarming new heights, the stakes could not be higher,” the California governor said. 

“There is no greater authority than moral authority — and the pope’s leadership on the climate crisis inspires us all to push further and faster.”

Pope Francis has made environmental protection and social stewardship one of the defining themes of his pontificate, dedicating two encyclicals to the moral imperative of combatting anthropogenic climate change.

The conference will also include mayors from some of Europe’s largest cities, including the mayors of Rome, Paris, and London, as well lawmakers from Asia and Africa, researchers and academics from the world’s leading universities, and representatives from international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. 

The summit participants will be received in an audience with Pope Francis on Thursday, May 16. 

Each day of the summit is centered on a different conceptual framework and is organized by a series of different panels and roundtable discussions. 

The summit’s program explains that participants will discuss and deliberate policy recommendations geared toward “climate resilience” by utilizing a three-pronged strategy, which includes “mitigation efforts,” “adaptation strategies,” and “societal transformation.” 

“Climate resilience requires cross-disciplinary partnerships among researchers, engineers, and entrepreneurs and trans-disciplinary partnerships between science and community leaders, including faith leaders, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and the public. Mayors and governors form the core of such transdisciplinary partnerships,” the official program of the summit states. 

The program notes that one of the main outcomes of the summit will be the drafting of a “Planetary Climate Resilience” protocol in which all participants will be “cosignatories.” 

The protocol will be “fashioned along the lines of the Montreal Protocol” and will “provide the guidelines for making everyone climate resilient,” the program states. 

Afterward the document will be “submitted to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] to take it forward to all nations.”