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Christian pro-family group denied access to Virginia restaurant because of values

null / arturasker / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Dec 7, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A Christian pro-family organization in Virginia was told by a local restaurant that the organization would not be allowed to host a gathering there because of its values.

The Family Foundation — which has a mission of promoting biblical, family values in the state of Virginia — had a Nov. 30 reservation at the Metzger Bar and Butchery in Richmond in order to update some of their supporters on their work.

An owner of the restaurant contacted the organization an hour and a half before the event was to take place to inform them that their reservation was cancelled.

The owners of the restaurant put out a statement on social media Dec. 1 explaining their reasoning.

“Metzger Bar and Butchery has always prided itself on being an inclusive environment for people to dine in,” the statement says.

“In eight years of service we have very rarely refused service to anyone who wished to dine with us. Recently we refused service to a group that had booked an event with us after the owners of Metzger found out it was a group of donors to a political organization that seeks to deprive women and LGBTQ+ persons of their basic human rights in Virginia,” it says.

Victoria Cobb, vice president of The Family Foundation, condemned the restaurant’s actions, saying that discrimination toward someone because of their faith is against the law.

“There are those that do believe they violated the law, and certainly we think discriminating against people because of their faith is unlawful,” Cobb told CNA in an interview Wednesday.

“I don’t think anyone wants to think that we live in a country where there’s going to be restaurants that have a political litmus test or a religious litmus test at their door before somebody can walk in and have dinner,” she added.

The miracle that made the Immaculate Virgin patroness of Spain and its infantry

'Immaculate Conception' by Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1628. / null

CNA Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

While the dogma of the Immaculate Conception would not be proclaimed until 1854, the Church in Spain has long venerated Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.

In 1585 a miracle attributed to the Immaculate Conception allowed the Spanish troops to win the Battle of Empel in Holland. 

As part of the Holy Roman Empire’s House of Habsburg in the 16th century, Spain governed what was known as the Spanish Netherlands. However following the Protestant Reformation, the Protestant provinces revolted against Spanish rule, sparking a prolonged conflict for control of the region known as the Eighty Years' War. 

On the night of December 7-8, 1585, the situation of the troops of Emperor Philip II of Spain looked desperate.

The Tercio Viejo de Zamora infantry regiment commanded by Francisco Arias de Bobadilla was trapped by enemy forces at the Empel dike off the island of Bomel. The morale of his troops was low due to hunger and cold.

Bobadilla called his captains and ordered them to pray with faith so that God would deliver them from the dreadful fate that awaited them.

Soon, a soldier who was trying to dig a hole to take refuge from the wind and cold uncovered a wooden tablet with the image of the Immaculate Conception painted on it. Immediately, the image of Our Lady was taken in a procession to a nearby church.

After this act of devotion of the troops, a strange, miraculous event occurred: the surface of the waters froze almost in an instant. The Spanish troops were able to walk on foot over the ice and defeat the rebellious Dutch Protestant forces.

The same day, the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed patroness of the infantry of Flanders and Italy. The Virgin’s patronage of all the Spanish infantry, the oldest in the world, did not become official until 1892 by a Royal Order of the regent María Cristina.

The dogma and Spain

On Dec. 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary through the bull Ineffabilis Deus, declaring that "the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

But long before that, Spain was especially noted for its defense of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

The most remote precedent is found with the Visigothic monarch Wamba, who distinguished himself at the XI Council of Toledo in 675 as “defender of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.”

King Felipe IV, who reigned from 1621 to 1640, urged Pope Gregory XV to proclaim the dogma, though without success.

In 1761, King Carlos III established the “universal patronage of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in all the Kingdoms of Spain and the Indies.”

The Order of Carlos III has been the highest civil decoration awarded in Spain since 1771. Its emblem is an image of the Immaculate Virgin.

The statue located in the Spanish Plaza in Rome was placed there in view of the defense of this Marian dogma by the Spanish through the centuries.

The privilege granted to Spanish priests

In the 19th century, a special privilege was granted to the priests of the Church in Spain to wear a chasuble of the purest shade of blue on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

This is a notable exception, since the General Instruction of the Roman Missal establishes that the liturgical colors are white, green, red, violet, black and rose.

The use in Spain of the blue chasuble, however, has been on record since the 17th century, long before the proclamation of the dogma. Pope Pius VII first recognized it in 1817 for the Seville Cathedral for the feast of the Immaculate Conception and its octave.

This privilege was extended to the entire Seville archdiocese in 1879. Four years later, it was extended to all the dioceses of Spain.

In 1962 it was established that the liturgical vestments of this color were to be used in Spain only on the day of the solemnity and in the votive Masses of the Immaculate Conception.

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

Michigan church sues state over right to hire staff committed to Catholic teachings

null / Stephen Kiers/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 7, 2022 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

A Catholic parish in central Michigan is suing the state attorney general over the state Supreme Court’s recent redefinition of “sex” discrimination as encompassing sexual orientation and gender identity, arguing that the redefinition, among other things, threatens the parish’s ability to hire people who model the Church’s teachings. 

St. Joseph, the only parish in the town of St. Johns, about 30 minutes north of Lansing, also operates an elementary school. In a legal filing dated Dec. 5, lawyers for the parish argued that as a Catholic institution, St. Joseph hires employees and teachers who are expected to “uphold Catholic teachings in word and deed.” Parents and students, too, enter into an agreement with the school “to live their lives in a way that supports, rather than opposes, the mission of our school and our faith beliefs.”

A July ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court redefined “sex” in a 1976 Michigan anti-discrimination law, the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to include distinctions made based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Attorneys for the nonprofit law firm Becket argue that the redefinition of sex discrimination in Michigan threatens St. Joseph’s ability to advertise for and hire employees who model the teachings of the Catholic Church because the law does not include a religious exemption. 

“Michigan’s new understanding of ‘sex’ discrimination deems it unlawful for St. Joseph’s to follow the 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church, including its teaching that marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, that sexual relations are limited to marriage, and that human beings are created as either male or female,” the legal filing contends.

“St. Joseph’s religious decisions regarding how to advance its mission and ministry are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Michigan cannot force the Catholic Church to compromise its religious character simply as a function of its doors being open to all.”

In addition to Attorney General Dana Nessel, the suit names the state Department of Civil Rights. The parish is seeking an injunction barring the state from enforcing the anti-discrimination law in a way that violates the parish’s religious autonomy rights.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing expressed his support for the parish in a Dec. 6 statement. 

“For almost a century St. Joseph School has quietly and faithfully taught successive generations of children in the town of St. Johns to become good, saintly, and virtuous citizens who are formed by the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church on all matters of faith and morals,” Boyea wrote. 

“I therefore fully support the parish community of St. Joseph in seeking this important legal ruling to ensure that they — and all Catholic schools and institutions in Michigan — remain protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to continue their God-given mission into the next century and beyond.”

The legal filing notes that beyond its hiring practices, St. Joseph could be held liable for “sex” discrimination whenever biologically male students desire to use the female locker room or play on a female sports team; or if a biological male attendee at Mass wants to use the female restroom; or in the case of a person wishing to hold a same-sex wedding at the church. 

Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel for Becket, told the Lansing State Journal that St. Joseph is not interested in repealing the updated Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. 

“They’re not asking to invalidate the entire law,” she said. “They’re asking to be able to continue with their own religious beliefs and practices.”

Other lawsuits related to a redefinition of sex discrimination are making their way through U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court. On Monday, the court heard oral arguments in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a suit brought by a Colorado graphic artist and website designer who refuses to provide creative services that she says conflict with her Christian faith, including ones that celebrate same-sex weddings. Her case challenges Colorado officials, including the director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division. 

That case is similar to 2018’s Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a bakery rejected making a cake for a same-sex wedding because of its owner’s religious beliefs. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission argued that this was an instance of unjust discrimination, but the Supreme Court ruled the commission “showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating” the owner’s objection.

St. Colmcille, the Irish saint who went into exile after copying a book

Iona Abbey and nunnery, established 563 AD on the site of the monastery founded by St. Colmcille, also known as Columba. / Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

More than 1,500 years have passed since the birth of St. Colmcille, one of the trinity of Ireland’s patron saints, along with St. Patrick and St. Brigid. He is a figure of profound religious, cultural, and political significance and is also important to faith groups beyond Catholicism.

In 2021 a series of commemorative events marked 1,500 years since his birth, bringing Colmcille, also known as Columba, and his life, legend, and legacy back into focus.

St. Columba with cloak and shepherd's crook in a stained-glass window in St. Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle. Shutterstock
St. Columba with cloak and shepherd's crook in a stained-glass window in St. Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle. Shutterstock

Niall Comer, director of the Hyde Foundation and lecturer in Irish at Ulster University, explained Colmcille’s enduring significance and appeal: “Colmcille, or ‘the dove of the Church’, has a hugely important part to play in both the religious, political, and social history of Ireland, in particular the northwest and, indeed, in the western isles of Scotland.”

On Iona, a small island on the west coast of Scotland, St. Colmcille settled following his self-imposed exile from Ireland. The story of how an influential figure from the Irish and Celtic monastic tradition found himself in permanent exile in a remote Scottish isle is worthy of a “Name of the Rose” plotline. 

Jealous of a psalter owned by St. Finnian, Colmcille secretly copied it so that he could have a replica of his own. Outraged at this early Christian copyright breach, St. Finnian demanded the return of the duplicate. These were the days of illuminated manuscripts, a far cry from printed materials. The work involved in drafting such a psalter would have been both time-consuming and a work of significant beauty. In addition, Colmcille would likely have added his own style to the illuminated copy.

Colmcille refused, arguing that learning and wisdom should be shared, particularly on matters of faith. Adjudicating, the king of Ireland passed down the memorable verdict: “To every cow its calf and to every book its copy.” 

This angered Colmcille and thus began a sequence of disputes and battles, leading to the battle of Cúl Dreimhne, in what is modern-day Sligo, and culminating in his self-imposed exile from Ireland in shame, having caused bloodshed. Ireland’s loss was Scotland’s gain.

Comer explained: “Whilst he is mainly associated with the saint’s main foundation on Iona — probably founded around 562 — the monastic institutions he established would later spread throughout Ireland and Scotland, into the north of England, and his cultural influences would reach into the continent.”

I have loved the land of Ireland —  I cry for parting. (Colmcille's Exile)

Despite a life of exile, Colmcille’s appeal endures in the north and northwest of Ireland. Derry derives its name from Doire Colmcille, meaning Colmcille’s oak grove, for he founded a monastery there. In Gartan on Donegal, Colmcille’s birthplace in 521, several sites are directly associated with him. Indeed such is the affection and veneration in Donegal that in preparation for the 1,500 celebrations Bishop Alan McGuckian of Raphoe instituted a Camino-like walking pilgrimage through the county, marking the many sites associated with the saint along the way.

Pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey. The group celebrated Mass at the ruins of Iona Nunnery, a Benedictine convent founded in the 13th century. They then held a procession to Iona Abbey, rebuilt in the 20th century at the site of St. Columba’s community. Sancta Familia Media
Pilgrims traveled on foot and by ferry from the Scottish west coast, across the Isle of Mull, and to Iona Abbey. The group celebrated Mass at the ruins of Iona Nunnery, a Benedictine convent founded in the 13th century. They then held a procession to Iona Abbey, rebuilt in the 20th century at the site of St. Columba’s community. Sancta Familia Media

One stop-off point was a small boat trip to the remote windswept Tory Island, located eight miles out to sea in the Atlantic. Anyone who visits Tory typically leaves with an enduring memory of the voyage across a notorious stretch of water. On Tory, Colmcille founded a monastery, the remnants of which are still visible. These include an unusual Tau cross, which is thought to mark a monastic boundary. 

Early Christian Tau cross, West Town, Tory. Patrick J. Passmore
Early Christian Tau cross, West Town, Tory. Patrick J. Passmore

Speaking about Tory, Bishop McGuckian said: “There is an ancient Columban heritage on Tory. Tradition has it Colmcille himself founded the monastery on the island.” 

In his book “The Waves of Tory,” historian Jim Hunter explains: “In the sixth century St. Colmcille brought Christianity to the island and built a monastery with seven small chapels. There are several ecclesiastical remains from the early Christian era, the most ancient being the church of the seven. Tradition has it that Colmcille endowed the island clay with unique properties to ward off vermin and protect fishermen when at sea.

Comer pointed to the spread of Colmcille’s influence, evidenced by the Irish landscape.

“Place-name evidence of the saint’s influence remains extant in the wider area and stories told of the saint, in particular in ‘Beatha Cholmcille’ (‘The Life of Colmcille’) penned in the 16th century by Mánus Ó Domhnaill, contains a collection of stories which highlight the huge influence which the saint had on many aspects of life in Ireland. A significant cultural legacy is associated with this most influential of characters from Ireland’s history, and his influence has impacted many aspects of Irish life.”

This piece of walnut (gallchnó) was recovered from the campus grounds and carved by Ulster University graduate James McSparron to mark 1,500 years since the birth of Colm Cille — the “dove of the Church” — in 2021. Dr Niall Comer
This piece of walnut (gallchnó) was recovered from the campus grounds and carved by Ulster University graduate James McSparron to mark 1,500 years since the birth of Colm Cille — the “dove of the Church” — in 2021. Dr Niall Comer

Given the breadth of the Donegal saint’s influence in founding monasteries and his association with illuminated bibles and psalters, painstakingly copied in scriptoria in Colmcille-founded monasteries, it is intriguing to note that St. Patrick’s position as Ireland’s patron was cemented due to political factors: Patrick’s patronage being supported by the O’Neill clan, Colmcille by the less influential Donegal Cineal Conall.

The Arrival of St Colmcille. Painting by Tory Island artist Anton Meenan. The Waves of Tory/Tonnta Thoraí by Jim Hunter
The Arrival of St Colmcille. Painting by Tory Island artist Anton Meenan. The Waves of Tory/Tonnta Thoraí by Jim Hunter

Today Colmcille’s name is etched across Ireland on its landscape. Every visitor to Derry, every tourist who visits Donegal, and every viewer of the Book of Kells is touched by the legacy of St. Colmcille, whether they are aware of it or not. In the seventh century, Beccán, a hermit of Iona, wrote “Last Verses in Praise of Colmcille,” hailing him as wisdom’s champion.

“He possessed books, renounced fully claims of kinship: for love of learning he gave up wars, gave up strongholds,” the hermit wrote.

PHOTOS: ‘Life is Beautiful’ actor Roberto Benigni meets the pope

Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 08:17 am (CNA).

Pope Francis enthusiastically greeted Italian actor and comedian Roberto Benigni at the Vatican on Wednesday morning.

Benigni, best known for his Oscar-winning film “Life is Beautiful,” met privately with the pope to tell him about his latest project, a new show about St. Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media

The comic, who recited a line from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy from memory on the Oscars stage in 1999, now serves as the host of the Italian program based on St. Francis’ poem The Canticle of the Sun.

The show, “Francesco Il Cantico,” is currently streaming on Paramount Plus in Italy. Benigni also gave the pope a copy of the program on DVD, according to Reuters.

Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media

Greeting the pope with a hug, Benigni joked that the pontiff was “emanating light.”

Pope Francis told him not to exaggerate, to which the actor replied: “I have to exaggerate, I’m happy to be here.”

Journalists contradict allegations of ‘cover up’ against John Paul II before he was pope

St. John Paul II, circa 1992. / L'Osservatore Romano.

CNA Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Journalists investigating secular and Catholic Church sources in Poland have called into question allegations by a Dutch writer that St. John Paul II “covered up” sexual abuse while still a bishop in Poland.

On Dec. 2, Ekke Overbeek, a journalist from the Netherlands living in Poland, said he had found “concrete cases of priests abusing children in the Archdiocese of Krakow, where the future pope was archbishop. The future pope knew about it and transferred them anyway, which led to new victims.”

Overbeek referred to the case of the priest Eugeniusz Surgent and “many others” whom Karol Wojtyla allegedly “covered up.”

The Dutch publication NOS, in which Overbeek’s statements appeared, reported the journalist spent three years combing “Polish archives.”

“Almost all documents collected directly about Wojtyla have been destroyed. However, in other surviving documents, he is mentioned very often. And if you put them all together, they are pieces of a puzzle that give a picture of how he dealt with it,” the writer stated, without saying which archives he was referring to.

Polish journalists Tomasz Krzyżak and Piotr Litka of Rzeczpospolita published an investigation that countered Overbeek’s accusations, stating St. John Paul II did not cover up any abuse and consistently acted against such cases during his time as archbishop of Krakow from 1964 to 1978.

The reporters point out that the priest in question, Surgent, was not from the Archdiocese of Krakow but from the Diocese of Lubaczów.

As archbishop of Krakow, the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla made several decisions concerning Surgent, they explained, “within his competencies, leaving the final word on possible sanctioning of the priest to his ordinary, the bishop of Lubaczów.”

The journalists added that “the then archbishop of Krakow could not do anything about the fact that Surgent was working in two other dioceses.”

The Polish reporters also referred to another incident that illustrated how Cardinal Wojtyla at the time dealt with abuse, namely the case of priest Józef Loranc, who was accused of sexually abusing young girls.

“The absence of punitive measures by the ecclesiastical court does not cancel the crime and does not undo the guilt,” Cardinal Wojtyla wrote in a 1971 letter to Loranc after he was released from prison.

For Krzyżak and Litka, “this behavior” of the later Pope John Paul II “differs considerably from the practice of leniency toward those who had committed such crimes, which was common at the time.”

In the case of Loranc, a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow until his death in 1992, “Cardinal Wojtyla made immediate decisions in accordance with canon law. And while he gradually lifted canonical penalties and showed great mercy, he remained ever vigilant,” the journalists wrote.

When Cardinal Wojtyla learned of the case in 1970, his decision came just days after learning of the accusations against Loranc.

In a letter, the future Pope John Paul II stated that the accused priest was “suspended” and “could not exercise any priestly function” and would have to “live in the monastery for a certain period of time and make a retreat and receive help.”

The journalists said that Wojtyla “made all the necessary decisions at that moment: the quick removal of the priest from the parish, the suspension until the matter was resolved, and the obligation to live in a monastery,” where civil authorities then arrested him.

The case did not reach the Vatican, they said, because the provision directing what is now the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith — then the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — to deal with abuse cases was not issued until 2001. 

Although he was eventually allowed to celebrate Mass again, Loran could not return to the “canonical mission of catechesis of children and youth” or to the ministry of the confessional.

The Polish Bishops’ Conference, in a statement published Nov. 14, spoke of “increasingly hearing questions about John Paul II’s attitude toward the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people by the clergy and about his response to such crimes during his pontificate.” 

“It has been increasingly alleged that the pope did not deal adequately with such acts and did little to address the problem, or even covered it up,” the statement continued.

The bishops decried these as a “media assault” on St. John Paul II and his pontificate. The target of such criticisms was “his teaching expressed, for example, in encyclicals such as Redemptor hominis or Veritatis splendor, as well as in his theology of the body, which does not correspond to contemporary ideologies promoting hedonism, relativism, and moral nihilism.”

The statement was not the first time Polish Catholic leaders responded to allegations against St. John Paul II.

In December 2020, following criticism of the Polish pope in the wake of the McCarrick report, 1,700 professors at Polish universities and research institutes signed an appeal defending St. John Paul II.

The signatories included Hanna Suchocka, Poland’s first female prime minister; former foreign minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld; physicists Andrzej Staruszkiewicz and Krzysztof Meissner; and film director Krzysztof Zanussi.

The professors’ appeal followed an intervention by Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. In a Dec. 7, 2020, statement, Gądecki deplored what he called “unprecedented attacks” on St. John Paul II. He insisted that the pope’s “highest priority” was combating clerical abuse and protecting young people.

Pope’s cardinal advisers discuss Church’s efforts to prevent abuse

The Council of Cardinals meets with Pope Francis on Feb. 21, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

At Pope Francis’ meeting with his cardinal advisers this week, Cardinal Sean O’Malley reported on the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, now within the Roman Curia.

The Holy See press office said on Dec. 7 that the pope met with his council of advisers for a two-day meeting at the current papal residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

The members of the Council of Cardinals discussed the continental phase of the Synod on Synodality and the work of the most recent United Nations Climate Change Conference before listening to O’Malley’s briefing on the protection of minors. 

Earlier this year, Pope Francis made changes to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in his attempt to reform the Roman Curia with the new apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium.

The constitution placed the pontifical council within the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a move that led abuse survivor Marie Collins to express concern that the reform could lead to the body losing its independence.

O’Malley, who serves as president of the safeguarding commission, defended the independence of the commission and promised at a press conference in April that the commission would continue to “communicate directly to the Holy Father our recommendations and thoughts.”

Honduran Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu also took part in the Dec. 5–6 meeting.

They were joined by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, former president of the Governorate of Vatican City State; and Bishop Marco Mellino, secretary of the Council of Cardinals.

The group of cardinal advisers, formerly referred to as the C9 because it once had nine members, was established by Pope Francis in 2013 to “assist him in the governance of the universal Church” and publication of the new apostolic constitution. Vatican News now refers to the council as the C6.

The pope first established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the recommendation of the Council of Cardinals in December 2013 as a papal advisory body to improve the Church’s norms and procedures for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

The meeting lasted until 7 p.m. on Tuesday night and included an “assessment of the council’s progress in recent years,” according to the Vatican statement. The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is scheduled for April.

Pope Francis: Freedom is found in offering to God what is hardest to give up

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience, Dec. 7, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Dec 7, 2022 / 04:03 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke Wednesday about how freeing it can be to let go of the things that we are most attached to in life and place them in God’s “benevolent hands.”

In his general audience on Dec. 7, the pope said that in the face of rejection, when things do not go our way, it is good to remember that “only God knows what is truly good for us.”

Sometimes there can be a lesson from the Lord in a denial of what we want, the pope explained, adding: “This is not because he wants to deprive us of what we hold dear, but in order to live it with freedom, without attachment.”

“We can only love in freedom, which is why the Lord created us free, free even to say no to him,” Pope Francis said.

“Offering to him what we hold most dear is in our best interest. It allows us to live it in the best possible way and in truth, as a gift he has given us, as a sign of his gratuitous goodness, knowing that our lives, as well as the whole of history, are in his benevolent hands.”

General audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican's audience hall, Dec. 7, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
General audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican's audience hall, Dec. 7, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The pope pointed to the example of St. Paul, who wrote: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12–13).

Pope Francis underlined that in life, “we cannot control or predict” the future, our health, or what will happen to our loved ones. 

“What matters is that our trust is placed in the Lord of the universe, who loves us immensely and knows that we can build with him something wonderful, something eternal,” he said. “The lives of the saints show us this in the most beautiful way.”

In his weekly series of reflections on spiritual discernment, Pope Francis spoke about detachment and trust in God in his 11th catechesis.

General audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Dec. 7, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
General audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Dec. 7, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The pope noted that good decisions are not born out of fear, compulsion, or “emotional blackmail” but are made out of gratitude to God. 

He said that good choices could benefit all areas of our lives because they are “participation in God’s creativity.

“For example, if I make the decision to devote an extra half hour to prayer, and then I find that I live the other moments of the day better, that I am more serene, less anxious, I do my work with more care and zest, that even relations with some difficult people become smoother.”

Before the start of the general audience, the pope greeted Italian actor and comedian Roberto Benigni with a smile and a hug. 

Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with Roberto Benigni, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media

Also present at the audience was Andril Sadovy, the mayor of Lviv, Ukraine, who came to the Vatican with a delegation from the Unbroken Center, which provides prostheses for war victims.

The pope delivered his weekly spiritual reflection while seated near a Nativity scene recently set up inside the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall in preparation for Christmas. 

Pope Francis visiting this year's nativity scene on St. Peter's Square, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis visiting this year's nativity scene on St. Peter's Square, Dec. 7, 2022. Vatican Media

The pope also made a quick trip after the audience by car to visit the wooden Nativity scene set up in St. Peter’s Square. 

In his greeting to English-speaking pilgrims, the pope thanked Catholics who traveled from Australia, India, Singapore, and the United States to be present at the audience.

He said: “I pray that each of you and your families may experience a blessed Advent in preparation for the coming at Christmas of the newborn Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world.”

Baltimore seals documents related to clerical sexual abuse report

A view of Baltimore's Basilica nestled amid the city's famed row houses / Public domain

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 6, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

A judge in Baltimore this week ordered all proceedings, filings, and communications related to the release of a major attorney general’s report on clerical sexual abuse to be made confidential. 

Judge Anthony Vittoria of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City issued a confidentiality ruling Dec. 2 in response to a request from an anonymous group of people named in the report but who were not accused of abuse, the Baltimore Sun reported.

At issue is a 456-page report compiled by the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, consisting of information given by the Archdiocese of Baltimore along with information gathered from interviews that claims to identify more than 600 victims of clerical abuse in the archdiocese dating back eight decades. It is currently unclear whether the report will lead to any new criminal charges.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is paying the legal fees for the anonymous group of individuals, said it “does not and will not oppose the report’s release.”

“We stated this fact last week, when we also pledged to support the rights of some people who are mentioned in the report but not accused of abuse — and were not given the ability to respond to the attorney general during the investigation,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said in a Dec. 2 statement.

“Now they deserve to be heard by the court, and we will pay their legal fees to ensure they are heard. I find it necessary to clarify this fact, which we openly stated after Attorney General Frosh publicly released his motion requesting permission from the court to release his office’s report. This does not mean the archdiocese will in any way seek to keep the report from being made public, as some have suggested.”

In a 35-page legal motion dated Nov. 17, Frosh had asked permission from a judge to release the documents provided by the archdiocese, which were given in response to a January 2019 subpoena from a grand jury. Vittoria’s ruling retroactively seals all previous filings in the matter, including that motion to disclose the report, the Sun reported. 

Going forward, the legal processes of releasing the full report will not be disclosed to the public because of the confidentiality order. Should the full report be released, it will likely be redacted. 

Lori apologized to victims of abuse in a November letter and reiterated the archdiocese’s current zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

“Upon reading today’s motion, we feel renewed shame, deep remorse, and heartfelt sympathy, most especially to those who suffered from the actions of representatives of the very Church entrusted with their spiritual and physical well-being,” Lori said in a Nov. 17 statement.

“The information contained in the motion will no doubt be a source of renewed pain for many, most especially those harmed by representatives of the Church, for the lay faithful of our archdiocese, as well as for many good priests, deacons, and religious,” Lori said.

“Ever-aware of the pain endured by survivors of child sexual abuse, I once again offer my sincere apologies to the victim-survivors who were harmed by a minister of the Church and who were harmed by those who failed to protect them, who failed to respond to them with care and compassion and who failed to hold abusers accountable for their sinful and criminal behavior,” Lori added.

Frosh says the report names 115 priests who were prosecuted for sexual abuse and/or identified publicly by the archdiocese as having been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse. It also includes an additional 43 priests — 30 of whom are deceased, and the identities of the rest redacted — accused of sexual abuse “but not identified publicly by the archdiocese,” for a total of 158 names.

The archdiocese’s online list of credibly accused clergy includes 152 names, including many priests from other dioceses or religious orders and 17 religious brothers who served in or had a connection to the archdiocese, the Catholic Review reported. The list was last updated in June.

Addressing the apparent discrepancy between the number of priests named in the attorney general’s report and the number of credibly accused priests listed by the archdiocese, Lori said that the archdiocesan list does not include the names of priests or brothers who died before a single accusation of child abuse was received, unless the allegation could be corroborated by a third party or unless a second allegation was made against the same deceased cleric.

Hundreds of fans of soccer legend Pelé pray in front of hospital for his recovery

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Dec 6, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

More than a hundred Santos Soccer Club fans gathered Sunday in front of the hospital in Brazil where Pelé, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, is undergoing treatment, to pray for his recovery.

The ACESSA.com website reported that around 1 p.m. on Dec. 4, fans formed a circle, lit candles, held hands, and prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary, followed by a round of applause.

“We are here with spiritual strength so that, in this very difficult moment that the King is going through, he can rise up with more strength, because this battle is one of the toughest of his life,” Marcos Bispo dos Santos, an admirer of the three-time world champion with the Brazilian team, told   Agence France-Presse.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, has been hospitalized since Nov. 29 at Albert Einstein Hospital on Sao Paulo’s south side to reevaluate a treatment for colon cancer, which was diagnosed in September 2021.

The hospital reported Dec. 3 that Pelé is in stable condition and responded well to treatment for a respiratory infection detected during the week.

“I want everyone to stay calm and positive. I’m strong, with a lot of hope, and I’m following my treatment as always,” the 82-year-old sports idol said on Instagram.

“I have a lot of faith in God and every message of love I receive from you around the world keeps me energized. And look at Brazil in the World Cup too!” he added.

The former soccer player’s health has deteriorated in recent years also due to other causes, such as spinal, hip, and knee problems, which have reduced his mobility and forced him to undergo surgery, in addition to suffering from serious kidney problems.

“We hope that Pelé recovers, we know that this is a very difficult moment in his life. This is just a tribute from people who are from Santos, so that they know that we are here cheering him on and praying for him,” said fan Ciro Estivalli Dos Santos.

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