Skull of St. Thomas Aquinas unveiled at 700th anniversary of his canonization

Skull of St. Thomas Aquinas unveiled at 700th anniversary of his canonization

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Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas has arrived at the Dominican Convent of Toulouse, France, and placed in a new reliquary as the order celebrates the 700th anniversary of the saint’s canonization in the Catholic Church.

The new reliquary was created by Augustin Frison-Roche and was blessed during a Mass on Jan. 27 in the church of the convent. It was then transferred to the Jacobin Convent of Toulouse for the opening Mass of the seventh centenary of the Italian saint, theologian, and philosopher on Saturday, Jan. 28. A procession of the relics followed the Mass.

The opening of the reliquary took place in the Dominican convent’s sacristy in the presence of Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, OP; the chancellor of the Toulouse Diocese, Father J.-François Galinier-Pallerola; and prior of the Toulouse convent, Father Philippe Jaillot, OP.

Sculptor and painter Frison-Roche posted a photo of the new reliquary on his Instagram account, where he wrote: “Happy New Year to all. For me it begins in the light of St. Thomas Aquinas.”

The Dominican order also shared photos of the rare event.

“The opportunity to witness the opening of a reliquary is rare, as it is sealed to guarantee the authenticity of its contents,” the order wrote in their Instagram post. “The opening is only done for major reasons that require the renewal of the container.”

You can also watch a video of the reliquary journey shared by the Dominicans: 

The reliquary will now embark on a journey across France and abroad. 

Aquinas was a Dominican friar and priest and is considered one of the Church’s greatest teachers, philosophers, and theologians. 

Some of his greatest accomplishments are his works of theology. These include the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium Theologiae, and Summa Theologica.

Nearing death, he made a final confession and asked for the Eucharist to be brought to him. In its presence, he declared: “I adore you, my God and my Redeemer … for whose honor I have studied, labored, preached, and taught.”

Aquinas died on March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323 and made a doctor of the Church in 1567.

Sacristan killed, priest wounded in terrorist attacks in Spain; bishops condemn violence

Sacristan killed, priest wounded in terrorist attacks in Spain; bishops condemn violence

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Jan 26, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A sacristan was killed and a priest wounded during a suspected terrorist attack Wednesday on two Catholic churches in Spain.

As reported by Europa Press, according to police sources, the sacristan of the Church of Our Lady of La Palma was murdered and the pastor of St. Isidore Church was wounded.

Both churches are in the city of Algeciras near the far southern end of the Iberian peninsula across the strait of Gibraltar from Morocco.

Calatunya Press reported that the deceased sacristan is Diego Valencia, and the priest is Father Antonio Rodríguez.

The news outlet further reported that in the St. Isidore attack, the suspect entered the church and struck at statues with a machete. The priest tried to expel him and once outside, the suspect, dressed in a djellaba (typical Moroccan dress), stabbed the priest in the neck.

Sources from the 112 Andalusia Emergency Service informed Europa Press that the attack occurred around 7:30 p.m.

The Diocese of Cádiz-Ceuta where Algeciras is located said in a Jan. 26 statement that the injured priest is hospitalized and is “fortunately already out of danger.”

The deceased sacristan was “much loved in the parish and in the city for his dedication and affability with everyone,” the diocese related.

The National Court has initiated the investigation as an alleged jihadist terror attack, a process carried out by the Central Investigating Court No. 6.

In wake of the attacks, the mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, decreed a day of official mourning, with flags at half staff on municipal buildings, and announced that a rally will be held in front of the city’s largest church.

Various Spanish bishops condemned the attack and offered their condolences to the victims and their families.

“It is with pain that I have received the news of the events in Algeciras,” Francisco César García, the auxiliary bishop of Toledo and secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, wrote on Twitter.

“In these sad moments of suffering, we join the grief of the families of the victims and the Diocese of Cádiz and ask the God of life and peace for the speedy recovery of the injured,” the prelate said.

In a Jan. 26 press conference, García also revealed that Bishop Rafael Zornoza of the Cádiz Diocese was making a pastoral visit in Algeciras “and was not in that church but was a few meters away.”

Although the Zornoza was not in direct danger, this circumstance “allowed him to immediately be present at the scene and receive firsthand information.”

The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference acknowledged that “in this case there was a religious motivation of hatred of the faith” but stressed that “we cannot and should not demonize groups in general.”

The prelate expressed in any case the “most absolute and total condemnation” of the attacks “with a special gravity, which is when this violence is wrongly tried to be justified in the name of God. That is taking the name of God in vain, whatever the name of that one true God may be called.”

García also recalled that “as St. John Paul II said, revalidated by Benedict XVI and confirmed by Pope Francis, the name of God can never, ever, ever be used for any act of violence.”

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference expressed in a statement their “closeness and heartfelt sentiments and the consolation of faith to the families of the victims, to the Diocese of Cádiz, and to the people of Gibraltar County.”

“We also express our strongest condemnation of all forms of violence, which can have no place in the society in which we live,” the prelates stressed.

“As believers, we ask the God of mercy and peace to fill the hearts of the victims with hope and heal the wounded, accompany the Church and society in the search for peace, and to convert the hearts of violent people,” the bishops concluded.

Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and archbishop of Barcelona, said he was “shocked by the armed attack that took place in two parishes in Algeciras, which caused the death of the sacristan of one of them and seriously injured the pastor of another as well as at least two other people.”

“I pray for the victims of this atrocity and for their relatives,” the cardinal assured.

The Diocese of Cádiz-Ceuta released a statement from Bishop Rafael Zornoza calling on the faithful to “be bearers of peace and mercy.”

The prelate said that the diocese is “still in shock and pained by the murder of the sacristan and this good Salesian priest who was wounded.”

At the same time, he emphasized that “we want, however, to be bearers of peace and mercy in the midst of this world where we live, which has so many tensions and so many manifestations of inhuman violence.”

The bishop said that although the attacks hit them “very hard,” at the same time “they are uniting people more in prayer and faith.”

He has also stressed his firm condemnation, although he was cautious about assuming what happened: “Of course we strongly condemn these incidents, although we are really awaiting clarification from the law enforcement authorities.”

Zornoza said he was grateful for “all the expressions of condolences, solidarity, and love” that they are receiving “from near and far, from the entire Church.”

“The truth is that we feel the strength of the prayer of the entire Church and its closeness, its encouragement and its testimony strengthen us a lot,” he said.

“We will continue to entrust ourselves and everyone to the Lord,” he concluded.

Spanish priest calls out Father James Martin for his ‘poisoned doctrine’ on homosexuality

Spanish priest calls out Father James Martin for his ‘poisoned doctrine’ on homosexuality

Father James Martin, SJ. / Credit: Flickr by Shawn (CC BY-NC 2.0)

ACI Prensa Staff, Jan 24, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Father Francisco José Delgado, a priest of the Archdiocese of Toledo in Spain and host of “The Sacristy of the Vendée” program on YouTube, criticized Jesuit Father James Martin for a controversial post on Twitter about the gay “marriage” of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

The controversy began with the accusation that Buttigieg’s travel expenses as secretary were excessive. The official responded that he “traveled with his ‘husband’ as other senior officials travel with their wives,” Delgado explained.

Martin tweeted “Pete Buttigieg is married,” commenting on a tweet from the Catholic League, which read that “it is true that Peter Buttigieg is legally married, but that is a legal fiction.”

On Jan. 22, Martin posted: “Surprised this got so much attention. Like it or not, Pete Buttigieg is legally married.” 

“You may disagree with same-sex marriage (or not). But @SecretaryPete is married in the eyes of the state, and his church, as much as anyone else is. To claim otherwise is to ignore reality,” wrote the Jesuit priest, who is also a consultant to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications.

Responding to the evolving controversy, Delgado tweeted in response to Martin’s post. “You can go to his ‘church’ and stop sullying that of Christ, prophet of Satan,” he wrote.  

Wave of criticism

Martin’s tweet sparked a wave of other criticism on social media. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, archbishop emeritus of Durban, South Africa, pointed out that just because the state sanctions something doesn’t make it right:

“Not so long ago people of colour were considered by the State to be less than human & so denied them their human rights! Sorry! That did not make people of colour less than human! In fact only God, our Creator, could do that. Instead he chose to become human to prove his point!” he tweeted.

“He’s not married in the eyes of God. To claim otherwise is to ignore reality,” tweeted Sean K. Davis in response to Martin’s assertion regarding Buttigieg’s relationship.

Adele Scalia, daughter-in-law of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, countered: “You are, in fact, not surprised this got so much attention. You tweeted it for the attention you knew it would get.”

‘Poisoned doctrine’

Delgado said in a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, that “Father James Martin, an American Jesuit, has the habit of speaking out on social media in a scandalous way against the Catholic faith.” 

“His favorite theme is the acceptance of everything that has to do with homosexuality, not only the tendency or the acts, but even the recognition of homosexual unions as true marriages,” the Spanish priest remarked.

Martin’s first comment in support of Buttigieg, the Spanish priest said, was that “‘Pete Buttigieg is married.’ Faced with such an outrageous statement, many Catholics have reminded him that it is against Church teaching, and have even asked him if he would be consistent and confer the sacrament of marriage (although Buttigieg is not Catholic, but is currently an Episcopalian),” Delgado continued.

The Spanish priest noted: “James Martin has insisted that the politician ‘is married in the eyes of the state and his church, as much as anyone else is.’ This, said by any Catholic, would be excusable if it is due to ignorance and, simply, it would be necessary to proceed to explain to that person what the doctrine of the Church is.”

However, the Spanish priest pointed out, “Martin is not only a Jesuit priest but also holds a position at the service of the Holy See as a consultant to the Dicastery for Communications. Therefore, with regard to him there is not only room for a correction that, on the other hand, many other Catholics have already tried to make to him.”

In reality, “what we Catholics and especially priests feel is terrible indignation at the attitude of this priest openly contrary to the teaching that he should defend and communicate.”

“By doing so, he causes serious damage to the Church and to the simpler faithful who, considering his priestly status, think that what he says corresponds to the official position of the Church,” the priest lamented.

Delgado then recalled what the Catholic Church teaches, specifically what is established in the document “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition of unions between homosexual persons” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty,” the Vatican document states in Section 5. 

In conclusion, the Spanish priest invited “the priest James Martin, if he is not willing to stop sullying the face of Mother Church with his poisoned doctrine, to leave as soon as possible, since it doesn’t seem that those who have authority over him want to do anything about it.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

German bishop dismisses Vatican concerns over a permanent synodal council

German bishop dismisses Vatican concerns over a permanent synodal council

Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference in St. Peter’s Square, June 27, 2020. / Deutsche Bischofskonferenz/Matthias Kopp.

CNA Newsroom, Jan 23, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

On Monday, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference said he welcomed a new letter from the Vatican detailing concerns about the push for a permanent synodal council — a new controlling body of the Church in Germany.

In a statement published on Jan. 23, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said the German diocesan bishops had discussed the letter and would seek to discuss the matter further “in the near future.”

At the same time, Bätzing dismissed concerns that a German synodal council would have authority over the bishops’ conference and undermine the authority of individual bishops as “unfounded.” 

As CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported, these concerns were addressed in the latest letter from the Vatican because five German bishops asked Rome to do so. 

The bishops of Cologne, Regensburg, Passau, Eichstätt, and Augsburg wrote to the Vatican on Dec. 21, 2022. They raised what Bätzing acknowledged on Monday were “justified and necessary questions” — in particular, whether bishops could be compelled to abide by such a council’s authority. 

This was not the case, the Vatican’s latest letter noted. The message, written in German, reminded Bishop Bätzing that according to Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches “that episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college.”

Running to four pages, the latest Vatican letter to Germany said it was approved by Pope Francis. It was signed by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin; the prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria; and the prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. 

Warning of a threat of a new schism from Germany, the Vatican already intervened in July 2022 against a German synodal council. 

The latest missive, dated Jan. 16, informed Bätzing “that neither the Synodal Way, nor any body established by it, nor any bishops’ conference has the competence to establish the ‘synodal council’ at the national, diocesan, or parish level.”

In his public statement on Monday, Bishop Bätzing said the latest “document from Rome will have the consequence for us in Germany that we will think much more intensively about the forms and possibilities of synodal consultation and decision-making in order to develop a culture of synodality.”

Bätzing said this was “helpful” with a view to how the council would be brought about. This would be discussed in further dialogue with Rome.

Participants of the German Synodal Way in September 2022 voted to create a controlling body that would permanently oversee the Church in Germany.

According to this document, such a synodal council would come about after a “synodal committee” was formed, which then would deliberate the details of the new national governing body.

Though the letter from Rome explicitly states that bishops are not required to participate in such a committee, Bätzing noted on Jan. 23 that the concept of such a committee itself “is not called into question by the [latest] letter from Rome.”

According to the Synodal Way’s plans, the synodal committee would consist of the 27 diocesan bishops, 27 members elected by the lay organization ZdK, and 10 members jointly elected by them. 

The committee would be chaired by the president of the bishops’ conference and “the president(s) of the ZdK.”

The permanent synodal council would function “as a consultative and decision-making body on essential developments in the Church and society,” the German proposal states. 

More importantly, it would “make fundamental decisions of supra-diocesan significance on pastoral planning, questions of the future, and budgetary matters of the Church that are not decided at the diocesan level.”

Critics of the plan have drawn comparisons to communist Soviets and accused the German bishops of reinventing existing Protestant structures.

In June 2022, Cardinal Walter Kasper, a theologian considered close to Pope Francis, said there could be no “synodal council,” given Church history and theology: “Synods cannot be institutionally made permanent. The tradition of the Church does not know a synodal Church government. A synodal supreme council, as is now envisaged, has no basis in the entire history of the constitution. It would not be a renewal, but an unheard-of innovation.”

Kasper has previously accused the organizers of the German Synodal Way, also known as the “Synodal Path,” of using a "lazy trick" that constituted a coup d’etat.

The president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who was bishop of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999, said the German process had invited comparisons to communist structures in the Soviet Union: “It was a political scientist, not a theologian, who recently expressed this notion somewhat strongly, referring to such a synodal council as a supreme soviet.”

The cardinal continued: “‘Soviet’ is an old Russian word that means exactly what we call a ‘Rat,’ a council in German. Such a supreme soviet in the Church would obviously not be a good idea. Such a council system is not a Christian idea, but an idea coming from quite a different spirit or un-spirit. It would choke off the freedom of the Spirit, which blows where and when it wants, and destroy the structure that Christ wanted for his Church.”

Further concerns were raised by a professor of theology from the University of Vienna. 

The dogmatist Jan-Heiner Tück warned that a German “synodal council” would transfer leadership authority “from sacramentally ordained persons to bodies, a conversion of power that shows a clear closeness to synodal practices in the Protestant Church in Germany.”

From the outset, the German Synodal Way, which is not a synod, has courted controversy.

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 19-page letter to Catholics in Germany urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.” 

The president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Bätzing of Limburg, has repeatedly rejected concerns and instead expressed disappointment in Pope Francis in May 2022.  

In November of last year, following an encounter with Pope Francis and the Roman Curia, Bätzing said Rome might once again summarize “its objections, its concerns” of the German process. However, the Synodal Way had made its decisions, also concerning a permanent synodal council, Bätzing added.

In an interview published one month later, in June, Pope Francis reiterated that he told Bätzing that the country already had “a very good Evangelical [Lutheran] Church” and “we don’t need two.”

Pope Francis lamented the “erosion” of the faith in Germany at the visit of the German bishops to Rome in 2015. 

“Excessive centralization, instead of helping, can complicate the life of the Church and her missionary dynamic,” the pope warned the German prelates in November 2015.

Second bystander ensnared by English ban on prayer outside abortion clinics

Second bystander ensnared by English ban on prayer outside abortion clinics

Adam Smith-Connor was fined for “praying for [his] son, who is deceased” near an abortion facility in Bournemouth, England. / ADF UK

Denver, Colo., Jan 22, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Amid continuing controversy over strict limits on behavior outside abortion clinics in some English cities, a man faces a fine for praying silently outside one clinic in memory of his dead son.

“I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record for praying silently,” Adam Smith-Connor said, according to the legal group supporting him, Alliance Defending Freedom UK.

Smith-Connor had approached a British Pregnancy Advisory Service abortion facility in Bournemouth, in the southwest English county of Dorset. He intended to pray for his unborn son, who had died in an abortion he helped procure at a similar facility more than two decades ago.

Smith-Connor stood silently with his back to the clinic to respect the privacy of staff and visitors, according to Alliance Defending Freedom UK. Community safety officers inquired about what he was doing, and Smith-Connor replied: “Praying for my son, who is deceased.”

His Nov. 24, 2022, encounter with the officers was recorded on his phone. 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” one officer replied. “But ultimately, I have to go along with the guidelines of the Public Space Protection Order, to say that we are in the belief that therefore you are in breach of clause 4a, which says about prayer, and also acts of disapproval …”

“I’m just standing praying,” Smith-Connor said.

“I do understand that. But the (protection order) is in place for a reason and we have to follow through on those regulations,” the officer replied. 

A protection order is intended to stop anti-social behavior. The protection order for the abortion clinic has been in force since Oct. 13, 2022, and will remain in place for three years.

As part of the order, the Council of Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole has drawn red lines around an abortion provider and designated the area a “safe zone.” Anyone caught blessing themselves with the sign of the cross, reciting Scripture, or sprinkling holy water behind these red lines can be fined £100 (about $113) or risk a court conviction. The order bars engaging in an act or an attempted act of approval or disapproval of abortion services.

Smith-Connor faces a fine based on his statement that he was praying for his deceased son. A legal team with the support of Alliance Defending Freedom UK is challenging the fine.

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom UK, objected to the action against Smith-Connor.

“Nobody should be criminalized for what they believe — especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds,” Igunnubole said.

The attorney compared the case to that of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested in Birmingham Dec. 6, 2022, for standing still and praying silently outside an abortion facility, which was closed at the time. Vaughan-Spruce, 45, faces four counts of violating that city’s protection order. 

Like her, Igunnubole said, O’Connor-Smith “could now face prosecution for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone. The rapid proliferation of orders criminalizing volunteers such as Adam and Isabel should be a wake-up call to all those who value freedom of expression — even freedom of thought — no matter their views on abortion.”

Grieving an aborted son

Smith-Connor said he stood outside the clinic due to his own personal experience with abortion.

“Twenty-two years ago I drove my ex-girlfriend to a facility and paid for her to have an abortion. It was a pivotal moment in my life,” he said. “The consequences of my actions that day came back to grieve me years later when I realized I had lost my son Jacob to an abortion I had paid for.”

He said he “prayed to God for my son Jacob, for other babies who have lost their lives to abortion, for their grieving families, and for abortion clinic staff.”

“In the past, I assisted with abortions in hospital as part of my army medical training, but now I pray for those who perform abortions because I realize how harmful abortion is to women and families and that every single human life is valuable — no matter how small,” he said. “Most of all, I’m moved to pray because of what happened to my son, Jacob.”

Legislators in the U.K. Parliament have introduced a proposal to create similar zones near abortion clinics across England and Wales.

Blood-stained shirt of beatified judge killed by Mafia displayed in Rome

Blood-stained shirt of beatified judge killed by Mafia displayed in Rome

The faithful venerate a relic of Blessed Rosario Livatino at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Italy, Jan. 20, 2023. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

The shirt worn by Blessed Rosario Livatino when he was murdered by the Mafia in Sicily in 1990 was displayed in churches and government buildings in Rome this week.

Livatino was beatified in 2021 in Agrigento, Sicily, after Pope Francis declared him a martyr for his death on Sept. 21, 1990, at the age of 37.

While driving toward the Agrigento courthouse where he had been working as a judge, Livatino’s car was hit by another car, sending him off the road. While the young magistrate ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, he was brutally shot in the back and then killed by further gunshots.

The blood-stained shirt the Catholic lawyer and magistrate was wearing that day is now preserved as a relic and has been brought from Sicily to Rome to be temporarily displayed for veneration.

The blood-stained shirt Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic lawyer and magistrate, was wearing the day he was murdered is now preserved as a relic and has been brought from Sicily to Rome to be temporarily displayed for veneration Jan. 13–21, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA
The blood-stained shirt Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic lawyer and magistrate, was wearing the day he was murdered is now preserved as a relic and has been brought from Sicily to Rome to be temporarily displayed for veneration Jan. 13–21, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The relic, which arrived in Rome on Jan. 13, has been solemnly exposed for veneration in several Catholic parishes and universities, as well as Italy’s Parliament, Supreme Court building, Superior Council of the Judiciary, the Ministry of Grace and Justice, and the Municipality of Rome.

On Jan. 18–19 the shirt was at a Catholic church inside the headquarters of the Italian financial police, where Commanding General Andrea De Gennaro and Archbishop Santo Marcianò, head of the Military Ordinariate for Italy, participated in a conference on “Livatino, pilgrim of justice and faith.”

On Friday, the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro welcomed the relic for a few hours with a ceremony and Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura.

Cardinal Dominique Mamberti presides at a ceremony and Mass at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome, where a relic of Blessed Rosario Livatino was displayed Jan. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Cardinal Dominique Mamberti presides at a ceremony and Mass at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome, where a relic of Blessed Rosario Livatino was displayed Jan. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The final stop in the relic’s journey will be Jan. 21 at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, a 15th-century church built inside the ruined frigidarium of the Roman Baths of Diocletian.

Blessed Rosario Livatino worked as a prosecutor in Sicily dealing with the criminal activity of the Mafia throughout the 1980s. He confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” the corrupt system of Mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.

At the age of 37, he served as a judge at the Court of Agrigento, where he always treated the accused with kindness.

Cardinal Dominique Mamberti presides at a ceremony and Mass at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome, where a relic of Blessed Rosario Livatino was displayed Jan. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Cardinal Dominique Mamberti presides at a ceremony and Mass at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome, where a relic of Blessed Rosario Livatino was displayed Jan. 20, 2023. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Livatino was also known to have a strong devotion to and knowledge of Scripture. After his death, a Bible full of notations was found in his office desk, where he always kept a crucifix.

The pilgrimage of Livatino’s relic in Rome happened to coincide with the arrest of one of Italy’s most wanted mafiosi, Matteo Messina Denaro, on Jan. 16.

Messina Denaro, a notorious boss connected to the Sicilian Mafia group Cosa Nostra, was arrested in Palermo after nearly three decades in hiding.

Meet the ‘Benedict Bears’: Cuddly companions commemorate the late pope emeritus

Meet the ‘Benedict Bears’: Cuddly companions commemorate the late pope emeritus

The cuddly bear commemorating the late Pope Benedict XVI, created by the Coburg, Bavaria, company Hermann Teddy Fabrik in Germany. / Credit:

CNA Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 09:15 am (CNA).

A traditional toy manufacturer in the picturesque Bavarian town of Coburg has produced two limited editions of its iconic teddy bears in honor of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

The family-run Hermann Teddy Fabrik made only 265 of each edition because “Pope Benedict XVI is the 265th pope in history since Peter,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, on Jan. 20.

The larger toy of the two toys commemorating the pontiff is dressed in a white cape, wears a zucchetto on his head, and sports a lurex gold sash. The cuddly toy is selling for about $215 and comes with a pectoral cross — attached to a cord decorated with Swarovski crystals.

The hand-stuffed bear is delivered together with a card from 2005 with a picture of the papal teddy bear, “which was presented and issued by us for the enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, 2005,” the company said.

The bigger Benedict bear also features the popular “growling voice” the toys make when cuddled. Hermann published an audio recording of the iconic sound on its website.


The smaller edition of the Benedict bear is stuffed with cotton instead of wood shavings, making it somewhat cuddlier.

Selling for about $53, it comes with a small scroll on which “a true story about the childhood of Benedict XVI, told in the style of the childhood memories of George Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict XVI,” is written.

The scroll tells the “true story” of how a 2-year-old Joseph Ratzinger, growing up in rural Bavaria, always wanted a teddy bear he saw in a local toymaker’s shop window. The little boy was devastated to see the toy had disappeared just before Christmas — only to discover the Christ Child had left it under the Christmas tree for him a few days later.

The Bavarian toymaker has produced a variety of teddy bears commemorating “popes, saints, and religious,” CNA Deutsch reported, including St. John Paul II and Pope Francis as well as St. Teresa of Calcutta. For fans of the legendary Swiss Guard, there is a teddy bear version complete with the iconic halberd — and also two models of a certain German monk by the name of Martin Luther.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on Dec. 31, 2022, at the age of 95. He was supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013.

Cardinal praises exemplary life of beatified Italian judge murdered by the Mafia

Cardinal praises exemplary life of beatified Italian judge murdered by the Mafia

Blessed Rosario Livatino. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Sicily

CNA Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin highlighted the importance of legality and justice and cited the exemplary witness of Blessed Rosario Livatino, a judge who was murdered by the Italian Mafia.

The cardinal made his remarks at a conference held Jan. 18 in the Italian Senate on the continued relevance of the life of Blessed Rosario Livatino. 

Parolin noted that Livatino is “a marvelous figure” because “he was an integral Christian who knew how to fully live his faith in the exercise of a particularly delicate profession such as that of the judiciary, conforming his interpretation and application of justice to Christian principles.”

Referring to the assassination of Livatino at age 37, Parolin said that his life “was not in vain,” because “every gesture of generosity, every act of love, every offering of one’s life, every sacrifice made in the name of the Lord is always rewarded and bears fruit.”

The cardinal said that this Italian Blessed can be a model for judges, since he knew how to unite justice and charity by placing “the person at the center.”

Justice is “also an effort made by the state and the community to be able to rehabilitate” all those who have joined the ranks “of delinquency and criminality,” Parolin observed.

Brief biography

Rosario Angelo Livatino was born Oct. 3, 1952, in the town of Canicattì on the island of Sicily. He decided to follow the same career as his father and entered the School of Jurisprudence in Palermo. He finished his law studies with top grades at the age of 22.

On Aug. 21, 1989, he was appointed judge of the prevention section of the Agrigento provincial court. In that position, he was in charge of several proceedings against members of the Mafia sentenced to life imprisonment.

On Sept. 21, 1990, Livatino was intercepted by four individuals while he was driving his car. In the midst of the shooting, he managed to get out of the car and tried to run. Badly wounded, he got to the side of the road and one of the assassins approached to finish him off. The man who finally ended the judge’s life was Gaetano Puzzangaro, who provided one of the testimonies for the jurist’s cause for beatification.

After Livatino’s death, a Bible full of notes was found on his desk, where he always kept a crucifix.

In December 2020, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Rosario Angelo Livatino, and he was beatified on May 9, 2021, in the Sicilian city of Agrigento.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Church of England won’t recognize gay marriage but will allow certain ceremonies

Church of England won’t recognize gay marriage but will allow certain ceremonies

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, gives a reading during the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on Sept.19, 2022, in London. / Photo by Ben Stansall — WPA Pool/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

The bishops of the Church of England plan to maintain a prohibition on same-sex marriage but intend to add certain prayers that would allow same-sex couples to have a ceremony to recognize stages within a same-sex relationship.

A series of proposals will be debated and considered at the Church of England’s General Synod, which will meet in London from Feb. 6 until Feb. 9. The proposals uphold the traditional Christian teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman and that members of the clergy cannot preside over same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“The formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorized liturgies — that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life — would not change” under the proposals, the bishops announced earlier this week.

The Church of England was established in 1534 when King Henry VIII renounced the authority of the papacy after the Catholic Church refused to grant him an annulment. The church is part of the Anglican communion and is not in communion with the Catholic Church.

Church of England leaders met with other members of the Anglican communion last summer at the Lambeth Conference, in which the hierarchy discussed questions related to sexuality and same-sex marriage. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is the senior bishop of the Church of England, concluded that the majority of the clergy affirms the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman, though some members disagree.

However, the proposals would substantially change the Church of England’s pastoral approach for how it handles same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships. The proposals would add certain prayers that could be used in ceremonies to celebrate certain stages in their same-sex relationships, such as civil partnerships or legally recognized civil marriages.

The draft prayers would be optional for same-sex couples and optional for members of the clergy. The Church of England would also allow flexibility for the new prayers that would allow members of the clergy to use different combinations of prayers to reflect the diversity of thought on these issues within the church. The prayers would be known as “Prayers of Love and Faith.” The changes are partially based on feedback the Church of England received through its six-year-long Living in Love and Faith project, which sought to look into questions related to sexuality and marriage.

“I would like to thank all those across the Church of England who have participated in this deeply prayerful and theologically grounded process of discernment over the last six years,” Archbishop Welby said in a statement. “This response reflects the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality, relationships, and marriage — I rejoice in that diversity and I welcome this way of reflecting it in the life of our church. I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.”

The archbishop added that he hopes these changes would demonstrate that the Church of England believes that all Christians, especially those with same-sex attraction, are welcome and valued in the Body of Christ.

According to the announcement, the proposals are meant to “reaffirm a commitment to” the bishops’ call at the start of the discernment process for a “radical new Christian inclusion founded in Scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology, and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it — based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”

Some members of the Church of England’s clergy have come out against the traditional Christian teachings on marriage in recent years. This has included some members of the church leadership, such as Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft, who said about two months ago that members of the clergy should be allowed to celebrate same-sex marriages.

The relaxed and sometimes ambiguous position on certain moral issues, such as same-sex relationships by members of the Anglican hierarchy, has led to some bishops converting to Catholicism over the past decade and a half. Since 2007, at least 19 bishops left Anglicanism and came into full communion with Rome.

During Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, the Church of England established the personal ordinariate for former Anglicans, which eased the conversion process. Clergy who wish to convert can maintain certain Anglican liturgical practices and can remain married when becoming priests in the Catholic Church.

In new book, the late Benedict XVI defends Christianity against claims of intolerance

In new book, the late Benedict XVI defends Christianity against claims of intolerance

Pope Benedict XVI / Paul Badde/EWTN

CNA Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has posthumously defended Christianity against claims of intolerance “in the name of tolerance.”

In a new book published in Italy, the late pontiff warns of a “radical manipulation of human beings” and “the distortion of the sexes by gender ideology” in the name of tolerance.

Rejecting the argument of a German theologian about monotheism being linked to intolerance, Benedict counters that “the authentic counterweight to every form of intolerance” is, in fact, Christ crucified.

The late pontiff’s contribution, dated December 2018, is published in a new collection of texts by the theologian pope, touted by the Italian publisher as a spiritual “quasi-testament.”

The 190-page volume is called “What is Christianity?” It contains 16 contributions, four of which were previously unpublished.

According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, all of the texts were written after Benedict’s resignation in 2013.

Apart from his reflection on monotheism and modern intolerance against Christianity, the texts cover several other theological topics, from intercommunion to the reform of the liturgy and the Church’s dialogue with Islam.

Several of these issues have triggered vehement responses from German bishops and theologians and put the Church in Germany at odds with the Vatican — and the late pontiff.

One such virulent topic is the question of intercommunion between Protestants and Catholics — which leading German bishops have pushed for, despite Vatican objections.

The late pontiff reflects on the sacrament of the Eucharist in his essay on intercommunion. He explains why real ecumenism needs to account for the differences between Protestants and Catholics, rather than papering over these.

Responses from German circles against such explanations and his own person in the past were one reason why — according to the publisher — the pope emeritus chose to publish posthumously, and in Italian first.

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