Vatican News Feed

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Pope Francis: Fresh violence in Syria's Eastern Ghouta is 'inhumane'

    Vatican City, Feb 25, 2018 / 04:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a week of heavy bombardment near Damascus left hundreds of civilians dead, Pope Francis has made an appeal for global leaders to rally in ending the siege, allowing civilians to evacuate and humanitarian aid to get in.

    “In these days my thought is often turned to the beloved and martyred Syria, where the war has exploded again, especially in Eastern Ghouta,” the Pope said Feb. 25, noting that this month marks one of the most violent since the Syrian conflict erupted seven years ago.

    Thousands of innocent lives have been claimed by the ongoing, bloody war, with several hundred more being added just this past week, many of whom are women, children and elderly, he said.

    “Hospitals have been hit, people can't get enough to eat...all of this is inhumane,” Francis said, stressing that “evil cannot be fought with another evil.”

    The Pope then issued “a heartfelt appeal” for global leaders to work to stop the violence, to allow humanitarian aid such as food and medicine into the area, and to ensure that the sick and wounded would be evacuated.

    Francis' appeal comes a week after Russian-backed Syrian forces launched a series of deadly airstrikes and artillery fire on besieged Easter Ghouta enclave, which sits just northeast of Damascus.

    Home to some 400,000 people, Eastern Ghouta is the last rebel-held area east of Damascus and has been a target of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces since 2013 in a bid to drive the rebels out.

    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fresh eruption of conflict in the area, which began Feb. 18, has so far left more than 500 civilians dead, of whom 121 are children. Aid groups also report that several hospitals in the area are now out of commission.

    After three days of deliberation to come up with a ceasefire deal, the U.N. Security Counsel yesterday voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for a 30-day calm to allow residents of the suburb to evacuate, and food and medicine to enter.

    However, reports indicate that just hours after the deal was accepted, the Syrian government launched a new  ground and air offensive in the area.

    Pope Francis' appeal, which he made during his Angelus address for the Second Sunday of Lent, asked pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to join him in praying that his plea would be answered “without delay.” He then led pilgrims in a moment of silence before reciting a Hail Mary.

    In his address, he focused on the transfiguration of Jesus in the day's Gospel reading from Mark, saying the announcement that he would be rejected, put to death and would then rise on the third day “put Peter and the group of the disciples into crisis,” since they had been expecting a powerful Messiah who would rule the nations.

    However, instead, Jesus presents himself “as a humble and meek servant of God and of men,” who was to give his life in sacrifice through persecution, suffering and a violent death.

    The transfiguration, Francis said, ultimately helps the disciples to face the Passion of Christ in a positive way, “without being overwhelmed” by it. It also helps both the disciples, and us, to understand that while Jesus' Passion is “a mystery of suffering,” it's above all “a gift of infinite love on the part of Jesus.”

    “The event of Jesus who transfigures himself on the mountain also helps us to better understand his resurrection,” the Pope said, explaining that if the transfiguration and God's declaration that “this is my beloved Son” had not happened before Jesus' Passion, neither this nor Jesus' rising in the Paschal mystery would be easily understood.

    In order to understand these events, he said, “it's necessary to know in advance that he who suffers and who is glorified is not only a man, but the Son of God, who with his love faithful to death has saved us.”

    Francis said that it's important, especially during Lent, to go up the mountain with Jesus and be with him and listen to his voice, allowing oneself to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

    “It's the experience of contemplation and prayer, of living not in avoidance of daily struggles, but of enjoying familiarity with God, in order to take up with renewed vigor the tiring path of the cross, which leads us to the resurrection.”

  2. Pope Francis returns to Rome after week of spiritual exercises

    Vatican City, Feb 23, 2018 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis returned from his week-long Lenten spiritual exercises in Ariccia, where he and members of the Roman Curia have been on their annual retreat since Sunday afternoon.

    Before boarding the bus that would take him back to Vatican City, Francis thanked the priest who preached the exercises for his reflections and for encouraging members of the Curia to be open to the Holy Spirit and not stuck in bureaucratic structures.

    “Thank you, Father, for having spoken of the Church, for having made us, this small flock, feel the Church,” the Pope said Feb. 23.

    He thanked Fr. José Tolentino de Mendonça for reminding them that “the Church is not a cage for the Holy Spirit,” and also voiced thanks for receiving a warning “not to shrink it with our bureaucratic worldliness!”

    Fr. Tolentino is a Portuguese priest, poet, and Biblical theologian who preached during the spiritual exercises, which this year focused on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”

    De Mendonça is vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and has been a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011. He was ordained a priest in 1990 and completed his master's degree in Biblical Studies in Rome before later obtaining a doctorate in biblical theology from the Portuguese Catholic University, where he later taught as an assistant professor.

    In his brief greeting at the end of the retreat, Pope Francis also thanked De Mendonça for helping them understand how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of non-believers and those of other religious confessions, saying the Holy Spirit is “universal, he is the Spirit of God, who is for everyone.”

    Francis noted that there are many people today like the centurions and the guards at Peter's prison who live with an “an inner search” and who know how to tell when there is “something that calls” them.

    He thanked De Mendonça for the call “to opening ourselves without fear, without rigidity, for being malleable in the Spirit and not mummified within our structures that close us off.”

    The Pope also noted how he had declared Friday as a day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria, saying the spiritual retreat is extended through the offerings they will make on behalf of the war-torn countries.

    Held Feb. 18-23, this year's curial Lenten spiritual exercises began Sunday evening with adoration and vespers. The rest of the week followed a basic schedule beginning with Mass at 7:30 a.m., followed by the first meditation of the day.

    In the afternoon, a second meditation was preached before concluding with adoration and vespers. Friday, the final day of the exercises, consisted of only a morning meditation. Pope Francis and the curia then left the retreat house, returning to the Vatican at 11:15 a.m.

    The exercises took place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

    While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

  3. A Catholic 'paradigm shift' would be corruption, not development – Cardinal Muller

    Vatican City, Feb 22, 2018 / 01:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The authentic development of doctrine is about making more explicit the revealed truths of faith, not changing, or “shifting,” Church teaching – and to use this idea to defend an agenda is wrong, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said.

    In an essay published Feb. 20 in First Things, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said there can be no such thing as a “paradigm shift” in the interpretation of Catholic doctrine, and to push for one is to contradict God’s commandments.

    Anyone who calls a major shift in the Church's teaching in moral theology a “praiseworthy decision of conscience… speaks against the Catholic faith,” wrote the 70-year-old prelate.

    The idea of a “paradigm shift” – a “fundamental change in theoretical forms of thought and social behavior” – with respect to “the form of the Church's being and of her presence in the world” is not possible,” Müller wrote, simply because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” as it says in Hebrews 13:8.

    “This is, in contrast, our paradigm, which we will not exchange for any other,” Müller stated.

    He also explained that the Pope and his fellow bishops have a duty to preserve the unity of faith and to prevent polarization and partisan mentalities. Therefore, it is also a duty of conscience to speak up in opposition when the term “pastoral change” is used by some to “express their agenda to sweep aside the Church’s teaching as if doctrine were an obstacle to pastoral care.”

    In his essay, he explained the concept of the “development of doctrine” in the Church as taught by Blessed John Henry Newman, and how it relates to debates on the interpretation of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia.

    Chapter eight of Amoris laetitia “has been the object of contradictory interpretations,” he said, stating that when a “paradigm shift” is spoken of in this context, it seems to be “a relapse into a modernist and subjectivist way of interpreting the Catholic faith.”

    According to Blessed Newman, a way to identify an authentic development of doctrine is to see if the surrounding cultural environment is growing in conformity with Christianity, not the other way around.

    “Thus, a paradigm shift, by which the Church takes on the criteria of modern society to be assimilated by it, constitutes not a development, but a corruption.”

    The formal principle is a category within Christian theology which distinguishes the source of the theological teaching from the teaching itself.

    In the Catholic Church, Müller said, the “proper method for interpreting revelation requires the joint workings of three principles, which are: Holy Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the Apostolic Succession of Catholic bishops.”

    He pointed out that the Protestant Reformation is an example in history of when a new formal principle was introduced, in this case, Scripture alone.

    “This new principle subjected the Catholic doctrine of the faith, as it had developed up to the sixteenth century, to a radical change,” he said. “The fundamental understanding of Christianity turned into something completely different.”

    Regarding debates surrounding the interpretation of Amoris laetitia, Müller noted that groups of bishops or individual bishops’ conferences have issued directives recently on the reception of the Eucharist by divorced-and-civilly-remarried people.

    He pointed out the teaching of St. John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, which says that “the divorced living in a new union must resolve to live in continence or else refrain from approaching the sacraments.”

    “Is there any logical continuity between John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortion. 84 … and the change of this selfsame discipline that some are proposing? There are only two options,” he said.

    “One could explicitly deny the validity of Familiaris Consortio n. 84, thus denying by the same token Newman’s sixth note, 'Conservative Action upon the Past.' Or one could attempt to show that Familiaris Consortio n. 84 implicitly anticipated the reversal of the discipline that it explicitly set out to teach. On any honest reading of John Paul II’s text, however, such a procedure would have to violate the basic rules of logic, such as the principle of non-contradiction.”

    Cardinal Müller added that “when cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity ask the pope for clarity on these matters, what they request is not a clarification of the pope’s opinion. What they seek is clarity regarding the continuity of the pope’s teaching in Amoris Laetitiawith the rest of tradition.”

    For the statements of bishops to be orthodox, “it is not enough that they declare their conformity with the pope's presumed intentions” in Amoris laetitia, he said.

    “They are orthodox only if they agree with the words of Christ preserved in the deposit of faith.”

  4. Pope Francis to youth: face your fears with discernment, courage

    Vatican City, Feb 22, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing youth around the globe, Pope Francis encouraged young people Thursday to face their fears with discernment and courage, looking to the Mother of God as their example.

    “What are your fears? What worries you most deeply? An ‘underlying’ fear that many of you have is that of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are,” Pope Francis said in his Feb. 22 message, saying that many insecurities arise from a “sense of inadequacy.”

    “For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God…and in life!” the Pope continued.

    Pope Francis’ words come ahead of the 33rd diocesan-level World Youth Day, which will take place March 25. This localized event is a preparation for the international World Youth Day, which is set to occur in Panama in 2019.

    The diocesan World Youth Day also coincides with the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will discuss the topic of “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Pope Francis called this a “happy coincidence,” which will place the gaze of the Church on young people.

    While many youth are ruled by their fears and hide behind “masks and false identities,” Pope Francis encouraged young people to remember the words from Scripture “do not be afraid,” which have been “repeated 365 times with different variation, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.”

    “In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary,” the Holy Father said, noting that it is also “indispensable when searching for one’s vocation.”

    While many see discernment as an individual process, Pope Francis said that it is rather an interior reflection on each person’s vocation, or “call from above.” Prayerful silence and dialogue with others, the Pope said, are necessary for the process of discernment.

    On this note, the Roman Pontiff pointed to the example of Mary and her witness of love despite her fears, which was “full of boldness and focused completely on the gift of self.”

    “Mary, like others in the Sacred Scriptures, trembles before the mystery of God’s call, who in a moment places before her the immensity of his own plan and makes her feel all her smallness as a humble creature,” Pope Francis said, noting her complete willingness even in the face of uncertainty.

    “The first reason not to fear is the fact that God has called us by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name,” Pope Francis continued, noting that God has also called “each of you by name.”  

    The angel’s words to Mary also ring true for youth today, the Pope said, noting that the all-knowing power of God will always sustain every individual, even amidst fear and darkness.

    “The Angel’s words descend upon our human fears, dissolving them with the power of the Good News of which we are heralds: our life is not pure chance or a mere struggle for survival, rather each of us is a cherished story loved by God,” Pope Francis said.

    However, the Pope said that courage is also needed for the youths of today to address their fears and discern what God wants for them, just as Mary did.

    “From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, and in every area of our lives,” the Holy Father said.

    Encouraging young people to face their fears with faith, discernment, and courage while looking to Mary as an example, Pope Francis said that the universal Church awaits the gift that all youths have to offer in their unique personhood.

    “Dear young people, the Lord, the Church, the world are waiting for your answer to the unique call that each one receives in this life!” the Pope said.

    “As World Youth Day in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves for our gathering with the joy and enthusiasm of those who wish to participate in such a great adventure… do you accept the challenge?”

  5. Attacks against India's Christians doubled in 2017

    New Delhi, India, Feb 21, 2018 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Compared to 2016, attacks against Christians in India by Hindu extremists more than doubled in 2017 amid efforts to label the religious minority a danger to the state.

    The persecution ranges from threats and physical violence to destruction of church property, but false allegations against Christians have also increased.

    "It is a new trend to accuse Christians of serious crimes," said Shibu Thomas, founder of the ecumenical forum Persecution Relief.

    The allegations are "a clear indicat[ion] that those opposed to Christians want to portray them as serious threats to the nation's safety and security," he told UCA News.

    According to a report from Persecution Relief, last year 736 incidents of attacks occurred throughout India compared to the 348 that happened in 2016. Most of these are "daring physical attacks," the report said, but the victims of these attacks were also accused of sedition, discrimination, and destruction of religious property.

    "When victims reach for police help, they find themselves accused of violations. … This is a dangerous sign. Unfortunately, the police are in league with fanatics and elects members support their actions," Thomas said.

    Attacks against Christians have increased since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014, naming Narendra Modi as prime minister.

    The party has now the largest representation in the country's parliament. A majority of the attacks stem from four of India's 29 states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh - three of which are governed by the BJP.

    "Christians are not safe anymore in India under the current situation," said Anil Andrias, who leads a protestant congregation in Uttar Pradesh.

    Andrias told UCA News that the persecution against Christians could be physical attacks and false allegations, but he also said Christians have been denied government services, such as collecting public water or using public roads.

    Christians make up 2.3 percent of India's population, with 80 percent identifying as Hindu.