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Mom of Carlo Acutis: Teen computer whiz was an ‘influencer’ for God

Rome Newsroom, Sep 24, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Venerable Carlo Acutis, who will be beatified in Assisi Oct. 10, is an example of a teen who used the internet to “influence” people to draw closer to God, his mother said.

“Carlo was able to use social media and especially the internet as an ‘influencer’ for God,” Antonia Salzano told EWTN.

Carlo was 15 when he died from leukemia in 2006. He was a computer whiz who taught himself how to program and created a website cataloging the world’s Eucharistic miracles.

Growing up in the center of Milan, Carlo had a deep love for the Eucharist. He never missed daily Mass and adoration. He also prayed the rosary frequently and went to confession every week.

From age 11, he started helping out teaching catechism to kids at his parish, and he was always helping the poor and homeless in his neighborhood.

According to Salzano, Carlo lived ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

“Obviously, being a boy of our times, he experienced what all the young people of his generation have -- so, computers, video games, football, school, friends...” These things might feel common to us, she said, but “he managed to transform it into the extraordinary.”

Like many teens, Carlo liked to play video games. His mom said he could teach young people today about how to properly enjoy them and other technology, without falling prey to the pitfalls of internet and social media use.

“Because he understood that they were potentially very harmful, very dangerous, he wanted to be the master of these means, not a slave,” she said. Her son practiced the virtue of temperance, she explained, so he “imposed on himself a maximum of one hour per week to use these means of communication.”

“So for Carlo, for sure the first point is to teach young people to have temperance,” Salzano continued, “that is, to understand the need to maintain the proper autonomy and the need to be always able to say ‘no, enough,’ to not become a slave.” 

Salzano said that Carlo would say it was about balance. If someone spends his or her life only following “influencers,” they might only learn about what outfit to wear and “they completely forget about God,” she said.

She noted that social media today has turned into a “yardstick” by which people measure their happiness.  

“Then you are happy if there is a ‘like,’ if there is no ‘like’ you are unhappy,” she said. “Here, Carlo is saying: ‘Not me, but God.’”

“Certainly today, in a society based a little on the ephemeral, on the exaltation of the self, of the ego, and where one forgets the existence of God, Carlo is certainly very prophetic,” Salzano added.

“Carlo reminds us of what is most important. The most important thing is to put God in the first place in our life.”

Salzano explained that her son lived a very modern life, but for him, “the faith has always been the same for more than 2,000 years; that is, that God exists, he became incarnate, died and rose again for us.”

“So Carlo is also a messenger of this ... But bringing it into what is the modern world of young people, so he definitely has a lot to teach,” she said.

Another lesson he can show others is the good which can be done right in one’s own neighborhood.

Instead of buying himself games, Carlo used his little bit of spending money to purchase things for the homeless in his area, like a sleeping bag.

Her son did not like money to be wasted on useless things, she said, and he did not care about fashion or clothing brands.

Salzano said: “If I said to him: ‘Carlo, let’s buy an extra pair of shoes,’ he would get angry [and reply] ‘Mom, one is enough. Let’s help the poor.’”

“He was a very, very simple guy. For him, a pair of trousers was as good as another, a pair of shoes was as good as another,” Salzano noted.

In an interview with CNA Newsroom in May 2019, Carlo’s mom said “since he was three, four years old, he showed a big interest in Christ, in the Holy Virgin. When we used to take a walk outside, he used to always want to enter inside the church, to say hello to Jesus, and to send kisses to the cross.”

Salzano said that she herself “was not the ideal model of a Catholic mother” when her son was born, and “was quite ignorant in faith things.” But through Carlo’s influence, she came back to the faith.

“So little by little I started to get closer to the Church. I started to go back to Mass. And this was actually because of Carlo. Carlo was for me a kind of little ‘Savior,’” she said.

British prime minister’s son baptized a Catholic

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The son of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was baptized a Catholic earlier this month, the Diocese of Westminster said Tuesday.

In a statement Sept. 22, the diocese said: “We can confirm that Wilfred Johnson was baptized in Westminster Cathedral on Sept. 12, 2020, in a private ceremony, attended by both parents and a small number of guests, in keeping with current (COVID-19) guidelines.”

The Daily Telegraph reported Sept. 21 that the ceremony took place in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral in central London. The baptism was reportedly conducted by Fr. Daniel Humphreys, acting administrator of Westminster Cathedral. 

The news emerged after Italian media reported incorrectly that Johnson had flown secretly to the city of Perugia Sept. 11. The prime minister’s office denied the claim, disclosing that Johnson had attended his four-month-old son’s baptism in London Sept. 12. 

Johnson himself was baptized a Catholic at the behest of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl. But he was confirmed in the Church of England while studying at Eton College, effectively abandoning Catholicism for Anglicanism. 

Carrie Symonds, his fiancee and the mother of his son, Wilfred, is a Catholic who has referred to her faith on social media. 

Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson was born on April 29, 2020. Announcing her son’s birth on Instagram, Symonds said that he was named Wilfred after Johnson’s grandfather, Lawrie in honor of her grandfather, and Nicholas after Dr Nick Price and Dr Nick Hart, who saved the prime minister’s life after he was admitted to hospital with the coronavirus earlier that month.

“I couldn’t be happier. My heart is full,” she wrote.

Johnson is the first baptized Catholic to become prime minister. 

Tony Blair regularly attended Mass while serving as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, but was only received into the Catholic Church after he stepped down from office.

After centuries of persecution, the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 enabled Catholics to sit in Parliament and hold government office. But the Act said that no Catholic could advise the Crown on the appointment of Church of England bishops. As this is one of the duties of prime ministers, the Act effectively prevented a Catholic from assuming the role. 

But commentators argue that if a practicing Catholic were to be elected prime minister today, then an alternative arrangement for appointments to the established church could be found.

Stuart Reid, a Catholic who served as deputy editor of The Spectator magazine when Johnson was editor, told CNA that he thought that the prime minister would have taken the decision to baptize Wilfred seriously.  

He said: “Boris is not the most obvious Christian in Westminster, but having his child by the Catholic Carrie baptized into the Church is almost certainly not something he did in a fit of irony. He leaves irony for Downing Street. What Boris has done, it seems, is to yield to his woman, as a good man should. But there may be something more to it.”

He noted that Johnson worked alongside “fairly opinionated Catholics” when he edited The Spectator from 1999 to 2005. 

“It may be why he once commissioned a feature on the ontological argument of St. Anselm. There was no news peg (as if), but he probably thought it would amuse his staff and add droll elegance to The Spectator’s pages,” he said.

“Like most editors and their underlings, he did not like advertising features, and he once published a Luxury Goods special in the Spectator in which a former chairman of the Latin Mass Society, Michael McMahon, wrote a piece attacking the idea of laying up treasures on earth. ‘Ashes to ashes; dust to dust,’ wrote McMahon, ‘in the fullness of Time, even Rolexes rust.’” 

Referring to Johnson’s new fitness regime following his recovery from COVID-19, Reid added: “It is very difficult to understand what is going on here, but the child has been baptized and that is a good thing. It is possible that in the fullness of time even Boris will swim the Tiber. He is looking pretty trim these days.”

The medieval carpentry techniques used in Notre Dame cathedral rebuild

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- After fire toppled the iconic spire and destroyed the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France in April 2009, heated debates ensued about whether the reconstruction should use the church’s original design, or use a more modern design and technique.

Some proposed futuristic ideas included a rooftop swimming pool and a greenhouse atop the 850-year-old cathedral.

Last year, the French Senate passed a bill mandating that Notre-Dame be rebuilt as it was before the fire, with lumber and medieval carpentry techniques, which were highlighted in a public demonstration Saturday in the cathedral’s square.

“It shows…firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the reconstruction efforts, told the AP.

“Secondly, it shows us the...method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”

The public carpentry demonstration was held Sept. 19 as part of European Heritage Days. The triangular truss highlighted at the event was the seventh of a total of 25 new trusses that will be installed in the nave of the cathedral during the rebuild.

Carpenters told the AP that they selected a truss with a more complex design for the event. The truss, built in July, was raised from the ground for display at the event using a pulley system. Once raised, a celebratory oak branch was tied to the top, a traditional “symbol of prosperity and a salute to the workers,” according to the AP.

“It’s a moment to see ancestral techniques that last. There is the present and the past and it links us to our roots,” Romain Greif, an architect attending the event with his family told the AP.  “It’s an event.”

The trusses will be installed in the roof of the church at a yet unknown date. French president Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the reconstruction to be completed by 2024, when Paris is set to host the Olympics.

Last year on the evening of April 15, 2019, a major fire broke out at the cathedral, destroying the roof and the spire. Shortly after midnight April 16, firefighters announced that the cathedral's main structure had been preserved from collapse.

The major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.

Originally built between the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, the landmark cathedral in the French capital is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, receiving more than 12 million visitors each year.

Its original spire was constructed in the 13th century, but was replaced in the 19th century due to damage.

The cathedral was undergoing some restorative work at the time the fire broke out, though it is unknown if the fire originated in the area of the work.

Vatican cardinal: Pope Francis ‘concerned’ about Church in Germany

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal said Tuesday that Pope Francis has expressed concern about the Church in Germany.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz Sept. 22 that he believed the pope backed an intervention by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote last week to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, saying that a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” would harm relations with Orthodox Churches.

Asked if the pope personally approved the CDF letter, dated Sept. 18, Koch said: “There is no mention of this in the text. But the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria, is a very honest and loyal person. I cannot imagine that he would do anything that Pope Francis would not approve of. But I have also heard from other sources that the pope has expressed his concern in personal conversations.”

The cardinal clarified that he was not referring simply to the question of intercommunion.

“Not only, but about the situation of the Church in Germany in general,” he said, noting that Pope Francis addressed a long letter to German Catholics in June 2019.

The Swiss cardinal praised the CDF’s critique of the document “Together at the Lord’s Table,” issued by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in September 2019.

The 57-page text advocated “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” between Catholics and Protestants, based on previous ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist and ministry. 

The ÖAK adopted the document under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein. 

Bätzing announced recently that the text’s recommendations would be put into practice at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in May 2021.

Koch described the CDF’s critique as “very serious” and “factual.”

He noted that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had been involved with discussions about the CDF letter and that he had personally raised concerns about the ÖAK document with Bätzing.

“Those appear not to have convinced him,” he said.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported Sept. 22 that the German bishops would discuss the CDF letter at their fall plenary meeting, which began Tuesday. 

When Bätzing was asked about Koch’s comments, he said that he had not had an opportunity to read the interview. But he commented that the CDF’s “critical remarks” would have to be “weighed up” in the coming days.

“We want to remove blockages so that the Church has a chance to evangelize in the secular world in which we move,” he said.

Koch told Herder Korrespondenz that the German bishops could not continue as before after the CDF intervention.

“If the German bishops were to rate such a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith less highly than a document from an ecumenical working group, then something would no longer be right in the hierarchy of criteria among the bishops,” he said. 

Vatican official backs initiative to help prevent future pandemics

Rome Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, a Vatican official commended the organization for its preventative efforts to address another global threat: zoonotic diseases that cause pandemics.

The international organization known for safeguarding nuclear energy to prevent nuclear warfare has unveiled a new initiative entitled Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC), which aims to help countries quickly detect and respond to diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

“This important global network is crucial to helping national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Avian Influenza and Zika,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Sept. 21.

Zoonotic diseases are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people each year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

Speaking in Vienna at the agency’s 64th annual conference, the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States said that the Vatican supported the ZODIAC project and believed it could further the unique collaboration between laboratories of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and IAEA using nuclear or nuclear-derived technologies.

“This unprecedented pandemic sheds new light on the interdependence between nations and, in particular, on the necessity to consider health as a primary common good, which requires solidarity and coordinated action at the global level,” Gallagher said.

The Vatican diplomat added that it would be desirable for the ZODIAC program to support the research and development for “novel technologies … for early detection and surveillance” of these diseases. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed problems related to virus detection capabilities in many countries, as well as the need for better communication between health institutions around the world,” he said.

Gallagher said that the Holy See was concerned about the signs of “an erosion of multilateralism and of the rules-based order” in the world, especially surrounding the control and ban of nuclear weapons. 

“The Holy See recognizes the important contribution of the IAEA in working for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, commending the agency’s goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

North Korea’s nuclear activities are currently of “serious concern,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said at the general conference Sept. 21.

“The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi added.

Gallagher said: “We must continue to work towards our common goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

‘Grant me an undivided heart’: first biography reveals spiritual writings of Sr. Clare Crockett

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- On April 16, 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, killing at least 676 people, including a young religious sister called Sr. Clare Crockett. 

Two years after her death, her order released a film about her remarkable life in both English and Spanish. “All or Nothing: Sr. Clare Crockett” now has more than 3.5 million views on YouTube. 

This month sees the publication of the first full-length biography of Sr. Clare, amid a growing cult around the woman who abandoned a promising television career to pursue her vocation.

“Sr. Clare Crockett: Alone with Christ Alone” is written by Sr. Kristen Gardner, who was also responsible for the documentary.

“The most important discovery was her personal writings,”  Sr. Kristen told CNA. “She had several notebooks where she would write her personal reflections or prayers. It has been beautiful to see her interior life and her relationship with God. She had moments of darkness and struggle, but God’s love always triumphed.” 

Sr. Clare was born in the divided city of Derry in Northern Ireland in 1982. A fun-loving, charismatic teenager, she quickly caught the attention of television producers. By the age of 15, she was contracted to present a show on Britain’s Channel 4 network. When Nickelodeon came calling, it was clear that she was on the road to stardom. 

But in the year 2000, she went to Spain for a Holy Week retreat run by the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, a community founded in 1982 with a focus on the Eucharist, Marian spirituality, and outreach to youth. 

She recalled later in her personal testimony that when she arrived in Spain she was “very superficial and a wild child.” But that began to change when she took part in the Good Friday adoration of the cross, kissing the feet of Jesus.  

“I do not know how to explain exactly what happened. I did not see the choirs of angels or a white dove come down from the ceiling and descend on me, but I had the certainty that the Lord was on the Cross, for me,” she remembered. 

“And along with that conviction, I felt a great sorrow, similar to what I had experienced when I was little and prayed the Stations of the Cross. When I returned to my pew, I already had imprinted in me something that was not there before. I had to do something for Him Who had given his life for me.”

It was the start of a long journey of conversion and healing that led to her joining the Sisters and taking her first vows in 2006. 

“Her deepest desire was to have an undivided heart for God and for Him to totally transform her into Himself,” said Sr. Kristen. “She knew she could not achieve this on her own and she constantly begged His help, ‘Grant me an undivided heart. Do not let anything ever enter in between Your heart and mine.’” 

Sr. Kristen, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who entered into the Servant Sisters in 2002, said that this prayer seemed to have been answered by the time Sr. Clare was sent on mission to South America, after stints in Spain and the United States.

“And right before going to Ecuador she wrote, ‘My heart is Yours, my mind is Yours, my thoughts are Yours. Ask me for anything. Nothing matters now, since nothing I have is mine! Possess me, Jesus,’” Sr. Kristen recalled.

“To see this strong interior life and relationship with God, which is what motivated her in her daily activity, to be generous and give her all to Him, was truly a blessing to discover and then to transmit in the book.”

Sr. Kristen, who is currently based in Rome, recalled that the news of Sr. Clare’s death spread rapidly around the world. The Sisters started to receive requests for more information about the 33-year-old’s life. 

“We began to go through our archives to see what footage we had of Sr. Clare and we found quite a lot. The project to do a documentary about her life then began,” she said. 

“Our way of going about it was quite simple: the communities of sisters in Spain, in the US and in Ecuador recorded interviews with the people who had known Sr. Clare. After about a year, all the material was gathered and I spent the summer of 2017 putting the film together. One of our sisters composed the music. All the sisters prayed. It was really a team effort.”  

The film was released on April 16, 2018, the second anniversary of Sr. Clare’s death. The community didn’t pay for any ads to promote the documentary, but it quickly reached a global audience thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations.

“People simply are touched and forward it to their families and friends. I am shocked every time people tell me, ‘I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched it…’ They watch it over and over again. Why? Because Our Lord has wished to touch people’s hearts through Sr. Clare’s testimony and life. There is no other explanation,” said Sr. Kristen.

“Thanks to the original footage of her, I think people are truly able to get to know her as she was: full of joy. We have many clips of her laughing and joking around, and I think this permits the viewers to see the true happiness that only God can give.”

In response to the growing interest, Sr. Kristen took on a second project: writing the first extended biography of Sr. Clare. Meanwhile, reports of miracles began to reach the sisters.

“Several married couples who had difficulties having children have written us to give thanks for Sr. Clare’s intercession,” she said. “A few have even named their baby girl after Sr. Clare.”

Sr. Kristen highlighted the case of a couple who lost their baby daughter on the day she was born. The father, who had lived on the same street as Sr. Clare, prayed for his childhood friend’s intercession. The Sisters also prayed that his wife would be able to give birth to another child. Eventually, the couple welcomed a new daughter into the world. 

This is just one of several reports of fertility miracles attributed to Sr. Clare’s intercession.

“We do not have certainty as to whether these pregnancies have an explanation on a natural level or not,” explained Sr. Kristen. “We would have to wait for future studies about each case and the Church will have to deem whether they are truly miracles or not. The fact is that these couples are very thankful to Sr. Clare.”

“In any case, beyond the reports of ‘miracles’ of this type or others of other types of physical healings, the most reports we receive are of spiritual miracles. And these are the most important.” 

She continued: “There are people who were on the point of suicide and they have run into the documentary about Sr. Clare and they once again have hope and joy to live. Others were far from the Catholic Church and have found their faith again.”

“Others were living a lukewarm faith and Our Lord, through Sr. Clare’s testimony, has awoken them and given them new strength to give their all to the Lord and fight for holiness. Many young people have found the strength to respond to their vocation to the priesthood and religious life… and the list could go on.”

Sr. Kristen hopes that, after watching the documentary and reading about Sr. Clare’s life, people will be filled with a desire to follow the late sister’s example and give everything to God. She quoted from the Book of Job (7:1), where Job says “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” 

“It’s important to recognize that we are in a spiritual battle,” she stressed. “The devil is fighting for all of our souls and we cannot let him have the last word. So many souls depend on our generous ‘yes’ to God. We can see this in Sr. Clare’s own life -- how many souls are reaching God through her testimony. What would have happened if she had said no?” 

Judge killed by mafia 30 years ago is a candidate for sainthood

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Thirty years ago Judge Rosario Livatino was brutally killed by the mafia on his commute to work at a courthouse in Sicily. Today he is recognized in the Catholic Church as a Servant of God and a candidate for sainthood. 

Before his murder at the age of 37 on Sept. 21, 1990, Livatino spoke as a young lawyer about the intersection between the law and faith. 

“The duty of the magistrate is to decide; however, to decide is also to choose... And it is precisely in this choosing in order to decide, in deciding so as to put things in order, that the judge who believes may find a relationship with God. It is a direct relationship, because to administer justice is to realize oneself, to pray, to dedicate oneself to God. It is an indirect relationship, mediated by love for the person under judgment,” Livatino said at a conference in 1986.

“However, believers and non-believers must, in the moment of judging, dismiss all vanity and above all pride; they must feel the full weight of power entrusted to their hands, a weight all the greater because power is exercised in freedom and autonomy. And this task will be the lighter the more the judge humbly senses his own weaknesses,” he said. 

Livatino’s convictions about his vocation within the legal profession and commitment to justice were tested at a time when the mafia demanded a weak judiciary in Sicily. 

For a decade he worked as a prosecutor dealing with the criminal activity of the mafia throughout the 1980s and confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” or the corrupt system of mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts. 

Livatino went on to serve as a judge at the Court of Agrigento in 1989. He was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit him, sending him off the road. He ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, but was shot in the back and then killed with more gunshots.

After his death, a Bible full of notations was found in his desk, where he always kept a crucifix. 

On a pastoral visit to Sicily in 1993, Pope John Paul II called Livatino a “martyr of justice and indirectly of faith.” 

Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, the current archbishop of Agrigento, told Italian media on the 30th anniversary of Livatino’s death that the judge was dedicated “not only to the cause of human justice, but to the Christian faith.”

“The strength of this faith was the cornerstone of his life as an operator of justice,” the cardinal told the Italian SIR news agency Sept. 21.

“Livatino was killed because he was prosecuting the mafia gangs by preventing their criminal activity, where they would have demanded weak judicial management. A service that he carried out with a strong sense of justice that came from his faith,” he said. 

The courthouse where Livatino used to work in Agrigento also organized a conference over the weekend marking the anniversary of his death.

“Remembering Rosario Livatino … means urging the whole community to join forces and lay the foundations for a future no longer burdened by mafia loans,” Roberto Fico, president of the chamber, said at the event Sept. 19, according to La Repubblica. 

“And it means strengthening the determination -- which continues to animate so many judges and members of the police on the front line against organized crime -- to want to do their duty at all costs.” 

Pope Francis expressed his support this year for an initiative aimed at countering mafia organizations’ use of the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary to promote submission to the will of the mafia boss.

A working group organized by the Pontifical International Marian Academy will bring together about 40 Church and civil leaders to address the abuse of Marian devotions by mafia organizations, who use her figure to wield power and exert control.

The pope previously met with the Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission on the anniversary of Livatino’s death in 2017. On that occasion, he said that dismantling the mafia begins with a political commitment to social justice and economic reform.

The pope said that corrupt organizations can serve as an alternative social structure which roots itself in areas where justice and human rights are lacking. Corruption, he noted, “always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the ‘normal’ condition, the solution for those who are ‘shrewd,’ the way to reach one's goals.”

The diocesan phase of Livatino’s cause closed in September 2018. There are two alleged miracles attributed to his intercession that need to be verified by the Vatican.

“Justice is necessary, but not sufficient, and can and must be overcome by the law of charity which is the law of love, love of neighbor and God,” Livatino said. 

“And once more it will be the law of love, the vivifying strength of faith, that will solve the problem at its roots. Let’s remember Jesus’ words to the adulterous woman: ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ By these words, he indicated the deep reason of our difficulty: sin is shadow; in order to judge there is need of light, and no man is absolute light himself.” 

Vatican calls for 'peaceful and just resolution' of Belarus crisis

Rome Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- After President Alexander Lukashenko announced that he was putting troops on high alert and closing Belarus’ borders, a Vatican diplomat called Friday for dialogue and respect for the human rights of Belarusian protesters, who continue to take to the streets more than a month after disputed elections.

“The Holy See … renews its appeal for a peaceful and just resolution to the tensions through sincere dialogue, the rejection of violence, and respect for justice and fundamental human and civil rights,” Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič said in Geneva Sept. 18.

Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special debate on Belarus, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva said that the Vatican had followed “with great attention the sociopolitical situation following the elections in Belarus.”

“In the search for a peaceable solution to the current crisis, the Holy See considers it indispensable that demonstrators present their requests in a peaceful way. It is also necessary that governing authorities exercise restraint and listen to the voices of their citizens and remain open to their just aspirations, assuring full respect for their civil and human rights,” Jurkovič said.

For six straight weeks, protesters in Minsk have been demanding the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. The protests began after the Aug. 9 election in which Lukashenko claimed victory in the presidential election with 80% of the vote. His challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, complained to electoral officials after they said she had earned just 10% of votes. Fearing imprisonment, she then fled to Lithuania.

The European Parliament rejected the Belarusian election results Sept. 17, passing a resolution saying that it would not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president once his current term ends Nov. 5.

Tsikhanouskaya addressed the Human Rights Council Meeting via video link. She spoke of the Belarusian opposition’s “willingness to talk with the authorities and look for peaceful rights-based solutions to the crisis.”

The Belarusian government representative at the UN meeting repeatedly interrupted the video, demanding that it be turned off, reported the Guardian newspaper.

“Belarus needs fast and resolute decisions,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “It’s very important to recognize that standing up for the democratic principles and human rights is not interfering in internal affairs; it is a universal question of human dignity.”

As a result of a vote at the meeting, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on the Belarusian authorities to enter into dialogue with the political opposition and allow for freedom of assembly and expression. 

The UN resolution came a week after a senior Vatican official met with with the Belarusian foreign minister in Minsk. 

During his four-day trip to Belarus, Archbishop Paul Gallagher met with government officials and Catholic bishops to discuss the future of the Church in the country in the midst of political tumult.

When the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States met with Belarussian bishops at the apostolic nunciature in Minsk on Sept. 12, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, president of the country’s bishops’ conference, was not present as he has been barred from entering the country by Belarusian authorities since Aug. 31.

L’Osservatore Romano reported Sept. 17 that Gallagher’s meeting with the bishops in Minsk “was very useful in evaluating together the path that the local Church must follow in order to remain faithful to its identity and its evangelical mission, making itself, at the same time, also an effective instrument of social cohesion.”

At the same time as the Vatican official’s visit to Belarus, Lukashenko was in Russia visiting President Vladimir Putin, his closest international ally, who offered him a $1.5 billion loan.

Anaïs Marin, the UN’s special rapporteur on Belarus, said that the human rights situation in Belarus was “catastrophic.” She indicated that more than 10,000 people have been arrested and thousands have reported being “savagely beaten.”

“Let’s not allow another iron curtain to descend on the European continent,” she said.

Pope Francis makes surprise donation to struggling poultry workers

CNA Staff, Sep 19, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has made a surprise donation to struggling poultry workers in Italy.

The regional newspaper Il Quotidiano del Molise reported Sept. 18 that the pope donated 10,000 euros (almost $12,000) after he heard about the plight of the employees in Bojano, a town in the province of Campobasso in south-central Italy.

Fr. Alberto Conti, director of Caritas in the Diocese of Trivento, explained that the pope was moved when he heard that 273 workers face an uncertain future as a government subsidy that they are currently receiving is due to expire in November.

Conti met with Pope Francis Sept. 15, according to a report on the website L’Eco dell’Alto Molise. 

Writing in Il Quotidiano del Molise, Conti recalled that before he asked the pope to give him a blessing, he asked him to pray for the workers, who fear they will be unemployed after November. He told him that they had appealed to both the diocesan and national branches of Caritas for help.

“The Holy Father asked me: ‘Do you have any way to help them?’ I replied: ‘Holy Father, there are 273 families and they ask first of all for the right to work. But we will do what we can to stay close to them,’” Conti said. 

“The pope got up and went out of the small room where we were. He returned after a few minutes and behind him came his young secretary, who handed him an envelope that he placed in my hands. I immediately grasped that it was an offering, and I must therefore have seemed embarrassed, because, with great simplicity, he encouraged me, exhorting me: ‘Take it, take it.’”

“When I got out in the car, I opened the envelope and discovered that the Holy Father had wanted to donate 10,000 euros to those workers in difficulty I had just told him about.”

Conti said that after consulting with Bishop Claudio Palumbo of Trivento he decided to use the gift to buy educational materials for the workers’ children. 

He said that when times were difficult culture, education and the training of young people were always the first things to lose out. 

“They must instead be defended because they represent the only weapon of peace that the most needy possess to improve their conditions, to grow as people, to help the development of the region and therefore the good of all,” Conti wrote.

German Catholic bishop dismisses cardinal’s fear that ‘Synodal Way’ could lead to split

CNA Staff, Sep 18, 2020 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The president of the German bishops’ conference dismissed Friday suggestions that the controversial “Synodal Way” could lead to a split in the Church.

Bishop Georg Bätzing made the comment Sept. 18 after Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne said that the worst outcome would be if the process “leads to a split and thereby outside of the Church, out of communion with the universal Church.”

In a Sept. 17 interview with the German Catholic news agency KNA, the cardinal said he feared that this would create “something like a German national church.” 

He added that the best outcome would be “if we succeeded in initiating real reform, which is definitely necessary in the Church.”

But in an interview with the Bonner General-Anzeiger, Bätzing said that the Church in Germany is “part of the Universal Church and nothing will change that,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner. 

The “Synodal Way” is a process bringing together German lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The first synodal assembly took place in Frankfurt at the end of January. Regional meetings were held Sept. 4, following a break due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

When the German bishops launched the process, they initially said that the deliberations would be “binding” on the German Church, prompting a Vatican intervention

In June 2019, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”

Bätzing, who succeeded Cardinal Reinhard Marx as chairman of the German bishops’ conference in March, discussed the “Synodal Way” at a private audience with Pope Francis June 27.

Afterwards, he said: “I feel strengthened by the intensive exchange with the Holy Father to continue on the path we have taken. The pope appreciates this project, which he associates closely with the concept of ‘synodality’ which he coined.”

The audience took place the day after the German Church released figures showing that it lost a record number of members in 2019. 

Despite the exodus, the Church in Germany received more money in church tax than ever before last year.

In Friday’s interview, Bätzing addressed the debate about church tax and its future, given the large number of German Catholics leaving the Church. 

He said that Church leaders faced “difficult decisions.” 

“What do we spend the money on? What are the resources with which we can effectively serve the preaching of the Gospel and catechesis? How many properties can we afford in the future and what is pastorally useful?” he asked.

Bätzing also ruled out moving the headquarters of the German bishops’ conference from Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, to Berlin, the capital since 1990, following the demise of East Germany.