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VIDEO: A look at the beginning of the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone processes over the Golden Gate Bridge with the Eucharist on May 19, 2024. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 19:30 pm (CNA).

This past weekend saw the launch of the four legs of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, an unprecedented effort to walk with the Eucharist thousands of miles across the United States as a public witness to the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body of Jesus Christ. 

Catholics on four edges of the country — San Francisco, southern Texas, northern Minnesota, and Connecticut — took part in the celebrations to accompany the Eucharist as well as two dozen young pilgrims on their two-month journeys, which will culminate at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17–21.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is accompanying Jesus from city to city, lighting hearts on fire along the way. Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot
The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is accompanying Jesus from city to city, lighting hearts on fire along the way. Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot

From the North — The Marian Route

On Pentecost Sunday, an outdoor Mass at Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota brought a large crowd of some 2,000 people to celebrate their love for the Eucharist. Bishop Andrew Cozzens blessed the Marian Route pilgrims at the headwaters of the Mississippi River as they began their journey thousands of miles to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. 

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, blesses the crowd with the Eucharist in a monstrance during an outdoor Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 19, 2024, in Bemidji, Minnesota. The Mass at the headwaters of the Mississippi River marked the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, a four-route trek consisting of Eucharistic processions, community service and other events that culminates in July at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianpolis, Indiana. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, blesses the crowd with the Eucharist in a monstrance during an outdoor Pentecost Sunday Mass on May 19, 2024, in Bemidji, Minnesota. The Mass at the headwaters of the Mississippi River marked the start of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, a four-route trek consisting of Eucharistic processions, community service and other events that culminates in July at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianpolis, Indiana. Credit: Gianna Bonello/CNA

From the West — The Junipero Serra Route

The longest and arguably the most challenging of the four routes, the Junipero Serra Route, began in San Francisco. Following Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the faithful processed with the Eucharist over the Golden Gate Bridge’s iconic 1.7-mile span.

The pilgrimage winds its way through the streets of San Francisco. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The pilgrimage winds its way through the streets of San Francisco. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

From the South — The Juan Diego Route

In the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores celebrated Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral before pilgrims started on their journey amid 90-degree heat. The Juan Diego Route attracted many participants and has already included numerous stops for Eucharistic adoration in Brownsville, with the next major stop being Corpus Christi, the city named after the body of Christ. 

The Juan Diego Route began in Texas, winding its way through the Rio Grande Valley. Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot
The Juan Diego Route began in Texas, winding its way through the Rio Grande Valley. Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot

From the East — The Seton Route

The faithful began in New Haven, Connecticut, with a Pentecost Vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Christopher Coyne at St. Mary’s Church, the resting place of Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus. On Sunday morning, the procession culminated in a boat ride across the Long Island Sound, with chaplain Father Roger Landry keeping the Eucharist secure within the monstrance. 

View the entire roundup below from the EWTN News team.

Pope Francis appoints pontifical legate to 2024 International Eucharistic Congress

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. / Credit: Lucia Ballester/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, May 20, 2024 / 17:51 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life, as his special envoy for the 53rd International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), which will be held in Quito, Ecuador, from Sept. 8–15.

Farrell, 76, was born on Sept. 2, 1947. He was ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ on Dec. 24, 1978. Six years later, in 1984, he was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where he was named auxiliary bishop in December 2001.

He received episcopal consecration on Feb. 11, 2002. On March 6, 2007, Farrell was named bishop of Dallas, where he served until 2016, when he was named prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life.

Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinals at the Nov. 19, 2016, consistory.

Since 2019 Farrell is the “camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church,” the cardinal who presides over the Apostolic Chamber (office) and carries out the task of caring for and administering the temporal goods and rights of the Holy See during the interregnum after the death or resignation of the pope.

The congress, whose theme is “Fraternity to Heal the World,” was presented Monday in the Vatican pressroom.

In the presentation, Archbishop Alfredo Espinoza of Quito noted that this Eucharistic congress coincides with the 150th anniversary of the consecration of Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which made the South American country the first nation consecrated to Christ under this devotion.

After recalling that in 2021 they received the news that Quito would be the venue for the ecclesial event, Espinoza said that “the Eucharistic congress to be held in Quito ought to be a voice, with a Latin American accent, for the Church of the entire world.”

“It will be a voice of hope that is announced from this continent of hope. It will seek to be that prophetic voice that will proclaim to everyone that brotherhood is the only possible way to make and build a new world,” he emphasized.

Father Juan Carlos Garzón, secretary-general of the IEC, went on to discuss the foundational document for the Eucharistic congress, noting that “we live the urgency of a fraternity that springs from the Eucharistic experience and tends toward it as its end.”

Father Corrado Maggioni, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, reviewed the history of these events in the Church and explained how they are understood now.

“The re-understanding of the Eucharistic mystery that began with the liturgical movement and matured with the Second Vatican Council has also reoriented Eucharistic congresses to promote the inseparable link between the Mass and Eucharistic worship outside of it, paying attention to the lived experience,” the Italian priest highlighted.

In this way, “the Eucharistic congress has then become an opportunity to express the Church of the Eucharist in the light of Vatican II and the liturgical reform that followed.”

Topics to be discussed during the five days of the congress are: “Wounded World, Fraternity Redeemed in Christ, Eucharist and Transformation of the World, for a Synodal Church” and “Eucharist: Psalm of Fraternity.” 

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

Cardinal Pizzaballa meets with journalists to discuss visit to Catholic parish in Gaza 

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, listens to a question during the May 20, 2024, press briefing with a small group of journalists at the Latin Patriarchate headquarters in Jerusalem about his recent visit to visit the Catholic community in Gaza. / Credit: Marinella Bandini

Jerusalem, May 20, 2024 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

On Monday, May 20, the day after returning from the Catholic parish in northern Gaza, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa met with a small group of journalists at the patriarchate in Jerusalem to talk about his visit.

“I was comforted by meeting the community,” said Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. 

“The situation is very complicated,” he said, but “I found a well-organized, active community capable of living in this situation with the right attitude. I did not hear a word of anger. I heard words of pain, suffering, and lament — but not of anger or resentment. Everyone desires for the war to end. They told me, ‘We Christians don’t have violence in our blood, we can’t understand all of this.’ It seemed truly significant to me.”

Above all, Pizzaballa said he found a community that still knows how to look to the future, with concern but also with hope. 

“They are concerned about the future of the children, the school, the houses... It is important and urgent to give immediate and concrete answers in order to assure them that there is a future for them,” he said.

“From a humanitarian perspective, the situation has improved,” he said, even if “it doesn’t mean it’s good.” Many difficulties persist, and Christians, like the rest of the population, must contend with food shortages, a lack of basic sanitary conditions, psychological traumas, physical injuries, chronic illness, and the destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, speaks during a May 20, 2024, press briefing with a small group of journalists at the Latin Patriarchate headquarters about his recent visit to the Catholic community in Gaza. Credit: Marinella Bandini
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, speaks during a May 20, 2024, press briefing with a small group of journalists at the Latin Patriarchate headquarters about his recent visit to the Catholic community in Gaza. Credit: Marinella Bandini

According to a press release from the Latin Patriarchate issued today, the cardinal’s visit began on May 15.

Pizzaballa declined to provide logistical details or information regarding coordination with the Israeli Army that made the visit happen. However, he described the impact of entering Gaza.

“I’ve been there at least 10 times before the war,” he explained. “The first impression upon entering was one of disorientation, due to the extensive destruction. The streets are no longer the same; we passed through ruins, makeshift roads among piles of garbage. The places I was somewhat familiar with are unrecognizable. It is very difficult to find an intact house. We traveled in silence.”

Even if he had seen the images, “seeing it in person has a totally different impact,” he added. “You don’t just see the destruction but also the people living there, and this relationship touches the heart.”

During his stay in Gaza, “there were continuous fights and explosions, some of them closer, some other farther, but almost continuously. At first, it’s a bit daunting, but then you get used to it,” he said. “For them, it has become quite normal... even for the children.”

Pizzaballa met with the displaced Christian community, spoke with the faithful, celebrated Masses, and led prayers. He visited the cemetery, where he blessed the graves of the faithful departed, especially Nahida and Samar, the two women killed inside the parish compound on Dec. 16, 2023.

The patriarch also visited some destroyed parish structures and the Greek Orthodox parish of St. Porphyrius, and also blessed the bakery of a Christian family that has recently resumed its operations. He also celebrated the solemnity of Pentecost with the community of Gaza and administered the sacrament of confirmation to two young parishioners named George and Salama.

Among those who entered Gaza with Pizzaballa was Father Gabriel Romanelli, the parish priest of the Holy Family Church in Gaza, who has finally been reunited with his community. Additionally, Father Carlos Ferrero, the provincial of the Institute of the Incarnate Word; religious sisters from the Institute of the Incarnate Word; and two Missionaries of Charity sisters also entered and stayed at the parish in Gaza.

According to the Patriarchate, currently in the Catholic compound of the Holy Family there are just under 500 Christians, including 60 disabled children cared for by the sisters. In the Orthodox compound, there are about 130 Christians and 40 Muslims. About 40-50 Christians are stuck in the south of the Strip. There are only about 50 Catholics left in all of Gaza, almost all of whom are taking refuge at the Latin parish.

“I met all the families,” Pizzaballa told journalists. “It was necessary to be together, to try to listen to each person, to be with them. Even though we don’t have immediate solutions, it’s important to be there, to offer comfort, closeness, and solidarity. I wanted to assure them the support of the Church and that we’ll be there, we’re not disengaged at all, but we’ll keep helping them as much as we can according to the current situation.”

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during the May 20, 2024, press briefing with a small group of journalists at the Latin Patriarchate headquarters about his recent visit to visit the Catholic community in Gaza from May, 15-19, 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during the May 20, 2024, press briefing with a small group of journalists at the Latin Patriarchate headquarters about his recent visit to visit the Catholic community in Gaza from May, 15-19, 2024. Credit: Marinella Bandini

One of the concrete signs of this closeness comes from the Memorandum of Understanding signed on May 14 between the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Order of Malta, establishing a joint humanitarian mission. 

Leaders of the Knights of Malta have been in contact with the Patriarchate since November 2023, but at that time, it was not possible to consider an intervention, and no one could imagine that the war would last so long.

“Around Easter, we felt that it was time to do something,” Pizzaballa stated.

He added: “We want to establish a food and essential goods distribution center and a field hospital outside our compound, accessible to everyone.” The first aspect that needs to be addressed is that of essential goods.

“Some supplies are coming in; the issue lies with distribution,” the cardinal said. The other aspect is health care. 

“In the entire northern part of the Gaza Strip, there is only one operational hospital, which is not sufficient. The Knights of Malta are experts in field hospitals in war zones. What’s important is to start and then gradually expand to involve the collaboration of other institutions.”

“People are also asking for psychological support,” the Latin patriarch shared. “We are currently figuring out how to intervene in this regard. The traumatic impact of the war on the population is enormous.”

Pizzaballa made a further appeal for an end to the conflict.

“The sooner it ends, the sooner we can start rebuilding more peaceful solutions,” he said. 

Peoria Diocese to reduce the number of parishes in the diocese by half

Bishop Louis Tylka. / Credit: Screenshot from BshpLou Tylka YouTube channel

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 16:34 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, will have half as many parishes by 2026 as it does now, as part of a pastoral planning effort focused on helping the diocese “be more intentional in cultivating disciples.”

Bishop Louis Tylka announced on Saturday that between now and May 2026, the diocese will be reshaped from 156 parishes to 75 parishes, with 129 worship sites. The remaining parishes will be overseen by 71 diocesan and religious order pastors; 39 priests will be reassigned. 

The Peoria Diocese covers 26 counties in Illinois. Out of a total population of 1.4 million, nearly 11% of that population is Catholic, the diocese says.

The decision to drastically downsize the diocese comes amid declining Mass attendance there as well as a prediction of a shrinking number of priests. Seventy percent of the 145 total priests ministering in the diocese are over the age of 50. According to the diocese’s projections, in the next 10 years, there may be fewer than 100 active priests.

Mass attendance shrank 22% between 2019 and 2022, the diocese says, while infant baptisms are down 27% since 2015-2016. In addition, funerals are down 10% and Catholic marriages are down 34% since 2015-2016.

In announcing the pastoral planning initiative, “Growing Disciples,” in August 2022, Tylka said he launched the plan “so that we can not only meet the ministry challenges of today, but we can also grow a vibrant, sustainable mission-driven Church for the future.” 

“We must recognize that in each successive generation, we are called to read the signs of the times and, entrusting our discipleship to the Holy Spirit, discern the path forward,” Tylka said at the time.

“Looking to the landscape which surrounds us, we see that year after year, the soil is tilled, planted, nurtured, and yields good fruit … Likewise, in the Church, we must do the necessary tasks which will yield an abundant harvest for the kingdom of God.”

The diocese’s reorganization plan to greatly reduce the number of parishes is reminiscent of those undertaken in numerous others in the U.S., including much larger ones such as Chicago, PittsburghSt. Louis, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Many of those reorganizations — including the present one in Peoria — have been administered by the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) and consist of an extensive consultation process with parishioners and Catholic leaders. 

The Peoria Diocese has become well known as the home diocese of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a renowned 20th-century Catholic bishop and televangelist whose sainthood cause has progressed in recent years. Sheen was ordained and first served as a priest in the Peoria Diocese.

After three years of legal battles, in 2019 the Archdiocese of New York, where Sheen was buried after his death in 1979, released Sheen’s body to the Diocese of Peoria, where he is now buried.

Tylka said the pastoral planning process aims to incorporate the “five foundations” outlined in his message for Easter 2022 — evangelization, the Eucharist, discipleship, vocations, and the legacy of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

PHOTOS: Jesus crosses the Golden Gate Bridge at start of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

Archbishop Cordileone and the faithful from the Archdiocese of San Francisco process across the Golden Gate Bridge in the historic first eucharistic pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

San Francisco, Calif., May 20, 2024 / 16:02 pm (CNA).

I’d never been to California. There’s no particular reason. It’s just that I’ve never been.

My opinions about the Golden State are based on movies like “Dirty Harry” and “Point Break,” which I like very much. And then there’s Columbo.

All that, but then, the headlines about the societal crises facing California problems… Not loving the news part.

So, when I landed late Saturday night in San Francisco, I had no actual knowledge of the place. Bleary-eyed, I piloted my rental car over a freeway and on unfamiliar roads to a nice hotel a few blocks from the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

I was there to cover the launch of the western route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, the St. Junipero Serra Route.

I always joked with my wife, Alicia, that the reason I’ve never been to California is that if I went, I might never come back. And now, having spent a whopping 19 hours here… well, let’s just say the joke might be based on some truth.

Despite all of its problems, San Francisco is amazing. But I digress.

To be in a new city among faithful Catholics makes one feel right at home. And especially on the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.

It was beautiful, serene, and surreal to experience all of this on the day of the launch of the Eucharistic pilgrimages.

Until it wasn’t.

We (the media types) departed the cathedral along with the first procession to a nearby church where the Blessed Sacrament would be placed in a special vehicle that would take Christ to the Golden Gate Bridge, where he would be carried across in a procession.

When we arrived at the bridge, we received the most unwelcome news that any photographer or videographer could receive.

“They left.”

The procession departed without us.

We looked at one another in shock and panic, knowing that all of our sponsoring agencies wanted THAT shot. Without discussion or consensus, we all began sprinting toward the towering bridge.

The procession was nowhere to be seen, blocked by countless hundreds of tourists and those in procession.

We ran. We weaved. We apologetically plowed through the crowds.

And at about mid-span…

My eyes fell upon him, and gratitude filled my heart and soul.

Perhaps it’s a metaphor of sorts.

We were pursuing Christ.

Certainly, for the photo.

But maybe also so I could share this story.

We pursue him.

But we don’t need to, because he pursues us.

We need only to stop and turn to him.

If only we would.

I can’t tell you how many times he’s “showed up” when I needed him…

Which is always.

But if only we stop and turn to him.

It’s Pentecost.

It’s the beginning of the nationwide Eucharistic pilgrimages.

I’ll leave it at this.

You are loved beyond your wildest dreams.

You are pursued by the One who breathed life into your soul.

So stop.

Stop and turn to him.

And then run to his open arms.

Because our relationship with him is all that matters.

Period.

San Francisco’s growing on me. The climate seems nice. The hills are interesting. And I do love the bay…

But more than that, any place that brings me crashing into an encounter with Christ’s love?

Yep, sign me up for that.

The cathedral was filled to capacity. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The cathedral was filled to capacity. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Religious men and women from several orders were present for the Mass and pilgrimage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Religious men and women from several orders were present for the Mass and pilgrimage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
A new Mass setting, composed by Frank La Rocca, "Missa Pange Lingua: A Mass for Eucharistic Renaissance," premiered at the Mass. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
A new Mass setting, composed by Frank La Rocca, "Missa Pange Lingua: A Mass for Eucharistic Renaissance," premiered at the Mass. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The sacred moment of Consecration — the reason everyone was gathered. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The sacred moment of Consecration — the reason everyone was gathered. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
A young girl rests in her mother's arms. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
A young girl rests in her mother's arms. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The scale of the cathedral gives a tiny sense of the grandeur of God. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The scale of the cathedral gives a tiny sense of the grandeur of God. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The faithful departing the cathedral line up for the historic Eucharistic pilgirmage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The faithful departing the cathedral line up for the historic Eucharistic pilgirmage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And the first leg of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage gets underway. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And the first leg of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage gets underway. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The pilgrimage winds its way through the streets of San Francisco. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The pilgrimage winds its way through the streets of San Francisco. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
But they caught up. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
But they caught up. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And joyfully took part in capturing the beauty and majesty of the moment. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And joyfully took part in capturing the beauty and majesty of the moment. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And conclude with Benediction. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And conclude with Benediction. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And the hundreds that joined the will be remembered for making history and being the first to follow in the unprecedented, historic, and breathtaking first leg of the St. Junipero Serra Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
And the hundreds that joined the will be remembered for making history and being the first to follow in the unprecedented, historic, and breathtaking first leg of the St. Junipero Serra Eucharistic Pilgrimage. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

U.S. religious freedom watchdog’s new appointments include two Catholics

Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 15:14 pm (CNA).

The United States Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF) named five new commissioners on Friday, including two Catholics active in a variety of advocacy groups, according to a May 17 press release.

Maureen Ferguson and Stephen Schneck, both Catholics, were appointed to the USCIRF, a government organization that reviews violations of religious freedom around the world and makes policy recommendations to the executive branch and Congress.

Government restrictions on the practice of religion reached a new peak globally in 2021 while 55 countries (28% of the 198 countries reviewed) had “high” or “very high” levels of government restriction, according to a PEW 2024 report. In 2021, religious groups faced harassment by governments in 183 countries, the largest number since the study began. 

USCIRF recently called on the Biden administration to address the growing religious persecution worldwide after releasing its 2024 annual report, which recommended naming 17 countries to the U.S. State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Nigeria, and Vietnam. 

Appointed by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, Ferguson is a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, an organization that advocates for the free practice of religion in the U.S. and applies Catholic teaching to contemporary issues. She also serves on the advisory board of Belmont House, an initiative of Belmont Abbey College that works to “defend the practice of religion in the public square.” 

Ferguson serves on the advisory committee for the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, a University of Notre Dame initiative that “is committed to sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition through teaching, research, and public engagement at the highest level and across a range of disciplines,” according to its website

She is also a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, which organizes an annual nonpartisan prayer group that brings more than 1,500 people together in Washington, D.C., to pray for the nation.

Ferguson has written commentary on pro-life and family issues for the National Catholic Register and co-hosts the nationally syndicated radio show “Conversations with Consequences” on EWTN. 

Schneck, who was reappointed to the commission by President Joe Biden, is a retired political philosophy professor at the Catholic University of America, where he founded and directed the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. 

Schneck serves on the governing board of Catholic Climate Covenant, a U.S. organization that advocates for care for creation and climate action. He also is on the board of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, an organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.

Schneck previously directed the Franciscan Action Network, which advocates for economic, racial, and social justice, and he served under the Obama administration on the White House Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In addition to Ferguson, Vicky Hartzler and Asif Mahmood were newly appointed to the commission. Schneck was reappointed along with Eric Ueland, who was reappointed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Commissioner Susie Gelman’s term continues through May 2025. Gelman served as board chair of the Israel Policy Forum from 2016–2023.

Former commissioners whose terms ended this May include Abraham Cooper, David Curry, Frederick Davie, Mohamed Magid, Nury Turkel, and Frank Wolf.

Cardinal Hollerich urges caution, dialogue on women’s ordination

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator general of the 16th Annual General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, May 20, 2024 / 14:44 pm (CNA).

In a new interview, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, suggested that the Church’s position on female priests is not set in stone and should be discussed further, at the same time warning of triggering “a huge backlash.” 

Speaking to the official Swiss Catholic portal kath.ch on May 17, Hollerich, who is the archbishop of Luxembourg, said the prohibition against ordaining women was “not an infallible doctrinal decision” and could be changed over time with arguments.

“The way I see it, most bishops are in favor of a greater role for women in the Church,” the Jesuit cardinal said. “I am in favor of women feeling fully equal in the Church. And we will also work toward this. I don’t know if that necessarily has to include ordination to the priesthood. You can’t tie everything to the priesthood alone. That would be clericalization.”

When asked whether he thought Pope Francis would introduce female priests, Hollerich replied: “It’s very difficult to say. The pope is sometimes good for surprises.” 

The archbishop of Luxemburg added: “But I would actually say no. Shortly before the synod, there was a ‘dubia’ from a few cardinals. They asked whether John Paul II’s rejection of the priesthood of women was binding for the Church. Francis replied very wisely: It is binding, but not forever. And he also said that theology would have to discuss this further.”

The cardinal, who has previously courted controversy on doctrinal matters, emphasized the need for ongoing discussion. 

“It means that it is not an infallible doctrinal decision. It can be changed. It needs arguments and time,” Hollerich said. 

At the same time, the Jesuit cautioned against pushing too hard for changes, noting that “if you push too much, you won’t achieve much. You have to be cautious, take one step at a time, and then you might be able to go very far.”

The interview was conducted by Jacqueline Straub, who works for the official portal of the Church in Switzerland and publicly describes herself as “called to be a Roman Catholic priest.” 

Her assertion to Hollerich that women were forced to take a back seat in the Church was “based on a typically European principle of the individual,” the cardinal responded. 

Citing the example of blessing homosexual couples after Fiducia Supplicans, Hollerich warned of a potentially “huge backlash” if the Vatican were to introduce the ordination of women to the priesthood. 

“We have to have these discussions with the whole Church; otherwise, we will have huge problems later. Then the Catholic Church will fall apart.”

In 1994, Pope John Paul II, citing the Church’s traditional teaching, declared in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Pope Francis to travel to Luxembourg and Belgium in September

Queen Mathilde of Belgium meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with her husband, King Philippe of the Belgians, on Sept. 14, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 20, 2024 / 14:06 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis will visit Luxembourg and Belgium at the end of September.

The pope will make a one-day stopover in Luxembourg on Sept. 26 before visiting three cities in Belgium to mark the 600th anniversary of the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve from Sept. 26–29.

According to a website launched by the Catholic Church in Belgium, Pope Francis is expected to preside over a Sunday Mass in Brussels on Sept. 29 before heading back to Rome. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope’s full schedule will be released at a later date. 

The pope’s European trip comes less than two weeks after he is scheduled to make an ambitious 12-day journey to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore, the longest international trip since he was elected pope 11 years ago.

In total, Pope Francis is planning to visit six countries in the month of September after nearly a year of no international travel. 

The 87-year-old has slowed down his schedule in recent months as health issues have forced him to cancel some public appearances and travels, including a planned trip to Abu Dhabi in December. Francis, who often uses a wheelchair, has not traveled internationally since September 2023, opting instead to make pastoral visits within Italy to the northern cities of Venice and Verona in the first half of 2024.

Pope Francis first expressed his intention to visit Belgium during an interview with the Mexican television network Televisa broadcast in December. 

The Church in Belgium is grappling with a profound fallout from public outrage over the handling of clerical sexual abuse scandals. In March, Pope Francis laicized the bishop emeritus of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, many years after the former prelate admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his nephews.

A previous archbishop of Brussels, the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, reportedly called on a victim of Vangheluwe’s abuse to remain silent.

Archbishop Luc Terlinden of Mechelen-Brussels issued an apology to abuse survivors and expressed deep regret over the inclusion of reportedly three perpetrators of sexual abuse on an electoral list for the council of priests earlier this month. 

According to the Church in Belgium’s 2023 annual report, 1,270 Catholics requested for their names to be removed from the baptismal register last year.

The pope received King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium in a formal audience at the  Vatican’s Apostolic Palace last fall. 

Philippe, who ascended the Belgian throne 10 years ago, holds the title “Rex Catholicissimus,” or “(Most) Catholic Majesty,” and the queen is one of only a few women in the world who can wear white, rather than the customary black, when meeting the pope, a papal privilege referred to as the “privilège du blanc.”

The confirmation of the pope’s trip to Belgium makes the possibility of the pope visiting New York at the end of September to address the United Nations less likely.

Here’s what Pope Francis said in his ‘60 Minutes’ interview

In an interview with "60 Minutes" anchor Norah O'Donnell, Pope Francis discusses a wide range of issues. / Credit: CBS News/Adam Verdugo

CNA Staff, May 20, 2024 / 13:26 pm (CNA).

In his first in-depth interview with a U.S. broadcast network, Pope Francis addressed a wide range of topics, including the war in Ukraine, antisemitism, and U.S. immigration policy. 

A portion of the full interview, which will air Monday evening on CBS, aired Sunday evening on the network’s flagship magazine program, “60 Minutes.”

In the segment, the pope answered questions from “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell through a translator. CNA translated Pope Francis’ answers below from the original Spanish.

On the threat of famine in Gaza ahead of World Children’s Day: 

“[The threat is] not just in Gaza. Think of Ukraine. Many kids from Ukraine come here. You know something? That those children don’t know how to smile? I’ll say something to them [mimics smile]… They have forgotten how to smile. And that is very painful.”

On wars in Ukraine and elsewhere:

“Please, warring countries, all of them, stop. Stop the war. Seek to negotiate. Strive for peace. A negotiated peace is always better than an endless war.”

On growing antisemitism in the U.S. amid the Israel-Hamas war:

“All ideology is bad. And antisemitism is an ideology, and it is bad. Any ‘anti’ is always bad. You can criticize one government or the other, the government of Israel, the Palestinian government. You can criticize all you want, but not ‘anti’ a people. Neither anti-Palestinian nor antisemitic. No. … I pray a lot for peace. And also suggest, ‘Please, stop. Negotiate.’”

On immigration: 

“Migration is something that makes a country grow. [To O’Donnell:] They say that you Irish migrated and brought the whiskey, and that the Italians migrated and brought the mafia… [laugh] It’s a joke. Don’t take it badly. But, migrants sometimes suffer a lot. They suffer a lot.”

On Texas state effort to revoke registration of migrant-serving Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas: 

“That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness. The migrant has to be received. Then you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely.”

On the “globalization of indifference”:

“Do you want me to state it plainly? People wash their hands! There are so many Pontius Pilates on the loose out there… who see what is happening, the wars, the injustice, the crimes… ‘That’s OK, that’s OK’ and wash their hands. It’s indifference. That is what happens when the heart hardens… and becomes indifferent. Please, we have to get our hearts to feel again. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of such dramas of humanity. The globalization of indifference is a very ugly disease. Very ugly.”

On sexual abuse cases in the Church:

“[The Church] must continue working. Unfortunately, the tragedy of the abuses is enormous. And against this, an upright conscience and not only to not permit it but to put in place the conditions so that it does not happen. … It cannot be tolerated. When there is a case of a consecrated man or woman who abuses, the full force of the law falls upon them. In this there has been a great deal of progress.”

On the Vatican’s controversial Fiducia Supplicans document allowing for limited pastoral blessings of same-sex couples: 

“What I allowed was not to bless the union. That cannot be done because that is not a sacrament. I cannot. The Lord made it that way. But to bless each person, yes. The blessing is for everyone. For everyone. To bless a homosexual-type union, however, goes against the law; the natural law, the law of the Church. But to bless each person, why not? The blessing is for all. Some people were scandalized by this. But why? For everyone! Everyone!”

When asked about criticisms from “conservative” bishops in the United States:

“You use the adjective ‘conservatives.’ That is to say, a conservative is one who sticks to something and does not want to see anything else. It is a suicidal attitude. Because one thing is to take tradition into account, to take into account situations from the past, but another is to be closed inside a dogmatic box.”

On gestational surrogacy, which is forbidden by the Catholic Church: 

“In regard to surrogate motherhood, in the strictest technical sense of the term, no, it cannot happen. Sometimes surrogacy has become a business, and that is very bad. It is very bad. ... The other hope is adoption. I would say that in each case the situation should be clearly considered, considered medically and then morally. I believe in these cases there is a general rule, but you have to go into each case in particular to assess the situation, as long as the moral principle is not skirted.”

On giving hope to others as the pope: 

“You have to be open to everything. The Church is like that: Everyone, everyone, everyone. ‘That so-and-so is a sinner…?’ Me too, I am a sinner. Everyone! The Gospel is for everyone. If the Church places a customs officer at the door, that is no longer the church of Christ. Everyone.”

When asked what gives him hope: 

“Everything. You see tragedies, but you also see so many beautiful things. You see heroic mothers, heroic men, men who have hopes and dreams, women who look to the future. That gives me a lot of hope. People want to live. People forge ahead. And people are fundamentally good. We are all fundamentally good. Yes, there are some rogues and sinners, but the heart is good.”

International Jérôme Lejeune bioethics conference highlights crucial life and health issues

The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune held its second annual international conference in Rome on May 17-18, 2024, to reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life. / Credit: The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune

Rome, Italy, May 20, 2024 / 11:53 am (CNA).

The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune held its second annual international conference in Rome on May 17–18 to reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life.

Jérôme Lejeune, who discovered Trisomony 21 in 1958 (which causes Down syndrome), has been described as a prophetic “father of bioethics” and his legacy continues to steer the direction of bioethical thought within the Catholic Church worldwide.

“Bioethics is an interdisciplinary science,” said Dr. Mónica López Barahona, president of the International Chair of Bioethics Jerome Lejeune. “We have tried to address [bioethics] with different experts from different fields in order to give some light on different subjects. That was the way that Professor Lejeune addressed issues — from science to ethics — and that’s why we decided to organize this meeting in this way of reflection.” 

Participants at the second annual international bioethics conference named after Jérôme Lejeune in Rome on May 17-18, 2024, reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life. Credit: The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune
Participants at the second annual international bioethics conference named after Jérôme Lejeune in Rome on May 17-18, 2024, reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life. Credit: The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune

Approximately 45 international speakers from 16 countries discussed critical issues surrounding scientific practices at the two-day conference including gene editing in humans and across species (CRISPR experiments), sex selection, assisted reproduction techniques, prenatal testing and diagnosis, neonatal care, euthanasia, and gender-affirming surgery.

On the opening day, Professor O. Carter Snead, an American legal scholar and bioethicist from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, shared insights from his book “What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics,” and invited conference participants to first consider the “anthropological question [about human nature, human flourishing, and human identity]” as a framework to examine the conference topics and case studies.

Snead stated that current laws and policies related to abortion, assisted reproduction, and end-of-life decisions in the U.S. and abroad reflect a reductive “expressive individualism” as described by philosopher Charles Taylor and sociologist Robert Bellah, whereby a person’s worth is primarily defined according to “their capacity to choose life pathways” and pursue personal projects.

“Expressive individualism doesn’t take our embodiment or incarnational nature into account. It can’t make sense of our vulnerability, our reciprocal dependence, and our natural limits,” Snead explained. “It leaves entirely out of the field of view the weakest and most vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled, children both born and unborn.” 

More than 400 people from 19 countries across five continents attended the congress in person or online to listen to academics, researchers, medical doctors, health care specialists, as well as family members whose lives had been directly impacted by the work and example of Lejeune.  

“Never in my life would I have thought that a doctor, much less a prominent one, would have the humility to contact the mother of a child from a foreign country to spare them a trip to Paris,” recalled Domitília Antão, a mother of a child with Trisomy 21. “I will never forget his gaze, which immediately infused hope in our discouraged hearts. We were amazed by such simplicity considering his great competence, so much tenderness. We were treated like his family.”  

Participants at the second annual international bioethics conference named after Jérôme Lejeune in Rome on May 17-18, 2024, reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life. Credit: The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune
Participants at the second annual international bioethics conference named after Jérôme Lejeune in Rome on May 17-18, 2024, reflect on the bioethical challenges surrounding the health and care of people at different stages of life. Credit: The International Chair of Bioethics Jérôme Lejeune

Thirty years since his death, institutes inspired by Lejeune’s dedicated work and care of his patients have been established around the world, including the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune and the Association des Amis du Pr. Jerome Lejeune in France, and the Asociacion de Medicos Jérôme Lejeune in Spain.  

“My hope is really that, first, the figure of Professor Lejeune will be well known all over the world and that the conclusions of the congress — in the different subjects that we have addressed — may be transmitted and translated into the different fields in the different countries all over the world,” Barahona told CNA.

In 1994, only 33 days after his appointment as the first president of the then-newly established Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope John Paul II, Lejeune died from lung cancer on Easter Sunday. Pope Francis advanced his cause for canonization after declaring Lejeune “venerable” within the Catholic Church in 2021.