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A host of sacramental statistics: Vatican tracks practice of the faith
Posted on 06/2/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As first Communion season winds down and wedding fever rises, Catholic counters are busy.
The Central Office of Church Statistics, a department of the Vatican Secretariat of State, keeps track of baptisms, first Communions, confirmations and Catholic marriages reported by dioceses around the world.
The statistics are one way of "showing adherence to the church," including the continuing practice of the faith over time, said the introduction to the chapter "Practice of Religion" in the 512-page volume, Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2021.
Using statistics reported as of Dec. 31, 2021, the book was published in February this year. It counted more than 1.3 billion Catholics in the world or 17.7% of the global population.
Dioceses and other church territories around the world reported more than 13.7 million baptisms in 2021 and more than 11.1 million of those, 81%, were baptisms of children under the age of 7. The yearbook for 1991 reported 18.1 million baptisms worldwide, 89% of which involved welcoming into the church children under the age of 7.
The statistical yearbook noted "a general downward trend in the relative number of baptisms, following closely the trend in the birthrate in most countries."
The yearbook also provided a look at the percentage of baptisms of people over the age of 7 by continent from 2016 to 2021, providing an indication that missionary activity is holding steady everywhere but the Middle East.
Africa leads the world in the percentage of baptisms in which the new Christian was over 7 years of age. In 2016 close to 33% of the baptisms on the continent involved older children and adults; by 2021, it had grown to 36%.
Both the Middle East and Europe reported in 2016 that about 4.5% of all baptisms involved people over the age of 7; by 2021, the Middle East reported only 2.9% of baptisms involved that population, while Europe stood steady at 4.5%. North American dioceses reported 8.7% in 2016 and 8.6% in 2021.
The number of Catholic weddings celebrated around the world in 2021 was over 1.8 million; of those, only 9.2% involved a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic. On the low end, only 1.7% of marriages in Central America were between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, while in Oceania the figure was 28.3%. North America was close with 20.2 percent of all sacramental marriages involving a Catholic and a non-Catholic.
The yearbook for 1991 reported more than 3.8 million Catholic weddings with 8.9% of them involving a Catholic marrying a non-Catholic.
In 2021, the yearbook said, 8.5 million people received their first Communion, and 7.3 million people were confirmed.
In addition to listing the number of first Communions and confirmations reported country by country and continent by continent, the 2021 yearbook also gives the number of those sacraments per 1,000 Catholics in the country or region, giving a sense of how many children those Catholics are having and how they are or are not bringing their children up in the faith.
The global average was 6.2 first Communions for every 1,000 Catholics; in Asia the ratio was highest at 9.1, while the Americas were on the low end with 5.2. The yearbook said there were 7.3 first Communions per 1,000 Catholics in the United States in 2021 and 3.1 first Communions for every 1,000 Catholics in Canada.
St. Peter's Basilica opens exhibit on Marian coronations
Posted on 06/1/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Of the more than 1,300 Marian images crowned around the world, one of the first to receive this honor does not have a crown today.
For over 350 years, Michelangelo's Pietà, instantly recognizable by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, was one of several "crowned Madonnas" in St. Peter's Basilica. Until 1924, the disproportionately large Mary bore a golden crown supported by two angels, and over the head of the limp Jesus in her lap was a halo. Coronated in 1568, the sculpture was at the beginning of a wave of Marian coronations which took off in the 17th-century.
"In the early 1600s, a Capuchin friar had the nice idea of officially coronating the Marian images that had a certain devotion, and so he went around towns and began this practice," said Pietro Zander, curator of a Vatican exhibit on Marian coronations, during a tour of the Marian imagery in St. Peter's Basilica May 30.
In 1636, the Vatican began supporting, and regulating, Marian coronations. The local community, typically a church or Marian shrine, was required to write to the Vatican confirming that the image was of "continuous and ancient devotion, used for religious purposes and generated an increase in Marian devotion," said Zander.
Once the image was crowned, the community was obliged to send a letter to the Vatican guaranteeing that the act of coronation followed the prescribed rules along with a painting of the coronated image.
"These images started arriving -- these paintings, since there wasn't photography at the time --are beautiful since they were commissioned by artists," said Zander. The paintings acted as a type of postcard meant to share each community's particular Marian devotion with the Vatican. Often, text at the bottom of the painting explained the community's devotion and told of the coronation event.
Hundreds are still preserved in the Vatican and, beginning on the feast of the Visitation of Mary May 31, 15 of them from throughout Italy will be on display in St. Peter's Basilica. The exhibit, titled "Crowned Madonnas," is organized by the Fabbrica di San Pietro, the office responsible for maintaining St. Peter's Basilica.
Each image comes from a different region in Italy and is accompanied by the story of a community's source of devotion. One image, called "Our Lady of the Stone," shows Mary with a wound on her right arm which is said to have begun bleeding after a drunken soldier threw a small rock at it. Another tells of monks finding a worn and discolored statue of Mary that miraculously returned to its original form and color during Mass and brought the withered flowers nearby back to life.
Zander said the exhibit, which runs until Oct. 7, adds to the rich history of Marian devotion already present in the pope's basilica. He recalled that the first image brought into today's St. Peter's Basilica was a 12th-century fresco of Our Lady of Perpetual Help taken from the wall of the old basilica that once stood in its place.
Additionally, the image of "Mater Ecclesiae" (Mother of the Church) in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Column is taken from a piece of a column that stood in front of the old St. Peter's Basilica. Zander explained that that after the assassination attempt on St. John Paul II in 1981, the pope requested that an enlarged image of "Mater Ecclesiae" be placed above a window of the Apostolic Palace over the colonnade in St. Peter's Square to welcome visitors. The last Marian image to be crowned in the Vatican was Our Lady of Czestochowa, widely venerated in Poland and by the Polish pope, just hours before his death in 2005.
While the current exhibition shows Marian paintings from all of Italy, Zander said he hopes the basilica will rotate through its collection of "crowned Madonnas" to give a glimpse of how the mother of Jesus is venerated around the world.
Evangelizer's strength comes from practicing what one preaches, pope says
Posted on 05/31/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The most powerful and effective method of evangelization is to live according to what one teaches and preaches, Pope Francis said.
"I can recite the Creed by heart, I can talk about everything we believe in, but if your life is not consistent with that, it will get you nowhere," he told people at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square May 31.
What attracts people to the Gospel, he said, is seeing consistency in the way Christians live, seeing that "we, Christians, live the way we say and do not pretend to be Christians," who, instead, live a "worldly" life.
The pope continued his series of talks about "zeal" for evangelization by focusing on Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Italian missionary who spent 28 years evangelizing in China and bringing Western science to the continent. He died in Beijing in 1610, at the age of 57.
His missionary spirit represents "a living and relevant model" for evangelization today, said Pope Francis, who advanced the Jesuit's sainthood cause in 2022 by recognizing his heroic virtues.
"His love for the Chinese people is a model," he said, but what is most important is "his consistency," his witness as a Christian.
Father Ricci is known as a great missionary because "he brought Christianity to China," the pope said, and he is "great" because he was "a great scientist, he is great because he is courageous, he is great because he wrote so many books, but he is great, above all, because he was consistent with his vocation, consistent with that desire to follow Jesus Christ."
Christians, he said, should ask themselves whether they are living in harmony with what they believe, "Am I consistent, or am I a little so-so?"
After St. Francis Xavier first tried to enter China in the 1500s, another 25 Jesuits after him tried and failed to enter the country, the pope said. However, Father Ricci succeeded. He and a confrere spent years preparing for their mission to China by studying the language and customs, and then they spent another 18 years to get to Beijing.
Father Ricci is a "great example of apostolic zeal" because "with perseverance and patience, inspired by an unshakeable faith, Matteo Ricci was able to overcome difficulties and dangers, mistrust and opposition," Pope Francis said.
What was his secret? What path did his zeal take him? the pope asked. "He always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with everyone he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith."
The pope explained how the priest adopted some aspects of Chinese culture by first dressing like the Buddhist monks of the region, "but then he understood that the best way was to assume the lifestyle and clothing of the 'literati'" or Chinese scholars. "He studied their classical texts in depth, so that he could present Christianity in positive dialogue with their Confucian wisdom and the customs of Chinese society."
This is "inculturation" -- the same approach used in the early centuries of the church, when the early church theologians "inculturated" the Christian faith in dialogue with Greek culture, he said.
Matteo Ricci was admired and respected as a man of science, but the most important of all his efforts was "the proclamation of the Gospel," the pope said. But the credibility he earned through his sincere and wise scientific dialogue "gave him authority to propose the truth of the Christian faith and Christian morality."
He gave witness by living a life of virtue and prayer, because "it is prayer that fuels the missionary life," and by living a life of charity and helping others, by being humble and shunning all honors and riches, which all led "many of his Chinese disciples and friends to embrace the Catholic faith," the pope said.
"This is the consistency of evangelizers," he said. The greatest strength of the best missionaries "is consistency; they are consistent" with what they teach and live.
Vatican launches compact for families with pope's support
Posted on 05/30/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Asserting that "it is in the family that many of God's dreams for the human community are realized," Pope Francis asked Catholic universities and Catholic couples around the world to support the "Family Global Compact."
"We cannot resign ourselves to the decline of the family in the name of uncertainty, individualism and consumerism, which envision a future of individuals who think only of themselves," the pope wrote in a letter released May 30 with the launch of the compact by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
"We cannot be indifferent to the future of the family as a community of life and love, a unique and indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, a place where generations meet, a source of hope for society," the pope continued.
Pastoral, social and financial support for families is not a concern only for the church, he said, because strong families have "a positive effect on everyone" and are a key factor in promoting the common good.
"Healthy family relationships represent a unique source of enrichment, not only for spouses and children but for the entire ecclesial and civil community," the pope wrote.
The dicastery and the academy of social sciences began working on the global compact in 2021, seeking ways to promote cooperation between those engaged in the pastoral care of families and Catholic university programs and centers specialized in research about family life, as well as to form a network among the universities.
The compact says by sharing research into the realities families are living today "helpful public policy resolutions and objectives can emerge."
The goal of the compact, according to its mission statement, is to enhance and sustain service to families "in spiritual, pastoral, cultural, legal, political, economic and social terms."
Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the dicastery, said the university programs already onboard include not only those dedicated to studying the family, but also a couple women's studies programs, given the reality that family life, heading single-parent families, dealing with the impact of poverty, trying to find a work-life balance and raising children all are issues that currently impact women more than men.
The compact wants to focus on the importance of family relationships, Gambino said, and that includes promoting research on women's responsibilities and relationships with spouses, partners, children, relatives and the wider community "so that these relationships will be considered in the public arena" when new family policies or services are being discussed.
"This is our concern: A woman is not just an individual when she cares for her family, and this must be considered in the marketplace, in society, in the kinds of services offered to women and at work," Gambino said. "For example, one must recognize the ties a woman has with her children when one is trying to harmonize home and work. These ties, these bonds are important, they are fundamental in people's lives."
Another thing she said she hoped would come out of the compact is a call "for the education of men in the authentic sharing" of responsibility for careers and the home, including childcare, "because otherwise the task of harmonizing the two falls almost always on the woman."
Dominican Sister Helen Alford, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said the work of the academicians showed both "light and shadows" in how families around the world are doing. But "it was clear in the discussions during the plenary last year that the family remains a very resilient social structure, capable of absorbing shocks and of providing support and healing to people in many different circumstances."
"In a world that is looking for more resilience in the face of projected future crises, including those arising from climate change," she said, "investing in the family and in research into how families can face their challenges more effectively, would bring great returns for society as a whole."
The academy, she said, proposed that the Vatican launch the compact and called for the church to work to include "the promotion of family well-being" in the U.N.'s next set of sustainable development goals. Academy members also saw need for "national action plans to help families meet their basic needs and implement them by allocating a significant amount of their budget to them," and for the creation of working groups to come up with "family-friendly employment contracts, focusing on concrete actions and preparing positions on key issues that could improve relations between families and businesses."
Pope Francis Creates Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas and Names Most Reverend George Leo Thomas as First Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas
Posted on 05/30/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has created the Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas, comprised of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Las Vegas, and the suffragan dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City. At the same time, he named Most Reverend George Leo Thomas, as the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas.
The establishment of the new province and the appointment of the metropolitan archbishop was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 2023, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
An ecclesiastical province is a territory consisting of at least one archdiocese (known as the “metropolitan see”) and includes several dioceses (known as “suffragan sees”). The metropolitan archbishop is the head of his archdiocese, and while he has no direct power of governance over the suffragan dioceses in his province, through canon law (Church law), he supports them in matters of faith and discipline and provides fraternal pastoral care to his brother bishops. In this newly created province, the Archdiocese of Las Vegas is the metropolitan see, and the Diocese of Reno and the Diocese of Salt Lake City are the suffragan sees.
Archbishop Thomas was appointed the third bishop of Las Vegas on February 28, 2018, and has now been named the archbishop of the newly created province. His full biography may be read here.
The Archdiocese of Las Vegas is comprised of 39,088 square miles in the State of Nevada and has a total population of 2,322,280, of which 620,000 are Catholic.
Promote Christian values, not divisions, on social media, Vatican says
Posted on 05/29/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics should make an "examination of conscience" about how they use social media, how they allow it to influence them and about the opportunities it provides them to share the Gospel, build community and care for others, said the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.
"Unfortunately, the tendency to get carried away in heated and sometimes disrespectful discussions is common with online exchanges," said the dicastery's document, "Toward Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media."
"The problem of polemical and superficial, and thus divisive, communication is particularly worrying when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors and prominent lay leaders," the document said. "These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication."
Signed by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the dicastery, and Msgr. Lucio A. Ruiz, secretary of the office, the document was released at a news conference May 29.
When faced with erroneous or divisive content on social media, the document said, "often the best course of action is not to react, or to react with silence so as not to dignify this false dynamic."
Asked if there was not something more active the dicastery could do, for example, with a bishop acting badly on social media, Ruffini responded that it is not the competency of his office to discipline anyone, but in general on social media it is better not to share or comment on offensive content since it only raises its profile.
Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a member of the dicastery, said everyone in the church needs to be educated about social media and learn to discern "when to speak and when not to speak."
While the document argued for the need for Catholics to sometimes take a break from social media to pray, reflect and spend time with others in person, it recognized social media as a vehicle for sharing Gospel values and as daily part of life for millions of people around the world, including many people in developing nations whose only digital access is to social media.
But it also called on Catholics to be fully informed about its pitfalls and recognize that companies claim their platforms were designed "to bring the world closer together, to give everyone the power to create and share ideas, or to give everyone a voice," when, in fact, they are businesses that make money by using an individual's posts to target advertising to them and by selling their profiles and data.
The document quoted an adage that says, "'If you are not paying for it, you are the product.' In other words, it is not free: we are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data."
People also must be aware, it said, that the history of who they follow, what they look at and what they search for feed into algorithms that increasingly narrow the posts, search results and advertising they receive.
"The consequence of this increasingly sophisticated personalization of results is a forced exposure to partial information, which corroborates our own ideas, reinforces our beliefs, and thus leads us into an isolation of 'filter bubbles,'" the document said.
The dicastery called on Catholics to burst those bubbles by purposefully expanding their sources of information and by trying to understand people with whom they have differences.
The growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, fake news and "deep fake" images and videos also require education and a critical look at what people find online, the document said.
Asked, for example, about the AI-generated photo of Pope Francis in a puffy white jacket and jeweled crucifix that went viral in March, Msgr. Ruiz told reporters that the dicastery is studying ways to give people "the resources to know when they are seeing a real photo, real video or real audio of the Holy Father and not something else."
In calling Catholics to make an "examination of conscience" about their use of social media, the document said that self-examination should start with how it impacts "three vital relationships: with God, our neighbor and the environment around us."
With the document, the dicastery launched a website -- fullypresent.website -- where people can download the document, find a study guide to it and join a "community of faith communicators" to reflect and share best practices.
Pope on Pentecost: Synod is journey in the Spirit, not 'a parliament'
Posted on 05/28/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's current Synod of Bishops should not be a "parliament for demanding rights," but a "journey in accordance with the Spirit," Pope Francis said.
The synod, which seeks to gather input from all baptized Catholics on building a listening church, is not "an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to submit to the breath of the Spirit," he said.
In his homily for Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica May 28, the pope said that the Holy Spirit is "the heart of synodality and the driving force of evangelization."
"Without him, the church is lifeless, faith is mere doctrine, morality only a duty" and "pastoral work mere toil," he said. "We often hear so many so-called thinkers and theologians who give us cold doctrines that seem mathematical because they lack the Spirit."
Pope Francis, seated to the side of the basilica's main altar, spoke without difficulty just two days after he had cleared his day's schedule due to a fever.
Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was the main celebrant at the altar alongside Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Leonardo Sandri, vice dean.
Reflecting on St. John's account of Jesus breathing on the apostles to impart the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis urged Christians to seek harmony in the church without doing away with the differences that enrich its character.
"The Spirit does not inaugurate the church by providing the community with rules and regulations, but by descending upon each of the apostles, every one of them receives particular graces and charisms," he explained. The Spirit "does not eliminate differences of cultures but harmonizes everything without reducing them to bland uniformity."
Embracing difference, the pope said, is key to resisting the temptation to look back in time with nostalgia or become "caught up in our plans and projects."
At Pentecost, however, "the life of the church began not from a precise and detailed plan, but from the shared experience of God's love," he said.
Pope Francis asked Christians to invoke the Holy Spirit daily to create harmony where there is division in the church and beyond.
"Let us think of the wars, so many conflicts, it seems incredible the evil of which we are capable. Yet fueling our hostilities is the spirit of division, the devil, whose very name means 'divider,'" he said.
Conversely, the Holy Spirit "opposes the spirit of division because he is harmony, the Spirit of unity, the bringer of peace."
"If the world is divided, if the church is polarized, if hearts are broken, let us not waste time in criticizing others and growing angry with one another," Pope Francis said, "instead, let us invoke the Holy Spirit."
The pope encouraged Christians to reflect on their relationship with the Holy Spirit and asked them to develop a faith that is "docile in the Spirit," and not "stubbornly attached" to "so-called doctrines that are only cold expressions of life."
"If we want harmony let us seek (the Spirit), not worldly substitutes," he said.
At the end of Mass, Pope Francis he smiled and waved to onlookers as he was taken down the basilica's central nave while seated in a wheelchair.
Reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer with an estimated 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis again spoke of the synod, asking people to join special prayers planned for May 31, the end of the month traditionally dedicated to Mary.
"At the conclusion of the month of May," he said, "Marian shrines around the world are planning moments of prayer to support preparations for the upcoming ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops," which is scheduled to meet in October at the Vatican. "We ask the Virgin Mary to accompany this important stage of the synod with her maternal protection."
"And to her we also entrust the desire for peace of so many peoples throughout the world, especially of the tormented Ukraine," he said.
Pope Francis says situation at U.S.-Mexico border is 'serious problem'
Posted on 05/26/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called the migration crisis between Mexico and the United States a "serious problem" and praised a U.S. bishop working along the border during an interview with Telemundo journalist Julio Vaqueiro.
In the interview, broadcast May 25, the pope was shown photos of a baby wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a suitcase to be taken across the Rio Grande into the United States.
"It's a serious problem there," the pope said in response. "On the other side (of the border) there is a great man, Bishop Seitz" of El Paso, Texas.
"This bishop feels (the problem)," Pope Francis said. "The problem of migrants is serious, it's serious there and it's serious here," he said about Europe, particularly "along the Libyan coast."
Speaking about his own experience as a child of immigrants, and now as an immigrant in Rome, the pope said that every person who leaves his or her homeland "misses the air of their birthplace."
"The mate you make in a thermos yourself is not the same as the mate your mom or your aunt makes for you," he said, referring to the caffeinated herbal drink popular in Argentina.
Vaqueiro asked Pope Francis about his meeting May 13 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The pope said Zelenskyy asked for his help in returning Ukrainian children who have been taken into Russia and told the pope to "not dream much about mediations."
Since the outbreak of the war, the Vatican has avoided openly condemning the Russian government and has offered itself as a mediator for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
"Really, Ukraine's bloc is very strong, it's all of Europe, the United States, so it has a lot of strength," Pope Francis said to explain why a Vatican mediation did not appear immediately feasible. "But what really pained (Zelenskyy) and what he asked for collaboration on was trying to get the children back into Ukraine."
More than 19,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported into Russia or Russian-held territories according to a Ukrainian government website. The U.N. Human Rights Office has classified Russia's illegal transfer of children into its territories as a war crime.
In response to a question on abortion, Pope Francis said that a fetus is a "living being, I'm not saying a person, but a living being."
"Is it licit to eliminate a living being to resolve a problem?" he asked. "Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?"
On abuse, the pope said that priestly celibacy "has nothing to do" with the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, since, he said, abuse is committed at high rates within families and schools by married persons too.
Vaqueiro, who served earlier in the evening as master of ceremonies at Pope Francis' meeting with members of Scholas Occurentes, a Vatican-related educational initiative, asked the pope what still needed to be done to realize the reforms discussed by the cardinals in the lead up to the conclave that elected him pope just over 10 years ago.
"Everything," Pope Francis said. "It's curious, as you do things, you realize everything that still needs to be done; it's something insatiable."
A church of the many: Pope addresses some synod questions, fears
Posted on 05/25/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the release of the working document for the Synod of Bishops on synodality is expected sometime in early June, Pope Francis tried to respond to some of the questions and concerns about the synod process that already have been raised.
Meeting at the Vatican May 25 with members of the Italian bishops' conference and the people they chose to coordinate work for an Italian synod, the pope gave a succinct description of what he means by a "synodal church":
"Every baptized person is called to actively participate in the life and in the mission of the church, starting from the specifics of one's own vocation, in relationship with others and with the charisms given by the Spirit for the good of all. We need Christian communities in which space is enlarged, where everyone can feel at home, where pastoral structures and means foster not the creation of small groups, but the joy of being and feeling co-responsible."
Evangelization is at stake, he said. "A church weighed down by structures, bureaucracy and formalism will struggle to walk in history at the pace of the Spirit, meeting the men and women of our time."
"The great enemy of this process," he said, "is fear."
Pope Francis said that as he entered the Vatican audience hall for the meeting, someone -- using an Argentinian phrase that is not very polite, nor is its translation in Italian, he said -- told him that the whole synod process is creating a mess.
"Think about the apostles on the morning of Pentecost," the pope said. If the synod is "a blank," he said to laughter, "Pentecost morning was even worse. It was worse. Total disorder. And who provoked that mess? The Holy Spirit. He's good at creating disorder to move people. But the same Spirit also provoked harmony."
"Don't be afraid when there is disorder provoked by the Spirit," Pope Francis said. One need fear "only when it is provoked by our selfishness or the spirit of evil."
Speaking just a few days before Pentecost, the pope urged everyone, but especially the fearful, to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who opens people to listen to others, who makes dialogue fruitful, enlightens discernment and guides choices and decisions.
Pope Francis told the bishops and representatives that he would try to respond to their questions about "the priorities for the church in relation to society, about how to overcome resistance and concerns, on the involvement of priests and lay people, and on the experiences of marginalization."
Church unity and shared responsibility are essential, he said. An "always lurking" temptation is to rely on "a few 'qualified actors' who carry out pastoral activity" while the rest of the faithful stand by and watch.
"Sometimes one gets the impression that religious communities, chanceries and parishes are still too self-referential," Pope Francis said.
"There seems to creep in, somewhat covertly, a kind of "defensive neoclericalism' -- clericalism is a perversion," he said. It is "generated by a fearful attitude, by complaints that the world does not understand us anymore, that young people are lost and by a need to reiterate and make one's influence felt."
Obviously, the pope said, a "synodal church," one where all are welcome, where all share the mission and contribute their prayer, time and talents will have an impact on those the Catholic Church still believes have been chosen by God and given special gifts to lead and to discern.
"We must ask the Holy Spirit to make us understand and experience how to be ordained ministers and how to exercise ministry in this time and in this church: never without the Other with a capital 'O,' but also never without others with whom we share the journey."
"This applies to the bishops, whose ministry cannot do without that of priests and deacons" and to priests and deacons who must work with each other and the faithful, the pope said. "But this is also true for the entire community of the baptized, in which each one walks with other brothers and sisters in the school of the one Gospel and in the light of the Spirit."
Promoting co-responsibility in the church, he said, is not simply a matter of finding a new way to "distribute power."
Rather, he said, it means learning how to recognize the gifts of each person, particularly those "who still struggle to see their presence recognized in the church, those who do not have a voice, those whose voices are drowned out or even silenced or ignored, those who feel inadequate perhaps because they have difficult or complex life paths (and) are sometimes almost 'excommunicated' a priori."
Part of the goal of synodality, he said, is to "let God's heart shine through -- a heart open to all and for all."
Pope Francis said those already active in the church need to remember the parable of the wedding feast from Matthew 22. "When none of the invited guests show up, what does that gentleman say? 'Go to the crossroads and call everyone.' Everyone: sick, healthy, righteous, sinners, everyone, everyone."
"We should ask ourselves how much space we make and how much we really listen in our communities to the voices of young people, women, the poor, those who are disappointed, those who have been hurt in life and are angry with the church," the pope said. "As long as their presence remains sporadic in ecclesial life overall, the church will not be synodal, it will be a church of the few."
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Pray at Pentecost for courage to evangelize, pope says
Posted on 05/24/2023 07:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians should pray on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit would give them the courage and strength to share the Gospel, Pope Francis said.
"No matter how difficult the situation may be -- and indeed, at times it may seem there is no room for the Gospel message -- we must not give up and we must not forsake pursuing what is essential in our Christian life, namely evangelization," the pope said May 24, the Wednesday before Pentecost.
Using the example of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, the 19th-century Korean martyr, Pope Francis continued his weekly general audience talks about the "zeal" to evangelize.
With thousands of visitors and pilgrims -- including bands, flag twirlers and dancers -- gathered in a sunny St. Peter's Square, the pope introduced his talk about St. Andrew by pointing out how Christianity was introduced to Korea 200 years before St. Andrew by laypeople who had heard the Gospel proclaimed in China and then shared it when they returned home.
"Baptized laypeople were the ones who spread the faith. There were no priests," the pope said. "Would we be able to do something like that?"
Ordained in 1844, St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first Korean-born priest and ministered at a time of anti-Christian persecution.
Pope Francis told the story of how when the saint was still a seminarian, he was sent to welcome missionaries who snuck into the country from abroad. After walking far through the snow, "he fell to the ground exhausted, risking unconsciousness and freezing. At that point, he suddenly heard a voice, 'Get up, walk!'"
"This experience of the great Korean witness makes us understand a very important aspect of apostolic zeal: namely, the courage to get back up when one falls," the pope said.
"Each one of us might think, 'But how can I evangelize,'" he said. Following the example of the "greats" of evangelization history, each Christian can find a way to witness to the Gospel -- "talk about Jesus" -- in his or her family, among friends and in one's local community.
"Let us prepare to receive the Holy Spirit this coming Pentecost, asking for that grace, apostolic grace and courage, the grace to evangelize, to always carry forward the message of Jesus."