Vie de l'église

US church needs culturally sensitive safeguarding training, expert says

The diversity of the Catholic Church in the United States requires that it develop a culturally sensitive approach to preventing abuse, a safeguarding expert said.

Although the U.S. church, like the church in Europe, has structures in place to promote safeguarding to a higher degree than churches with less resources, « there are cultural aspects that need to be taken into account, » Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care, said.

« The more diverse a society is and a local church is, the more it needs to respect the different cultures, languages, habits, mentalities that are represented, » he told Catholic News Service June 18 on the sidelines of an international safeguarding conference hosted by the institute.

Given the diversity within the U.S. church, it must « be aware that there are different types of (ways) how you establish relationships, how you interact and express yourself, in different parts of the world, » Zollner said.

According to a 2023 report by the Pew Research Center, 57% of U.S. Catholics are white, non-Hispanic, while 33% are Hispanic, 4% are Asian, 2% are Black and 3% are of another race.

Racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in U.S. churches presents the challenge of communicating the sensitivity around safeguarding in ways that cut through cultural differences, he said.

« When we talk with people from a different background do we really talk the same language in regard to sexuality, to harassment? How do we approach people, how do you relate to people, talk about difficult issues? » Zollner asked.

He said the church in the United States must make significant effort « so that these ethnicities are more likely to come on board, and so that people don’t get the impression of a sort of ‘neo-colonialism’ by just applying the same type of structure, language, or educational programs to people who have a different outlook. »

« Law and guidelines are important, » he said, « but law does not change the heart. It does not automatically change mentality. »

Zollner stressed the need for the church « to learn to tell the intention of guidelines in a narrative way. And the narration needs to come in symbols, in language, that can be understood on the ground. « 

In many cultures, for example, sexuality is « a complete taboo in the public debate, » and, as a result, « people don’t have the courage to talk about this and are not educated in family, schools, or religions to do so. »

Still, he maintained that the Catholic Church is still a leader in safeguarding, since « no religion and no denomination have made the same strides in safeguarding activity, which means setting up guidelines for all types of institutions, (and) the training of personnel, full-time or volunteers. »

But still, the church’s implementation of safeguarding practices are « far from perfect and far from consistent, » Zollner said.

« In many places, we don’t implement our own law, » for example in addressing cover up of abuse, he said, which is « an institutional failure of great importance because it undermines the credibility of the Gospel message. »

Additionally, he noted that the church often fails to collaborate on safeguarding with other religions, denominations, the state and non-government organizations.

While Zollner praised the extensive work already done by the Catholic Church to prevent abuse, « we are the biggest player in this field, so we have a special obligation. »

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Praying with the Book of Psalms will bring comfort, happiness, pope says

There is a prayer for every state of mind and spiritual need in the Book of Psalms, Pope Francis said.

« There are many psalms that help us forge ahead. Get into the habit of praying the psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end, » the pope said during his June 19 general audience.

The pope also reminded people that June 20 marks World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations to focus on solidarity with refugees. « We are all called to welcome, promote, accompany and integrate those who knock on our doors, » he said.

« I pray that nations will work to ensure humane conditions for refugees and facilitate processes for integration, » he said.

During his main catechesis, the pope continued his series on the Holy Spirit and highlighted the importance of prayer, especially in preparation for Holy Year 2025.

All the books of the Bible are inspired by the Holy Spirit, he said, « but the Book of Psalms is also so in the sense that it is full of poetic inspiration. »

The psalms were the prayer of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles and all previous Christian generations, he said. Jesus enters into the world with a verse from a psalm in his heart, « I delight to do your will, my God (Ps 40:9), and he leaves the world with another verse, « Into your hands I commend my spirit » (Ps 31:6).

« Do you pray with the psalms sometimes? » the pope asked, reminding people that there are special editions that contain the New Testament and the psalms together.

« I have on my desk a Ukrainian edition » of the New Testament and the psalms that belonged to a soldier who died in the war, he said. « He used to pray at the front with this book, » referring to the 23-year-old soldier named Oleksandr.

« If there are psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The psalms are prayers ‘for all seasons’: There is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer, » the pope said.

The psalms also allow the faithful to expand on the nature of their prayers, he said, so prayers are not just a series of requests and a continuous « give me, give us. »

« The psalms help us to open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise, » he said.

At the end of his main talk, the pope greeted an Italian association supporting the late Cardinal Celso Costantini, a former apostolic delegate in China who led the Council of the Chinese Catholic Church 100 years ago with the aim of revitalizing the mission of the church in China.

The pope greeted « the dear Chinese people » and asked Catholics to always pray « for this noble people, so brave, who have such a beautiful culture. »

In greeting Polish-speaking visitors, the pope gave God thanks for a new blessed: Father Michal Rapacz, a martyr of communism, who was beatified in Kraków June 15.

Blessed Rapacz was an early victim of Poland’s communist regime as he refused to abandon his parishioners and his pastoral work. The pope prayed « his example (may) teach us to be faithful to God, to respond to evil with good, to contribute in the building of a fraternal and peaceful world. »

« We pray that his witness may become a sign of consolation from God in these times marked by wars, » he said, praying that the new blessed « intercede for Poland and to obtain peace in the world! »

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Germany’s Synodal Path faces backlash from the outside and inside

For years, the « Synodaler Weg » (Synodal Path) reforms in Germany have caused a rift between reformers and conservatives. Its latest working session showed more conflicts than ever — both with the Vatican and among German Catholics themselves.

It was an uncharted path German Catholics embarked on back in 2019. The abuse scandal had just devastated trust in the church as an institution, and everyone was looking for solutions and a way out of the crisis. The answer: A « Synodal Path » for the church in Germany.

For the first time ever, bishops and laypeople were planning to discuss and vote on far-reaching reforms — as equals. Everything seen as factors contributing to the sexual abuse crisis was put on the table, including priestly celibacy, a lack of women’s ordination, and the church’s stance on homosexuality.

From the beginning, critics contended there was a threat of schism. Five years into the process, those critical voices are getting louder — outside and within the project.

On June 14-15, reformers gathered in a so-called « Synodal Committee » meeting in the city of Mainz, the next step toward a permanent Synodal Council for Germany.

Whether this council and many other changes will be implemented seems more uncertain than ever.

In the beginning, the « Synodaler Weg » mapped out plans to hold four plenary meetings with 230 delegates — bishops and laypeople — and conclude in 2022, just in time to present the results to the organizers of the worldwide synod on synodality in Rome. The pandemic and internal squabbles delayed the process, with final results now expected in 2026 at the earliest.

In the meantime, the Synodal Committee working sessions — a smaller body of about 70 delegates — are being held twice a year, in an effort to keep the reform work going.

The delay isn’t much of a surprise though, as every step the German reformers are taking is unprecedented. Unlike the Australian Plenary Council in preparation for the worldwide synod or the previous German reform-minded Würzburg Synod in the 1970s, the Synodal Path didn’t want to be bound by existing rules and canonical restrictions. Organizers created their own, completely new reform process involving laypeople with equal voting power.

This opens the biggest field of conflict in the project. Dicasteries at the Vatican pointed out several times that the German church is prohibited by canon law from taking such steps — especially the implementation of a Synodal Council, where theoretically a bishop could be outvoted by laypeople. 

The Holy See went so far as to call for a hiatus of the project last January. In March the heads of the German bishops’ conference went to Rome and worked out a compromise: The Synodal Path can continue — for now. But every decision would have to be approved by Rome before being implemented.

Observers were surprised the Vatican was willing to go along with this, as canon lawyer Bernhard Sven Anuth pointed out at the latest working session June 14-15. He called it « remarkable » that the German bishops were able to negotiate this, even if every further step needed approval.

However, in his eyes, Roman approval for an actual Synodal Council would be « impossible, » as the « supposed equality » between bishops and laypeople simply does not exist — at least according to canon law.

This was one of the major points of contention at the Mainz meeting. Canon law symbolizes a « millstone around the neck » of much-needed reforms, according to delegate and secular lawyer Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof.

But several bishops warned against an open confrontation with the Vatican. « The Synodal Path would end in disaster, » insisted Aachen Bishop Helmut Dieser, a prelate generally open to reform ideas.

But it’s not just the conflict with Rome that is making life hard for German reformers right now. Conservatives as well as reformers have taken a critical stance, for very different reasons.

After the last plenary assembly of the Synodal Path in the spring of 2023, several conservative delegates, bishops and laypeople decided against any further participation in the project. The bishops of Cologne, Regensburg, Passau and Eichstätt left the project, referring to the dispute with the Vatican and to canon law.

This calls into question the ongoing funding — and legitimacy — of the Synodal Path. Four of 27 German dioceses have now stopped supporting the reform path financially. While the other 23 were able to fill the financial gap, the question of legitimacy is still unanswered.

At the moment, four chairs are left empty at the working sessions. Organizers say the conservative bishops are welcome to rejoin at any time. But just what their continued absence means for voting majorities no one has been able to answer yet.

Conservative bishops are not the only internal critics, either. The Central Committee of German Catholics, the liberal lay organization responsible along with the bishops for the Synodal Path, also called its further participation into question. At the committee’s own plenary meeting in May, participants termed the behavior of the bishops’ conference « disturbing and nontransparent » and questioned whether they could keep working together.

At the moment, four chairs are left empty at the working sessions. Organizers say the conservative bishops are welcome to rejoin at any time.

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This arose from a decision by the bishops angered the lay organization, one that had nothing to do with the Synodal Path at all. Last spring, the bishops’ conference denied approval of a critical young theologian, Viola Kohlberger, to take an important position in Germany’s Catholic Scouting organization — without any reason given.

It was a step even the vice president of the conference, Fulda Bishop Michael Gerber, expressed bewilderment about. « I still don’t know the actual reservations, » he said at the Mainz working session last weekend.

The Central Committee of German Catholics accused the bishops of creating an atmosphere of distrust. With an 80% majority, the lay organization voted to withhold their continuing cooperation — unless the bishops’ showed a willingness to stick to « principles of democracy and transparency. »

How will the Synodal Path continue with critics outside and inside? The next working session is scheduled for December. But headlines might come way sooner.

Later this month, German bishops will travel to Rome yet again to present the results of their latest working session and ask for approval from the Holy See. This time, no controversial steps have been taken, so Vatican officials probably won’t interfere with the ongoing process right now.

But the sword of Damocles keeps hanging over the head of the German reform project — and German Catholics’ own infighting won’t improve chances of the Roman Curia approving further reform steps.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Innovate to care for the environment, the excluded, pope tells CEOs

Today’s businesses must focus their innovation in caring for the environment, Pope Francis told a group of leaders of major companies and banks.

« It is no longer enough merely to comply with the laws of states, which are proceeding too slowly: we need to innovate by anticipating the future, with courageous and forward-looking choices that can be imitated, » he said.

« We are living in a time of serious environmental crisis that depends on many individuals and factors, among which are the economic and business choices of the past and present, » he told the group during an audience at the Vatican June 15.

The group included 25 CEOs who are part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative. Established in 2020 by King Charles III, the initiative brings together leaders from different sectors to commit to concrete action that supports sustainable economic growth and caring for the environment.

The pope urged the leaders to pay attention to and critically discern the impact of their businesses so as to « fully exercise responsibility for the direct and indirect effects of your choices. »

He gave them three tasks: to help care for the environment, the poor and young people.

« I urge you to place the environment and the earth at the center of your attention and responsibility, » he said, adding that « the innovation of the entrepreneur nowadays must first and foremost be innovation in caring for our common home. »

« Do not forget the poorest and the discarded, » he said. Just as people seek to recycle materials and waste, « we have not yet learned — allow me to use the expression — to ‘recycle’ and not discard people and workers, especially the most vulnerable, to whom the culture of waste often applies. »

He warned against a kind of « meritocracy » that is used to legitimize excluding the poor, « who are judged as undeserving, even to the point of viewing poverty itself as their fault. »

« And let us not settle for merely a little philanthropy, that would be insufficient. The challenge is to include the poor in businesses, to make them resources for the benefit of all, » he said.

« I dream of a world in which the discarded can become protagonists of change, » he said, pointing to Jesus as someone who did just that.

Lastly, he said, young people are often among today’s poor, in that they may lack resources, opportunities and a future.

He urged them to practice « corporate hospitality, which means generously welcoming young people even when they lack the required experience and skills, for every job is learned only by doing it. »

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Pope Francis: the unintentional star of Rome’s 2024 LGBTQ Pride parade

Pope Francis was unintentionally the star of Rome’s 2024 Pride parade, where more than one million people took to the streets of the Eternal City on June 15, with scores of marchers holding signs seeking to both protest and reclaim a word the pope has reportedly used twice in the last month that sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ community.

« There is too much faggotry in this pride, » read one sign in Italian. The poster was being carried by a man dressed in a white cassock, like that of the pope, except he was also draped in a pride flag and wearing a rainbow crucifix.

As the rainbow-clad pope protester arrived into Rome’s Piazza della Repubblica where the parade was about to start, onlookers quickly ran up to him to pose for photos.

« I can’t believe he said that word, » said one.

« I think he knows what it means, » he responded. « It’s not the case he did not know. »

And to some respect, that’s been the debate that’s reverberated from the halls of the Vatican throughout the rest of the world since it was first reported that the pope used the Italian slur frociaggine (« faggotry ») in a closed door meeting with Italian bishops on May 20 during a discussion about gay men in the seminary.

The backlash was swift — but so was the Vatican’s response, when less than 24 hours later, the usually stolid Vatican press office rushed to clarify that « the pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms » and offered an apology.

The statement said that the pope believes there is « room for everyone » in the Catholic Church and a few days later, Italian media reported that Francis had written to an openly gay man who desired to join the seminary and telling him to « keep going. »

But just as the firestorm was beginning to settle, reports emerged that the pope had used the term a second time in another closed door session with priests, warning of various ideologies in the church, and in particular, that within the Vatican, « there is an air of faggotry. »

And on the streets of Rome’s Pride parade, marchers reveled in humorously pointing out the hypocrisy of an organization that forbids gay relationships and where even the pope seems to acknowledge that the priesthood includes many gay men.

« You are so right there is really faggotry all over the place, especially in the toilets and between the sheets of the Vatican, » read one pointed sign. 

« Today Rome is a river of faggotry, not only in its seminaries, » read another of the many Francis-frociaggine themed posters.

Just days before Rome’s Pride parade, U.S. Jesuit Fr. James Martin, who founded the Catholic LGBTQ « Outreach » ministry, met Francis and posted on social media that « the Holy Father said he has known many good, holy and celibate seminarians and priests with homosexual tendencies. »

« Once again, he confirmed my ministry with LGBTQ people and showed his openness and love for the LGBTQ community, » Martin wrote on June 12.

Whether that sentiment was reciprocated by marchers attending Rome’s 30th anniversary Pride parade — in a city where there’s always been a tense relationship between the church and the LGBTQ community and at an event where religion often finds itself in the crosshairs  — depended on the person.

« Pope Francis is homophobic, » said one man who declined to give his name. Another onlooker held a sign with a smiling Francis that simply read « I bless this faggot. »

But as the parade made its way around the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore — a church Francis has visited over 100 times since becoming pope and where he recently announced he intends to be buried — two parade goers held a large cutout of Francis wearing a rainbow boa and a sign that said « in our parish, you are welcome. » 

« I think he was caught in a bad moment, » said Daniele, who declined to give his last name. « And I think he should care more about what he said. »

He then gestured around to the vibrant crowd that had taken to the streets to show their defiance and smiled: « That’s why I’m inviting him to our church. »  

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Carl Siciliano tells his story of ‘Making Room’ for homeless LGBTQ youth

Making Room by Carl Siciliano is not an easy read.

This book takes us by the hand and leads us out of our comfortable, middle-class suburban homes, away from our stable jobs and support networks, to a place with no well-stocked pantry or fridge. It takes us to a dirty underpass or sketchy park bench, where an LGBTQ young person — a minor — huddles alone, untethered by any support, facing the reality of the world’s indifference (at best) and cruelty (at worst).

And these children do not pass unscathed through the darkness. Many have been introduced to a cocaine addiction, and sometimes it is only in selling their body that they see a bed for the night.

In New York City during the ’80s and ’90s, many such youth went to SafeSpace, where they likely met a young, muscular gay Italian man named Carl, who had been deeply formed in hospitality by spending time with Dorothy Day’s Catholic Workers. Carl felt a deep conviction that being gay was a spiritual gift that should not be hidden under a bushel — and he put this queer theology into practice by focusing his professional efforts on helping the most vulnerable LGBTQ population: the young.

It is heartbreaking to listen, through Carl’s ears, to the firsthand accounts of what happened when these children came out as gay to their families. LGBTQ readers like myself will feel these stories deeply in their bodies, resonating and remembering. Even without physical violence, mental, emotional and spiritual violence can inflict much harm — worse when it comes from those who are meant to love you most.

But it’s not only the families that are to blame. Making Room illustrates a powerful juxtaposition of Times Square before and after a supposed revitalization — an endeavor that disproportionately affected (and evicted) the LGBTQ community.

That we Americans have allowed this to happen historically and present day (see Nex Benedict’s story) is deeply shameful, yet we often choose not to look our shame in the face. We turn away, mimicking the families who have turned away from these young people.

Carl Siciliano is an inspiration, but this book is not a fairytale where the knight in shining armor rides in to vanquish what threatens the village. As Carl learns, the hero of this story is the community, and we become heroes when we take a stand, extend a hand or speak up on behalf of someone. The existence of queer people (and others on the margins) will always be a disruption to the status quo, even when we celebrate them.

Throughout his time at SafeSpace, Carl battled a seemingly never-ending quest for funds, fighting even to receive the grant money earmarked by the city for assisting homeless queer youth — but never actually sent to the appropriate organizations.

There are beautiful passages in the book, too: talent shows where LGBTQ youth express the full spectrum of their vibrant personalities on a homemade runway with a favorite wig and eyebrow lines sharp enough to cut a man; resiliency that should not have been necessary; a will to survive that should never have been so fraught. 

There are family-style meals for the holidays, where the kids tell Carl it’s « the first Christmas I actually enjoyed » — though these moments of warmth and safety are punctuated by the slap of cold air when they have to go back onto the street at the end of the meal.

And while he is not a fairytale knight, Carl faces many monsters just to keep what meager resources they’ve been given: the city that doesn’t want to give him the money, a new priest who wants to gentrify the building, potential donors who turn out to be predatory, and plenty of internal demons of his own, frequently wondering how he can endure the immensity of these hopeless stories — especially knowing he has a bed to go home to, but the kids don’t.

Sometimes, the worst happens. A child dies. And each time it almost causes Carl to break apart. He carries on with the determination to prevent as many deaths as he can, taking comfort in being part of the communion of saints, knowing that it requires everyone doing their part with dignity, unafraid of what fires one might walk through.

In the end, that is the message I took away most strongly from the book. It takes the entire communion of saints, both those among us and those who have left this earth. This is not a finite problem with a finite solution, but we do not have a finite God.

When it comes to prayerfully upholding, standing alongside and financially supporting vulnerable and marginalized communities, we join forces with the Holy Spirit when we dare to act outside our comfort zones and do what is ours to do, for the benefit of all souls.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Virginia bishop removes pastor over handling of abuse allegations against parishioner

A Virginia pastor has been removed from his parish following concerns over his handling of abuse allegations against a parishioner who was also a school parent.

Father Rob Cole was dismissed effective June 12 from St. John the Apostle Parish in Virginia Beach by Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond.

In a June 12 media release, the Diocese of Richmond said that Knestout had « determined that St. John the Apostle parish would benefit from new pastoral leadership. »

Cole had been placed on temporary leave in May after allegations emerged that an adult parishioner — later named as Vincent Jakawich — had reportedly molested two students at St. John the Apostle School a few years earlier.

Jakawich, a former Navy lieutenant and pilot, was found dead in North Carolina, having taken his own life shortly after the parents of a St. John the Apostle student publicly stated their daughter had disclosed being sexually abused by him a few years earlier.

School principal Miriam Cotton issued a May 10 letter clarifying that the alleged incidents did not take place on school grounds, while superintendent Michael Riley stated on May 17 that civil authorities and law enforcement had been notified.

In a separate case, Jakawich had pleaded guilty in 2022 to a misdemeanor assault and battery, a charge downgraded from a 2020 felony of aggravated sexual battery involving a child under 13. He was not sentenced to active jail time.

In bond documents from 2021 related to that case, legal counsel for Jakawich had requested he be allowed on the campus of St. John’s school « where his daughters are students. »

However, the parents of the alleged victim in the most recent case told local media they found it « shocking » Jakawich still had apparent access to school grounds.

The diocese said in its statement that Bishop Knestout « expresses his sorrow and compassion to the victims and their families affected by this tragic situation and applauds the courage it took to come forward. »

The bishop also expressed his appreciation for « Father Cole’s dedication and service as the pastor to this community for more than 15 years, » and for « the patience and support of the community. »

Father Esteban De Leon, pastor of Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, will continue to serve as St. John’s temporary administrator until a new pastor is assigned in the near future, said the diocese.

Turning to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer

Vie de l'église

Ecumenism and papal primacy: Vatican releases status report on dialogues

The reason why the 2024 edition of the Vatican yearbook has re-inserted « Patriarch of the West » as one of the historical titles of the pope appears to be a response to concerns expressed by Orthodox leaders and theologians.

For months after the yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, was released, the Vatican press office said it had no explanation for the reappearance of the title, which Pope Benedict XVI had dropped in 2006.

But new documents from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity place the change squarely in the middle of a broad discussion among all mainline Christian churches on the papacy and the potential role of the bishop of Rome in a more united Christian community.

Members of the dicastery proposed that « a clearer distinction be made between the different responsibilities of the Pope, especially between his ministry as head of the Catholic Church and his ministry of unity among all Christians, or more specifically between his patriarchal ministry in the Latin Church and his primatial ministry in the communion of Churches. »

For the Orthodox, the papal title of « Patriarch of the West » is an acknowledgement that his direct jurisdiction does not extend to their traditional territories in the East.

Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church to the Holy See, told reporters June 13, « The recent reinstatement of the title of ‘Patriarch of the West’ among the pope’s historical titles is important, since this title, inherited from the first millennium, evidences his brotherhood with the other patriarchs. »

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, said that « when Pope Benedict XVI canceled this title and when Pope Francis introduced it again, they did comment » on why they made the decision. « But I am convinced they did not want to do something against anyone, but both wanted to do something ecumenically respectful. »

Twenty-nine years ago, St. John Paul II called for an ecumenical reflection on how the pope as bishop of Rome could exercise his ministry « as a service of love recognized by all concerned. »

Already in 1967 St. Paul VI had recognized that the papacy was « undoubtedly the gravest obstacle on the path of ecumenism. »

Following St. John Paul’s ecumenical invitation in 1995, studies were conducted, meetings were held and reports were made.

The pace picked up with the pontificate of Pope Francis and his frequent references to being the bishop of Rome, his reliance on an international Council of Cardinals to advise him on issues of governance and his continuing efforts to reform and expand the Synod of Bishops and the practice of « synodality. »

Over the past three decades, the Catholic Church’s ecumenical partners responded to St. John Paul’s request by questioning things like papal infallibility and claims of universal jurisdiction, yet many also expressed support for trying to find an acceptable way for the bishop of Rome to serve as a point of unity for all Christians.

According to members of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, there has been « a significant and growing theological convergence » both on the need for a universal figure at the service of Christian unity as well as for Christian churches and communities, including the Catholic Church, to learn from each other’s styles and structures for consultation, governance and leadership.

Staff of the dicastery have spent years summarizing the reflections and released their work June 13 as a « study document » titled, « The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical ‘Ut unum sint.' » The publication also included a series of proposals titled, « Towards an Exercise of Primacy in the 21st Century, » which was approved in 2021 by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the dicastery.

Koch wrote in the preface to the study document that Francis approved its publication.

The role a pope could play in a re-united Christian church obviously involves practical considerations about power and authority and how they are exercised. But for the ecumenical dialogues, the first considerations are tradition — what was the role of the bishop of Rome in the early centuries before Christianity split — and theological, including what is the church and how is it different from other kinds of organizations.

The document approved by dicastery members said the dialogues have « enabled a deeper analysis of some essential ecclesiological themes such as: the existence and interdependence of primacy and synodality at each level of the Church; the understanding of synodality as a fundamental quality of the whole Church, including the active participation of all the faithful; and the distinction between and interrelatedness of collegiality and synodality, » that is, between the shared responsibility of bishops and the shared responsibility of all the baptized.

One crucial issue for many Christians is papal infallibility; in fact, « infallibility » is cited 56 times in the documents released June 13.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, « Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith — he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. »

Catholic and other theologians and bishops, the new documents said, have called for « a Catholic ‘re-reception,’ ‘re-interpretation,’ ‘official interpretation,’ ‘updated commentary’ or even ‘rewording’ of the teachings of Vatican I, » the council held in 1869-70 that solemnly proclaimed papal infallibility under some circumstances.

Emphasizing those limited circumstances does not seem to suffice. For example, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1981 said, « The ascription to the bishop of Rome of infallibility under certain conditions has tended to lend exaggerated importance to all his statements. »

One thing everyone involved in ecumenical dialogue agrees on, though, is that the unity of the early Christian communities was expressed by their leaders and members visiting one another, praying together and working together. The new documents called for those efforts to continue and to grow.

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Vie de l'église

Pope Francis reportedly repeats gay slur, warns priests against ‘ideologies’ in church

Pope Francis encouraged priests to seek out those who are « invisible » in society and he warned against « ideologies » in the church.

According to Italian news reports, one of the ideologies he specified was a gay culture, referring to it, however, by using the same derogatory slang term in Italian that he reportedly used in a closed-door meeting with members of the Italian bishops’ conference in May when describing some seminaries as being marked by a gay culture.

During a closed-door meeting June 11 with about 160 priests from the Diocese of Rome at the Pontifical Salesian University, the pope said it would not be prudent to admit young men with homosexual tendencies to seminaries as candidates for the priesthood, according to the Italian news agencies, ANSA and Adnkronos, citing unnamed individuals who attended the meeting with the pope.

These young men are « good kids, » but they will encounter difficulties that will then show up in the exercise of their ministry, the pope said, sources told the two agencies.

The pope was not condemning gay people, and he reiterated that the church is open to everyone, ANSA reported.

What he was warning against was a kind of « lobby » that turns a homosexual lifestyle into an ideology, sources told Adnkronos. ANSA reported sources said the pope used the derogatory term when talking about the Vatican, saying that « in the Vatican there is an air of » a gay culture, and that it is not easy to guard against this trend.

The meeting at the Salesian University included priests ordained 11-39 years ago, and it was the third and last of a series of meetings with clergy from the Diocese of Rome. The pope met May 14 with some 70 priests who have been ordained 40 years or more, and he met May 29 with priests ordained 10 years or less.

The Vatican press office said the pope « spoke about the danger of ideologies in the church and returned to the issue of the admission into seminaries of people with homosexual tendencies, reiterating the need to welcome and accompany them in the church and the prudential recommendation of the Dicastery for the Clergy regarding their admission to a seminary. »

Among the many issues discussed during the question-and-answer dialogue with priests, the press office said, was the need for parishes to expand their welcome « to everyone, everyone, everyone! »

In response to comments about addressing people’s suffering, the pope said people should be accompanied with closeness, compassion and tenderness, which are three qualities of God.

The importance of pastoral care in hospitals and the difficulties of life in the city of Rome, such as the housing crisis, the spread of drugs and loneliness, were also discussed, the press office said.

« Our job as priests is to go and look for these people » who are « invisible » in society because « the church is either prophetic or it is clerical: it is up to us to choose, » he said.

Responding to the housing crisis, the pope invited religious congregations that own buildings and facilities to be generous, the press hall said. According to ANSA, the pope had been criticizing religious who, despite their vow of poverty, are focused on making money and are speculating on rent prices with the upcoming Jubilee.

Assets are for the community and not for speculation, the pope reportedly said, according to ANSA.

According to the Vatican press office, the dialogue between the pope and priests also touched on the tragedy of the wars underway and the huge amounts of money nations spend on weapons and birth control and that individuals spend on veterinary care and cosmetic surgery.

For this reason, more should be done to promote the church’s social teachings, the common good and peace, the pope said.

The pope thanked the priests for their work and urged them to continue to listen to all those who turn to them and to engage in community discernment.

Rome Auxiliary Bishop Michele Di Tolve, who was present at the meeting, told Vatican News that the pope invited priests « to be strong and meek at the same time, to let the parish feel close to people, like a home among homes and where they can relive an experience of being a family. »

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Vie de l'église

Marquette University’s first lay president dies in Rome on pilgrimage

Michael R. Lovell, 57, president of Marquette University, died June 9 in Italy while on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage with members of the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit university’s board of trustees.

Lovell had been battling sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, for three years. He became sick while on pilgrimage along with his wife Amy and was transported to a hospital in Rome.

Lovell was Marquette University’s 24th president and the first lay president in the Jesuit school’s 133-year history.

Lovell’s death was announced to the Marquette community in a statement signed by Todd Adams, chair of Marquette’s board of trustees.

« President Lovell’s decade of leadership at Marquette was marked by a deep commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship, community renewal and development — consistent with the university’s Catholic, Jesuit mission that animated him, » Adams wrote in the letter, which was also signed by Provost Kimo Ah Yun and Joel Pogodzinski, members of the University Leadership Council. The provost has been elected by the board of trustees to serve as acting president of Marquette.

« Throughout his presidency, he attended hundreds of campus events each year and continued to teach undergraduate students in his product realization class, saying that he gained great energy from his interactions with students, faculty and staff, » the letter said.

Lovell was appointed Marquette president in 2014. He had previously served six years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the first three as dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science and then as UWM chancellor.

« It became clear to me I was called to Milwaukee six years ago to become Marquette’s president, » Lovell said during his 2014 introductory news conference. « It was never really my plan, but I’m just glad I decided to follow it. »

In an April 2024 interview with Marquette Wire, the university’s student online publication, Lovell said he and his wife planned a June visit to Portugal to check off one of his bucket list items: walking El Camino de Santiago, « The Way of St. James. »

« It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, » he said. « If I wasn’t sick, I’m not sure I would have done that right now at this point in my life. And it’s so important for me to do things like that when I’m healthy. »

He told the Wire that his relationship with God had grown during his battle with sarcoma.

« Relationships are often the most important thing in your life, » Lovell said. « When you face your own morality, you realize that your relationship with God is right, because you don’t know when your last day is going to be and when it comes you want to make sure that you’re prepared spiritually for what lies next. »

In a statement issued June 9, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki mourned Lovell’s death.

« He faced his challenges with strength and courage, » the archbishop said. « He was a man of faith and an example for all. A true loss to his family, the Marquette community, the City of Milwaukee, and the Catholic Church. »

Besides his wife, Amy, Lovell is survived by the couple’s four children. Plans for a campus prayer vigil are underway.

Funeral arrangements will be posted online at

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