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Cultivate solidarity through prayer, adoration, pope tells donors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's "growing culture of indifference and individualism" must be countered with prayer and adoration, which inspires solidarity with those in need, Pope Francis said.

Charitable efforts guided and inspired by the Catholic faith "must be continually nourished by participation in the life of the church, the reception of the sacraments, and time spent quietly before the Lord in prayer and adoration," the pope told more than 60 members of The Papal Foundation and their families April 12.

The U.S. foundation describes itself as the only charitable organization in the United States dedicated to fulfilling the pope's requests for the needs of the Catholic Church. Donors to the foundation, known as Stewards of St. Peter, make annual pilgrimages to Rome and have an opportunity to meet the pope.

Pope Francis blesses a pregnant woman's child.
Pope Francis blesses a pregnant woman's child during a meeting with members of The Papal Foundation and their families at the Vatican April 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis reminded the group that the pilgrimage this year is taking place during the Year of Prayer in preparation for the Holy Year 2025, and he encouraged them to "not forget to adore the Lord" in silent adoration. "We have neglected this form of prayer and we need to take it up again: adoring the Lord in silence."

"Through our perseverance in prayer, we gradually become 'a single heart and soul' with both Jesus and others, which then translates into solidarity and the sharing of our daily bread," he said, referencing a passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

The pope noted that although the donors may not personally meet the beneficiaries of their generosity, "the programs of The Papal Foundation foster a spiritual and fraternal bond with people from many different cultures, languages and regions who receive assistance."

The foundation announced in a statement April 12 that it will dedicate $14.74 million to grants, scholarships and humanitarian aid in 2024.

Close to $10 million will be distributed to grant recipients identified by the Vatican, supporting 118 projects in more than 60 countries, the foundation said, including projects to provide for basic needs such as access to clean water; renovating schools, churches, convents and seminaries; and building health care facilities. The foundation also allocated $4 million to its Mission Fund to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and it will provide $819,000 in scholarships to enable more than 100 priests, women religious and seminarians to study in Rome.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the foundation's board of trustees, said in the statement that the generosity of The Papal Foundation's donors prioritizes the needs of the poor and vulnerable "in a society where the divide between rich and poor continues to grow."

In their meeting, Pope Francis thanked the group for helping the successors of St. Peter "to build up many local churches and care for large numbers of the less fortunate."

Cardinals O'Malley, Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Wilton D. Gregory of Washington attended the meeting as trustees of the foundation, as well as Archbishops Samuel J. Aquila of Denver and Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey.

According to the foundation's website, it has awarded more than $200 million in grants and scholarships selected by the popes since its founding in 1988.

Pope turns Rome catechism class into 'school of prayer'

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis took over the catechism classes at St. John Vianney parish on the far eastern edge of Rome to inaugurate his "School of Prayer."

The pope went, unannounced, to the parish after school April 11 and met with about 200 children, Vatican News reported.

He spoke to them about prayer and answered their questions. He also brought them chocolate Easter eggs and rosaries.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization's section for new evangelization, which is coordinating preparations for the Holy Year 2025, had announced the "School of Prayer" in January.

The archbishop said the project would be like the pope's "Fridays of Mercy" initiative during the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015- 2016, when the pope visited people on the "peripheries," including babies in a neonatal unit, a center for the blind and a housing project to illustrate the corporal works of mercy.

Pope Francis has asked Catholics around the world to observe 2024 as a "year of prayer" in preparation for the Holy Year.

Pope Francis greets children at Rome parish
Pope Francis "high-fives" children at St. John Vianney parish on the far eastern edge of Rome, which he visited April 11, 2024, to inaugurate his "School of Prayer" initiative in preparation for the Holy Year 2025. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope's lesson for the children focused on the theme of prayers of thanksgiving, the Dicastery for Evangelization said in a statement afterward.

"It is important to say thank you for everything. For example, if you go into someone's house and you don't say thank you or may I or hello, is that nice?" he asked. "The first word is 'thank you.'"

Pope Francis gave each of the children a large folder with his coat of arms on the cover and, inside, a special prayer of thanks composed for the occasion; the prayer thanked God for the gift of life, the gift of parents, the gift of creation and, especially, "the gift of your Son, our brother and savior, friend of the small and the poor."

"You taught us to call you 'Father,' and with your word you call us to live as true sons and daughter, to be brothers and sisters who walk together in the grace of the faith we received with our baptism," the text continued. "Thank you, Lord, who loves us."

Pope Francis listens to a boy's question
Pope Francis listens to a question as he meets with about 200 children at St. John Vianney parish on the far eastern edge of Rome, where he went April 11, 2024, to inaugurate his "School of Prayer" initiative in preparation for the Holy Year 2025. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis asked the children if they pray, and one of the youngsters said his family prays before they eat.

"You said something important," the pope told him. They should all thank the Lord for the food they eat and for giving them families.

Alice, who is 10, asked, "How can I thank the Lord when I'm sick?"

"Even in dark times, we have to thank the Lord because he gives us the patience to tolerate difficulties," the pope responded. "Let's say together: 'Thank you, Lord for giving us the strength to tolerate pain.'"

Sofia, who will receive her first Communion in a few days, said it is hard to thank God when there are wars.

Pope Francis said there is always something to thank God for, and he shared a piece of advice: "Before you go to sleep think, 'What can I thank the Lord for?' And give thanks."


Parish priests are lifeline to church's mission, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- The success of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will much depend on also including parish priests in the process, said Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington.

Of the more than 360 bishops, religious and laypeople who participated in the first assembly at the Vatican last October, the small number who were ordained priests "were scholars, missionaries (or) they were engaged in leadership in religious communities," he said.

"Not that those other participants weren't generous and insightful," he said, but in his 40 years as a bishop, his experience has been that "a number of people may know who the bishop is, they all know who the pastor is."

The parish priest is the church's "point of contact and if we lose contact with our people through their priests, it disables the mission of the church," he told Catholic News Service April 10 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he was to receive the annual Rector's Award April 11. 

Cardinal Gregory
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington poses for a photo at the Pontifical North American College in Rome April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Cardinal Gregory had served as an auxiliary bishop of Chicago before leading the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, and then the Archdiocese of Atlanta; he was named archbishop of Washington in 2019 and then elevated to the College of Cardinals the next year.

Pope Francis personally invited the 76-year-old native of Chicago to attend the synod on synodality in Rome.

"There was a lack of parish priests present" at the first assembly, Cardinal Gregory said, noting the importance of the upcoming gathering of 300 parish priests from all over the world to make their contribution to the ongoing synod process by sharing their experiences of parish life.

Parish priests are the ones who "serve the folks in the pew, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday," he said. The gathering of parish priests, which will be held April 28-May 2 outside of Rome, was needed "because if the synod is going to be a success, it really needs to keep its roots in the Sunday pew."

The priests, selected by bishops' conferences and Eastern Catholic churches, also will have the chance to dialogue with Pope Francis as part of responding to the first assembly's report requesting more active involvement of deacons, priests and bishops in the synodal process.

Because there will only be one to four priests representing each bishops' conference and Eastern-rite Catholic church, Cardinal Gregory said it would be important for the priest delegates to "use media to pass on what they did, what they heard, what they said."

"After all, 300 priests is a good delegation, but it's a small representation of the total number of priests who are engaged directly in pastoral ministry," he said.

Just as priests are being asked to "follow up more effectively with their parishioners and learn how to listen to and to learn from criticism and also support" as part of the synodal process, he said, bishops, too, should be showing their support of their priests, even in the simplest of ways. 

Cardinal Gregory
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington speaks during an interview with Catholic News Service at the Pontifical North American College in Rome April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

"Long before the synod and in every diocese that I've served in," he said, he has always shared messages and comments he receives complimenting one of his priests for something they did.

"I always send that complimentary letter to the priest himself, along with my letter of thanks to the individual who thought enough of a pastor to say something nice," he said.

"That builds a relationship with the priest and the bishop that says, 'you know, he contacts me not necessarily because I've done something wrong, but because I've done something right.' And that's very important. Our guys need to know that the bishop is grateful," he said.

The success of the synod, Cardinal Gregory said, will be seen with "an increase in the contact that people, ordinary people, the faithful of God, have with their priests," their bishop and with the pope. Success will be recognizing that the pope "is not an individual who governs the church simply from the desk of the papal apartment" and that the bishop and pastor are not leaders who simply manage or direct activities from afar.

"To have a successful synod outcome, it has to tighten the bonds that unite us, even going into those areas where most people had not been before. And unfortunately, sometimes where bishops haven't been before, that is, in the midst of their flock," he said.

"Isn't that one of Pope Francis' favorite early terms, the smell of the sheep?" the cardinal asked. "You've got to have the smell of the sheep."

Take evil seriously, pope says at general audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While intense feelings or drive -- passions -- are natural, Christians know they must be tamed and channeled toward what is good, Pope Francis said.

The virtue of fortitude, "the most 'combative' of the virtues," helps a person control their passions but also gives them the strength to overcome fear and anxiety when faced with the difficulties of life, the pope told visitors and pilgrims at his weekly general audience April 10.

Pope Francis at his weekly general audience
A gust of wind lifts Pope Francis' zucchetto during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Continuing his series of talks about virtues, the pope quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions."

Fortitude "takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously," he said, and that is increasingly rare "in our comfortable Western world."

Some people pretend evil does not exist, "that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history," the pope said. But reading a history book or even the newspaper shows "the atrocities of which we are partly victims and partly perpetrators: wars, violence, slavery, oppression of the poor, wounds that have never healed and continue to bleed."

"The virtue of fortitude makes us react and cry out an emphatic 'no' to evil to all of this," he said.

Fortitude, he said, helps Christians say "'no' to evil and to indifference; 'yes' to the journey that helps us make progress in life, and for this one must struggle."

"A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian," he said.

Pope Francis kisses Ukrainian flag
Pope Francis kisses a Ukrainian flag carried by a group of Ukrainian children attending his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 10, 2024. The pope prayed during the audience for peace in Ukraine, in the Holy Land and in Myanmar. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked people to pray for Ukraine and Palestine and Israel. "May the Lord grant us peace. War is everywhere," he said. "Do not forget Myanmar," where the military staged a coup in 2021 and fighting has continued since then. "Let us ask the Lord for peace and not forget these brothers and sisters who are suffering in these places of war."


Pope: Have courage to say 'no' to atrocities

Pope: Have courage to say 'no' to atrocities

Pope Francis continued his catechesis series on virtues and vices by reflecting on the virtue of fortitude.

Catholics Participating in National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the National Eucharistic Congress Have Opportunities to Receive Plenary Indulgences

WASHINGTON – “It is with gratitude to the Holy Father that we receive his Apostolic Blessing upon the participants in the National Eucharistic Congress, and for the opportunity for Catholics in our country to obtain a plenary indulgence by participating in the events of the Eucharistic Revival,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fostering encounter, sparking personal conversion, and forming disciples will be opportunities for a personal revival in the faith and the fruits of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress to be held this summer.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress are milestone moments in the U.S. bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative. Archbishop Broglio requested the Apostolic Penitentiary (the office within the Roman Curia that is charged with the granting and use of indulgences as expressions of divine mercy) that a plenary indulgence be granted to Catholics who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. It was also requested that he or another prelate be designated to impart the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence to the Christian faithful present at the National Eucharistic Congress.

“Through the efforts of the revival over the last two years, we have been building up to the pilgrimage and congress that will offer Catholics a chance to experience a profound, personal revival of faith in the Eucharist. Pope Francis continues to encourage and support us as we seek to share Christ’s love with a world that is desperately in need of Him,” said Archbishop Broglio, upon receiving the news that Pope Francis had recently granted the requests.

Plenary Indulgence for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

A decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary and approved by Pope Francis indicates that the plenary indulgence will be granted to the Christian faithful who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at any point between May 17 and July 16, 2024. It will also be granted to the elderly, infirm, and all those who cannot leave their homes for a serious reason and who participate in spirit with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, uniting their prayers, pains, or inconveniences with Christ and the pilgrimage. This indulgence is granted under the usual conditions of sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father. The faithful may also apply this indulgence through suffrage for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory. In recognition of this extraordinary event, the Apostolic Penitentiary also requests that all priests who have been endowed with the appropriate faculties for hearing Confessions present themselves willingly and generously in administering the Sacrament of Penance to all who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Papal Blessing with Plenary Indulgence for National Eucharistic Congress

The second decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary and approved by Pope Francis, says that Archbishop Broglio or another prelate of episcopal rank assigned by him, following the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, may impart the Papal Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence to the Christian Faithful who participate in the National Eucharistic Congress, who are truly repentant, and who are motivated by charity, if the usual conditions for indulgences—sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father—have been met. Faithful individuals who, due to reasonable circumstances and with pious intention, have participated in the sacred rites and received the Papal Blessing through media communications, may also obtain a Plenary Indulgence.

The National Eucharistic Revival began on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in 2022 and continues through 2025. Following the congress will be a “Year of Missionary Sending,” in which Catholics from all stages and walks of life will be sent out to share Christ’s love that they have received in encounter with him through the Eucharist. For more information on the revival, pilgrimage, and congress, please visit https://www.eucharisticrevival.org.

Vatican calls for proactive defense of human dignity in digital realm

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The protection and preservation of human dignity must extend into the digital realm, the Vatican said in a new document on human dignity.

While the advancement of digital technologies "may offer many possibilities for promoting human dignity, it also increasingly tends toward the creation of a world in which exploitation, exclusion, and violence grow, extending even to the point of harming the dignity of the human person," read a declaration approved by Pope Francis and published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith April 8.

"If technology is to serve human dignity and not harm it, and if it is to promote peace rather than violence, then the human community must be proactive in addressing these trends," it read.

The document, a declaration on human dignity titled "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity"), reflects on Catholic teaching about human dignity and addresses "some grave violations of human dignity" today, among them "digital violence."

Discussing digital communications, the declaration encouraged readers to consider "how easy it is through these means to endanger a person's good name with fake news and slander."

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, holds up a copy of the dicastery's declaration,
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, holds up a copy of the dicastery's declaration, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity") on human dignity during a news conference at the Vatican press office April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

It also quoted Pope Francis' 2019 post-synodal apostolic exhortation to young people, warning of the "new forms of violence" spreading through the internet and social media such as cyberbullying, the diffusion of pornography and a rise in sexual exploitation. 

The dicastery's declaration stated that, "paradoxically, the more that opportunities for making connections grow in this realm, the more people find themselves isolated and impoverished in interpersonal relationships."

Threats to the accessibility of real-world connection and the propagation of digital violence "represent a dark side of digital progress," it said.

But citing Pope Francis' encyclical "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," it added that the opportunities for encounter provided by communications media are "a gift from God" so long as they pursue the truth and promote the common good.

In his introduction to the declaration, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the doctrinal dicastery, wrote that "although not comprehensive," the contemporary issues touched upon in the document were selected to "illuminate different facets of human dignity that might be obscured in many people's consciousness."

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Peter Jugis of Diocese of Charlotte; Appoints Rev. Michael Martin, OFM Conv., as Successor

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Peter J. Jugis, 67, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Charlotte for health reasons, and has appointed Reverend Michael T. Martin, OFM Conv., as Bishop-elect of Charlotte. Bishop-elect Martin is a member of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of the Angels, a religious order, and currently serves as pastor at Saint Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2024, by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The following biographical information for Bishop-elect Martin was drawn from preliminary materials provided to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Father Martin was born December 2, 1961, in Baltimore, Maryland. He entered the novitiate of the Order of Conventual Franciscan Friars in Ellicott City, Maryland in 1979; he professed simple vows in 1980, and solemn vows in 1985. Bishop-elect Martin pursued studies at Saint Hyacinth College-Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts where he received a bachelor of arts degree (1984). He also studied at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Saint Bonaventure in Rome, Italy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology (1988), and a master’s degree in Catholic education administration from Boston College in Massachusetts (1993). He was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1989.

Bishop-elect Martin’s assignments after ordination include: director of admissions, religious studies teacher, moderator and coach at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, New York (1989-1996); principal (1996-2001) and president (2001-2010) at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, Maryland; and director of the Duke University Catholic Center in Durham, North Carolina (2010-2022). Since 2022, he has served as pastor of Saint Philip Benizi parish in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Bishop-elect Martin’s additional responsibilities have included: member of the adjunct faculty for the School of Education at Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio); definitor (provincial councilor) of the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Saint Anthony Province; president of the pastoral council for the Archdiocese of Baltimore; regional associate for the National Catholic Educational Association; member of the Notre Dame Preparatory School Board; member of the Saint Thomas Aquinas School Board; member of the Cardinal Gibbons High School Board; associate of the Advancement Counsel; elected member of the Priests’ Council of the Diocese of Raleigh; member of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association; member of the Finance Council for the Diocese of Raleigh; and chair of the financial commission for Our Lady of Angels Province of the Franciscan Conventual Friars.

The Diocese of Charlotte is comprised of 20,470 square miles in the state of North Carolina and has a total population of 5,505,666, of which 546,370 are Catholic.


Vatican says abortion, surrogacy, war, poverty are attacks on human dignity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a Christian means defending human dignity and that includes opposing abortion, the death penalty, gender transition surgery, war, sexual abuse and human trafficking, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a new document.

"We cannot separate faith from the defense of human dignity, evangelization from the promotion of a dignified life and spirituality from a commitment to the dignity of every human being," Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, dicastery prefect, wrote in the document's opening section.

The declaration, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity"), was released at the Vatican April 8.

In the opening section, Cardinal Fernández confirmed reports that a declaration on human dignity and bioethical issues -- like abortion, euthanasia and surrogacy -- was approved by members of the dicastery in mid-2023 but Pope Francis asked the dicastery to make additions to "highlight topics closely connected to the theme of dignity, such as poverty, the situation of migrants, violence against women, human trafficking, war and other themes."

In February the cardinals and bishops who are members of the dicastery approved the updated draft of the document, and in late March Pope Francis gave his approval and ordered its publication, Cardinal Fernández said.

With its five years of preparation, he wrote, "the document before us reflects the gravity and centrality of the theme of dignity in Christian thought."

The title of the document is taken from an Angelus address St. John Paul II gave in Germany in 1980 during a meeting with people with disabilities. He told them, "With Jesus Christ, God has shown us in an unsurpassed way how he loves each human being and thereby bestows upon him infinite dignity."

The document is dated, "2 April 2024, the nineteenth anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II."

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, holds up a copy of the dicastery's declaration, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity") on human dignity during a news conference at the Vatican press office April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Cardinal Fernandez said initially the dicastery was going to call the document "Beyond all Circumstances," which is an affirmation by Pope Francis of how human dignity is not lessened by one's state of development or where he or she is born or the resources or talents one has or what one has done.

Instead, he said, they chose the comment St. John Paul had made.

The declaration noted that the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World also listed attacks on human dignity as ranging from abortion and euthanasia to "subhuman living conditions" and "degrading working conditions."

Members of the doctrinal dicastery included the death penalty among violations of "the inalienable dignity of every person, regardless of the circumstances" and called for the respect of the dignity of people who are incarcerated.

The declaration denounced discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and particularly situations in which people are "imprisoned, tortured and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation."

But it also condemned "gender theory" as "extremely dangerous since it cancels differences in its claim to make everyone equal."

Gender theory, it said, tries "to deny the greatest possible difference that exists between living beings: sexual difference."

The Catholic Church, the declaration said, teaches that "human life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual, is a gift from God. This gift is to be accepted with gratitude and placed at the service of the good."

Quoting Pope Francis' exhortation "Amoris Laetitia," the declaration said gender ideology "envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family."

Dicastery members said it is true that there is a difference between biological sex and the roles and behaviors that a given society or culture assigns to a male or female, but the fact that some of those notions of what it means to be a woman or a man are culturally influenced, does not mean there are no differences between biological males and biological females.

"Therefore," they said, "all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected."

Again quoting Pope Francis' exhortation, the declaration said, "We cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God's work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore."

"Any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception," it said. However, the declaration clarified that "this is not to exclude the possibility that a person with genital abnormalities that are already evident at birth or that develop later may choose to receive the assistance of healthcare professionals to resolve these abnormalities."

Members of the dicastery also warned about the implications of changing language about human dignity, citing for example those who propose the expressions "personal dignity" or "the rights of the person" instead of "human dignity."

In many cases, they said, the proposal understands "a 'person' to be only 'one who is capable of reasoning.' They then argue that dignity and rights are deduced from the individual's capacity for knowledge and freedom, which not all humans possess. Thus, according to them, the unborn child would not have personal dignity, nor would the older person who is dependent upon others, nor would an individual with mental disabilities."

The Catholic Church, on the contrary, "insists that the dignity of every human person, precisely because it is intrinsic, remains in all circumstances."

Pope Francis with members of the doctrinal dicastery
Pope Francis meets members of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Jan. 26, 2024. In the front row from left are: Cardinals Christoph Schönborn, Robert Prevost, Seán P. O'Malley, Peter Turkson, Victor Manuel Fernández, Claudio Gugerotti, Marc Ouellet, Fernando Filoni, John Onaiyekan and Stephen Mulla. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The acceptance of abortion, it said, "is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake."

"Procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth," it said.

The document also repeated Pope Francis' call for a global ban on surrogacy, which, he said, is "a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother's material needs."

Surrogacy, it said, transforms a couple's legitimate desire to have a child into "a 'right to a child' that fails to respect the dignity of that child as the recipient of the gift of life."

Extreme poverty, the marginalization of people with disabilities, violent online attacks and war also violate human dignity, the document said.

While recognizing the right of nations to defend themselves against an aggressor, the document insisted armed conflicts "will not solve problems but only increase them. This point is even more critical in our time when it has become commonplace for so many innocent civilians to perish beyond the confines of a battlefield."

On the issue of migrants and refugees, the dicastery members said that while "no one will ever openly deny that they are human beings," many migration policies and popular attitudes toward migrants "can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human."

The promotion of euthanasia and assisted suicide, it said, "utilizes a mistaken understanding of human dignity to turn the concept of dignity against life itself."

The declaration said, "Certainly, the dignity of those who are critically or terminally ill calls for all suitable and necessary efforts to alleviate their suffering through appropriate palliative care and by avoiding aggressive treatments or disproportionate medical procedures," but it also insisted, "suffering does not cause the sick to lose their dignity, which is intrinsically and inalienably their own."


Pope marks 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi's stigmata

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The wounds of Christ's passion and death and the stigmata given to some Christians over the centuries are reminders of "the pain Jesus suffered in his flesh out of love for us and for our salvation," Pope Francis said.

But, the pope said, the stigmata also is a reminder that through baptism Christians participate in Christ's victory over suffering and death because "it is precisely through his wounds that the mercy of the Risen, Crucified One flows to us as through a channel."

With a visiting group of Italian Franciscan friars from La Verna and from Tuscany April 5, Pope Francis joined celebrations of the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi receiving "the gift of the stigmata" after he had withdrawn to the hills of La Verna to pray and do penance in 1224.

The friars also brought to Pope Francis a reliquary containing blood from the stigmata of St. Francis, a reliquary that is making a pilgrimage to different Franciscan communities.

The stigmata, or sharing the wounds of Christ, Pope Francis told the friars, is a reminder that a Christian is part of "the body of Christ," not in name alone but in reality.

In the "communion of love," which is the church, he said, "each of us rediscovers who he or she is: a beloved, blessed, reconciled son or daughter, sent to give witness to the wonders of his grace and to be artisans of fraternity."

Pope Francis meets with Franciscans
Pope Francis meets with Italian Franciscan friars from La Verna and from Tuscany at the Vatican April 5, 2024, as part of the Franciscans' celebrations of the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis said that is why "Christians are called to address themselves in a special way to the 'stigmatized' they encounter: to those who are 'marked' in life, who bear the scars of the sufferings and injustices they have endured or the mistakes they have made."

St. Francis of Assisi can be a "companion on the journey," the pope said, supporting Christians and helping them "not to be crushed by difficulties, fears and contradictions, ours and those of others."

The stigmata for St. Francis was a call to return to what is essential, he said, and the celebrations of the eighth centenary should be a similar call to Franciscans today: "To be forgiven bears of forgiveness, healed bearers of healing, joyful and simple in fraternity; with the strength of the love that flows from the side of Christ and that is nourished in your personal encounter with him, to be renewed every day with a seraphic ardor that burns the heart."

Franciscans, he said, are called to bring to the church and the world "a little of that immense love that drove Christ to die on the cross for us."

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis offered a prayer to "St. Francis, man wounded by love" and "decorated with the holy stigmata."

"May our wounds be healed by the heart of Christ to become, like you, witnesses of his mercy, which continues to heal and renew the life of those who seek him with a sincere heart," the pope prayed. "O Francis, made to resemble the Crucified One, let your stigmata be for us and for the world resplendent signs of life and resurrection, to show new ways of peace and reconciliation."


Pope tells priests: Be icons of Christ, wipe tears like Veronica

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Priests are called to be "a true icon of Jesus," drawing closer to God the father by devoting their lives to the care of all God's children, Pope Francis wrote.

The pope met April 4 at the Vatican with Latin American priests doing graduate studies in Rome and living at the Mexican, Brazilian and Latin American colleges in the city. He handed them copies of his prepared text but did not read it.

Referring to the sixth station of the cross, Pope Francis wrote that priests must "become the 'Veronica' of every face, of every tear. How? By wiping them away with my priestly vestments."

The first way a priest does that, he said, is "by prayer, presenting each concrete situation to the presence of God: 'Lord, the one you love is suffering.'"

Pope Francis' brief text was focused on what he called "a central theme in the life of priests: Love."

As he often does with priests and members of religious orders, he encouraged the group to remember "the first love," God's love for them and God's call to them to dedicate their lives in service to him and to others.

Pope Francis autographs a book
Pope Francis autographs a copy of his book, "Life: My Story Through History," written with Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona, at a meeting with priests doing graduate studies in Rome and with the staffs of the pontifical Mexican, Brazilian and Latin American colleges of Rome in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 4, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

"Like every person," he wrote, "God has called us to be his children and, among them, he has entrusted us with a special task that brings us closer to him: to give ourselves for others. They are our raison d'être, the object of our love because in them we carry out this service that the Lord asks of us."

A priest must see every man, woman and child "as a member of that mystical Body whose head is Christ," he wrote.

The "oblative, eucharistic offering" priests are called to make is an offering of their whole lives, the pope said.

Pope Francis said Jesus asks priests what he asked James and John: "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?"

The question, he wrote, is not about some "theoretical readiness for martyrdom but a radical acceptance that we are here to do his will and renounce our own."

The third point Pope Francis raised in his text was about "humility," and especially the need for priests to recognize how much they need the prayers of others, including the prayers of those they think they are called to help.

"Trust in the prayers of all the members of the faithful People of God," he wrote, "and do not forget to pray for your pastors, and for me."

The pope ended with a prayer: "May Jesus bless you and may Our Lady of Guadalupe, empress of America, watch over you."