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As Church allows for LGBT-employees in Germany, Vatican publishes concerns over Synodal Way

German Bishops at Mass in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls during their visit in Rome, Nov. 17, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican on Thursday published the full wording of its latest warnings over another schism coming out of Germany, raising fundamental concerns and objections against the Synodal Way.

Two leading cardinals delivered their theologically argued reservations in direct meetings with the German bishops last Friday, warning the process “hurts the communion of the Church.”

The critiques were published Nov. 24 both in the official newspaper of the Vatican and on the Vatican’s news site. 

They included the suggestion of a moratorium on the process — a proposal knocked back in discussions with German bishops in Rome on Nov. 18, CNA Deutsch reported.

Facing the German bishops in Rome, Nov. 18, 2022: Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer SJ, Prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, Prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops (from left). Vatican Media
Facing the German bishops in Rome, Nov. 18, 2022: Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer SJ, Prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet PSS, Prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops (from left). Vatican Media

The main concern is one of union with the Church, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops, explained.

“Several authoritative critics of the current orientation of the Synodal Way in Germany speak openly of a latent schism that the proposal of your texts threatens to entrench in its present form,” he wrote.

The Synodal Way — which is not a synod — risked being not about achieving pastoral innovations, but attempting a “transformation of the Church,” Cardinal Ouellet warned in his statement, published in German by CNA Deutsch.

Ouellet said Synodal Way’s suggestions “hurt the communion of the Church,” sowing “doubt and confusion among the people of God.”

The Vatican was receiving messages on a daily basis from Catholics scandalized by this process, he added. 

Inspired by Gender Theory

“It is striking,” the cardinal told the Germans, “that the agenda of a limited group of theologians from a few decades ago has suddenly become the majority proposal of the German episcopate.”

The German agenda, Ouellet said, was the “abolition of compulsory celibacy, ordination of viri probati, access of women to the ordained ministry, moral re-evaluation of homosexuality, structural and functional limitation of hierarchical power, reflections on sexuality inspired by gender theory, major proposed amendments to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” 

In amazement, Ouellet said, many observers and faithful are asking: “What happened?” and “Where did we end up?” 

Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, raised five concerns with the German bishops, including the Synodal Way’s approach to sexuality, power and structure in the Church, and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Losing an achievement of Vatican II

Firstly, given the Synodal Way is not a synod, Ladaria said, it was not expected to produce a final document. Still, perhaps it should produce one — or something similar —” that can reflect a more linear approach and less reliance on assertions that are not fully substantiated.”

Secondly, the cardinal cast doubt on the Synodal Way’s assumed “connection between the structure of the Church and the phenomenon of abuse of minors.” 

Ladaria warned the Germans of “reducing the mystery of the Church to a mere institution of power, or viewing the Church from the outset as a structurally abusive organization that must be brought under the control of superintendents as quickly as possible.”

Such an approach risks losing “one of the most important achievements of the Second Vatican Council,” Ladaria wrote: Namely, “the clear doctrine of the mission of the bishops and thus of the local Church.”

Pope Francis meeting with the German bishops at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with the German bishops at the Vatican, Nov. 17, 2022. Vatican Media

On the question of ordaining women, Ladaria reminded the bishops, as he has stated previously: The teaching of the Catholic Church on the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, now or in the future, is clear – and to sow confusion by suggesting otherwise is a serious matter.

Finally, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith told the German bishops to recognize their role in the context of the Apostolic succession. “If it is true that the Magisterium is under the judgment of the Word, it is equally true that it is precisely through the exercise of the Magisterium of the bishops, and especially of the Bishop of Rome, that the Word comes alive and resounds vibrantly,” the cardinal wrote.

The terse warnings published this week were not the first intervention by the Vatican against the Synodal Way. In July, the Vatican issued a warning of a new schism arising from the process initiated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

German response: ‘Not a stop sign‘

Upon their return from Rome last week, some German bishops commented on the objections to their “reform project,” reported CNA Deutsch.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen said the Vatican’s warnings were “not a stop sign for the important and necessary discussions we’re having,” such as the Synodal Way’s vote for women’s ordination

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck Photo: Nicole Cronauge / Diocese of Essen.
Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck Photo: Nicole Cronauge / Diocese of Essen.

In short, the Synodal Way — Synodaler Weg in German, sometimes translated as the Synodal Path —is still expected to continue as planned by organizers, with the next (and so far final) synodal assembly to take place in spring of 2023.

In the meantime, German bishops are pushing ahead with making changes across the board to the Church in their dioceses, not just on the Synodal Way: This week, labor laws were amended so that employees of the Catholic Church can identify as LGBT, be “divorced” or not even Catholic. 

While clerics and those in “pastoral care” are still expected to be Catholic, the Church — which employs about 800,000 people in Germany — is “enriched” by this “diversity in church institutions,” the German Bishops’ Conference said on Tuesday. 

According to a report by CNA Deutsch, the bishops also said that “all employees can, regardless of their duties, their origin, their religion, their age, their disability, their sex, their sexual identity and their way of life,” now be representatives of “a Church that serves people.”

Not just for students: Here’s what adults can expect at SEEK23 in St. Louis

Ryan and Sara Huelsing, parishoners at St. Joseph parish in Cottleville, Missouri, at a preview event put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students in St. Louis on Oct. 1, 2022. Ryan leads a men's group at his parish and both hope to get involved with FOCUS' Making Missionary Disciples track. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 25, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The upcoming Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) national conference is expected to draw 20,000 people to St. Louis for talks, workshops, entertainment, prayer, and worship, with the goal of encouraging and equipping Catholics to live and share their faith. The Jan. 2–6, 2023, gathering, SEEK23, will be the first in-person national conference for FOCUS since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eileen Piper, FOCUS’ vice president of lifelong mission, told CNA recently that a new conference track called Making Missionary Disciples aims to help adult attendees become equipped to better share their faith.

While most of FOCUS’ programming is geared toward students, the Making Missionary Disciples track is designed for priests, bishops, diocesan and parish staff, FOCUS alumni, parishioners, and benefactors who “long to see their parish, diocese, family, or community experience deep transformation in Jesus Christ and who desire to be a part of the solution,” the organization says.

“This really is a unique opportunity, and you’re going to get hands-on experience,” Piper told CNA.

“This is practical training. It’s made for you to take into your state of life — so if you are a leader in a parish, you are going to be equipped to be able to step into your work in the parish in a brand-new way.”

Eileen Piper, FOCUS' vice president of lifelong mission. FOCUS
Eileen Piper, FOCUS' vice president of lifelong mission. FOCUS

Piper said she, like many Catholics, has friends and family members in her life who are no longer practicing their faith. The Making Missionary Disciples track is designed for those who want to do a better job of sharing their faith, she said, not on “street corners” but primarily with people they already know and love.

“It starts to practically equip you so that you’re feeling more confident and more comfortable entering into faith conversations with those that you are already in relationship with,” she explained.

The track will feature speeches and workshops put on by nationally recognized Catholic speakers such as Father Josh Johnson, Sister Bethany Madonna, and sEdward Sri. Conference attendees will also be given time for prayer and fellowship, daily Mass, and networking opportunities, FOCUS says.

Through the workshops, “you’ll be working on your personal testimony, so you can just in a very comfortable way share your own story of how you like what Jesus means to you, and why it matters.”

Piper said as part of the conference they also hope to create opportunities for parish priests to connect “brother to brother” and discuss with one another what is working well in their parishes. She also said FOCUS will be offering a Lenten Bible study in 2023 for anyone who wants to participate, and they will be especially suggesting that SEEK23 attendees join in on it and invite others to join as well.

Since its founding in the 1990s, FOCUS has sent missionaries to college campuses across the United States and abroad to share the Catholic faith primarily through Bible studies and small groups, practicing what it calls “The Little Way of Evangelization” — winning small numbers of people to the Catholic faith at a time through authentic friendships and forming others to go out and do the same.

FOCUS has since 2015 been in the process of expanding beyond college campuses by creating a track designed to bring their relationship-based evangelization model to parishes. Almost two dozen parishes across the country, including one in the St. Louis Archdiocese, have FOCUS missionaries living and working there.

SEEK23 will be FOCUS’ first in-person conference since Indianapolis in 2019 and a smaller student leadership summit in Phoenix in the earliest days of 2020. Conferences for 2021 and 2022 were held online due to the pandemic.

Brian Miller, director of evangelization and discipleship for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, told CNA that St. Louis was chosen for SEEK in part because it is centrally located and convention-friendly, but also because the city is ripe for the kind of renewal that FOCUS aims to provide.

Beyond the young people and students who will attend SEEK, Miller said they hope to use FOCUS’ Making Missionary Disciples track as a launch pad for getting more mature Catholics excited about sharing their faith as well. He also said his office plans to host follow-up events for St. Louis Catholics to build upon what people will learn at SEEK about evangelization as well as provide them with resources to help them start Bible studies and small discipleship groups.

He said he hopes that as parishes in St. Louis “come together in their new parish realities” after an ongoing major merging and closing process, that “they have some common footing, some common training, and they have a common mission.”

SEEK23 registration is now open and costs $399 total for the full five days, regardless of whether you are a college or high school student or an adult. General passes for St. Louis residents cost $350. All registration options can be found here.

UK woman praying in public asked to ‘move on’ by local authorities

Livia Tossici-Bolt says she was urged by council officers to “move on” after praying in public / ADF International

CNA Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 08:09 am (CNA).

Concerns about religious freedom in the UK are intensifying after local council officers confronted a woman on the south coast of England for praying quietly in a public space and asked her to move away.

Livia Tossici-Bolt was praying with a friend near a local abortion clinic in Bournemouth but had not breached the borders of the censorship zone around the clinic, which the local council had imposed.

Nevertheless, two ‘Community Safety Accredited Officers’ patrolling the buffer zone informed Livia that her actions could cause “intimidation and harassment” and asked her to move away. According to Tossici-Bolt, the officers also expressed concern that there was a local school nearby and that “the children may ask questions.”

In a statement released on November 24, ADF International formally announced their support for Tossici-Bolt and the launch of an official complaint to local authorities for breaching her right to pray on a public street.

The statement comes as parliamentarians in England and Wales have also conveyed concern about the direction of religious freedom within their jurisdiction as the Public Order Bill makes its way through Parliament.

Clause 9 of the Bill proposes to institute ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics nationwide, which campaigners argue would have a detrimental impact on outreach for women facing crisis pregnancies while raising fundamental questions concerning freedom of religion and expression.

Clause 9 faced notable scrutiny in the House of Lords on November 22 as peers across the political spectrum expressed unease with the introduction of buffer zones.

According to a statement from ADF International, Clause 9 of the Public Order Bill prohibits not only “harassment” outside of abortion facilities but “informing,” “advising,” “influencing,” “persuading,” and even “expressing an opinion.”

During the debate on Tuesday, Baroness Claire Fox of Buckley said: “If we pass Clause 9, why will other institutions not demand buffer zones around their special case facilities? If we consider that in Clause 9 a buffer zone is defined very broadly as “150 meters from … any access point to any building or site that contains an abortion clinic”, does that not make protests of all sorts at hospitals potentially unlawful? What if you wanted to organise a vigil outside a hospital in which, for example, babies died due to negligence, such as in the maternity services scandal recently? What about a rally against the use of puberty blockers on teenagers? Would that be banned too?”

Commenting on her own experience, Tossici-Bolt said in a statement on November 24: “Everyone has the freedom to pray quietly in a public place. I would never dream of doing something that causes intimidation and harassment. We complied with the new rules instituted by the council and didn’t pray within the censorship zone. Yet nevertheless, these prayer-patrol officers tried to intimidate us out of exercising our freedom of thought and of expression – in the form of prayer -which has been a foundational part of our society for generations.”

ADF International recently championed the cause of a 76-year-old grandmother in Liverpool, UK, who successfully overturned a financial penalty for praying near an abortion clinic in February 2021.

‘Your pain is my pain’: Pope Francis pens letter marking 9 months of war in Ukraine

Pope Francis holds a flag that he received from Bucha, Ukraine at his general audience on April 6, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 07:50 am (CNA).

In an emotional letter addressed to the people of Ukraine, Pope Francis wrote that he sees the cross of Christ in the tortures and sufferings endured by Ukrainians in nine months of war.

“I would like to unite my tears with yours and tell you that there is not a day in which I am not close to you and do not carry you in my heart and in my prayers,” the pope wrote in the letter.

“Your pain is my pain. In the cross of Jesus today I see you—you who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression.”

Pope Francis went on to say that “the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses” and “in the mass graves discovered in various cities.” 

The Vatican published the letter in Ukrainian and Italian on Nov. 25, one day after it was signed by Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

In the letter, Pope Francis recalled his consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

He said: “May Our Lady, his Mother and ours, watch over you. To her Immaculate Heart, in union with the bishops of the world, I have consecrated the Church and humanity, especially your country and Russia.”

“To her Motherly Heart, I present your sufferings and your tears.”

Pope Francis has frequently prayed for “martyred Ukraine” in his public audiences since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. 

His letter to the Ukrainian people was signed exactly one week after he met privately with Ukrainian Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv and Bishop Jan Sobiło, an auxiliary bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia in Ukraine and that the Vatican Secretary of State offered a Mass for peace in Ukraine.

The pope’s letter mentioned the “genocide of Holodomor,” the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of people between 1932 and 1933, and the continued fortitude of the Ukrainian people today.

“Even in the immense tragedy they are suffering, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged or given over to self-pity. The world has recognized a bold and strong people, a people who suffer and pray, weep and struggle, resist and hope: a noble and martyred people,” Francis said.

“I continue to stand by you with my heart and prayer and with humanitarian concern that you may feel accompanied, that you may not get used to war, that you may not be left alone today and especially tomorrow when the temptation to forget your suffering will perhaps come.”

‘Your pain is my pain’: Pope Francis pens letter marking 9 months of war in Ukraine

Pope Francis holds a flag that he received from Bucha, Ukraine at his general audience on April 6, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 07:50 am (CNA).

In an emotional letter addressed to the people of Ukraine, Pope Francis wrote that he sees the cross of Christ in the tortures and sufferings endured by Ukrainians in nine months of war.

“I would like to unite my tears with yours and tell you that there is not a day in which I am not close to you and do not carry you in my heart and in my prayers,” the pope wrote in the letter.

“Your pain is my pain. In the cross of Jesus today I see you—you who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression.”

Pope Francis went on to say that “the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses” and “in the mass graves discovered in various cities.” 

The Vatican published the letter in Ukrainian and Italian on Nov. 25, one day after it was signed by Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

In the letter, Pope Francis recalled his consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

He said: “May Our Lady, his Mother and ours, watch over you. To her Immaculate Heart, in union with the bishops of the world, I have consecrated the Church and humanity, especially your country and Russia.”

“To her Motherly Heart, I present your sufferings and your tears.”

Pope Francis has frequently prayed for “martyred Ukraine” in his public audiences since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. 

His letter to the Ukrainian people was signed exactly one week after he met privately with Ukrainian Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv and Bishop Jan Sobiło, an auxiliary bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia in Ukraine and that the Vatican Secretary of State offered a Mass for peace in Ukraine.

The pope’s letter mentioned the “genocide of Holodomor,” the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of people between 1932 and 1933, and the continued fortitude of the Ukrainian people today.

“Even in the immense tragedy they are suffering, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged or given over to self-pity. The world has recognized a bold and strong people, a people who suffer and pray, weep and struggle, resist and hope: a noble and martyred people,” Francis said.

“I continue to stand by you with my heart and prayer and with humanitarian concern that you may feel accompanied, that you may not get used to war, that you may not be left alone today and especially tomorrow when the temptation to forget your suffering will perhaps come.”

Christmas shopping? Check out these gifts handmade by monks and nuns

Dominican nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, make soap and candles which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. / Jeffrey Bruno

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

If you’re looking for unique handmade gifts for those on your list this Christmas, you’re going to love these delicious treats and original crafts created by Catholic monks and nuns. There’s something for everyone, and you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing that you helped support these religious brothers and sisters in their lives of faith and service.

Fruitcake

You know the old joke about how there’s only been one fruitcake ever made — it’s just been passed around and around and never eaten? Well, the monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, don’t make that kind of fruitcake. Soaked in brandy and aged for three months, this cake “has converted many a fruitcake ‘atheist,’” according to its creators. Order a one-pound fruitcake for $24.95.

Brandy-dipped fruitcake by the monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage.
Brandy-dipped fruitcake by the monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage.

Fudge

The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, make their famous fudge with premium chocolate and real butter. Try a 12-ounce gift box for $12.95.

Or try some fudge made with Kentucky bourbon from the Trappist monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani. A 12-ounce box sells for $16.45.

Chocolates by Monastery Candy.
Chocolates by Monastery Candy.

Cookies

The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns make their famous butter cookies from their monastery in Denver. The “Clarisas” come in a beautiful gift box featuring an image of St. Clare and sell for $24 for a 1.5-pound box.

Clarisas' Cookies.
Clarisas' Cookies.

Caramels

The contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, are known for their delicious caramels, which they make by hand in order to support their way of life. A 9-ounce box sells for $13.75.

Coffee

The Wyoming Carmelites of Mystic Monk Coffee hand-roast their beans in small batches to support their community. The website CoffeeReview.com ranks their coffee among the highest of the coffees they review. A 12-ounce bag of their most popular flavor, Jingle Bell Java, sells for $13.95.

Hot sauce

The monks at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas make a tangy hot sauce from the habanero peppers grown in the monastery’s gardens. Benedictine Father Richard Walz began making his “Monk Sauce” while he was stationed in Belize, Central America. In 2003, he brought back some seeds from the peppers he grew there and created a tangy sauce made from the chilies along with onions, garlic, carrots, vinegar, salt, and “a few prayers thrown in for good measure.” How spicy is it? According to the abbey’s website, their Monk Sauce has a 250,000 Scoville Unit rating, while Tabasco’s habanero sauce earned a mere 7,000 Scoville Unit rating. Available in green, red, and smoked, the 5-ounce bottles sell for $11 each.

Soap

The nuns from the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, live a life of prayer through eucharistic adoration and dedication to the rosary. To support this way of life they create handmade candles and skin-care products, which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Create your own Christmas gift bag of two bars of soap, a hand cream, a jar candle, a face moisturizer, and a handmade rosary made from olive wood beads from the Holy Land for $50. The sisters also make hand-poured beeswax taper candles in small batches at the monastery, which they sell for $10 a pair.

Hand-painted china

The contemplative Sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, support themselves by hand-painting chinaware. The exquisite, intricately-designed pieces make lovely Christmas gifts, and the china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe. Check out these gorgeous designs: a hand-painted serving bowl for $119 or this cookie jar for $89.  “All chinaware is done in solitude and in prayer, anonymously, and with love,” reads the sisters’ website.

Cookie jars from the Monastery of Bethlehem.
Cookie jars from the Monastery of Bethlehem.

Hong Kong court convicts Cardinal Zen and five other democracy advocates

Cardinal Joseph Zen. / Bohumil Petrik

Rome Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 03:02 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen and five others were found guilty on Friday of failing to register a fund that helped pay for the legal fees and medical treatments of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

The 90-year-old cardinal and former bishop of Hong Kong was fined about $500 (HK$4,000). Each of the other trustees of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund was fined the same amount.

Zen told reporters after the verdict on Nov. 25: “Although I'm a religious figure, I hope this (case) won't be associated with our freedom of religion. It's not related.”

The cardinal appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court wearing a pectoral cross, clerical color, and a facemask. He used a cane to walk.

“I'm just a Hong Kong citizen who strongly supports providing humanitarian assistance," he said, according to Reuters.

Zen’s trial from September to November focused on whether it was necessary for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund trustees to apply for local society registration between 2019 and 2021.

The cardinal’s lawyer Robert Pang argued in court last month that imposing “criminal sanctions on the failure to register must be an infringement of freedom of association.”

Magistrate Ada Yim ruled on Friday that the fund was a “local society” and was subject to its rules, but she did not apply the maximum penalty for the offense of a roughly $1,200 fine.

Yim said in her judgment that the fund “had political objectives and thus it was not established solely for charitable purposes.”

Margaret Ng, a lawyer and fund trustee who was convicted with Zen, told reporters outside of the court that the ruling was significant because it is the first time that anyone in Hong Kong had been convicted under the Societies Ordinance for failing to register a society.

“It is also extremely important about the freedom of association in Hong Kong under Societies Ordinance,” Ng said, according to AP.

Along with Zen and Ng, the other convicted trustees of the fund were singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-Keung, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho.

Sze Ching-wee, the former secretary of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, was also charged on Friday with a smaller fine. Sze was arrested earlier in November under Hong Kong’s national security law. He has been released on bail, and is required to report to the police in February.

The cardinal and the other trustees of the fund were arrested in May along with other democracy activists under Hong Kong’s strict national security law and released on bail shortly after.

The South China Morning Post reported that the ruling in Zen’s trial can be seen as “a prelude to more legal troubles … as national security police continue to probe into the group’s alleged collusion with foreign forces.”

Seminarians run a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City State

Runners in the 13th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City on Nov. 24, 2022. / Aaron Salvan/PNAC Photo Service

Rome, Italy, Nov 24, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).

American seminarians in Rome began Thanksgiving Day with a race around the world’s smallest country.

The 13th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City State kicked off with an early start at the Pontifical North American College on Nov. 24.

More than 130 seminarians, priests, and Catholic college students gathered near the starting line at 5:30 a.m. with t-shirts proudly proclaiming “the world’s only 5K to go around a sovereign nation.”

The race brought the runners up the Vatican Hill and along the outside of the centuries-old 39-foot walls that encircle the Vatican Gardens before crossing in front of St. Peter’s Square ahead of the final stretch up the Janiculum Hill back to the college. In total, the runners ascended 262 feet in just over three miles.

Deacon Matthew Schilmoeller from the diocese of Lincoln ran cross country for the University of Nebraska before he entered the seminary.

Thinking back on his track and field days, he said: “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be running around the sovereign nation of the Vatican City!”

The route of the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City State on Nov. 24, 2022. Courtney Mares
The route of the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City State on Nov. 24, 2022. Courtney Mares

Schilmoeller added: “As Paul says: ‘Run so as to win.’... My life in running has taught me about discipline and about how acquiring virtue can be a slow process.”

“Running humbles you to realize what your limits are on a physical plane, but it’s a spiritual lesson because we need to live in reality and that is precisely where the Lord meets us and calls us into virtue and ultimately into his grace.”

Seminarians at the North American College ahead of the start of the Thanksgiving race on Nov. 24, 2022. Michael Maloney, the winner of the race, is pictured on the far right. Courtney Mares
Seminarians at the North American College ahead of the start of the Thanksgiving race on Nov. 24, 2022. Michael Maloney, the winner of the race, is pictured on the far right. Courtney Mares

The winner of this year’s race was seminarian Michael Maloney from the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

“It was a very fun, close race between a few of us,” he said.

Maloney, who is in his third year studying in Rome, recommends Villa Doria Pamphili park on the Janiculum Hill as his favorite spot to run in the Eternal City.

The tradition of running a Turkey Trot around the Vatican began in 2009 when a seminarian from Colorado Springs, now Father Jim Baron, wanted to do something different for Thanksgiving.

In the past decade, the race has grown to include a costume competition and participation from Americans living in Rome, including many colleges with students studying abroad. This year the University of Mary, St. John's University, and the University of Dallas registered the most runners.

Runners Elizabeth Mazza (left) and Kielce Gussie entered the costume contest as Moses and the Burning Bush. Courtney Mares
Runners Elizabeth Mazza (left) and Kielce Gussie entered the costume contest as Moses and the Burning Bush. Courtney Mares

At least one Italian also joined in the American tradition. Antonella Piccinin, who works for the University of Notre Dame as the director of student programs in Rome, has run in the Thanksgiving race four times.

Piccinin said that she has learned from the American students “to give thanks every day.”

“And this is why I want to participate every year in this competition. It’s fun and it brings together people from different parts of the United States—and also from Rome–- to be together and to give thanks,” she said.

Students and staff from the University of Notre Dame at the 13th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City. Courtney Mares
Students and staff from the University of Notre Dame at the 13th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot around Vatican City. Courtney Mares

Deacon Alex Fry has also come back year after year to volunteer and cheer on the intrepid runners.

“Some people think living in Rome is just a total vacation, but there are certain points of the year where you really miss living in America, and Thanksgiving just happens to be one of those moments,” Fry said.

“And it's so great to put on an event that really celebrates something that is uniquely American, which is this great holiday of Thanksgiving. And so to get together early in the morning and run around the Vatican is just one of the really special ways that we're able to do that here at the NAC.”

Fry, who is preparing to be ordained a priest for the diocese of Dallas in May, has volunteered to help with the organization of the Turkey Trot for the past four years. He said that the race is just one of many celebratory events that the North American College has planned this week.

Following a Thanksgiving Mass this evening, about 100 seminarians and their guests will share a traditional supper, complete with 72 pies and pumpkin ravioli.

On Sunday, the future priests will also compete in the Spaghetti Bowl, a football game tradition for American seminarians that dates back more than 50 years.

Monsignor Thomas Powers, the North American College's rector, said he was excited to see the biggest turnout ever this year for the Turkey Trot.

“I think that this race is a great metaphor for our Catholic faith because we run together, we run to Christ, and we do it in the company of St. Peter and his successors. And that is what this race is about—running around the Vatican and being together as one family of faith,” Powers said.

Pope Francis says this is the difference between theologians and catechists

Pope Francis / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 24, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday distinguished between how catechists and theologians interact with Church teaching.

A theologian, he said, has a vocation to go beyond existing doctrine, because “he is trying to make theology more explicit.”

While a catechist, when instructing children and adults in the faith, “must give the correct doctrine, solid doctrine.”

Pope Francis’ comments on the role of the theologian and the catechist were made in a meeting with the prestigious International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24.

The International Theological Commission exists under and to advise the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Members are appointed by the pope for five-year terms, during which time particular theological questions are studied and the results published.

The 10th commission, which has 28 members, was appointed in 2021.

Pope Francis meeting with the International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with the International Theological Commission (ITC) at the Vatican Nov. 24, 2022. Vatican Media

“Theologians must go further, try to go beyond,” the pope said in his remarks to the commission. “But I want to distinguish this from the catechist: the catechist must give the correct doctrine, solid doctrine; not the possible new things, of which some are good…”

“The catechist teaches the solid doctrine,” he continued, adding that the theologian “ventures to go further, and it is the magisterium that will stop him.”

“But never [teach catechism] to children and people with new doctrines that are not certain,” he said.

Francis explained that this distinction comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola, “who I think understood something better than I do.”

The International Theological Commission is at the Vatican this week for the group’s annual plenary meeting.

Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the commission’s willingness to explore three themes during its meetings.

The first, he said, is the “relevance of the fruitfulness of the Christological faith professed by the Council of Nicaea, at the completion of 1,700 years since its celebration.”

The commission will also examine some anthropological issues relevant today “and of crucial significance for the journey of the human family, in light of the divine plan of salvation.”

Pope Francis did not say which specific “anthropological issues” the theological commission will be studying.

The third theme the commission will deepen is “the theology of creation from a Trinitarian perspective, listening to the cry of the poor and the earth,” he said.

Two U.S. theologians are among the ITC’s members.

Robin Darling Young, a spirituality professor, and Reinhard Huetter, a theology professor, both teach at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

A French-American, Father Etienne Emmanuel Vetö, is also a member. He teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Marianne Schlosser, a well-known German theologian, and recipient of the 2018 Ratzinger Prize, has been a member of the commission since 2014.

Head doctor for Madrid soccer team calls Pope Francis a ‘very stubborn patient’

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2022 / 07:34 am (CNA).

The Vatican has recruited the head doctor of a Madrid soccer team among a team of specialists to help treat Pope Francis’ knee problem.

José María Villalón, a sports medicine specialist and the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, described the pope as a “very stubborn patient” in a radio interview this week.

The doctor said that Pope Francis is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want. We have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”

Speaking in an interview with COPE, the Spanish bishops’ conference radio station, on November 20, Villalón said that the pope’s issue with his knee had affected some of his other joints as well.

“Sometimes it starts with a joint with osteoarthritis and other joints deteriorate because they are overloaded,” he said. “We are trying to make sure that this does not advance and that things get better.”

Villalón said that he was contacted by both the Apostolic Nunciature in Spain and the Spanish bishops’ conference, who “asked a group of specialists if we could help the pope.”

Pope Francis, who turns 86 next month, has alternated between using a wheelchair and a walking cane since May. 

Earlier this month, the pope told journalists that he was in “a lot of pain” on a flight to Bahrain. Pope Francis has previously canceled public appearances and trips due to his knee trouble, including a scheduled trip to Africa in July.

Villalón said that at first he was “nervous” during his first communication with the pope, but that they bonded because “he likes soccer.” 

In particular, the pope expressed his fondness for Atlético de Madrid’s striker, Ángel Correa, an Argentine soccer player who used to play for the San Lorenzo soccer club in Buenos Aires.

Correa recently joined Argentina’s national soccer team at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where Argentina suffered a shocking defeat in a game against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22.