Vie de l'église

Before synod retreat, pope prays for listening instead of polarization

On the eve of a three-day spiritual retreat for participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis prayed that members of the church may embrace silence to listen to the voice of God and one another.

« Silence, in the ecclesial community, makes fraternal communication possible, where the Holy Spirit draws together points of view, » the pope said to members of the synod, Christian leaders and young people in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 30. « To be synodal is to welcome one another like this, in the knowledge that we all have something to share and to learn, gathering together to listen to the spirit of truth in order to know what the Lord is saying to the churches. »

Synod participants were scheduled to spend three days together at a spiritual retreat outside Rome before the synod assembly formally opens Oct. 4.

Seated before the San Damiano cross, in front of which St. Francis of Assisi said he heard Jesus tell him to « rebuild my church, » Pope Francis prayed that « the synod be a ‘kairos’ (moment) of fraternity, a place where the Holy Spirit will purify the church from gossip, ideologies and polarization. »

Alongside Pope Francis were the leaders of 12 Christian churches and communities, including Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II and the Rev. Anne Burghardt, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Some 4,700 young people from 51 countries and belonging to different Christian traditions also were present in the square, according the ecumenical Taizé Community which organized the event. The Vatican said some 18,000 in total were present.

Many of the young participants in the prayer vigil completed a pilgrimage through Rome, walking to St. Peter’s Square after a time of praise and worship at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, on the other side of the city.

Pope Francis told the group that just as silence is necessary to listen to the different perspectives that exist within the Catholic Church, « silence is essential for the journey of Christian unity. »

Silence « is fundamental to prayer, and ecumenism begins with prayer and is sterile without it, » he said. « The more we turn together to the Lord in prayer, the more we feel that it is he who purifies us and unites us beyond our differences. »

To put the vigil’s message into action, eight minutes of silence was observed in the ornate square which was decorated with Dutch flowers. Earlier in the day, Pope Francis had created 21 new cardinals at a consistory in the square.

The pope noted that the silence that fell upon the square was « not an empty silence, but a moment filled with faith, expectation and readiness. »

« In a world full of noise, we are no longer accustomed to silence; indeed sometimes we struggle with it, because silence forces us to face God and ourselves, » he said. « Yet it lies at the foundation of the word and of life. » 

Before the vigil, young people from Lebanon, Indonesia and Slovenia shared their experiences of participating in the Catholic Church’s synodal journey. Tilen from Slovenia shared that he was struck by how a single question could start an « all-night series of listening, disagreeing, growing, and seeing how taking the time to listen to each other helped us to go deeper. »

Ukrainian children dressed in traditional outfits and Nigerian musicians performed before for the vigil, which was accompanied by music from the Taizé Community.

Joined at the center of the stage by the other church leaders, Pope Francis closed the prayer vigil by praying that the Holy Spirit would fill the synod participants with « wisdom and courage in order to be servants of communion and bold witnesses of your forgiveness in today’s world. » 

Vie de l'église

Pope encourages new cardinals to resemble a symphony: Diverse, but harmonious

Pope Francis on Sept. 30 elevated 21 Catholic prelates from around the world — including the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador — to the rank of cardinal, telling the men who will one day elect his successor that they should resemble a symphony orchestra: diverse and with varied contributions, but always working toward harmony. 

« A symphony thrives on the skillful composition of the timbres of different instruments: each one makes its contribution, sometimes alone, sometimes united with someone else, sometimes with the whole ensemble, » said the pope in a pomp-filled ceremony in St. Peter’s Square. « Diversity is necessary; it is indispensable. However, each sound must contribute to the common design. »

The pope had announced on July 9 that he would create new cardinals. The formal Sept. 30 ceremony, known as a consistory, comes on the eve of the Oct. 4 opening of the Synod of Bishops, during which some 450 bishops and lay leaders will meet at the Vatican for the synod on synodality, a high-stakes summit on the future of the church. 

In many ways, the monthlong synod assembly will mark a stark juxtaposition from the Sept. 30 Vatican ceremony. 

While the consistory of new cardinals spotlights so-called « princes of the church, » who receive gold rings and new scarlet vestments, the synod is expected to discuss how the church’s institutions and ministries might be reformed to include greater participation of all its members, and for the first time ever, will grant lay Catholics a right to vote in its proceedings. 

Under a sun-drenched, though somewhat sparsely crowded St. Peter’s Square, the pope tasked the new cardinals — his new orchestra members — to represent « the harmony and the synodality of the church. » 

« This is why mutual listening is essential, » he said. « Each musician must listen to the others. If one listens only to himself, however sublime his sound may be, it will not benefit the symphony; and the same would be the case if one section of the orchestra did not listen to the others, but played as if it were alone, as if it were the whole. » 

Reflecting on his own role, Francis said that the orchestra’s conductor must listen more than anyone else.

« His job is to help each person and the whole orchestra develop the greatest creative fidelity: fidelity to the work being performed, but also creative, able to give a soul to the score, to make it resonate in the here and now in a unique way. orchestra, in order to learn to be an ever more symphonic and synodal church. »

Today’s Vatican ceremony is the ninth — and largest — consistory of Francis’ decade-long papacy, where he has continued to leave his imprint on the elite body of men who both serve as his closest collaborators and will one day decide who succeeds him. 

18 of the newly created cardinals are under age 80 and thus eligible to participate in a future conclave. Three are over 80, and being recognized for their service to the Vatican or wider church.

Meditating in his Sept. 30 homily on a scripture passage from the Acts of the Apostles and the first Pentecost — sometimes referred to as the « birthday of the church » — the pope said that those gathered in Jerusalem were « ‘from every nation under heaven,’ just like the bishops and cardinals of our time. »

This consistory — which includes individuals from countries that include Malaysia, South Sudan and Tanzania — continues the pope’s efforts to make the College of Cardinals more diverse and less European. Under his watch, the pope has given the cardinal’s red hat to men from 27 countries that have never before been represented in the college.

According to an analysis from the Pew Research Center, since Francis’ election in 2013, the percentage of European cardinals has dropped from 52% in 2013 to 39% in 2023. Consequently, there have been increases in Asia Pacific representation from 9% to 18%; sub-Saharan African from 9% to 13%; and in Latin American from 16% to 18%. 

As of Sept. 30, there are now 136 members of the College of College under age 80. Of those, Francis has named 99 members, or nearly 73% of the voting age cardinals, along with 29 created by Pope Benedict XVI and nine created by Pope John Paul II. 

(This figure does not include Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who remains a cardinal in title but renounced « the rights connected to the cardinalate » in September 2020 due to a series of financial scandals for which he is now on trial at the Vatican. Becciu has maintained his innocence.)

The creation of 18 new cardinal electors by the 86-year-old Francis now puts the total number of cardinal electors well above the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI in 1975, though, by the end of 2024, 19 cardinals will reach age 80 and lose their right to vote in a conclave. Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI also exceeded that number at various points during their papacies.

Included in this new crop of cardinals are the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who hails from France and has represented the Holy See in postings throughout the globe; American-born Archbishop Robert Prevost, who oversees the appointments of Catholic bishops worldwide; and the new head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, a fellow Argentine and longtime theological adviser to Francis. 

The pope also bestowed the red hat to several cardinals in delicate geopolitical hotspots, including Bishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong, where at the moment the Vatican’s tense relationship with mainland China looms large; the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is tasked with navigating longstanding tensions between Israelis and Palestinians; and Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of war-torn Juba, South Sudan, the world’s youngest country. 

In an interview with NCR on the eve of the consistory, Pierre echoed the pope’s call for unity in the church, while at the same time acknowledging the sometimes slow reception of Francis’ pastoral agenda among U.S. church leaders. 

« The pope is not an idea. Some people say ‘I am with the pope, but not with this one.’ And they are mistaken, » Pierre said on Sept. 29, later adding: « If the pope says something, don’t criticize him. Make an examination of conscience. »

Speaking to the new cardinals on Sept. 30, Francis encouraged them not to be defined by past traditions, saying that the church must not « live off of an archeological patrimony, however precious and noble. » 

« The church, and every baptized member, lives the today of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, » said Francis. 

Here is the full list of the 18 new cardinal electors:

  • Robert Prevost, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops;
  • Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches; 
  • Víctor Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith;
  • Emil Tscherrig, a retired career Vatican diplomat;
  • Christophe Pierre, Vatican ambassador to the United States;
  • Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem;
  • Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa; 
  • Ángel Sixto, Archbishop of Córdoba, Argentina;
  • Luis José Rueda Aparicio, Archbishop of Bogotá, Colombia; 
  • Grzegorz Ryś, Archbishop of Łódź, Poland;
  • Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, Archbishop of Juba, South Sudan;
  • José Cobo Cano, Archbishop of Madrid;
  • Protase Rugambwa, coadjutor Archbishop of Tabora, Tanzania; 
  • Sebastian Francis, Bishop of Penang, Malaysia; 
  • Stephen Chow, Bishop of Hong Kong; 
  • François-Xavier Bustillo, Bishop of Ajaccio, France; 
  • Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar, Auxiliary Bishop of Lisbon, Portugal; 
  • Ángel Fernández Artime, Superior General of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

The new cardinals over 80 are:

  • Agostino Marchetto, a retired Vatican diplomat and noted historian of the Second Vatican Council; 
  • Diego Rafael Padrón Sánchez, retired Archbishop of Cumaná, Venezuela; 
  • Luis Pascual, a Capuchin confessor of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Pascual, who is 96, was unable to travel to Rome for the ceremony).
Vie de l'église

Baltimore Archdiocese files for bankruptcy before law on abuse lawsuits takes effect

The Archdiocese of Baltimore on Friday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization days before a new state law goes into effect removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims and allowing victims to sue their abusers decades after the fact.

The step will allow the oldest diocese in the United States « to equitably compensate victim-survivors of child sexual abuse » while the local Catholic church continues its mission and ministries, Archbishop William Lori said in a statement posted on the archdiocese website.

But attorneys and advocates said the church is simply trying to protect its assets and silence abuse victims by halting all civil claims against the archdiocese and shifting the process to bankruptcy court, a less transparent forum.

Michael McDonnell, interim executive director of the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Baltimore archdiocese is following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions across the country that have similarly sought bankruptcy protection to offset settlement costs and avoid further scrutiny.

« Catholic bishops are employing the same deception from coast to coast, » he said. « Cover up child sex offenses while maintaining the ministry of the abusers. Next, oppose any modifications to the statute of limitations that might make those offenses more visible. Finally, go to federal bankruptcy courts and act as though you have run out of money when secular laws offer a window to justice. When will church officials make true amends? »

While the archdiocese itself can’t be sued now, other entities such as Catholic schools and individual parishes still can under the new state law, which goes into effect Sunday (Oct. 1).

Maryland lawmakers passed the law in April, weeks after the state attorney general released a nearly 500-page investigative report detailing the scope of child sexual abuse and cover-up within the nation’s oldest Catholic diocese. The report lists more than 150 clergy who were credibly accused of abusing over 600 victims dating back several decades. It paints a damning picture of the archdiocese.

Rob Jenner, a Baltimore attorney representing abuse victims, said the bankruptcy decision deals them yet another blow. The fact that church leaders waited until the last minute adds insult to injury because victims spent months getting their hopes up, meeting with lawyers and reliving the abuse, he said.

« It’s just a further locking of the file cabinet doors to keep victims from seeing the full weight and scope of wrongdoing, » he told The Associated Press. « It’s so defeating. »

Jenner held a press conference earlier Friday to preview some of the lawsuits he plans to file.

One of the plaintiffs, Kimberly Mills-Bonham, will see her case relegated to bankruptcy court because the school where her alleged abuse occurred has since closed. Mills-Bonham alleges abuse at the hands of Fr. Joseph Maskell, one of the most notorious abusers named in the attorney general’s report, starting when she was 9. Maskell is featured in the Netflix docuseries « The Keepers » about child sexual abuse and coverup in the Baltimore Archdiocese.

Mills-Bonham was crushed when she received the bankruptcy news, Jenner said.

« She saw it as yet another form of abuse, » he said. « She does not understand how they can get away with this. »

David Lorenz, Maryland state director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Chapter 11 filing effectively waters down the rights afforded to victims under the new law. He said once the bankruptcy proceeding ends, the judge will divide a settlement among people who file claims, closing the window for victims to continue coming forward.

« There are a bunch of things about this that are really wrong, » Lorenz said. « It shows a level of moral bankruptcy. »

But Lori argued the move is the best way to compensate survivors since the archdiocese’s resources would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation, perhaps after only a small number of cases had been decided.

« Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources, leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation, while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support, » he said.

On Sunday, Maryland will end the state’s statute of limitations for when civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse can be filed against institutions, though the archdiocese will now be exempt during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Many victims are already poised to file lawsuits. Lawmakers included a provision in the law that would put claims on hold until the Supreme Court of Maryland can decide on the law’s constitutionality, if it’s challenged on legal grounds. So the cases will likely be delayed.

Earlier in the week, Maryland’s attorney general released some previously redacted names in its investigative report, but the names of five Catholic Church leaders remained redacted amid ongoing appeals, prompting criticism of the church by victims’ advocates.

Joanne Suder, another Baltimore attorney who represents victims, said she expected the archdiocese’s bankruptcy filing.

« I’m not surprised, » she told The Associated Press. « I think part of that is to continue trying to keep facts from coming forward in the public. »

Lori said the financial reorganization is expected to take two to three years and involve several steps. He said the bankruptcy court will begin accepting claims from victims who wish to enter into negotiations « with the hope of agreeing to a plan that includes a trust fund to provide compensation. » He said he hopes the process will bring victims solace.

Their attorneys, meanwhile, pledged to continue fighting the archdiocese in court.

« Little does the Archdiocese of Baltimore know the strength and resilience of the survivors who have come forward, » said Jeff Anderson, an attorney specializing in child sex abuse cases whose firm has offices across the country. « We will continue to stand by them and vigorously advocate for them in the bankruptcy process. »

Denise Lavoie reported from Richmond, Virginia; Sarah Brumfield reported from Silver Spring, Maryland; Tiffany Stanley reported from Washington, D.C.; John Raby reported from Charleston, West Virginia, and Ben Filney reported from Norfolk, Virginia.

Vie de l'église

Unions are back. Biden (and the Catholic Church) are right to join the picket lines.

President Joe Biden went to the General Motors parts distribution warehouse in Van Buren Township, Michigan, where he joined the United Auto Workers’ picket line

« The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 … you made a lot of sacrifices, » Biden said. « You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now they’re doing incredibly well and guess what? You should be doing incredibly well. » 

Biden was the first sitting president to join a picket line. In fact, there have not been a lot of major strikes in recent years, certainly not when compared to the postwar era. We think of the late 1940s and 1950s as times of social cohesion and even conformity, but they were times of frequent strikes. Almost 5% of the entire workforce was on strike at some point during the year 1952! Those years also witnessed the most widespread prosperity in U.S. history, with a growing middle class, relatively low income inequality, and substantial wage growth. We could do with some more conformity like that! 

The UAW strike is not the only example of much-needed labor activism. According to Politico, the Union of Southern Service Workers is attempting to organize low-wage service workers throughout the South. The International Association of Machinists just scored two organizing victories in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Screenwriters reached a tentative deal in Hollywood, but actors are still in negotiations. On the other hand, efforts to extend last year’s first-ever organizing win at Amazon have stalled, as The Guardian reports.

In 2012, Jordan Weissmann published a famous article in The Atlantic entitled « 60 Years of American Economic History, Told in 1 Graph. » It showed how the lowest quintile did best in the ’50s and ’60s and how, starting in the ’70s, the decrease in the percentage of the workforce in unions combined with the rise of the financial sector to flip the economic rewards of growth. The top quintile started doing best in the 1980s and that trend has not changed.

The economic disenfranchisement of the middle and working classes was the most critical component, though not the only one, in the societal alienation that Donald Trump has figured out how to harness into the most dangerous political movement in American history. 

Trump also went to Michigan this week, but he just can’t break his cocoon of narcissism long enough to demonstrate anything like genuine solidarity with workers. As The Washington Post reported, « Trump offered his support to striking members of the United Auto Workers but demanded the union’s official endorsement or else warned of their imminent extinction. » Good luck getting between the UAW rank-and-file and union president Shawn Fain at any time, but especially in the middle of a strike. The only person who would think it possible to cause such a breach would be a real estate guy with a track record of treating workers shabbily, someone like Trump.

While inflation has been the most visible economic reality of the past few years, the fact is that low wage workers have done better in the past three years than other workers, partly because of the shape of the post-COVID economy, and partly because of Biden’s economic policies. 

If those gains are to be consolidated, we will need to exercise solidarity with workers. Wednesday, I was at a hotel in New York which had no restaurant or even coffee service in the morning. Finding workers in traditionally low wage service jobs has become very hard, pushing up wages in most places and, in others, forcing businesses to adapt. I asked the manager where I could grab a cup of coffee at 6:30 in the morning and he said there was a Starbucks next door. « Is it union? » I asked. « I don’t think so, » he replied. I went to a bodega a few blocks away. The coffee might not have been as tasty, but if enough people start seeking alternatives to Starbucks, the corporate bigwigs will notice. 

If you are planning a meeting, do you make sure it is booked at a union hotel? The Fair Hotel guide, sponsored by Unite Here, which represents hotel workers, is an exceedingly easy way to make sure the hotel you are planning to use is not in a labor dispute, or at risk of such a dispute. 

Catholics need to stand with the working people of this country — and of other countries. Trade deals like NAFTA managed to harm workers both in the developed world and in the underdeveloped world. Trade pacts usually have language that seemingly protects workers in underdeveloped countries, but when you read the fine print, labor disputes must be resolved in U.S. courts and there are not a lot of workers in Malaysia or Vietnam or El Salvador who can afford a New York law firm. 

Starting with Rerum Novarum in 1891, the magisterium has taught that workers have a right to organize. That teaching has been reaffirmed by Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. That is a lot of popes. Some bishops in the U.S. understand that unions are schools of solidarity. Most don’t. Cardinal Blase Cupich, whose talk this week (Sept. 26) at Fordham University focused on creating an « integral ethic of solidarity, » is the exception. He should be the rule.

Seeing the second Catholic president stand with the workers outside the GM distribution center was a reminder of the once vibrant alliance between the Catholic Church and organized labor. That alliance was both a herald to and an epitomization of a healthy society in which solidarity was understood to be more important than profit. However disappointed Catholics are in Biden’s immigration and abortion policies, when it comes to unions, he does the teachings of his church proud.

Vie de l'église

Papal commission asks synod make safeguarding a bigger priority

The synod on synodality should dedicate substantial discussion to addressing sexual abuse in the church and include the voices of survivors, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said.

« We ask that sexual abuse in the church permeate your discussions as they address teaching, ministry, formation and governance, » the commission said in a written « Call to Action » released Sept. 27.

« While at times it may seem like a daunting set of questions to face, please rise to the challenge so that you may address, in a comprehensive way, the threat posed by sexual abuse to (the) church’s credibility in announcing the Gospel, » it added.

The 19-member international papal commission, led by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, released the call to action on occasion of the upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican and the consistory for the creation of new cardinals Sept. 30.

The three top priorities, the commission said, were: greater « solidarity with victims and survivors in light of ongoing revelations of abuse »; increased commitment and resources by church leaders to promote safeguarding everywhere; and giving safeguarding a more prominent place in discussions at the synod on synodality.

« The reality of sexual abuse in our church goes to the heart of the synod’s agenda, » it said. « It permeates discussions on leadership models, ministry roles, professional standards of behavior and of being in right relationship with one another and all of creation. »

« We urge you to dedicate meaningful time and space to integrate the testimony of victim/survivors into your work, » it said, as well as the experience synod participants have had in « confronting or dealing with sexual abuse in the church. »

The church and its members must aim for a number of « long-overdue goals, » it said, including:

— Being a place of welcome, empathy and reconciliation for those impacted by abuse and a strong advocate « against the endemic complacency of those in the church and society that silence these testimonies, minimize their significance and stifle hope for renewal. »

— Taking « full account and full responsibility for the wrongs done to so many in its care. »

— Protecting all children with « appropriate safety policies and procedures, ones that are known and verified. »

— Having well-run, « transparent and accessible systems of redress for wrongdoing by the church’s ministers. »

— Implementing and taking responsibility for « robust safeguarding » in dioceses, parishes, schools, hospitals, retreat centers, houses of formation and everywhere the church is present and active.

The commission urged synod participants to work toward these goals, « not just for one or two days during your gathering, but to consider them throughout the entire synod process. »

« Their achievement will be a singular sign of the synod’s success, a sign that we are walking with the wounded and the forgotten as disciples of the one Lord, in search of a better way, » it said.

The commission also said that « recent publicly reported cases point to tragically harmful deficiencies in the norms intended to punish abusers and hold accountable those whose duty is to address wrongdoing. »

« We are long overdue in fixing the flaws in procedures that leave victims wounded and in the dark both during and after cases have been decided, » it said, adding that the commission will continue to study what is not working and to press for necessary changes.

It also called for conversion among all church leaders as « deep frustrations remain, especially among those seeking justice for the wrongs done to them. »

« No one should have to beg for justice in the church. The unacceptable resistance that remains points to a scandalous lack of resolve by many in the church that is often compounded by a serious lack of resources. »

As the College of Cardinals gathers for the Sept. 30 consistory, it said, « we call upon all those in the sacred college to remember victims and their families and to include as part of their oath of fidelity a commitment to remain steadfast in honoring those impacted by sexual abuse by uniting with them in the common pursuit of truth and justice. All bishops and religious superiors should echo this commitment. »

« Together with all those who are worn down by abuse and its consequences, we say, ‘Enough!’  » the commission’s statement said.

Vie de l'église

Pope says his new ecology document is titled ‘Laudate Deum’

Pope Francis said the title of his new letter on the environment will be « Laudate Deum, » (Praise God), a frequent refrain in several psalms, including Psalm 148, which tells the heavens and the angels and the sun and moon to praise the Lord.

The new document, expected to be released Oct. 4, is what the pope has described as a follow-up to his 2015 encyclical « Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. »

Pope Francis revealed the title of the new document during a meeting Sept. 21 at the Vatican with rectors of Catholic and public universities from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. He did not have a prepared text for the audience, but instead responded to questions. Vatican News in Spanish published a summary of his responses late Sept. 25.

The new document, he said, is « a look at what has happened » since 2015 and a look at what still « needs to be done. »

The world is facing « a process of environmental degradation, » he said, but it is a problem that impacts much more than nature. It « leads down to the bottom of the ravine: Degradation of living conditions, degradation of the values that justify these living conditions, because they go together, » with some people believing they are entitled to exploit natural resources and completely ignore the impact on the poor and Indigenous people.

The extraction industry, for example, has players who have moved into « extractivism, » that is, the hoarding of natural resources.

But it is never just a « geological extractivist model, » he said. Those who think they have a right to remove whatever they find in the ground also follow a « human extractivist model » where the dignity of the local people « is extracted, they are slaves. »

The « throwaway culture » and the « culture of abandonment » are tied, he said. « The discarded, the outcasts, are men and women, whole peoples who we leave on the street like garbage, are they not? We have to be aware that we use the wealth of nature only for small groups through socio-economic theories that do not integrate nature, the discarded. »

Vie de l'église

U.S. Catholic archbishop receives award from Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

A U.S. Ukrainian Catholic archbishop was honored by Ukraine’s president for his decades-long efforts to foster that nation’s development.

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia received the Cross of Ivan Mazepa from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Sept. 21 in Washington. Zelenskyy visited the U.S. capital for meetings after addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 19.

Established in 2009, the award honors individuals who have made « significant personal contribution to strengthening interstate cooperation, support of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and popularization of the Ukrainian state in the world, » according to a press release from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Cross of Ivan Mazepa is named for a 17th-century « hetman » — a military commander and statesman — who sought to unite Ukrainian territories of the time as a European-facing state that retained its traditional heritage. During his career, Mazepa promoted Ukrainian economic development, scholarship, literature, arts and architecture, and funded the construction of numerous churches. His rule is often called the « Mazepa Renaissance. »

Also receiving the award, announced in a Sept. 4 presidential decree by Zelenskyy, were Ukrainian Orthodox Fr. Volodymyr Steliac, rector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called in Silver Spring, Maryland; Alla Lopatkina, president of the Chicago-based Ua-Resistance Foundation; and Hakan Kirimli, associate professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Turkey.

During the award ceremony, which took place at the U.S. National Archives, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska noted she had « the honor of knowing Archbishop Borys Gudziak personally. »

Earlier this year, Zelenska and Gudziak jointly participated in a Jan. 17 panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, discussing the physical, psychological and emotional trauma of war, forgiveness and their dreams for Ukraine’s future.

Zelenska noted at the award ceremony that Gudziak « is known to thousands of Ukrainians — soldiers, displaced persons, and many others whom he helps, and young people who, thanks to him, get a great education. »

The archbishop — a native of Syracuse, New York, born to Ukrainian immigrants — has long championed Ukrainian educational initiatives.

A trained historian who holds a doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine cultural history from Harvard University, the archbishop moved to Lviv in western Ukraine in 1992, founding and directing the Institute of Church History.

The following year, he chaired a commission to renew the Lviv Theological Academy, of which he served as vice rector and then rector from 1995 to 2002. He then became rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, established on the basis of the academy, and became its president in 2013. The university has become a model for Ukrainian higher education, scholarship, disability awareness, human rights advocacy and social innovation.

During Ukraine’s 2013-2014 Maidan movement — which saw the populace reject a pro-Kremlin government at the time and decisively reorient the nation towards the European Union — Gudziak regularly appeared on international television, providing expert commentary and active support.

As Ukraine battles a full-scale invasion by Russia that continues attacks launched in 2014, that struggle continues, said Zelenska.

« Ukraine is defending values — such as a right to life and personality, » she said. « These are not only physical things but also intangible values. The defenders of Ukraine are very different people — of different views, beliefs, or not religious at all.

« But they all clearly feel they are fighting against evil, against the worst that might be born within a human — a conscious effort to kill, destroy, grab, and enslave, » said Zelenska. « Therefore, it is also a spiritual battle. Sincere gratitude to everyone who fights together with us in the spiritual dimension and dimension of values. »


Surprised by Love

(Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on September 23 & 24, 2023 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Isaiah 55:6-9 and Matthew 20:1-16)

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

PLAY « Surprised by Love »

Vie de l'église

Returning from France, pope condemns treatment of migrants as ‘hot potatoes’

Returning from a two-day trip meant to underscore the mounting challenges of global migration, Pope Francis on Sept. 23 condemned the treatment of migrants like « hot potatoes » or « ping pongs. » 

« You can’t send them back like ping pongs, » said Francis, criticizing how new arrivals get shuffled from place to place as countries refuse to allow them entry. 

The pope’s comments came during an unusually brief, 18-minute inflight press conference following an overnight visit to the French port city of Marseille, where he participated in a major migration summit with Catholic bishops and young people from more than 30 countries from around the Mediterranean.  

During the trip, the pope offered some of his strongest statements on migration in several years, denouncing the « fanaticism of indifference » toward new arrivals. His visit occurred just weeks after a new wave of migrants from North Africa set off a furious debate among European leaders over how to respond. 

While France has doubled down and said it would not accept any new migrants, the pope warned that civilization is at a crossroads and must choose whether to respond with apathy or fraternity. 

During his remarks earlier in the day, the pope made an impassioned case for a renewed commitment to human dignity — linking abortion, euthanasia and concern for migrants and refugees. At a speech attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, France explicitly criticized the practice of medically assisted suicide, just one week before Macron’s cabinet will consider legislation that would legalize the practice in France.

Asked whether he discussed the issue directly with Macron during their private meeting on Sept. 23, the pope said they did not, but said the two men had discussed it during an earlier encounter at the Vatican. 

Francis emphasized that his position is clear: « You don’t play with life. » 

« This is an ugly compassion, » the pope said, recalling accounts of terminally ill children and the elderly being euthanized.

« We cannot play with life, both with the baby in the womb of a mother and also with euthanasia, » he continued. « It’s not just my opinion. »

Francis also told reporters that he continues to be « frustrated » by the ongoing war in Ukraine, where the Vatican has repeatedly tried to serve as a peacemaker, but has largely been rebuffed.  

Earlier this month, Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi — who Francis tapped this summer to lead the Vatican’s peace efforts and has since traveled to Kyiv, Moscow and Washington, D.C., on the pope’s behalf — returned from Beijing where he specifically discussed plans to help restart the transport of Ukrainian grain to developing nations. 

The pope repeated his ongoing concerns for the « martyred people » of Ukraine and said that he was under no illusions about the possibility of a quick détente between the warring nations. 

« With war, what’s realistic is possible, » he said. « Don’t fool yourselves thinking tomorrow they will have breakfast together, » he said, before adding that there are measures that can be taken to ease the suffering, such as the Vatican’s efforts to aid in the return of Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia. On that front, the pope offered a glimmer of hope, saying « it’s going well. » 

The pope, who was completing his 44th international trip, then told reporters that he would continue to take questions on his next trip — though the 86-year-old pontiff did not specify when that might be.

Late on Saturday afternoon, Francis concluded his flash visit to Marseille by celebrating a Mass in the country’s second largest sports arena.

Despite France’s reputation as a deeply secularized country, the pope seemed to electrify the crowd of some 50,000 Mass attendees as he toured the stadium in the popemobile before the Mass, and the more than 100,000 people who lined the streets of Marseille to greet him as he made his way to the stadium. 

During his homily, the pope drilled down on his message that Christians must be known for their compassion and mercy toward others, offering a final push to convince the traditionally Catholic country that hospitality toward strangers must be a defining hallmark of Christian life. 

« We need to rekindle our passion and enthusiasm, to reawaken our desire to commit ourselves to fraternity, » he said. « We want to be Christians who encounter God in prayer, and our brothers and sisters in love … [and] to be set afire by the questions of our day, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor. » 

Vie de l'église

In France, pope slams ‘alarmist propaganda’ that fuels fears of migrants

Pope Francis on Sept. 23 blasted those who seek to weaponize the issue of migration by « fueling people’s fears » through « alarmist propaganda, » and called for countries and individuals around the Mediterranean to reexamine both their policies and attitudes toward asylum seekers.  

« Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome, » the pope said on his second day here in the storied French port city, where he traveled to address a major summit on migration convened by Catholic bishops and young people from more than 30 countries.  

Ahead of the pope’s visit, a new wave of North African migrant arrivals in Italy earlier this month sparked a renewed debate in Europe over migration, with France — the pope’s host country for this visit — refusing to take in any new arrivals. 

During his first day here, on Sept. 22, the pope issued a blunt warning against what he described as the « fanaticism of indifference » toward the current crisis and said it was a duty to welcome the new migrants. 

As the pope closed out the migration summit on Saturday, he attempted to offer a broad roadmap for the future, warning against being overwhelmed by momentary apprehension and to focus on long-term solutions. 

« As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is not so much a short-term urgency, always good for fueling alarmist propaganda, but a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight, » said the pope. 

In an extensive 35-minute speech, the pope called on European countries to open their doors to people in need and to assimilate new arrivals into their society, especially through legal channels, while also enhancing their cooperation with the countries of origin of migrants. 

« Merely crying ‘enough!’ is to close our eyes; attempting now to ‘save ourselves’ will turn into tragedy tomorrow, » he warned. « Future generations will thank us if we were able to create the conditions for a necessary integration. » 

While the pope acknowledged that this is not a process without difficulties, he also said it is the only valid response for people who profess a commitment to human dignity. 

Integration of migrants is key, said the pope, « not evicting them. » 

Prior to his arrival here in France, the pope faced fierce criticism from far-right politicians who said that the Argentine-born pope had no business weighing in on Europe’s migration problem. 

But in his remarks Saturday, Francis seemed to offer a thinly-veiled reply to those critics.

« This situation is not a novelty of recent years, and this pope who came from the other side of the world is not the first to warn of it with urgency and concern, » the pope said to applause. « The church has been speaking about it in heartfelt tones for more than 50 years. » 

While French Catholics are sharply divided over migration — with some notable figures alleging that it presents a threat to French society and Western Civilization — Francis borrowed their own vocabulary to address those concerns head on.

« History is challenging us to make a leap of conscience in order to prevent a shipwreck of civilization, » he said. « For the future will not lie in being closed, which is a return to the past, a turnaround in the journey of history. »  

And in a country where some conservative Catholics have lamented that the pope has spoken more often about migration than abortion or euthanasia — particularly as the current government is on the verge of considering legislation that would legalize physician assisted suicide — Francis sought to widen his appeal by illustrating the interconnectedness of these issues. 

« Who listens to the groaning of our isolated elderly brothers and sisters, who, instead of being appreciated, are pushed aside, under the false pretenses of a supposedly dignified and ‘sweet’ death that is more ‘salty’ than the waters of the sea? » the pope asked. 

« Who thinks of the unborn children, rejected in the name of a false right to progress, which is instead a retreat into the selfish needs of the individual? » he continued. « Who looks with compassion beyond their own shores to hear the cry of pain rising from North Africa and the Middle East? »  

« We need to start again, » the pope pleaded, « from the often silent cry of the least among us, not from the more fortunate ones who have no need of help yet still raise their voices. » 

French President Emmanuel Macron, some 70 Catholic prelates and a mix of political leaders attended the pope’s remarks at the Mediterranean summit, where the pope said his words were meant to challenge the consciences of both institutions and individuals alike. 

« The commitment of institutions alone is not enough, we need a jolt of conscience to say ‘no’ to lawlessness and ‘yes’ to solidarity, which is not a drop in the ocean, but the indispensable element for purifying its waters, » Francis said. 

Following his address, the pope will meet privately with Macron. He will then celebrate a Mass at Marseille’s major soccer stadium that is expected to draw a crowd of over 50,000, prior to returning to Rome in the evening, where an in-flight press conference is expected.