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. Vatican City implements health measures over coronavirus

    Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican has implemented special health measures and canceled some events as more than 500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Italy.

    Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in Vatican City offices, and there is a nurse and a doctor on call at a Vatican clinic to give immediate assistance, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni told Vatican News. 

    While there have been no diagnosed cases of the coronavirus in Vatican City, Bruni said Feb. 24 that Vatican health staff have worked with the Italian Ministry of Health on procedures which can be brought into action, and are in close contact with the regional authorities in Lazio.

    “In compliance with the provisions of the Italian authorities, some events scheduled for the next few days in indoor places and with an important influx of public have been postponed," Bruni said.

    With Pope Francis’ Lenten retreat scheduled for March 1-6, there are no papal audiences scheduled for next week, but conferences in Rome and other indoor events have been canceled. 

    A conference schedule to take place March 5-6 at the Pontifical Gregorian University on the opening of Vatican archives of Pope Pius XII has been canceled, as has a March 2-7 communications workshop at the Pontifical Urbaniana University for global representatives of the Pontifical Missions Societies.

    An event for a book on Cardinal Celso Costantini Feb. 25, at which Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Luis Antonio Tagle, and Fernando Filoni were expected to speak, was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

    As of Feb. 27, Pope Francis is still scheduled to give his Sunday Angelus address on March 1 before leaving for his Lenten retreat. 

    Pope Francis did not cancel his Wednesday general audience Feb. 26, but he was later seen coughing during his Ash Wednesday Mass. 

    The pope chose not to attend a scheduled liturgy with priests in Rome Feb. 27 “due to a slight indisposition,” according to the Holy See press office. However, the pope’s other appointments, such as Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, took place as usual.

    Italian authorities reported 528 cases of the coronavirus Feb. 27 with 14 deaths. Nearly all of the reported cases are in northern Italy. In response to the outbreak, Italian officials have also imposed quarantine restrictions on several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions, where most of the infections have occurred.

    The Archdiocese of Milan suspended Masses beginning on the evening Feb. 23 until further notice. The Patriarch of Venice, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, suspended Masses and other liturgical celebrations, including baptisms and Stations of the Cross, until Sunday March 1.

    In Rome’s region of Lazio there have been just three reported cases: an Italian, who has recovered, and two Chinese tourists, who are being treated in a hospital.

    “I wish to express again my closeness to the coronavirus patients and the health workers who treat them, as well as to the civil authorities and all those who are working to assist the patients and stop the infection,” Pope Francis said Feb. 26.

  2. ‘Worship of initiatives’ is replacing faith, Pope Francis warns priests

    Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In a message Thursday, Pope Francis criticized placing so much importance on Church programs that the essential teachings of the faith are lost. The pope also said a priest’s agreement with such initiatives should not be the measure of his ministry.  

    “The worship of initiatives is replacing the essential: one faith, one baptism, one God the Father of all. Adherence to initiatives risks becoming the yardstick of communion,” the pope said, in a message read aloud to the priests of the Diocese of Rome Feb. 27.

    Pope Francis was scheduled to deliver the speech in person at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, but decided to remain close to the Vatican after feeling unwell, the Holy See spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said Thursday.

    Instead, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, read the speech on the pope’s behalf.

    In his speech, Francis outlined the different reasons why priests may become “embittered” in their ministry, noting that his observations came from many conversations with priests and are not only his opinion.

    Today, he said, there seems to be a “general atmosphere” of “widespread mediocrity” – and not only in the priesthood.

    “The fact remains that much bitterness in the life of a priest” is rooted in the omissions of his bishop, Francis said in a footnote of the speech.

    Priests risk losing their ministry as pastors, their role as teachers of the faith, he said, as they become “suffocated” by management problems and personnel emergencies.

    But, he added, “who is the catechist of that permanent disciple who is the priest? The bishop of course!”

    Francis said it could be argued that priests do not usually want to be educated by bishops, but even if this is true, “it is not a good reason” for bishops to give up the “munus docendi.”

    “The holy people of God have the right to have priests who teach them to believe; and deacons and priests have the right to have a bishop who teaches them in turn to believe and hope in the One Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life, who inflames their faith,” he said.

    The pope also said that, as a priest, he would want his bishop to help him believe, not just make him happy, and lamented that often bishops end up only attending to their priests in times of crisis, and not making the time to listen to them outside of emergencies.

    In his speech, Pope Francis also argued that another cause of bitterness in the priesthood is problems between priests.

    He pointed to the financial and sexual scandals of recent years as having caused suspicion among priests and hindered meaningful bonds. “There is more ‘community,’ but less communion,” the pope said.

    Francis also said that with these scandals, the devil tempts people to have a Donatist vision of the Church. Donatism is a heresy from the 4th to 6th centuries which argued that Catholic priests had to be without sin or fault for the sacraments they administer to be valid.

    “We have false conceptions of the militant Church, in a sort of ecclesiological puritanism,” he said.

    “The question we ask ourselves when we meet a new brother priest emerges silently: ‘Who do I really have before me? Can I trust him?’”

    Prayer is important to combat this, he said.

    The pope also warned priests against an “individualized conscience” – a feeling of being “more special, powerful, gifted” and therefore needing to start every new parish assignment with a “clean slate,” instead of building on the good already there from the previous pastor.

    Cautioning against the risk of isolation, Francis advised priests to find an old and astute priest to be a spiritual father.

  3. Pope Francis names 4 new bishops for US dioceses

    Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has appointed four new bishops to serve in American dioceses. The appointments, announced Thursday, include three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, and one new auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of San Diego, California.

    The appointments include a Benedictine monk who currently leads the American-Cassinese Congregation.

    The Vatican announced Feb. 27 that Fr. Ramon Bejarano will be consecrated as auxiliary bishop for San Diego. The three new auxiliary bishops for the Newark archdiocese are Msgr. Gregory Studerus, Fr. Michael Saporito, and Abbot Elias Lorenzo.

    Abbot Lorenzo, 59 is a monk of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey, who was previously prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. Lorenzo has served as abbott president of the American-Cassinese Congregation, an association of 25 Benedictine monasteries, since 2016.

    Born in Brooklyn, NY, Lorenzo entered the Benedictine monastery in 1983 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Don Bosco College Seminary. He went on to earn a license in canon law from Catholic University of America, and master’s degrees in counseling psychology and in liturgical theology. After his ordination in 1989, Lorenzo served as a director of liturgy for the abbey, vice president of Delbarton School, and president of the International Commission for Benedictine Education.

    Msgr. Gregory Studerus, a priest of the Newark archdiocese, has served as episcopal vicar of Hudson County since 2015. Before entering seminary, Studerus worked as an elementary school art teacher and served in the National Guard. He holds a Master of Divinity from Immaculate Conception Seminary.

    Msgr. Studerus, 71, has been pastor of St. Joseph of the Palisades Church, the largest Hispanic parish in the Newark archdiocese, for 15 years. 

    The other auxiliary bishop-elect for the Archdiocese of Newark is Fr. Michael Saporito, who currently serves as pastor of St. Helen Parish in Westfield, NJ.

    A native of Newark, Saporito, 57, has served six parishes in the archdiocese since his ordination in 1992, including St. Joseph in Maplewood and St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff. Saporito studied accounting at Rutgers University before entering Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange.

    Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, welcomed the appointments, and said that the pope had shown a “special concern for the life and the mission of Archdiocese of Newark.” 

    “In selecting Msgr. Studerus, Abbot Lorenzo, and Father Saporito for service as bishops, the Holy Father gives new impetus to this local Church as we continue to walk forward in faith.”

    “I am delighted to share my responsibilities with these three dedicated missionary disciples,” Tobin said.

    Pope Francis also appointed a new auxiliary bishop of San Diego Feb. 27, Fr. Ramon Bejarano, who currently serves as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Modesto, CA.

    Born in Laredo, TX, Bejarano, 50, spent much of his childhood in Chihuahua, Mexico, before moving with his family to California, where he was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Stockton in 1998. The bilingual priest earned a master’s degree in philosophy from the Diocesan Seminary of Tijuana, and a Master of Divinity from Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He previously served as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Turlock, CA and as founding pastor of Holy Family Parish in Modesto. 

    The four new auxiliary bishop appointments come one week after all of the current U.S. bishops completed their ad limina visits to Rome to meet Pope Francis and pray at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.

  4. 'Slight' sickness keeps Pope Francis close to home, Vatican says

    Vatican City, Feb 27, 2020 / 07:36 am (CNA).- Pope Francis did not attend a scheduled meeting with Rome priests Thursday morning due to a “slight indisposition,” a Vatican spokesman said.

    The pope’s other appointments took place as usual Thursday; he offered his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse and later met with members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

    “Due to a slight indisposition,” Pope Francis “preferred to remain in the rooms close to Santa Marta,” Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director told journalists Feb. 27. Santa Marta is where Francis lives at the Vatican.

    Bruni added that the pope’s “other commitments proceed regularly.”

    The encounter with Rome’s priests was to take place as part of a penitential Lenten liturgy at the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran across Rome.  

    In his absence at the liturgy, the pope’s prepared remarks were read to clergy by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome.

    Pope Francis, who is 83 years old, is generally healthy, though he suffers from sciatica and had eye surgery for cataracts last year. When he was young he had a portion of one lung removed because of an infection.

    The pope had a full schedule Feb. 26 with a procession and the celebration of Mass for Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, as well as his weekly general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

    Francis’ illness comes at the same time as the novel coronavirus afflicts several hundred people in Italy, mostly in the north.

    During the audience, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to those who are sick with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, and with the healthcare workers tasked with treating them and with stopping the contagion.

    As of noon, on Feb. 27, cases of coronavirus in Italy had reached more than 500, with 14 deaths. In Rome’s region of Lazio there have been just three cases: an Italian who has recovered and two Chinese tourists who are being treated in the hospital.

     

  5. Pope Francis prays for Iraqis as Vatican confirms no papal visit in 2020

    Vatican City, Feb 26, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that he is praying for the people of Iraq, and repeated his desire to visit the country.

    Speaking to pilgrims from the Middle East during his general audience address, the pope gave a special welcome to people from Iraq, who he said were present in a “nice group.”

    “Citizens of Iraq, I tell you I am very close to you. You are in a battlefield, you suffer a war, from one side and the other,” Francis said Feb. 26.

    The pope said he is praying for peace in Iraq and referred to his hope to visit the country in 2020.

    “I pray for you and I pray for peace in your country, which it was planned that I visit this year,” Francis said. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni subsequently confirmed to CNA that a papal visit to Iraq will not take place this year.

    Pope Francis said in June he would like to visit Iraq in 2020 and two Catholic bishops from the country had also referred to the possibility of a papal trip there.

    Francis has wanted to visit Iraq throughout his pontificate, but it has not yet been possible due to the Iraqi Civil War, Iraqi-Kurdish conflict, and continued security concerns in different parts of the country.

    Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin visited Iraq during the Christmas season in 2018, and concluded at the time that the country was still unsafe for a papal visit.

    If Francis does eventually travel to Iraq, he would become the first pope to visit the nation.

    Since the beginning of October, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting government corruption, a lack of economic growth, and proper public services. They have also objected to foreign influence over their country’s internal affairs.

    Government forces have used tear gas and bullets against protesters in what are the largest demonstration Iraq has seen since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. 

    As of Jan. 13, more than 660 people had been killed in the demonstrations, according to the Iraqi War Crime Documentation Centre.

    On Feb. 1, Iraq appointed a new prime minister, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, after the previous prime minister resigned in November in response to the protests.

    Allawi praised the protests soon after his appointment. The prime minister-designate is now forming a government, which is scheduled for a parliamentary vote of approval Feb. 27.