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Pope Francis appoints Bishop Henning as coadjutor bishop of Providence

Bishop Richard Henning / Diocese of Rockville Centre

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2022 / 06:34 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed Bishop Richard Henning as a coadjutor bishop of Providence on Wednesday.

As coadjutor, Henning will assist Bishop Thomas J. Tobin in the administration of the Rhode Island diocese and should succeed him as bishop upon his retirement, expected once Tobin turns 75 next April.

The Diocese of Providence is home to more than 603,000 Catholics. In the Vatican’s announcement on Nov. 23, Pope Francis also accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert C. Evans, 75, who served as an auxiliary bishop of Providence for the past 13 years.

Henning, an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre since 2018, reacted to his appointment with gratitude.

“On this eve of the Thanksgiving Feast, I give thanks to almighty God ‘from Whom all blessings flow!’”

The bishop added that he was thankful for “the opportunity to learn” from Tobin and “for the many people who have offered me their love and their witness of lived faith … and sustained me, sharing in the work of proclaiming the Gospel.”

“As I express gratitude, I entrust myself to the grace of our merciful God and ask the Lord to grant the strength and faith necessary for the ministry that I will exercise in the Church of Providence,” he said.

Henning, 58, was born in Rockville Centre as the first of five children. After earning a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University in Queens in 1988, he entered the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception and was ordained a priest for the Rockville Centre Diocese in 1992.

After receiving a licentiate in biblical theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington in 2000, Henning began to teach Sacred Scripture at his former seminary.

He continued his studies in Rome, earning a doctorate in biblical theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 2007, and was named rector of the seminary and director of an institute for ongoing formation for clergy in 2012.

Henning enjoys sailing, boating, and kayaking. In addition to English, he speaks Spanish and Italian and is able to read French, Greek and Hebrew.

As an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, Henning worked closely with Bishop John Barres on driving missionary growth and parish evangelization, according to the diocese.

Barres speaks highly of Henning as “an erudite biblical scholar” who “combines a deep knowledge of the Scriptures with a tremendous passion for the Word of God.”

“Bishop Richard Henning is a wise pastor, a gifted theologian, and a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. In him, the Diocese of Providence truly receives a good shepherd,” Barres said.

Pope Francis gives a shoutout to 2022 FIFA World Cup 

Pope Francis holds a soccer ball in St. Peter's Square during the Wednesday general audience on Aug. 26, 2015. L'Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2022 / 03:48 am (CNA).

Pope Francis gave a shoutout to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the end of his weekly audience on Wednesday.

Speaking to a crowd of people from around the world Nov. 23, the pope expressed his hope the international soccer competition would foster fraternity and peace.

“I wish to send my greetings to the players, fans and spectators who are following, from various continents, the World Cup, which is being played in Qatar,” he said in St. Peter’s Square.

“May this important event,” he continued, “be an occasion of encounter and harmony among nations, fostering fraternity and peace among peoples.”

Pope Francis added to his appeal for peace, asking for prayers for an end to all conflicts, especially the conflict in Ukraine.

He highlighted the upcoming anniversary, Nov. 26, of Holodomor, also known as the Terror-Famine or the Great Famine, a man-made famine that took place in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933.

Pope Francis praying at the general audience on St. Peter's Square. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis praying at the general audience on St. Peter's Square. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Francis called Holodomor a “terrible genocide” and an “extermination by starvation,” which was artificially caused by Joseph Stalin.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is being played in the State of Qatar, an emirate on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18.

The choice of Qatar as host country for the men’s soccer tournament has been criticized due to conditions in the country, including the situation of Christians.

Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, who is the current sports commissioner of the German Bishops’ Conference, said in a statement published Nov. 17 that he did not want to give soccer fans “a bad conscience,” even if people were “asking how it came about that Qatar, of all places, was chosen by FIFA as the host country 12 years ago.”

“Non-Islamic religions, including Christianity, which are strongly represented among migrant workers, are granted freedom only to a limited extent,” the German prelate said.

Oster also said the role of women was “set back” and sexual minorities were prosecuted.

Pope Francis: What is spiritual consolation? The saints explain

Pope Francis praying at the general audience on St. Peter's Square / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2022 / 02:37 am (CNA).

Pope Francis used the example of several Catholic saints to explain the concept of spiritual consolation during his weekly audience on Wednesday.

“What is spiritual consolation?” he said Nov. 23. “It is a profound experience of interior joy, consisting in seeing God’s presence in everything. It strengthens faith and hope, and even the ability of doing good.”

The pope continued his teachings on the theme of discernment at his public audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he contrasted last week’s reflection on spiritual desolation with consolation, as experienced by several of the Church’s saints.

“The person who experiences consolation never gives up in the face of difficulties because he or she always experiences a peace that is stronger than any trial,” Francis said. Consolation “is, therefore, a tremendous gift for the spiritual life as well as life in general.”

Pope Francis arriving for the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Nov. 23, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis arriving for the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Nov. 23, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The pope began his explanation by drawing from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who wrote about rules for the discernment of spirits.

Francis said “consolation is an interior movement that touches our depths. It is not flashy but soft, delicate, like a drop of water on a sponge.”

He went on to describe consolation as not “a passing euphoria,” nor something which tries to force our will or inhibit our freedom. “Even the suffering caused, for example, by our own sins can become a reason for consolation,” he added.

St. Augustine was consoled when he spoke with his mother, St. Monica, about the beauty of eternal life, the pope said. And St. Francis of Assisi experienced perfect joy despite the difficult situations he had to bear.

“Let’s think of the many saints who were able to do great things not because they thought they were magnificent or capable, but because they had been conquered by the peaceful

sweetness of God’s love,” Pope Francis said. “This is the peace that St. Ignatius discovered in himself with such amazement when he would read the lives of the saints.”

The pope also quoted St. Edith Stein, who is also known by the name she took in religious life: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

A year after her baptism as a Christian, following her conversion from Judaism, St. Edith Stein wrote about her interior feeling of peace: “As I abandon myself to this feeling, little by little a new life begins to fill me and — without any pressure on my will — to drive me toward new realizations. This living inpouring seems to spring from an activity and it gives a strength that is not mine and which, without doing me any violence, becomes active in me.”

Francis emphasized the importance of action following consolation.

“Consolation is such peace, but not to sit there enjoying it, no, it gives you peace and draws you to the Lord and sets you on a path to do things, to do good things,” he said.

“In a time of consolation, when we are consoled, we get the desire to do so much good, always. Instead, when there is a time of desolation, we get the urge to close in on ourselves and do nothing. Consolation pushes you forward, in service to others, to society, to people.”

He recalled when St. Therese of the Child Jesus, at the age of 14, visited the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem in Rome.

The girl from Lisieux, France, “tried to touch the nail venerated there, one of the nails with which Jesus was crucified,” the pope said. “Therese understood her daring as a transport of love and confidence. Later, she wrote, ‘I truly was too audacious. But the Lord sees the depths of our hearts. He knows my intention was pure […] I acted with him as a child who believes everything is permissible and who considers the Father’s treasures their own.’”

This, Pope Francis said, is a “splendid description of spiritual consolation.”

“We can feel a sense of tenderness toward God that makes us audacious in our desire to participate in his own life, to do what is pleasing to him because we feel familiar with him, we feel that his house is our house, we feel welcome, loved, restored,” he added.

Consolation gives one the strength to continue in the face of difficulty, Francis said, pointing to St. Therese’s request to the pope to enter the Carmelite order even though she was too young.

According to the pope, St. Bernard teaches us about consolation and discernment, especially the pitfall of "false consolations.”

“If an authentic consolation is like a drop on a sponge, is soft and intimate, its imitations are noisier and flashier, like straw fires, lacking substance, leading us to close in on ourselves and not to take care of others,” Francis said. This is where discernment comes in.

“False consolation can become a danger if we seek it obsessively as an end in itself, forgetting the Lord,” he pointed out. “As St. Bernard would say, this is like seeking the consolations of God rather than the God of consolations.”

There is a risk of treating our relationship with God in a childish way, he concluded, “of reducing it to an object that we use and consume, losing the most beautiful gift which is God himself.”

Analysis: What is behind the changes at Caritas Internationalis?

Pope Francis speaks in St. Peter's Square Oct. 15, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Why did Pope Francis dismiss the entire leadership of the Church’s worldwide charity arm Tuesday?

What role will Pier Francesco Pinelli play as temporary administrator of Caritas Internationalis, appointed by papal decree on Nov. 22?

A key date to understanding the move and how it aligns with the pope's broader reforms is Oct. 15, 2022.

On that day, Pope Francis received in audience at the Vatican Father Giacomo Canobbio and delegates of Bain Capital. The financial investment firm is where Pinelli previously worked. And Canobbio is the priest who, without announcement, was appointed by Pope Francis to the role of commissioner of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Both appointments are typical for the pontiff and his preferred modus operandi: Pope Francis sends an inspection or appoints a commissioner whenever he wants to reform something.

The papacy of commissioners

There were no apparent reasons for appointing a commissioner to Caritas Internationalis — just as there were no apparent reasons for appointing a commissioner at the Pontifical Lateran University.

However, Pope Francis has previously ordered a number of inspections.

Bishop Claudio Maniago was made the inspector of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after which the pope appointed Archbishop Arthur Roche as prefect of the dicastery. Next, Bishop Egidio Miragoli inspected the Congregation of the Clergy, which was still in progress when the pope appointed the Korean bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik — later created cardinal— as prefect of the dicastery.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis appointed several commissions.

One such body was the commission of reference on the administrative-economic structures of the Holy See, known by its Italian acronym COSEA. Another was CRIOR, the commission for studying the Institute of Works of Religion reform, commonly known as the Vatican Bank.

Their work, once completed, resulted in the extensive overhaul of the Vatican’s financial departments and the new Institute of Works of Religion statutes, promulgated in 2019.

However, the appointment of a commissioner in Caritas Internationalis has another clear precedent: the inspection of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

The inspection took place in July 2021 and was led by Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago. The team also included Sister Helen Alford, vice-rector of the Pontifical Angelicum University, an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences; and Pinelli, the new administrator of Caritas Internationalis.

Pinelli’s profile

A trained engineer and experienced manager, Pinelli has worked with several institutions as well as a consultant for management and investment firms.

According to Vatican rumors not officially confirmed but provided to CNA from multiple sources, Pinelli was also involved in restructuring what is now the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

A press release from the dicastery said Pinelli was an engineer “with a more humanist than technical way of proceeding” and that he was “formed in Ignatian spirituality,” a man who “from an early age was active as a volunteer working with recovering drugs addicts, in development cooperation, support for missionary works, and catechesis.” The statement also noted that he is married with three children and three grandchildren.

The release also emphasized that “in 33 years of work,” Pinelli had gained managerial experience in different sectors, including a large energy company.

Having worked both as a project manager for energy companies and as a management consultant for Bain, Pinelli also has experience working with religious and secular works and institutions, according to the release.

Obviously, his formation and positions in some Jesuit institutions may have played a role. It seems likely that Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, the current prefect of the dicastery, had a word in involving him and others.

However, it is still hard to assess which issues are at stake. It seems clear that the pope wants to reform Caritas Internationalis, including its statutes and bylaws.

Founded in 1951, the Catholic confederation is made up of 162 charitable organizations based in 200 countries around the world. Its headquarters are located on Vatican territory in Rome, and the Vatican oversees its activity.

According to Czerny’s dicastery, “no evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety”; however, “deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team spirit and staff morale.”

Pinelli’s task

The reform of the statutes will be the first task of the new commissioner.

Pinelli will be assisted by Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, Caritas Internationalis’ head of advocacy, and by Jesuit Father Manuel Morujão, who will provide personal and spiritual accompaniment to Caritas employees, according to Pope Francis’ decree.

In May 2023, the next Caritas Internationalis general assembly is expected to be held in Rome, with the appointment of the new president, general secretary, and treasurer. By then, the reform process will likely be completed.

Caritas Internationalis will undergo a review “in order to improve its management norms and procedures — even while financial matters have been well-handled and fundraising goals regularly achieved — and so better to serve its member charitable organizations around the world.”

However, a reform of the statutes already took place in 2019 and was approved by the pope with a rescript of Jan. 13, 2020.

As for the change of the statutes of Caritas Internationalis, it was simply a matter of passing the competencies from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which no longer exists, to the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, which has absorbed its functions.

As for the rules of procedure, these changes were not communicated. But they generally accepted some of the requests approved by the Caritas General Assembly, which envisaged encouraging the presence of women within the highest representative bodies and including two young people in the same representative bodies.

In particular, there was talk of the Representative Council of the federation, abbreviated with the name RE.CO., the acronym for Representative Council. These indications have now been implemented and will become operational.

The structure of Caritas Internationalis was thus “adjusted” and adapted to the reform of the Curia.

However, the statutes of Caritas Internationalis remained confirmed in the structure as Pope Benedict XVI reformed them in 2012. Those statutes strengthened the collaboration between Caritas Internationalis and the Holy See and clearly outlined the competencies of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Not only that: the new structure of Caritas Internationalis gave greater coordination to departments and bodies connected to the Holy See, which also concerned doctrinal aspects.

The rationale behind Benedict XVI’s reform

It is noteworthy that the 2012 reform was part of a more extensive project by Benedict XVI to accomplish Pastor Bonus’s provisions fully.

Pastor Bonus was the apostolic constitution that regulated the functions and tasks of the Curia offices, and Praedicate Evangelium now replaces that.

However, the reform came after a governance crisis. In 2011, the Secretariat of State did not approve the renomination of the former secretary general, Lesley-Anne Knight. (However, her work was praised by the president of Caritas Internationalis at the time, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga.) As a result, she was replaced by Michel Roy, a Frenchman who worked with Secours Catholique — the Caritas in France.

Knight’s non-confirmation also stemmed from the new approach given with the subsequent reform of Caritas Internationalis.

It was an approach that derived from the formulation of Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate. In the encyclical, Benedict XVI stressed that human development and foreign aid could not be separated from the demand for truth. The encyclical also pointed to the fact that many international organizations were promoting abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia.

This was an approach that Knight did not fully share, as she publicly explained to the media at the time.

While some approved of Knight’s departure, others were disappointed. Despite a robust generational change in Caritas Internationalis in recent years, these divisive feelings may have lingered in the background and fueled some complaints about “management and procedures.”

What will the new reform look like?

The tone of the dicastery’s press release suggests that the reform will be more managerial. But, above all, it is a substantial change in philosophy from the reform of Benedict XVI.

In short, it could be another paradigm shift by Pope Francis, comparable to some degree to his restrictions of the Traditional Latin Mass.

From this point of view, Pope Francis has identified several people to help complete his changes to the Church’s structure.

In carrying out the reform, the pope does not hesitate to demote someone like Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, current president of Caritas, who now finds himself mandated to “liaise” with Pinelli and his staff for the upcoming general assembly.

Tagle was rumored to be appointed the next prefect of the Dicastery of Bishops. Even if these rumors were to be confirmed, Tagle’s public image has now been compromised by the Caritas decision. This will also weigh in a future conclave.

Pope Francis, however, is completing his goals. As he said in one of his homilies in the days of the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 — and also in a meeting with the Candia Foundation in April — he remains critical of humanitarian organizations that do good work but spend 60% of their budget on wages. The pope called on them to keep costs to a minimum, “so that most of the money goes to the people.”

Pope Francis meets Jewish leaders as they launch initiative to strengthen Catholic-Jewish bonds

Pope Francis meeting with a delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) at the Vatican, Nov. 21, 2022. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with international Jewish leaders on Tuesday as they launched an initiative to strengthen Catholic-Jewish bonds.

“This visit testifies to and strengthens the bonds of friendship uniting us,” the pope told members of the World Jewish Congress at the Vatican Nov. 22.

Francis spoke with the executive committee of the international federation of Jewish communities and organizations during its twice annual meeting, which took place in Rome and the Vatican Nov. 21–22.

Pope Francis meeting with a delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) at the Vatican, Nov. 22, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis meeting with a delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) at the Vatican, Nov. 22, 2022. Vatican Media

The World Jewish Congress announced Tuesday that it is starting an initiative called “Kishreinu” (Hebrew for “Our Bond”), “intended to strengthen Jewish-Catholic ties around the globe.”

The Kishreinu initiative, according to the World Jewish Congress, “will serve as the Jewish community’s response to the Nostra Aetate Declaration of the Second Vatican Council.”

Nostra aetate, the council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, was a watershed in the history of Christian-Jewish relations.

The document said the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in other religious traditions and encouraged “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life.”

In his remarks to the World Jewish Congress executive committee, Pope Francis noted that “from the time of the Second Vatican Council, your Congress has been in dialogue with the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and for many years has sponsored meetings of great interest.”

“We, Jews and Catholics, share priceless spiritual treasures,” he added.

The Kishreinu initiative was launched during a Nov. 22 meeting in the Vatican’s Synod Hall prior to the audience with Pope Francis.

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder said he was grateful to the Catholic Church during a time of increasing anti-semitic acts and rhetoric around the world.

“We don’t ignore it. We don’t forget. But we look forward, together. And what could possibly be better for all the children of God to live together in peace, harmony, and in the house of the Lord, forever,” he said.

“Those of us here today,” he said, “are eager to promote our bond with the Catholic Church. Today, we launch the process of ‘Kishreinu,’ [which] reinforces the common future of our two people. It presents a new stage in the Catholic-Jewish bond.”

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said “with our shared heritage, we have a common responsibility to work together for the good of humankind, refuting antisemitism and anti-Catholic and anti-Christian attitudes, as well as all kinds of discrimination, to work for justice, solidarity, and peace, to spread compassion and mercy in an often cold and merciless world.”

World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder meets with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Vatican. Credit: World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder meets with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Nov. 22, 2022, at the Vatican. Credit: World Jewish Congress

Pope Francis said: “In light of the religious heritage that we share, let us regard the present as a challenge that unites us, as an incentive to act together.”

“Our two communities of faith are entrusted with the task of working to make the world more fraternal, combating forms of inequality and promoting greater justice, so that peace will not remain an otherworldly promise but become a present reality in our world,” he said.

The pope emphasized the importance of justice for building peaceful coexistence in the world.

“How many human beings,” he said, “created in the image and likeness of God, are violated in their dignity as the result of the injustice that racks our world and represents the underlying cause of so many conflicts, the swamp that breeds wars and violence.”

“The One who created all things with order and harmony urges us to cleanse this swamp of injustice that engulfs fraternal coexistence in the world, even as environmental devastations compromise the health of the earth,” he added.

He also pointed out faith’s role in teaching us that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and said the Scriptures remind us of the importance of inviting God into our actions.

“In other words, our political, cultural, and social initiatives to better the world — what you call Tikkun Olam — will never prove successful without prayer and without fraternal openness to other creatures in the name of the one Creator, who loves life and blesses those who are peacemakers,” he said.

Analysis: What is behind Pope Francis’ appointment of the new prefect for the Eastern Churches?

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti with Pope Francis / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).

For the role of prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches, Pope Francis has chosen Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, who since 2020 was nuncio to the United Kingdom.

The Italian prelate’s diplomatic career came about somewhat “by accident.”

As a specialist in Eastern liturgy and a fluent Russian and Armenian speaker, Gugerotti arrived in Rome to serve in the Congregation of Oriental Churches, where he had served as undersecretary before starting his career as “ambassador of the pope.”

His recent appointment came as a bit of a surprise, given Vatican rumors were convinced that Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 79 years old and head of the dicastery since 2007, would remain the prefect until he was 80. 

As a possible substitute, there was talk of Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, a longtime diplomat and former Vatican “foreign minister,” who is now prefect of the Apostolic Signatura — the Vatican’s highest judicial authority.

Gugerotti’s profile was among those considered possible prefects but considered unlikely. A little for his well-underway diplomatic career: in London since 2020, he had been sent — he explained in an interview with Vatican News — to continue the dialogue between Catholics and Anglicans. Partly because his fluent knowledge of the Russian language and culture made him, in the eyes of many, too close to Russia and, therefore, ineligible in times like these.

This reading, however, risks being superficial. Gugerotti is an expert on Ukraine, having been nuncio to Kyiv from 2015 to 2020. But he is also an expert on Russia and how Russian politics moves. So when as nuncio he spoke about the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine, long before the large-scale Russian aggression on Ukrainian territory, he did so in terms that very much reflected the diplomatic line of Pope Francis.

In the end, there are three reasons why Archbishop Gugerotti was chosen as prefect of the dicastery:

  1. His experience and knowledge not only of the Eastern Churches but also of post-Soviet politicians.

  2. His diplomatic doctrine.

  3. The role that the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches can play.

The experience of Archbishop Gugerotti

Gugerotti, 67, arrived in Rome to serve in the Congregation of the Oriental Churches after attending Eastern theology and liturgy for three years at the Institute of Ecumenical Studies in Verona.

He remained in the dicastery until 2001, becoming undersecretary in 1997. 

Then, Pope John Paul II appointed him nuncio to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, a position he held from 2001 to 2011. He was in Tbilisi when, in 2008, there was the Russo-Georgian War, and therefore he learned about the Russian way of operating.

In 2011, Benedict XVI appointed him nuncio to Belarus. There, he was able to visit political prisoners, negotiating directly with President Aleksandr Lukashenko. This confidence in the Belarusian president came in handy at the end of 2020 when Pope Francis sent him to Belarus to speak with Lukashenko and negotiate the return of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, who had gone abroad for a series of celebrations and was then prevented by authorities from returning to his homeland.

He had been unable to return home because — it was said — his passport had expired. Gugerotti succeeded in the mission, and Kondrusiewicz returned in time to celebrate Christmas, then left his place when he turned 75 on Jan. 3, 2021.

From 2015 to 2020, Gugerotti was nuncio to Ukraine. Unfortunately, he inherited a situation of conflict that arose following the Russian annexation of Crimea. Nevertheless, he was able to reach the conflict zones, even celebrating one Easter in the Donbas. In addition, he was among the coordinators of the “Pope for Ukraine” initiative. But, above all, he has consistently called for a Russian-Ukrainian reconciliation that goes beyond politics and political needs.

His ability to see competing perspectives is also due to his excellent knowledge of the Russian language and made him a candidate to hold the position of prefect of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches.

Gugerotti’s positions on the war in Ukraine

To understand Archbishop Gugerotti’s diplomatic doctrine, one must reread his statements during the conflict in the Donbas region.

In December 2019, the Paris summit brought together Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron and then German Prime Minister Angela Merkel in the French capital.

Commenting on the results of that meeting, Gugerotti stressed that “Ukraine, in the conflict territories in the Donbas,” needs to live “a true experience of reconciliation; otherwise, there is no way out. So the situation is buffered, but an open-air cemetery is preserved.”

Even then, the nuncio said that the conflict represented “a situation of eternal precariousness. The bombing continues.” Gugerotti noted how this affected children and how it was difficult to find medicines and food, and to ensure heating.

In short, the nuncio decried the pathological precariousness of the situation.

Gugerotti also asked Europe to be less distracted, even just “for the moral commitment” it had, given that Ukraine had chosen European values: ”A choice that costs a lot in terms of human lives and a very high economic price.”

Europe was involved, the nuncio said, because it had an ongoing conflict that put its borders at risk. But above all because — “and this must be said,” he added — some Western mercenaries were also fighting in the Donbas: Italians, Germans, French, and Americans.

The Italian prelate also said “the tragedy of this conflict is general forgetfulness.”

In April 2018, Archbishop Gugerotti issued an appeal to Europe.

“If Europe thinks of solving its problems by looking only at its internal issues, it will not only fail to solve them but will be crushed by external pressure,” he said. 

“There is a conflict at the gates of Europe, but Europe is too busy with national problems and the difficulty of being together to notice,” Gugerotti said. “If international solidarity is not rediscovered as a means to reestablish a minimum of common law, to guarantee a minimum of justice and equity, not only will we not save ourselves, but we will let other people perish and then repent in the future for not having seen.”

Calls for reconciliation can be challenging to digest for people experiencing an invasion.

At the same time, Gugerotti had also expressed some concern over the joint declaration between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, signed in Havana on Feb. 12, 2016. While the pope defined it as “pastoral,” critics read the statement as biased toward Russian positions.

The role of the Dicastery of the Oriental Churches

By choosing Gugerotti, Pope Francis presumably wanted to inform the work of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches with a view to initiatives concerning the war in Ukraine.

The appointment came as a surprise, with an addition to the bulletin, and was announced personally by the pope during the interdicasterial meeting underway the morning of Nov. 21.

Although Gugerotti was naturally a candidate for the post, the appointment has the flavor of being one of the pope’s sudden choices, taking others by surprise.

But this kind of choice presupposes that the pope already had a plan. 

First, Pope Francis wanted a diplomat to lead the dicastery, so it stayed active at the diplomatic level. In this, Gugerotti is a disciple of Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, another Italian and diplomat, who served as prefect of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches — and succeeded Cardinal Sandri.

From this perspective, the pope wanted to signal to Russia he was appointing a known nuncio who was not considered hostile. It should be remembered that the dicastery for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches.

Finally, the pope needed a diplomat who supported his line of neutrality but who at the same time showed sympathy and understanding for Ukraine.

It remains to be seen how all this will take shape and impact the diplomatic role of the Holy See in the ongoing conflict.

Pope Francis, as we know, has always asked for mediation. And Archbishop Gugerotti, a possible key interlocutor with the Russians, will take over the task. After all, Gugerotti has already met with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Then there is a further clue. On March 5, Gugerotti attended a pro-Ukraine demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square. The nuncio said: “We are all Ukrainians.” His words may also represent the sentiments of Pope Francis, who authorized his nuncio’s presence at the event.

So, Gugerotti has already played the role of the pope’s voice. He will be called to do it again.

Pope Francis removes Caritas Internationalis leaders, appoints temporary administrator

Statue of St. Peter on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2022 / 06:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday removed the entire leadership of an international confederation of charities and appointed a temporary administrator to improve the organization’s management.

Pope Francis issued a decree Nov. 22 appointing Pier Francesco Pinelli, an Italian management consultant, as temporary administrator of Caritas Internationalis (CI).

With the same ordinance, the pope said the positions of the Catholic confederation’s leadership are to cease immediately.

This decision includes Caritas Internationalis president Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and secretary general Aloysius John. The positions of the vice presidents, treasurer, ecclesiastical assistant, executive council, and representative council also end.

A press release said an independent review found deficiencies in Caritas Internationalis’ “management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

Caritas Internationalis, founded in 1951, is a Catholic confederation of 162 charitable organizations based in 200 countries around the world. Its headquarters are located on Vatican territory in Rome, and the Vatican oversees its activity.

The governance of Caritas Internationalis is elected for four-year terms during the organization’s general assembly. The next general assembly is scheduled for May 2023. 

According to a Nov. 22 press release, the temporary administrator, Pinelli, will carry out his service in consultation with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which is headed by Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ.

The dicastery's press release said that the Vatican’s human development office commissioned an independent review of Caritas Internationalis’ workplace this year.

The review looked at “the workplace environment of the CI General Secretariat and its alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person.”

Both current and former employees were invited to participate, according to the dicastery, which said: “No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work. Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

Pinelli will be assisted by Maria Amparo Alonso Escobar, Caritas Internationalis’ head of advocacy, and by Father Manuel Morujão S.J., who will provide personal and spiritual accompaniment to Caritas employees, according to Pope Francis’ decree.

Among Pinelli’s administrative tasks will be updating the confederation’s statutes and by-laws in preparation for the next general assembly in 2023.

Cardinal Tagle will also work with Pinelli to prepare for the general assembly.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in its press release, cited Pope Francis’ new apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium, which says the human development office has competency over Caritas Internationalis and “exercises the responsibilities reserved by law to the Holy See in establishing and supervising international charitable associations and funds created for the same purposes, in accordance with the provisions of the respective statutes and in compliance with current legislation.”

Pope Francis chooses papal ambassador to lead Dicastery for the Eastern Churches

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti with Pope Francis / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 21, 2022 / 06:23 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday appointed a papal ambassador and expert in Eastern languages and literature to lead the Vatican Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, 67, has been apostolic nuncio to Great Britain since July 2020. 

The Italian was undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches from 1997 to 2001, before beginning his diplomatic service as an apostolic nuncio to Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in December 2001.

Gugerotti was also apostolic nuncio to Belarus for four years and Ukraine for almost five years before moving to Great Britain.

The Vatican Dicastery for the Eastern Churches was founded in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV. It is the office of the Roman Curia responsible for the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches that are sui iuris, or self-governing, and in full communion with Rome.

Gugerotti was born in Verona, in northern Italy, in 1955. He was ordained a priest in 1982.

Pope Francis: Through the paradox of the cross, Jesus ‘embraced our death’

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Asti, in northern Italy, for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 20, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

On the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis said Jesus, through his death on the cross, opened his arms to embrace all people and everything about them, including their death, pain, and weakness.

“Only by entering into [Christ’s] embrace do we come to realize that God went to this extreme, even to the paradox of the cross, in order to embrace everything about us, even what was furthest from him: our death — he embraced our death — our pain, our poverty, our weakness, and our frailties. He embraced all of that,” the pope said Nov. 20 in the Asti Cathedral in northern Italy.

Pope Francis visited the Italian province of Asti, 30 miles east of Turin, Nov. 19-20.

The pope’s father, Mario José Bergoglio, lived in the Diocese of Asti before migrating to Argentina in 1929. Pope Francis’ maternal grandparents also immigrated to Argentina from northern Italy.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Asti, in northern Italy, for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Asti, in northern Italy, for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

In his homily for the final Sunday of the liturgical year, Pope Francis said he wanted, in the land of his own roots, to reflect on “the roots of our faith.”

“Those roots are planted in the barren soil of Calvary, where Jesus, like the seed that falls to the earth and dies, made hope spring up,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to ask themselves: “Is this king of the universe also the king of my life? Do I believe him? How can I celebrate him as the Lord of all creation, unless he also becomes the Lord of my life?”

Today, Jesus our king looks at us from the cross, the pope said. “It is up to us to choose whether we will be onlookers or involved.”

“Am I a spectator or do I want to be involved?” he said. “We see the crises of the present time, the decline of faith, the lack of participation … What are we to do? Are we content to theorize and criticize, or do we roll up our sleeves, take life in hand, and pass from the ‘if’ of excuses to the ‘yes’ of prayer and service?”

The pope said: “All of us think we know what is wrong with society, all of us; we talk every day about what is wrong with the world, and even with the Church — many things are wrong with the Church. But then what do we do? Do we soil our hands like our God, nailed to the cross? Or do we stand with hands in our pockets, as mere onlookers?”

Pope Francis greets his second cousin, Carla Rabezzana, in the Asti Cathedral on the Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets his second cousin, Carla Rabezzana, in the Asti Cathedral on the Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media

The 85-year-old Francis traveled to the northern region of Piedmont to celebrate the 90th birthday of his second cousin, Carla Rabezzana, with his Italian relatives.

On Saturday, besides lunch in his cousin’s home in Portocomaro, he also stopped at a church and visited a nursing home and residence for the elderly.

The pope stayed overnight in the town of Asti, where he celebrated Mass at the cathedral and ate lunch with Bishop Marco Prastaro before flying back to the Vatican by helicopter on Sunday afternoon.

Christ became a slave “so that each of us could become a son,” Francis said at Mass Nov. 20. “He let himself be insulted and derided, so that whenever we are brought low, we will never feel alone. He let himself be stripped of his garments, so that no one would ever feel stripped of his or her rightful dignity. He ascended the cross, so that God would be present in every crucified man or woman throughout history.”

“Today, as Jesus, naked on the cross, unveils God and destroys every false image of his kingship, let us look to him and thus find the courage to look at ourselves, to follow the path of confident trust and intercession, and to make servants of ourselves, in order to reign with him,” he said.

At the end of Mass, Pope Francis addressed a few words to teenagers and young adults for the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day before praying the Angelus.

Pope Francis waves at people outside the Asti Cathedral before celebrating Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis waves at people outside the Asti Cathedral before celebrating Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The theme of this year’s local World Youth Day, he said, is the same as the global gathering, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023: “Mary arose and went with haste.”

Pope Francis said he likes to ponder the Virgin Mary going “in a hurry” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and sometimes, when he is asking for her intercession in prayer, he asks Our Lady “to hurry up and solve this problem.”

Mary’s haste, the pope said, encourages us not to waste our lives “chasing after comfort or the latest fads, but to aim for the heights.”

“Today, we need young people who are truly ‘transgressives,’ non-conformists,” he urged, “who are not slaves to their mobile phones, but who change the world like Mary, bearing Jesus to others, taking care of others, building fraternal communities with others, realizing dreams of peace.”

Vatican conference examines history of 400-year-old Congregation of Propaganda Fide

A three-day conference Nov. 16–18, 2022, highlighted the Congregation of Propaganda Fide’s missionary work around the world, spanning four centuries. / Credit: EWTN Nightly News

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 19, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Congregation of Propaganda Fide — a Vatican department dedicated to the Church’s missionary activity — is celebrating its 400th anniversary. A three-day conference at the Vatican this week sought to examine the centuries-long history of this department, including its global impact today.

EWTN News Nightly’s Tracy Sabol recently spoke with Monsignor Camillus Johnpillai, head of the Dicastery for Evangelization — which was combined with the Congregation of Propaganda Fide earlier this year as part of a reform by Pope Francis — to learn more about the department’s history, why it was founded, and the type of work it continues to do today.

“The sacred congregation — the Propaganda Fide — means ‘a congregation or a dicastery that is meant for the propagation of the faith,’” Johnpillai explained, noting that it was founded on Jan. 6, 1622.

While there is a rich legacy behind the work of the congregation, Johnpillai explained how learning about the historical context surrounding the congregation’s founding is important to understand its purpose.

“[In] the 17th century, the Church was getting ready for a certain reform,” he explained. “After the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Church was more interested with regard to the inner renewal of the Church, as well as also to expand the Church.”

Johnpillai details how, with the Reformation in the 16th century, many became Protestants and left the Catholic Church.

Additionally, as the Reformation also followed the separation of the Churches in the East, such as the Orthodox Church, this highlighted the need for the Church to undergo both an inner renewal and expansion. This need ultimately led to the founding of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith by Pope Gregory XVI in 1622.

Finally, elaborating more on the work the congregation currently performs today, Johnpillai gave some insight into the global reach of its modern mission.

“[This] particular dicastery, earlier known as ‘Propaganda Fide,’ is charged with the looking after of the new particular churches … especially in Africa, Asia, and some territories in America and Oceania,” Johnpillai detailed. “[All] together, we have a total of 1,117 dioceses (or archdioceses) and vicariates (or prefectures) throughout the world.”

Watch the full interview below.