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Armed priest arrested as he tried to enter the Vatican for Pope Francis’ Regina Caeli

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for Pope Francis’ Regina Caeli prayer and address on Sunday, May 5, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, May 6, 2024 / 14:07 pm (CNA).

A priest armed with several weapons and dressed in a cassock tried to enter St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican to participate in the Regina Caeli prayer with Pope Francis on Sunday, May 5.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, the priest, who is from the Czech Republic, tried to pass through the metal detector carrying an air pistol, two knives, a cutter, and a screwdriver.

After being arrested, the priest was reported to the authorities for illegal possession of weapons. When questioned, the priest said he carried the weapons for personal defense.

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the priest is 59-year-old Father Milan Palkovic.

According to Europa Press, the weapons were in a bag that belonged to another man, a 60-year-old Czech who accompanied the priest and who was also detained.

Neither has a criminal record and both came to Rome on a pilgrimage from the Czech Republic.

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

Could Edith Stein be declared the next doctor of the Church?

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), pictured in 1938-1939. / Credit: Public Domain

Rome Newsroom, May 6, 2024 / 11:12 am (CNA).

Edith Stein could be declared a doctor of the Church with the title “doctor veritatis,” or “doctor of truth,” following a petition from the Discalced Carmelites.

Pope Francis received an official request from the superior general of the Discalced Carmelites, Father Miguel Márquez Calle, on April 18 in a private audience at the Vatican to recognize the theological legacy of the saint who was martyred in Auschwitz.

If accepted, Stein, also known by her religious name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, could become the fifth woman to be declared a doctor of the Church, a title that recognizes a substantial contribution to the Church’s theology and moral life.

With the petition, the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints can officially begin the required process to grant Stein the title.

The Carmelites first launched an international commission to gather the necessary documentation required by the Vatican in 2022, a year that marked both the 100th anniversary of Stein’s baptism and the 80th anniversary of her martyrdom.

A title that was proposed for her at the time was “doctor veritatis” because of her relentless intellectual pursuit of truth, which after her conversion she recognized in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stein was born in 1891 into a Jewish family in what is now Wrocław, southwestern Poland. The city was then known as Breslau and located in the German Empire.

After declaring herself to be an atheist at the age of 20, she went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy.

She decided to convert to Catholicism after spending a night reading the autobiography of the 16th-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila while staying at a friend’s house in 1921.

“When I had finished the book,” she later recalled, “I said to myself: This is the truth.”

Stein was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922, at the age of 30. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross when she became a novice Carmelite nun 12 years later.

Ten years after Stein entered the Carmelite convent, she was arrested along with her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic, and the members of her religious community.

She had just finished writing a study of St. John of the Cross titled “The Science of the Cross.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on Aug. 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998 and proclaimed her a co-patroness of Europe the following year.

“God is truth,” Stein wrote after her conversion. “Anyone who seeks truth seeks God, whether or not he is aware of it.”

An afternoon with the new Swiss Guards: Preparing for a mission of faith and service 

Swiss Guard cadets prepare their armor in the guards' barracks at the Vatican on April 30, 2024. / Credit: Matthew Santucci/CNA

Vatican City, May 5, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

For the newest class of 34 Swiss Guards who will be sworn in on Monday, their service is based on faith and a love for the Church and the pope as storied as the uniform itself. 

“For me it was something, first and foremost, to give something to the Church, because the Catholic Church gave us a lot when I was a child and with this service, I can give something back,” explained Nicolas Hirt, one of the new guards who hails from the Swiss canton of Fribourg. 

The cadets, joined by their instructors, gathered for a media event on April 30 in the courtyard behind the barracks adjacent to the Sant’Anna entrance, which was adorned with the flags from each of the Swiss cantons. 

The Swiss Guard’s annual swearing-in ceremony will take place on Monday, May 6, in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. There, the new guards will solemnly raise their right hands, with three fingers extended, representing the Holy Trinity, and proclaim their oath: “I swear I will faithfully, loyally, and honorably serve the Supreme Pontiff and his legitimate successors and I dedicate myself to them with all my strength. I assume this same commitment with regard to the Sacred College of Cardinals whenever the Apostolic See is vacant.”

Swiss Guard cadets drill at the Vatican on April 30, 2024. Credit: Matthew Santucci/CNA
Swiss Guard cadets drill at the Vatican on April 30, 2024. Credit: Matthew Santucci/CNA

There was a palpable sense of pride, perhaps even a hint of nervousness, as the young men marched last week in the storied corridors, perfecting the ancient rites ahead of a day that will mark a milestone in their lives. 

Renato Peter, who comes from a small village near St. Gallen (the first from his village to enter the guards), said he first developed a desire to enter into the service of the papal guards after a trip to Rome in 2012 with his diocese. 

“When you work in the Vatican, you have to feel like you go back in history because a lot of European history has been made here,” said Peter, who is mindful that those who wear the iconic tricolor uniform bear a great responsibility and represent a connection to the history of the Church. 

“We are the smallest military in the world,” Peter continued, emphasizing that service in the Swiss Guards is like no other. “But, we are not training to make war. We are like the military, yes, but we’re for the security of the pope.” 

The Swiss Guard is indeed the smallest standing army in the world, numbering only 135 members (Pope Francis increased its ranks from 110 in 2018), protecting not only the smallest sovereign territory in the world, Vatican City State, but also acting as the personal security force of the Holy Father. 

This year the Swiss Guard celebrated 518 years of service to the Apostolic See. Its history dates back to Jan. 22, 1506, when 150 Swiss mercenaries, led by Captain Kasper von Silenen from the central Swiss canton of Uri, arrived in Rome at the request of Pope Julius II.

But the swearing-in ceremony takes place on May 6, marking the anniversary of the Sack of Rome in 1527 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V when 147 guards died protecting Pope Clement VII. 

The Swiss Guards form an integral part of the history of the papacy and a core component of the security apparatus of the Vatican, but they also occupy a special palace in the popular imagination, one underscored by a profound spirituality. 

“It’s another world, another culture, and above all doing a fairly unique job, that is to say, there is the protection of the Holy Father,” said Vice-Corporal Eliah Cinotti, spokesman for the guards. 

“I don’t think there are many of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to serve the Holy Father in that way, therefore the Swiss Guard is a quite unique institution.”

Cinotti observed that for many of the pilgrims coming to Rome, which is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the guards act as a point of encounter between the people and the Church, shedding light on an evangelical dimension of their mission. 

“Since we are Swiss Guards and represent the pope, we are also there to be Christians, to listen to these people. There is no specific training for this because it already comes from our Christian character to help others.”

Service in the Swiss Guards is both physically and psychologically demanding, and the entry requirements are strict, even though the guards do not face deployment to active war zones like conventional soldiers.

A prospective guard must hold Swiss citizenship, be Catholic, single, and male (after five years in service the guards are allowed to marry), and be at least 1.74 meters tall (approximately 5’8”). They are required to have completed secondary school (or the equivalent) and have completed mandatory military service. 

Despite what some may consider prohibitive entry restrictions, Cinotti noted, during the annual call for applications there are anywhere from 45-50 applicants, and there has not been a problem with recruitment. 

During the first round, prospective candidates go through a preliminary screening and, if selected, they will sit with a recruitment officer in Switzerland for an initial interview, which generally lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. Candidates also have to undergo an intensive psychological test to assess whether they can withstand the demands of the job. 

Should their candidacy proceed, they are then sent to Rome where, for the first two months, they are exposed to the working environment of the Vatican and receive approximately 56 hours of intensive instruction in Italian. Their instruction also includes an emphasis on their cultural and spiritual formation.

Swiss Guard cadets inspect their armor in their barracks at the Vatican on April 30, 2024. Credit: Matthew Santucci/CNA
Swiss Guard cadets inspect their armor in their barracks at the Vatican on April 30, 2024. Credit: Matthew Santucci/CNA

The cadets are then sent to the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in Switzerland, where they are instructed in self-defense and the use of firearms by local police. While the guards carry medieval halberds — an ax blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft — during official papal events, each is equipped with a 9mm GLOCK 19 Gen4 pistol, taser, and pepper spray. 

There is also a two-year minimum service requirement after which they can decide to remain or return to Switzerland. 

“About 80% return to Switzerland and 20% stay,” Cinotti said. “And the 80% who return to Switzerland go to the police or the army or return to their basic profession or go to study at university.” 

He also noted there have been some years where a guard will discern a vocation to the priesthood. “And we also had a certain point, people who entered the seminary at the time, one per year more or less.” 

He added: “We haven’t had anyone for two years, but I think they will arrive, or rather it’s a question of vocations.”

Swiss Guards stand in the middle of Paul VI Hall during Pope Francis’ general audience on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Swiss Guards stand in the middle of Paul VI Hall during Pope Francis’ general audience on Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Cinotti spoke on the myriad security challenges that a guard will have to face in his day-to-day work, which can last anywhere from six to 12 hours of continuous duty, noting that there has been an uptick in the number of people coming to the Vatican for help. 

Cinotti also noted that for all of the guards, there has been the additional learning curve of adapting to Pope Francis’ pastoral style, which has brought him in close proximity to the faithful during his audiences in Rome and his travels abroad.  

“Pope Francis is like every pope,” Cinotti remarked. “He has his own style, and we must adapt to the pope.” 

“If he wants to go to contact the people of God, we must guarantee that, of course, everything is fine, but we cannot prevent it. He does what he wants, he is the pope,” he added. 

While this can raise some logistical problems, Cinotti reassured that the guards have been trained to respond to possible threats. He said they have developed a symbiotic, and always professional, relationship with Francis. 

“He transmits a certain serenity and a certain awareness that we are there next to him, we are there, like the gendarmerie, which allows us to operate in complete tranquility on the ground without being disturbed,” he said. 

“He likes to change plans and will change plans throughout the day,” Cinotti added, “but it suits us very well because we adapt to him and we do this service and for us, it is still important to guarantee his safety.” 

Pope Francis: Let us thank the Lord for our friends

Pope Francis greets the crowd gathered at St. Peter's Square on May 5, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, May 5, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis asked for a moment of silence as he spoke from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sunday for people to thank the Lord for their friends. 

The pope reflected on the gift of friendship during his Regina Caeli address on May 5.

“Since childhood, we learn how beautiful this experience is: We offer friends our toys and the most beautiful gifts; then, growing up, as teenagers, we confide our first secrets to them; as young people we offer loyalty; as adults, we share satisfactions and worries; as seniors, the memories, considerations, and silences of long days,” the 87-year-old pope said.

“The word of God, in the Book of Proverbs, tells us that ‘Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel’ (Prv 27:9). Let us think a moment of our friends and thank the Lord for them.”

Speaking to the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny Sunday in Rome, the pope remarked that Jesus desires to share in this great gift of friendship with us.

“Today the Gospel tells us about Jesus’ words to the apostles: ‘I do not call you servants any longer, but friends,’” he said.

“And today Jesus, in the Bible, tells us that for him we are precisely this, friends: dear people beyond all merit and expectation, to whom he extends his hand and offers his love, his grace, his Word; with whom he shares what is dearest to him, all that he has heard from the Father (cf. Jn 15:15),” he added.

Pope Francis asked people to reflect on whether they feel loved by the Lord as a beloved friend or if Jesus seems like more of a stranger.

“May Mary help us to grow in friendship with her Son and to spread it around us,” the pope said as he began to pray the Regina Caeli prayer in Latin.

The faithful gather in St. Peter's Square on May 5, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
The faithful gather in St. Peter's Square on May 5, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

At the end of his address, the pope prayed for peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land and offered his solidarity to people affected by the heavy flooding in southern Brazil that has killed at least 60 people.

Pope Francis gave a shoutout to pilgrims visiting Rome from Texas, Chicago, Berlin, and Paris, as well as to the Pontifical Swiss Guards, who will celebrate their swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

The pope also wished a happy Easter to Orthodox Christians and Eastern-rite Catholics who are celebrating Easter this weekend according to the Julian calendar.

“May the risen Lord fill all communities with joy and peace and comfort those who are in trial,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis tells world’s parish priests: The Church could not go on without you

Pope Francis meets with 300 priests taking part in the World Meeting of Parish Priests on May 2, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 2, 2024 / 12:41 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis published a letter on Thursday addressed to all parish priests in the world with his advice for building a missionary Church in which all the baptized share in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Parish communities increasingly need to become places from which the baptized set out as missionary disciples and to which they return, full of joy, in order to share the wonders worked by the Lord through their witness,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter published on May 2.

The pope presented the letter to 300 priests participating in the Synod on Synodality’s “World Meeting of Parish Priests” during an audience at the Vatican, saying that their meeting is “an opportunity to remember in my prayers all of the parish priests in the world to whom I address these words with great affection.”

Pope Francis meets with 300 priests taking part in the World Meeting of Parish Priests on May 2, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with 300 priests taking part in the World Meeting of Parish Priests on May 2, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“Before all else, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the generous work that you do each day, sowing seeds of the Gospel in every kind of soil,” Pope Francis wrote.

“It is so obvious as to sound almost banal, but that does not make it less true: the Church could  not go on without your dedication and your pastoral service,” he added.

In the letter, Pope Francis offered three suggestions to parish priests for building “a synodal and missionary Church.”

The first is for priests to live out their “specific ministerial charism in ever greater service to the varied gifts that the Spirit sows in the people of God.” 

He said that by nurturing the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, priests will “feel less alone in the demanding task of evangelization” and “will experience the joy of being true fathers, who do not dominate others but rather bring out in them, men and women alike, great and precious possibilities.”

The second suggestion is to “learn to practice the art of communal discernment” by using the “conversation in the Spirit” practiced during last October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Lastly, Pope Francis encouraged priests to base everything they do “in a spirit of sharing and fraternity” both among themselves and with their bishops.

“We cannot be authentic fathers unless we are first sons and brothers. And we cannot foster communion and participation in the communities entrusted to our care unless, before all else,  we live out those realities among ourselves,” the pope explained.

The audience with the pope concluded the four-day World Meeting of Parish Priests, which took place from April 29 to May 2 at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, Italy, just north of Rome.

The gathering of 300 priests was jointly organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy and by the General Secretariat of the Synod in response to the first synod assembly’s synthesis report, which identified a need to “develop ways for a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synodal process during the coming year.”

Father Clinton Ressler, a priest from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was one of five American priests who traveled to Rome for the meeting.

Ressler told EWTN that a highlight from the meeting was “the experience of being together with brother priests from around the world.”

He said that he has learned that despite the diverse realities in which priests in different parts of the world find themselves, “the experience of being a priest on the front lines and in the trenches is kind of a universal experience — the joy, the sorrow, the hope.”

Pope Francis to speak at event on Italy’s record-low birth rate

Pope Francis shared a stage with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on May 12, 2023, to speak at a two-day conference on “The General State of the Birth Rate,” held at Conciliazione Auditorium close to the Vatican. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, May 2, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis will speak at an event on Italy’s demographic crisis as the country’s birth rate sits at a historic low.

Pope Francis will address “The General State of the Birth Rate” conference on May 10 at the Conciliazione Auditorium close to the Vatican.

The two-day event organized by the Forum of Family Associations and the Foundation for Births seeks to address the 50 years of steady decline in births across Europe, and especially in Italy, and what can be done to reverse it. 

Births in Italy dropped to a historic low in 2023. Italy’s national statistics bureau recorded 379,000 births last year, a 3.6% decline from 2022 and a 34.2% drop from 2008.

Italy’s overall population has been falling since 2014 with 282,000 more deaths than births in Italy in 2023. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe: 1.2 births per woman.

Pope Francis has described the low number of births as “a figure that reveals a great concern for tomorrow.” He lamented last year the “social climate in which starting a family has turned into a titanic effort, instead of being a shared value that everyone recognizes and supports.”

“The General State of the Birth Rate” will feature Italian government ministers, business leaders, and media personalities who will give talks on the family, including Eugenia Roccella, Italy’s family minister.

It will be the third time that Pope Francis has participated in the conference, which is supported by the Italian Ministry for Family, Birth, and Equal Opportunity. 

Last year, Pope Francis shared the stage with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“The birth of children, in fact, is the main indicator for measuring the hope of a people,” Pope Francis said at the conference in 2023.

“If few are born it means there is little hope. And this not only has repercussions from an economic and social point of view but also undermines confidence in the future.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last week that the U.S. birth rate also hit a record low in 2023 and that the total number of births was the lowest it’s been in decades. 

According to the report, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through 44. This was a 2% decline in total births and a 3% decline in births per 1,000 women when compared with the previous year.

“The birth rate challenge is a matter of hope,” Pope Francis said.

Hope, the pope said, “is not an illusion or an emotion that you feel, no; it is a concrete virtue, a life attitude. And it has to do with concrete choices. Hope is nourished by each person’s commitment to the good, it grows when we feel we are participating and involved in making meaning of our own and others’ lives.”

Pope Francis: We need to ‘welcome God into our daily lives’ and pray for ‘real peace’

Pope Francis delivers a message during his general audience on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, May 1, 2024 / 09:45 am (CNA).

On Wednesday, May 1, Pope Francis addressed an international audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican and reiterated the importance of faith in the Christian life as well as the need to continually pray for “real peace” for the whole world.

The Holy Father also deplored war profiteering, decrying the actions of those “making money off death” through huge investments in the production of weapons.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered inside Vatican City on an overcast morning on the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, the Holy Father spoke about the three theological virtues, beginning with faith, as part of his ongoing catechesis series on vices and virtues.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall on May 1, 2024. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA
Pope Francis greets pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall on May 1, 2024. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA

“What is faith?” Pope Francis asked his listeners. “Faith is the act by which the human being freely commits himself to God.”

Speaking of men and women who are role models of faith, such as Abraham, Moses, and the Virgin Mary, the pope urged his listeners to also welcome God into their daily lives — freely and completely — in spite of life’s difficulties, uncertainties, and tribulations. 

Pope Francis smiles at pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall on May 1, 2024. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA
Pope Francis smiles at pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall on May 1, 2024. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA

“Faith is the first gift to welcome in Christian life: a gift that must be welcomed and asked for daily so that it may be renewed in us. It is seemingly a small gift, yet it is the essential one,” he said.  

The Holy Father also added that “the great enemy of faith” is fear and not intelligence or reason as many people believe. 

Following his catechesis, Pope Francis greeted parish and religious groups from around the world packed into the crowded hall, many of whom brought flags and banners, and asked them to join him in prayer for peace in the world, particularly for those suffering due to natural disasters and conflict.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“Severe flooding has tragically taken the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, injured others, and caused widespread destruction,” he said about the severe flooding affecting the people of Kenya. “Even amid adversity we remember the joy of the risen Christ, and I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.”

The Holy Father also reminded his audience to pray for those who are “victims of wars” in Ukraine, Palestine, and Israel, and to not forget the sufferings of the Rohingya refugees and to pray for peace in Myanmar.

“We cannot forget to pray for peace. War is always a defeat. Always,” he said. “We ask for real peace for these peoples and for the whole world. Unfortunately, today, the investments that earn the most income are weapons factories. Terrible. Making money off death. We ask for peace.”

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square gathered for his weekly general audience on April 3, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, May 1, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May is for the formation of men and women religious and for seminarians.

“Every vocation is a ‘diamond in the rough’ that needs to be polished, worked, shaped on every side,” the pope said in a video released April 30.

“A good priest, sister, or nun must above all else be a man, a woman who is formed, shaped by the Lord’s grace, people who are aware of their own limitations and willing to lead a life of prayer, of dedicated witness to the Gospel,” he said, adding: “Beginning in the seminary and the novitiate, their preparation must be developed integrally, in direct contact with the lives of other people. This is essential.”

The Holy Father pointed out that “formation does not end at a certain moment but continues throughout life, integrating the person intellectually, humanly, affectively, spiritually.”

“There’s also preparation to live in community — life in community is so enriching, even though it can be difficult at times. Living together is not the same as living in community.”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that men and women religious, and seminarians, grow in their own vocational journey through human, pastoral, spiritual, and community formation that leads them to be credible witnesses of the Gospel.”

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

The story behind the feast of St. Joseph the Worker

In 2021, the Knights of Columbus announced the selection of this icon of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus as the centerpiece of the current K of C pilgrim icon prayer program. The original icon was created (or "written") by Élizabeth Bergeron, an iconographer in Montréal, based on a drawing by Alexandre Sobolev. / Credit: Courtesy of Knights of Columbus

CNA Staff, May 1, 2024 / 04:50 am (CNA).

St. Joseph, the beloved spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and earthly father of Jesus, is celebrated twice by the Catholic Church every year — first on March 19 for the feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, and again on May 1 for the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

While the saint’s March feast dates back to the 10th century, his May feast wasn’t instituted until 1955. What was behind it?

Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, 1955, so that it would coincide with International Workers Day, also known as May Day — a secular celebration of labor and workers’ rights. During this time, the Soviet Union proclaimed themselves as the defender of workers and utilized May Day as an opportunity to exalt communism and parade its military prowess. Pope Pius XII chose the date specifically to ensure that workers did not lose the Christian understanding of work.

In his address to the Catholic Association of Italian Workers on that day in 1955, Pius XII said: “There could not be a better protector to help you penetrate the spirit of the Gospel into your life … From the heart of the Man-God, Savior of the world, this spirit flows into you and into all men; but it is certain that no worker has ever been as perfectly and deeply penetrated by it as the putative father of Jesus, who lived with him in the closest intimacy and commonality of family and work.”

He added: “So, if you want to be close to Christ, we also today repeat to you ‘Ite ad Ioseph’: Go to Joseph!”

The Catholic Church has long placed an importance on the dignity of human work. By working, we fulfill the commands found in the Book of Genesis to care for the earth and be productive in our labors.

In his encyclical Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society.”

St. Joseph is considered a role model of this as he worked tirelessly to protect and provide for his family as he strove to listen to and obey God.

Even before the institution of this feast, many popes were beginning to spread a devotion to St. Joseph the Worker. One of these was Pope Leo XIII, who wrote on the subject in his encyclical Quamquam Pluries in 1889.

He wrote: “Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus.”

In addition to being the patron of the universal Church and workers in general, St. Joseph is also the patron saint of several professions including craftsmen, carpenters, accountants, attorneys, bursars, cabinetmakers, cemetery workers, civil engineers, confectioners, educators, furniture makers, wheelwrights, and lawyers.

Pope Francis to Regnum Christi: May the Spirit help you to make ‘mystery of Christ’ present

Pope Francis prays during his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on April 24, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 30, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

On the occasion of its first general convention taking place in Rome this week, Pope Francis has addressed a message to the Regnum Christi Federation.

In his message, the Holy Father encouraged the organization’s membership to discern “how to make present in our days the mystery of Christ,” in keeping with the particular vocation of each individual.

The convention, the first to be held since the approval of the new statutes in 2019, is taking place after a long process of listening and purification that came in the wake of multiple abuses committed by various members, including the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the late Mexican priest Father Marcial Maciel.

In the letter, sent to Father John Lane Connor, LC, president of the federation’s general board of directors, the Holy Father asks “the Lord that the light of the Holy Spirit helps you discern, in fidelity to the Gospel and the magisterium of the Church, how to make the mystery of Christ present in our days, in accordance with the vocation to which each of you has been called.”

Pope Francis expressed his hope that “this new statute favors their aspiration to always be true apostles.” In addition, the Holy Father highlighted that “today more than ever, society demands that we be able to give reasons for our hope in the face of contemporary challenges.

During his homily at the inaugural Mass of the gathering, held under the motto “Apostles on Mission: Making the Kingdom of Christ Present Today,” Connor invited everyone to “walk in the light that is Christ” and recalled that “becoming small is one of the great secrets of the Gospel and evangelization: small so that he may be great.”

The general convention is a collegiate body and is responsible for “dealing with the purposes, progress, and development of the Regnum Christi Federation” as its highest authority as well as establishing mission priorities for each six-year term, among other functions established in the statutes.

What is Regnum Christi?

The Regnum Christi Federation is now defined as a spiritual family with four vocations: Legionaries of Christ, consecrated women, consecrated laypeople, and laypeople whose direction is given by a general board of directors formed by the general directors of the Legionaries of Christ, the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, and the Consecrated Men of Regnum Christi, who are assisted by two laypersons with consultative voice and vote.

According to its statement, Regnum Christi is made up of the Legionaries of Christ (1,316), consecrated women (486), consecrated laymen (47), and laypersons (18,494 over 16 years of age, and 10,276 minors). It carries on educational work with 151,000 students in 154 schools and 14 universities and is present in 32 countries on five continents.

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