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Foster parents sue Vermont after state revokes license for rejecting gender ideology

Bryan and Rebecca Gantt, two foster parents in Vermont, had their licenses revoked for refusing to embrace gender ideology. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 11:35 am (CNA).

Two Vermont families who were inspired by their faith to foster children in their homes have filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department for Children and Families after the agency revoked their licenses for refusing to embrace gender ideology.

The foster parents, who are represented by the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), have provided foster care to children for several years. However, their licenses were revoked because they did not agree to a policy that would require them to support a child’s decision to identify with a gender that is separate from his or her biological sex or to bring the child to events that promote homosexuality if he or she identifies as homosexual.

In both cases, neither set of parents was caring for a child who identified as transgender or homosexual. However, Vermont’s policy requires the foster parents to affirm that they would support a child in his or her self-asserted gender identity and sexuality — if the hypothetical situation were to occur.

“Vermont’s foster-care system is in crisis: There aren’t enough families to care for vulnerable kids, and children born with drug dependencies have nowhere to call home,” ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said in a statement. “Yet Vermont is putting its ideological agenda ahead of the needs of these suffering kids.”

According to the department’s policies, parents are encouraged to “support children’s identities even if it feels uncomfortable” and “bring young people to LGBTQ organizations and events in the community.” It instructs foster parents to use “appropriate pronouns” — which would be inconsistent with the child’s biological sex if the child identifies as transgender — and “support young people’s gender expression.” 

The foster parents who filed the suit are Protestant Christians: Brian Wuoti, a pastor, and his wife, Katy; Bryan Gantt, who is also a pastor, and his wife, Rebecca. Both couples argue in the lawsuit that complying with this policy would violate their religious beliefs and their rights to free speech.

“The Wuoti and Gantt families have adopted five beautiful children between them, including children with special needs,” Widmalm-Delphonse said. “Now Vermont says they’re unfit to parent any child because of their traditional religious beliefs about human sexuality. Vermont seems to care little about the needs of vulnerable children, much less the constitutional rights of its citizens. That’s why we’re suing them in federal court.”

The lawsuit asks the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, Windham Division to find that the policy and its enforcement against these two sets of foster parents violates the constitutionally protected rights to free speech, free association, religious exercise, due process, and equal protection under the law. 

Further, the lawsuit asks the court to order that the department halt its enforcement of this policy, which denies or revokes licenses based on a person’s beliefs about sexuality and gender.

Aryka Radke, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division, said in a statement provided to CNA that the department “takes the care and support of youth in our custody seriously and we work to ensure that youth in foster care are placed in homes that support all aspects of what makes them who they are,” which includes “their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“With the understanding that many children may not have fully figured out their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, an honestly answered question today may not reflect the honest feelings of those same children the next day,” Radke added. “That given, it is our responsibility to ensure all children and youth will reside in a home with caregivers who are committed to fully embracing and holistically affirming and supporting them.” 

However, the statement noted that the department “does not comment on the specifics of pending lawsuits” and did not comment on the alleged constitutional violations.

Former punk band guitarist, policeman ordained to Catholic priesthood

Bearded former punk band guitarist Father Giulio Vannucci and former policeman Father Michele Di Stefano flank Bishop Giovanni Nerbini following their June 8, 2024, ordination to the Catholic priesthood. / Credit: Diocese of Prato, Italy

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 12, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Cathedral of Prato, Italy, was the setting last Saturday for the ordination of a former punk band guitarist and policeman.

Father Giulio Vanucci, who has long hair and a beard and who earlier in life was part of the group i Quanti, a local punk band, was ordained along with Father Michele Di Stefano, a former police officer, by the bishop of Prato, Giovanni Nerbini.

“The Lord has not chosen administrators or supermen but simple and always generous people,” Nerbini said in his homily at the ordination Mass.

Vanucci, 38, was born in the town of Pistoia. Of his punk band past, he told the Italian newspaper Avvenire it was “a period in which I had a lot of fun and that I do not regret.” 

During the past eight years, Vanucci has worked as a bricklayer in a Catholic housing apostolate. “For me, being a priest means putting oneself even more at service, it means taking care of everything and everyone,” Vannucci said.

The other priest, Father Michele Di Stefano, 39, is a former police officer in the town of Bardonecchia. He completed his priestly formation in Florence.

“Today is not a goal achieved but rather the beginning of a new path, even an exhausting one,” Di Stefano said. “But I am sure that I am not alone and that I have God’s help. My intention is to be close to people who suffer, who feel alone,” said Di Stefano, who was accompanied by several policemen who were former colleagues of his.

In his homily prior to ordaining Father Guilio Vannucci and Father Michele Di Stefano, Bishop Giovanni Nerbini noted that "The Lord has not chosen administrators or supermen, but simple and always generous people." Credit: Diocese of Prato
In his homily prior to ordaining Father Guilio Vannucci and Father Michele Di Stefano, Bishop Giovanni Nerbini noted that "The Lord has not chosen administrators or supermen, but simple and always generous people." Credit: Diocese of Prato

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

Bishops urge EU leaders to tackle voter disillusionment following elections

A man receives his ballot for the European elections in a polling station in The Hague on June 6, 2024, on the first day of the European Parliament election. / Credit: Nick Gammon/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Amid political tensions across the continent following the weekend European Parliament elections, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) has issued a statement commenting on the preliminary results of the 2024 elections.

While acknowledging the democratic exercise involving over 370 million voters across 27 countries, COMECE underscored the pressing issue of persistent voter disengagement and the alarming rise of nationalist, Euroskeptic parties.

The Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe on June 5 issued a toolkit in light of concerning developments, including pro-family policies.

The provisional election results show that the European People’s Party maintains its position as the largest bloc in Parliament, with 185 seats, followed by the center-left Renew Europe group, which has 79 seats.

However, migration-critical parties on the right made notable gains, particularly in founding EU member states like France and Italy.

The 2024 European Parliament elections provisional results as of 10 June. Credit: European Parliament
The 2024 European Parliament elections provisional results as of 10 June. Credit: European Parliament

In Germany, the center-right CDU/CSU emerged as the top party with 30% of the vote, but the far-right Alternative für Deutschland surged to second place with 15.9%, a development that has alarmed German Church leaders.

According to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen warned that the “strengthening of right-wing populist forces” is a wake-up call to “defend our democracy with all our strength.”

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party triumphed, but voter turnout slipped below 50%.

Italian bishops, led by Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, had encouraged active participation in the elections to shape Europe’s future.

French bishops likewise saw the far-right National Rally winning 32% of votes in their nation, eclipsing President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party. Similar parties gained ground in several other EU states as well.

Despite the decisive shift to the right, COMECE noted that pro-EU parties were still set to hold a majority in the new Parliament.

The bishops called on newly elected members of European Parliament and future European commissioners “to work to reduce the perceived gap between the European Union and its citizens and to give adequate answers to their real concerns.”

Unfettered mass migration will be a crucial concern, and the EU election results come at a pivotal time for the Catholic Church’s engagement in European politics.

Just days before the vote, a minor controversy erupted in Italy after Zuppi appeared to criticize the government’s proposed constitutional reforms, La Repubblica reported. Meloni curtly reminded the cardinal that “the Vatican is not a parliamentary republic.”

French euthanasia bill on hold as Macron calls ‘snap election’

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, exit a polling booth adorned with curtains displaying the colors of the flag of France before casting their ballot for the European Parliament election at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France, on June 9, 2024. / Credit: HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2024 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

France’s controversial euthanasia bill has been put on hold following French President Emmanuel Macron’s dissolution of the country’s National Assembly after major losses in this month’s European elections.

The June elections in the European Parliament saw major advances from right-of-center parties, including from France’s National Rally party, which made huge gains relative to Macron’s Renaissance party.

Centrist groups still command a majority in the continental parliament. But the results were devastating enough to mainstream politicians that Macron invoked French law to dissolve his own country’s National Assembly in order to hold “snap elections” in the hopes of shoring up centrist control of France itself.

The surprise move means all legislation currently under consideration in France has been put on hold, including the country’s controversial assisted suicide bill, which Macron earlier this year said might allow “the possibility of asking for help in dying under certain strict conditions.”

The French bishops had criticized the country’s efforts to legalize assisted suicide. Reims Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort said earlier this year that the measure would “shift our entire health care system toward death as a solution.”

Lille Archbishop Laurent Le Boulc’h likewise warned that assisted suicide could hasten the death of individuals who see themselves as burdens upon others, arguing that the proposal risks “further increasing the depressed character of our society in loss of hope.”

Numerous European countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, already allow various forms of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

France’s surprise parliamentary elections will be held in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.

Workers discover human skeleton during Jubilee construction dig in Rome

Workers in Rome discovered a centuries-old skeleton during a June 2024 construction dig near the Vatican for one of the building projects for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Workers in Rome have discovered a centuries-old skeleton during a construction dig near the Vatican for one of the building projects for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee.

The skeleton was unearthed during excavations to create an underground motorway near Castel Sant’Angelo, which will create a pedestrian-only road leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica.

An initial investigation found that the bones likely date back to sometime between 1600-1800, according to Italian media reports. Additional analyses are planned by Italy’s archaeological authority.

Construction on the site has continued as planned after the skeleton was removed, according to Rome’s public works department. 

Workers face a tight deadline on one of the most ambitious construction projects underway in Rome in preparation for the Jubilee Year. 

Workers in Rome discovered a centuries-old skeleton during a June 2024 construction dig near the Vatican for one of the building projects for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Workers in Rome discovered a centuries-old skeleton during a June 2024 construction dig near the Vatican for one of the building projects for the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The more than $86 million project in Piazza Pia 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, moving the former busy motorway completely underground.

Rome’s Mayor Roberto Gualtieri told EWTN that he thinks the transformation of Piazza Pia will turn it into “one of the most beautiful squares in the world.”

Pope Francis has proclaimed that the “Jubilee of Hope” will begin on Christmas Eve 2024. The Vatican and the city of Rome are expecting an estimated 35 million people to flock to the Eternal City for the first ordinary jubilee since the Great Jubilee of 2000.

With more than 350 works planned around the ancient city in preparation for the 2025 Jubilee, there could be other unexpected archaeological discoveries. 

Three human skeletons were found during construction works in 2019 on a subway station in Rome and were later found to date back to the first century B.C.

Amid abortion debate, Polish bishops urge protection of the unborn

Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda was named president of the Polish bishops’ conference on March 14, 2024. / Credit: Silar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

CNA Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

The Polish Bishops’ Conference has issued a letter opposing a political push to legalize abortion, stressing that “no one, in the name of personal freedom, has the right to decide on the life of another human being.”

The letter on the protection of life, approved during the 398th Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Warsaw, comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers to dismantle Poland’s strong pro-life protections.

On April 12, Polish lawmakers voted to move forward with proposals to lift the near-total ban on abortion in the traditionally Catholic country, AP reported.

Among the proposed changes, two bills aim to legalize abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy. Another proposal seeks to decriminalize assisting women who procure abortions, which is currently a punishable offense.

The bishops assert that “the life of a new and unique human person begins at conception, that is, the fusion of the cells of the mother and the father. From that moment on, every human being should have the full right to the protection of life.”

The Polish prelates also quote St. John Paul II from his encyclical Evangelium Vitae: “There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person’s dignity and without respect for his or her rights” (EV, 101).

The bishops point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Polish Constitution and statutory provisions protect everyone’s right to life, calling it “an elementary principle inscribed in human nature which must not be violated.”

Expressing concern over attempts to legalize “the killing of the child in the womb,” the bishops deem it “extremely dangerous for public safety” and urge all people of goodwill to oppose such efforts.

The letter emphasizes that “as shepherds of the Catholic Church in Poland, and at the same time citizens of our country, we have the right and duty to remind — both the faithful of the Catholic Church and all people of goodwill — that we are obliged to respect human beings, especially the weakest and defenseless.”

The letter echoes a letter by Polish physicians from February in which Catholic doctors call on Prime Minister Donald Tusk “to stop activities aimed at making abortion available in Poland.”

The bishops also highlight the importance of loving families and the lasting marriage of parents in protecting unborn life. They pay tribute to mothers who protect their children in difficult situations and call on fathers to fulfill their commitment to the legal protection of human life.

Even if the proposed bills pass through the Polish Parliament, they would likely face a veto from President Andrzej Duda, a committed Catholic who remains in office until the summer of 2025.

Last month, Duda vetoed a bill that would have made the “morning-after pill” available over-the-counter to women and girls 15 and older.

The bishops’ letter will be read in Polish churches on Sunday, June 16. The bishops thanked those who serve life and asked everyone to “steadfastly and sacrificially defend the gospel of life” and pray for the protection of life as the debate over abortion rights continues to divide the nation.

Excommunication looms for renegade group of Poor Clares in Spain 

The Archbishop of Burgos, Mario Iceta, was appointed Pontifical Commissioner in the case. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 10, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The Ecclesiastical Court of the Archbishopric of Burgos in Spain has formally accused the Poor Clare nuns of the Monastery of Belorado with schism, launching proceedings that could soon result in the excommunication of the renegade nuns. 

The accused nuns themselves posted on social media the letter received from the court to this effect. The letter, addressed to Sister María Sión de la Trinidad, cites the referenced mother superior to appear before the court to testify about the schismatic positions the nuns made public last month. The letter warns the Catholic religious that, if they maintain these positions, they are subject to being convicted of the crime of schism, punishable by excommunication in accordance with the Code of Canon Law.

The court’s letter specifies that both the nuns’ so-called Catholic Manifesto and alleged letter of schism, signed by Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, as well as their letters requesting guardianship and acceptance by the excommunicated false bishop Pablo de Rojas “constitute the crime of schism, typified in the Code of Canon Law in accordance with Canon 751, the penalty for which is provided for in Canon 1364 § 1 and which entails expulsion from consecrated life.”

Canon 751 defines schism as “the rejection of subjection to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

The Archbishopric of Burgos established a period of 10 calendar days from receipt of the decree to appear before the court. If the cited sister is not accompanied by a lawyer, one will be assigned to her ex officio so she “can exercise her right of defense by expressing her position” on what has taken place. 

If she does not appear within that period, “the corresponding decree will be issued, in accordance with the law,” that will establish the penalty associated with the crime of schism, which is excommunication “latae sentenciae.”

The group of Poor Clares responded through their social media account on Instagram, stating that “our Catholic manifesto and our subsequent statements are clear and should have had the automatic consequence of our exclusion from the scope of application of canon law.” In addition, they accuse the archbishop of Burgos, Mario Iceta, of having “usurped” their legal representation “by accessing the administration of the properties and the control of the bank accounts, to which we stopped having access on June 4.” 

Presence of the archbishop’s envoys in Belorado

On May 29, the Holy See appointed Iceta as pontifical commissioner.

According to the Archbishopric of Burgos, on June 6, three people sent by the pontifical commissioner visited the Monastery of Santa Clara de Belorado “in order to establish some line of dialogue and dialogue with the nuns, particularly with the older ones.”

The delegation included Sister Carmen Ruiz, secretary of the Federation of Poor Clares of Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu, Rodrigo Sáiz in representation of the Pontifical Commissioner, and Carlos Azcona, notary of the ecclesiastical court, “responsible for transmitting the pertinent notifications of this court regarding the opening of the canonical process corresponding to the declaration of abandonment of the Catholic Church” and notary María Rosa Garrido.

Summarizing the visit, the archbishopric reported that the former abbess of the community, Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, made it known through Sister Belén and Sister Sión that, except for Garrido, “the others ‘were not well received’ in the monastery and that they should leave.” 

For the archbishopric, both the complaint filed by the Poor Clares against Iceta as well as its ratification in the courts, in addition to the response to the June 6 visit, “can be interpreted as gestures of hostility that manifest the null intention of the community to establish any dialogue with the person designated by the Holy See and his team. Even so, the pontifical commissioner maintains his desire to build bridges and find appropriate ways to reach a solution.”

The nuns, for their part, maintained: “It is really difficult for us to classify all these events as signs of patience and dialogue.”

Since the decrees were delivered by hand on June 6, the deadline for Sister Sión to appear to testify in court is Sunday, June 16. 

Not all the nuns face excommunication

There are 15 nuns left in the Belorado Monastery after the departure of Sister Amparo, who decided to leave last month “so as not to belong to that sect.” 

On May 15, 10 of the sisters defended their position on television. Five have not spoken publicly. These are the older ones, whom the archbishopric considers outside the sedevacantist manifesto and the schismatic declaration.

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

Italian pro-life association suffers spate of attacks against its headquarters

Three attacks against the Rome headquarters of the Italian pro-life center Pro Vita & Famiglia have taken place in the last month alone. / Credit: Pro Vita & Famiglia

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 10, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The pro-life Italian association Pro Vita & Famiglia has denounced another attack against its headquarters in Rome.

A spokesman for the organization reported that on June 6 a female protester, accompanied by a cameraman from the Italian news agency ANSA and a leftist candidate for the European Parliament, attempted to plaster the organization’s headquarters building with a pro-abortion poster.

“We immediately went out to the street, removed the poster, and warned the woman and the others present not to continue painting the premises, urging them to keep their distance while the police were called,” said Jacopo Coghe, spokesman for the organization.

The protester responded with ideological slogans in favor of abortion and claimed her “freedom of expression” was being violated and “her art was being censored.”

A video posted on YouTube below documented the incident.

The provocateurs did not withdraw until police arrived. Coghe said the incident was the 13th act of vandalism against the Pro Vita & Famiglia office in less than three years and the third in just over a month.

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

Cardinals Müller and Schönborn: Ordination of women is impossible

Cardinals Christoph Schönborn and Gerhard Ludwig Müller. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Jun 10, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

Shortly after Pope Francis opposed the possibility of an ordained female diaconate, two German-speaking cardinals publicly have said that only men can be ordained to the priesthood.

“Women cannot be called to this office,” Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller told Swiss portal kath.ch on June 7. “The priest represents Christ in his manhood.”

The German cardinal, who held the role of prefect of the Congregation — now Dicastery — for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, stressed the theological and doctrinal underpinnings of this view, saying the prohibition of women from priestly ordination is deeply ingrained in the sacrament itself.

Müller, who taught dogmatic theology at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University, emphasized “the fundamental equality of all people in their personal relationship with God,” be they man or woman.

Just like “a man cannot become a mother and a woman cannot become a father,” it is only men who are called to the priesthood, Müller said, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“The vocation comes from God. One would have to complain to God himself that he created human beings as man and woman.”

Echoing the words of Pope Francis about the nature of the Church in Querida Amazonia, Müller emphasized that the “Church cannot be represented by a man because she is female and Mary, the Mother of God, is her archetype. It is in the nature of the sacrament that only a man can represent Christ in relation to the Church.”

The German prelate’s pronouncements follow those of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, CNA Deutsch reported.

In a sermon at ITI Catholic University in Austria on June 1, Schönborn said he was “deeply convinced that the Church cannot and must not change this, because it must keep the mystery of women present in an unadulterated way.”

“We were all born of a woman. This will always be reflected in the mystery of the Church.”

Like Müller, Schönborn affirmed St. John Paul II’s teaching that the ordination of women would violate a fundamental ecclesiological principle.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Pope Francis reflects on Roman Empire in visit to ancient Capitoline Hill

Pope Francis gazes over the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum with Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri during a visit to Rome’s historic Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 10, 2024 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis gazed over the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum during a visit to Rome’s historic Capitoline Hill on Monday in which he reflected on how the “Rome of the Caesars’” transformed into the “Rome of the Popes.”

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Rome’s mayor Roberto Gualtieri, the pope took in the view from a balcony overlooking the third-century Arch of Septimius Severus of the archaeological site of what was once the heart of ancient Rome.

Pope Francis and Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri wave to the crowd gathered below at Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis and Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri wave to the crowd gathered below at Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis praised ancient Rome as “a radiating center of civilization,” which with its legal developments and organizational capacities built solid and lasting institutions and an ancient culture with “many good values, which on the other hand needed to elevate itself, to confront a greater message of fraternity, love, hope, and liberation.”

“The Good News, or rather the Christian faith, over time would permeate and transform the life of people and of the institutions themselves,” he said. “It would offer people a far more radical and unprecedented hope.”

“The shining witness of the martyrs and the dynamism of charity of the first communities of believers tapped into the need to hear new words, the words of eternal life,” he added. “Olympus was no longer enough; one had to go to Golgotha and to the empty tomb of the Risen One to find the answers to the yearning for truth, justice, and love.”

In his reflection on the Roman Empire, Pope Francis also noted how the prevalence of slavery in ancient Rome is an example of how “even refined civilizations can present cultural elements so rooted in the mentality of people and of the entire society that they are no longer perceived as contrary to the dignity of the human being.”

He compared the Romans’ acceptance of slavery to how some societies today “risk being selective and partial in the defense of human dignity, marginalizing or discarding certain categories of people, who end up finding themselves without adequate protection.”

Pope Francis recalled how the city of Rome “since its birth some 2,800 years ago has had a clear and continuing vocation of universality.”

Pope Francis addresses Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri and city administration during a visit to Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis addresses Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri and city administration during a visit to Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“Many things have changed, but Rome’s vocation to universality was confirmed and exalted,” he added. “In fact, if the geographical horizon of the Roman Empire had its heart in the Mediterranean world and, although very vast, did not involve the whole world, the mission of the Church has no boundaries on this earth, because it must make Christ, his action, and his words of salvation known to all peoples.”

After the speech, the pope offered a greeting from the Senatorial Palace balcony overlooking the Piazza del Campidoglio, the public square designed by Michalangelo atop Rome’s ancient Capitoline Hill, and offered a prayer for the city of Rome as it prepares for the 2025 Jubilee.

The Vatican and the city of Rome are expecting an estimated 35 million people to flock to the Eternal City for the 2025 Jubilee Year of Hope — the first ordinary jubilee since the Great Jubilee of 2000.

Pope Francis noted that while the influx of pilgrims, tourists, and migrants to the city of Rome may appear to be “a burden” for local citizens, the reality is that Rome is “unique in the world” and with that has “a responsibility … to the human family.”

“The immense treasure of culture and history nestled in the hills of Rome is the honor and the burden of its citizenry and its rulers, and expects to be properly valued and respected,” he added.

Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri and Pope Francis wave to the crowd gathered below at Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri and Pope Francis wave to the crowd gathered below at Rome’s Capitoline Hill on June 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

More than 350 construction and renovation projects are taking place in the city of Rome in preparation for the Jubilee Year, 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.

The pope told the city officials that while the Jubilee is a religious event as “a prayerful and penitential pilgrimage,” it will also “be able to have a positive impact on the face of the city itself, improving its decorum and making public services more efficient.”

“Rome is a city with a universal spirit. This spirit wants to be at the service of charity, at the service of welcome and hospitality,” Pope Francis said.

“Pilgrims, tourists, migrants, those in serious difficulty, the poorest, the lonely, the sick, prisoners, the excluded are the most truthful witnesses of this spirit,” he added. “And these can testify that authority is fully such when it places itself at the service of all, when it uses its legitimate power to meet the needs of citizens and, in particular, of the weakest, the least.”