Pope Francis: World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon will open horizons, hearts

Pope Francis: World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon will open horizons, hearts

Pope Francis greets pilgrims near the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fatima apparitions on May 12, 2017. / LUSA Press Agency

Rome Newsroom, Jan 20, 2023 / 02:08 am (CNA).

World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, will open horizons and hearts, Pope Francis said in a video message to the young adults who will attend the international gathering in August.

He said: “At this meeting, during this [World Youth Day], learn to always look towards the horizon, to always look beyond.”

“Don’t put up a wall in front of your life,” the pope encouraged. “Walls close you in, the horizon makes you grow. Always look at the horizon with your eyes, but look, above all, with your heart.”

Pope Francis sent the video message on Jan. 20, fewer than 200 days before World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 in Portugal’s capital city Aug. 1–6.

Organizers met with Pope Francis and Vatican officials in Rome last week to discuss final preparations for the six-day gathering, which expects to see hundreds of thousands of participants.

In his Jan. 20 video message, Pope Francis noted that 400,000 young adults had already registered to attend World Youth Day.

“It calls my attention and fills me with joy that so many young people will go to WYD, because they need to participate,” he said.

“Thank you for having already registered so far in advance,” the pope added. “Let’s hope others will follow your example.”

Francis said though some participants may claim they are only going to the event as tourists, rather than pilgrims, “deep down, he or she has the thirst to participate, to share, to tell their experience and receive the experience of others.”

He encouraged them to open their hearts to other cultures and to the other young men and women who will be there.

“Get ready for this: to open horizons, to open your hearts,” he said.

World Youth Day was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The meeting is typically held on a different continent every three years with the presence of the pope.

Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is approximately 75 miles from Fatima, one of the world’s most popular Marian pilgrimage sites.

Pope Francis is expected to attend the global Catholic gathering with stops in both Lisbon and Fatima.

The last World Youth Day was held in Panama in January 2019.

In 2020, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day, originally planned for 2022, would be postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the six newest venerable servants of God in the Catholic Church

Meet the six newest venerable servants of God in the Catholic Church

The sainthood causes of Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922) and Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677) were advanced by Pope Francis on Jan. 19, 2023. / Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons and P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis declared six Catholics as venerable servants of God on Thursday, moving them each one step closer to canonization.

In a decree signed on Jan. 19, the pope recognized the heroic virtue of an Italian stigmatic, four 20th-century priests, and a holy laywoman who spent much of her life in a sickbed.

Each now needs a miracle attributed to his or her intercession to be approved by the Vatican in order to be beatified. Here are their stories:

Bertilla Antoniazzi (1944–1964)

From the age of 9, Bertilla Antoniazzi was often in and out of hospitals after suffering from a rheumatic fever that damaged her heart and left her with a lifelong disability.

The young girl from northern Italy eventually came to understand that her mission in life was to “console those who suffered and to bring sinners closer to God,” according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

Antoniazzi began exchanging letters frequently with other sick women and girls and offered up her suffering for the salvation of souls, entrusting herself to Our Lady of Monte Berico, a Marian devotion in her hometown of Vicenza, Italy.

One year before she died at the age of 20, Antoniazzi made a pilgrimage in 1963 to Lourdes, where she asked the Blessed Virgin Mary for the gift of holiness rather than healing as her condition worsened with pulmonary edema and heart valve disease.

Her holiness inspired many of the people both in life and after her death on Oct. 22, 1964.

Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677)

This 17th-century contemplative nun was known for her extraordinary spiritual gifts. After entering the convent in Florence of the Sisters Established in Charity (Suore Stabilite nella Carità) in 1672, Sister Maria Margherita Diomira received visions, prophecies, spiritual ecstasies, the ability to read hearts, and mystic participation in Christ’s passion, including receiving the stigmata.

Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677). Credit: P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sister Maria Margherita Diomira of the Incarnate Word (1651–1677). Credit: P. Projaing, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Her confessor, Father Domenico Baldi, required Diomira to describe all of her mystical experiences out of obedience, assigning another nun to transcribe the entire account.

Diomira also experienced a difficult period of spiritual dryness that was overcome on Christmas Eve in 1676. She died the following year at the age of 26 after suffering from consumption and offering herself as a victim of love to the Lord.

Father Vicente López de Uralde Lazcano (1894–1990)

Father Vicente López de Uralde Lazcano was a Spanish priest who was a beloved teacher and a sought-after confessor known for his Marian devotion.

After professing his vows in the Company of Mary, López de Uralde spent 62 years as a teacher and chaplain at the St. Philip Neri College in Cádiz, Spain.

When the school where he taught was occupied by militiamen during the Spanish Civil War, López de Uralde quickly sought to protect his students and to save the Eucharist. 

After his retirement from teaching at the age of 70, López de Uralde dedicated more time to hearing confessions. He died at the age of 96 on Sept. 15, 1990.

Father Gaetano Francesco Mauro (1888–1969)

Father Gaetano Francesco Mauro founded the Rural Catechists association in Calabria in southern Italy in 1925 as a group of priests and laypeople dedicated to teaching the catechism to farmers and others who live in remote areas.

The diocesan priest also restored the former convent of St. Francis di Paola in the town of Montalto Uffugo, where he began to live in common with some of the members of his Religious Association of Rural Oratories (A.R.D.O.R.) in 1928.

Prior to founding the association, Mauro served as a military chaplain in World War I and was imprisoned in Austria, where he became sick with tuberculosis.

Based on his diaries, it is likely that the diocesan priest suffered from a form of depression with feelings of anguish, inadequacy, and desolation intensifying in the last years of his life, according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. He died on Dec. 31, 1969, in Montalto Uffugo at the age of 81.

Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922)

Born into a noble family on the Spanish island of Majorca in 1854, Miguel Costa y Llobera initially obeyed his father’s wishes for him to study law at the University of Barcelona.

After experiencing a spiritual crisis that left him with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction, Costa y Llobera realized that God was calling him to be a priest. Despite opposition from his family, he moved to Rome and was ordained a priest in 1888.

With a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Father Costa y Llobera became a professor of sacred archaeology and history of literature in the seminary of Palma de Mallorca.

Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922). Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Father Miguel Costa y Llobera (1854–1922). Credit: Montanyes Regalades, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Spanish priest gained a reputation as a great poet. People knew him as “a very pious and learned man,” according to the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

St. Pope Pius X appointed him pontifical canon of the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca in 1909.

Costa y Llobera died at the pulpit on Oct. 16, 1922, while he was giving a homily to mark the 300th anniversary of the canonization of St. Teresa of Ávila in the Discalced Carmelite Church in Mallorca.

Father Giovanni Barra (1914–1975)

As a diocesan priest in the northwest Piedmont region of Italy, Father Giovanni Barra was a sought-after preacher, writer, and journalist who also opened the “Casa Alpina” retreat center in the Alps, where young people and families came together to pray in the summer.

Barra served as the rector for the Seminary for Adult Vocations in Turin and was particularly devoted to offering spiritual direction and the formation of seminarians.

He died at the age of 61 after undergoing surgery for an intestinal blockage in January 1975.

Before he died, Barra wrote in his spiritual testament: “When I look back, I feel a wave of joy and gratitude rising in me from my heart. I am truly a happy priest in my priesthood.”

Cardinal Koch: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity a time to pray for peace in Ukraine

Cardinal Koch: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity a time to pray for peace in Ukraine

Cardinal Kurt Koch / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Under the shadow of the war in Ukraine, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an opportunity for Christians to work together to achieve peace, according to a Vatican cardinal.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that he is praying this week that “we can re-find peace between Christians in Ukraine.”

In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, the cardinal explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”

“I think we have, with this war in Ukraine, a very difficult situation, because Christians kill Christians, and above all Orthodox kill Orthodox. And this is a very bad and sad message for the world because the Christians have the duty and the responsibility to be engaged for peace,” Koch said.

“Religion cannot be part of the problem of war but must be part of reconciliation and peace.”

Cardinal Koch said the Catholic Church is working to “re-find unity” amid the tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world through dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox.

“And now we have many, many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world, and this is a difficulty. For instance, we have an international and mixed commission between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox churches, but the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t participate in this dialogue,” he said.

Koch explained that the Russian Orthodox Church pulled out of commission after the Orthodox Church of Ukraine declared its autocephaly, or hierarchical independence, in 2019.

“And when the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t participate in this dialogue, this is a challenge,” he added.

The cardinal underlined that the Vatican is working to keep the door open for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, despite the difficulties.

“But for us, it is very important that we can continue the relations with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in Moscow. But it is a very difficult situation, because we have the impression that the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate sustains this war, and we have another vision, as said by the Holy Father … that this is nonsense, this war. But we must keep open the door for relations and to deepen what is possible,” he said.

The Catholic Church dedicates one week each January to prayer for unity among all Christians. The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is taken from Isaiah 1:17: “Do good; seek justice.”

The 56th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began Jan. 18 and will continue with daily ecumenical prayers until the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on Jan. 25, when Pope Francis will preside over an ecumenical prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, 2023, Cardinal Kurt Koch explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”. Daniel Ibañez/CNA
In an interview with EWTN News on Jan. 18, 2023, Cardinal Kurt Koch explained how the Ukraine war has created a “very difficult situation” for ecumenical dialogue because there are “many tensions and divisions in the Orthodox world.”. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

On the first day of the week of prayer, Koch reflected how Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Africa reflects the “common work” for reconciliation and peace shared by the Catholic Church, the Anglican World Communion, and the Presbyterian Church in England.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Sudan from Feb. 3–5 for a visit that he is calling “a pilgrimage of peace” to the African country that has long struggled to implement peace agreements to end violence between armed groups and military forces.

The pope has desired for many years to make a trip to South Sudan together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland. A previously scheduled papal trip to South Sudan with Welby was canceled in 2017 due to security concerns, and the current trip was rescheduled for 2023 after it was postponed last summer due to Francis’ knee problems.

Koch sees a message of hope in the upcoming trip. He said: “This apostolic visit of the Holy Father in South Sudan will be a common pilgrimage between the archbishop of Canterbury, Welby, and the president of the Presbyterian Church in England and the pope because all these churches are engaged to re-find reconciliation in this country.”

“And this is a very beautiful sign that all the churches collaborate together for re-finding peace in this very difficult situation.”

Pope Francis discusses ‘ecological conversion’ with Buddhist monks from Cambodia

Pope Francis discusses ‘ecological conversion’ with Buddhist monks from Cambodia

Pope Francis meets a Buddhist delegation from Cambodia on Jan. 19, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 19, 2023 / 07:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke with Buddhist monks from Cambodia on Thursday about the need for “ecological conversion.”

In a meeting at the Vatican on Jan. 19, the pope defined “ecological conversion” as “true repentance” that leads to the end of “ideologies and practices that are hurtful and disrespectful to the earth.”

Francis said that it requires people to commit to “promoting models of developments that heal wounds inflicted by greed, excessive search for financial profits, lack of solidarity with neighbors, and disrespect for the environment.”

He commended the delegation, which included civil society from Cambodia, for choosing “ecological conversion” as the theme of their visit to Rome focused on interreligious cooperation.

Pope Francis underlined “the profound richness that our respective religious traditions offer in  sustaining efforts to cultivate ecological responsibility.”

The pope said: “In following the tenets that the Buddha left as a legacy to his disciples (Pratimoksa), including the practices of metta, which involves not harming living things (cf. Metta Sutta sn 1.8) and living a simple lifestyle, Buddhists can achieve a compassionate protection for all beings, including the earth, their habitat.”

Francis continued: “For their part, Christians fulfill their ecological responsibility when, as trustworthy stewards, they protect creation, the work God has entrusted to them ‘to till and to keep’” (Gen 2:15; cf. Laudato Si’, 95; 217).

Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, also traveled to the Vatican for the meeting. The bishop from Strasbourg has served as a missionary in Cambodia for 25 years and speaks Khmer.

Pope Francis thanked the Cambodian delegation for their visit to the Vatican, where they will continue to meet with Vatican offices dedicated to interreligious dialogue.

“I am also certain that your meeting with the officials of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue will provide an opportunity to explore further ways to promote ecological conversion through the initiatives undertaken by Buddhist-Christian dialogue both in Cambodia and in the whole region,” the pope said.

“Upon you and upon all in your noble country I invoke an abundance of blessings from on high.”

Cardinal Müller: Cardinal Pell was Pope Francis’ best theological counselor

Cardinal Müller: Cardinal Pell was Pope Francis’ best theological counselor

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller (left) and Cardinal George Pell / Credit: Bohumil Petrik/ACI Press and Matthew Rarey/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 18, 2023 / 09:13 am (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell was the best theologian on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals and a good papal counselor, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, said on Wednesday.

Müller commented on the Australian cardinal’s theological prowess following Pell’s sudden death in Rome at age 81 from cardiac arrest.

The pope’s former economy chief will be buried in Sydney, Australia, on Feb. 2 following a requiem Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral. His funeral was held at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 14.

Pope Francis is surrounded more by politicians than by good theologians, Müller said in a Jan. 18 interview with EWTN. “I think [Pell] was the best counselor of Pope Francis.”

“I hope that we have in him a good intercessor in heaven for all the needs of the Church and all the challenges that we have,” said the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pell was an inaugural member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, a group of originally nine cardinals established in September 2013 to advise the pope.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Alan Koppschall/EWTN
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller. Alan Koppschall/EWTN

The other original members of the council were Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Seán Patrick O’Malley, Reinhard Marx, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Oswald Gracias, Giuseppe Bertello, Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, and Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

Müller, who lived in the same apartment as Pell in Rome, noted the cardinal’s strong intellectual formation in Oxford and his knowledge of patristic and systematic theology.

After his ordination as a priest in 1966 in Rome, Pell earned a licentiate degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Urban University. He then took up doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and earned a doctorate in 1971 in Church history.

Pell “met us regularly after he came back from Australia, where he was in a very brutal way, against all the evidence, sentenced for six years in prison,” Müller said, and “suffered 400 days and more in the prison, isolated.”

The cardinal “has testified with his life, and his great patience, to salvation in Jesus Christ,” Müller said, “because Jesus Christ redeemed us by his suffering on the cross; he didn’t protest it, he didn’t make a revolution with arms.”

“He is a very good witness and example for Christian life, in the intellectual dimension, but also in his suffering of this injustice” of trial and imprisonment, Müller said, adding that in his suffering, Pell imitated Jesus Christ and the martyred apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.

Cardinal Schönborn calls Gänswein book ‘unseemly indiscretion,’ confirms key detail of Benedict papacy

Cardinal Schönborn calls Gänswein book ‘unseemly indiscretion,’ confirms key detail of Benedict papacy

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn (left) and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, longtime personal secretary for Pope Benedict XVI. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Jan 18, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on Wednesday confirmed he was the person who encouraged Joseph Ratzinger to accept the conclave’s decision — if elected — to become the successor to Pope John Paul II as supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church.

Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, revealed Schönborn’s identity in his book titled “Nothing but the Truth” (“Nient’altro che la verita”), which was published in Italy last week.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Schönborn on Jan. 18 confirmed Gänswein’s assertion that Schönborn had written Cardinal Ratzinger “a little letter just in case.” 

At the same time, the archbishop of Vienna accused Gänswein of committing an act of “unseemly indiscretion” with his book by publishing “confidential things,” according to the Archdiocese of Vienna’s website.

Schönborn said he had “so far deliberately kept silent” about his note to Benedict, noting “it happened within the context of the meeting of the cardinals, and not at the conclave itself.” 

Benedict’s ‘guillotine speech’

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the letter on April 25, 2005, during an audience with pilgrims from Germany. 

The address is famous among German Catholics as the “guillotine speech” — in German Fallbeilrede

In it, Benedict compared the experience of his election to that of having the axe of a guillotine dropping down on him. The guillotine blade in German is called a fallbeil.

Speaking just as openly about what swayed him to accept his election, the then newly elected pope revealed he had been “very touched by a brief note written to me by a brother cardinal.” 

Benedict said: “He reminded me that on the occasion of the Mass for John Paul II, I had based my homily, starting from the Gospel, on the Lord’s words to Peter by the Lake of Gennesaret: ‘Follow me!’ I spoke of how again and again, Karol Wojtyła received this call from the Lord, and how each time he had to renounce much and to simply say: ‘Yes, I will follow you, even if you lead me where I never wanted to go.’”

“This brother cardinal wrote to me: Were the Lord to say to you now, ‘Follow me’, then remember what you preached. Do not refuse! Be obedient in the same way that you described the great pope, who has returned to the house of the Father. This deeply moved me. The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.”

Benedict added: “Thus, in the end I had to say ‘yes.’”

In his book, Gänswein also addressed the fact that Schönborn and Ratzinger were on a first-name basis. 

Apart from Benedict’s childhood friends, Cardinal Schönborn, a member of Ratzinger’s circle of students, was one of the few who addressed his former teacher as “Du” (the informal “You”), Gänswein wrote.

Another episode covered in Gänswein’s book — a brief but very personal conversation between the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI and Schönborn — also took place as described by Gänswein, the Viennese archbishop confirmed on Jan. 18.

Schönborn, a Dominican friar descended from the Austrian nobility, tendered his resignation as archbishop of Vienna before his 75th birthday on Jan. 22, 2020. 

Around the same time, the archdiocese said Pope Francis had declined the resignation, asking Schönborn to stay on for “an indefinite period.”

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