Browsing News Entries

The Order of Malta has a new head, but has it lost its sovereignty?

Fra’ John T. Dunlap, Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta. / Twitter @orderofmalta.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 14, 2022 / 09:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed a new head of the Order of Malta on Monday even before the funeral of its previous leader Fra’ Marco Luzzago, who died suddenly on June 7.

The Canadian-born lawyer Fra’ John T. Dunlap will serve as the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, a role that Luzzago held for two years. Dunlap was sworn in on June 14, the day of Luzzago’s funeral.

The Lieutenant of the Grand Master is normally elected for a one-year term. But in 2021, Pope Francis extended Luzzago’s tenure indefinitely until the election of a new Grand Master of the order, a position traditionally held for life.

Now, by direct order of Pope Francis, Dunlap is the new Lieutenant of the Grand Master and will collaborate closely with the pope’s special delegate, Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi.

Tomasi was received by Pope Francis in June 2021 with Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda (now a cardinal-designate), who was among those who worked on the reform of the order. The audience foreshadowed Pope Francis’ latest intervention in the 1,000-year-old institution.

Constitutional questions

The pope has now effectively taken control of the Order of Malta — and not only in relation to its identity as a lay religious order. He has also intervened in the order’s government with a decision that appears to be unconstitutional, if only because, when the head of the order dies, the organization’s Grand Commander is expected to immediately take power for three months.

Straight after Luzzago’s death, the Order of Malta announced that the Grand Commander Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas had taken on the interim leadership of the order until the election of a new head.

Pope Francis, however, has decided entirely on his own to carry out the reforms the way he wants.

This is perhaps ironic because Luzzago had recently underlined the importance of the order’s sovereignty. In a speech to the diplomatic corps in January, he noted that the order’s great humanitarian works were “possible above all thanks to the sovereignty of the order, a founding element of our constitution.”

It seemed, at the time, that the pope wanted a balanced decision, and everything was in his hands.

The general hope was that the pope would appoint, after the three months, Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas as an interim figure to continue the path of reforms and then proceed to a vote for the Grand Master according to the already reformed statutes. But this was not the case.

Perhaps what lies behind Pope Francis’ forceful intervention is the fear that most of the order’s members still want to oppose the idea of ​​reform that he has in mind.

Generational change

The choice of Dunlap favors the idea of ​​a new generation. He is a lawyer specializing in corporate and immigration law, and a legal adviser to the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He has been in the Order of Malta since 1996 and made his perpetual vows as Knight of Justice in 2008. Since 2014, he has served on the Sovereign Council.

In a June 13 letter to the order, published by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, Pope Francis recalled the popes’ role in protecting the Knights of Malta. He also noted how popes including Pius XII and John XXIII had intervened in the order’s affairs for the good of the institution.

“Unfortunately, new events and circumstances seem almost to want to prevent the Order of St. John the Baptist from making the necessary path of renewal in fidelity to the original charism,” the pope wrote.

“Indeed, the premature death of the Lieutenant of Grand Master Fra’ Marco Luzzago, in addition to causing the temporary arrest of the reform process, risks further accentuating the tensions that still exist.”

Dunlap’s appointment was made “notwithstanding any rule or provision of law to the contrary contained in the Constitutional Charter or the Melitense Code, as well as any privilege or custom, even noteworthy ones, which may be contrary to this decision of mine, aimed at the greater good of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta.”

Pope Francis also confirmed that Cardinal Tomasi would continue to exercise “all the faculties and prerogatives already granted to him in the past, and in particular in my letter of Oct. 25, 2021.”

That letter gave Tomasi full powers to draft a revised constitution, convene a council to discuss the constitutional charter and the code, convoke an extraordinary Chapter General, renew the Sovereign Council, and convene the Complete Council of State for the election of a new Grand Master.

The question of sovereignty

Pope Francis’ idea is to treat the Order of Malta as a whole as a religious order and, therefore, directly subject to the pope. But in reality, the religious element is limited to the knights who make perpetual vows and live as friars.

Pope Francis wanted a working group to be established around the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, along with the reform group around Cardinal Tomasi. The two groups presented two contrasting proposals for reform.

Tomasi's group believes that the professed knights should lead the order. The group set up by Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager calls instead for a more collegial style of government.

The two visions have shaped the debate ever since Pope Francis launched the reform process in 2017, after he accepted the resignation of the Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing in the middle of an internal governance crisis.

The debate over the new constitution intensified after the death of Festing’s successor, Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguineto, in 2020. After Cardinal Angelo Becciu, Pope Francis’ first delegate to the order, had to step aside, the pope appointed Tomasi as the new delegate.

The order has diplomatic relations with more than 100 states and permanent observer status at the United Nations. Although it possesses no real territory, it has the hallmarks of sovereignty, such as its own official currency, postage stamps, and vehicle registration plates.

Cardinal-designate Ghirlanda maintains that authority in the Order of Malta derives from religious consecration. This idea is valid only if the order is considered primarily as a spiritual body. The emphasis on the order’s religious character could arguably jeopardize its sovereignty, as it would be controlled by the head of another state (Vatican City).

The Boeselager group proposes that the Chapter General, the body bringing together representatives of all classes, would have 15 representatives of the professed knights, while the associations would be represented not by assessing the number of works carried out, but rather the budget allocated to these works. This way, the associations would have between one and four delegates, depending on whether they had a budget of less or more than $20 million.

With his decision to personally appoint the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Pope Francis accepted Ghirlanda’s view and took the reform into his own hands. It is likely that he will also influence the outcome, opening another chapter of papal interventionism that risks altering the Order of Malta’s long-established identity.

Rector of German Catholic seminary found dead

The Catholic Cathedral of Limburg in Hesse, Germany. / Mylius via Wikimedia (GFDL 1.2).

Limburg, Germany, Jun 13, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The rector of a German Catholic seminary was found dead last week in an apparent suicide.

Father Christof May had been removed the day before from all his offices by Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg.

Bätzing, the current chairman of the German bishops’ conference, reportedly took the step due to allegations of abusive behavior.

May’s death was first communicated internally within the Diocese of Limburg on June 9. CNA Deutsch, the Catholic News Agency’s German-language news partner, obtained a copy of the email.

It said: “We are devastated and full of grief. Christof May was questioned yesterday in a personal conversation about allegations of abusive behavior. Subsequently, Bishop Georg Bätzing had removed him from all offices in order to be able to review and investigate the allegations.”

“The death of Christof May affects us all. We have lost a committed and much-appreciated pastor.”

On June 10, the Limburg diocese publicly confirmed the death, but did not provide more details.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Neue Presse reported that the 49-year-old rector left a suicide note, which led to a search effort involving police, firefighters, and members of the German Red Cross. His body was found in a forest on the morning of June 9 after a police helicopter spotted his car nearby.

A senior prosecutor confirmed to the paper that there were “no indications of external causes or a criminal act that led to the death.”

Bishop Bätzing was recently criticized for promoting a priest who was accused of sexual misconduct by two women. Bätzing learned about the issue after he was made bishop of the Diocese of Limburg in 2016 and met with both victims.

“Bätzing made it unmistakably clear that he disapproved of the priest’s behavior,” the diocese said. “He issued a monitio, an admonition in written form.” It added that the priest “asked for forgiveness, and showed credible remorse.”

Bätzing made the priest a district dean in 2020, which eventually led to the two victims going public with their accusations. In response, the priest decided to step down from his position as district dean.

Nigerian Catholic bishop to Irish president: Church massacre not linked to climate change

Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins, pictured on Oct. 13, 2018. / Damien Storan via Shutterstock.

London, England, Jun 13, 2022 / 04:42 am (CNA).

Attributing violence against Nigeria’s Christians to climate change is “incorrect and far-fetched,” according to the bishop of a diocese where at least 40 people were murdered at a Pentecost Sunday Mass.

Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo was responding to a statement issued by Irish president Michael D. Higgins after the June 5 massacre at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, southwestern Nigeria.

Higgins condemned the attack on June 7, but appeared to link it to “the consequences of climate change.”

“While thanking the Honorable Mr. Higgins for joining others to condemn the attack and offering his sympathy to the victims, his reasons for this gruesome massacre are incorrect and far-fetched,” Arogundade said in a message dated June 10.

The bishop said he felt compelled to address the president’s statement because of the historical ties between the Republic of Ireland and his diocese.

“The first two bishops of the Diocese of Ondo were Irish men, the Church building in which the attack took place was built by Irish missionaries and some of the people killed were baptized, given the Sacraments of Confirmation and Matrimony — by many venerable Irish missionaries,” he wrote.

“Also, Irish men and women laid the foundations of the faith for us in this part of the world. To their eternal memories, we remain grateful.”

He added: “To suggest or make a connection between victims of terror and consequences of climate change is not only misleading but also exactly rubbing salt to the injuries of all who have suffered terrorism in Nigeria.”

“The victims of terrorism are of another category to which nothing can be compared! It is very clear to anyone who has been closely following the events in Nigeria over the past years that the underpinning issues of terror attacks, banditry, and unabated onslaught in Nigeria and in the Sahel Region and climate change have nothing in common.”

The Nigerian government reportedly suspects that the massacre of men, women, and children at the church, which also left more than 126 people injured, was carried out by the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Arogundade’s comments were echoed by the British Catholic human rights campaigner David Alton.

Alton, an independent member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. parliament, lamented that the suffering of Nigerians had provoked “little interest” in the mainstream media.

“And it is striking how quickly politicians and commentators trot out the same discredited banal narrative that the drivers for such carnage are climate change and lack of resources,” he wrote on his website on June 12.

“They say that the causes are ‘complicated,’ with hardly a mention of the jihadist ideology that is behind the endless atrocities of ISIS and Boko Haram.”

“And then they say that everyone suffers and there is a sort of equivalence with victims coming from varied religious backgrounds.”

“They should tell that to the families whose loved ones are targeted, day in and day out, and see what sort of response they receive.”

He said it was “high time the world woke up to the unpalatable truth” about the attacks.

At least 4,650 Nigerian Christians were killed for their faith in 2021 and nearly 900 in the first three months of 2022.

Nigeria is rated as the seventh worst country in the world in which to be a Christian, according the advocacy group Open Doors. Some aid organizations and experts are even assembling evidence that the killing of Christians in Africa’s most populous nation constitutes genocide.

But in 2021, the West African country was delisted without explanation from the U.S. State Department’s list of countries with the most egregious religious freedom violations.

Bishop Arogundade said that people who followed events in Nigeria closely would realize “that alluding to some form of politics of climate change in our present situation is completely inappropriate.”

“Terrorists are on free loose slaughtering, massacring, injuring, and installing terror in different parts of Nigeria since over eight years not because of any reasonable thing but because they are evil — period,” he commented.

The bishop, who has led the Diocese of Ondo since 2010, said that there was “a profound fear in every part of the country” due to widespread kidnappings, as well as attacks on churches, markets, and public transport.

He underlined that his flock understood the importance of protecting the environment, as set out in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’.

“While we are still mourning our loved ones after the horrible attack, I wish to appeal to those who are trying to take advantage of this horrific event to project any form of ideological agenda, to desist from such opportunism,” he said.

“I implore everyone to pray for Nigeria and indeed for peace in the world.”

“The victims of terrorism and indeed all the people of Nigeria would be thankful if world leaders propose fruitful ideas to the government of Nigeria on how to protect the citizens and make Nigeria a safe place to live.”

“This would be a better way of honoring the victims of hate and putting an end to the incessant killings in Nigeria.”

Pope Francis praises 'example of faith' of newly beatified Polish nuns martyred in WWII

Sister Paschalis Jahn and nine fellow Elizabethan sisters martyred during World War II were beatified June 11, 2022, in Wroclaw, Poland. / Courtesy of the Elizabethan Sisters

Wrocław, Poland, Jun 12, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday praised the “example of faith” offered by 10 newly beatified Polish sisters martyred during World War II.

Sister Paschalis Jahn and nine fellow Elizabethan sisters were beatified Saturday in Wroclaw, Poland.

“Although they were aware of the risks they were running, these ... women religious remained alongside the elderly and sick people they were looking after,” the pope said June 12, following his weekly Angelus reflection.

“May their example of faith to Christ help us all, especially Christians who are persecuted in various parts of the world, to bear witness to the Gospel courageously. A round of applause for the new Blesseds!” the pope urged the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The sisters took care of the elderly, the sick, and children. Faithful to their vow of chastity and their vocation, they were murdered by soldiers of the Red Army in 1945.

The beatification of the 10 sisters took place June 11 in the cathedral in Wroclaw. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the ceremony.

“The whole life of these sisters was a true gift of self in service to the sick, the little ones, the poor, the most needy. Their selfless love was heroic to the extent that they chose not to flee from the approaching Red Army in late 1944-45. And this despite the news of its brutality and the atrocities committed by its soldiers against the inhabitants of East Prussia,” the cardinal said during his homily.

Semeraro stressed that the martyrdom of the 10 Elizabethan sisters brings to mind the violence, cruelty, and hatred that now afflict Ukraine. In his homily, he noted that gestures of selfless love and concern for others build peace and are a response to the violence that occurs in the face of war.

“We ask the Lord through their intercession that the world may never again lack respect for womanhood, equality in the dignity of man and woman, and protection of motherhood,” Semeraro said. “Today we commend to them in a special way the Ukrainian people, migrants, and our quest for peace.”

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints recalled Pope Francis’ words in which the Holy Father thanked Poles for being the first to support Ukraine by “opening their borders, their hearts, and the doors of their homes to Ukrainians fleeing war.”

Sister Maria Paschalis Jahn was born on April 7, 1916, in Nysa. After taking her religious vows, she stayed in Kluczbork, Glubczyce, Nysa, and then in the Czech Republic.

On May 11, 1945, Sister Paschalis was brutally attacked and shot by a Soviet soldier while she defended her chastity and faith. Like nine other sisters, although they lived in different places and took up different jobs, she remained faithful to her vocation to the end, giving her life in defense of those in her care.

The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth was founded in Nysa in 1810. The main goal of the congregation is selfless service to those in need, especially the suffering and the sick.

Today the congregation is active in 19 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. It has some 1,000 sisters working in hospitals, kindergartens, schools, and parishes. The sisters run community centers, nursing homes, orphanages, educational institutions, and boarding schools.

The Elizabethan congregation recognizes the beatification of the 10 sisters as a symbol of remembrance of the tragic death of all nuns who died at the hands of the Red Army in 1945. In its congregation alone, more than 100 sisters died in similar circumstances, the congregation estimates.

In the Church, the liturgical commemoration of Sister Paschalis Jahn and her companions will be celebrated annually on May 11.

Catholic leader criticizes EU Parliament for backing motion on US abortion law

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 25, 2014. / Alan Holdren/CNA.

London, England, Jun 9, 2022 / 10:52 am (CNA).

A Catholic leader on Thursday criticized the European Parliament for voting in favor of a motion denouncing the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion.

Father Manuel Barrios Prieto, the secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), told Vatican News on June 9 that the vote showed “a certain tendency in the European Parliament and European institutions that is not favorable to life.”

Members of the European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body, voted in Strasbourg, France, on June 9 to pass the motion “Global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturning of abortion rights in the U.S. by the Supreme Court,” with 364 votes in favor, 154 against, and 37 abstentions.

The 32-point resolution states that the European Parliament “is deeply concerned about the potential consequences for women’s rights worldwide, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade.”

It also expresses fear that overturning the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide would have “a chilling effect on prioritizing and funding” abortion globally.

Politico, the news organization that leaked the draft opinion in May, reported that the vote in favor of the motion was preceded by an “acrimonious debate” on June 8.

It said that the German politician Terry Reintke broke the European Parliament’s rules by speaking while wearing a green scarf with a pro-abortion message. She declined to remove it despite being asked to by the parliament’s president Roberta Metsola.

Father Prieto noted that the motion was not binding, but said it was nevertheless worrying because it asserted that “to defend the health of the woman one has to guarantee the ‘right’ to abortion.”

“This is something that is totally contrary to the position of the Church, not only of the Church, but every person who sees in the embryo a new life, different from the life of the mother, that has to be protected,” he said.

The Spanish priest spoke out on the eve of the European Parliament debate, saying that the motion marked “an unacceptable interference in the democratic jurisdictional decisions of a sovereign state, a country that is also not a member state of the EU.”

The European Parliament voted in 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The vote was criticized by Catholic groups and Vatican “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

How Latvia’s Christian churches use JPII’s natural law teaching to defend life and family

Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia (left), speaking during a Catholic conference in Warsaw in May 2022 on the natural law legacy of John Paul II (right.) / Photos by Lisa Johnston and L'Osservatore Romano

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 9, 2022 / 09:17 am (CNA).

Constant cooperation and dialogue among Catholic, Lutherans, Orthodox, and other Christian denominations have been crucial to protect life and family in the Baltic nation of Latvia, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs of Riga, Latvia, said during a recent Catholic conference in Warsaw.

Stankevičs spoke May 19 at the conference “St. John Paul II Natural Law Legacy,” organized by the Ave Maria School of Law and the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw.

In his speech, Stankevičs shared his personal ecumenical experience in Latvia as an example of how the concept of natural law proposed by St. John Paul II can serve as the basis for ecumenical cooperation in defending human values.

The metropolitan archbishop, based in Latvia's capital, is no stranger to ecumenical work and thought. In 2001, he became the first bishop consecrated in a Lutheran church since the split from Protestantism in the 1500s. The unusual move, which occurred in the church of Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, formerly the Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary, signaled the beginning of Stankevičs’ cooperation with the Lutheran church in Latvia, a cooperation that would ultimately become a partnership in the cause of life and the family. Since 2012, the archbishop has served on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

“I would like to present this ecumenical cooperation in three experiences in my country: the abortion debate, the civil unions discussion, and the so-called Istanbul convention,” Stankevičs began. 

Entering the abortion debate

Ordained as a priest in 1996, Stankevičs struggled to find proper consultation for Catholic couples on natural family planning. It was then that he decided to create a small center that provided natural family planning under the motto “let us protect the miracle [of fertility].”

This involvement in the world of natural family planning would lead him into the heart of the abortion debate in Latvian society, and, ultimately, to the conclusion that moral discussions in the public square benefit from a basis in natural law, something emphasized in the teachings of John Paul II. 

“I knew that theological arguments would not work for a secular audience, so I wanted to show that Catholic arguments are not opposed to legal, scientific, and universal arguments, but rather are in harmony with them,” Stankevičs said. 

“[A] few years later our parliament introduced the discussion to legalize abortion. No one was doing anything so I decided to do something. I consulted some experts and presented a proposal that was published in the most important secular newspaper in Latvia,” the archbishop said.

Stankevičs' article, “Why I was Lucky,” used both biological and theological arguments to defend human life. He noted that his own mother, when pregnant with him, was under pressure to get an abortion; “but she was a believer, a Catholic, so she refused the pressure.” 

After the Latvian parliament legalized abortion in 2002, the different Christian confessions decided to start working together to protect the right to life and the family.  

In Latvia, Catholics comprise 25% of the population, Lutherans 34.2%, and Russian Orthodox 17%, with other smaller, mostly Christian denominations making up the remainder.

“We started to work together by the initiative of a businessman in Riga, a non-believer who wanted to promote awareness about the humanity of the unborn,” the archbishop recalled.

“Bringing all Christians together in a truly ecumenical effort ended up bearing good fruits because we worked together in promoting a culture of life: From more than 7,000 abortions per year in 2002, we were able to bring it down to 2,000 by 2020,” he said. 

Map of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Shutterstock
Map of Riga, the capital of Latvia. Shutterstock

Ecumenical defense of marriage, family

Regarding the legislation on civil unions, another area where Stankevičs has rallied ecumenical groups around natural law defense of marriage, the archbishop said that he has seen the tension surrounding LGBT issues mount in Latvian society as increased pressure is brought to bear to legalize same-sex unions. 

Invited to a debate on a popular Latvian television show called “One vs. One” after Pope Francis’ remark “who am I to judge?” was widely interpreted in Latvian society as approving homosexual unions, Stankevičs “had the opportunity to explain the teachings of the Catholic Church and what was the real meaning of the Holy Father’s words.” 

After that episode, in dialogue with other Christian leaders, Stankevičs proposed a law aimed at reducing political tensions in the country without jeopardizing the traditional concept of the family. 

The legislation proposed by the ecumenical group of Christians would have created binding regulations aimed at protecting any kind of common household; “for example, two old persons living together to help one another, or one old and one young person who decide to live together.” 

“The law would benefit any household, including homosexual couples, but would not affect the concept of [the] natural family,” Stankevičs explained. “Unfortunately the media manipulated my proposal, and the Agency France Presse presented me internationally as if I was in favor of gay marriage.”  

In 2020, the Constitutional Court in Latvia decided a case in favor of legalizing homosexual couples and ordered the parliament to pass legislation according to this decision.

In response, the Latvian Men’s Association started a campaign to introduce an amendment to the Latvian constitution, to clarify the concept of family. The Latvian constitution in 2005 proclaimed that marriage is only between a man and a woman, but left a legal void regarding the definition of family, which the court wanted to interpret to include homosexual unions. 

The Latvian bishops’ conference supported the amendment presented by the Men’s Association, “but most importantly,” Stankevičs explained, “we put together an ecumenical statement signed by the leaders of 10 different Christian denominations supporting the idea that the family should be based on the marriage between a man and a woman. The president of the Latvian Jewish community, a good friend, also joined the statement.” 

The Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia, honors soldiers who died during the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920). Shutterstock
The Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia, honors soldiers who died during the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920). Shutterstock

According to Stankevičs, something strange happened next. “The Minister of Justice created a committee to discuss the demand of the constitutional court, and it included several Christian representatives, including three from the Catholic Church, which worked for a year.” But ignoring all the discussions and proposals, the Minister of Justice ended up sending a proposal to parliament that was a full recognition of homosexual couples as marriage.

The response was also ecumenical: Christian leaders sent a letter encouraging the parliament to ignore the government’s proposal. 

According to Stankevičs, the proposal has already passed one round of votes “and it is very likely that it will be approved in a second round of votes, with the support of the New Conservative party. But we Christians continue to work together.”

Preventing gender ideology 

The third field of ecumenical cooperation mentioned by Stankevičs concerned the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty which the Latvian government signed but ultimately did not ratify.

The treaty was introduced as an international legal instrument that recognizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. 

The convention claims to cover various forms of gender-based violence against women, but Christian communities in Latvia have criticized the heavy use of gender ideology in both the framing and the language of the document. 

The word “gender,” for instance, is defined as “the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men,” a definition that allows gender to be defined independent of biological sex and therefore opens the document to the question of whether it really is aimed at the protection of women. 

Christian communities also question the biased nature of the committee designated to enforce the convention. 

The governments of Slovakia and Bulgaria refused to ratify the convention, while Poland, Lithuania, and Croatia expressed reservations about the convention though it was ultimately ratified in those countries, a move the government of Poland is attempting to reverse. 

“When we found out that the Latvian parliament was going to ratify it, I went to the parliament and presented the common Christian position,” Stankevičs explained. As a consequence of that visit, the Latvian parliament decided not to ratify the convention, Stankevičs said, crediting the appeal to the unity provided by the common Christian position argued via natural law. 

“In conclusion,” the archbishop said, “I can say that in Latvia we continue to defend the true nature of life and family. But if we Catholics would act alone, we would not have the impact that we have as one Christian majority. That unity is the reason why the government takes us seriously.”

Pope Francis to future Vatican diplomats: See St Charles de Foucauld as model

Charles de Foucauld / Public domain

Rome Newsroom, Jun 9, 2022 / 07:38 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged future Vatican diplomats to model themselves on the recently canonized St. Charles de Foucauld.

The pope urged students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to see the 19th-century French soldier, explorer, priest, and mystic as a model of holiness for diplomatic life.

He also proposed the 16th-century Jesuit St. Peter Faber as another model for priests called to represent the Holy See around the world.

He made the recommendation during a June 8 visit to the college in Rome that prepares Catholic priests for the Vatican diplomatic service.

The Holy See press office said on June 9 that “the pope stressed the importance of rootedness in a priestly spirituality nourished by prayer.”

He also highlighted “the role of the missionary year he wanted as an integral part of the path of preparation” to serve in the diplomatic corps.

The Vatican announced in February 2020 that Pope Francis had called for priests in formation for the Holy See’s diplomatic service to spend a year in missionary work.

He said it would be an opportunity for the priests to share “with the missionary churches a period of journey together with their community, participating in their daily evangelizing activity.”

Vatican News reported that the first four students will leave at the end of this academic year on yearlong placements in Brazil, the Philippines, Madagascar, and Mexico.

Charles de Foucauld, also known as Brother Charles of Jesus, served among the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert in Algeria. He was assassinated in 1916.

Benedict XVI declared him a blessed in 2005 and Pope Francis canonized him on May 15.

Days after the canonization, the pope disclosed that learning about the saint’s spirituality helped him during a period of crisis as a theology student.

“I would like to thank St. Charles de Foucauld, because his spirituality did me so much good when I was studying theology, a time of maturation and also of crisis,” the pope said on May 18.

He also paid tribute to him at the end of his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, in which he described the Frenchman as a “person of deep faith who, drawing upon his intense experience of God, made a journey of transformation towards feeling a brother to all.”

He said that the saint “directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert.”

“In that setting, he expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being, and asked a friend to ‘pray to God that I truly be the brother of all.’ He wanted to be, in the end, ‘the universal brother.’ Yet only by identifying with the least did he come at last to be the brother of all. May God inspire that dream in each one of us,” the pope wrote.

St. Peter Faber was born in 1506 and studied at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. The three men went on to become the founders of the Society of Jesus.

Pope Francis recognized Faber as a saint on his 77th birthday in 2013, using a rare process known as equipollent canonization.

The 85-year-old pope, who is making public appearances in a wheelchair due to knee pain, spoke at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to 36 priests from 22 countries, reported Vatican News.

Also present was Archbishop Joseph Marino, who has served as the college’s president since 2019. The 69-year-old archbishop was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

This report was updated at 09:40 MDT with information from Vatican News.

Cardinal injured in 2021 earthquake is hospitalized after traffic accident in Haiti

The aftermath of a traffic accident involving Cardinal Chibly Langlois. / Twitter @MariaLozanoKIN.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 9, 2022 / 03:35 am (CNA).

Cardinal Chibly Langlois was injured in a traffic accident in Haiti on Wednesday morning, according to local media reports.

The 63-year-old bishop of Les Cayes was reportedly not in critical condition but was taken to the hospital on June 8 for a possible broken arm after the incident in the south of the country.

Langlois was also injured in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti last year.

The president of the Haitian bishops' conference was hurt and another Haitian priest died in the earthquake on Aug. 14, 2021, in which over 1,200 people died and more than 12,000 were injured.

Langlois is the first Haitian cardinal. He was elevated to the position by Pope Francis in 2014.

Catholic bishops’ commission: EU parliament resolution on US abortion law is ‘unacceptable interference’

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. / fotogoocom via Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 8, 2022 / 10:35 am (CNA).

A Catholic bishops’ commission has criticized a resolution before the European Parliament on the U.S. Supreme Court’s possible overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In a June 8 statement, Father Manuel Barrios Prieto, the secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), expressed “surprise” that the European Union's law-making body intended to discuss “the impact of a leaked draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court concerning abortion.”

“This is an unacceptable interference in the democratic jurisdictional decisions of a sovereign state, a country that is also not a member state of the EU,” he said.

“The adoption of a resolution by European Parliament that endorses this interference will only discredit this institution.”

The Spanish priest noted that “from a legal perspective, there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law. Therefore, no state can be obliged to legalize abortion, or to facilitate it, or be instrumental to perform it.”

He added: “The EU should respect the legislative competences of its member states and the principle of conferral whereby the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the treaties to attain the objectives set out therein.”

The European Parliament is one of two legislative bodies of the EU, a political and economic union of 27 member states. Earlier this month, a motion for a resolution was introduced on the topic “Global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturning of abortion rights in the U.S. by the Supreme Court.”

The 32-point resolution, due to be discussed on June 8 and voted on a day later, states that the European Parliament “is deeply concerned about the potential consequences for women’s rights worldwide, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade.”

It also expresses fear that the overturning of the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide would have “a chilling effect on prioritizing and funding” abortion globally.

It says that the parliament “strongly encourages the US government and/or other relevant US authorities also to remove all barriers to abortion services, including third party consent or notification, mandatory waiting periods and authorization by judges or medical panels, and to guarantee timely access to abortion care across the country.”

The European Parliament voted in 2021 in favor of a report describing abortion as “essential healthcare” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

The vote was criticized by Catholic groups and Vatican “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

Poland’s Catholic bishops: Many Ukrainians ‘will not be able to survive’ without help

Poland’s bishops celebrate Mass in Zakopane on June 7, 2002. / EpiskopatNews via Flickr.

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 8, 2022 / 08:57 am (CNA).

Poland’s Catholic bishops said on Tuesday that many Ukrainians “will not be able to survive” without continued help.

In a message issued on June 7, after their plenary meeting in Zakopane, southern Poland, the bishops said that Poles’ response to the arrival of more than three million refugees from Ukraine “deserves recognition.”

“They ask everyone to continue to help and show generosity towards our sisters and brothers who are still suffering because without help many of them will not be able to survive,” the bishops said.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, an estimated 3.9 million people have crossed the Poland–Ukraine border. Although the war is continuing, many Ukrainians have decided to return home.

A delegation of Polish bishops visited Ukraine on May 17-20. They met with laypeople and Church leaders in the capital, Kyiv, and also traveled to the formerly occupied cities of Irpin and Bucha to pray for the Ukrainians murdered there.

“The bishops are stirred by the cruelty of the war, which brings suffering to many people; and the experience of violence, that destroys human lives, dwellings, life plans, and dreams,” they said in their June 7 statement.

The bishops called for a “systematic approach” to helping the war’s victims both in Poland and Ukraine, saying “it is necessary that state institutions, local governments, NGOs, and parishes work together.”

During their plenary meeting, the bishops also discussed issues related to catechesis for children and adults, the Synod on Synodality, and the conclusion of the Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

The gathering was held on the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s visit to Zakopane, a popular resort town at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. During a Mass, the bishops asked the Polish pope to intercede for Poland in difficult matters and entrusted all Poles at home and abroad to his intercession.