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The story of St. Anthony of Padua’s only approved apparition

Shrine of St. Anthony, Radecznica, Poland / EWTN News Nightly

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 13:59 pm (CNA).

Catholics may know St. Anthony of Padua as a Franciscan friar, a Doctor of the Church, and the patron saint of lost items - but only one person has ever seen St. Anthony in an approved apparition. 

In 1664, Szymon the weaver - hailing from the little Polish village Radecznica - encountered St. Anthony in an apparition. Among other things, the saint requested the building of a nearby shrine. More than three centuries later, that miraculous shrine still exists, and on St. Anthony’s feast day – June 13 – pilgrims celebrate with a Eucharistic procession.

Although he was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy, after joining the Franciscan order. Yet his apparition occurred in a third country, Poland. Fr. Teofil Czarniak, provincial minister of the Order of Friars Minor, called the saint’s apparition a “special event.”

Szymon “had a vision of St. Anthony and St. Anthony gave him some messages,” Fr. Czarniak told EWTN News Nightly on June 11. “One of them was the request of constructing a shrine on [a] nearby hill.”

As a result, he added, “one of the promises of St. Anthony was that whoever comes to this place – because he appeared near the water source – whoever will clean his wounds or drink this water with the faith will be given the graces.”

News of the vision spread across Poland and soon builders constructed the Shrine of St. Anthony next to the nearby lake. 

The shrine later captured the Vatican’s attention. In 2015, Pope Francis named it a minor basilica.

“It was the first confirmed apparition of St. Anthony in the world,” Fr. Teofil Czarniak said. “At the moment, today, you can see [the] beautiful shrine” adorned with a picture of St. Anthony, he said. The shrine is filled with colorful religious art and gilded in gold. 

When pilgrims visit the beautiful church, they receive graces “through the intercessions of St. Anthony,” he added. They gather in a special way on the saint’s feast day, when the faithful participate in a Eucharistic procession with a statue of St. Anthony. 

“We invite every pilgrim, everyone who needs help from God through the intercession of St. Anthony – who is a big, big saint in heaven – to come and visit,” Fr. Czarniak concluded. “To come and pray. To come and become one of the pilgrims in this holy place.”

Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral launches appeal for interior restoration

Debris inside Notre-Dame de Paris, April 16, 2019, a day after a fire that devastated the building in the centre of the French capital. / Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP/Getty Images.

Paris, France, Jun 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Paris launched a multimillion-dollar appeal Monday to restore the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral following the devastating fire in 2019.

In a June 14 statement, the archdiocese said that Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris was launching the new appeal with a view to the cathedral’s scheduled reopening in 2024.

The French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, but the cathedral authorities are responsible for its interior renewal.

“The program of interior improvements, which is entirely the responsibility of the cathedral, aims first of all to return it to worship -- its primary function -- and, more broadly, to offer a new tour to the six million faithful, pilgrims and tourists who enter the cathedral each year,” the statement said.

Under the initiative, which will cost five to six million euros ($6.1-$7.3 million), two projects a year will be presented to French and foreign donors.

The campaign will be supported by the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, an American foundation created at the initiative of Paris archdiocese.

The celebrated French Gothic cathedral, built between 1163 and 1345, held a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The relic was rescued on the night of the fire, April 15, 2019, by Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

The first two projects presented to donors will be the restoration of the reliquary case of the Crown of Thorns, which was damaged during the rescue, and the creation of a new tabernacle.

Future projects will include new seating for the choir and assembly, lighting, sound systems, and a music room, as well as changes to the choir organ and altar.

Aupetit said: “The renovation of Notre-Dame provides an opportunity to bring the cathedral into the 21st century, while maintaining the preservation of its own identity, in the spirit of Christian tradition.”

“But it seems essential to us to propose keys to understanding to inscribe it in the collective memory of today. Also, some adjustments are necessary.”

The statement said that teams working under the archbishop's delegate, Fr. Gilles Drouin, have reflected on how the restored interior could emphasize the cathedral’s “liturgical axis” running from the baptistery to the tabernacle and create a better pathway for visitors.

“An itinerary will be proposed, along the side chapels, up to the Crown of Thorns in the east, to give visitors, often of non-Christian culture, the keys to understanding the Mystery for which the cathedral was built and which still constitutes its raison d’être today,” it said.

Following the fire, the French government said that it would reconstruct the church with four partners: the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the Fondation du Patrimoine, the Fondation de France, and the Fondation Notre-Dame.

The Fondation Notre-Dame, founded in 1992 by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, has collected 85.8 million euros ($105 million) in donations as of June 10, Paris archdiocese said.

The interior restoration appeal will take place under the aegis of the Fondation Notre-Dame.

Archbishop Aupetit will celebrate a Mass in the cathedral on June 16 marking the feast of the Dedication of Notre-Dame de Paris. For security reasons, only 12 people are allowed to take part in the celebration.

The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

The German Synodal Way: A CNA explainer 

Thomas Sternberg, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), speaks at a ‘Synodal Way’ press conference. / Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

Munich, Germany, Jun 14, 2021 / 12:14 pm (CNA).

What is the German Synodal Way, also known as Synodal Path? 

The “Synodal Way” – in German: Synodaler Weg – is a controversial discussion process underway in Germany with the declared aim of addressing the Church’s clerical sexual abuse crisis by debating and passing resolutions on whether, or how, Catholicism needs to change (“develop”) its teaching – and the Catholic Church therefore change its approach – to questions of sexuality and the exercise of power, including doctrine and the sacraments.

Who is running the German Synodal Way? 

The discussion process is a joint and co-equal effort of the German bishops' conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay body known by its acronym ZdK (see What is the “Central Committee of German Catholics”? below). 

When did it start, and when will the process conclude?

The German Synodal Way commenced on September 1, 2019, following a resolution of the German Bishops' Conference. It was scheduled to be completed within two years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, key dates have been pushed back. A new completion date has not been confirmed, but the current official target date is some time in February of 2022. 

How does it work?

The main body is the “Synodal Assembly” that has 230 members. Apart from the 69 German bishops, this assembly includes 69 members of the Central Committee of German Catholics as well as representatives of religious orders as well as other bodies, associations and councils. These members meet to discuss – and pass resolutions on draft declaration then to be drawn up – on four official topics in four distinct forums, each presided over by a bishop and a ZdK functionary. These deal with the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women, respectively. The official forum titles are:

  • “Power and Separation of Powers in the Church - Joint Participation and Involvement in the Mission”

  • “Life in succeeding relationships - Living Love in Sexuality and Partnership”

  • “Priestly Existence Today”

  • “Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church”

What is the “Central Committee of German Catholics”? 

Founded in 1949, the Central Committee, known by its German acronym “ZdK,” claims to represent lay Catholicism in Germany. According to its own website, the ZdK received 2.45 million Euros (almost 3 million USD) in funding from sources provided by the German Bishops' Conference in 2018. 

As of 2021, the ZdK and/or its leading representatives are on the record for pursuing a number of controversial goals also associated with the German Synodal Way, including the blessing of homosexual unions, the ordination of women to deacons, abolition of celibacy, and intercommunion with Protestants. 

Its president, Thomas Sternberg, has decried the critical interventions and concerns raised by the Vatican as “disturbances from Rome”.

Why do proponents of the Synodal Way believe it is necessary?

For the organizers of the German Synodal way, the process is necessary to discuss the future of church life in Germany. One goal is to regain trust lost after the abuse scandal. Another is to revitalize reform debates that have been brewing in German speaking Europe for decades.

Pope Francis, in his letter to German Catholics, pointed to another challenge: “I painfully notice the growing erosion and deterioration of faith with all it entails not only on the spiritual level but also on the social and cultural level,” he wrote, calling on evangelization instead of a false reform. 

The call to add evangelization as a forum to the process was declined by the organizers of the Synodal Way, but picked up by at least one participant in a wake-up call to reclaim the primacy of evangelization.

Was there a precedent or role model for the German Synodal Way? 

Yes. The German Synodal Way has a precedent of sorts in an actual synod held in the 1970s in then West Germany, which was undertaken with the declared goal of debating and passing resolutions about the Second Vatican Council. This synod also involved lay people as voting participants. It was held from 1971 to 1975 in the Cathedral of Würzburg. While not referencing sexual abuse, it raised several of the same – or similar – questions about sexuality and power that are now raised again, for instance on celibacy or the ordination of female deacons, at the current process.

Until the German Synodal Way was announced, the Würzburg Synod had been largely forgotten, even in Germany, according to observers. 

Is the German Synodal Way a Church synod? 

No. When announced in 2019 by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the then-president of the German Bishops' Conference, the prelate declared it to be “a process sui generis” that would be able to pass “binding resolutions” on questions that pertain to the universal Church. From the outset, this claim, and the moniker “Synodal Way,” were contested: Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg called the concept a “tautology,” going so far as to decry it as a “labelling fraud”. 

Following several interventions and despite resistance from the two process presidents, Cardinal Marx and Thomas Sternberg of the ZdK, the discussion process has meanwhile been confirmed not to be binding – and not a synod.  

Just how controversial is the German Synodal Way? 

Pope Francis and the Vatican have intervened repeatedly with a number of unprecedented measures, as have a growing number of bishops and theologians, both from Germany and around the world, raising serious concerns about many aspects of the Synodal Way.  

The Holy Father took the historic step of writing a letter to all Catholics in Germany in June 2019, warning of a “belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist is to reorganize things, change them and ‘put them back together’ to bring order and make ecclesial life easier”.

In September 2020 Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch went public saying Pope Francis was “concerned” about the Church in Germany. A German bishop followed this up with a similar warning in October, referring to the Holy Father’s “dramatic concern” about the situation. 

On June 8, 2021, Cardinal Walter Kasper, considered to be close to Pope Francis, said that he was  “very worried” about the German Catholic Church’s controversial “Synodal Way.”

In the main, concerns pertain to the underlying assumptions and operating premises of the process – which the Vatican initially declared “ecclesiologically invalid” in 2019, but also the legal claims and questions of basic legitimacy, given the refusal of the Synodal Assembly to rule out decisions that run counter to Catholic doctrines. Doubts have furthermore been raised about the selection of participants, choice of topics, theological claims, internal procedures. 

Looking at the goals of the process, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of the Italian bishops’ conference and vicar of the Diocese of Rome, said in early May 2021, the German Synodal Way pursued “not only the blessing of same-sex couples, but also the priesthood of women, the abolition of the obligation of ecclesiastical celibacy, the intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants”.

In summary, as of 2021, the German Synodal Way was mired in controversies and marred by sustained and substantial criticism from leading theologians and senior prelates. These concerns have culminated in dire warnings of the threat of a new schism in Germany. 

Is the Synodal Way leading to a new schism in Germany?

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, has insisted that no schism is on the horizon.

However, fears that the German Church was heading for a breach with Rome have been expressed by the English Bishop Philip Egan, Australian Cardinal George Pell, Spanish Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.  Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver even published a letter calling to conversion in response to the Synodal Way, which was publicly supported by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.

What is more, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, added his name to an appeal, launched in Portugal, asking Rome to take action to stop a “schism” in Germany. And George Weigel, the biographer of St. John Paul II, as well as Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian, both have also expressed concern about the direction of the German Church.

On June 10, 2021, CNA reported that three German Catholics had submitted a “dubium” to the Vatican asking if the Church in Germany was in fact already in schism. The trio from the Diocese of Essen formally requested a ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

What about Catholics in Germany? 

Arguably the most concerning aspect of the German Synodal Way is that it appears to fail most of the very people it claims to reach out to: The “Pilgrim People of God in Germany”. 

As CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German news partner, reported, a survey in September of 2020 showed that only 19 percent of Catholics agreed with the statement that the Synodal Way was of interest to them. The vast majority of Germans responded in the negative.

This is in stark contrast to claims made by Cardinal Marx, who said in September 2019 that “countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion”.

The question of just how relevant the issues raised by the German Synodal Way has also been brought up by the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who stressed that the Italian synodal process was completely different from what was happening in Germany.

And on May 6, 2021, the Archbishop of Sarajevo said the “exotic ideas” of Germany’s “Synodal Way” were alien to a Church that survived communism. Cardinal Vinko Puljić castigated the German Synodal Way, saying, “such attitudes offend and astonish our believers. We cannot understand a Church in which sacrifice is a foreign word and there is a Jesus without a cross.”

This has raised the wider concern whether the Bishops' conference and the “Central Committee” were sincerely engaging with Catholics on the ground.  

Poland’s Catholic bishops look ahead to fall meeting with Pope Francis

The 389th Plennary Session of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland. /

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland, Jun 14, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Poland’s Catholic bishops said Saturday that their fall trip to the Vatican would be a chance to renew their bond with Pope Francis.

In a statement at the end of their plenary meeting June 12, the bishops looked ahead to their “ad limina” visit to Rome, scheduled for October.

“In addition to meetings in the different dicasteries and an audience with Holy Father Francis, the bishops will celebrate the Eucharist in the four Major Basilicas of Rome,” they said.

“The visit will be a time to renew ties with the Holy Father, pray together, exchange ideas, discern and define priorities for the life and mission of the Church in Poland for the coming years.”

According to Church law, diocesan bishops must report to the pope every five years on the state of their dioceses. They are expected in the same year to travel to Rome to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and meet with the pope.

The trips are known as “ad limina apostolorum” visits, from the Latin meaning “to the threshold of the apostles.”

In practice, the gap between visits is often longer than five years. The Polish bishops’ last “ad limina” visit was in 2014.

The bishops’ October meeting with the pope will come during a period of upheaval in the Polish Church.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

The Vatican has authorized a series of investigations of Polish bishops under the norms of the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, issued by Pope Francis in 2019.

The investigations have, in some cases, resulted in disciplinary measures against bishops accused of negligence in the handling of abuse cases.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, was also the subject of a Vos estis probe that recently concluded that the accusations of negligence against him were groundless.


At their plenary meeting in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland, the bishops decided unanimously to abolish the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and holy days. The dispensations will be abolished as of June 20 of this year.

The bishops agreed that the dispensation, introduced at the start of the coronavirus crisis, would be lifted simultaneously in all dioceses on June 20.

They also reviewed preparations for the beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Poland’s “Primate of the Millennium,” who led the Church’s resistance to communism. He will be beatified alongside Mother Elżbieta Rosa Czacka, a nun who died in 1961 after a lifetime of service to blind people.

The bishops said: “The joint beatification, to be celebrated on Sept. 12 of this year, at noon, in the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw-Wilanow, will be presided over by the papal legate, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.”

“The ceremony will be dignified and modest, in keeping with the possibilities of a declining pandemic.”

On the first day of the meeting, the bishops traveled to the city of Kraków for a ceremony consecrating Poland to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The act of consecration took place at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11, the feast of the Sacred Heart and the 100th anniversary of a previous national consecration.

“This unique event reminds us that the heart of the Church is God’s unlimited love for man,” the bishops said in their communique.

Louisiana poised to create window for sex abuse lawsuits

Louisiana state capitol / Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

The Louisiana state legislature last week passed a bill allowing for new lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse where the statute of limitations had already expired.

An amended version of the bill, House Bill 492, passed the state house on Thursday with 102 votes in favor, none against, and three abstentions. On Friday it was sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for signature.

The legislation creates a three-year period during which survivors of child sex abuse can file lawsuits against their alleged abuser, even when the statute of limitations would normally impede such lawsuits.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced in May 2020 that it was filing for bankruptcy. Thus, for survivors who filed claims against the archdiocese in bankruptcy courts by the March 1 deadline, they would not be able to sue in state courts. Survivors could still sue their alleged abusers who operated in religious orders or lay ministries, the New Orleans Advocate reported. The normal statute of limitations for lawsuits in child sex abuse cases is before the victim’s 28th birthday, the Advocate reported.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Hughes (D), spoke on the state house floor on Thursday, noting that his bill aims “to give some sense of justice and closure to children that have been malicious and heinously robbed of their innocence. Period.”

“They were robbed of their voice. I did not seek this bill; in many ways, it sought me. Members, all I am seeking is to give the voiceless some sense of justice. Some sense of closure,” Hughes stated.

The Advocate reported in March that the New Orleans archdiocese faces around 400 abuse claims in bankruptcy court.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans had cited the cost of sex abuse lawsuits as a significant factor in last year’s declaration of bankruptcy.

“The prospect of more abuse cases with associated prolonged and costly litigation, together with pressing ministerial needs and budget challenges, is simply not financially sustainable,” he said. “Additionally, the unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have added more financial hardships to an already difficult situation.”

In late 2018, the archdiocese released a list of priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The archdiocese said in 2020 that it had allotted more than $8 million for payment of abuse claims.

The archdiocese told CNA in October that it had been seeking to laicize priests who had been removed from ministry over accusations of child sex abuse, in the wake of the 2018 report. Under canon law, dioceses are obligated to provide for the needs of priests removed from ministry, such as for housing and health care. They are not obliged to provide for the needs of priests who have been laicized.

Pope Francis: Help the world’s small food producers

Pope Francis addresses the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at their headquarters in Rome on Nov. 20, 2014. / FAO Giulio Napolitano.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday that the world must do more to help small food producers.

In a message to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the pope said that the coronavirus crisis should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

“I appreciate and encourage the efforts of the international community to enable each country to implement the necessary mechanisms to achieve food autonomy, whether through new models of development and consumption or through forms of community organization that preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity,” the pope wrote in Spanish.

“It could be of great benefit to draw on the potential of innovation to support small producers and help them improve their capacities and resilience. In this regard, your work is of particular importance in the current time of crisis.”

The pope’s message was addressed to Michał Kurtyka, Poland’s climate minister and president of the 42nd Session of the FAO Conference, taking place in Rome on June 14-18.

The FAO, founded in 1945, has more than 194 member states and works in over 130 countries.

In addition to the papal message, the conference’s first day featured an address by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella and opening remarks by the FAO’s Chinese Director-General Qu Dongyu, who described the pandemic as “a powerful wake-up call on the fragility and shortcomings of our agrifood systems.”

In his message, the pope noted that in 2020 the number of people at risk of acute food insecurity and in need of immediate subsistence support reached its highest level in five years.

“This situation could worsen in the future. Conflicts, extreme weather events, economic crises, together with the current health crisis, are a source of famine and hunger for millions of people,” he wrote.

“Therefore, in order to address these growing vulnerabilities, it is essential to adopt policies capable of tackling the structural causes that give rise to them.”

The pope continued: “To provide a solution to these needs, it is important, above all, to ensure that food systems are resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and able to provide healthy and affordable diets for all.”

“In this perspective, the development of a circular economy, which guarantees resources for all, including future generations, and promotes the use of renewable energies, is beneficial.”

“The fundamental factor for recovering from the crisis that is striking us is an economy tailored to man, not subject only to profit, but anchored in the common good, friendly to ethics and respectful of the environment.”

The FAO’s 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause 130 million more people worldwide to suffer chronic hunger by the end of last year.

The pope said: “The reconstruction of post-pandemic economies offers us the opportunity to reverse the course followed so far and invest in a global food system capable of withstanding future crises.”

“This includes the promotion of sustainable and diversified agriculture that takes into account the valuable role of family farming and rural communities.”

“Indeed, it is paradoxical to note that it is precisely those who produce food that suffer from the lack or scarcity of food. Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods.”

“However, due to lack of access to markets, land ownership, financial resources, infrastructure and technologies, these brothers and sisters of ours are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Concluding his message, the pope said that it was not enough merely to outline programs.

“Tangible gestures are needed that have as their point of reference the common belonging to the human family and the fostering of fraternity,” he wrote, assuring the conference of the Catholic Church’s support for its work.

Pope Francis: Marginalizing the poor threatens ‘the very concept of democracy’

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 9, 2015 for the general audience. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday that “the very concept of democracy is jeopardized” when the poor are marginalized and treated as if they are to blame for their condition.

In his World Day of the Poor message released June 14, the pope appealed for a new global approach to poverty.

“This is a challenge that governments and world institutions need to take up with a farsighted social model capable of countering the new forms of poverty that are now sweeping the world and will decisively affect coming decades,” he wrote.

“If the poor are marginalized, as if they were to blame for their condition, then the very concept of democracy is jeopardized and every social policy will prove bankrupt.”

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.

While Judas and others were scandalized by the gesture, Jesus accepted it, the pope said, because he saw it as pointing to the anointing of his body after his crucifixion.

“Jesus was reminding them that he is the first of the poor, the poorest of the poor, because he represents all of them. It was also for the sake of the poor, the lonely, the marginalized and the victims of discrimination, that the Son of God accepted the woman’s gesture,” the pope wrote.

“With a woman’s sensitivity, she alone understood what the Lord was thinking. That nameless woman, meant perhaps to represent all those women who down the centuries would be silenced and suffer violence, thus became the first of those women who were significantly present at the supreme moments of Christ’s life: his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.”

The pope continued: “Women, so often discriminated against and excluded from positions of responsibility, are seen in the Gospels to play a leading role in the history of revelation.”

“Jesus’ then goes on to associate that woman with the great mission of evangelization: ‘Amen, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’ (Mark 14:9).”

The pope lamented what he said was an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.

“There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups,” he commented.

“A market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations. We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility.”

Looking back to 2020, the year that COVID-19 swept the world, he continued: “Last year we experienced yet another scourge that multiplied the numbers of the poor: the pandemic, which continues to affect millions of people and, even when it does not bring suffering and death, is nonetheless a portent of poverty.”

“The poor have increased disproportionately and, tragically, they will continue to do so in the coming months.”

The World Bank estimated in October that the pandemic could push as many as 115 million additional people into extreme poverty by 2021. It said that it expected global extreme poverty -- defined as living on less than $1.90 a day -- to rise in 2020 for the first time in more than 20 years.

The pope wrote: “Some countries are suffering extremely severe consequences from the pandemic, so that the most vulnerable of their people lack basic necessities. The long lines in front of soup kitchens are a tangible sign of this deterioration.”

“There is a clear need to find the most suitable means of combating the virus at the global level without promoting partisan interests.”

“It is especially urgent to offer concrete responses to those who are unemployed, whose numbers include many fathers, mothers, and young people.”

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, issued in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The idea came about, he explained, during the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People.

“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.

The Day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Feast of Christ the King. This year, it will fall on Nov. 14.

Coronavirus restrictions forced the Vatican to scale down its commemoration of the World Day of the Poor in 2020. It was unable to host a “field hospital” for the poor in St. Peter’s Square as it had in previous years. But it distributed 5,000 parcels to Rome’s poor and gave 350,000 masks to schools.

Pope Francis followed his custom of marking the day by celebrating a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Presenting the papal message at a Vatican press conference on June 14, Archbishop Rino Fisichella noted that the pope highlighted the example of St. Damien of Molokai.

The Belgian priest, canonized in 2009, ministered to leprosy sufferers in Hawaii.

“Pope Francis calls to mind the witness of this saint in confirmation of so many men and women, including hundreds of priests, who in this COVID-19 drama have been willing to share totally in the suffering of millions of infected people,” the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization said.

In the message, signed on June 13, the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, the pope argued that nowadays people in prosperous countries “are less willing than in the past to confront poverty.”

“The state of relative affluence to which we have become accustomed makes it more difficult to accept sacrifices and deprivation. People are ready to do anything rather than to be deprived of the fruits of easy gain,” he argued.

“As a result, they fall into forms of resentment, spasmodic nervousness and demands that lead to fear, anxiety and, in some cases, violence. This is no way to build our future; those attitudes are themselves forms of poverty which we cannot disregard.”

“We need to be open to reading the signs of the times that ask us to find new ways of being evangelizers in the contemporary world. Immediate assistance in responding to the needs of the poor must not prevent us from showing foresight in implementing new signs of Christian love and charity as a response to the new forms of poverty experienced by humanity today.”

The pope said he hoped that this year’s commemoration of the World Day of the Poor would inspire a new movement of evangelization at the service of disadvantaged people.

“We cannot wait for the poor to knock on our door; we need urgently to reach them in their homes, in hospitals and nursing homes, on the streets and in the dark corners where they sometimes hide, in shelters and reception centers,” he wrote.

Concluding his message, the pope cited the influential 20th-century Italian priest Fr. Primo Mazzolari, who he honored in 2017.

He wrote: “Let us make our own the heartfelt plea of Fr. Primo Mazzolari: ‘I beg you not to ask me if there are poor people, who they are and how many of them there are, because I fear that those questions represent a distraction or a pretext for avoiding a clear appeal to our consciences and our hearts... I have never counted the poor, because they cannot be counted: the poor are to be embraced, not counted.’”

“The poor are present in our midst. How evangelical it would be if we could say with all truth: we too are poor, because only in this way will we truly be able to recognize them, to make them part of our lives and an instrument of our salvation.”

Joe Biden attends Sunday Mass in English seaside town amid G7 summit

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden leave Mass in St Ives, Cornwall during the G7 summit on June 13, 2021. / Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images.

London, England, Jun 14, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Catholics in the English seaside town of St. Ives, Cornwall, were surprised Sunday to find the President of the United States at Mass in their parish church.

Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attended the 9 a.m. Mass on June 13 at Sacred Heart and St. Ia Church, southwest England, on the final day of the G7 summit at Carbis Bay.

Biden, America’s second Catholic President after John F. Kennedy, and his wife spent around 30 minutes at the church amid tight security as England basked in a heatwave.

The celebrant Canon Philip Dyson told the PA news agency that the couple’s presence made him feel slightly nervous.

“It’s the President of the United States of America,” he said. “It’s a great occasion to welcome him into our parish, into the church, and it’s lovely to know he made the time in his busy schedule in order to come to Mass.”

Dyson told PA that he had a short conversation with Biden.

“I welcomed him to Cornwall and he said he was enjoying his time here and there were many serious matters they were discussing and just hope it’s going to come to fruition,” he said.

The priest added that the Scripture readings for the day were fitting as they concerned “creation and climate, and things growing.”

The G7 leaders agreed to increase efforts to tackle climate change and renewed a promise to raise $100 billion a year to help developing nations cut emissions.

Dyson stressed that the day’s readings were not selected “by choice.”

“It’s just the way it always is. The word of God always fits in,” he said.

The canon is pastor of the parish of the Holy Family, which encompasses four local Catholic churches within the Diocese of Plymouth, including the Sacred Heart and St. Ia.

St. Ia was an evangelist from Ireland who died as a martyr in Cornwall in the fifth or sixth century.

A parishioner told the Associated Press that she was “gobsmacked” to see the Bidens at Mass in the town with a population of around 12,000 people.

“It’s quite amazing, we went into the church and they took some details from us and I thought this is a bit unusual,” said Annie Fitzpatrick.

"About 10 minutes into the service the doors opened up and President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden walked in and just sat in the pew just across from me.”

The reports did not touch on whether Biden received Holy Communion -- a topic of considerable controversy given his stance on abortion.

According to the parish newsletter, the Mass intention was for the G7 summit.

The newsletter included an appeal to the congregation to contact their local MP to urge the U.K. government to revoke a temporary measure allowing women up to 10 weeks pregnant to take both abortion pills at home. The measure was introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another parishioner told the AP that Biden appeared to make a “very generous donation” to the church before he left.

As he exited, Biden described the church as “beautiful.”

Parents lose three children to tragic accident: ‘If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive’

Danny and Leila Abdallah / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

It was a hot summer day when Danny and Leila Abdallah found out that three of their children had perished in a car accident. 

The proud parents of six, Danny and Leila never imagined that the last time they would speak with three of their children was when they gave them permission to walk down a footpath in Sydney, Australia, for ice cream. Minutes later, a car hit their children - ages nine, 12, and 13 - and their lives changed forever. 

While the Abdallahs live in Australia, Danny and Leila first met in Lebanon, they told EWTN News In Depth on June 4. From the beginning, they were attracted to each other’s faith. 

Danny’s “first question to me was, ‘Do you pray?’ And that was my sign from God,” said Leila, who was raised in a strong Catholic family.

Likewise, Danny valued Leila’s faith. “I always say the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry, and I know that a woman that loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour,” he said.

They married, and later welcomed six beautiful children: Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.

“We loved every minute, every second even when we were tired and exhausted we still – we love them so much,” Danny said. “I used to say to myself my day begins when I get home.”

But a terrible tragedy shook their family last year, in February 2020. The family was celebrating a birthday when the parents let their kids walk down the street to buy some ice cream.

“I heard my sister saying to Danny, ‘Are you sure it's okay for them to walk?’” Leila remembered. “Then he goes, ‘Yeah, they're only walking on the footpath, what's gonna happen?” 

A few minutes later, something unthinkable did happen. Danny and Leila received a phone call about an accident, and rushed to check on their children.

“What we saw was beyond our comprehension,” Danny remembered when he arrived at the scene. “When I saw them, I realized I had to surrender to God.”

Leila compared it to a “war zone.”  

“I started praying when everyone around me was screaming,” she said. “My immediate response, I'm like, ‘Why would God do that to us? No, He can't take our kids. He wouldn’t do that to us.’”

They later found out more about the tragic accident. A 30-year-old under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs lost control of his car. He drove over the sidewalk at a high speed and hit their children.

“Sometimes you see those movies where your body comes out and you look back into the, over like a top view, of what's happening. That's how it felt,” Danny described. “I was in shock and then I just started to fix what I could.”

He grabbed Liana who was conscious, he said. Still, “I felt in my heart that I'd lost my kids that day.”

Arriving at the hospital, four priests met with Danny and Leila and broke the news to them: 13-year-old Antony, Angelina (12), Sienna (9), and their niece, Veronique (11), did not survive.

“I was screaming, I'm like no, no, they didn't die,” Leila recalled.

Despite their tremendous suffering and pain, the Abdallahs did not hate the driver, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“I feel sorry for him,” Danny said. “I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.”

In a move that shocked the news media, Leila publicly forgave him.

“Forgiveness is something you practice, is something you practice all your life. Then eventually you can forgive on a bigger scale,” she explained. “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It's because you deserve to be at peace.”

Her faith, she said, inspired her.

 “If Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver,” she stressed. “If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver. Our Christianity, our faith got me to forgive him.”

She offered a special message to viewers of EWTN News In Depth

“Remember that if Jesus carried his cross, we are meant to carry our cross and follow Him,” the mother concluded. “And on this earth while we're living, enjoy every moment, hug your family tight, kiss your kids, don't take anything for granted, because anything can change in the blink of an eye.”

Amoris laetitia webinar equips leaders to build up sacramental marriages in the Church

scribbletaylor via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2021 / 08:50 am (CNA).

An online Vatican meeting on Amoris laetitia brought together hundreds of people this week to discuss how to better support sacramental marriages and families in the Catholic Church.

Organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, the four-day webinar centered on the question: "Where do we stand with the application of Amoris laetitia?"

Amoris laetitia is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, written following the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

The closed-door meeting June 9 to 12 was attended by more than 300 delegates from 30 international movements and the family offices of over 60 bishops’ conferences.

In his introduction on the first day of the forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the laity, family and life dicastery, recalled a 2017 visit by Pope Francis to the offices of the Vatican department.

During that visit, Pope Francis said “Amoris laetitia must be read together, from the first to the last chapter, without ‘cherrypicking’ those sections which we consider easier to implement from those that are more challenging,” Farrell stated.

Farrell quoted the pope's words that the apostolic exhortation should "be read as an integral whole."

"The webinar should be seen within the Synodal process as a sign of the Church coming together to ensure that the family is given a central place within the missionary outreach of every institution or Parish community within the Church," the cardinal said. "The Church is at the service of the family, to work with it, to hope in its great potential, in the certainty that 'the Church is good for the family and the family is good for the Church.'"

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, a friend and known ghostwriter of Pope Francis, gave a presentation on “accompanying, discerning, and integrating fragility,” on the last day of the forum.

According to a brief summary from the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, Fernández's address began with an analysis of the controversial chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

Fernández said in that chapter, Pope Francis "refers to 'situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to [the Church's] teaching on marriage,' the so-called 'irregular situations.' He proposes a path of discernment for greater integration. In any case, for Pope Francis, this is a secondary issue. What interests him more are 'the two central chapters, dedicated to love.'"

Fernández also said that "the pope says that it is essential to take care of love in marriages by encouraging its growth. This is because 'Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace.'"

The archbishop said chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia seeks to "integrate the good that is possible" and to accompany people in hard situations.

Some of the central points of the week's meetings, as summed up by Cardinal Farrell, included the need for awareness among families of the mission they have been given by the sacrament of marriage, and how that mission is shared by pastors; that the parish is a family of families; the need for more effective training for priests, deacons, religious, catechists, and lay people involved in preparing engaged couples for marriage; that Catholics must reach out to families who are estranged from the Church; that families in crisis or other difficulties need special attention; and that family pastoral ministry must be missionary.

The four days had sessions on the marriage catechumenate, the formation of those who accompany, the education of children, the spirituality of spouses, the missionary spirit of the family, and the fragility of the family.

Catholic married couples from around the world presented testimonies about their marriage and family related ministries.

One of these couples was Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, who connected to the webinar from the United States. The Verrets are the founders of the ministry, Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages that Survive and Thrive.

In a June 11 interview with EWTN News Nightly, Ryan Verret said "we were specifically invited by the Vatican to present on the use, in Witness to Love, of mentors, or what Amoris laetitia [and] Pope Francis has referred to as 'evangelizing spouses.'"

For engaged couples, mentors "really help to fill a space of rebuilding trust, not only in the Church, but also in the Lord, and trust that marriage is a still an ongoing great gift," he said.

Mary-Rose said "Witness to Love is really a marriage movement trying to help every couple, every sacramentally married couple, to see their home as a missionary outpost of the local Church, and to really form couples to understand that and to live that, to embrace it."

"What we've found," she continued, "is there are so many great programs, there are so many great resources in the Church today, but there isn't really an infrastructure for evangelization. So Witness to Love is all about getting the materials, the witness, the tools, into couples' hands, into parishes' hands, into pastors' hands, so that that evangelization can happen."

"Because the family really is the future of our Church," she added. "Churches without families are churches that will close."

The forum was organized as part of the ongoing Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

In a video message sent on the first day of the online forum June 9, Pope Francis “the family is ‘a domestic Church,’ the place in which the sacramental presence of Christ acts between spouses and between parents and children.”

“In this sense,” he continued, “‘the experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church,’ constantly enriched by the life of all the domestic Churches. Therefore, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, every family becomes to full effect a good for the Church.”

“Co-responsibility for the mission therefore calls upon married couples and ordained ministers, especially bishops, to cooperate in a fruitful manner in the care and custody of the domestic Churches,” the pope said.