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Pope Francis: Technological development must promote the human being

Pope Francis meets with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 13, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis addressed members of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican on Monday, stressing the importance of integrating “the resources of science and technology” while “promoting the human being in his or her irreducible specificity.”

The pope’s comments come as members of the academy are meeting in Rome from Feb. 12–14 for their general assembly, focusing this year on the theme of “Human: Meanings and Challenges.”

Noting that the academy will be looking at the fundamental question of “what is distinctive about the human being,” the pope opened his speech by underscoring the complexity of evaluating this question, especially against the backdrop of exponential developments in science and technology. 

These considerations, which the academy will discuss over the course of the upcoming days, present a fundamental understanding of “how the creativity entrusted to human beings can be exercised responsibly,” the pope observed. 

Stressing that this is fundamentally an “anthropological” task, the pope stressed that today “we are challenged to develop a culture that, by integrating the resources of science and technology, is capable of acknowledging and promoting the human being in his or her irreducible specificity.” 

“There is a need to explore whether this specificity is to be found even upstream of language, within the sphere of pathos and emotions, desire and intentionality, which only human beings can perceive, appreciate, and convert into positive and beneficial relationships with others, aided by the grace of the Creator,” the pope said. “This is ultimately a cultural task, since culture shapes and directs the spontaneous forces of life and social mores.”

The pope commended the work of the academy, which represents a plurality of voices in approaching ethical and social questions through the prism of “dialogue” and “a cross-disciplinary exchange.” 

“I can only encourage this kind of dialogue, which allows each person to offer his or her own reflections while interacting with others in a mutual exchange of views,” the pope said. “This is the way to overcome the mere juxtaposition of disciplines and to undertake a revision of our knowledge through reciprocal listening and critical reflection.”

The pope also commended the group for what he saw as their “synodal method of proceeding,” noting that it is a “demanding” process as it involves “careful attention and freedom of spirit, and readiness to set out on unexplored and unknown paths, free of useless attempts to ‘look back.’”

Placing this relationship within the broader context of the Christian tradition, the pope observed that Christianity “has always offered significant contributions, absorbing meaningful elements from every culture where it has taken root and reinterpreting them in the light of Christ and the Gospel, appropriating the linguistic and conceptual resources present in various cultural settings.”

Noting that this process of inculturation is “lengthy” and requires “an intellectual approach capable of embracing numerous generations,” the pope added that “it can be compared to the wisdom and vision of those who plant trees knowing that their fruit will be consumed by their children, or those who build cathedrals knowing that they will be completed by future generations.” 

During a Monday press conference after the audience with the pope, the academy’s president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, noted that “the urgency of the theme was imposed by thinking about our future as a human species, which today presents the risk of disappearing through self-destruction or overcoming.” 

“We have therefore placed the anthropological question at the center of this year’s work in a direct way, not least because it is becoming more and more insistent in public debate, not only in the ecclesial and academic spheres.” 

The Pontifical Academy for Life was established by St. John Paul II in his 1994 apostolic letter Vitae Mysterium as a way to study “the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s magisterium.”

In recent years the academy has been at the center of controversy as some of its members have advocated views that are inconsistent with traditional Church teaching.

In April 2023, Paglia spoke in support of medically assisted suicide, calling it “feasible” despite the Church’s unambiguous stance against the practice. 

In October 2022, Pope Francis appointed the pro-abortion economist Mariana Mazzucato to the academy to serve a five-year term as an ordinary academic. Mazzucato has frequently expressed her support for abortion.

Pope names biochemist who contributed to COVID vaccine to Pontifical Academy for Life

Nobel prize for medicine laureate Katalin Kariko speaks during the annual Nobel Symposium hosted by the Swedish Embassy at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. / Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 12, 2024 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

A Nobel-prize winning biochemist and researcher who helped develop the mRNA technology used to create the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines — Katalin Karikó — is one of the newest members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.

Pope Francis announced the appointment of Karikó, who lectures at the University of Szeged in Hungary, in a news release on Feb. 10. The pontifical academy, which St. John Paul II established in 1994, studies and provides input on the use of biomedicine in the protection of life.

Karikó, who was born in Szolnok, Hungary, received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work to develop mRNA technology. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute issued a news release saying she and co-researcher Drew Weissman received the award “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.” 

“Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times,” the news release noted.

She thanked the pontiff in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

“I am deeply honored that Pope [Francis] appointed me to be [a] member of the Pontifical Academy for Life,” Karikó said. “Last year, I gave a lecture in the Vatican on emerging biotechnologies. It was exciting to meet Pope [Francis] [in] a private audience with my family [and] he blessed my grandchildren.”

In a video message following her appointment, Karikó commented on her mRNA work. 

“Together with my colleagues, we built upon discoveries of scientists who came before us and we created optimal RNA suitable for therapy,” she said. “Never in a million years [would I] have imagined that it would have been used to create a vaccine to combat [a] global pandemic and eventually save millions of lives.”

Karikó also noted in her video message, which was posted on Feb. 11, that it was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. 

“I also think about all the young girls who may become inspired and want to be a scientist,” she said. “I would like to encourage them [to pursue those aspirations] and make better the world around them.” 

Karikó, like some of the pope’s other appointments to the Pontifical Academy for Life, is not Catholic herself. When John Paul II established the academy through a motu proprio in February 1994, the then-pontiff wrote that he would appoint individuals who represent various branches of the biomedical sciences “that are most closely related to problems concerning the promotion and protection of life.” 

“[The academy] will have the specific task to study and provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s magisterium,” John Paul wrote.

What did Milei and Pope Francis say to each other at the canonization of Mama Antula?

Pope Francis greets Argentina President Javier Milei in St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 11, 2024, at the canonization of Mama Antula, the first female saint from Argentina. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 12, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis and the president of Argentina, Javier Milei, spoke briefly at the Vatican on Sunday, Feb. 11, the feast day of the Our Lady of Lourdes and the day for the canonization of Mama Antula, the first female saint of the South American country.

“Did you get a haircut?” the Holy Father asked Milei as he greeted him in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Argentine leader was in Rome for the canonization Mass. Their encounter was captured in an EWTN News video.

“I tidied it up. Can I give you a hug?” the Argentine president then asked, to which Francis responded: “Yes, son, yes. Nice to see you. Thank you for coming … May God bless you very much.”

Next Karina Milei, the president’s sister and secretary general of his administration, asked the pope: “Can I greet you, can I give you a kiss?” After Pope Francis’ affirmative response, the woman told him: “A pleasure, it’s a pleasure being welcomed [by you].”

“Thank you for supporting him,” the Holy Father replied.

Then addressing the group that accompanied Milei, Pope Francis asked: “How’s work going?” to which the president responded: “It takes a lot of ability to handle things because of the roughness of the other side [his political opposition],” to which the pontiff replied: “God is greater!” 

“That’s true,” one of the women who was with Milei said.

As they departed, the Holy Father made his usual prayer request, this time to Milei and his entourage: “Pray for me; I pray for you.” 

“Thank you,” they responded.

“In just a little while we’ll see each other, tomorrow,” the pope concluded.

“See you tomorrow,” answered Milei, who said in an interview yesterday with Argentina’s Radio Miter that Pope Francis is “the most important Argentine in history.”

Milei was received this morning, Feb. 12, in a private audience by Pope Francis, after which he was scheduled to meet with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The Argentine president was also scheduled to meet with the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, and then with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

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

Meeting between Pope Francis and Argentine president signals possible turn in relationship

Pope Francis meets with Argentina President Javier Milei in a private audience on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 12, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Argentine President Javier Milei in a highly anticipated private audience on Monday morning, showcasing a possible rapprochement after the South American politician voiced sharp criticisms of the pontiff last year.

According to Francisco Sánchez, the undersecretary of Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Worship — who was part of the country’s official delegation to the Vatican — the meeting was full of “surprising aspects” and “took place in a very cordial way, with a lot of sympathy, with a lot of friendship between the two,” Italian News outlet ANSA reported.

Sánchez observed that the two met for over an hour, “which is not generally granted to international delegations received by the pontiff.” 

Pope Francis meets with Argentina President Javier Milei in a private audience on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with Argentina President Javier Milei in a private audience on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The Argentine online news outlet Infobae reported that after the meeting, Milei said the pope “was satisfied with the economic and social support program” that his government has spearheaded since taking office on Dec. 10, 2023. 

An official press release from the Holy See Press Office noted that after the meeting with the pope, Milei was received by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin as well as Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the secretary for relations with states and international organizations.

“Appreciation was expressed for the good relations between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic, and the will to strengthen them further. The parties then addressed the new government’s program to counter the economic crisis,” the press release stated.

Argentina President Javier Milei meets with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Argentina President Javier Milei meets with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

As is customary during official bilateral meetings at the Vatican, the two exchanged gifts, with the pope gifting Milei a bronze medallion inspired by the canopy of St. Peter as well as volumes of papal documents including the Message for the World Day of Peace 2024, which he personally signed Monday morning. 

The president reciprocated by gifting the pontiff a copy of the document with which the Argentine government accredited Juan Bautista Alberdi charge d’affaires to the pope in 1854, as well as a postmark dedicated to Argentina’s first female saint, María Antonia of St. Joseph, affectionately known as “Mama Antula.”

Milei also added a personal touch by gifting the pope dulce de leche and lemon biscuits from his native Argentina.

Argentina President Javier Milei presents Pope Francis with gifts during their meeting Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Argentina President Javier Milei presents Pope Francis with gifts during their meeting Feb. 12, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

The official bilateral meeting comes after the two Argentines embraced on Sunday, Feb. 11, in St. Peter’s Basilica after the canonization Mass of Mama Antula.

Milei — a staunch economic libertarian and a self-described “anarcho-capitalist” — was propelled to victory last year as his country grappled with chronic triple-digit hyperinflation and soaring poverty.

The 53-year-old economist has centered his administration's agenda on radically transforming the country with his “chainsaw” plan, which includes massive spending cuts as well as reforms to public administration and the treasury.

While on the campaign trail in 2023, Milei referred to the pope as “nefarious” and an “imbecile.”

However, since his unprecedented landslide victory in November, Milei has pivoted away from strident language, opting for a softer and more conciliatory tone. Following his election, the Holy Father called Milei to congratulate him on his victory. It was reported that during the phone call the president-elect invited the pope to visit Argentina. 

On Jan. 8, a month after officially taking office, Milei sent a formal invitation to the pope to visit his homeland, noting that the trip would “bring fruits of peace and brotherhood to all Argentines.”

“Bearing in mind your advice to have the necessary wisdom and courage, in my first weeks of government I have proceeded to propose a series of government measures aimed at transforming the situation that the Argentine Republic has been suffering for decades,” Milei continued in his letter.

While the pope has visited South America on several occasions during his nearly 11-year-long pontificate, he has conspicuously avoided an official visit to his native country. However, the pope has signaled that he would be open to visiting his country in the latter half of 2024. 

Pope Francis on Our Lady of Lourdes feast: The Church is close to all who are sick or frail

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address on Feb. 11, 2024. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged people to bring God’s love to the sick and suffering through “concrete actions” in his Angelus address on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Speaking on a rainy Sunday in Rome from the window of the Apostolic Palace to the crowd huddled under umbrellas below, the pope said that he wanted to express the closeness “of the entire Church to all those who are sick or frail.”

“Today, on the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, we celebrate World Day of the Sick, which this year draws attention to the importance of relationships in sickness,” Pope Francis said on Feb. 11.

“We are all required to be a neighbor to those who suffer, to visit the sick as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel,” he added.

In his Angelus address, the pope asked people to reflect on what they have done to help the sick and the suffering: “In real terms, when was the last time I went to visit someone alone or sick?”

“Or when was the last time I changed my plans to meet the needs of someone who asked me for help?” he asked.

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

The Catholic Church marks the World Day of the Sick each year on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in southwestern France is associated with the sick because of the presence of a miraculous spring from which many people have obtained physical healing.

Pope John Paul II established the World Day of the Sick in 1992 as “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying, and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ healing of a leper in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark is an example of “Jesus’ style” of backing up his words with “concrete deeds.”

“Love needs tangibility. Love needs presence and encounter. It needs to be given time and space,” Pope Francis said.

The pope underlined that love cannot be reduced to “to beautiful words, images on a screen, momentary selfies, or hasty messages.”

He said that when people are sick, the first thing that they need — in addition to the attention of health care professionals — is the closeness of their loved ones.

“May Mary, solicitous in care, help us to be ready and tangible in love,” Francis said.

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks from the window of the Apostolic Palace on a rainy Sunday in Rome on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

Pope Francis said that especially on the World Day of the Sick “we cannot remain silent about the fact that there are many people today to whom the right to care, and thus the right to life, is denied.”

“I am thinking of those who live in extreme poverty, but I am also thinking of those who live in war zones where fundamental human rights are violated there every day. It is intolerable,” he said.

“Let us pray for battered Ukraine, for Palestine and Israel. Let us pray for Myanmar and for all peoples who are tormented by war.”

Pope Francis canonizes Argentina’s first female saint

Pope Francis at the canonization of María Antonia of St. Joseph — known affectionately in the pope’s home country as “Mama Antula” -- on Feb. 11, 2024. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2024 / 08:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis canonized Argentina’s first female saint, María Antonia of St. Joseph — known affectionately in the pope’s home country as “Mama Antula” — in a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

Argentina’s President Javier Milei sat in the front row to the pope’s right during the canonization on Feb. 11 and embraced the pope at the end of the Mass.

Mama Antula (1730–1799) was a consecrated laywoman who promoted Ignatian spirituality, founding Buenos Aires’ House for Spiritual Exercises at a time of widespread hostility to the Jesuit order.

Pope Francis praised the Argentine saint as “a model of apostolic fervor and boldness” for traveling “thousands of miles on foot through deserts and dangerous roads” to bring people to God.

“Brothers and sisters, God loves us … and if we let him touch us, we too, by the power of his Spirit, can become witnesses of the love that saves,” he said.

Pope Francis gives a blessing during the canonization of María Antonia of St. Joseph at St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis gives a blessing during the canonization of María Antonia of St. Joseph at St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The Jesuit pope from Argentina highlighted how Mama Antula persevered in safeguarding Ignatian spirituality after the Society of Jesus was suppressed and its priests expelled from South America.

“When the Jesuits were expelled, the Holy Spirit ignited in her a missionary flame based on trust in providence and perseverance,” he said.

Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, has said that he wants to visit Argentina in the second half of this year. Francis has not returned to his homeland since becoming pope in 2013.

The pope met with the new Argentinian president for the first time briefly at the canonization. Milei, who called Francis an “imbecile” during his campaign, gave the pope a hug after shaking his hand at the end of Mass.

Milei embraced Pope Francis during a brief encounter at the end of the canonization Mass on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
Milei embraced Pope Francis during a brief encounter at the end of the canonization Mass on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

The two are scheduled to have a private meeting at the Vatican on Monday before Milei meets with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Pope Francis has said that he sees the meeting with Milei on Monday as an opportunity to “start a dialogue” and has indicated that he was not offended by the insults that Milei had hurled against him before he was elected president, saying, “words during an election campaign come and go.”

Milei, who was raised Catholic, has recently embraced aspects of Judaism, even suggesting the possibility that he could convert. After arriving in Rome from Israel on Friday, Milei visited the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains and posted a photo of himself looking at Michelangelo’s statue of Moses inside of the church on Instagram.

After assuming office as president in December, Milei issued a formal invitation for Pope Francis to visit Argentina in a letter signed on Jan. 8.

The canonization Mass of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
The canonization Mass of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

During the canonization Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of not ostracizing the poor or the weak but of drawing close to them as Jesus did with the lepers he met.

“How many suffering men and women do we meet on the sidewalks of our cities,” Pope Francis said.

“And how many fears, prejudices, and inconsistencies, even among those who are believers and call themselves Christians, contribute to wounding them all the more!”

Pope Francis has praised Mama Antula as an example of charity for her care for “those whom society discards.”

María Antonia was born into a wealthy family in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, in northern Argentina. She expressed a fervent desire to serve God at a young age. She spent the early part of her ministry helping parents with the instruction of their children and administering care to the sick and poor.

A relic of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph was present in St. Peter's Basilica for the Mass. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, served as the celebrant at the altar. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
A relic of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph was present in St. Peter's Basilica for the Mass. Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, served as the celebrant at the altar. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Following the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish Empire by King Charles III, she traveled around northern Argentina by foot to safeguard and promote Ignatian spirituality, organizing retreats despite the widespread hostility to the Jesuits.

After the success of these early retreats, she expanded her reach into other regions of Argentina and relocated to Buenos Aires in 1779. While denied permission by imperial authorities to restore the Ignatian tradition, her perseverance paid off when a year later she earned the trust of the local bishop, culminating in the establishment of the House for Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires.

She died on March 7, 1799, in Buenos Aires and was buried in the cemetery of the Church of the Pietà there. Her body was later moved inside the church and has become a popular pilgrimage destination.

Pope Francis speaks at the canonization Mass of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks at the canonization Mass of St. María Antonia of St. Joseph on Feb. 11, 2024. Vatican Media

In his homily, Pope Francis expressed gratitude to Mama Antula for promoting devotion to St. Cajetan, also known as St. Gaetano of Thiene, who is now one of the most popular saints in Argentina.

“Thanks to Mama Antula, this saint, intercessor of divine providence, made his way into homes, neighborhoods, transportation, stores, factories, and hearts, to offer a life of dignity through work, justice, and daily bread on the table of the poor,” the pope said.

“Let us pray today to María Antonia, St. María Antonia de Paz de San José, that she will help us greatly.”

Mama Antula’s feast day will be celebrated on March 7.

Pope Francis: Argentina’s first female saint shows us ‘the path of holiness’

Pope Francis meets with Argentine pilgrims on Feb. 9, 2024, ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 9, 2024 / 11:41 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with Argentine pilgrims on Friday morning ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday.

During his address, Pope Francis presented Blessed María Antonia of St. Joseph de Paz y Figueroa, more affectionately known as “Mama Antula,” as an example of “charity” and “an inspiration that revives ‘the option for the last, for those that society discards.’”

The saint’s example and legacy is especially important for us today “in the midst of this society that runs the risk of forgetting that ‘radical individualism is the most difficult virus to defeat. A virus that deceives. It makes us believe that everything consists of giving free rein to one’s own ambitions,’” the pope said, quoting from his encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

Born in 1730 in Silipica, Santiago del Estero, in northern Argentina, María Antonia’s early life was characterized by a fervent desire to serve God. She helped parents with the instruction of their children and administered care to the sick and poor. 

Pope Francis meets with Argentine pilgrims on Feb. 9, 2024, ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with Argentine pilgrims on Feb. 9, 2024, ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Against the backdrop of the suppression of the Jesuits in the Spanish Empire by Charles III, the pope characterized María Antonia as an example of overcoming adversity as she traveled on foot to promote Ignatian spirituality and “to help everyone discover the beauty of following Jesus.” 

The pope added that this was no small task given the “aversion that had developed toward Christ, the aversion that had developed toward the Jesuits.”

“She was forbidden to give retreats, so she decided to give them clandestinely. This dimension of clandestinity must not be forgotten,” Pope Francis stressed.

Arguing that it is imperative to not forget this secrecy, the pope told the pilgrims to “not to give up in the face of adversity, not to give up on our good intentions to bring the Gospel to all, despite the challenges.”

María Antonia is as an example of discernment “because she had not placed her security in herself, but in God, trusting that her arduous apostolate was his work,” the pope said. 

Pope Francis meets with Argentine pilgrims on Feb. 9, 2024, ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with Argentine pilgrims on Feb. 9, 2024, ahead of the historic canonization of the county’s first female saint on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

In this way she “experienced what God wants of each one of us, that we may discover his call, each in our own state of life … it will always be synthesized in doing everything for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.”

“The path of holiness implies trust and abandonment,” the Holy Father emphasized. 

“Firmly rooted in the Lord we must see this as an occasion in which we can challenge our environment to bring the joy of the Gospel,” he added.

Pope Francis will preside over the Mass of canonization in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 9:30 a.m. Argentina’s President Javier Milei will also be present at the ceremony. He will be received in a private audience with the pope on Monday, Feb. 12, at the Vatican.

Buenos Aires archbishop highlights courage of Mama Antula, the ‘mother’ of Argentina

Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Buenos Aires, Argentina. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 8, 2024 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

On Sunday, Feb. 11, Pope Francis will raise to the altars the woman who will become Argentina’s first female saint, Mama Antula — also known as María Antonia of St. Joseph — a consecrated laywoman considered by many as “the mother of the country.”

The ceremony, which will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica, will be attended by representatives of the Catholic Church in Argentina as well as political leaders, including Javier Milei, the president of Argentina.

Argentina is Pope Francis’ native land.

To participate in the long-awaited canonization, Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Buenos Aires, Auxiliary Bishop Alberto Germán Bochatey of La Plata, and Bishop Vicente Bokalic of Santiago del Estero all traveled to Rome.

The prelates, together with Silvia Correale, postulator of the cause of the future saint, met with journalists Feb. 8 at the Holy See Press Office.

A holy and joyful laywoman

María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa was from the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, a consecrated laywoman recognized for dedicating her life to the proclamation of the Gospel, especially among the poorest of the people.

She founded the Holy House of Spiritual Exercises in Buenos Aires, and from there she spread Jesuit spirituality, keeping the Ignatian legacy alive.

Speaking in Rome with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Archbishop García expressed his joy at this “very important event, which is having our own female saint,” while highlighting the “challenge” of following her example today.

The archbishop of the Argentine capital also highlighted the “boldness and apostolic creativity” of Mama Antula, who in the 18th century, “when the Jesuits had been expelled from the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata by the decision of King Carlos III of Spain, had the initiative to take this important experience of the Spiritual Exercises proposed by St. Ignatius and to continue spreading them throughout Argentina.”

“She strove to do more, and that seems to me to be a characteristic of the holiness of today’s world, for us to strive to do more, for us to strive to live the Gospel thoroughly in today’s society,” he noted.

The prelate also pointed out that Mama Antula did not make distinctions and included people from all social classes.

Sister María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, whose religious name was María Antonia of St. Joseph. Credit: Public domain
Sister María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, whose religious name was María Antonia of St. Joseph. Credit: Public domain

“In the Spiritual Exercises, relatives of the viceroy, members of the Buenos Aires aristocracy, simple families, and slaves participated,” he said, noting that they all “remained together for 10 days.”

Taking this attitude as an example, the prelate called for “living fraternity and concretizing the magisterium of Pope Francis,” especially in a world “where we only look for that which divides us.”

García also highlighted “the joy and good humor” of Mama Antula, who had a great devotion to St. Philip Neri, known as “the saint of joy.”

Finally, he clarified that although in many of the images she is represented with a habit that may seem like that of a nun, “she was a laywoman.”

The prelate pointed out that “we are all the Church, fundamentally the laity, who have to have a greater role and be listened to more.”

Regarding a possible visit by Pope Francis to Argentina, the archbishop of Buenos Aires said that “there is an enormous desire for the pope to meet his people. We await him with open hearts and arms.”

‘An active and merciful faith’ 

Silvia Correale, postulator of the cause of Mama Antula, called the soon-to-be-canonized saint “the mother of the country” and stressed that to this day, she continues to be “a very important model for living.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, Correale described her position as postulator as “a service to evangelization” and remarked that “the saints are like the Gospel incarnated in each given historical moment, since God works and manifests himself through them.”

She highlighted that “the Lord manifested himself through a woman,” a consecrated laywoman who “had impressive faith and totally trusted in providence. She was a person who very much trusted in the action of God, very humble, austere, and prayerful.”

“Almost all of what she did was done from nothing, with total austerity. She had an impressive, very strong faith and great charity; she was a person who carried out many works of mercy,” the postulator noted.

Correale also described the soon-to-be first Argentine female saint as “a woman on the move, with an active and merciful faith who also exercised the ministry of listening, since she didn’t preach during the [Spiritual] Exercises, but rather the priests did.” 

The postulator explained that in the Holy House of Spiritual Exercises “women who were released from prison were accepted to make a spiritual journey and to be able to reintegrate themselves into society. They also worked with the girls, where they taught them catechism, how to embroider, read… she did a great social and educational work.”

The Holy House, Correale highlighted, “was the center of spirituality and moral values of Buenos Aires. Also, when a family had a problem, they went to her — there are very beautiful anecdotes about that.”

Finally, Correale said that with this canonization Pope Francis demonstrates that “the presence of a woman in a society and in the Church can leave its mark for many generations and can do a lot of good, responding generously to the call of the Lord.”

“We all have a mission in life, our personal charism,” he said. “God calls us into life for a mission, we have to discover it and have the courage to follow him and leave a mark, like Mama Antula did.”

Canonization ‘is a gift from God’

Bishop Vicente Bokalic of Santiago del Estero, the city where Mama Antula was born, told ACI Prensa that the upcoming canonization “is a present and gift from God, who found in this woman the collaboration to do a monumental work.”

“It is also an incentive and a challenge to take up again what she did,” he continued. “She traveled like a pilgrim throughout the country, barefoot, walking from town to town, inviting people from all social classes to the Spiritual Exercises that nearly 80,000 people went through.”

The bishop also pointed out that Mama Antula’s life “is a gift of God’s love capable of transforming societies” and noted that “she spent 22 years accompanying the Jesuit fathers” in their work.

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

Pope Francis: ‘It is never too late to take action’ against human trafficking

Talitha Kum members hold a sculpture of St. Josephine Bakhita in St. Peter's Square on Feb. 6, 2022. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 8, 2024 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

On the 10th International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, Pope Francis urged people to take concrete actions to “combat this global scourge.”

“Let us help one another to be more responsive, to open our lives and hearts to our sisters and brothers who even now are being bought and sold as slaves. It is never too late to take action,” Pope Francis said in a message published Feb. 8.

“Let us pray fervently and work proactively for this cause, the defense of human dignity, whether by prayer and action as individuals and families, or as parish and religious communities, as ecclesial associations and movements, and also in the various spheres of social and political life.”

The pope’s comments came as Catholics from more than 50 countries across the world rallied together virtually as part of an online prayer marathon for the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that profits off of an estimated 49.6 million victims worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization. The U.N. agency documented a 25% increase in the number of people experiencing modern slavery between 2016 and 2021. 

Pope Francis established the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking 10 years ago to coincide with the Feb. 8 feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking victims.

“Together let us walk in the footsteps of St. Bakhita, the religious sister from Sudan who as a child was sold into slavery and was a victim of traffickers. Let us remember the wrong she endured, her suffering, but at the same time her strength and her journey of liberation and rebirth to a new life,” Pope Francis said.

“St. Bakhita encourages us to open our eyes and ears to see those who go unseen and to hear those  who have no voice, to acknowledge the dignity of each person and to fight trafficking and all forms of exploitation.”

St. Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 in Sudan. Around 1877, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Arab slave traders. During her time as a slave, she was beaten, tortured, and scarred.

Eventually, in 1883, she was sold to the Italian vice-consul Callisto Legani, who took her with him back to Italy. While in Italy, she was given to a family and became their nanny, and that family eventually left her with the Canossian Sisters in Venice when they traveled to Sudan for business.

Once with the sisters, she learned about Christianity and decided to become Catholic. She refused to go back to the family that enslaved her once they returned to Italy, and an Italian court ruled that since slavery had been outlawed in Sudan before her birth, she was not legally a slave. She was then freed from slavery.

With her newfound freedom, Bakhita remained with the Canossians. She took the names Josephine Margaret and Fortunata, the Latin translation of her Arabic name, Bakhita. Three years later, she became a novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity and professed her final vows on Dec. 8, 1896.

She then lived out the remainder of her life in a convent in Schio, Vicenza, working as a cook and a doorkeeper. She died on Feb. 8, 1947, and was canonized on Oct. 1, 2000, by Pope John Paul II.

Pope Francis urged people to respond to his appeal to fight human trafficking in honor of St. Josephine Bakhita, who he said “stands for all those men and women who, despite their enslavement, can still attain freedom.”

“It is a call to take action, to mobilize all our resources in combatting trafficking and restoring full dignity to those who have been its victims.”

The online prayer marathon for the world day against human trafficking is being coordinated by Talitha Kum, a network of more than 2,000 Catholic religious sisters who serve on the front lines of the fight against sex trafficking, helping survivors find healing and true freedom.

Religious sisters affiliated with Talitha Kum are present in 77 countries. Members of the network have served 10,000 trafficking survivors by accompanying them to shelters and other residential communities, engaging in international collaboration, and helping them to return home.

“From my heart, I express my gratitude to everyone engaged in the celebration of this day, and I bless all those who are committed to combatting trafficking and all forms of exploitation in order to build a world of fraternity and peace,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: ‘Without liturgical reform there is no reform of the Church’ 

Pope Francis addressed members of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Thursday morning, Feb. 8, 2024, to discuss the importance of liturgical reform as a core feature of the broader “renewal of the Church.” / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 8, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with members of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Thursday morning to discuss the importance of liturgical reform as a core feature of the broader “renewal of the Church.” 

The address comes as the dicastery is meeting for its annual plenary assembly, which is addressing the “liturgical formation from Sacrosanctum Concilium to Desiderio Desideravi” for ordained ministers as well as “liturgical training courses for the people of God.”

The meeting will also seek to “provide bishops with practical suggestions for developing pastoral projects in their dioceses with the aim of putting into practice the reflections of the papal document,” a Feb. 5 press release from the dicastery stated. 

Recalling that it has been 60 years since the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s seminal document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the pope stressed in his Feb. 8 address that liturgical reform underscored the council fathers’ objective of renewing the Church’s “fundamental dimensions” such as “spiritual, pastoral, ecumenical, and missionary” work. 

“Without liturgical reform there is no reform of the Church,” the pope said. 

“A church that does not feel the passion for spiritual growth, that does not try to speak in an understandable way to the men and women of his time, that does not feel pain for the division between Christians, who does not tremble with the anxiety of announcing Christ to the people, is a sick Church, and these are the symptoms,” the Holy Father emphasized in his address. 

The pope qualified these remarks by saying “we can only make such a statement by understanding what the liturgy is in its theological sense.” 

Speaking specifically on the theme of the assembly’s 2024 meeting, the pope noted that their work must focus on making formation more accessible so it is not a  “specialization for a few experts, but of an interior disposition of all the people of God.”

“This naturally does not exclude that there is a priority in the training of those who, by virtue of the sacrament of orders, are called to be mystagogues, that is, to take each other by the hand and accompany the faithful in the knowledge of the holy mysteries,” Francis continued. 

The Holy Father also noted that liturgical formation is predicated upon a love for Christ by highlighting the theological representation of the Church as Christ’s bride, saying: “Every instance of reform of the Church is always a question of spousal fidelity.”

“The Church is a woman, the Church is a mother, the Church has its figure in Mary and the Church-woman.” 

The pope added that the Church “is more than Peter … everything cannot be reduced to ministeriality. The woman in herself has a very great symbol in the Church as a woman, without reducing her to ministeriality.” 

“This is why I said that every instance of reform of the Church is always a question of spousal fidelity, because she [the Church] is a woman.” 

The pope also reflected on the centrality of the liturgy in our lives, saying that “it is the place for excellence in which to encounter the living Christ,” which “continually animates and renews baptismal life.” 

The pope also said that it is his desire that the dicastery undertakes this work in collaboration with the Dicastery for Culture and Education, the Dicastery for the Clergy, and the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to reflect “the spirit of synodal collaboration.”