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Possible miracle at Lourdes: Almost-blind woman recovers her sight

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ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The Hospitality of Our Lady of Lourdes of Madrid, an archdiocesan pilgrim service organization, concluded its 101st pilgrimage on May 19, serving 800 participants, one of whom apparently was cured of severe visual impairment. This extraordinary event, however, will have to be studied before it can be qualified as a miracle.

The most recent miracle at Lourdes, No. 70, was officially recognized in February 2018. This case could become No. 71.

The adviser to the archdiocesan association of faithful, Father Guillermo Cruz, sent a statement to the different groups that made up the pilgrimage, calling on them to accept what happened with humility and simplicity, following the example of St. Bernadette.

“The experience of making a pilgrimage and discovering the love of God through our Mother, the Virgin Mary, as St. Bernadette teaches us in simplicity and humility, will always be the greatest grace that is granted at Lourdes, since it is the one that renews life,” he said.

This consideration prefaces the announcement that during the days of the pilgrimage, “an event has occurred that is extraordinary, although it would be misleading people if we call it a miracle,” Cruz explained.

What happened is that “a pilgrim who suffers from several diseases and had very severe visual impairment, after making ‘the water gesture’ recovered her sight. This extraordinary event was immediately verified by the doctors, and the shrine was notified and has already recorded it.”

With the “water gesture” the pilgrims in the area of the baths, in an atmosphere of meditation, prayer, and trust in providence, cup water in their hands and three times wash their face and then take a sip of the water as St. Bernadette Soubirous did when directed by the Immaculate Conception at the Masabielle grotto.

Why can’t it yet be called a miracle?

The priest also explained the reason why it is not proper at this time to speak of a miracle, since this declaration requires “a process of medical and spiritual discernment that must be followed” in which “the following requirements regarding the healing must concur: Immediate. Complete. Lasting. Inexplicable.”

Consequently, the adviser said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. A study has to be done and above all that the healing be maintained over time.” The priest emphasized that “jumping ahead leads to presumption and we have to be humble. Here we have to wait for the study carried out by the Church at the Lourdes shrine, and then for the bishop of Madrid to make a pronouncement, to verify not only that it is inexplicable, but that it is also miraculous.”

Cruz is well aware of the desire of the members of the Hospitality of Lourdes and the pilgrims they accompany to the shrine every year to be able to speak of a miracle, “but that’s not our decision,” he said and noted that “it’s always an undeserved grace that is received.”

He warned that “we can create confusion if we are already talking about a miracle,” while at the same time we could “create false expectations if we reduce the fruits of the pilgrimage to a single event.”

What is the Lourdes Medical Bureau?

The Medical Bureau of the Lourdes Shrine in France was founded in 1883 at the same time that the area of the baths was established. As noted on the shrine’s website, it is the only organization of its kind in the world, including pilgrimage sites of other religions.

To date, more than 70,000 cases of extraordinary events have been presented, of which 70 have been recognized as miraculous by the Catholic Church. In most of them, women are the recipients of this special grace. In 50 of the 70 cases, the miraculous event occurred through contact with the shrine’s water, which has no special properties.

It was Pope Leo XIII who in 1886 gave his approval to the procedures followed by the medical bureau. In 1902, the Holy See ratified these protocols, which have four fundamental stages:

The office director receives the person who claims to have received a miracle. If the director considers the case worthy of being taken seriously, he calls in the doctors on staff that day at the shrine. If they agree that the case should proceed, an investigation begins that can last several years. When completed, the members of the International Scientific Committee of Lourdes vote on whether the extraordinary event is “unexplained in the current state of our knowledge.” This vote is sent to the bishop of the place where the cured person resides, who is the one who has the authority to declare the miracle.

The seven criteria doctors must take into account

The website of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes also specifies the seven criteria that must be observed during the medical investigation of cases. Before healing, the following must be taken into account:

1) The disease must be serious and have an unfavorable prognosis.

2) The disease must be known and cataloged by medicine.

3) The disease must “be organic, lesional,” and be examined by “objective, biological, radiological criteria.” This means that “even today, cures for pathologies will not be recognized without precise objective criteria, such as psychological, psychiatric, functional, and nervous diseases, etc.”

4) There should be no treatment to which the cure can be attributed.

5) The healing must be sudden, abrupt, instantaneous, immediate, and without convalescence.

After healing, two more criteria must be considered:

6) It should not be a simple regression of symptoms but rather a return to all vital functions.

7) It should not be a simple remission but rather a cure, that is, lasting and definitive.

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

UK plans to end gender ideology in schools, set age-based sex education rules

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CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

The United Kingdom’s Department of Education intends to prohibit the promotion of gender ideology within public schools, set age-based guidelines for sex education, and protect parental rights, according to proposed guidance for schools.

A proposed update to Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lesson guidance, which is now undergoing an eight-week public comment period, would prohibit schools from teaching that “gender is a spectrum.” Rather, if asked about gender identity, schools would need to “teach the facts about biological sex” and could not present alternative views about gender as being facts. 

“Material suggesting that someone’s gender is determined by their interests or clothing choices should not be used as it risks leading pupils who do not comply with sex stereotypes to question their gender when they might not have done so otherwise,” the proposed guidance reads. 

The proposal states that “schools should not teach about the broader concept of gender identity” and calls the concept “a highly contested and complex subject.” The proposal adds that schools “should be clear that an individual must be 18 before they can legally reassign their gender.” For students under the age of 18, it states “a child’s legal sex will always be the same as their biological sex and, at school, boys cannot be legally classified as girls or vice versa.”

When using “external resources,” the proposed guidance would instruct schools to “avoid materials that use cartoons or diagrams that oversimplify this complex concept or that could be interpreted as being aimed at younger children.” It also states that “schools should consult parents on the content of external resources on this topic in advance and make all materials available to them on request.”

The guidance also states that schools should teach students about laws related to protected groups, which includes those facing discrimination for gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion, sex, and other characteristics. 

Per the proposed guidance, schools would not provide any sex education until Year 5, when the students are usually 9 or 10 years old. The proposal also sets age-based guidelines for the type of sex education students receive. 

However, parents can opt their children out of all or some sex education lessons, except for lessons that are part of the science curriculum (which teach about topics such as puberty and sexual reproduction) — this is already part of existing guidance. A student who is at least 16 years old can opt themselves back into the sex education lessons with or without parental approval, which is also part of existing guidance.

The guidelines would establish new protections for parental rights. Per the proposal, schools would need to make all sex education material available for parents to review.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said in a statement that the proposal “puts protecting children at its heart, and enshrines parents’ right to know what their children are being taught.”

“It will support schools with how and when to teach often difficult and sensitive topics, leaving no doubt about what is appropriate to teach pupils at every stage of school,” Keegan said. “Parents can be reassured once and for all their children will only learn age-appropriate content.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement that he was “horrified” to hear reports last year that schools were providing sex education to students that was inappropriate for their ages.

“I will always act swiftly to protect our children and this new guidance will do exactly that, while supporting teachers to teach these important topics sensitively and giving parents access to curriculum content if they wish,” Sunak said.

Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is a nonprofit based in London, expressed support for the proposed guidelines. 

“We are glad and relieved that primary school children will now be protected from such lessons,” CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. “But this must only be a beginning. So much harm has been done and so much confusion sown. Schools must return to their Christian roots and the biblical beliefs on identity and sexual ethics, which set children and stable families up for life.”

The changes come just months after England ended the prescription of sex-change drugs to minors back in March. Scotland soon followed, ending such prescriptions in April. The policy changes stem from an independent review from Dr. Hilary Cass, which found insufficient evidence to support the efficacy and safety of providing these drugs to children. 

German priests do not support Synodal Way, new study finds

Cardinal Reinhard Marx. / Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch

CNA Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 12:56 pm (CNA).

Priests in Germany are not supportive of the controversial German Synodal Way, according to a new study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference.

The study, officially titled “Who Becomes a Priest?”, found that priests are “alienated from the concerns of Church reform,” lead author Matthias Sellmann said on May 17.

“Priests are also clearly not supporters of the German Synodal Way,” Sellmann emphasized. 

According to a statement by the bishops’ conference, the study aimed to investigate “the socio-religious background and motivations of newly ordained priests in order to make strategic personnel decisions based on the results.” 

Researchers contacted all of the 847 priests who were ordained between 2010 and 2021 in Germany to take part in the study. “In total, a representative sample of 17.8% took part.”

Among other findings, more than 70% of those surveyed said that silent prayer was where they discovered their vocation. “So where do we create such places of silent prayer in our pastoral landscape?” asked Bishop Michael Gerber of Fulda, who heads the bishops’ vocations commission.

Lead author Sellmann voiced concerns that priests were more interested in being a pastor and the liturgy than performing as a supervisor or team leader, which was not in line with the role they were expected to play “as managers of ever-larger and more resource-rich complexes.” 

Another critical concern identified by the study, according to Sellmann, is that the priest occupies a particular and idealized position in “Roman theology,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. 

This also required addressing and change management, the German theologian demanded: “What is needed is a determined, consistent, and both spiritually and theologically well-founded will to change course.”

It is unclear whether any course changes will provide for priests who support the Synodal Way, however — or indeed priests in the future: As Sellmann admitted, vocations are likely to dwindle even further, given priests tend to come from faithful families with many children, a source that was “drying up.”

Criticism and indifference

Inaugurated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx in 2019, the multiyear, multimillion-dollar project has not only failed to convince German priests but also has drawn fire for its very premise, approach, and resolutions by Pope Francis, cardinals, theologians, and many bishops around the world

At the same time, most German Catholics reportedly are indifferent to the exercise. According to CNA Deutsch, a survey in September 2020 showed that only 19% 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 finding starkly contrasted claims made by Marx, who said in September 2019 that “countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion.”

Since then, the Synodal Way has passed resolutions demanding the Church adopt transgender ideology, women’s ordination, and other controversial goals. Organizers are now working to turn the project into a permanent controlling body — called the “Synodal Council” — to oversee the Church in Germany.

Spain archbishop on schismatic nuns: ‘I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences’

The schismatic decision of the Poor Clares "seems absolutely wrong to me" but we must see "if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it," said Spanish Archbishop Mario Iceta. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 12:26 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Mario Iceta of Burgos, Spain, in whose jurisdiction is located the convent of the Poor Clares of Belorado and Orduña, expressed his surprise and concern over the nuns there going into schism and noted: “I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences” of their decision.

The prelate made the remarks May 17 on the “La Linterna de la Iglesia” (“The Church’s Lantern”) program broadcast by the Spanish radio station COPE following the schismatic decision of the Poor Clares of Belorado to leave the Catholic Church to place themselves under the authority of Pablo de Rojas, a false bishop excommunicated in 2019. 

“I’m worried about the situation, thinking about what has come about in such a surprising way on Monday [May 13],” Iceta said. Regarding what surprised him the most, the archbishop responded: “First of all, the secrecy with which all this has been proposed and that, indeed, when early on Monday morning, around 6 in the morning, I receive a WhatsApp message from a priest telling me that these nuns are leaving the Catholic Church, I thought it was fake news.”

“After that first surprise and verifying with the vicaress of the congregation itself, of the monastery itself, that this was the case, little by little we have learned the news. First of all [they said] that it was unanimous, and the next day a sister left [the monastery].”

In fact, on May 16, Sister María Amparo left the convent and said that she left “above all, so as not to belong to this sect,” noting that before her departure she endured “three days without Mass and without anything” and that “I suffered total surveillance so that I couldn’t speak with the older sisters,” she complained.

In the conversation with “La Linterna de la Iglesia,” the archbishop of Burgos commented that he was able to speak with that nun and that “it’s clear that they didn’t want her to be well informed about what was happening and she found out on Sunday afternoon when Pablo de Rojas showed up.”

The prelate also said that recently a person wrote a letter in which he praised the “fervor” of the nuns during Holy Week, which is why what has happened is even more surprising. “It’s all absolutely strange and I don’t know if the sisters themselves realize the consequences,” Iceta lamented.

Schism of the Poor Clares of Belorado

On May 13, when they announced their departure from the Catholic Church, the Poor Clares of Belorado indicated in a letter and a declaration that they recognize “H.H. Pius XII as the last valid Supreme Pontiff,” a decision that was explained through an attached 70-page text titled “Catholic Manifesto” claiming that “the see of St. Peter is vacant and usurped.” 

At the time, the nuns stated that their community “is leaving the Conciliar Church to which it belonged to become part of the Catholic Church.” They complained that in recent years there have been “contradictions, double and confusing language, ambiguity, and loopholes in clear doctrine have been coming from the Chair of Peter.” 

The archbishop stressed that if for them ”after Pius XII everything that follows is invalid, then the ministry of apostolic succession is invalid and this means that all the sacramental acts, except baptism, are invalid and evidently all vows and legal issues. Therefore this means that they haven’t taken vows as religious either.”

“When I saw on a television network that they were happy, content, well I am glad that they are well but I don’t know if they are really aware that this is not like changing your room or changing your habit or dress,” the prelate continued. 

“I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences that this step has and that is why my option or my opinion is that this should not be done precipitously, let this media tidal wave pass, let’s see if it’s possible to establish a relationship with them and dialogue and look at these issues and give them time to reconsider this situation that seems so surprising and strange to me,” the archbishop said.

After pointing out that Sister Paz, the vicaress, told him that the decision to separate from the Catholic Church was unanimous, Iceta said that on the contrary, “the sister who left [the monastery] says that there was no chapter, there was no vote, and therefore it is totally irregular” since “the proper capitular and voting mechanisms of the congregations” have not been respected.

Path of reconciliation for the Poor Clares of Belorado

A possible path of reconciliation for these Poor Clares, the Spanish prelate noted, involves “first a meeting and a reconsideration, and also listening to them about how they got to this point. They express discontent, they express difficulties, things that they have not conveyed to the [bishop’s] delegate for religious” nor to the chaplain.

Then it is necessary to listen to “what are the reasons for profound discontentment, because life is complicated, but to the point of saying I am leaving the Catholic faith to embrace another type of doctrine, it seems to me to be so extreme.” 

This decision of the Poor Clares “seems absolutely wrong to me,” but we must see “if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it” and “give time for this to happen,” he emphasized.

“It seems to me that a 90-something-year-old nun, after 70 years” of religious life, can’t just go over to “another worldview of life.” For these sisters, the archbishop said, it would be good to spend “the last years of their lives in the Catholic Church.”

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

Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Verona emphasizes call to be peacemakers  

Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2024 / 09:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ one-day pastoral visit to the northern Italian city of Verona on Saturday centered on a message of peace, offering an alternative to the current social paradigm. While the city is home to just over 250,000 residents, the pope’s message was global in scope.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives in Verona, Italy, for a pastoral visit on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives in Verona, Italy, for a pastoral visit on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

“Peace will never be the result of mistrust, of walls, of weapons pointed at each other,” the pope said at the end of his address at the “Justice and Peace They Shall Kiss” meeting held at the Verona Arena.

“Everyone will reap what they sow,” he said, quoting from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. “Let’s not sow death, destruction, fear. Let’s sow hope! 

“This is what you are doing too, in this arena of peace. Don’t stop. Don’t be discouraged. Do not become spectators of the so-called ‘inevitable’ war.’”

Pope Francis arrives at the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis arrives at the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The apex of the event came when the pope embraced Maoz Inon, an Israeli whose parents were killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023, attack, and Aziz Sarah, a Palestinian, whose brother was killed in the war.

Calling them “brothers,” Francis proceeded to hug each, calling the embrace “a project for the future.” This was met by a thunderous standing vocation but followed by a moment of silence for the victims of the war. 

The Holy Father arrived in Verona by helicopter at 8 a.m. at the Bentegodi Stadium and was greeted by the bishop of Verona, Domenico Pompili, the president of the Veneto Region Luca Zaia, as well as the prefect and mayor of the city. 

Pope Francis meets with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis meets with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The first encounter of the day was in the Romanesque Basilica of San Zeno, where the pope addressed priests and consecrated religious. Speaking on the importance of their vocation, Francis reminded them that it is predicated upon “the audacity of testimony” and “the joy of an active faith in charity, the resourcefulness of a Church that knows how to grasp the signs of our time and respond to the needs of those who struggle most.”

“At the origin of consecrated life and priestly life,” the pontiff added, “there is not us, our gifts or some special merit, but there is the surprising call of the Lord, his merciful gaze that bent over us and chose us to this ministry, although we are no better than others, we are sinners like others.” 

After the address, Pope Francis made his way into the adjacent piazza, brimming with over 5,000 people, where he was warmly greeted by children and young people. 

In a brief question-and-answer exchange with three different children, the Holy Father highlighted the importance of the day’s overarching theme of peace. 

“There are many wars, many wars, both in Ukraine and in the Holy Land, in Africa, in Myanmar... Many, many wars,” the pope said. 

“Does Jesus preach war or peace?” the pope asked the children. Answering in a booming and unified voice, they shouted: “Peace!”

Pope Francis speaks to young people gathered in San Zeno Square in Verona, Italy, after a meeting with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis speaks to young people gathered in San Zeno Square in Verona, Italy, after a meeting with priests in the Basilica of San Zeno on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

After his address to the young people, Pope Francis arrived at Verona’s first-century Roman amphitheater after 10 a.m and was greeted with a standing ovation by the over 10,000 spectators in attendance.

Much like the arena itself, the event was rich in symbolism, reflecting the overarching themes of justice, peace, and social inclusion.

Pope Francis took his place at the center of the stage and sat in a high-back wooden armchair — constructed by inmates — responding to a series of questions on ecology, migration, and just economic development, all of which were subsumed under the urgent call for peace.

Responding to a question, fielded by an Afghani woman, on how to make peace work, the pope warned against a culture “marked by individualism,” as this runs the risk of “making the dimension of the community disappear.”

Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis speaks to pilgrims gathered in the arena in Verona, Italy, on May 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

“The dimension of the community disappears, the dimension of the vital bonds that support us and make us advance. And it inevitably also produces consequences on the way in which authority is understood.”

“And this,” the pontiff continued, “is perhaps the root of dictatorships.” 

The Holy Father proceeded to the next event, a meeting with the inmates at Verona’s Montorio prison where he expressed his closeness and reminded them: “God forgives everything and he always forgives.” 

The pope also addressed the conditions of the prison, one of the most overcrowded in Italy, and expressed his “pain” that some inmates have committed suicide. 

“Life is always worth living, always,” the pope declared. 

“Our existence,” he continued, “is a unique gift for us and for others, for everyone, and above all for God, who never abandons us, and who actually knows how to listen, rejoice, and cry with us, and always forgive.” 

How life has changed for the girl who recovered her sight at 2023 World Youth Day

A view of the crowd and nearby waterfront at the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 1, 2023. / Credit: Arlindo Homem/JMJ Lisboa 2023

ACI Prensa Staff, May 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Jimena, the young woman who regained her sight after receiving Communion at a Mass during World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, about how she experienced that moment, her return home, and the details of a special meeting she had with Pope Francis during a pilgrimage she made with her family to Rome to thank the Virgin for that “miracle.”

For two and a half years, Jimena suffered from a loss of sight due to a myopia problem that left her with a 95% vision loss.

She traveled to Lisbon from Madrid with a group from Opus Dei. During the days prior, relatives and acquaintances of the young woman organized a novena to pray to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day is commemorated Aug. 5, the same day she recovered her sight.

Time seemed to stop in that Madrid cafeteria where Jimena and her father spoke with ACI Prensa. With the simplicity of a 17-year-old girl and an expression full of light and hope, Jimena remembered in detail what she felt on that day last year when she was cured.

‘I cried from a sense of peace’

“When we came back from Communion I sat down in the pew and then all the nervousness I had felt suddenly disappeared. I had been shaking with nervousness, and when we got down on our knees after taking Communion, I closed my eyes, and I felt a lot of peace, and then I stopped shaking.”

After receiving the body of Christ in a church in Évora de Alcobaça, a town north of Lisbon, the young woman said she felt the need to cry, but it was not a normal cry: “I began to cry from a sense of peace, it had never happened to me before; I didn’t know that you could cry for feeling at peace.”

“I was like super peaceful, as if inside I already knew what had happened, without opening my eyes. And then I opened them, I dried my tears, and I could see the altar, the tabernacle perfectly...”

‘God’s plans are much bigger than ours’

She also recalled recognizing her friends, who began to celebrate with her over what had happened. “When the Mass was over, for thanksgiving, I went up to read the prayer of the Virgin of the Snows to give thanks.”

From that moment on, Jimena has been grateful every day for the “miracle” that made her understand “that you have to let yourself fall a little into the arms of God, because his plans are much bigger than ours. It’s more about trusting than trying to take our life of faith wherever we want.”

‘Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway’

Her father recalled that just prior to the healing, Jimena was going to undergo emergency surgery in the operating room. “She prayed a lot to the Virgin that night, and the next day the convergence in her eye was cured,” so there was no need to operate, he said.

For her father, this first healing of his daughter had been a sign: “If you have a previous healing from the Virgin, then your faith is sustained by that. That is to say, Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway, and she was not going to abandon us at that time.”

After some time after that “sign,” during a walk on the Rincón de la Victoria beach in Málaga, Spain, on the way to stop and pray before an image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel that is among the rocks, father and daughter decided to abandon themselves completely to the Virgin.

“It was on that walk on the beach where we remembered a very important thing, which I believe is essential in this entire process, and that is to let God act, not to put God in our plans, but to be part of his. So, you change the way you pray. It’s not about praying for God to do what you want, but about praying to understand what God wants you to do.”

Jimena’s father explained that it was then “when we understood that we had to put together a novena for Aug. 5.”

The doctors’ opinion after ‘the miracle’

Upon returning from Portugal, Jimena visited the doctor who had followed her case in recent years and who due to her illness she didn’t know by face. “I couldn’t explain it to her, I was very emotional. And then a doctor also said that no matter at what point I might have been cured, it would never have been instantaneous,” the young woman related.

“Yes,” her father said, “she basically told us that she had no logical explanation; that within the medical possibilities, Jimena could have been cured little by little by the time she was 40 or 45 years old. So there was that possibility, but of course, at 16 years of age and so suddenly there are no previous cases — there are none.”

The young woman’s father said it was a very nice appointment with the doctor and that “all the nurses were excited to see her and gave her hugs. They did all the tests again and the condition was completely gone.”

Pope Francis encouraged pilgrimage to St. Mary Major

Upon returning from World Youth Day, Jimena wrote a letter to Pope Francis to tell him about her experience.

The Holy Father did not take long to respond and encouraged her and her family to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as St. Mary of the Snows, one of the most important basilicas in Rome dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows and for which the pontiff has a special love.

What Pope Francis did not know is that providentially the family had already planned — a year ago — a trip to Rome to spend the end of the year there.

“I got the tickets in January of last year, months before Jimena had been cured. We assumed that we would go to Rome with Jimena being blind, but look…” her father said, becoming emotional.

A special meeting with Pope Francis

During their trip to the Eternal City, which became a pilgrimage in gratitude to the Virgin, the family had a private meeting with the Holy Father and also participated in the Mass he offered on Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Jimena’s father recalled that everyone was “captivated” by Pope Francis, who received them for more than an hour in the Vatican’s St. Martha House with his typical closeness and familiarity.

Jimena’s father told ACI Prensa that the pope gave them a lot of advice and encouraged them “to put down all of Jimena’s testimony in writing and to contact our bishop in Madrid.” 

Following the pontiff’s advice, they are currently working on writing up Jimena’s testimony and are awaiting a response from the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal José Cobo Cano, whom they tried to contact a few months ago.

Regarding the doctors’ reaction, he said the Holy Father “stressed that this type of medical comment is admitted as valid in their process for miracles and so on. Because, as he told him, it’s very difficult for a doctor to manage to pronounce the word ‘miracle’ with all of their scientific knowledge.”

Jimena and the Virgin Mary

Jimena, who during this time has shared her testimony to small groups in Madrid, said she now has “a great deal of devotion” to Our Lady of the Snows but confesses that she has always had a bond with the Virgin Mary: “I feel her close every day.”

She also said that she has “a special affection for her, because in the end, in everything that has happened to me, I have always relied a lot on the Virgin, especially because it seemed easier for me to hold on to the rosary.”

“The Virgin, in the end, since she is an intercessor, that relationship that she has as a mother with us seemed easier to me. I see her as the mother that she is and that she appears, not physically, but she has little signs or things in which she shows us all that she is already here.”

Her father emphasized that Jimena has been able to understand that “she is not the protagonist of all this, but that she had a gift far above other people and that it is her responsibility to be generous and give it. But the protagonist in the end is the Virgin.”

“Since the miracle of Aug. 5 last year, they ask us to join novenas for healing people, and we join them all. But we do it anonymously, because I think it would be bad for people to think that Jimena has power. Another thing is that Jimena may have an extraordinary faith and a very great interior life, but that belongs to her private life,” her father noted.

He emphasized that “it’s a mistake to think that, suddenly, someone has power because they have received a gift. They are two very different things, and mixing them is a mistake. I believe that one of the beautiful things, which is also a grace of the Virgin, is being able to share her experience in personal and in-person testimonies so that other people come closer to the Lord. And that’s it. And the rest is pure superstition.”

The young woman’s father noted that there are many miracles in the Gospel whose recipients are people whose name is never known. Also, he stressed that today there are many miracles and that “Jimena’s has been more notable because the Virgin wanted it.”

“You have to leave it to her. She [the Virgin Mary] is the one who takes us to all corners [of the world]. It’s impossible for us to have planned with a large publicity budget to get to where this story has reached,” he pointed out.

‘The Eucharist is a much greater miracle’

For Jimena, “the Eucharist, in the end, is a much bigger miracle because it seems like it is hidden because it does not have — what do I know — lightning bolts falling from the sky or anything, but in the end it is God, who is the one who has allowed me to recover my sight and for us to all be here, the one who who comes down from heaven to put that in a piece of bread and that we receive it.”

“It seems to me that it is the moment in which we are closest to heaven here on earth, because in the end we are in union with God. So, I try to go to Mass whenever I can.”

A ‘new normal’

Jimena said with a smile that, before recovering her sight, she “had a list of books that I wanted read to me. The return to normal life has been a new normal in which I have done many things,” she said.

The young woman added that in a few days she will make a pilgrimage again to Rome with the group of her friends who were with her during World Youth Day.

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

Here’s how the city of Rome is preparing for the 2025 Jubilee Year

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. / Credit: EWTN News

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year (Dec. 24, 2024, to Jan. 6, 2026). According to the city’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, the upcoming “Jubilee of Hope” is expected to draw in an additional 30 million to 35 million tourists to Italy during the Catholic holy year.

“The jubilee is an extraordinary global event with a great spiritual significance for which the city of Rome must be ready,” Gualtieri told EWTN News Vatican Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser. “We are working to make it more welcoming so that pilgrims can live the experience of the Jubilee in the best possible way.” 

The city of Rome’s online portal Roma Si Transforma currently lists approximately 358 planned projects in the Lazio region in which Rome is located. Each project is categorized as either a culture, innovation, inclusion, or sustainability intervention, with projects specifically funded for the jubilee including the 79.5-million-euro (about $86.4 million) Piazza Pia transformation and the 4-million-euro (about $4.3 million) Piazza Risorgimento redevelopment.

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. Credit: EWTN News
Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. Credit: EWTN News

Next to Vatican City, the transformation of Piazza Pia into a more open and pedestrian-friendly square is close to halfway completed. It will connect Castel Sant’Angelo — a historic structure originally built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian but later used as a papal fortress — to St. Peter’s Square. 

“Piazza Pia will unite — in a kind of embrace — Castel Sant’Angelo, Via della Conciliazione, and St. Peter’s Square. Before, a highway passed through it, [but] I think it will become one of the most beautiful squares in the world,” Gualtieri said.

As the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums are two famous tourist attractions for visitors to Rome, Gualtieri explained that he has been closely collaborating with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect for the Section of New Evangelization of the Dicastery for Evangelization, and other Holy See representatives to support the crowds of pilgrims wanting to see the art collections and religious masterpieces contained within the walls of Vatican City.

“We had to work hard to imagine how to make Piazza Risorgimento more beautiful and make the arrival [of visitors] from the subway to the Vatican Museums more accessible,” Gualtieri explained. “[Archbishop] Fisichella is truly extraordinary in helping us always to find solutions. The whole Holy See is busy, starting with the Holy Father, [Cardinal Pietro] Parolin [Vatican secretary of state] and everyone else.”

The façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran — one of four main papal basilicas in Rome that will have Holy Doors opened by the pope and remain open throughout the jubilee year — is under renovation in preparation for the millions of pilgrims expected to visit the city next year.

Besides the papal basilicas — St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls — there are also 12 “jubilee churches” in Rome to serve as places of gathering for pilgrims who wish to attend catechesis sessions on the year’s theme of “hope” or to receive the sacraments in varying languages.

According to Gualtieri, several local parishes spread across the city are also being refurbished ahead of the jubilee year to support the Catholic communities already living within Rome.

The city of Rome has also considered specific sites for the calendar events of the jubilee year in Rome and the wider Lazio region, which have the capacity to host hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Tor Vergata will hold the Jubilee of the Youth and World Youth Day festival and overnight vigil in mid-2025, while Centocelle Park will be the location of several Mass celebrations for various groups including the sick and health care workers, artists, and even the armed forces.

Gualtieri also told EWTN that pilgrimage routes, including the ancient Via Francigena — which extends from England to Italy — would also undergo restoration work to improve usability, safety, and accessibility for pilgrims.  

On May 9, the feast of the Ascension, Pope Francis officially proclaimed the 2025 Jubilee Year through a papal bull at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, indicating further guidelines on the special year of pilgrimage and grace for Catholics worldwide. 

Through the announcement, the Holy Father invited “pilgrims of hope” to “travel the ancient and more modern routes in order to experience the jubilee year to the full” and “above all by approaching the sacrament of reconciliation — the essential starting point of any true journey of conversion.”

Orthodox patriarch anticipates Pope Francis visit to Turkey for Council of Nicaea anniversary

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 18:04 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis might be traveling to Turkey next year for the 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea, according to Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in comments he made on Thursday.

Although the Holy See has not confirmed any travel plans, the ecumenical patriarch told a group of reporters that a committee is being established to organize a visit, according to the Orthodox Times. The referenced council took place in the ancient city of Nicaea in 325 A.D. in the former Roman Empire, which is now the present-day city of İznik in Turkey. 

“His Holiness Pope Francis wishes for us to jointly celebrate this important anniversary,” Bartholomew said.

The Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council in the Church. It is accepted by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and other Christian communities that accept the validity of early church councils. It predates the Chalcedonian Schism — which separated the Oriental Orthodox communion from Rome — by more than 100 years and predates the Great Schism — which separated the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome — by more than 700 years.

During the council, the bishops condemned the heresy of Arianism, which asserted that the Son was created by the Father. Arius, a priest who faced excommunication for propagating the heresy, did not accept that the Son was coeternal with the Father.

According to the council, Jesus Christ is “begotten; not made” and is “of the same substance with the Father.” It affirms that the Son is coeternal with the Father and condemns any heresies that assert “the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change” and heresies that assert “there was a time when [Christ] was not [in existence].” 

The council was convened by Emperor Constantine the Great, who is venerated as a saint in some Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox traditions.

Pro-lifers rally in London amid consideration of abortion amendments

Representatives from the pro-life movement and their supporters gather to demonstrate in Parliament Square on May 15, 2024, in London. / Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 10:43 am (CNA).

A large number of pro-life people rallied May 15 outside the Houses of Parliament in London to protest a set of amendments that if passed would further liberalize the U.K.’s abortion laws, including one that critics say would allow abortions up to the point of birth.

As reported by the Catholic Herald, the rally in Westminster was coordinated by a variety of organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom UK, Christian Concern, March for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and 40 Days for Life. Participants held signs and wore shirts with the phrase “No to abortion up to birth.”

At issue are a number of proposed amendments to a Criminal Justice Bill under consideration in the U.K. Parliament, one of which would amend U.K. law such that “no woman would be liable for a prison sentence as a result of seeking to end her own pregnancy.” The amendments were originally scheduled to be voted on Wednesday but are now scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 4.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), abortions in the U.K. can be carried out after 24 weeks only in very limited circumstances — for example, if the mother's life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.

In a May 8 statement, Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for life issues and auxiliary bishop of Westminster, expressed support for an amendment from member of Parliament Caroline Ansell that would reduce the gestational limit for abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. Another amendment, brought by member of Parliament Sir Liam Fox, represents a step toward ending the U.K.’s current laws that allow for babies with Down syndrome to be aborted up until birth. 

However, Sherrington said he is “deeply alarmed” by two other amendments to the same bill. The amendment proposed by member of Parliament Dame Diana Johnson related to liability would remove any legal protection for unborn babies when a woman seeks to bring about her own abortion at any stage of pregnancy, he said.  

“A further danger presented by this amendment is that women could abort their own pregnancies at home through the use of abortion pills at any point in the pregnancy, which could seriously endanger a woman’s health and life. Moreover, the risks of coerced or forced abortion would only increase as the legal safeguards around abortion decrease,” he noted. 

The second amendment by member of Parliament Stella Creasy includes proposals to decriminalize abortion up to the 24th week for any party involved. 

“The Church recognizes the struggle and trauma which may lead some pregnant women to consider an abortion. Such difficult situations require pastoral and medical care for vulnerable women in their time of need. When cases of illegal abortions are prosecuted, it is for the judge to decide the appropriate balance of justice and mercy for all involved,” Sherrington said. 

“Our current legislation provides some level of protection for pregnant mothers and unborn babies by keeping abortion within the criminal law. Relaxing abortion legislation further would be a tragic mistake for both mother and child.”

“As Pope Francis has said: ‘It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.’ In England and Wales, both unborn child and pregnant mother deserve full protection under our laws, as some of the most vulnerable in our society,” the bishop concluded. 

This story was updated on May 17, 2024, at 3:15 p.m. ET with the information on the June 4 vote.

Vatican overturns own decision on seminary dean

Philosophical-Theological University of Bressanone in Italy. / Credit: Ladislav Luppa / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 10:13 am (CNA).

In a significant reversal, the Vatican approved the appointment of a new dean at a seminary in Northern Italy almost one year after first blocking the appointment over the candidate’s published views on sexual morality.

The Philosophical-Theological College in Bressanone (PTH Brixen) announced “with great joy” that Father Martin M. Lintner, OSM, has now been confirmed as dean and will take office on Sept. 1.

The appointment of Lintner, who teaches moral and spiritual theology at the seminary, faced opposition from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education in mid-2023 over his published works on Catholic sexual morality, particularly his views on same-sex blessings. 

In an article published in 2020 by New Ways Ministry titled “Theologian Suggests Papal Civil Union Support May Lead to Church Blessings,” Lintner is quoted as saying: “A homosexual relationship does not lose its dignity due to the lack of fertility.” 

Lintner also contributed a chapter offering “theological-ethical reflections on a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples” to a book titled “The Benediction of Same-Sex Partnerships.”

Rome’s position on Lintner’s appointment was reversed after the Vatican’s controversial declaration Fiducia Supplicans approved nonliturgical blessings for same-sex couples in December 2023. 

On the news of his appointment, Lintner told German media that the appointment of a new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Fernandez, had played a role. He also asserted that his case — the reversal of such an appointment — was setting a kind of “precedent.”

Lintner also expressed relief over his victory: “It is entirely in my interest to close this chapter, which has been stressful for everyone involved, and to concentrate on theological work again. I approach the new challenges as dean with joy and confidence,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone welcomed the Vatican’s decision, saying he wished the new dean a blessed start.

“I would also like to thank those responsible in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Education for all the personal and telephone conversations and for the decision that has now been made.”

The PTH Brixen, located in the Northern Italian region of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), is a significant institution in the predominantly German-speaking region offering courses in philosophy and theology. It is the academic training center of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone for priests and deacons, pastoral assistants, teachers of religion, and other pastoral vocations.