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Conference in Rome addresses dangers of AI and child pornography

In 2023 there were more than 275,000 child pornography websites on the internet, with approximately 11,000 photos generated by AI in just one month. / Credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

ACI Prensa Staff, May 7, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

“What dangers does artificial intelligence (AI) present for the safety of children in digital environments?” was the topic addressed by a conference organized by the S.O.S Il Telefono Azzurro Foundation and the Italian Embassy at the Holy See as part of the National Day against Pedophilia and Child Pornography, which is observed in Italy every May 5.

According to its website, Il Telefono Azzuro (“The Blue Telephone”) “offers a hotline service, managed by 114 Children’s Emergency, through which it is possible to report illicit or potentially harmful content for children and adolescents.”

Disturbing statistics were reported at the event: In 2023 there were more than 275,000 child pornography websites on the internet with approximately 11,000 photos generated by AI in just one month. However, these figures could be even higher, Vatican News noted, given that this new phenomenon “is difficult to quantify concretely.”

The conference, titled “The Dignity of Children in the Digital World,” was held at the Borromeo Palace in Rome. Ernesto Caffo, president of Telefono Azzurro, noted that children and adolescents are increasingly exposed to platforms that contain tools “that can lead to risky behavior.”

For Caffo, this represents a new and important challenge, because it impacts all the control mechanisms that have been implemented in recent years. Although new technologies can be wonderful tools, any weak points can also “be a source of increasing risks for new generations,” he said.

This serious situation, said the president of the Italian foundation — whose mission is to protect children and adolescents from any abuse and violence — must be addressed at the highest international level, such as at the next G7 summit, in order to present proposals on the issue.

Caffo also highlighted the important role of Pope Francis, who can contribute to the effort by addressing the issue of “the dignity of the person as a key element to which we all must be committed.”

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, pointed out during his talk that technological advances require and demand “a balance between technological progress and human values.” 

O’Malley emphasized that Pope Francis has stated on several occasions that “technology must serve to improve human life, and not the other way around.”

“The Church’s commitment to new technologies, particularly AI, is rooted in its mission to protect people, in line with the Gospel,” the cardinal said.

He further added that the Catholic Church is “actively contributing to the global conversation on the responsible use of AI, in line with human values and ethical standards.”

Carla Garlatti, who heads an Italian government agency for the protection of children and adolescents, said it is possible to promote initiatives and tools to control the access of children and adolescents to platforms with inappropriate content.

However, jurist Guido Scorza stated that controls are “difficult to apply at this time” because young people tend to use content designed for older persons.

Lastly, Father Hans Zollner, dean of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute of Anthropology, warned of the risk of smartphones, which “make us [believe] we have everything under control, but that’s not the case.”

Zollner also reiterated Pope Francis’ call for “creating and adopting an international treaty on AI,” a crucial issue for the future of humanity.

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

Blood of St. Januarius miraculously liquifies again

Naples Archbishop Domenico Battaglia kisses the reliquary containing the blood of St. Januarius on May 4, 2024. / Credit: Chiesa di Napoli

ACI Prensa Staff, May 6, 2024 / 16:48 pm (CNA).

The miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, bishop, martyr, and patron saint of Naples, Italy, was repeated in St. Clare Basilica on May 4.

The Archdiocese of Naples reported on its website that on May 4 at 6:38 p.m. local time, the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius occurred once again. 

St. Januarius was martyred in the year 305, during the fierce persecution unleashed by the Roman emperor Diocletian.

The miraculous liquefaction occurred during the Mass offered by the archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia, with Abbot Vincenzo De Gregorio participating and the mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi, in attendance.

When the miracle is repeated, a white cloth is waved to indicate to the people that the miraculous sign has taken place. On this occasion, De Gregorio gave the sign.

‘It’s not an oracle’

Challenging the belief that when the blood does not liquefy some misfortune might occur, Battaglia told those present at the Mass that “this blood is the sign of a dream of salvation, of hope, of trust. It is not an oracle to consult but a compass to follow because it is always well oriented toward Christ, the origin and goal of our journey, our history and the history of the world.”

“The hagiographic sources and records of Bishop Januarius’ martyrdom tell us how he, without any fear, put the good of his brothers before his own safety, going to visit a brother imprisoned because of his faith in Christ,” Battaglia continued.

The prelate then prayed to the martyr: “Help us to walk along the paths of time and history, with our gaze fixed on the Lord whom you have loved and served, and may we always be with feet ready to go to our brothers and sisters who are in physical, interior, or social prisons.”

“May we be like you, who despite the danger and persecution, for the love of God and the brethren, were not afraid to set out and risk your life to spread the bread of the Word that restores the brothers imprisoned because of the Gospel and the violence of men,” he also prayed.

Still addressing the patron saint of Naples, the archbishop continued: “Witness of fruitful blood, pray with us and help us to pray without tiring so that in this your city innocent blood will not be shed again, so that in our Europe, in the Holy Land and the world, fratricidal conflicts cease” and may Jesus Christ “defeat all violence, wipe away the tears of pain and disarm with forgiveness all desire for revenge.”

The liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius

The miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of the martyred bishop St. Januarius usually occurs three times a year.

The first occasion is the day commemorating the transfer of his remains to Naples, the Saturday before the first Sunday in May; and the second is his liturgical feast day, Sept. 19.

The third occasion is Dec. 16, when devotees thank him for his intercession to lessen the effects of the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano, which occurred in 1631.

Who is St. Januarius?

St. Januarius was the bishop of Benevento in the Campania region, an Italian diocese adjacent to Naples, where he was born in 272.

During the persecution of the Church by the Roman emperor Diocletian, known as the “Great Persecution” (303–313), Januarius was taken prisoner along with a group of other Christians and subjected to terrible tortures.

The bishop and his friends refused to renounce their faith and worship the pagan gods. Despite the cruelties they were subjected to, none of them gave in and all were sentenced to death.

They tried to burn them alive in a furnace, but the fire did not harm them. They were then thrown to the lions, but the animals did not come near them. So the Romans decided to behead them all. On Sept. 19, 305, St. Januarius and his friends were executed near Pozzuoli.

Every Sept. 19, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Januarius, bishop and martyr.

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

Cardinal Pizzaballa: Peace in Holy Land built on dialogue, action

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa gives the homily at a Mass in which he took possession of his titular church, St. Onuphrius, in Rome on May 1, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 3, 2024 / 12:21 pm (CNA).

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem delivered an impassioned lecture on Thursday at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome detailing the process of peace in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, noting that it is an integral part of the Church’s universal mission and one that must not be conflated with overtly temporal or political aims. 

“Peace needs the testimony of clear and strong gestures on the part of all believers, but it also needs to be announced and defended by equally clear words. We cannot remain silent in the face of injustices or invite people to live peacefully and disengage,” Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa remarked during his “lectio magistralis” on Thursday at the pontifical university.

“The preferential option for the poor and the weak, however, does not make us a political party,” he added.

The hourlong lecture, titled “Characteristics and Criteria for a Pastoral Care of Peace,” was the latest installment in the university’s ongoing series of studies in peace sciences and international cooperation launched by the school’s Pontifical Pastoral Institute Redemptor Hominis.

The cardinal stressed that the Israel-Hamas conflict is not just an issue for the local Church but also an issue for the universal Church. 

“What I tend to say is that conflict is not a temporary and secondary issue in the life of our Church,” the cardinal continued; rather, he said, it “is now an integral and constitutive part of our identity as a Church.”

Pizzaballa underlined that “talking about peace, therefore, is not talking about an abstract topic but of a deep wound in the life of the Christian that causes suffering and tiredness, a lot of tiredness, and deeply touches the human and spiritual life of all of us.”

Stressing the universality of the conflict, he added it “involves the life of everyone in our diocese and is therefore an integral part of the life of the Church, of its pastoral care.”

The day before the lecture, Pizzaballa took possession of his titular church in Rome, St. Onuphrius, where he spoke on the historic, symbolic, and theological links between the Church in the Holy Land and Rome, again expressing the importance of the Holy Land for the universal Church.

“The Church of Jerusalem is the mother Church of the Church, where the roots of the entire universal Church lie, and it is a place that still retains a local and universal character today,” he said during his May 1 homily.

In his lecture on Thursday, Pizzaballa made overtures to the historical roots of the conflict in order to stress the “plurirelgious” and “pluricultural” nature of the Holy Land and to open a reflection on the importance of narrative in the process of peace. 

“These problems of memory cannot be solved by reading one’s own history,” he said. “Intercultural conflicts will not be overcome if we do not reread different readings of the strong religious and cultural histories.”

While arguing that “peace is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor,” he noted that religious leaders must work to “create contexts in which communities can express themselves.”

“Today, especially in the Holy Land, everyone has their own little story to tell,” he added. 

Pizzaballa stressed the importance of dialogue as a critical underpinning of the peace process, noting that through the promotion of “continuous dialogue” and “mutual listening” that “a serious pastoral care in peace is born and developed.” 

The cardinal also noted religious leaders must work to promote both “a new culture of legality” as well as to “become a living and prophetic voice of justice, human rights, and peace.” 

While acknowledging that there has always been “a close relationship” between ecclesial and civic leaders, playing a delicate role in the “function[ing] in the life of national communities,” Pizzaballa warned that the Church’s call for peace must exist “without entering into logics of competition and division” in order to offer “credible witnesses.”

Spanish archbishop slams government’s obsession with the Catholic Church

Oviedo Archbishop Jesús Sanz Montes accused the government of focusing "in a biased and manipulative way on the problem of pedophilia as something attributable only to the Catholic Church." / Credit: Archdiocese of Oviedo

ACI Prensa Staff, May 2, 2024 / 18:50 pm (CNA).

“They have done it again. It is a kind of obsessive mantra every time they need a smokescreen to distract from the real problems we have and to which they so clumsily and insidiously apply their tortuous governance.”

That is how the archbishop of Oviedo, Jesús Sanz Montes, began a letter released this week titled “The Accusing Rattle” in which he responds to the socialist government’s announcement of an exclusive plan to address sexual and power abuses committed within the Catholic Church.

In the opinion of the prelate, the country’s executive “has tried to focus in a biased and manipulative way on the problem of pedophilia as something attributable only to the Catholic Church, which represents an exclusive and improper singling out and leaves unprotected the majority of those who have suffered this terrible scourge.”

The Franciscan archbishop encouraged people to denounce “the deceitful, biased, or false information and to humbly say how much good we do as a Christian community,” while at the same time acknowledging errors, asking for forgiveness, and accompanying victims.

The archbishop said Christians are called to defend abuse victims, “assuming our responsibility in what concerns us, but urging that the entire society also adopt appropriate measures, starting with government leaders,” he added.

Sanz criticized the executive for falsifying “the identity of the human person” and destroying “anthropology in its masculine and feminine identity.” 

He added that the government propagates a version of feminism that not only fails to eradicate unjust sexist violence against women but “actually exacerbates it” along with “a perverse pornographic and obscene manipulation that confuses and harms children and young people based on gender ideology.”

If such policies are maintained, the archbishop predicts, “the society thus poisoned and confused will be more manipulable by those who, from their narcissistic and fallacious amorality, seek to perpetuate themselves in power.”

The prelate has described as “clear” the statement from the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE, by its Spanish acronym) in which it rejected the government’s plan and denounced that the plan “parts from a condemnatory judgment of the entire Church, carried out without any type of legal guarantee, a public and discriminatory accusation by the state.”

Sanz emphasized that “we must not allow ourselves to be identified with this false story that disfigures the true work of the Church” and, turning the tables on the subject, asked: “Which institution of those affected by this crime has taken the matter seriously? Which ones have created offices of shelter and support, have preventively educated their members, and have actively collaborated with the prosecutor’s office?”

‘The arbitrary imputation is unacceptable’

The prelate reminded the faithful that the problem of the sexual abuse of minors in Spain is one in which Catholic clergy and religious account for a miniscule 0.2% part. That figure comes from a study by the Anar Foundation, specialized in the protection of children, which details that between 2008 and 2009, 0.2% of the more than 6,000 reported cases of abuse can be attributed to priests and religious.

According to the cited foundation that works on the prevention of child abuse, parents represented the largest number of aggressors, totaling 23.3%. Companions occupied second place among perpetrators against minors, with 8.7%, while friends represent 5.7% and partners, boyfriends, or girlfriends represent 5.6%.

The archbishop of Oviedo concluded by rejecting as unacceptable “the arbitrary accusation that only focuses on us, having such a low criminal percentage, with a whole series of legal, fiscal, economic, and social measures,” adding: “What do those who continue in this foul play want to cover up or distract from? ‘Cui prodest?’ said Seneca [‘Who benefits?’].”

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

Latin patriarch of Jerusalem takes possession of Rome titular church after delays due to war

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa gives the homily at a Mass in which he took possession of his titular church, St. Onuphrius, in Rome on May 1, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, May 1, 2024 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, finally took possession on May 1 of his assigned titular church in Rome after having postponed the ceremony due to the war in the Holy Land.

Part of the process of becoming a cardinal is being assigned a titular church in Rome known as his “title” or “deaconry” in accordance with his role in assisting the pope, the bishop of Rome.

The ceremony at St. Onuphrius, the titular church of the papal order of the Holy Sepulchre, was scheduled for April 15 when the conflict in the Middle East worsened with the Iranian attack on Israel.

On the night of April 13, the Israeli army reported that Iran launched dozens of missiles and drones from its territory, most of which were intercepted outside Israeli territory by the country’s air defense systems.

Consequently, the patriarch, who had planned to travel to Rome, had to cancel the trip at the last minute and reschedule the ceremony.

Pizzaballa was created a cardinal by Pope Francis at the Sept. 30, 2023, consistory along with 21 other cardinals.

In his May 1 homily, which he gave at St. Onuphrius Church in Rome, the Italian cardinal noted that the Church of Jerusalem is “the mother Church” in which “the roots of the universal Church” are found.

He also said that it is the “central heart” of the life of the Church, although this universality “is not complete without Peter.”

Along these lines, the prelate stated that being made a cardinal “is not a coincidence” and that united with Peter, and Rome united with Jerusalem, “they complete this picture with their roots in the Holy Land.”

“Being a cardinal is not only a title or an honor, it is also a responsibility,” the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem remarked.

He also reflected on true joy, which is born “from the deep, serene, and conscious” union with the Lord.

‘We are going through the most difficult moments in our history’

Referring to the war ravaging the Holy Land, the cardinal lamented: “We are going through the most difficult moments in our recent history” and stressed that the impact of this conflict on the population “is enormous, more than any other war or conflict.”

The cardinal added that “we would like the United States to resolve the problem, as well as the peace negotiations,” although he regretted that at the moment “nothing is happening.”

The patriarch explained that conflict “is not the way in which the kingdom of God grows” but rather “it grows in community, peacefully.”

“The kingdom of God is not a miracle but the seed in the earth that grows and bears fruit, which is born from the heart of God’s love,” he said. For the cardinal, the kingdom of God “can also be experienced within war.”

Pizzaballa said that “the Lamb of God is the light that illuminates the city of Jerusalem” and that “we are called to be able to see the reality of the world through the paschal light of Christ, who died out of love and was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, he urged “seeking ways of reconciliation” and that the words “truth, justice, and forgiveness” never be separated from one another.

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

Game, set, God: French athlete trades championship title for abbey life

Elevation of the chalice at a Traditional Latin Mass. / Credit: Wikimedia JoeJ10/CC BY-SA 4.0

CNA Newsroom, Apr 30, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

At the pinnacle of his professional sports career, one French athlete announced his intention to quit volleyball to embrace monastic life at a famous French abbey. 

Ludovic Duée, captain of the Saint-Nazaire volleyball team and recently crowned French champion, shared a deeply personal decision with local media: He has chosen to retire from the sport that brought him fame and success and embark on a new path at the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse.

Duée, 32, confirmed his life-changing move to Ouest-France following his team’s championship victory on April 28.

“This is a decision that stems from the depths of my soul,” Duée said. 

Coming from a practicing Catholic family, he described — according to Catholic newspaper LaCroix — his religious practice as minimal until his encounter with the canons regular of Lagrasse during the COVID-19 pandemic: The monks “were very welcoming and answered all my questions.”

The profound impact of meeting and communicating with the Canons Regular of the Mother of God led Duée to a personal revelation.

“I discovered that God loved me and that he only wanted one thing, for me to love him back,” he said, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. The transformative experience has set him on a new path to reciprocating that love. 

The Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse in the south of France has its origins in the seventh century. Today the monastery, which lies about 400 miles from Paris, is renowned for its adherence to the Traditional Latin Mass.

What is more, this monastery melds liturgical richness with a deep engagement with the local community: The canons are actively engaged in their diocese, contributing to social outreach programs, participating in sports, and providing spiritual and practical support to migrants at the village asylum center.

For now, Duée will live and learn among the canons without yet taking vows: “During the next few months, I will live and breathe the canon regular life. I will experience everything from the inside out to gain a deeper understanding of the community and determine if this is the long-term fit for me, and for them.”

Following the Rule of St. Augustine, the devout Frenchman has embarked on a spiritual journey that may ultimately lead to taking the vows of a novice: After years of personal and theological development, the end goal is to make a permanent commitment as a priest and canon regular.

Former Anglican vicar becomes first bishop of UK ordinariate

Father David Waller will become the first bishop Ordinary of the Ordinariate. / Credit: Courtesy photo / Bishop's Conference of England and Wales

National Catholic Register, Apr 29, 2024 / 18:45 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has announced a new leader of the ordinariate in Great Britain.

Father David Waller, 62, a parish priest and vicar general of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, will replace Monsignor Keith Newton, 72, who is retiring after serving over 13 years as the ordinary of the ecclesiastical structure for former Anglicans.

In a statement, Newton called the Vatican’s April 29 announcement “momentous” given that Waller, who is a celibate, will become the first bishop ordinary of the ordinariate. 

As someone who was already married as an Anglican clergyman before entering the Church through the ordinariate, Newton was not allowed episcopal consecration.

Established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 through his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, the ordinariate is an ecclesiastical structure for Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining their distinctive Anglican patrimony.  

With today’s announcement, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham becomes the first of three in the world — the others being in the U.S./Canada and Australia — to have had an influence in choosing its leader. 

In keeping with the Anglican emphasis on consultation and in accordance with the Anglicanorum Coetibus, members of the ordinariate’s governing council, made up of ordinariate priests, were able to choose Waller as one of three names they recommended to the Holy See. 

Monsignor Keith Newton, 72, is retiring after serving over 13 years as the ordinary of the ecclesiastical structure for former Anglicans. Credit: Edward Pentin
Monsignor Keith Newton, 72, is retiring after serving over 13 years as the ordinary of the ecclesiastical structure for former Anglicans. Credit: Edward Pentin

Newton said he believed allowing this faculty, one that is usually left to the apostolic nuncio, “showed the Holy See’s confidence in the ordinariate in the U.K.” 

A former Anglican vicar who served as a pastor, part-time hospital chaplain, and a member of the governing body of the Church of England, Waller was among the first Anglican clergy to be received into the Church following the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in 2011. 

He was then ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood, has served in two parishes, and was elected chairman of the ordinariate’s governing council. For the past four years he has worked with Newton as vicar general. 

In a statement, Waller said it was “both humbling and a great honor” to have been appointed ordinary. “The past 13 years have been a time of grace and blessing as small and vulnerable communities have grown in confidence, rejoicing to be a full yet distinct part of the Catholic Church,” he added. 

Already well known to members of the ordinariate, he said he was looking forward to serving them in his new role, adding that experience over these past years has taught him “there is nothing to be feared in responding to the Lord and that Jesus does great things with us despite our inadequacies.”

Newton said in a statement that he was “delighted” with Waller’s appointment, adding that he has been “unwaveringly loyal” to the ordinariate and a “great support” to him as vicar general. 

Waller has been “totally been involved in life of the ordinariate and understands it all, and is a good administrator,” Newton told the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner. 

No coercion to step down

Newton stressed that he had chosen to retire while he is still active. 

“I’ve not been forced out in any way, and nobody has told me to retire; it’s totally my own decision,” he said. “It’s a time to pass it on to new hands,” he continued, adding that he and his wife, Gill, “want to enjoy a bit of retirement together.” 

Other prominent priests of the ordinariate also welcomed the news of Waller’s appointment. Father Ed Tomlinson, priest in charge of St. Anselm’s Ordinariate Parish Church in Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, told the Register he was “delighted the ordinariate will have a bishop” and that he wished “Father David the best.” 

Father Benedict Kiely, an ordinariate priest of the same parish who also runs the charity Nasarean.org for persecuted Christians, said: “I will always remain grateful to Msgr. Keith for making the defense of persecuted Christians an important part of the ordinariate, and I’m sure Bishop David will continue that support.”

Newton said the date and place of Waller’s episcopal ordination have yet to be confirmed but that he expected it to take place “towards the end of June.” 

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

Prosecutor dismisses case against French priest who said homosexual relations are a sin

French authorities determined that "there does not appear that there is any infraction sufficiently characterized to justify any criminal procedure" against Father Matthieu Raffray. / Credit: Father Matthieu Raffray YouTube Channel / Screenshot

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 29, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

French priest Matthieu Raffray disclosed that the Paris prosecutor’s office has dismissed a case initiated against him for stating that homosexual relations are a sin and for calling homosexuality a “weakness.”

In a legal document addressed to the priest and shared by him April 26, it stated that “on March 19, the interministerial delegation for the fight against racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-LGBT hatred went to the Paris prosecutor’s office” regarding “two posts made on your X (Twitter) and Instagram accounts” in January and March.

The priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd — created in 2006 in Rome for “the defense and dissemination of Catholic tradition in all its forms,” according to the website of this society of apostolic life — had posted in late January a comment on X about “conversion therapies.”

“The LGBT Corner” had asked in a Jan. 28 mocking post on X whether “a person can get conversion therapy for 10 euros in France. That’s what Father LeCoq implies whom I contacted to help my son suffering from ‘homophile tendencies.’ He directed me to the retreat ‘Be a Man’ to be held again in Annecy.”

In response Raffray wrote: “Every spiritual retreat is conversion therapy. Since the beginnings of Catholicism, Christians have withdrawn from the world to find themselves before the Lord in order to become better” and criticized the “gross ignorance” and modus operandi of the LGBT lobby.

On March 15, the priest posted a video on Instagram in which he encouraged the faithful to fight against their weaknesses.

In a March Instagram video, Raffray encouraged the faithful to fight against their weaknesses, among others homosexuality, and commented that each person has his or her own weapons with which to fight, but the devil convinces people that the fight “is too hard” and therefore it’s useless to resist.

The legal notice stated that “after a careful examination of the comments” of the priest “it does not appear that there is any infraction sufficiently characterized to justify any criminal procedure against him.”

“Therefore,” the document concluded, “this process is being dismissed.”

Raffray pointed out that “the comments I made do not fall within the scope of the law.”

“I pray for my enemies and I thank everyone who has supported me,” he added.

Who is Father Matthieu Raffray?

Raffray is a well-known French priest who has a growing apostolate on the internet and social media aimed especially at young French-speaking people.

He has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, more than 22,000 on YouTube, and more than 21,000 on X.

He is a pro-life and pro-family advocate and has published French-language books such as “Myths and Lies of Progressivism” (2020) and more recently “The Greatest of Combats,” with which he seeks to answer the fundamental and existential questions of life.

Raffray, 45, was born in 1979 and is one of nine children. He studied mathematics before being ordained a priest in 2009.

He holds a doctorate in philosophy and teaches at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.

According to the publication European Conservative, he rose to fame in 2020 after an interview with French YouTuber Baptiste Marchais in which he defended the return to a “virile Catholicism” and patriotic sentiment among the Catholic faithful. 

What does the Catholic Church teach about homosexuality?

Catholic teaching on homosexuality is summarized in Nos. 2357, 2358, and 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Church teaches that men and women with same-sex attraction “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

The catechism notes that homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” and constitutes for those who experience it “a trial.”

Based on sacred Scripture, the catechism states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “they do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.” Consequently, “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection,” the catechism explains.

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

Spanish bishop to Biden: Invoking Jesus Christ in support of abortion is a sacrilege

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Correspondents dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on April 27, 2024. / Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 29, 2024 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

U.S. president Joe Biden has come under fire for making the sign of the cross during a rally criticizing measures that restrict abortion.

Among his critics are José Ignacio Munilla, the bishop of Orihuela-Alicante in Spain, who called Biden’s gesture a “sacrilege.”

Biden went to Tampa, Florida, on April 23 for a campaign stop one week before a law restricting abortion in the state from 15 to six weeks of gestation was due to go into effect.

While a Biden supporter on stage criticized Florida governor and former Republican candidate for president Ron DeSantis for signing the bill, Biden made the sign of the cross.

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On his weekday radio program on Radio María España, Munilla said that making the sign of the cross in support of abortion constitutes a “sacrilegious” gesture and “the desecration of the sign of the cross.”

“Invoking Jesus Christ in support of abortion” has drawn strong criticism “in many pro-life and Catholic circles,” the bishop pointed out.

Crossing oneself, Munilla said, is meant to be used as a sign “in which we remember that Jesus gave his life for us, he gave his life for all the innocents, he gave his life to restore innocence and to make us saints.” 

To use the sign of the cross as Biden did, however, is to “invoke the cross in a sacrilegious manner.”

Referring to the incident, the Spanish prelate warned of the risk that a Catholic might publicly show his faith by crossing himself while at the same time twisting its meaning “in a sacrilegious manner.”

Munilla questions moral stature of Biden, Trump

In addition to commenting on the incident, the prelate also offered a critical analysis of the two contenders for president of the United States, Biden and former president Donald Trump.

“In a nation like the United States, shouldn’t there be [candidates] from both the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party with enough moral stature to properly represent their parties to the electorate?” he asked. In his opinion, both Biden and Trump lack that moral stature.

“Consider what Biden represents with his deteriorating condition, even psychologically, to run for president again with this absolute desecration of his own (purportedly Catholic) values, having made the cause of abortion, the spread of abortion throughout the world, almost his highest value,” Munilla said, commenting on the incumbent president.

Regarding Trump, Munilla noted that “although he has defended the pro-life cause — not totally, but in fact in a forceful way — he is involved in many [court] cases in which his moral stature has undoubtedly been seriously affected.”

Munilla prayed that the Lord “would raise up vocations to public life so that there are truly young people who, with a life of integrity consistent with their values, have as their only watchword, as the only driving force of their entering into political life, the desire to serve the common good.”

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

Cardinal Grech opens world meeting of priests: ‘Our stories are human stories’

Landscape view of Sacrofano, Italy, north of Rome. / Credit: Dmitry Taranets/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Apr 29, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The World Meeting of Parish Priests for the Synod opened on Monday to discuss “how to be a synodal local Church in mission,” allowing priests from around the world to discuss questions raised during the ongoing synod and share their personal pastoral experiences. 

The four-day meeting, which is taking place from April 29 to May 2 at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, Italy, just north of Rome, is attended by about 300 priests from around the globe and is divided into several sessions, taking cues from different themes and questions raised in the synod’s synthesis report. 

“The parish priest is a man of the people and for the people. Like Jesus, he is open to the crowd, constantly open to the crowd, to help each and every one understand that they are a letter from Christ,” said Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the General Secretariat of the Synod, in opening the event on Monday morning. 

Monday’s discussion was based on the theme “The Face of the Synodal Church,” while Tuesday’s discussion will focus on “All Disciples, All Missionaries.” On Wednesday participants will come together to study “Teaching Ties, Building Communities.”

In reflecting on the overall scope of the Synod on Synodality, which will reconvene in October for its second and final assembly, Grech told participants on Monday that at the center of this process is an understanding, and sharing, of personal narratives. 

“Our stories are human stories, but human stories in which God, Jesus, is present,” the cardinal remarked. 

“Sometimes we need others to help us see God’s presence in our stories. This is our mission, this is the mission entrusted to us, to you, my dear brothers,” he said. 

Grech told the clergy gathered that “being synodal does not simply mean walking together, but rather walking with God, or better to say, God walking with us.” 

“Synodality is about God, before being about the Church,” he continued.  

The World Meeting of Parish Priests for the Synod was first announced in February and is jointly organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy and by the General Secretariat of the Synod in response to the first synod assembly’s synthesis report, which identified a need to “develop ways for a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synodal process during the coming year.”

“There is no synod without a bishop, but allow me to say today there is no synod without a parish priest,” Grech said to participants on Monday. “That is the reason why we felt the need to make this meeting, and so that we can enrich our preparation in view of the next session for the synod of bishops.”

This week’s meeting will culminate with an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, followed by Mass, celebrated by Grech, in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

According to Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, another purpose of the meeting is to “provide materials that will be used in the drafting of the Instrumentum Laboris [working document] for the synod’s second session, together with the summaries of the consultation coordinated by the bishops’ conferences and the results of the theological-canonical study carried out by five working groups formed by the General Secretariat of the Synod.”