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Pope Francis implores public broadcasters to serve the common good and combat ‘fake news’

Pope Francis greets staff and families of RAI, Italy’s national public broadcasting company, March 23, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2024 / 13:53 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday spoke on the important role public broadcasting plays in the transmission of information, serving the common good, and as an instrument to fight the spread of “fake news.”

“Your work is intended above all to be a response to the needs of the citizens, in a spirit of universal openness, with action capable of extending throughout the territory without becoming localist, respecting and promoting the dignity of each person,” the pope said in a Saturday morning address to the managers, journalists, and staff of RAI, Italy’s national public broadcasting company.

The 87-year-old pontiff seemed to be in good spirits as he delivered the nearly 10-minute-long address. In the last month, the pope has relied on aides to deliver his Wednesday general audience and speeches as he recovered from lingering flu symptoms.

“Once upon a time the popes used the gestatorial chair,” he said, alluding to the ceremonial throne on which a pope would be borne aloft. “Today things have moved on and I use this, which is very practical,” the pope quipped, pointing to the wheelchair that he has used since 2022 to move around.

During this address, the pope emphasized that the media’s mission of service to the public good is underscored by “seeking and promoting the truth.” Francis pointed to the imperative of combating the spread of viral misinformation, or “fake news,” and “the devious plans of those who seek to influence public opinion in an ideological manner, lying and disintegrating the social fabric.”

“It means serving the right of citizens to correct information, transmitted without prejudice, without rushing to conclusions but taking the necessary time to understand and to reflect, countering cognitive pollution, cognitive pollution, because information too must be ‘ecological,’ that is, human,” the pope continued.

For the pope this duty also requires broadcasters to let a plurality of voices be heard, to foster dialogue, and to be “an instrument for growth in knowledge, to cause people to reflect and not alienate.”

“The entire media system,” the pope continued, “at a global level, needs to be provoked and stimulated to come out of itself and to question itself, to look farther, beyond.”

The pope also made a general appeal to all public broadcasters, calling on them to not chase ratings but to create high-quality content that “may help each and every person to be uplifted, to reflect, to be moved, to smile and even to weep with emotion, to find meaning in life, a prospect of good, a meaning that is not that of yielding to the worst.”

Pope Francis changes statutes of papal basilica, emphasizing work of canons 

Pope Francis venerates the Salus Populi Romani icon in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Dec. 8, 2023. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 21, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday issued new regulations for the administration of the papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, placing new emphasis on spiritual work and pastoral care and appointing a coadjutor archpriest of the West’s oldest Marian shrine. 

In the March 20 chirograph, or papal decree, the Holy Father explained that he sought to “free” the “canons,” (members of the group or “chapter” of clergy he designates to serve the basilica) “from all economic and administrative duties, so that they may dedicate themselves, fully and with renewed vigor, to the spiritual and pastoral accompaniment” of pilgrims.

In December 2021 Pope Francis appointed Lithuanian-born Archbishop Rolandas Makrickas as the extraordinary commissioner to undertake the commissioning process “for the reorganization of the life of the chapter and the basilica, for the greater good of the people of God.” 

This process, led by an extraordinary commissioner and assisted by a special commission, looked at the administrative functioning of the basilica, including a study of the basilica’s financial situation. 

The Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as the Liberian Basilica, is one of the four papal basilicas of Rome and home to the relic of the Holy Cradle and the icon of Salus Populi Romani, a Byzantine icon attributed to St. Luke depicting the Madonna and Child Jesus holding a Gospel book.

The basilica has been an important place for Pope Francis, who prays there before the icon before and after all his apostolic journeys. 

In December 2023, in an interview with Mexican television program “N+”, the pope expressed his desire to be buried in the basilica, not in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

In his chirograph, the pope appointed Makrickas as the coadjutor archpriest of St. Mary Major, with the right to succeed 78-year-old Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, who has served as archpriest since 2016. 

The archpriest is traditionally a cardinal who serves a five-year renewable term, exercising “executive power of government for the activities of the basilica itself and for the administration of the chapter’s assets,” and is the legal representative of the basilica. 

The statue also created two new positions: the delegate for pastoral care, who is the archpriest’s first collaborator for the activities of the canons and the basilica and works in close collaboration with the master of ceremonies and the delegate for administration, who oversees the administrative tasks of the basilica. 

Makrickas will continue to cover the duties of these two roles until those positions are appointed.

The new statute also established a new administrative council, which will be tasked with administration of the chapter’s assets. According to Article 48 of the new statutes, the administrative council is composed of the archpriest, the two delegates, a representative of the governorate of the Vatican City State, and a representative of the Administration of the Heritage of the Apostolic See (APSA).

German bishops to discuss Synodal Way with Vatican amid controversy

German bishops in Rome on Nov. 17, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Mar 21, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A delegation of German bishops is expected in Rome this Friday for talks with the Vatican about the German Synodal Way. 

While the precise agenda is not a matter of public record, the encounter will likely focus on plans to install a permanent Synodal Council to oversee the Church in Germany.

Raising several concerns, the Vatican reminded the Germans ahead of the meeting — in a letter dated Feb. 16 — that the Holy See has not mandated them to set up such a council. 

Addressing Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), Vatican officials told the Germans “that neither the Synodal Way, nor any body established by it, nor any bishops’ conference has the competence to establish the ‘synodal council’ at the national, diocesan, or parish level.”

Previous warnings from Rome have not always been well received, and the February letter, signed by Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Victor Fernández, and Robert Prevost — the heads of the Secretariat of State, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Dicastery for Bishops — may suffer a similar fate.

“I have the impression that we are not properly understood in Rome,” Bishop Helmut Dieser of Aachen told news agency KNA this week regarding the Friday meeting in Rome, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

While hoping for progress, Dieser, who supports changes in Church teaching on sexuality and gender, also criticized the Vatican: Noting Rome had invited bishops, not laypeople, the bishop said this was “not the style of leadership that we are trying to establish in Germany.”

A private letter from Pope Francis

The question of how Church leadership is understood is a burning one. While Pope Francis told the Synod of Bishops on Oct. 4, 2023, that “the synod is not a parliament,” one of the key organizers of the German process, ZdK President Irme Stetter-Karp, has called for the council to provide for majority decisions, CNA Deutsch reported

The German bishops were expected to vote on the statutes for a preparatory committee during their plenary assembly in February. 

However, that vote was suspended following the Vatican intervention. At the same time, plans to establish a council by 2026 clearly have not been abandoned. According to the official portal of the Church in Germany,, the committee will still meet again in June to discuss plans.  

Furthermore, the lay organization ZdK already approved the committee’s statutes on Nov. 25, 2023, despite earlier warnings from Rome of the risk of a new German schism

Pope Francis criticized the work of the preparatory committee in a private letter in November. Calling the committee one of “numerous steps being taken by significant segments” of the Church in Germany, he warned that these “threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path.”

Striking a carefully optimistic tone, the new archbishop of Paderborn, Udo Bentz, called for patience with a view to fostering “good synodal processes,” even if this sometimes meant walking an extra mile, but doing so together, CNA Deutsch reported on Wednesday.

The Synodal Way — “Synodaler Weg,” sometimes called Synodal Path — describes itself as a process bringing together Germany’s bishops and selected laypeople to debate and pass resolutions based on a 2018 sexual abuse study.

Participants have voted in favor of draft documents calling for the priestly ordination of women, same-sex blessings, and changes to Church teaching on homosexual acts.

Pope Francis addresses migrant crisis in Darien Gap: ‘Every refugee challenges us’

In 2023, over half a million migrants headed toward the United States crossed the Darien Gap, the inhospitable jungle region between Colombia and Panama. / Credit: Gonzalo Bell/

Rome Newsroom, Mar 20, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday sent a letter to the bishops of Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica highlighting the need to develop greater pastoral care and initiatives to assist migrants who travel through the treacherous Darien Gap.

“As Christians, every refugee and migrant who leaves his or her homeland challenges us,” the pope wrote. “In our villages we find at the same time the hospitable fraternity that welcomes with human sensitivity, but also, unfortunately, the indifference that stains the Darién with blood.”

The pope’s message comes as bishops from the episcopal conferences of the three countries conclude a four-day meeting in Panama titled “Easter with Our Migrant Brothers and Sisters,” focused on the Catholic Church’s pastoral outreach and services amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Central America. 

The 100-mile-long Darien Gap, located on the border between Panama and Colombia, is one of the world’s most trafficked — and dangerous — migratory pathways. 

The sparsely populated jungled region (the only overland passage connecting Central and South America) has no paved roads nor basic infrastructure in place to facilitate the passage of migrants.

Yet many migrants remained undeterred in making the journey north, despite the treacherous conditions, risk of disease, and death, as well as mounting pressure from the Biden administration on Latin American governments to halt crossings. 

According to figures released by the Panamanian government, the number of migrants who passed through the Darien Gap reached a record high of 520,000 in 2023, more than double the number who came in 2022.

“Neither the dangers posed by transit and illegal blackmail nor the increasing returns or stalemates in countries where these brothers and sisters are not wanted diminish the attraction (real or illusory) of satisfying the needs of employment and better living conditions, or even of a hoped-for family reunification,” Francis wrote to the bishops this week.

But the pope also noted that it is a “pastoral opportunity” so migrants can “find in the Church a place where he or she will not feel judged but welcomed, where hunger and thirst can be quenched and hope revived.” 

While acknowledging the extensive network of humanitarian services already provided by the Catholic Church — including shelters, returnee centers, medical care, legal advice, and spiritual support — the pope stressed that pastors and those in the service of migrants should “go beyond the limits of the established.”

Pope Francis encouraged the bishops to confront the myriad challenges presented by the influx of migrants by developing a unified, regional approach. The pope stressed that meeting the immediate needs of migrants does preclude longer-term solutions that would ameliorate the structural issues behind the migration crisis.

“I recalled that the right not to migrate is presented to us as a solution, albeit a long-term one, to forced migration, through the regional integration of countries of expulsion, transit, destination, and return of migrants,” the pope wrote.

“I urge you, therefore, to join forces with all the bodies of the international community so that everyone may have the right to remain in their homeland with a dignified and peaceful life.”

Pope Francis highlights importance of prudence, calls for end to war

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 20, 2024 / 12:50 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday reflected on the virtue of prudence, noting that it is an essential characteristic for good governance, an observation he made while renewing his call for negotiating an end to war. 

“War is always a defeat. You can’t go on in war. We must make all efforts to negotiate, to negotiate, to end the war. Let’s pray for this,” the pope said during his Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.  

While the 87-year-old pontiff arrived in the piazza greeting the faithful from the famous “Popemobile,” he relied on an aide to deliver the address. 

“I asked Monsignor [Pierluigi Giroli] to read it because I still can’t,” the pope said. 

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The Holy Father has been assisted in his public remarks since late February when the Vatican announced he was suffering from “mild flu” symptoms. Despite the lingering symptoms, the pope has maintained a full schedule while gearing up for Holy Week in Rome. 

The pope’s catechesis on Wednesday offered an outline of prudence — one of the four cardinal virtues — with the Holy Father noting that it is an essential characteristic for those “called to govern,” as it requires inner equilibrium and the ability to harmonize conflicting views. 

“The prudent do not choose by chance,” the pope observed. “First of all, they know what they want, then they weigh up the situations, seek advice, and with a broad outlook and inner freedom, they choose which path to embark upon.”

Pope Francis prays during his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis prays during his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope clarified that prudence, which is often conflated with “caution,” or hesitation, should instead be thought of as an innate capacity to act freely and creatively, free from sentimentalism and external pressures. 

“Granting primacy to prudence means that the action of man is in the hands of his intelligence and freedom. The prudent person is creative: He or she reasons, evaluates, tries to understand the complexity of reality and does not allow him or herself to be overwhelmed by emotions, idleness, pressures, and illusions,” the pope reflected. 

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience on March 20, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis also highlighted that the virtues are not static concepts but instead form a “living organism” and a point of encounter, and dialogue, with antiquity. 

Virtues are not “the exclusive prerogative of Christians but rather belong to the heritage of ancient wisdom, in particular of the Greek philosophers,” the pontiff said.

“Life is made up of a constant overlapping of old and new things, and it is not always good to think that the world begins with us, that we have to deal with problems starting from scratch,” the pope said.

Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations stresses fraternity, hope

Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 19, 2024 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday released his message for the 61st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, reflecting on the Christian pilgrimage as a synodal journey that is rooted in hope and aimed toward discovering God’s love. 

The theme for the this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, “Called to Sow Seeds of Hope and to Build Peace,” reflects the universal Christian call to “base our lives on the rock of Christ’s resurrection, knowing that every effort made in the vocation that we have embraced and seek to live out will never be in vain,” the pope said. 

This year the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 21.

“This ultimate calling is one that we must anticipate daily,” the pope observed. “Even now our loving relationship with God and our brothers and sisters is beginning to bring about God’s dream of unity, peace, and fraternity.”

The pope noted that this process of discernment assumes a “synodal character,” as the Church has a “polyphony of diverse charisms and vocations.”

“Amid the variety of our charisms, we are called to listen to one another and to journey together in order to acknowledge them and to discern where the Spirit is leading us for the benefit of all,” the pope observed.

Francis reinforced this observation by pointing to the theme of the 2025 Jubilee Year, “Pilgrims of Hope.” 

“We can become for our world messengers and witnesses of Jesus’ dream of a single human family, united in God’s love and in the bond of charity, cooperation, and fraternity,” the Holy Father said. 

For the pope, the pilgrimage is a journey that has a regenerative effect as man carries “only the essentials” while “striving daily to set aside all weariness, fear, uncertainty, and hesitation” in order to “discover the love of God.”

“Being a pilgrim,” Francis continued, “means setting out each day, beginning ever anew, rediscovering the enthusiasm and strength needed to pursue the various stages of a journey that, however tiring and difficult, always opens before our eyes new horizons and previously unknown vistas.” 

But the pope also noted that this journey is a process of self-discovery, which is “nourished by our relationships with others.”

“We are pilgrims because we have been called, called to love God and to love one another,” he said. 

The Holy Father emphasized that this pilgrimage, or process, is “far from a pointless journey or aimless wandering” but is instead a process by which humans can work “toward a new world where people can live in peace, justice, and love.” 

Francis also directed this call to today’s youth — especially those who feel estranged or suspicious of the Church — with the pope encouraging them to bring Christ the “important questions.” 

“Let him challenge you by his presence, which always provokes in us a healthy crisis. More than anyone else, Jesus respects our freedom. He does not impose but proposes. Make room for him and you will find the way to happiness by following him. And, should he ask it of you, by giving yourself completely to him.”

Pontifical Gregorian University announces merger with biblical, Eastern institutes

The library of the Pontifical Gregorian University. / Credit: Pontifical Gregorian University

CNA Staff, Mar 19, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

The historic Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University this week announced its official merger with the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

The Gregorian announced on its website on Monday that, per a decree from Jesuit Superior General Father Arturo Sosa, the university’s new General Statutes will “permanently incorporate” the two institutes with the Gregorian into one corporate structure.

The merger of the three Rome-based schools will take effect on Pentecost Sunday, May 19. The institutions will merge “while still retaining their own names and missions,” the university said.

The Gregorian currently has an enrollment of about 2,700 students, 70% of whom come from outside Italy. For centuries it has been a major center of Catholic education and intellectual thought, training students in various disciplines for roles in the priesthood, religious life, and lay ministries. About 20% of its students are laymen and laywomen.

It counts among its alumni numerous saints and popes as well as well-known living clergy such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.

The two institutes, meanwhile, instruct approximately 300 students each and offer graduate-level degrees in topics such as canon law and sacred Scripture.

The biblical institute was established in 1909 by Pope Pius X. The pontiff in his apostolic letter Vinea Electa tasked the institute to “defend, promulgate, and promote the sound doctrine of the Holy Books” and to “promote as effectively as possible the biblical doctrine and all related studies according to the spirit of the Catholic Church.”

The “particular mission” of the Oriental Institute, meanwhile, is “to serve the Eastern Churches” by carrying out “objective research, teaching, and publications” regarding those churches, which it does also as a means to “make [their] riches available to the Latin West.” 

All three institutes are run by Jesuits. As “pontifical” institutions, they are under the authority of the Holy See.

The Gregorian in its announcement noted that the merger came about “following the chirograph signed by Pope Francis on Dec. 17, 2019,” in which the Holy Father “ordered that the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute be joined to the Gregorian University.”

The three schools have already been associated for nearly a century through the Gregorian Consortium after the 1930 motu proprio Quod Maxime issued by Pope Pius XI. 

Vatican Observatory publishes new method to better understand the Big Bang theory

null / Credit: Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 18, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Two priests and cosmologists from the Vatican Observatory have made further progress in developing a new mathematical method to understand the Big Bang theory, which describes the first moments of the universe.

In a 2022 article published in the prestigious journal Physical Review D, Fathers Gabriele Gionti, SJ, and Matteo Galaverni introduced the new and promising mathematical tool. They have recently published a new article in the European Physical Journal C, a publication that presents novel research results in theoretical physics and experimental physics.

“It really is fascinating to try to understand the physical laws in the early moments of the universe. The search for new physical laws and the effort to fully understand them is a process that fills our minds and hearts with great joy,” the priests said in a Vatican Observatory publication released March 14.

The observatory’s statement points out that Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which postulates that gravity is the curvature of space-time rather than a force as proposed by Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, remains the best physical theory “for understanding the large-scale structure of the universe today.” However, there are still unresolved questions about the laws of physics during the first moments of the universe and about how gravity works on extremely small scales, which can be studied using quantum mechanics.

Currently, there are alternative or modified theories of gravity that suggest that gravity might behave differently than general relativity predicts, even with respect to the large-scale structure of the universe.

In their new article, “On the canonical equivalence between the Jordan and Einstein frames,” Gionti and Galaverni demonstrate how they can “map” the solution to a physical problem from an alternative theory of gravity to general relativity through a mathematical trick. This trick consists of analyzing the problem through two different mathematical frames, known as the “Jordan” and “Einstein” frames, which are different approaches to describing the geometry of space-time in general relativity, each with its own advantages and specific applications.

For Gionti and Galaverni, this work is “a way to contribute, together with the entire scientific community, to answering some fundamental questions: “Who are we? Where do we come from? What is our origin?”

“Furthermore, for a person of faith, it is a wonderful possibility to interpret one’s research as a discovery of new traces or signs of God’s beauty and elegance in the creation of the universe, despite our extremely limited knowledge!” the priest-scientists 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: God’s glory does not correspond to human success

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus on March 17, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2024 / 09:07 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that God’s glory and our true happiness are not found in success, fame, or popularity but in loving and forgiving others.

In his Angelus address on March 17, the pope asked: How it is possible that God’s glory is manifest in the humiliation of the cross?

“One would think it happened in the Resurrection, not on the cross, which is a defeat, a failure,” he said. “Instead, today, talking about his passion, Jesus says: ‘The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified’ (Jn 12:23). What does he mean?” 

The pope explained that “for God, glory is to love to the point of giving one’s life.”

“Glorification, for him, means giving himself, making himself accessible, offering his love,” he said.

“And this reached its culmination on the cross, where Jesus outspread God’s love to the maximum, fully revealing the face of mercy, giving us life and forgiving his executioners.”

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on March 17, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on March 17, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis underlined that giving and forgiveness “are very different criteria to what we see around us, and also within us, when we think of glory.”

Yet while worldly glory fades, this Christian way of life brings lasting happiness, he explained.

“And so, we can ask ourselves: What is the glory I desire for myself, for my life, that I dream of for my future?” Francis asked.

“That of impressing others with my prowess, my abilities, or the things I possess? Or the path of giving and forgiveness, that of the crucified Jesus, the way of those who never tire of loving, confident that this bears witness to God in the world and makes the beauty of life shine? What glory do I want for myself?”

“Indeed, let us remember that when we give and forgive, God’s glory shines in us,” Pope Francis said.

Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on March 17, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus on March 17, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin from the window of the Apostolic Palace with the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, the pope asked people to pray for war-torn populations in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, and Syria.

Pope Francis expressed his relief at the release of some of the religious brothers kidnapped three weeks ago in Haiti as he made an appeal for the “beloved country tried by so much violence.”

Four of the six religious from the Brothers of the Sacred Heart Institute who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 23 have been freed, along with a teacher. The pope called for the release of the two remaining kidnapped religious and all other people who have suffered at the hands of kidnappers in Haiti.

The pope called on all political leaders and social actors in Haiti to “abandon all special interests and to engage in a spirit of solidarity in the pursuit of the common good” while supporting “a peaceful transition to a country … that is equipped with solid institutions capable of restoring order and tranquility among its citizens.”

Before waving goodbye to the crowd, the pope gave a shoutout to the athletes who ran in the Rome marathon on Sunday morning, especially the volunteers and runners from the Vatican’s own sports club, Athletica Vaticana.

Pope Francis names U.S. police professional, Colombian bishop to minor protection commission

A Colombian psychologist bishop and a retired colonel from the Illinois State Police are the new secretaries of the Pontifical Commission for the Guardianship of Minors. / Credit: Holy See Press Office

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

Pope Francis on Friday appointed an American former law enforcement professional as adjunct secretary to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a Colombian bishop as secretary of the independent body tasked since 2014 with advising the pope on how the Church can best protect minors and vulnerable adults. 

The Vatican announced March 15 that Teresa Morris Kettelkamp, a Chicago native and Illinois law enforcement professional, was named as the commission’s adjunct secretary. Auxiliary Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera of Bogotá, Colombia, was named secretary of the commission, replacing Father Andrew Small, who had served as temporary secretary since 2021. Both appointees were already members of the currently 19-member commission. 

The commission, established by Pope Francis in March 2014, is headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who turns 80 in June. O’Malley has defended the commission’s effectiveness, saying last March that “the protection of children and vulnerable persons remains at the heart of the Church’s mission.”

Kettelkamp formerly was appointed to lead the United States bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection in 2005, serving in that role until 2011. She was first appointed a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2018. She had previously worked on the drafting of the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults with the commission. 

A former colonel with the Illinois State Police (ISP), Kettelkamp retired after 29 years of service, during which time she headed the ISP’s crime labs and crime scene services. She also, according to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors website, headed the ISP’s Division of Internal Investigation, which was responsible for the investigation of allegations of misconduct within the ISP as well as in the agencies, boards, and commissions under the executive branch of the Illinois state government.

Alí Herrera, who is also a psychologist, was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, on May 2, 1967, and was ordained a priest in 1992. After graduating with a degree in theology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá in 2003, he obtained a degree in psychology from the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome (2007). He is a senior associate of the Colegio Colombiano de Psicólogos (Colombian School of Psychologists), Vatican News reported.

Pope Francis appointed him as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014 and appointed him an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Bogotá the following year.

The work and operations of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has garnered scrutiny in recent years, in part because of questions Small, the commission’s former temporary secretary, has faced since May 2023 about his management of funds at the Pontifical Mission Societies U.S.A. In addition, a prominent founding member of the commission, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, resigned his post roughly a year ago, citing “issues that need to be urgently addressed” related to a perceived lack of “responsibility, compliance, accountability, and transparency.”