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The Vatican Nativity scene 2021 will include llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus

A screenshot of a 3D rendering of a Peruvian Nativity scene that will be featured at the Vatican during the 2021 Christmas season. / ACI Prensa

Denver Newsroom, Sep 19, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Last year, the Vatican nativity set came, for some, from outer space; in 2021 it is coming from the Andes.  

The 2021 manger that will be placed in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican to celebrate Christmas will arrive from the town of Chopcca, Peru, a small town nestled in the Andes over 12,000 feet high. 

"As of December 15 and for 45 days, more than 100 million tourists and followers of the media will be attentive to the Christmas celebrations in the Holy See that will revolve around the Andean manger," indicates a note from the Andina news agency, the official media outlet for Peru.

Last year's nativity scene, a set of 54 figures dating to the 1960s and 1970s, was panned by many on social media. One detractor described it as "some car parts, kid toys, and an astronaut."

The Vatican has not announced the details yet, but the local news agency released a video with a 3-D rendering of the nativity scene. You can a video from ACI Prensa (in Spanish) about the 3D rendering below:

Chopcca's nativity scene will have more than 30 pieces and will be made by five renowned Huancavelica artists. Huancavelica is located nearly halfway between Lima and Cusco.

The images of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the Child Jesus, the Magi and the shepherds will be made on a realistic scale with materials such as ceramics, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will wear the typical Chopcca clothing.

The Child Jesus will be represented by a "Hilipuska" child, wrapped in a “chumpi” or woven belt and covered with a typical Huancavelica blanket.

The Three Wise Men, or Magi, will carry saddlebags or woven sacks from the region with popular superfoods, such as quinoa, kiwicha, cañihua, and potatoes, they will be accompanied by llamas that will have the Peruvian flag on their backs.

Several other local Peruvian animals such as alpacas, vicuñas (a more beautiful relative of the llama), sheep, vizcachas (related to rabbits with squirrel-like features), parihuanas or Andean flamingos, and the condor will also be present.

The Regional Government of Huancavelica will present the manger to Pope Francis in gratitude for having chosen Peru in the year in which it celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I Wis 2:12, 17-20

The wicked say:
    Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
        he sets himself against our doings,
    reproaches us for transgressions of the law
        and charges us with violations of our training.
    Let us see whether his words be true;
        let us find out what will happen to him.
    For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
        and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
    With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
        that we may have proof of his gentleness
        and try his patience.
    Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
        for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8

R. (6b)    The Lord upholds my life.
O God, by your name save me,
    and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
    hearken to the words of my mouth.
R. The Lord upholds my life.
For the haughty have risen up against me,
    the ruthless  seek my life;
    they set not God before their eyes.
R. The Lord upholds my life.
Behold, God is my helper;
    the Lord sustains my life.
Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
    I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.
R. The Lord upholds my life.

Reading II Jas 3:16—4:3

Beloved:
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice. 
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity. 
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from? 
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members? 
You covet but do not possess. 
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war. 
You do not possess because you do not ask. 
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Alleluia Cf. 2 Thes 2:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called us through the Gospel
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” 
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?” 
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. 
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Canadian archbishop: Only fully vaccinated can attend Mass

Coronavirus vaccine, stock image. / M-Foto/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 22:48 pm (CNA).

Anyone age 12 or over attending a gathering at Catholic churches, rectories or community centers under the responsibility of the Archdiocese of Moncton must present proof that they are fully vaccinated, the archdiocese announced Friday.

The new policy applies to all religious celebrations, Sunday and weekday Masses, baptisms, wedding and funerals, parish and pastoral meetings, catechesis, and social meetings.

The archdiocese's announcement comes in the wake of new provincial government rules set to take effect Tuesday requiring proof of vaccination to access certain events, services, and businesses. Fewer than 50 people have died from COVID-19 in the province of New Brunswick since the pandemic began, out of a total population of more than 780,000, according to government statistics. But provincial officials say they are concerned about a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

The New Brunswick rules apply to those 12 and older seeking to attend “indoor organized gatherings,” including weddings, funerals, conferences, workshops and parties, excepting parties at a private dwelling.

Other events requiring such proof include indoor festivals, performing arts and sports events; movie theaters, nightclubs, bowling alleys and casinos; gyms, indoor pools, and indoor recreation facilities; and indoor and outdoor dining and drinking at restaurants. Proof of vaccination also is needed to visit a long-term care facility.

Events, business and services must have proof of vaccination and government-issued identification from all participants and patrons aged 12 and older. Individuals who claim a medical exemption must show proof. Failure to follow the rules can be fined for amounts between $172 and $772 Canadian, about $135 to $605.

There have been 48 Covid-19-related deaths in New Brunswick out of some 3,200 total cases since the epidemic began. However, there are now some 370 active cases, higher than its previous peak of 348 on Jan. 25, CBC News reports. The province recently witnessed its largest single-day report of new COVID cases, when active cases jumped by 63.

About 17 people in the province are currently hospitalized, 10 of whom are in intensive care.

“As we are in the fourth wave of the pandemic, it is imperative that we do what is needed to protect our residents while living with the reality that the virus is still with us,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. The premier had loosened COVID restrictions on July 30.

“These changes are necessary to ensure that our province is able to remain in Green and avoid lockdowns, which we know are detrimental to businesses and people’s mental health. We also need to avoid overwhelming our health-care system. The vaccine is an effective tool that can help us combat this virus, but more people must get vaccinated to provide us all with better protection.

Dorothy Shephard, the provincial minister of health, met with religious leaders after the Sept. 15 announcement of the new rules, Archbishop Valery Vienneau of Moncton said Sept. 17.

“While explaining new guidelines, she indicated that they had only one goal: to increase the rate of people fully vaccinated in the province,” the archbishop said in a statement.

“We ask you to implement these new measures in each of your Christian communities not only to respect the government's request but above all to help stop the spread of the virus among our population. We would not want one of our places of worship to be the location of a COVID exposure due to our negligence,” Archbishop Vienneau said. “The Minister of Health is counting on our cooperation.”

The archbishop said volunteers are expected to be at the church doors to ask attendees for full proof of vaccination and to collect their names. This list can be used again each Sunday to avoid repeated requests for proof of vaccination from repeat visitors.

“This list may eventually be requested by the government,” the archbishop noted.

The rules apply to everyone present, excepting those under age 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

The only possible other exception to this mandate is for someone with a proof of medical exemption, which is rare. Parish employees who do not seek vaccination must wear a mask at all times and take a COVID test periodically. Any parish office visitor may be asked to wear a mask if not vaccinated.

Health authorities are concerned that the vaccinated can still pass on the virus to vulnerable groups, like children too young to be vaccinated. Some 80% of new positive coronavirus cases in the province are among the unvaccinated. Over 77.5% of New Brunswick residents have been fully vaccinated, while over 86% have had at least one dose. The province’s population numbers over 750,000 people, about half of whom are Catholic.

The government aims for a vaccination rate of about 90% and the health minister aims to allow gatherings only of fully vaccinated people “to keep people safe and to act as an incentive for the unvaccinated,” the archbishop said. A return to previous measures like masking and social distancing is not being promoted for this reason, he reported.

Under the new rules, anyone entering New Brunswick will have to register with health authorities. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days or wait for a negative test 10 days into their stay.

A provincial bill to remove religious and philosophical exemptions from the mandatory vaccinations for schoolchildren narrowly failed last year and could be reintroduced.

Vaccine mandates have prompted debates among Catholics about conscientious exemption, the risks and benefits of the available COVID-19 vaccines, and the ethics and legality of vaccine mandates imposed by governments and employers, including some U.S. Catholic dioceses.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and therefore “must be voluntary.” In its December 2020 note, it said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

Justice Clarence Thomas credits Catholic nuns’ anti-racist example

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas / Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Denver Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 16:41 pm (CNA).

Catholic nuns and his grandparents’ example helped instill in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the belief that all people were children of God and that the racist flaws of American society were a betrayal of its best promises, he said in a lecture Thursday.

“My nuns and my grandparents lived out their sacred vocation in a time of stark racial animus, and did so with pride with dignity and with honor. May we find it within ourselves to emulate them,” Justice Thomas said at the University of Notre Dame Sept. 16.

“To this day I revere, admire and love my nuns. They were devout, courageous and principled women.”

Thomas, only the second Black Supreme Court justice, delivered the Tocqueville Lecture at the invitation of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, a new Notre Dame initiative that focuses on discussions and scholarship related to Catholicism and the common good.

“In my generation, one of the central aspects of our lives was religion and religious education,” he said. “The single biggest event in my early life was going to live with my grandparents in 1955.”

His grandfather was a “very devout” Catholic convert, while his grandmother was a Baptist. Thomas, then a second grader, was sent with his brother to St. Benedict the Moor Grammar School in Savannah, Georgia. He was not Catholic at the time, but would convert at a young age.

“Between my grandparents and my nuns, I was taught pedagogically and experientially to navigate through and survive the negativity of a segregated world without negating the good that there was or, as my grandfather frequently said, without ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water,’” the Supreme Court justice said.

“There was of course quotidian and pervasive segregation and race-based laws which were repulsive and at odds with the principles of our country,” he said, but there was also “a deep and abiding love for our country and a firm desire to have the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship regardless how society treated us.”

Said Thomas: “There was never any doubt that we were equally entitled to claim the promise of America as our birthright, and equally duty-bound to honor and defend her to the best of our ability. We held these ideals first and foremost because we were raised to know that, as children of God, we were inherently equal and equally responsible for our actions.”

Thomas spoke of his second grade teacher Sister Mary Dolorosa’s catechism lessons, during which she would ask the class why God had created them.

“In unison our class of about 40 kids would answer loudly, reciting the Baltimore Catechism: ‘God created me to know love and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next,’” he said.

“Through many years of school and extensive reading since then, I have yet to hear a better explanation of why we are here. It was the motivating truth of my childhood and remains a central truth today," he said.

“Because I am a child of God there is no force on this earth that can make me any less than a man of equal dignity and equal worth,” he said. This truth was “repeatedly restated and echoed throughout the segregated world of my youth” and “reinforced our proper roles as equal citizens, not the perversely distorted and reduced role offered us by Jim Crow.”

Thomas questioned what he saw as a “reduced” image of Blacks today, deemed inferior by bigots or “considered a victim by the most educated elites.”

“Being dismissed as anything other than inherently equal is still, at bottom, a reduction of our human worth,” he said. “My nuns at Saint Benedict's taught me that that was a lie. In God's eyes, we were inherently equal.”

His grandparents also believed in equality before God. Because of that, “not only did we deserve to be treated equally, but we also were required to conduct ourselves as children of God. Hence, we were to live our lives according to his word. My grandparents repeatedly stressed that because of our fallen nature we had to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows.”

Thomas continued: “There was no room to doubt this and even less for self-pity. As they saw things, on judgment day we would be held accountable for the use of our God-given talents and our opportunities.”

Thomas became a Catholic seminarian and studied for a year at Conception Abbey Seminary in Missouri, but left after the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elsewhere, Thomas has said he was repelled to witness fellow seminarians make disparaging comments about King. That experience led to years of distance from Catholicism, and he only returned to the Catholic faith after becoming a Supreme Court justice.

He said he regretted that he ignored or rejected the lessons of his youth, including “not to act badly because others had acted badly.” For a time he saw this morality “as a sign of weakness or cowardice.” After King’s assassination, he said, “I lost faith in the teachings of my childhood and succumbed to an array of angry ideologies.”

“Indeed, that was why I left the seminary in May of 1968. I let others and my emotions persuade me that my country and my God had abandoned me. I became disoriented and disenchanted with my faith and my country and deeply embittered, and perhaps worst of all, I let my family down,” he said.

At the age of 19, his grandfather asked him to leave his house. He then became a student at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where, he said, “I fell in quickly with radical ideologies such as Black Power. It was an era of disenchantment and deconstruction. The beliefs of my youth were subjected to the jaundiced eye of critical theories or, perhaps more accurately, cynical theories.”

His grandfather warned him that he had taken the wrong path, and Thomas later came to believe that “the theories of my young adulthood were destructive and self-defeating.”

“The wholesomeness of my childhood had been replaced with emptiness, cynicism and despair,” he said. “I was faced with a simple fact that there was no greater truth than what my nuns and my grandparents had taught me: We are all children of God and rightful heirs to our nation’s legacy of civic equality. We were duty-bound to live up to obligations of the full and equal citizenship to which we were entitled by birth.”

In April 1970 Thomas returned to his college campus from a riot early one morning. There, he said, “I stood outside the chapel at Holy Cross and asked God to take hate out of my heart.”

This was his background for his later encounters with the Declaration of Independence and the legacy of the founding of the United States. He praised the “self-evident” truths of the Declaration, which had been “beyond dispute” in the society, school and home of his youth,

“As I rediscovered the God-given principles of the Declaration and our Founding, I eventually returned to the Church which had been teaching the same truths for millennia,” he said, reflecting on American history and its fierce debates about slavery and racial equality.

While radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison depicted America as “a racist and irredeemable nation,” Thomas sided with those who “were unwilling to give up on the American project.”

“Equal citizenship was a black man's birthright and to give up on America was to concede that America's Blacks never were equal citizens as the Declaration of Independence had promised them,” he said. “To demoralize freedmen and slaves in that way, as Frederick Douglass argued, served only to increase the hopelessness of their bondage.”

Douglass, a former slave who became a famous American orator, aimed to convince Americans “that the country was unmoored but not lost.” Both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King similarly emphasized the promise of equality in America’s founding documents.

“While we have failed the Declaration time and again, and the ideals of the Declaration time and again, I know of no time when the ideals have failed us,” said Thomas.

“Ultimately, the Declaration endures because it articulates truth. … As Lincoln taught us, the Declaration reflects the noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to his creatures, and the enlightened belief that ‘nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on and degraded and imbruted by its fellows.'"

In his other comments, Thomas reflected on his friendship with the late justice Antonin Scalia and the possibility that despite their different backgrounds they both thought similarly because of their shared Catholic background, their shared formation in Catholic schools, and a “common culture.”

Thomas knew Supreme Court Justice Amy Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, from her time as a clerk for Scalia. “I pray that she has a long and fruitful tenure on the court,” he said of the newest justice.

The justice was introduced by Notre Dame student Maggie Garnett, whose mother was clerking for Justice Thomas while pregnant with her. Garnett said she claims to be “the first unborn Supreme Court clerk,” though she joked that Justice Thomas might not agree that that is a “faithful interpretation of the original meaning.”

A new pro-life saint? This Italian mother sacrificed her life for her unborn baby

Facebook screenshot of photo of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, an Italian mother who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. / Facebook

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2021 / 12:07 pm (CNA).

“Riccardo, you are a gift for us.” These are the words a 26-year-old Italian mother wrote to her newborn 26 years ago. They were words she was willing to live by – and die for.

On Aug. 30, Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin, who sacrificed her life for the sake of her baby. Catholics already are comparing her to another saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, because both women refused medical treatment that would have endangered their unborn babies, according to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly. After close examination, the Church now recognizes Maria Cristina as a “venerable” for leading a heroically virtuous life.  

This is the story of that life.

Maria Cristina was born in 1969 in a town called Cinisello Balsamo, located in Milan. According to La Stampa, she grew up next to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret, and served as a catechist and youth leader. She strongly considered religious life while still a young teenager. 

“Lord, show me the way: it doesn't matter if you want me as a mother or a nun, what really matters is that I always do your will,” she wrote in her spiritual diary in 1985.

Her vocation became clear when, at 16 years old, she met Carlo Moccellin. She was called to marriage – a marriage with him. She never wavered from that conviction, even when doctors discovered a sarcoma in her left leg, Vatican News reported. 

“I realized that everything is a gift, even a disease, because if lived in the best way it can really help to grow,” she wrote to Carlo in 1988.

She was successfully treated, and finished her high-school education before marrying Carlo in 1991. They soon welcomed two children into their home, Francesco and Lucia. They were expecting a third – Riccardo – when they found out that her cancer had returned. 

Her first thought was of her unborn baby boy. 

“My reaction was to say over and over: ‘I am pregnant! I am pregnant! But doctor I am pregnant,’” she wrote in a 1995 letter to her little Riccardo. “I fought with all my power and did not give up on the idea of giving birth to you, so much so that the doctor understood everything and said no more.”

Maria Cristina refused the chemotherapy treatments that would have threatened her unborn baby’s life. Instead, she waited until after Riccardo was born, in 1994. But at that point, the cancer had already spread to her lungs and caused her tremendous suffering. 

“I believe that God would not allow pain if he did not want to obtain a secret and mysterious but real good,” she wrote. “I believe that one day I will understand the meaning of my suffering and I will thank God for it.”

On Oct. 22, 1995, she died at 26 years old. 

But her story – and her baby – live on. In her letter to Riccardo, which she penned a month before she died, she stressed the beauty of his life.

“Dear Riccardo, you need to know that you are not in the world by chance,” she began. “The Lord wanted your birth despite all the problems there were… when we found out about you, we loved you and wanted you with all our heart.”

“It was that evening, in the car on the way back from the hospital, that you moved for the first time. It seemed as if you were saying, ‘Thank you mamma for loving me!’ And how could we not love you?” she added. “You are precious, and when I look at you and see you so beautiful, lively, friendly, I think that there is no suffering in the world that is not worth bearing for a child.”

Maria Cristina wrote regularly, and kept a spiritual journal, according to The Associazione Amici di Cristina (Friends of Cristina Association), which promotes the dignity of human life in honor of its namesake. The association’s website includes excerpts from her diary and from her letters.

“Lord I only want You! I only love you! I'm just looking for you!” the organization quotes her as saying. “What does it matter to suffer in life if you are around the corner waiting for me to give me immense joy?”

Joy appears repeatedly in her writings.

“It is my motto: ‘Do everything with joy!’” she stressed in a 1985 letter to Carlo. “Even if sometimes it costs me a lot, especially when my morale is low or when … ‘it seems to you that all things are against you …’ as you say, in your beautiful letter. But, as light comes after darkness, so, after despair, rediscover joy.”

This joy shaped her love of God and her love for Carlo.

“Don't you think it’s extraordinary?” Maria Cristina asked Carlo in 1987. “If it weren't for you and I who love each other, the world would lack that something that no one else in our place could give.”

You can learn more about the extraordinary life of Maria Cristina in this video from EWTN Pro-Life Weekly:

She also wrote of God’s love – and the call to perfection.

“I become holy to the extent that I empty myself of everything, I remove every impediment from my mind, heart and life to allow myself to be completely penetrated by the love of God,” she stressed to Carlo in 1990. “More concretely, it means living everyday life with great simplicity, in the family, in the study, in the relationship with you, Carlo. My place is in the simple and ‘routine.’”

In the simple, she found the miraculous. In the ordinary, she discovered the extraordinary.

The year that she died, she wrote in another letter that “Although my health is precarious… I AM HAPPY!” She concluded, “I am ashamed to ask the Lord for anything else, for us the miracle is already there: if He loves us and we love each other, nothing else matters.”

Everything you need to know about the miracle of liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius

Pope Francis and Cardinal Sepe hold relic of St. Januarius' blood in Naples cathedral March 21, 2015. / CTV.

Naples, Italy, Sep 18, 2021 / 10:38 am (CNA).

On Sept. 19, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Januarius, bishop, martyr, and patron saint of Naples, Italy. Traditionally, on this day and on two other occasions a year, his blood, which is kept in a glass ampoule in the shape of a rounded cruet, liquifies. According to documentation cited by the Italian media Famiglia Cristiana, the miracle has taken place since at least 1389, the first instance on record.

Here are the key facts:

1. The blood is kept in two glass ampoules.

The dried blood of St. Januarius, who died around 305 A.D., is preserved in two glass ampoules, one larger than the other, in the Chapel of the Treasury of the Naples Cathedral.

2. The liquefaction is a miracle

The Church believes that the miracle takes place in response to the dedication and prayers of the faithful. When the miracle occurs, the mass of reddish dried blood, adhering to one side of the ampoule, turns into completely liquid blood, covering the glass from side to side.

3. The blood traditionally liquifies three times a year.

The saint's blood traditionally liquefies three times a year: in commemoration of the transfer of his remains to Naples (the Saturday before the first Sunday in May); on his liturgical feast (Sept. 19), and on the anniversary of the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 1631 when his intercession was invoked and the city was spared from the effects of the eruption (Dec. 16).

4. The liquefaction can take days.

The liquefaction process sometimes takes hours or even days, but sometimes it doesn't happen at all. Normally, after a period that can range from two minutes to an hour, the solid mass turns red and begins to bubble.

The ampoules, which contain a dark solid mass, are enclosed in a reliquary that is held up and rotated sideways by a priest to show the blood has liquified. This is usually done by the Archbishop of Naples while the people pray.

According to the Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, the reliquary with the ampoules remains on view for the faithful for eight days, during which they can kiss it while a priest turns it to show that the blood is still liquid. Then it is returned to the safety vault and locked away inside the Chapel of the Treasury of the Cathedral.

5. The faithful venerate the relic every year.

With the exclamation: "The miracle has happened!" the people approach the priest holding the reliquary to kiss the relic and sing the "Te Deum" in thanksgiving.

6. There is no scientific explanation.

Several investigations have already been conducted in the past to find a scientific explanation that answers the question of how something solid can suddenly liquefy, but none has been satisfactory so far.

7. The liquefaction does not always occur.

When the blood doesn’t liquefy, the Neapolitans take it as an omen of misfortune.

The blood did not liquefy in September 1939, 1940, 1943, 1973, 1980, nor in December 2016.

The relic also remained solid the year Naples elected a communist mayor, but it spontaneously liquefied when the late Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Terence Cooke, visited the St. Januarius shrine in 1978.

8. The blood has liquefied in the presence of some popes.

In 2015, while Pope Francis was giving some advice to the religious, priests, and seminarians of Naples, the blood liquefied again.

The last time the liquefaction occurred before a pontiff was in 1848 with Pius IX. It did not happen when John Paul II visited the city in October 1979 or in the presence of Benedict XVI in October 2007.

Pope Francis invokes Abraham Lincoln in message to safeguarding summit

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Jan. 27, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis invoked Abraham Lincoln in a video message released on Saturday to a safeguarding summit organized by the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

Addressing participants in the meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the pope referred to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered 41 days before the president’s assassination in 1865.

“‘With malice toward none, with charity for all,’ I urge you to be humble instruments of the Lord, at the service of the victims of abuse, considering them as companions and protagonists of a common future, learning from each other to become more faithful and resilient so that, together, we might face the challenges of the future,” the pope said in a video message issued on Sept. 18.

Pope Francis has referred to the 16th president of the United States before. In his historic speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015, the pope singled out Lincoln alongside four other notable Americans, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.

“This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that ‘this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom,’” he said, quoting from the 1863 Gettysburg Address.

“Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

During his 2015 U.S. visit, Francis spoke at the lectern that Lincoln used in Gettysburg as he gave an address outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

The meeting in Warsaw, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children,” is taking place on Sept. 19-22 with the support of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Bishops’ Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe.

Participants from an estimated 20 countries will reflect on the Church’s response to clerical abuse in the region.

The pope urged leaders to put the welfare of victims ahead of seeking to defend the Church’s reputation.

“Our expressions of sorrow must be converted into concrete pathways of reform to both prevent further abuse and to give confidence to others that our efforts will bring about real and reliable change,” he said.

“I encourage you to listen to the cry of the victims and to dedicate yourselves, with each other and with society in a broader sense, in these important discussions because they truly touch the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe -- not only the Church’s future, but the hearts of Christians as well. This is our responsibility.”

Speakers at the meeting include Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.

O’Malley said: “I want to begin by acknowledging and thanking survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who continue to come forward and share their experience. It is because of their courage that others can be spared from experiencing this horror.”

“There is no place or group of people that is immune to being impacted by this crime and sin. It has tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and all cultures. As leaders, we must be recognized as people committed and accountable, always and everywhere, to the safety of the children entrusted to our pastoral care.”

“The journey of learning will be ongoing throughout our lives. Conversion to a culture of safeguarding is an urgent priority.”

Also speaking is the Chilean abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who was appointed to the Pontifical Commission in March.

He told Vatican News that it was important to recognize that “dealing with abuse cases right now is an emergency.”

“If we don’t deal with these issues, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” he said, crediting Pope Francis with developing the Church’s response to abuse.

In his video message, the pope said: “The recognition of our errors and our failings can certainly make us feel vulnerable and fragile. But it can also present a moment of splendid grace, a moment of self-emptying, that opens new horizons of love and reciprocal service.”

“If we recognize our mistakes, we have nothing to fear, because it will be the Lord himself who will have led us to that point.”

Pope Francis: Synodal process not about ‘gathering opinions,’ but ‘listening to the Holy Spirit’

Pope Francis greets Catholics from Rome diocese in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 18, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 07:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Saturday that the two-year process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality is not about “gathering opinions,” but “listening to the Holy Spirit.”

Addressing Catholics from the Diocese of Rome on Sept. 18, the pope noted that preparations for the synod would take place in three phases between October 2021 and October 2023.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said that the process sought to create “a dynamism of mutual listening” at all levels of the Church.

“This is not about gathering opinions, no. This is not an inquiry; but it is about listening to the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The third, universal phase will begin at the Vatican in October 2023 with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

The 84-year-old pope read his live-streamed address seated in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, frequently adding off-the-cuff remarks.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The speech was one of his most extensive reflections on the theme of “synodality,” a concept at the heart of his pontificate.

At one point, he apologized for the length of his speech, but said it was necessary as “the synod is a serious thing.” The audience responded with applause.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope outlined his vision and hopes for the synod, which some Vatican commentators have described as the most significant Catholic event since the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

He said that, as Bishop of Rome, he considered it vital that the Diocese of Rome committed itself “with conviction” to the synodal process.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Smiling, he said it would be an “embarrassment” if his own diocese did not embrace the initiative.

“The theme of synodality is not a chapter in a treatise on ecclesiology, much less a fad, a slogan, or a new term to use or instrumentalize in our meetings. No! Synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission,” he explained.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“And so we speak of a Synodal Church, avoiding, however, to consider that it is just one title among others, a way of thinking about it that foresees alternatives.”

The pope said that this wasn’t simply a “theological opinion” or merely a “personal thought,” but rather the blueprint for the Church contained in the Acts of the Apostles, which shows the early Christian community “walking together.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He reflected on episodes from the New Testament book, which showed how the first Christians resolved their seemingly irreconcilable differences by gathering together to make decisions.

He repeatedly emphasized the Holy Spirit’s leading role in decision-making.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said: “There will always be discussions, thank God, but solutions are to be sought by giving the word to God and his voices in our midst; by praying and opening our eyes to all that surrounds us; by practicing a life faithful to the Gospel; examining Revelation according to a pilgrim hermeneutic that knows how to preserve the path begun in the Acts of the Apostles.”

“And this is important: the way of understanding, of interpreting. A pilgrim hermeneutic, that is, one that is on the move. The journey that began after the Council? No. It began with the first Apostles and continues.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Describing how the faith is passed on from one generation to the next, the pope quoted the composer Gustav Mahler as saying that fidelity to tradition does not consist of “the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.”

He said: “You see how our Tradition is a leavened dough, a reality in ferment where we can recognize growth, and in the dough, a communion that is implemented in movement: walking together realizes true communion.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope stressed the importance of the diocesan phase of the synodal process. Earlier this month, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook to help dioceses worldwide to take part.

The pope said the initial phase was critical because it sought to involve “the totality of the baptized.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“There are many resistances to overcome the image of a Church rigidly distinguished between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions,” he commented.

He continued: “The exercise of the sensus fidei [sense of the faith] cannot be reduced to the communication and comparison of opinions that we may have regarding this or that theme, that single aspect of doctrine, or that rule of discipline.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“No, those are instruments, they are verbalizations, they are dogmatic or disciplinary expressions. But the idea of distinguishing majorities and minorities must not prevail: a parliament does that.”

The pope then meditated on the meaning of the phrase “people of God,” a major theme of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said that belonging to the people of God was not a matter of “exclusivity” but of receiving a gift that comes with the responsibility to witness to God.

“Why do I tell you these things?” he asked. “Because in the synodal journey, listening must take into account the sensus fidei, but it must not overlook all those ‘presentiments’ embodied where we would not expect them.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Holy Spirit, he said, knows no boundaries and parishes should therefore be open to all and not limit themselves “to considering only those who attend or think like you.”

“Allow everyone to enter... Allow yourselves to go out to meet them and allow yourselves to be questioned, let their questions be your questions, allow yourselves to walk together: the Spirit will lead you, trust the Spirit. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue and allow yourselves to be disturbed by the dialogue: it is the dialogue of salvation,” he said.

Concluding his address, Pope Francis urged members of Rome diocese to play an active role in the synod’s preparations.

“I have come here to encourage you to take this synodal process seriously and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. And this is true: the Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to him by listening to each other. Don’t leave anyone out or behind,” he said.

“It will be good for the Diocese of Rome and for the whole Church, which is strengthened not just by reforming structures -- that is the great deception! -- by giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, or through directives and programs -- this is good, but as part of something else -- but if it rediscovers that it is a people that wants to walk together, among ourselves and with humanity.”

He added: “But it is necessary to get out of the 3-4% that represents those closest to us, and go beyond that to listen to the others, who will sometimes insult you, they will chase you away, but it is necessary to hear what they think, without wanting to impose our things: let the Spirit speak to us.”

Argentine archbishop warns president: 'There is little time left' to avoid debacle

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez at the Holy See press office, Oct. 8, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 18, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández of La Plata warned Argentine president Alberto Fernández Thursday that his priorities, such as abortion, marijuana, euthanasia, and non-binary language, don’t respond to the "profound anguish" of the people.

"For the love of this wounded country, many of us hope that the President can revise in time the priorities on his agenda, to avoid a debacle that would end up harming our people even more," the Argentine prelate wrote in a Sept. 16 column in La Nación, an Argentine daily.

Archbishop Fernández said the Argentine president has been "all taken up with abortion, marijuana, and even euthanasia, while the poor and the middle class were deeply anguished with other things that have gotten no response."

“In recent months there has been a strong push to impose ‘non-binary’ language that in the sprawling slums no one seems to be interested in. Perhaps you want to copy the agenda of Spanish socialism, forgetting that we are here in Latin America, and to top it all, in the middle of a pandemic, where circumstances demand dealing with other more pressing issues.”

“At the end of last year, while neighboring countries were buying vaccines, here the Ministry of Health was in the middle of a passionate campaign for abortion. At least it must be recognized that it was not the right time nor the most pressing need,” the Archbishop of La Plata pointed out.

A law permitting elective abortion up to 14 weeks, pushed by the Fernandez administration, was adopted in December 2020.

The archbishop noted that many women whose need for abortion the government believed it was responding to, “were living from day to day, with their families torn apart, their children who had dropped out of school and had fallen into drugs and crime, and with money worth less every day.” 

"Thus the social agenda that could have characterized this government was blurred, and so a great opportunity was squandered," he lamented.

Inflation in Argentina is expected to reach 48.2% in 2021, with an economic growth rate of 6.8%.

Referring to the primary elections held over the weekend, Archbishop Fernández said that “the very low turnout by people who don’t feel represented by other political options but are too fed up to go out and vote” ought to grab one’s attention.

It speaks volumes “that in many poor neighborhoods 40% of the people didn’t vote, although in reality this campaign with few real proposals and many slogans didn’t enthuse anyone," he added.

Open primary elections were held last weekend in Argentina. According to the Spanish language edition of CNN, if the results are repeated in November in the general elections, Frente de Todos, the governing coalition, would lose the majority it holds in the Senate; it is already in the minority in the Chamber of Deputies.

The Archbishop of La Plata stressed that Fernández "still has time to give priority to major social problems," although he pointed out that "sometimes politics gets confused when it believes that talking about certain issues responds to the expectations of society, and in reality it is only flattering minority sectors close to it.”

"That’s not the Argentine people, and the votes seem to show it," he stressed.

"However, some members of the government itself seem to think that the solution is to become more radical, without seeing that this would be getting closer to the abyss," he lamented.

Archbishop Fernández then asked “who wouldn’t forgive the President for the misstep of the little party in Olivos if they had felt him closer to their real problems? The point is that he treated those who did the same as he did as ‘imbeciles,’ as well as when he asked for a respectful debate on abortion while calling those who thought differently ‘hypocrites.’”

Fernández’ domestic partner, Fabiola Yáñez, had organized a party July 14, amid a COVID-19    quarantine.

In April, the president said in reference to those who criticized the high number of COVID-19 cases in the country that “I hear these idiots saying that the infected are a political solution. Does anyone think that the one who governs a country gains by doing politics with the numbers of those infected? You have to be a total idiot to say those things or a very bad person.”

The Archbishop of La Plata noted that "our people are generous and are capable of giving another chance to those who know how to retrace their footsteps and get back on track."

“Hopefully this will be the case, so that an economy that has been damaged for several years can be rebuilt and we can begin to resolve the difficulties of the great majority that is suffering. There are already many people tired of waiting,” he concluded.

Archbishop Fernández' column was published one day after the resignation of all the ministers and senior officials representing Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in the cabinet, and amid a public confrontation between her and Fernández.

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading I 1 Tm 6:13-16

Beloved:
I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus,
who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate
for the noble confession,
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ
that the blessed and only ruler
will make manifest at the proper time,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light,
and whom no human being has seen or can see.
To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5

R. (2) Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Sing joyfully to the LORD all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him; bless his name.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
For he is good:
the LORD, whose kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

Alleluia See Lk 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 8:4-15

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. 
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable. 
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, 
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.