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Pope Francis donates ambulance, opens war trauma center in Ukraine

Pope Francis blesses the ambulance that he donated in June 2024 to to treat the wounded in Ukraine’s Ternopil region. / Credit: Dicastery for the Service of Charity

Rome Newsroom, Jun 25, 2024 / 13:15 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has announced the opening of a war trauma rehabilitation center this month in Ukraine named after St. John Paul II.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner and prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Service of Charity, is traveling to Ukraine to inaugurate the clinic on the pope’s behalf.

The cardinal will also personally deliver an ambulance filled with medical supplies that was donated by Pope Francis to treat the wounded in Ukraine’s Ternopil region.

“In the Ternopil region, due to the continuing war, numerous convoys arrive daily carrying civilians and soldiers forced to flee the border area with Russia, where hostilities are most bloody,” the announcement from the Vatican’s charity dicastery said on June 24.

“This ambulance will also be a valuable tool to support relief workers treating injured people.”

It will be Krajewski’s eighth trip to Ukraine since the war broke out. On one of his prior trips, the cardinal was shot at as he delivered humanitarian aid near the city of Zaporizhzhia.

According to the Vatican’s charity dicastery, the St. John Paul II Rehabilitation Center, located in Vinnytsia in the Diocese of Kamyanets-Podilskyy, will provide both physical and psychological rehabilitation for soldiers and their families who have suffered from war trauma.

The clinic, created with contributions from the Papal Foundation and Aid to the Church in Need, will be open to all “without any distinction of faith, nationality, or exclusion,” according to Pope Francis’ wishes.

Pope Francis has already donated two other ambulances that are being used to provide medical assistance and humanitarian relief in other parts of Ukraine.

Pope Francis meets with Opus Dei prelate Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz

Pope Francis meets with the prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, at the Vatican on June 24, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 24, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The press office of the Holy See reported that Pope Francis received on Monday the “moderator general” of Opus Dei, Monsignor Fernando de Ocáriz, accompanied by Monsignor Mariano Fazio, auxiliary vicar of the prelature.

The name “moderator general” has been used since the last motu proprio of Pope Francis regarding Opus Dei and is used interchangeably with the traditional name of prelate, as explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish- language news partner, by Clara Fontan of the communications office of Opus Dei in Rome.

The prelature reported on its website that “during the audience, the prelate informed the pope about the work being carried out with the Dicastery for the Clergy for the adaptation of the statutes, underlining the family atmosphere and open dialogue with which these tasks are being carried out. The pope encouraged them to continue working with this attitude of dialogue and cooperation.”

The prelature said that Ocáriz also explained to Pope Francis “some aspects of the preparation for the centennial of Opus Dei” to be celebrated in 2028. In particular, he referred to the “regional assemblies” taking place throughout this year with the participation of “all the members of Opus Dei together with many friends and cooperators.”

Ocáriz also conveyed to Pope Francis details about the trip he will soon make to South America.

“The pope encouraged him to be very close to the people, especially in countries where there is more suffering, or where the work of evangelization is more difficult,” and recalled the self-sacrificing work being done by various members of Opus Dei in those countries, the prelature indicated.

“The audience, which lasted about half an hour, took place in an atmosphere of warmth and affection on the part of the Holy Father, who gave the prelate and the auxiliary vicar his affectionate blessing,” the prelature concluded.

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

Pope Francis appoints Gänswein to diplomatic role in Baltic states

Archbishop Georg Gänswein was the personal secretary of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. / Credit: Bohumil Petrík

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2024 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the former private secretary to the late Pope Benedict XVI, to a diplomatic role in the Baltic states.

The Vatican announced Monday that Gänswein will serve as the apostolic nuncio, or papal ambassador, to Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.

The appointment comes after months of speculation and rumor across Rome and the Church in Germany as to Gänswein’s future after the death of Benedict XVI.

The relationship between Gänswein and the current pope has been notably strained. In a recent Spanish-language interview book, “El Sucesor,” Pope Francis went so far as to say Benedict was “being used” by Gänswein in the context of the publication of a “tell-all” book.

Last year, Pope Francis instructed Gänswein to return to Germany, leaving him without any official role in the Church. The 67-year-old has resided in his home region of the Archdiocese of Freiburg in southern Germany since July 2023, where he is an honorary canon in the Freiburg cathedral.

Before his departure from the Eternal City, Gänswein spent many years in Rome. He served as Benedict XVI’s personal secretary from 2003 until the Bavarian pope’s death on Dec. 31, 2022. Benedict also appointed him to serve as the prefect of the papal household in 2012, a role he carried into the pontificate of Pope Francis and concluded in February 2023.

Hailing from the Black Forest region of Germany, the son of a blacksmith was ordained a priest in 1984 by Archbishop Oskar Saier in Freiburg and holds a doctorate in canon law from Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.

As apostolic nuncio to the Baltic states, Gänswein will serve as the permanent diplomatic representation of the Holy See and will perform similar duties to an ambassador.

The Baltic countries have a substantial Christian population. According to the Pew Research Center, 93% of Lithuanians are Christian with 75% of adults identifying as Catholic. Latvia and Estonia both have considerable Orthodox and Lutheran populations with Catholics only making up 1% of Estonia’s population.

Mass attendance is low across the Baltic states with only 7% of Catholics in Latvia and 10% in Lithuania saying they attend Mass weekly.

Gänswein succeeds Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, who served as the nuncio to the Baltic states until Pope Francis reassigned him as apostolic nuncio to Austria in 2019.

‘Summer Christmas’: Why does the Church celebrate the birthday of St. John the Baptist?

Statue of St. John the Baptist with golden cross, Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic. / Credit: Oldrich Barak/Shutterstock

Rome Newsroom, Jun 24, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, is one of only three people in history — after Jesus and Mary — whose birthday is celebrated in the Church’s liturgy.

In fact, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24 is a solemnity, meaning it is the highest form of Catholic feast day. And because it falls exactly six months before the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, it is sometimes known as “summer Christmas.”

“The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s,” St. Augustine of Hippo said in his sermon 293

In the Mass for the solemnity, the priest prays to God in the preface, that in Christ’s precursor, “St. John the Baptist, we praise your great glory, for you consecrated him for a singular honor among those born of women.”

“His birth brought great rejoicing; even in the womb he leapt for joy at the coming of human salvation. He alone of all the prophets pointed out the Lamb of redemption,” the prayer continues. “And to make holy the flowing waters, he baptized the very author of baptism and was privileged to bear him supreme witness by the shedding of his blood.”

St. Augustine explained that “John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, ‘The Law and the prophets were until John.’ So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb.”

John’s connection to Christ

Father Mauro Gagliardi, a theologian and liturgist who teaches in Rome, wrote in a 2009 article on Zenit that it is important to emphasize John the Baptist’s role as “Indicator.” John is “a prophet who refers back to Christ.”

The liturgy, Gagliardi said, does the same thing, and thus the June 24 solemnity “reminds us of this: The Christian liturgy is a powerful Indicator of Christ to the peoples, like [John] the Baptist.”

John the Baptist’s feast day also has cosmic connections, the theologian pointed out. The fact that June 24 is close to the summer solstice demonstrates the fulfillment of the prophecy in John 3:30 that “he must increase; I must decrease,” since after John’s birthday the days get shorter, or “decrease,” while after Jesus’ birthday on Dec. 25, the days get longer, or “increase.”

“This interweaving between a figure from the history of salvation — John — and the cosmic rhythms (both guided by the same God) has found a fruitful development in the devotion and liturgy of the Church,” Gagliardi said.

Popular customs of ‘summer Christmas’

The Church’s liturgical commemoration of St. John the Baptist dates back to the fourth century.

Acknowledgement of the saint’s importance can also be noted in his shared patronage, together with St. John the Apostle, of Rome’s Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which is also the seat of the bishop of Rome, that is, the pope.

The night of June 23 is known in some countries, including Italy, as “St. John’s Eve.” Due to the solemnity’s timing, shortly after the summer solstice, some of the practices connected to the feast have a pagan character, including that some refer to it as “the Night of the Witches.”

Modern-day secular festivities may include concerts and theatrical performances, while Catholics usually celebrate Mass and hold religious processions.

One of the most typical customs related to St. John’s Eve, both secular and religious, is the bonfire, called in some countries “St. John’s Fires,” which are lit in honor of the saint who “was not the light, but came to testify to the light (Jn 1:8).” Fireworks or candle-lit processions can also take the place of bonfires.

In an Angelus message on June 25, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said the feast of St. John the Baptist “reminds us that our life is entirely and always ‘relative’ to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps, and friends we are.”

“‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jn 3:30): The Baptist’s words are a program for every Christian,” Benedict said.

Pope Francis: Jesus in the Eucharist strengthens us in times of trial

Pope Francis delivers a message to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 23, 2024 / 10:26 am (CNA).

Jesus does not spare us from difficulties but strengthens us with the Eucharist to have the courage to face them, Pope Francis said in his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on June 23, Pope Francis asked the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on how they usually deal with times of trial.

“When a storm arrives, do I let myself be overwhelmed by the turmoil or do I cling to him … to find calm and peace, in prayer, silence, listening to the Word, adoration, and fraternal sharing of faith?” the pope asked.

Pope Francis urged people to remember that Jesus is always with us to come to our aid, particularly in the Eucharist.

“In the Eucharist, he gathers us around him, he gives us his word, he nourishes with his body and his blood, and then he invites us to set sail, to transmit everything we have heard and to share what we have received with everyone, in everyday life, even when it is difficult,” the pope said.

“Jesus does not spare us contrarieties but, without ever abandoning us, he helps us face them,” Francis added. 

“So we too, overcoming them with his help, learn more and more to hold onto him, to trust in  his power, which goes far beyond our capacities, to overcome uncertainties and hesitations, closures and preconceptions, and to do this with courage and greatness of heart, to tell everyone that the kingdom of heaven is present, it is here, and that with Jesus at our side we can make it grow together, beyond all barriers.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pointing to the Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus and his disciples being caught in a storm on Lake Tiberias, the pope noted that it was Jesus himself who told the disciples to get on the boat and cross the lake.

“Why does he do this?” Pope Francis asked. “To strengthen the faith of the disciples and to make them more courageous.”

“Indeed, the disciples come out of this experience more aware of the power of Jesus and his presence in their midst, and therefore stronger and readier to face other obstacles and difficulties, including the fear of venturing out to proclaim the Gospel,” he said.

“Having overcome this trial with him, they will know how to face many others, even to the cross and martyrdom, to bring the Gospel to all peoples.”

Pope Francis invoked the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who welcomed God’s will with humility and courage, to provide us with the serenity to surrender to God in difficult moments.

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis greeted the participants in Italy’s March for Life, which drew thousands of people to Rome on Saturday. 

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on June 23, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

As the pope offered greetings to the visiting pilgrim groups, Francis pointed out the group in St. Peter’s Square that was holding up an Israeli flag next to a Vatican flag.

Pope Francis said that the Israeli flag was a reminder to pray for peace in Gaza and other parts of the world that are experiencing war and violence. He repeatedly asked people to pray for peace in Palestine and Israel as well as in Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The pope also remembered a Franciscan priest in Rome who had served as his confessor, Father Manuel Blanco Rodríguez, who died a few days ago.

“Remembering him,” he said, “I would like to remember the many Franciscan brothers, confessors, and preachers who have honored and continue to honor the Church of Rome.”

Pope Francis names Chinese bishop who attended Synod to Archdiocese of Hangzhou

Bishop Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun (right) of the People's Republic of China at the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican in October 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang to lead the Archdiocese of Hangzhou in China, transferring him from the Diocese of Zhoucun, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The June 12 nomination took place “within the framework of dialogue concerning the implementation of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican’s June 22 press release said.

The new archbishop was one of two bishops from mainland China to participate in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

He has led the Zhoucun Diocese in Shandong Province since 2013.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists last year that Yang and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated to attend the synod by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government.

Yang was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995. He was named a bishop by papal mandate in November 2010, and his consecration as bishop took place a little over two years later, in February 2013. 

He was elected vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016.

The Archdiocese of Hangzhou is located in the province of Zhejiang on the eastern coast of China. The province’s capital city of Hangzhou has an estimated population of nearly 12 million people, according to a 2020 census.

The archdiocese did not have a bishop with a papal mandate from 1956 to 2008. It was previously led by Archbishop Matthew Cao Xiangde, who was appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained without Vatican permission in 2000. In 2008, at his request, the Holy See recognized the bishop’s episcopal consecration but not his jurisdiction over the archdiocese.

Matthew Cao Xiangde died in July 2021 at the age of 93.

Statistics from the 1950s estimated the number of Catholics in the archdiocese to be only .4% of the total population.

Vatican’s secretary of state rues Russia’s absence at Ukraine peace conference

The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends a plenary session at the summit on peace in Ukraine at the luxury Burgenstock resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 16, 2024. / Credit: ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin this week appealed for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine amid their ongoing war while noting the absence of Russia at the Swiss conference on peace in Ukraine. 

“Peace is always made together,” he said June 19 as reported by Vatican News. 

Parolin led an observer delegation from the Vatican to the Conference for Peace in Ukraine, held in Switzerland June 15–16. About 100 delegations, mostly from Western countries, attended the conference, AP News reported. Russia was not invited.

Parolin in a statement following the conference reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to maintain “regular communication with the Ukrainian and Russian authorities” and assist in potential mediation initiatives, Vatican News said.

Parolin also said the Holy See is greatly concerned about the tragic humanitarian consequences of the war “and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians.”

“On behalf of Pope Francis,” Parolin concluded, “I wish to confirm his personal closeness to the tormented Ukrainian people and his unwavering commitment to peace.“

Pope Francis, and Parolin, have repeatedly called for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as a means of brokering peace in the now two-year-long Russian war of aggression. However, the pope faced criticism when on March 20 he suggested that “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said. At the time, Parolin issued clarifying remarks in an interview with Corriere della Sera, saying that it is incumbent upon Russia “as the aggressor” to “put an end to the aggression.”

In his more recent remarks, Parolin said that in the face of war, it is crucial to continue to seek ways to end the conflict “with good intentions, trust, and creativity.”

Parolin has in the past reiterated that Ukraine has a “legitimate” right to defend itself from Russian aggression, but he also has warned that weapons being sent there by other countries could lead to a “terrible” escalation of the war.

In mid-2023, Pope Francis asked Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine. However, Parolin has since clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal.

Diocese of Rome closes first step toward sainthood for young wife and mother

An attendee holds a photo of Chiara Corbella Petrillo at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome on Friday officially closed the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a joyful 28-year-old wife and mother who died from cancer in 2012 in Rome.

“We strongly trust that the Church, after a careful and accurate discernment of her life and virtues, will want to soon celebrate also on Earth this daughter of our Church of Rome and propose her as an example of Christian life to contemporary Christian generations,” Bishop Baldassare Reina said at the closing ceremony June 21.

Reina, vice regent of the Diocese of Rome, presided over the session in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the inquiry was opened nearly six years ago on Sept. 21, 2018.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella, Reina said, shows us that “holiness is possible and it is the only path that makes us happy. Let us enjoy, or rather I would say, let us savor this moment, with all the processes that will be explained to us.”

Hundreds of people attended the session despite temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city of Rome. More than 3,000 people also watched a video livestream of the event on the YouTube page of the diocese.

The servant of God’s family sat in the first row of the basilica for the ceremony and included Corbella’s husband, Enrico Petrillo; their 13-year-old son, Francesco Petrillo; her parents Roberto Corbella and Maria Anselma Ruzziconi; and her sister Elisa Corbella.

In an interview before the session, Enrico Petrillo told CNA the closing of the diocesan phase for beatification “brings me so much peace.”

“The most beautiful testimony, he said, is this one made by the Church herself, because it is necessary for the Church to say, ‘Yes, what you have experienced is really something great.’” 

During the closing session on Friday, diocesan officials tied up the documents and sealed them with wax. The beatitudes were also read and everyone sang hymns and prayed together the Our Father and the Glory Be in thanksgiving for the life of Corbella.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella’s cause for beatification was opened exactly five years after her death, following the requirements of canon law.

With the closing of the diocesan investigation into her life, virtues, and sanctity, documented testimonies and other materials will now be sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further scrutiny.

The next step in the process will be for the pope to recognize her as someone who lived a life of heroic virtue and declare her venerable. Corbella will then need two miracles attributed to her intercession to be declared a saint. 

Corbella’s life and message

Corbella met her husband at the age of 18 while on a pilgrimage to Međugorje. They married six years later in Assisi on Sept. 21, 2008. Within the first two years of their marriage, they suffered the death of two children, Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, both of whom died less than an hour after birth from incurable disabilities.

Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Despite receiving the terminal diagnoses in pregnancy, Corbella chose to carry her babies to term.

Enrico Petrillo told CNA on June 21 that the couple made the decision to let their babies die a natural death in their parents’ arms because “for us they were lives, they existed and they were not problems to be eliminated. ... This, in my opinion, is a core part of our experience: the fact of safeguarding life.”

Sometimes Catholics use the language to “defend life,” he continued. “Life is not even to be defended, it is to be guarded, which is perhaps a nuance, but it is a nuance that Chiara helps us to grasp, because those who ‘defend’ have enemies. We don’t have any enemies and we embraced [the story] the Lord was writing.”

Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“That is why it did not feel right,” he said, “to substitute ourselves for what the King of History was thinking of for us, because we knew, because we sensed, that it could be the most beautiful thing.”

Corbella became pregnant for a third time with their son Francesco in 2010 and ultrasounds showed that he was in perfect health. The joyful news was short-lived as Corbella was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors removed a tumor on her tongue that turned out to be cancerous.

As the cancer metastasized, it became difficult for Corbella to speak and see clearly. A photo of her wearing an eye patch with a big smile was taken in April 2012, less than two weeks after she learned that her condition was terminal. She prepared for death by receiving the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Corbella died on June 13, 2012, at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends, one year after her son was born. Hundreds of people packed into the filled church at her funeral three days later.

“The most beautiful message” Corbella reveals to the world “is that we are all children like her,” Enrico Petrillo told CNA.

“And so, these years and all that we experienced help to make people understand that Chiara is not a holy card to put on an altar,” he continued. “She is like us, she is a daughter like us, she is not ... a heroine or a superhero, but she is simply a girl who knows that she is loved by God and because of that she can do anything.”

In a speech at the closing session, Reina, who is also an auxiliary bishop of Rome, recalled an important moment in the young life of Corbella. During a difficult period before her marriage to Enrico, a spiritual adviser told Corbella: “When God opens a door, no one closes it, and when God closes it, no one opens it.”

It was a reference, Reina said, to Revelation 3:7: “‘The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open.’”

Corbella wrote that “this word changed my life,” Reina said. “From that moment on, Chiara understood God as the king of history, but above all as the king of her own personal story.”

“That which God thought good, beautiful, or holy for her life, he would realize, and because of this, she should not be discouraged, nor have fear, because despite sin, trials and tribulations, sickness, and death, God is faithful!” the bishop continued.

“That verse of Revelation,” he said, “would be the hermeneutic key to understanding everything that would happen: The Lord would give to her the husband, children, time, and health in the measure that he always thought of for her.”

“Her desire to be a wife and mom, to grow old together with her husband and to raise their children, would not be realized according to her human aspirations, but in the measure and way that God had planned and without depriving her of his happiness,” the bishop said.

Corbella’s father, Roberto Corbella, told CNA on June 21: “I always say that we are lucky parents, because every day, in the news, we hear about young kids who have died in violent situations ... meanwhile [Chiara] left with a smile, meanwhile she left after telling us all, ‘I love you.’”

“Then, the fact that we see that so many people in the world rely on her helps us to accept [her death] better, in the sense that it’s clear that I would rather ... still have her sitting on my lap,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But seeing so many people ask for help certainly makes us accept everything much better.”

Pope Francis advances martyred Albanian priests along path to sainthood

Father Luigi Paliq (left) and Father Gjon Gazulli were declared martyrs by Pope Francis on June 20, 2024. / Credit: Screen capture from aciprensa.com of photo courtesy of The Order of Friars Minor, Episcopal Conference of Albania

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 13:51 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday advanced the cause for sainthood for two martyred Catholic priests who were killed “in hatred of the faith” in Albania in the first decades of the 20th century.

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints made the announcement of the priests’ martyrdom and subsequent beatification in a press release on Thursday. When the pope declares that a person was martyred for the faith, that individual is beatified, and the title “Blessed” is granted.

Father Luigj Paliq was murdered in Albania in 1913, and Father Gjon Gazulli was killed in 1927. In 2016, Pope Francis beatified 38 Albanian clerics and lay Catholics who were martyred under the country’s communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

Paliq, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor in Cortemaggiore, was the rector of the Franciscan Convent of Gjakova. He defended local populations, including Muslims, from the persecutions of the Montenegrin forces that took control of the region after the First Balkan War. 

He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Montenegrins on March 7, 1913. Before his death, he “confirmed his full willingness to die for Christ and for the Church,” with his last words to that effect “heard and reported by those who had witnessed his shooting.”

Gazulli was born in Dajc, Albania, in 1893. He entered the Pontifical Seminary of Skorka at age 12, being ordained a priest in 1919 after overcoming several health problems. 

He established a parochial school in the Koman region of Albania; eventually, he drew the ire of local authorities due to the religious influence he held over priests and other locals.

Arrested by the government, he was “subjected to a farce trial” and convicted on false charges. He was hanged in the square in Skorko on March 5, 1927. 

The priest died “by forgiving his killers and professing his loyalty to Christ and the Church,” the dicastery said. 

The dicastery on Thursday also put several other faithful on the path to being declared saints, including recognizing the heroic virtues of Servant of God Isaiah Columbro, an Italian priest who during his life was “much sought after for his prayers and blessings.” 

Columbro was “above all esteemed and well-liked for the indefatigable exercise of the sacrament of penance.” He died in 2004.

The Vatican also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Vicenta Guilarte Alonso, a member of the Spanish Daughters of Jesus who joined the order in 1909 and subsequently traveled to the Brazilian town of Pirenopolis to found a community there. 

She was later transferred to the municipality of Leopoldina, where she was made doorman and sacristan. Though she had earlier been deputy superior, she “humbly accepted this situation, which astonished many sisters, without protesting and expressing regret,” the dicastery said. 

She served in that role until her death in 1960. 

Pope Francis to Lutherans: ‘Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism’

Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation on June 20, 2024, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 20, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis this morning received a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation at the Vatican and stressed that “Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism.”

In his talk given during the audience held in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, the Holy Father called this encounter “an important gesture of ecumenical fraternity.”

The pontiff recalled the visit of this delegation to Rome three years ago, an occasion in which they reflected on the upcoming 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea in 2025 as an ecumenical event.

In this context, he noted that it is “a beautiful sign of hope that has a special place in the history of reconciliation between Catholics and Lutherans.

“Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism,” Pope Francis highlighted, at the same time noting that “he is divine mercy incarnate, and our ecumenical mission is to bear witness to this.”

The Holy Father also recalled the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” signed 25 years ago, as “another sign of hope in our history of reconciliation.” Thus the pontiff encouraged his listeners to keep it “in our memory as something always living” and to celebrate this anniversary “as a feast of hope.”

“May the God of hope be with us and continue to accompany our dialogue of truth and charity with his blessing,” Pope Francis said.

Finally, the Holy Father recalled “something beautiful” from the Orthodox bishop Zizioulas, a pioneer of ecumenism, who “used to say that he knew the date of Christian union: the day of the final judgment!”

“But in the meantime, he said, we must walk together: walk together, pray together and do works of charity together, on the way toward that ‘hyper-ecumenical’ day that will be the final judgment,” the Holy Father concluded, adding that “Zizioulas had a good sense of humor!”

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