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  1. Pope Francis meets Auschwitz survivor on Holocaust Remembrance Day

    Pope Francis meets with Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, Jan. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jan 27, 2022 / 11:40 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday with an hour-long meeting with Auschwitz survivor Edith Bruck.

    The Holy See press office said on Jan. 27 that the pope had “a long and affectionate conversation” with the 90-year-old Hungarian-born Jewish writer at his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

    “In particular, both stressed the inestimable value of transmitting the memory of the past to the youngest, even in its most painful aspects, so as not to fall back into the same tragedies,” the press office said.

    The pope visited Bruck at her home in Rome in February 2021.

    The writer was born in Hungary in 1931 but has lived in Italy since her early 20s. She survived the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, where she was sent with her parents, two brothers, and a sister at the age of 12.

    Her parents and a brother died in the concentration camps. Bruck and her remaining siblings were freed from the Bergen-Belsen camp by the Allies in 1945.

    Bruck previously thanked the pope for highlighting antisemitism during his visit to Hungary and Slovakia in September 2021.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    Pope Francis spoke about International Holocaust Remembrance Day — held on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945 — at his general audience on Jan. 26.

    He told pilgrims: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

    “I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

    Addressing the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Jan. 27, a Vatican diplomat highlighted the danger of “distortions, including Holocaust denial and revisionism.”

    Father Janusz Urbańczyk said: “These distortions are allowing the threat of antisemitism to lurk in Europe and elsewhere.”

    According to Vatican News, Urbańczyk added that Holocaust Remembrance Day helped “memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never again be possible.”

    In a Jan. 27 statement, Bishop Rafał Markowski, chairman of the Polish bishops’ committee for dialogue with Judaism, paid tribute to Holocaust victims.

    He said: “We remember their tragic fates, firmly believing that God is the God of Life, and man lives forever in God.”

    “We also commemorate the heroic actions of many people, known and unknown by name, who, like St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, did not let themselves be overcome by evil, but overcame it with the power of good.”

    “May their stories motivate us to responsibly strive for peace, for respect for life, dignity and freedom of every person and nation.”

  2. Pope Francis urges Roman Rota to work with ‘synodal spirit’

    Pope Francis addresses members of the Roman Rota in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Jan. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jan 27, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Thursday urged members of the Catholic Church’s highest court handling appeals of marriage annulment cases to work with a “synodal spirit.”

    In his annual speech to the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota on Jan. 27, the pope recalled that the worldwide Church is engaged in a two-year consultation process ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

    “The synodal path we are currently following also challenges our meeting, because it also involves the judicial sphere and your mission at the service of families, especially those who are wounded and in need of the balm of mercy,” he said in his address in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

    The Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. Among the Rota’s primary responsibilities is considering appeals in marriage nullity cases.

    A declaration of nullity — often referred to as an “annulment” — is a ruling by a tribunal that a marriage did not meet the conditions required to make it valid according to Church law.

    Thursday’s meeting, which marked the start of the Rota’s new judicial year, began with an address to the pope by Msgr. Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, the Spanish dean of the Roman Rota.

    In his speech, the pope referred to the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Amoris laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on love in the family. The celebration will end on June 26, with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

    He said: “In this year dedicated to the family as an expression of the joy of love, we have the opportunity today to reflect on synodality in matrimonial nullity proceedings.”

    “Although synodal work is not strictly procedural in nature, it should be placed in dialogue with judicial activity, in order to encourage a more general rethinking of the importance of the experience of the canonical process for the lives of the faithful who have experienced a marriage breakdown and, at the same time, for the harmony of relationships within the ecclesial community.”

    “Let us then ask ourselves in what sense the administration of justice needs a synodal spirit.”

    The pope said in matrimonial cases it was vital that all parties set aside subjective interests and focus on the same goal: “that of shining the light on the truth about a concrete union between a man and a woman, arriving at the conclusion as to whether or not there is a true marriage between them.”

    He said that from the earliest stages of a case, couples should be invited to seek “forgiveness and reconciliation” and not to see a declaration of nullity as “the only objective” or something that is “a right regardless of the facts.”

    He underlined that “any voluntary alteration or manipulation of the facts, aimed at obtaining a pragmatically desired result, is not admissible.”

    Pope Francis illustrated his point by describing a case that a bishop recently presented to him concerning a disciplinary problem with a priest.

    The judge of the national Church court told the bishop that he was prepared to give whatever verdict was desired. “If you tell me to condemn him, I will condemn him; if you tell me to acquit him, I will acquit him,” he said, according to the pope.

    “This can happen. It can come to this if there is no unity in the trials even with conflicting sentences,” the pope reflected. “Go together, because the good of the Church, the good of the people, is at stake. It is not a negotiation that takes place.”

    In his address, Pope Francis alluded to his 2015 document Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which made changes to canon law intended to streamline the process by which Church tribunals assess requests for declarations of nullity.

    The text said that in each diocese, “the judge in first instance for cases of nullity or marriage for which the law does not expressly make an exception is the diocesan bishop.”

    The pope reiterated on Thursday that “the original judge is the bishop.”

    He said: “The dean greeted me saying: ‘the pope, universal judge of all…’ But this is because I am bishop of Rome and Rome presides over everything, not because I have another title. Thanks to this.”

    “If the pope has this power it is because he is the bishop of the diocese of which the Lord wanted the bishop to be the pope. The real and first [judge] is the bishop, not the judicial vicar, the bishop.”

    Returning to the theme of synodality, the pope urged judges to develop their listening skills.

    “As in other areas of pastoral care, in judicial activity too, we need to foster a culture of listening, a prerequisite for a culture of encounter,” he said.

    “This is why standard answers to the concrete problems of individual persons are harmful.”

    He also reminded judges to be open to their colleagues when considering cases as part of a panel.

    “In this sense, in your action as ministers of the tribunal, the pastoral heart, the spirit of charity and understanding towards people who suffer from the failure of their married life, must never be lacking,” he said.

    “To acquire such a style it is necessary to avoid the cul-de-sac of juridicism — which is a kind of legal Pelagianism; it is not Catholic, juridicism is not Catholic — that is, of a self-referential vision of the law.”

    “Law and judgment are always at the service of truth, justice, and the evangelical virtue of charity.”

    He said that another important aspect of “the synodality of processes” was discernment.

    “It is a matter of discernment based on walking together and listening, and which allows us to read the concrete situation of marriage in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.

    The pope concluded by encouraging members of the Rota in their work and reminding them of the importance of prayer.

    He said: “May prayer always accompany you. ‘I’m busy, I have to do many things…’ The first thing you need to do is pray. Pray for the Lord to be close to you. And also to know the heart of the Lord: we know it in prayer. And the judges pray, and must pray, twice or three times as much. Please don’t forget to pray for me too, of course.”

  3. Munich abuse report: Vatican editorial director says don’t look for ‘scapegoats’

    The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 08:15 am (CNA).

    An official at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication responded on Wednesday to a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising that faulted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

    In an editorial published by Vatican News on Jan. 26, Andrea Tornielli, the dicastery’s editorial director, wrote: “The words that were used during the press conference to present the report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, as well as the 72 pages of the document dedicated to the brief Bavarian episcopate of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, have filled the newspapers in the past week and have triggered some very strong comments.”

    “Predictably, it was Ratzinger’s four and a half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators,” he said.

    The more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese in southern Germany, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

    In an article that was also published on the front page of the Jan. 26 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican official underlined that the pope emeritus did not evade the questions of the law firm commissioned to draw up the report.

    Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to Westpfahl Spilker Wastl as it compiled the report.

    “The reconstructions contained in the Munich report, which — it must be remembered — is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence, will help to combat pedophilia in the Church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” Tornielli wrote.

    “Only by avoiding these risks will they be able to contribute to the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.”

    It cannot be forgotten that as pope, Benedict XVI “promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers, special laws to combat pedophilia,” Tornielli said.

    He pointed out that Benedict XVI was the first pope to meet several times with abuse survivors during his papal trips.

    “It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” he wrote.

    “It is precisely in this penitential image that the heart of Benedict’s message lies. The Church is not a business, it is not saved only by good practices or by the application, even if indispensable, of strict and effective norms.”

    “The Church needs to ask for forgiveness, help and salvation from the Only One who can give them, from the Crucified One who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.”

    The Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the study’s conclusions “after a first reading and examination.”

    Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said on Jan. 24 that the 94-year-old was carefully reading the extensive report and would make a statement once he had finished examining it.

    Tornielli highlighted words that Benedict XVI said “with extreme lucidity” during an in-flight press conference in May 2010.

    He wrote: “Benedict XVI recognized that ‘the sufferings of the Church come precisely from the inside of the Church, from the sin that exists within the Church. We have always been aware of this, but now we do see it in a truly appalling way: that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from the external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church, and that the Church needs deeply to learn repentance again, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on one side and the need for justice on the other. Forgiveness does not replace justice.’”

  4. Pope Francis on day of prayer for Ukraine: ‘Please, no more war’

    Pope Francis during his general audience in the Paul VI Hall on Jan. 26, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 04:28 am (CNA).

    At the beginning of the Catholic Church’s day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, Pope Francis made an earnest appeal to those in power: “Please, no more war.”

    “I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day,” the pope said at the end of his general audience on Jan. 26.

    “Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions.”

    The pope urged people not to forget the more than five million people who died in Ukraine during World War II.

    “Think that more than five million were annihilated during the time of the last war. They are a suffering people; they have suffered hunger, they have suffered so much cruelty and they deserve peace,” Francis said.

    “May the prayers and invocations that are being raised to heaven today touch the minds and hearts of those in positions of authority on earth, so that dialogue may prevail and the good of all be put before the interests of one side. Please, no more war.”

    Pope Francis called for Jan. 26 to be a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine during his Angelus addresslast Sunday amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

    Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, will preside over a prayer for peace in Ukraine in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere at 5:30 p.m. local time, the same time as Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidiowill gather in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

    “I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 23.

    “Those who pursue their own interests, to the detriment of others, disregard their human vocation, as we were all created as brothers and sisters.”

    Catholic bishops in Europe have also expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

    “At this extremely delicate time, we ask Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue,” the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) said.

    Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said earlier this week that rising tensions with Russia pose “a great danger” to the whole of Europe.

    “The current situation represents a great danger for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the entire European continent, which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe,” their appeal, also signed by other bishops, said.

    Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

    The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

    The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

    The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

    In their joint message, the bishops of Ukraine and Poland called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

    “Today, the quest for alternatives to war in resolving international conflicts has become an urgent necessity, since the terrifying power of the means of destruction are now in the hands of even medium and small powers, and the increasingly strong ties existing between the peoples of the whole earth make it difficult, if not practically impossible, to limit the effects of any conflict,” they said.

    “Therefore, drawing on the experience of previous generations, we call upon those in power to refrain from hostilities. We encourage leaders to immediately withdraw from the path of ultimatums and the use of other countries as bargaining chips.”

    “Differences in interests must be resolved not by the use of arms, but through agreements. The international community should unite in solidarity and actively support endangered society in all possible ways.”

  5. Pope Francis to parents: Never condemn a child

    Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2022. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jan 26, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday never to condemn their children.

    At his Jan. 26 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope encouraged parents to turn to St. Joseph for help, including those whose children are of “different sexual orientations.”

    He said: “I am thinking at this moment of so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”

    Speaking off the cuff, he added: “And I am thinking, too, of parents in the face of their children’s problems: Children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent maladies — how much pain is there! — parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.”

    “Parents who see their children leaving because of an illness, and also — even sadder, we read about it every day in the newspapers — children who get into mischief and end up in a car accident. Parents who see their children not progressing in school and don’t know how... So many parental problems. Let’s think about it: how to help them.”

    “And to these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”

    The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience to “St. Joseph, a man who ‘dreams,’” in the ninth installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November 2021.

    He emphasized the saint’s sensitivity to dreams, which he said were “considered a means by which God revealed himself” in biblical times.

    “Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly,” he said.

    The pope recounted the four dreams of St. Joseph described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the first, an angel told the saint not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

    “Life often puts us in situations that we do not understand and that seem to have no solution,” he said.

    “Praying in these moments — this means letting the Lord show us the right thing to do. In fact, very often it is prayer that gives us the intuition of the way out.”

    “Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never allows a problem to arise without also giving us the help we need to deal with it.”

    In the second dream, Joseph grasped that the Infant Jesus was in danger and the Holy Family needed to flee to Egypt.

    “In life we all experience dangers that threaten our existence or the existence of those we love,” the pope reflected. “In these situations, praying means listening to the voice that can give us the same courage as Joseph, to face difficulties without succumbing.”

    In the third dream, St. Joseph heard that it was safe to return home and, in the fourth, that he should settle in Nazareth, away from Archelaus, the son of Herod.

    “Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer,” the pope commented. “God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness.”

    The pope underlined that prayer was an active practice, always connected to charity.

    “Prayer, however, is never an abstract or purely internal gesture, like these spiritualist movements that are more gnostic than Christian. No, it’s not that,” he said.

    “Prayer is always inextricably linked to charity. It is only when we combine prayer with love, the love for children in the cases I just mentioned, or the love for our neighbour, that we are able to understand the Lord’s messages.”

    “Joseph prayed, worked, and loved — three beautiful things for parents: to pray, to work, and to love — and because of this he always received what he needed to face life’s trials. Let us entrust ourselves to him and to his intercession.”

    After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.

    Speaking to English-speaking Catholics, he highlighted the day for prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, which he announced at last Sunday’s Angelus.

    He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from the United States of America. Today, I especially ask you to join in praying for peace in Ukraine. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

    The pope also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on Jan. 27.

    He said: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

    “I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

    Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
    Pope Francis during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on January 26, 2022. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    The pope told pilgrims that he was unable to move among them at the end of the audience because of a temporary “problem with my right leg.”

    He said: “A ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing.”

    With a smile, the 85-year-old added: “They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but... I don’t know.”

    Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for many years. He spoke about it shortly after his election in 2013, saying it was “very painful” and “I don’t wish it on anyone.”

    He suffered a resurgence of the condition at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, which forced him to cancel public appearances.

    The pope ended his general audience address by reciting a prayer:

    St. Joseph, a man who dreams, teach us to recover the spiritual life
    as the inner place where God manifests Himself and saves us.

    Remove from us the thought that praying is useless;
    help each one of us to correspond to what the Lord shows us.

    May our reasoning be illuminated by the light of the Spirit,
    our hearts encouraged by His strength
    and our fears saved by His mercy. Amen.