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Pope Francis: More sustainable cities can help with population decline

Pope Francis on Nov. 24, 2023, met with representatives, mayors, and religious leaders from areas in central Italy hit by devastating earthquakes between August 2016 and January 2017. / Credit: Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday one of the ways to address population decline is to make cities more sustainable, increasing the quality of life for those who live there.

“Adopting appropriate criteria for sustainability is an important act of justice and charity, because it aims to meet needs without compromising the safety and survival of those around us and those who will come after us,” he said during a meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Nov. 24.

He noted that the condition in many cities has become “unlivable” due to pollution, chaos, isolation, marginalization, and loneliness.

Addressing these problems, the pope added, “means putting the person back at the center of the city: This is the way forward. It is the way that will be able to help also address the crises of depopulation and population decline by offering the opportunity to live in environments rich in all that the ancestors left behind, enhanced and embellished by a wise management for the community.”

Pope Francis met with representatives, many of them town mayors, from central Italy, which was devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes between August 2016 and January 2017.

He praised those present for their reconstruction efforts, especially the attention to climate change, sustainability, and respect for nature.

Pope Francis will speak on the climate and related issues at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he will travel Dec. 1–3. It will be Francis’ first time attending and addressing part of the 13-day conference.

Climate issues and the environment have been a priority of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

In October, he released his second major document on the topic, the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), in which he warned of “grave consequences” if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

In his speech on Friday, Francis quoted from Laudate Deum, saying “there is no doubt that the impact of climate change will increasingly harm the lives of many people and families. We will feel the effects in terms of health, jobs, access to resources, housing, forced migration, and in other areas.”

This is why, he added, it is important to implement the necessary measures to slow or stop climate change and to provide methods for coping with the changes that have already taken place.

“Here, too, it is a matter of an open gaze, attentive to others and those who will come after us; we should not be discouraged by criticism or discontented people,” he said.

Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore permanently restores use of high altar

The high altar at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore, Maryland. Nov. 2023. / Credit: Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2023 / 09:04 am (CNA).

The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore finished construction of a platform that will allow priests to celebrate the Mass facing the people, “versus populum,” while using the high altar originally constructed in the 1950s. 

“It would be a wonderful thing if the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen were to be mentioned in the same breath as the other great cathedrals of this country and of the world,” Father Justin Gough, an associate pastor at the cathedral, said during a talk about the theology behind the decision earlier this month. “From an artistic and a theological perspective, there is no reason it shouldn’t be.”

The cathedral was constructed from 1954 through 1959 without knowledge of the liturgical changes that would be set following the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s. For this reason, the high altar was designed to be used with the priest facing toward the altar, “ad orientem,” which was the normal liturgical structure prior to the council. 

Because the liturgical norms shifted to having most priests face the congregation, the cathedral set up a table altar to use for Mass, which was placed in front of the high altar. The high altar had mostly gone unused for about 60 years until Sunday, Nov. 12, when the cathedral completed a platform behind the high altar, which allows the priest to use it while celebrating Mass facing the people. 

“It was amazing to see how the sanctuary really opens up,” Gough told CNA, adding that the congregation’s feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive,” with only a few people critical of the decision.

The platform, which is built with wood, is a “semi-permanent solution,” according to Gough, but the cathedral may consider replacing the wooden platform with a marble platform at a later date. In the meantime, he said the wooden structure and the use of the high altar is “not going anywhere.” 

Gough said there was some consideration of restoring use of the high altar in the 1980s, but that the plan never went through. This changed during the COVID-19 pandemic when Archbishop William Lori began celebrating a livestreamed Mass at the cathedral on a regular basis. Gough said this led to conversations “about the significance of the building and about the architecture” and the consideration of restoring the high altar. 

As a trial run, the cathedral rented a temporary structure to set up behind the high altar so that the altar could be used during the ordination of eight priests in June. The archbishop said in a letter in August that the experience was “joyous and awe-inspiring” and met with “overwhelmingly enthusiastic and positive” feedback, leading to the decision to make the structure permanent.

Gough, in his early November talk, said the restoration allows the cathedral to reflect the intent of the architects who designed it by making the altar the primary point of focus in the church. 

“The principal altar is physically the source and the summit of the entire edifice, as everything in the cathedral points toward it and from it derives its meaning and power,” Gough said. “It is placed in a clear and visible spot, set apart from everything else so that there can be nothing to distract attention away from it, and highly elevated to ensure some line of sight for more than a thousand people gathered together to worship.”

Gough added that he believes the construction of the cathedral coinciding with the Second Vatican Council was not “by accident,” arguing that using the high altar versus populum perfectly reflects Pope Benedict XVI’s “hermeneutic of reform” interpretation of the Second Vatican Council: that the council was not a rupture but instead a “renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

“Points of contact between the pre- and post-conciliar Church are necessary to ensure our life in the Church is not standing one-footed on either leg: neither stuck stubbornly in the past nor plowing aimlessly ahead in defiance of our tradition,” Gough added. “I’m suggesting the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is just that: a monument of faith standing at the most decisive crossroads of the 20th century as a synthesis of old and new.”

Dublin archbishop responds to stabbing of 3 children that sparked violent riots

Flames rise from the car and a bus, set alight at the junction of Bachelors Walk and the O'Connell Bridge, in Dublin on Nov. 23, 2023, as people took to the streets following the stabbings earlier in the day. / Credit: Peter Murphy/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Nov 24, 2023 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Dublin responded with shock to the “horrific attack” in which three children were stabbed on Thursday afternoon, sparking a night of violent riots in the Irish capital.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell asked people to join him in praying for the injured, which includes a 5-year-old girl who sustained serious injuries, two other school children, and two adults.

“It was with utter disbelief that I heard the news of the horrific attack on Parnell Square here in Dublin. An attack like this outside a school, involving innocent victims including children, is particularly distressing,” Farrell wrote in a statement posted to social media on Nov. 23.

“I invite the people of Dublin to join me in praying especially for the recovery of those who have been injured. Grant them strength to endure this awful attack, and grant each of us the grace to live our lives in holiness, free from all violence.”

The Catholic archbishop’s call for nonviolence on Thursday night came as riots erupted across Dublin’s city center.

A double-decker bus was set on fire, stores looted, windows smashed, and cars torched as about 100 rioters took to the streets, some armed with metal bars, according to the Associated Press.

Dublin’s Police Commissioner Drew Harris said that he believes the riots were “driven by far-right ideology.”

Irish police arrested 34 people in Dublin who took part in the riots and detained a man in his late 40s whom they identified as a “person of interest” in the investigation into the knife attack without releasing any other details about his identity other than that he sustained serious injuries. The police said that they were not looking for any other suspect and had not ruled out any motive for the attack, including terrorism.

The knife attack took place in front of the Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire primary school in Parnell Square as students were coming out of school.

On Friday morning, Irish police said that a 5-year-old girl remains in “critical condition” in the Temple Street children’s hospital and a woman in her 30s, believed to be a school employee, who intervened to try to stop the attack, remains in “serious condition.”

Another injured 6-year-old girl is being treated for less serious injuries, while a 5-year-old boy has been discharged from the hospital.

‘Red Week’: Buildings and monuments across the world lit red in honor of persecuted Christians

The Austrian Parliament building is lit red as part of the international "Red Week" in honor of persecuted Christians across the globe. / Aid to the Church in Need

Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Buildings, monuments, and hundreds of churches across the world are being lit up in red throughout November in honor of persecuted Christians suffering for their faith.

Organized by the Christian aid group Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN), the week of demonstrations Nov. 19–26 is known as “Red Week” and has been taking place in honor of persecuted Christians every November since 2015.

This year several special events being held in conjunction with Red Week will emphasize the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, India, and Africa.

Maria Lozano, a spokesperson for ACN, told CNA that “the challenges for Christians in many parts of the world are increasing.”

According to ACN’s 2023 Religious Freedom Report, released in June, over half of the world’s population lives in countries in which severe violations against religious freedom occurred in the last year. ACN’s report said that “intense persecution became more acute and concentrated, and impunity grew.”

“There is a huge erosion of the universal right to religious freedom, and we think this cannot go unnoticed,” Lozano said.

Global witness

The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, several castles in Slovakia, the Austrian Parliament building, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia, are just a few of the many significant and historic landmarks being lit red in honor of the modern Christian martyrs and persecuted faithful across the globe.

Many buildings at the Vatican and several Italian government buildings and landmarks, including the Colosseum, will also be lit red in Rome, according to a press release by ACN Italy.

The first Red Week demonstration took place in 2015 when ACN Brazil had Rio de Janeiro’s massive Christ the Redeemer statue lit red in honor of persecuted Christians in Iraq.

According to an X post by ACN, the color red “evokes the color of bloodshed by millions of [Christian martyrs].” 

This year, according to ACN, over 10,000 people are expected to participate in Red Week activities scheduled in more than a dozen different countries. Millions more will see the buildings and monuments lit red.

“In a world increasingly marked by conflict, the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the universal right to religious freedom can go unnoticed,” ACN said in a Nov. 6 statement. “The goal of ACN’s initiative, which includes lighting in red monuments and buildings around the world, is to make sure they are not forgotten.”

In the United Kingdom, where many churches and cathedrals will be lit in red, several events and demonstrations were scheduled for “Red Wednesday” on Nov. 22 to bring attention to the suffering in Africa and Nigeria especially.

Religious liberty in Nigeria has been continually worsening in recent years, with massacres, killings, kidnappings, and intimidation a daily occurrence, Nigerian Bishop Wilfred Anagbe told CNA in a June interview.

This January, Father Isaac Achi, a priest serving in the Catholic Diocese of Minna, Nigeria, was burned to death by bandits inside his parish church.

This past Good Friday, April 7, 43 people were killed and many more were injured in an attack at an elementary school in Ngban.

“If you see the video, you would just weep,” Anagbe said. “They came and they slaughtered all of them.”

According to International Christian Concern, 90% of all Christians killed for their faith in 2022 were Nigerian.

ACN UK organized a special Mass on Wednesday at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark in honor of the suffering Church in Africa. The Mass will be celebrated by the apostolic nuncio to the U.K., Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía.

Organizers have also begun a campaign to pray 100,000 decades of the rosary for Africa and to raise funds for the persecuted African Church.

In Austria, ACN held a rally Nov. 15 in solidarity with persecuted Christians in the Stephansplatz square in the country’s capital city of Vienna.

Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the Austrian National Council, voiced his support for the demonstrations in Vienna and across the country in a Nov. 15 ACN statement

“By illuminating the Parliament, I would like to set an example as president of the Austrian National Council to raising awareness in the fight against the persecution of Christians,” Sobotka said. “It is absolutely unacceptable that people become victims of violence and oppression because of their faith!”

St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions: vanguards of the faith in a time of persecution

This work of art was displayed at St. Peter's on the occasion of the Vatican's Celebration of the Canonization of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs on July 19, 1988. / Credit: Public domain

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Today, Nov. 24, is the feast day of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions, a group of 117 martyrs, led by Father Andrew, who died for the Catholic faith in Vietnam during a 19th-century persecution. 

The group was made up of 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spaniards, and 10 French. Roughly half were clergy and half were laypeople, including a 9-year-old child. Some of the priests were Dominicans; others were diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society.

According to the Vatican, Father Andrew Dung-Lac was born with the name Dung An-Tran to a poor family in northern Vietnam around the year 1795. When his family moved to Hanoi to find work, the 12-year-old Dung met a Christian catechist who shared the faith with him and baptized him with the name “Andrew.” 

The climate at the time was very dangerous for Christians in Vietnam under the Emperor Minh-Mang, who banned foreign missionaries and commanded Vietnamese Christians to trample on crucifixes in order to publically renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. (Japanese authorities had for years forced Christians to do something similar, a practice that is dramatized in the film “Silence.”) 

Later, in 1823, Andrew was ordained a priest, and his preaching and simplicity of life led many others to baptism, despite the young priest needing to be hidden by the faithful in order to keep him safe from the emperor. He was imprisoned multiple times and each time was ransomed by the Catholic faithful. Many Christians during this time were suffering brutal martyrdoms — strippings, torture, beheadings — and the priest changed him name to Lac in an attempt to avoid detection. 

It’s estimated that from 1630 to 1886, between 130,000 and 300,000 Christians were martyred in Vietnam, while others were forced to flee to the mountains and the forests or be exiled to other countries.

In 1839, the Vatican recounts, he was arrested again along with another Vietnamese priest, Father Peter Thi, to whom Dung-Lac had visited in order to go to confession. The two were ransomed, then arrested again, tortured, and finally beheaded in Hanoi on Dec. 21, 1839. He is the patron saint of Vietnam. 

Described as the “Nero of Indochina” for his harsh persecutions, Minh Mang’s reign ended the next year. 

Pope John Paul II canonized the 117 martyrs together on June 19, 1988. At the time, the Vatican said, the communist government of Vietnam did not permit a single representative from the country to attend the canonization. But 8,000 Vietnamese Catholics from the diaspora were there, “filled with joy to be the children of this suffering Church.”

Nationalist Firebrand Geert Wilders wins Dutch election in electoral upset 

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), celebrates in his party office after his party's victory in yesterday's general election, on November 23, 2023, in The Hague, Netherlands. The Netherlands' far-right, anti-EU leader Geert Wilders won the most votes in parliamentary elections on November 22, dominated by debate around rising immigration in the Netherlands. / Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

Far-right populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) dominated the Dutch election on Wednesday in what has been viewed as a seismic political upset. With nearly all the votes counted, the PVV is set to win an unprecedented 37 seats in the Tweede Kamer (lower house), a significant increase from the 17 seats the party held in 2021. 

In the Dutch system, a ruling coalition needs 76 of the 150 seats in Parliament. Should Wilders be able form a coalition in the coming weeks, he will become the prime minister. 

Born in 1963 to a Catholic family in Venlo, near the German border, Wilders entered politics in 1996 with the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). In 2006 he founded the PVV. 

He has long been considered a political outlier for his acerbic style and virulent anti-Islamic views, a religion he has often called “backward” and “an ideology of a retarded culture.” Wilders has called for banning mosques, Islamic schools, and the Quran from the Netherlands. 

While the 60-year-old has toned down the rhetoric, the election was in many ways a referendum on immigration and on the acceptance of asylum seekers, which Wilders wants to ban outright and was an issue that led to the outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte’s resignation earlier this year. 

During his victory speech on Wednesday night, Wilders vowed to stop what he called the “asylum tsunami.” 

“The Dutchman has hope. The hope is that people get their country back. That we make sure that the Netherlands is for the Dutch again,” he continued. 

Wilders has been a fixture of the European right, forging close ties with other European nationalists including Marine LePen of France, Matteo Salvini of Italy, and the Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban. 

On X (formerly Twitter), Orban congratulated Wilders on the party’s victory, writing: “The winds of change are here! Congratulations to @geertwilderspvv on winning the Dutch elections!”

Despite the jubilation of Europe’s populist right, many Catholic leaders have tacitly condemned the growing surge of populism across the continent. 

The Catholic bishops of the Netherlands published a comprehensive letter on Nov. 2 that criticized many of the key pillars of Wilders’ political manifesto. Titled “Everyone should be able to participate,” the letter highlighted a myriad of issues ranging from the importance of the common good, human dignity, the right to life, the issues of political indifference, and the urgency to address climate change. The letter also expressed consternation over growing political polarization in the country. 

Quoting Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli Tutti, the Dutch bishops called for a “better” politics that “pursues the common good by recognizing the dignity of every human being and the solidarity we all share.”

The letter went on to note that “such recognition helps politicians find answers to current challenges and in shaping a society in which everyone comes into their own. There is also room for those who come from elsewhere, are in need, and require our care. All people are equal in dignity.” 

“We are deeply concerned about growing divisions and increased fears in our country due to conflicts elsewhere in the world, which have as a result that Jews as well as Muslims in our society are unfairly targeted and negatively affected.” 

“Common good is promoted not only by connecting people but also by uniting them in common projects such as Europe, which began as a peace project by building trust and cooperation,” the letter continued. 

Religion has been in steep decline in the Netherlands for the past two decades. According to a 2021 report by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), over 55% of Dutch do not claim any religious affiliation, while 18.3% identified as Catholic (down from 19.8% in 2020). But, according to the 2020 figures, only 13% of Catholics regularly attend Mass and almost 8% said they do not believe in God. 

Earlier this month, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) issued a statement following their 2023 Autumn Plenary Assembly on the themes of unity and peace. Singed by 21 delegate bishops of the COMECE — including Theodorus C.M. Hoogenboom, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Utrecht — it warned that the ongoing conflict in Palestine and war in Ukraine could have a destabilizing effect on the rest of Europe. 

“Such international polarization and regional instabilities also have repercussions for European societies, stirring up fears, weakening dialogue, and threatening social cohesion,” the letter stated. 

The letter also drew attention, without explicitly mentioning any politician or party by name, to the rightward populist shift that characterized the European political landscape over the last two years. 

“Dangerous phenomena have been gaining ground in several European countries, such as antisemitism, radicalization, and xenophobia, often fueled by a systematic spread of disinformation and resulting in violent extremism and terrorism, which we strongly condemn in all their forms and expressions.”

Maronite bishop dives deep into the ‘masculine soul’

Bishop Gregory Mansour released his sixth pastoral letter on men's spirituality on Oct. 12, 2023. / Credit: Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

CNA Staff, Nov 23, 2023 / 10:38 am (CNA).

In his sixth pastoral letter on male spirituality, Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour says that “fatherhood is expected of all men, whether biological, natural, or spiritual.”

In the Oct. 12 letter titled “The man of God is a man for others: Some themes in men’s spirituality,” Mansour, said that there are “some worrisome trends” in the culture that “undermine masculinity under the guise of remedying past chauvinism or over-reliance on patriarchal structures.”

Mansour added that given “the absence of dads in far too many homes in our country and the need for inspiring male role models, many young men are growing up without effective guidance about how to live out their male identity.”

Expressing the desire to reach the “hearts of men” through his letter, he added that “I would be grateful if this pastoral letter nourishes women and youth as well because so much of this letter can be helpful to everyone interested in the spiritual life.”

Pastoral letters are often released by bishops to members of their dioceses on a certain aspect of the faith in an attempt to guide the faithful. 

The letter explores a myriad of topics ranging from a man’s disposition toward his wife and children, the use of contraception and pornography, the need for self-mastery and a life of prayer, and the call to fatherhood for all men regardless of one’s current state in life. 

“Men who live as ‘chips off the old (divine) block’ are the greatest need today; women and children long for this — many men also long for this,” he wrote.

‘A man for others’

Much of a men’s spirituality can be discovered through reflecting on Jesus as “a man for others,” the letter said. 

Mansour cites the Gospel of John where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He adds that Jesus was teaching “all of us, but especially men” about servant leadership.

“Jesus wanted to teach men how to undo the sin of the first man, Adam, who after the Fall would ‘rule over’ his ‘helpmate’ Eve (Gen 3:16),” he wrote. 

Christ was making service “his privileged way,” Mansour wrote, adding that “the path of redemption would involve self-mastery rather than domination of others.” 

Men and women have equal dignity, Mansour wrote pointing to Jesus’ discourse on marriage and divorce with the Pharisees.

Mansour wrote that Christ “rebutted the religious leaders of the day who were justifying divorce by referring to how Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever.”

Jesus responded by stating “that it was God’s intention from the beginning that what God has joined no human authority should separate,” Mansour wrote, adding that his new command “shattered all previous rights to male domination in marriage.”

“Jesus, it should be noted, was speaking only to men, because women did not have the ‘right,’ given by Moses, to divorce their husbands. Thus, Jesus was indicating that a woman and a man are, by nature, and by the intention of the Creator, of equal importance and dignity,” he wrote.

The call to chastity

Noting that men and women are able to give themselves as gifts to each other in the sexual embrace, Mansour said that “a man and woman need to develop within themselves the virtues necessary to ensure that they can be faithful to each other.”

Mansour wrote that chastity orders sexual intimacy to be “appropriately expressed in fidelity, love, and mutual reverence,” adding that “man completes woman and woman completes man, as two halves make a whole.”

“We can easily enslave ourselves to our desires, passions, compulsions, addictions, and whims. Pornography, masturbation, and sexual promiscuity are always sinful, as is sexual harassment or abuse,” he wrote. 

Mansour wrote that if one falls into any of these sins or crimes, “he should repent of these quickly, and ‘flee’ from them, saying that professional help may be necessary in some cases.

“We should all work to rid ourselves and the culture of such ills, to make our culture and ourselves, more holy, chaste, and respectful, especially for the sake of women, girls, and boys,” he wrote.

Mansour said that one way chastity can be used in marriage is through natural family planning, a method of tracking a woman’s natural cycle that can help couples either conceive or avoid pregnancy.

“If a couple for serious reasons prayerfully recognizes the need to space children, they should not make recourse to contraception but work together to achieve a healthy spacing of children in the chaste and natural way given by God,” he wrote.

On the topic of children, Mansour said that God intended “these ‘little ones’” to enter the world in the context of the marriage covenant. 

“A child has the right to come into the world through this kind of marital love, embrace, complementarity, and commitment, in which the mother and father mutually pledge to love and care for the child and each other in a stable and permanent relationship,” he wrote.

Turning his attention to the single and celibate man, Mansour wrote that these groups of men are also called to live chaste lives and deny themselves.

Mansour cited Pope John Paul II, who referred to the “nuptial meaning of the body,” adding that those who forsake marriage for the sake of the kingdom can live in a “spiritual union” with God. 

“This gift, in imitation of the chaste and celibate Christ, depends on and deepens one’s communion with God and sets one free to embrace an intense and life-giving love for others,” he wrote.

A man’s prayer

A prayerful man will learn that his life’s purpose is holiness, Mansour wrote. He added that men are called to make themselves vulnerable in prayer.

Mansour notes that it can seem “contradictory” for a man who is a “protector, provider, and cultivator” to become so vulnerable in prayer but said that to “enter into a prayerful state requires a man to now go a step even further, and to stand vulnerable before another man, that is before the God-man, Jesus Christ, and ask him for help.”

But a man’s prayer is not just for himself, Mansour wrote, it is for “all those for whom he loves and cares.”

“A good father, husband, friend, priest, or consecrated man carries the responsibility to not only answer his call to holiness, but to also help bring others to holiness as well,” he wrote.

Fatherhood “is expected of all men,” regardless of their current state of life, Mansour wrote.

He wrote that all men, biological or not, are called to “natural” fatherhood, which is “a role in which a man teaches by example, providing proof that what the father teaches is possible in one’s life.”

The biological father is a “generator of life” that will “go on to nurture other generators of life,” he wrote.

“Thus, the biological father ‘passes on the torch,’ allowing his sons the potential to take on the same name, ‘father.’ Fatherhood does not end with the generation of new life but rather the perfection of this new life through proper rearing, education, and accompaniment,” Mansour wrote.

A natural fatherhood calls a man “to showcase a virtuous life that embodies a lifestyle worthy of imitating,” he wrote.

“Whether one is both a biological and natural father or only a natural father, both roles are ordered to an even greater level of fatherhood: spiritual fatherhood. This is a fatherhood expected of all men of goodwill, focused on accompanying one’s loved ones through this temporal, earthly journey while keeping their eyes fixated on eternal life,” Mansour wrote.

The full 15-page letter can be read here.

Peruvian bishops hail new law that specifies the rights of the unborn child

null / Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 23, 2023 / 09:09 am (CNA).

The Peruvian Bishops’ Conference congratulated the country’s congress for the passage of Law 31935, which specifies the rights granted in the constitution to unborn children.

“This legislative decision reinforces our commitment to the defense of life from the moment of conception and consolidates the recognition of human dignity as the supreme principle. Children from their conception are the greatest treasure in the world, the future of the human family,” says the Nov. 20 statement from the bishops’ conference signed by Miguel Cabrejos, the archbishop of Trujillo and conference president.

Article 2 of the Political Constitution of Peru recognizes the right of the conceived child in “everything that favors him.” However, the current Civil Code in Article 1 makes a distinction between the conceived child and human person by establishing that “the human person is a subject of law from birth” and thus leaves room for arguing “but not from conception.”

As amended, the civil code states: “Human life begins with conception. The human person is a subject of law from his conception. The Peruvian state recognizes and guarantees respect for the dignity of the conceived child, as well as its right to life, individual identity, mental and physical integrity, as well as to freely develop in the womb [i.e., without external interference].”

After its initial approval, on May 19 the executive branch exercised its power to make partial or total changes to the bill. Congress then put the bill to a new vote, and the law was definitively passed. These legislative proceedings made the law not subject to a presidential veto.

The bishops’ conference message notes that the promulgation of this law “constitutes an important step towards the construction of a society that respects and defends human life and overcomes a culture of death.”

Cabrejos wrote that work must continue “to guarantee that children come to a world that receives them with welcoming love, an expression of the beautiful gift of life and the hope of humanity.”

“We are all challenged to renew our commitment, especially families, to protect the dignity of all boys and girls and offer them the opportunity to grow up in a healthy environment,” the statement adds.

The call to action appealed to the faithful and people of goodwill, urging them “to work together to build a society that respects and defends the fundamental rights of all, especially children from the moment of conception.”

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

10 saintly quotes to reflect on this Thanksgiving

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 23, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A thanksgiving should be made to God each and every day, according to the saints in heaven. In special celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, here are 10 saintly quotes on the importance of gratitude.

1) St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.”

2) St. Gianna Beretta Molla:

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.”

3) St. John Paul II:

“Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep!) These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence.”

4) St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude.”

5) St. Josemaría Escrivá:

“Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have. Because he made his mother so beautiful, his mother who is also your mother. Because he created the sun and the moon and this animal and that plant. Because he made that man eloquent and you he left tongue-tied … Thank him for everything, because everything is good.”

6) St. Teresa of Ávila:

“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give him thanks.” 

7) Blessed Solanus Casey:

“Thank God ahead of time.” 

8) St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier:

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” 

9) St. John Vianney:

“Believe and adore. Believe that Jesus Christ is in this sacrament as truly as he was nine months in the womb of Mary, as really as he was nailed to the cross. Adore in humility and gratitude.”

10) St. Francis of Assisi, in his “Canticle of the Sun”: 

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,

especially through my lord Brother Sun,

who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!

Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;

in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful ...

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

This article was originally published on Nov. 25, 2021, and has been updated.

Archbishop to invite young North Koreans to next World Youth Day in Seoul

World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama City from the Archdiocese of Seoul. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 23, 2023 / 07:45 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Seoul has said that he wants to invite young North Koreans to the Catholic Church’s next World Youth Day.

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick shared at a peace forum in Seoul this week that he plans to invite a youth delegation from North Korea to the 2027 World Youth Day to take place in the South Korean capital.

The invitation will be sent to the North Korean government through the appropriate channels, according to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

North Korea has long been identified as the worst country in the world for Christian persecution. The 2022 report by the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians in North Korea are particularly targeted and tortured within the country’s prison system.

In contrast with North Korea, Christianity in South Korea has experienced rapid growth in recent decades, according to the Pew Research Center. In particular, the Catholic population in South Korea has increased by nearly 50% in the past 20 years.

Chung, as the archbishop of Seoul, is also the apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, North Korea. He said that he is committed to “the mission of peace and reconciliation.”

“Missionary work in North Korea is not only my vocation as apostolic administrator of Pyongyang but also my responsibility as a Korean citizen,” Chung said.

The archbishop spoke at the 2023 Korean Peninsula Peace Sharing Forum held on Nov. 18 at the Catholic University of Korea. The annual event organized by the Catholic Church brings together religious leaders, diplomats, academics, and South Korean government officials.

Pope Francis announced earlier this year that the next World Youth Day will be held in Seoul in 2027.

The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day in different cities around the world since the event was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong international gathering is typically held about every three years in July or August and has drawn upwards of 3 million people in past years.