ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Marriage after tragedy: The key is forgiveness, couple says

    Danny and Leila Abdallah with children Liana, Alex, Michael, and Selina spoke to CNA at the Vatican on June 23, 2022. / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

    Vatican City, Jul 5, 2022 / 10:07 am (CNA).

    “Forgiveness allowed my marriage to survive,” Leila Abdallah said 28 months after three of her and husband Danny’s six children were killed by a drunk and drug-influenced driver near Sydney, Australia.

    Forgiveness “taught Danny and I to look at each other with eyes of compassion and empathy. Forgiveness has begun the healing process in all of us,” she said at the Vatican, where the family traveled with their three surviving children and 12-week old baby girl for the World Meeting of Families 2022.

    The Abdallahs were invited to speak at the Vatican event about the tragic accident in which they lost their 11-year old niece and three children — 13-year-old Antony, 12-year-old Angelina, and nine-year-old Sienna — as they were walking to buy ice cream following a birthday party.

    The couple shocked the news media when just days after the Feb. 1, 2020 tragedy, they publicly forgave the 29-year-old man who drove his speeding car over the curb, and onto the sidewalk, killing the four children and injuring three others.

    Danny and Leila Abdallah and their six children in 2019. Courtesy photo
    Danny and Leila Abdallah and their six children in 2019. Courtesy photo

    Danny and Leila Abdallah told their family’s story to EWTN in a 2021 TV interview.

    One year later, on June 23, they spoke to CNA about the effect trauma can have on a husband and wife’s relationship, and how the two of them continue to get through their sorrow and anger together.

    “What does marriage look like after grief? Marriage becomes a lot different,” Danny said. “I think if you embrace the pain and suffering, And you do it with prayer, it’s like you’ve gone through a hot furnace and it’s like a purification.”

    Leila said “marriage does become challenging after grief because each one of us is grieving.”

    “So you go through the cycle... He might be angry, or I might be angry at a different time from each other. But me and Danny were fortunate, because of the forgiveness and because of our faith, our love has become deeper,” she said.  

    “When I look at my husband, I see Antony, Angelina, Sienna, I see a piece of them, because they were the fruit of our love.”

    She said they have learned to be more patient with each other, to have fewer silly arguments. When one of them is frustrated, they try to listen, knowing the frustration is not with them.

    “We’re more compassionate. We have more empathy,” she said. “We look at each other... with a different set of eyes,” Danny finished Leila’s sentence. 

    Both parents pointed to the strength of their faith and prayer life before the accident as something which has helped during this time of suffering.

    Danny and Leila, who are part of the Lebanese Maronite Church, had started going to Mass together during the week, not only on Sunday. Danny would also take their older kids to Mass before school.

    They prayed with their children regularly and recited the rosary. On Fridays, Danny brought their oldest daughters and son to feed the homeless at a local shelter. 

    “I wouldn’t let them have dinner [before], so they could feel and experience a bit of hunger before they would come,” he said. “I’d say no, no feed them first and then we’ll go out for dinner.”

    The Abdallahs said the biggest change to their prayer life, since losing their three children, has been a deeper understanding and experience of the suffering of Christ.

    Danny criticized an overemphasis in some Christian circles on the glorious, resurrected Jesus without any focus on what came before.

    “That’s one thing I love about the Catholic Church, they really talk about the suffering Jesus and apply it to our lives,” he said. “With or without Christ, we’re all going to suffer.”

    “This grief and trauma that we’ve experienced, it’s actually taught us [about] … the suffering Jesus, the theology behind it, and how we can apply it to our lives, because no one has done it better than Christ in his suffering. He’s the one that showed us what to do,” Danny continued.

    Both spouses emphasized the importance of forgiveness in marriage.

    “A lot of people end up divorcing because they don’t know how to let go of their anger or they don’t know how to put their guards [down],” Leila observed. “But... forgiveness is the key to a long-lasting relationship, it is what keeps your marriage together.”

    “Run to each other and try and understand each other,” Danny added. “The wide path is running away, but go to the narrow path. It’s a lot harder, but it’s more rewarding … You know, we forgave and we chose to forgive and everything like that, but the pain hasn’t left us. We’re still experiencing the pain daily, but [forgiveness] gets us into a better place.”

    Leila and Danny said they cannot wait to be reunited one day with all their children in heaven —  that has become, more than ever, their purpose in life.

    “Death can’t be avoided, it is part of life. So we might as well be prepared and ready and embrace it because, if we are ready to meet the Lord, it is going to be one of the most amazing moments in our life,” Leila said with a smile on her face.

    “Can you imagine the presence of Jesus? And God is so real. If anything, nothing is more real than God and Jesus on this earth.”

  2. Pope Francis condemns 'senseless shooting,' calls for end of violence after July Fourth parade attack

    Pope Francis, pictured on Oct. 4, 2014. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

    Vatican City, Jul 5, 2022 / 06:53 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis has expressed shock and sadness over the mass shooting that led to the death of at least six and wounded some 30 others at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland on Monday.

    In a telegram sent on behalf of the Holy Father to Cardinal Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago, the pope condemned the “senseless shooting,” appealing for a rejection of all forms of violence.

    The telegram was sent on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reported Vatican News. 

    Pope Francis asked the Cardinal to convey his spiritual closeness to all affected by this attack.

    Robert E. Crimo III, a 22-year-old from Highland Park, was apprehendedlate Monday in connection with the shooting. 

    Crimo had been identified earlier in the day as a person of interest in the shooting.

    The pope’s telegram said he joined “the entire community in praying that Almighty God will grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the injured and bereaved.”  

    “With unwavering faith that the grace of God is able to convert even the hardest of hearts, making it possible to depart from evil and do good,” the message continued, Pope Francis prayed “that every member of society will reject violence in all of its forms and respect life in all of its stages.”

    Pope Francis concluded his message with an Apostolic Blessing “as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.”

    Highland Park is an affluent suburb about 20 miles north of Chicago along Lake Michigan.

    In a statement, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said he was praying for the victims and first responders. He also spoke out strongly against the scourge of gun violence.

  3. Pope Francis says he hopes Vatican-China deal will be renewed

    Pope Francis waves at pilgrims from China at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 7, 2016. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jul 5, 2022 / 04:49 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said he hopes the Vatican’s provisional agreement with China on the appointment of Catholic bishops will be renewed for the second time in October.

    In comments to Reuters published Tuesday, the pope said “the agreement is moving well and I hope that in October it can be renewed.”

    The Vatican-China agreement was first signed in September 2018 and then renewed for another two years in October 2020. The terms of the agreement have not been made public.

    Pope Francis spoke to Reuters about the China deal in a 90-minute interview which also covered his health, resignation rumors, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

    In September 2021, the Vatican confirmed that the sixth Catholic bishop had been ordained under the agreement’s terms.

    Seven bishops ordained before the 2018 agreement have also had their positions regularized by the Vatican.

    Pope Francis said the appointment of bishops under the deal in China “is going slowly, but they are being appointed.”

    The slow process, he said, is “‘the Chinese way,’ because the Chinese have that sense of time that nobody can rush them.”

    Father Bernardo Cervellera, former editor-in-chief of AsiaNews, told CNA last year that the bishops who have been nominated and ordained are close to the Patriotic Catholic Association, “so this means that they are very near to the government.”

    The Catholic Church is still in need of around 40 more bishops in China, according to Cervellera.

    In the Reuters interview, Pope Francis said the Chinese “also have their own problems because it is not the same situation in every region of the country. [The treatment of Catholics] also depends on local leaders.”

    He also defended the Vatican-China deal against its critics.

    “Diplomacy is the art of the possible and of doing things to make the possible become a reality,” he said.

    He compared today’s critics and those who spoke negatively of the Vatican’s diplomatic decisions during the Cold War, when the popes struck deals with Eastern European communist governments in an attempt to protect the interests of the Catholic Church.

    “Diplomacy is like that. When you face a blocked situation, you have to find the possible way, not the ideal way, out of it,” the pope said.

  4. A personal way to govern: Why Pope Francis uses Apostolic Letters the way he does

    Pope Francis / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jul 4, 2022 / 09:06 am (CNA).

    It is no coincidence that Pope Francis chose the form of an apostolic letter to write about liturgy. Nor that he chose to write it one year after the publication of the Traditionis custodes, the motu proprio with which he abolished the liberalization of the Traditional Latin Mass by Benedict XVI.

    Published on June 29 and entitled Desiderio desideravi, the document not only drives home his concerns with the liturgy. It also shines a light on the thought — and the modus operandi — of Pope Francis. 

    In the 15-page apostolic letter, the pope said he wanted “to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration.”

    Pope Francis also said, after writing a letter to bishops to accompany Traditionis custodes, he wished to address all Catholics with some reflections on liturgical formation, the theological importance of the Mass, and acceptance of the liturgical documents of the Second Vatican Council.

    Notably, this is the 83rd time that Pope Francis has used the form of the apostolic letter to convey an authoritative opinion. 

    When it comes to expressing the pope’s teaching authority, his magisterium, an apostolic letter ranks fourth in the hierarchy of pontifical documents. The most important would be an apostolic constitution, followed by a papal encyclical, and then an apostolic exhortation.

    Pope Francis, however, has always favored "light" legislative instruments, which require less effort in drafting – and do not undergo a longer approval process.

    An apostolic constitution, for example, must be consistent with canon law and other prescriptions of the Church. For this reason, Praedicate evangelium, which regulates the functions and offices of the Curia, has had a long gestation period and still awaits full implementation.

    The same is true of a papal encyclical, which is concerned with expressing the magisterium – and cannot be linked only to contingent moments. 

    The third most important kind of document, an apostolic exhortation, is a more particular and personal instrument of the pope. In the case of a post-synodal exhortation, it will draw on the fruits of a Synod of Bishops.

    It is worth noting that Pope Francis' governmental program takes the form of an apostolic exhortation: Evangelii gaudium replaced the post-synodal apostolic exhortation expected after the Synod on the Word of God in 2012.

    Of that synod — the last of the pontificate of Benedict XVI — no trace remains.

    When Pope Francis had to legislate, he mainly used the form of a motu proprio (the Vatican website lists 49 of them) and rescripts. These are officially called rescripta ex audientia sanctissimi, i. e. orders of the Pope, written following a personal audience.

    Neither of these types of decisions require approval by the Roman Curia.

    The use of the apostolic letter, like an executive order, also demonstrates a development of this pontificate: Pope Francis did not initially use these as a form of government. Ultimately, however, that is how he most of all expressed his thoughts and decisions.

    Beyond apostolic letters in the form of a motu proprio, which have a legal purpose and effect, the letters of Pope Francis are also instruments for addressing the people of God. 

    The document Desiderio desideravi serves a variety of purposes:

    1. It is a personal letter with which Pope Francis addresses a specific theme – the liturgy.

    2. It is a letter that carries legal clout because Pope Francis reaffirms what was decided in Traditionis Custodes – and denies any possibility of liberalization of the Traditional Latin Mass.

    3. It is a letter that never mentions his predecessor Benedict XVI, whose decision he subverts, establishing a clear rupture between the before and after.

    In other words, Pope Francis is using this apostolic letter in a very particular way to reinforce a personal decision.

    The government of Pope Francis is deeply personal, so much so that his own point of view is expressed as magisterium.  Pope Francis thus shows himself to be a particular kind of centralizer: Faced with the various expressions of the Church, Pope Francis does not fail to enforce unity, making choices that exclude, in fact, a plurality of forms. Whoever celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass, for Pope Francis, uses a different rite, and is outside the tradition of continuity of the Church.

    We might say that whenever the Pope finds resistance, he gets around it using whatever instrument is available to him. Hence, even the use of "lighter" documents ultimately constitute a form of legislation. In the end, they are the quickest means available to the Pope to govern effectively without consulting too much.

  5. 'For the moment, no. Really!' – Pope Francis dismisses resignation rumors, says health is improving

    Pope Francis / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    Vatican City, Jul 4, 2022 / 06:12 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis has said he has no plans to resign soon and that his knee injury is healing.

    Reports of Francis resigning began to spread last month in light of three events to happen in late August, including the creation of new cardinals and a day trip to the Italian city of L’Aquila, which Benedict XVI visited in 2009, four years before announcing his own resignation. 

    Pope Francis told Reuters in an interview published July 4 that “all of these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen. But it never entered my mind. For the moment no, for the moment, no. Really!”

    The pope did say, as in the past, that he would consider resigning one day if he could no longer run the Church due to poor health, but only “God will say” when that might be.

    The 90-minute interview with Reuters took place on July 2 in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives. He frequently holds meetings in a reception room on the building’s ground floor.

    According to Reuters, the pope arrived for the interview using a cane.

    He joked, “I’m still alive!” when asked how he was doing. He also explained that he had suffered “a small fracture” in his right knee after stepping wrongly with an inflamed ligament.

    The fracture is healing, he said, with the help of laser and magnet therapy. “I am well, I am slowly getting better.”

    Pope Francis expressed regret that, due to the knee injury, he had to cancel a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, scheduled for July 2-7, saying the decision caused him “much suffering.”

    The decision came after doctors said he needs 20 more days of therapy and rest for his knee before he travels to Canada July 24-30.

    The pope also brushed off rumors that he has cancer.

    Some reports have claimed Francis is suffering from colon cancer after he underwent an operation to remove part of his large intestine due to diverticulitis one year ago.

    “[The operation] was a great success,” he told Reuters, adding with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he dismissed as “court gossip.”

    He added that he does not want to have surgery on his knee because of the negative side-effects of general anesthetic.

    In the interview, Pope Francis also addressed the U.S Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision, and answered a question about pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Holy Communion.

    He also spoke about the war in Ukraine and reiterated his desire to visit Kyiv and Moscow.

    No pope has ever visited Moscow, but Francis hinted that there may now be an opening, even if Russian authorities told the Vatican several months ago it was not the right time.

    “I would like to go [to Ukraine], and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the Russian president gave me a small window to serve the cause of peace,” he said.

    “And now it is possible,” he said, “after I come back from Canada, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

    The pope said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has been in contact with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip to the Russian capital.