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  1. Pope Francis will name Charles de Foucauld a saint. Who was he?

    Vatican City, May 27, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood causes of 14 men and women, including Bl. Charles de Foucauld, a French missionary killed in Algeria in 1916.

    De Foucauld, also known as Brother Charles of Jesus, was a soldier, explorer, Catholic revert, priest, hermit, and religious brother, who served among the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert in Algeria.

    He was assassinated by a band of men at his hermitage in the Sahara on Dec. 1, 1916.

    De Foucauld was born in Strasbourg in 1858. He was raised by his wealthy and aristocratic grandfather after being orphaned at the age of six.

    He joined the French military, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Having already lost his faith, as a young man he lived a life of indulgence and was known to have an immature sense of humor.

    De Foucauld resigned from the military at age 23, and set off on a dangerous exploration of Morocco. Contact with strong Muslim believers there challenged him, and he began to repeat to himself: “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”

    He returned to France and, with the guidance of a priest, came back to his Catholic faith in 1886, at the age of 28.

    The following saying is attributed to him: “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.”

    De Foucauld realized a vocation to “follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth” during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was a Trappist monk in France and Syria for seven years. He also lived as a hermit for a period near a convent of Poor Clares in Nazareth.

    He was ordained a priest in 1901 at age 43 and left for northern Africa to serve among the Tuareg people, a nomadic ethnic group, saying he wanted to live among “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.”

    In the Sahara he welcomed anyone who passed by, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or pagan. 

    He was deeply respectful of the faiths and cultures he lived among. During his 13 years in the Saraha he learned about Tuareg culture and language, compiling a Tuareg-French dictionary, and being a “brother” to the people.

    The priest said he wanted to “shout the Gospel with his life” and to conduct his life so that people would ask, “if such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”

    De Foucauld was the inspiration for the founding of several lay associations, religious communities, and secular institutes of laity and priests, known collectively as “the spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld.”

    At his beatification in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said as a priest, de Foucauld “put the Eucharist and the Gospel at the center of his life.”

    “He discovered that Jesus -- who came to unite Himself to us in our humanity -- invites us to that universal brotherhood which he later experienced in the Sahara, and to that love of which Christ set us the example,” he said.

    After meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the congregation for saints’ causes May 26, the pope approved a second miracle attributed to de Foucauld’s intercession, paving the way for his canonization.

    On May 27, Pope Francis also advanced the cause of Bl. César de Bus, a French priest who lived from 1544 to 1607, and founded two religious congregations.

    He also advanced the cause of Italian Bl. Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, who died in 1934.

    The pope also approved the first miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Michael McGivney, a 19th-century American priest who founded the Knights of Columbus. He may now be beatified. 

    French laywoman Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, who lived from 1799 to 1862 in Lyon, may also now be beatified.

    She founded the Living Rosary Association and the Society of the Propagation of the Faith -- which later became the first of the four pontifical mission societies.

    Jaricot, a member of the lay Dominicans, was devoted to promoting support of the Church’s missionary efforts around the world. 

    She was the youngest of seven children. After losing her mother when she was 17, Jaricot took a vow of perpetual virginity and devoted herself to prayer. For many years, St. John Vianney was her spiritual director.

    She was declared Venerable in 1963 by St. Pope John XXIII.

    In 2013, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, then head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said “Jaricot’s heroic virtues do not consist in a series of miraculous events, but in that fruitful fidelity to Christ, to whom she devoted herself both in good times and in those difficult and tormented moments, as well as in the long-term vision of a commitment to evangelization, so that all people get to know Christ and of the merciful love of God.”

    Pope Francis also confirmed May 27 the martyrdom of six Cistercians, the Servant of God Simeon Cardon and his five companions, who were killed in 1799 in Casamari, Italy. 

    He also confirmed the martyrdom of Cosma Spessotto, a priest and Franciscan from northern Italy who was killed in El Salvador in 1980.

    Servant of God Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac, who was apostolic vicar to Sierra Leone and the founder of the Society of Africa Missions, was also advanced on the path to sainthood. A Frenchman, he died in 1859 in the West African country.

  2. Pope Francis says prayer is a refuge against evil

    Vatican City, May 27, 2020 / 06:15 am (CNA).- Prayer is a refuge and protection against the evil of the world, Pope Francis said in his general audience address Wednesday.

    Speaking via livestream from his library in the apostolic palace, the pope illustrated this point with several stories from Genesis, including those of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah. 

    “Reading these stories, one gets the impression that prayer is both the embankment and the refuge of man before the flood of evil that grows in the world,” he said May 27. “On closer inspection, we also pray to be saved from ourselves.”

    “God’s plan for humanity is good, but in our daily life we ​​experience the presence of evil: it is an everyday experience.”

    Continuing his cycle of catechesis on prayer, Francis noted that the righteous person’s prayer turns them away from, not toward, violence. “In fact, prayer, when it is authentic, is free from instincts of violence and is a gaze turned toward God,” he said.

    He quoted from paragraph 2569 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says “this quality of prayer is lived by a multitude of righteous in all religions.”

    “Prayer,” he argued, “cultivates flowerbeds of rebirth in places where man’s hatred has only been able to enlarge the desert.”

    In his address, Pope Francis also reflected on the lessons humanity can take from the stories in Genesis, starting with Adam and Eve.

    “The first chapters of the Book of Genesis describe the progressive expansion of sin in human affairs,” he said.

    Adam and Eve, yielding to the devil’s temptation, begin to doubt the benevolent intentions of God. They have delusions of omnipotence, the pope said. But what happens instead is their eyes are opened and they discover they are naked, they have nothing. The tempter “pays badly,” he underlined.

    Turning to Cain and Abel, Francis asserted that with the next human generation, “evil becomes even more disruptive.”

    Cain becomes infested with the “worm of envy” toward his brother Abel. Cain does not get command of the evil which grows in his heart, “and so, the story of the first brotherhood ends with a murder,” the pope said.

    “I think, today, about human fraternity,” he added. “Wars everywhere.”

    Pope Francis described what followed Cain’s evil action, explaining that from his lineage, “evil spreads like wildfire, until it occupies the whole picture.”

    There is the need for a new beginning, a new creation, which will have its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, he noted. “Yet, in these first pages of the Bible, another story is written, less conspicuous, much more humble and devoted, which represents the redemption of hope.”

    “Even if almost everyone behaves in a brutal way, making hatred and conquest the great engine of human affairs, there are people capable of praying to God with sincerity, capable of writing man’s destiny in a different way,” he said.

    He pointed to the birth of Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, who later had his own son, named Enos, meaning “mortal.”

    In Genesis, it is written that from the birth of Enos, “people began to invoke the name of the Lord.” Enos also had a cousin, Enoch, who is a person who “walks with God,” according to Scripture.

    “And finally there is the story of Noah, a righteous man who ‘walked with God,’ before whom God holds back his purpose of erasing humanity,” Francis said.

    “And prayer is powerful,” he underlined, “because it attracts the power of God and the power of God always gives life: always.”

    “This is why the lordship of God passes through the chain of these men and women, often misunderstood or marginalized in the world,” he said.

    These men and women are not headline-makers, according to the pope, “but the world lives and grows thanks to the strength of God that these servants of his draw with their prayer.”

    “The path of God in the history of God passed through them: it passed through a ‘remnant’ of humanity that did not conform to the law of the fittest, but asked God to perform his miracles, and above all to transform our heart of stone in the heart of flesh,” he concluded.

    At the end of the general audience, in his greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis recalled that May 29 is the memorial of St. Pope Paul VI, who was canonized in 2018.

    “May the example of this Bishop of Rome, who has reached the heights of holiness, encourage each one of us to embrace the Gospel ideals,” he urged.

  3. American priest heading for beatification died amid a global pandemic

    Vatican City, May 27, 2020 / 05:40 am (CNA).- Fr. Michael McGivney, an American priest soon to be beatified, died amid a 19th-century pandemic which may have been caused by a coronavirus. 

    Fr. McGivney founded the largest world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus, in 1882. Today the order formed in his parish basement in New Haven, Connecticut, has grown to more than two million members donating millions to charity each year.

    McGivney was serving as a parish priest amid the pandemic of 1889-1890, according to a press release issued by the Knights of Columbus May 27. 

    Biologists using gene-sequencing methods have attributed the pandemic to a type of coronavirus, according to a Bloomberg report. This virus, which first appeared in Russia, killed a total of 1 million people worldwide, including 13,000 in the United States.

    McGivney became seriously ill with pneumonia and died on Aug. 14, 1890, at age 38.

    Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession on May 26, paving the way for the American priest’s beatification.

    Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney was the first of 13 children born to Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary McGivney. Six of his siblings died in infancy or early childhood. His father was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where the young McGivney himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support his family.

    From an early age, however, he sensed a calling to the priesthood (two of his brothers also became priests). He was ordained in Baltimore’s Cathedral of the Assumption by Cardinal James Gibbons on Dec. 22, 1877, and took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, the city’s first parish.

    In New Haven, McGivney faced anti-Catholic prejudice. A New York Times headline in 1879 -- “How an Aristocratic Avenue was Blemished by a Roman Church Edifice” -- deplored the construction of a new stone church after the original building was destroyed by fire.

    In addition to his parish duties, he ministered to a 21-year-old man who was on death row for killing a police officer while drunk, visiting him daily up until his execution. On the day he was due to be hanged, James Smith comforted the priest, saying: “Father, your saintly ministrations have enabled me to meet death without a tremor. Do not fear for me. I must not break down now.”

    McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s in 1882 as a way to provide financial protection to families who suffered the death of a breadwinner -- a challenge McGivney himself faced in his youth when his father died in 1873. The priest also hoped the organization would dissuade Catholics from turning to secret societies in times of need.

    The Knights were named after the explorer Christopher Columbus. The order’s original principles were “unity” and “charity,” with “fraternity” and “patriotism” added later.

    Fr. O’Donnell, a contemporary in Waterbury, remembered McGivney as “genial, approachable, of kindly disposition, cheerful under reverses, profoundly sympathetic with those upon whom had fallen the heavy hand of affliction, a man of strict probity and sterling integrity in his business transactions.”

    “He was charitable to a fault, if I may so speak. The poor found in him a Good Samaritan,” O’Donnell said in 1900.

    Another contemporary, Fr. Slocum, said: “Fr. McGivney, though a man of unassuming character, was possessed of an indomitable will, by which, aided by the grace of God, he was able to face unkind and unjust criticism from all directions in his great effort to found a society for the benefit of young men and the glory of the Church.”

  4. Knights of Columbus founder Fr. Michael McGivney to be beatified

    Vatican City, May 27, 2020 / 04:55 am (CNA).- Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Michael J. McGivney Wednesday, paving the way for the beatification of the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

    During a May 26 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope authorized the congregation to issue a decree recognizing the miracle.

    McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with nearly two million members in more than a dozen countries.

    Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney played a critical role in the growth of the Church in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. After his ordination in Baltimore in 1877, he served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven. 

    Amid an anti-Catholic climate, he established the Knights to provide spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help for families that had lost their breadwinner.

    A press release from the Knights of Columbus May 27 said the miracle recognized by Pope Francis involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed in utero of a life-threatening condition in 2015 after his family prayed to McGivney.

    It added that a date would be set soon for the beatification Mass, which will take place in Connecticut.

    Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said: “Fr. McGivney has inspired generations of Catholic men to roll up their sleeves and put their faith into action. He was decades ahead of his time in giving the laity an important role within the Church.”

    “Today, his spirit continues to shape the extraordinary charitable work of Knights as they continue to serve those on the margins of society as he served widows and orphans in the 1880s.” 

    “Fr. McGivney also remains an important role model for parish priests around the world and left us a transformative legacy of effective cooperation between the laity and clergy.”

    McGivney’s sainthood cause officially opened in 1997 in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared the American-born priest a Venerable Servant of God in recognition of his life of heroic virtue.

    In 2000, an investigation into a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession was completed. But in 2011, the Vatican ruled that the event was not miraculous in nature.

    In 2012, another possible miracle was reported and placed under investigation.

    Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.

    He would not be the first member of the Knights of Columbus to be canonized. A group of six Mexican members of the organization were martyred during the Cristero War of 1926-29 and its aftermath. 

    The six are St. Luis Batis, St. Rodrigo Aguilar, St. Miguel de la Mora, St. Pedro de Jesús Maldonado, St. José María Robles, and St. Mateo Correa.

  5. UN chief says pandemic should inspire ‘new unity and solidarity’

    Vatican City, May 26, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday that the world needs a response to the coronavirus pandemic based on the protection of human dignity and human rights.

    “The pandemic should be a wake-up call,” Guterres said in a May 26 interview with Vatican News. “Deadly global threats require a new unity and solidarity.”

    “From the very beginning of this crisis, I have been advocating for solidarity within societies and among countries. Our response must be based on human rights and human dignity,” the UN leader said.

    Guterres has led the international organization since 2017. He served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015. 

    In December, Guterres, a Catholic, recorded a video message with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The two leaders urged the importance of religious freedom, human dignity, and environmental protection.

    At the end of March, the secretary-general called for a global ceasefire so that countries could focus on combating the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

    He said his ceasefire message was simple: “fighting needs to stop so that we can focus on our shared enemy – COVID-19.”

    In his interview, Guterres noted his appreciation of Pope Francis for his support for the global ceasefire appeal and the work of the UN.

    “His global engagement, compassion and calls for unity reaffirm the core values that guide our work: to reduce human suffering and promote human dignity,” he said.

    Guterres explained that 115 governments and more than 200 civil society groups have endorsed the appeal, and 16 armed groups have pledged to end violence, but “mistrust remains high, and it is difficult to turn these commitments into actions that make a difference in the lives of those impacted by conflict.”

    The organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said last week that Yemen, in the midst of a civil war, is also on the brink of a coronavirus “catastrophe.” 

    “What we are seeing in our treatment centre is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of people infected and dying in [Aden],” according to Caroline Seguin, MSF’s operations manager for Yemen.

    “The United Nations and donor states need to do more and do it urgently, not just for Aden but for the whole of Yemen,” Seguin said.

    The secretary-general said he was also concerned about “peace in the home.”

    “Across the globe, as the pandemic spreads, we are also witnessing an alarming increase in violence against women and girls,” he pointed out.

    Guterres said he had launched an appeal to mobilize better protection for women and asked religious leaders “to unequivocally condemn all acts of violence against women and girls and to uphold the bedrock principles of equality.”

    The coronavirus pandemic is also exposing inequalities everywhere, he underlined, including economic disparity and unequal access to health care. 

    “Poverty could rise by 500 million people -- the first increase in three decades,” he stated, adding that this is why he is advocating for a global relief package amounting to at least 10% of the global economy.

    Guterres also said that it is important that any COVID-19 treatments found or developed -- including a vaccine -- be safe and available to everyone.

    “In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe,” he said. “This vaccine needs to be the people’s vaccine.”

    In the interview, the secretary general also said religious leaders have a “crucial role to play” during the pandemic in promoting mutual respect within their communities.

    “They are well-positioned to challenge inaccurate and harmful messages, and encourage all communities to promote non-violence and reject xenophobia, racism and all forms of intolerance,” he said.

    Religious leaders can leverage their networks “to support governments in promoting public health measures recommended by the World Health Organization,” he said, and “to dispel false information and rumors.”