ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Pope Francis may continue to make changes in the Roman Curia

    Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

    Vatican City, Jun 18, 2021 / 10:19 am (CNA).

    As the completion of curia reform approaches, Pope Francis would be moving towards some changes. The pope's next moves might be the appointment of a new Master of Ceremonies and the appointment of a president for the Committee to prepare the Jubilee 2025.  

    Msgr. Guido Marini has been the Papal Master of Ceremonies since 2007. Called to the position by Benedict XVI and well known for his rather traditional approach to liturgy, Mons. Marini was able to cooperate with Pope Francis, even if sometimes their views on liturgy differed. According to sources speaking to CNA, Monsignor Marini would be appointed a bishop in Italy. 

    Marini's replacement, according to the sources, should not be interpreted as a punishment. It is, instead, a clue that Pope Francis wants no “permanent” positions in the curia.

    The pope might send Marini to Tortona, a diocese near Liguria, Marini's birthplace. The diocese is vacant since the Pope picked its bishop as secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments. 

    There are three candidates to replace Marini as Master of Ceremonies, according to the sources. One is Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the Liturgical Office of Rome's Vicariate. The second is Msgr. Diego Ravelli, already one of the Papal Master of Ceremonies; and finally Msgr. Pietro Moroni, Dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urbanian University and consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

    Meanwhile, curia reform continues to be under discussion. Originally scheduled to be announced by the end of June, the draft reform should come out next autumn, according to a cardinal who spoke with CNA. 

    According to the cardinal, the delay is in part due to discussions regarding how to merge smaller dicasteries with larger ones. In fact, in the first draft of the reform, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization was going to be absorbed by the Congregation for Evangelization. The purpose of the merging was to combine into one dicastery traditional and new evangelization.

    Things have changed, and now the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization should become an office within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    The president of the Council, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, might be appointed president of the Jubilee 2025 Preparatory Committee. A Jubilee, or ordinary “Holy Year”, happens every 25 years. The last ordinary Holy Year was headed by St. John Paul II in the year 2000. Fisichella, who already successfully organized the 2015 Special Holy Year or “The Year of Mercy,” would bring his experience organizing major events.

  2. Pope Francis: Do not forget workers pushed to the margins by pandemic

    Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jun 17, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

    Pope Francis addressed an International Labor Organization (ILO) summit Thursday, calling for dignified working conditions and support for workers on the margins of the labor market still affected by pandemic losses.

    “In 2020, we saw an unprecedented loss of employment all over the world. In our haste to return to greater economic activity, at the end of the COVID-19 threat, let us avoid excessive fixations on benefit, isolation and nationalism, blind consumerism, and denial of the clear evidence of discrimination against our ‘dispensable’ brothers and sisters in our society,” the pope said via a video message to the ILO’s World of Work Summit on June 17.

    “On the contrary, let us look for solutions that will help us build a new future of work based on decent and dignified working conditions, originating in collective negotiation, and promoting the common good, a phrase that will make work an essential component of our care for society and Creation. In this sense, work is truly and essentially human.”

    The pope was one of several world leaders to speak on the first day of the ILO’s virtual summit.

    U.S. President Joe Biden, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also addressed the summit on the same day.

    In his video message delivered in Spanish, Pope Francis warned summit participants against having an “elitist dynamic” that discards others and sacrifices “those who have been left behind, on the so-called ‘altar of progress.’”

    “Faced with the Agenda of the International Labor Organization, we must continue as we did in 1931, when Pope Pius XI, after the Wall Street crisis and in the midst of the ‘Great Depression,’ denounced the asymmetry between workers and entrepreneurs as a flagrant injustice that gave carte blanche and means to capital,” the pope said.

    Quoting Pius XI’s encyclical, Quadragesimo anno, he said: “‘Property that is, ‘capital,’ has undoubtedly long been able to appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker enough to restore and renew his strength.’”

    He added: “Even in those circumstances, the Church promoted the position that the amount of pay for work done should not only be intended to meet the immediate and current needs of workers, but also to open up the ability of workers to safeguard their families’ future savings and investments to provide a margin of security for the future.”

    “Legal norms must be geared towards employment growth, dignified work, and the rights and duties of the human person,” he said.

    The pope called for the expansion of social protection systems to ensure access to health services, food, and basic human needs. He said that the lack of social protection during the pandemic resulted in increased poverty, unemployment, and an increase in illegal work.

    “We are called upon to prioritize our response to workers on the margins of the labor market who are still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: low-skilled workers, day laborers, those who work illegally, migrant and refugee workers, those who carry out what is commonly referred to as … dangerous, dirty and degrading,” he said.

    The ILO is a United Nations agency based in Geneva dedicated to improving labor conditions. Its member states are not only represented by government officials, but also by leaders of trade unions.

    Pope Francis told the ILO that the trade union movement currently faces two major challenges. The first is not to forget its “prophetic” call to “expose the powerful who trample on the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defend the cause of foreigners, the least and the rejected.”

    “Clearly, when a trade union becomes corrupt, it can no longer do this, and its status transforms into that of a pseudo-employer, itself distanced from the people,” the pope said.

    The second challenge facing trade unions is that of innovation, he explained, adding that unions should also protect those who are excluded from work and rights.

    “As we seek to shape our future action and shape a post-COVID-19 international agenda, we should pay particular attention to the very real danger of forgetting those who have been left behind. They run the risk of being attacked by a virus even worse than COVID-19: that of selfish indifference,” Pope Francis said.

  3. Religious leaders, scientists to convene at Vatican ahead of climate summit

    Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jun 17, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

    The Vatican is partnering in an event that will bring together scientists and leaders of the world’s religions ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November.

    “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” will take place Oct. 4 at the Vatican. The event has been organized by the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See.

    At a press conference June 17, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, said it was “highly likely” that Pope Francis would participate in the October meeting given his commitment to the issue of climate change.

    The conference will include more than 30 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 leading scientists, Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, said.

    She explained that faith leaders already played a key role in building momentum for COP21 in 2015, and she and the Italian ambassador Pietro Sebastiani wondered if the same thing could be done for COP26, which takes place Nov. 1-12.

    Gallagher described the faith and science meeting as a “no-brainer.”

    “The sense of urgency is rising,” he said, “more and more crises affect us: economic, social, food crises. Everything is coming together in a sort of perfect storm.”

    “This is a great opportunity to work together. And I think in the preparation of this conference, the work that has been done -- mainly in a series of webinars -- has shown the value of working together: that working together is positive, that it does produce results.”

    Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said he thought that COP26 would be “a key moment in the history of humanity.”

    “There will be difficult choices to be made and we hope, with God’s grace, that we will have the courage to make those choices and to move forward on these issues which will determine what life will be like on our planet in the coming decades and centuries,” he said.

    In an interview with Vatican News last month, John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said that Pope Francis “intends to attend” COP26.

    Kerry met with Pope Francis privately on May 15. In a video clip released by the Vatican, Kerry could be heard telling members of his staff, “first day he’ll be there with the heads of state.”

    The Vatican has made no official announcement about the pope traveling to Glasgow and Gallagher declined to comment on the question Thursday.

    Axworthy said that a full list of the religious and scientific leaders attending in October would be released at a later date, but they were chosen to represent all world religions and to come from around the globe.

    “It was key to have representatives of most major faiths and denominations from every corner of the world,” she said.

    The ambassador explained that in online meetings held in advance of COP26, the organizers asked the faith leaders to do three things: “set out their own theology on the environment; explain the action they had taken so far to protect the environment; and articulate what they wanted for the future, including what they wanted to say to political leaders at COP26.”

    “We asked the scientists to bring us up to date on the science,” she said.

    In her presentation, Axworthy outlined some of the potential consequences to the environment should the global temperature rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

    “People in the least developed countries will be most affected by rising temperatures,” she said. “We have a moral obligation to protect the planet and those most affected by the climate crisis, in particular indigenous peoples, small-island developing states, and the least developed countries.”

    The science and faith conference takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2013 encyclical Laudato si’ and from the Document on Human Fraternity, signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

    Gallagher said that “the magnitude of these challenges... mean that you’ve got to draw on all of your resources if we’re going to rise to these challenges; and that certainly is faith, is religion, is the spiritual dimension of humanity.”

    “If we ignore that and think the only solution is good politics or good science or good something like that I think that we’re going to find that we’re not going to be successful,” he said.

  4. Cardinal: Religious freedom will be Europe’s ‘great problem of the future’

    Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., pictured at the Vatican on Oct. 10, 2018 (before he was named a cardinal). / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jun 16, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

    A leading European cardinal has said that the great problem the continent will face in the future is attacks against religious freedom.

    In a June 16 interview with ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language partner agency, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich said he thought that “the problem of religious freedom will be the great problem of the future in Europe.”

    “There is no persecution of the Church: it would be too much to say,” he said. “But, in some countries, there are, at different levels, small attacks against the freedom of religion, and we must be on guard.”

    Hollerich is the archbishop of Luxembourg and president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). He and other members of COMECE met with Pope Francis and other Vatican officials in Rome the week of June 7.

    COMECE, founded in 1980, consists of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the 27 member states of the European Union.

    Last year, COMECE spoke out against the long-term forced closure of churches during the coronavirus pandemic in light of the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of worship.

    “COMECE takes this opportunity to restate that any erosion of fundamental rights in the current emergency context, including freedom of religion, must not become the new norm. These rights have to be fully re-established as early as possible,” it said.

    Speaking with ACI Stampa, Hollerich called the number of Catholics able to attend Mass in Belgium during the pandemic “ridiculous.” He also criticized Ireland’s extended ban on public Masses.

    The cardinal said that in these two countries the Church “has a bad reputation.”

    “A just impression of the Church must be given to rebuild credibility,” he said. “After the cases of sexual abuse, it is urgent for society, but also for the faithful, because many have lost all hope in the Church. This must change, we must become very humble and do our best with great transparency.”

    Earlier this year, Hollerich also intervened in a proposed law in Denmark requiring the translation of all homilies into Danish. He argued that “de facto, the impact would be of imposing undue hindrance on the fundamental right to freedom of religion.”

    Hollerich said that COMECE was currently monitoring a report before the European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body, which seeks the recognition of a “right to abortion” and the redefinition of conscientious objection as a “denial of medical care.”

    The report is an attempt “to get the European Parliament to vote on abortion as a human right and against freedom of conscience in institutions,” Hollerich said. “It is clear that we cannot agree.”

    The report, which was presented to the European Parliament by Croatian politician Predrag Fred Matić, is due to be debated on June 23. A vote will take place the next day.

    “I think we must make it clear that approving such a report is against subsidiarity, because abortion is a subject of national and non-EU legislation,” Hollerich said. “It would therefore be a grave sin for the European Union not to respect the subsidiarity of which it always speaks.”

    The cardinal said he thought that this was the best argument for convincing EU politicians to vote against the report’s proposal.

  5. Pope Francis appoints ‘ecclesiastical assistant’ for Vatican communications

    St. Peter's Basilica. Bohumil Petrik/CNA

    Vatican City, Jun 16, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed an Italian priest and philosopher as an “ecclesiastical assistant” to the Vatican’s communications department.

    Forty-year-old Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco, from the southern Italian region of Puglia, is the author of more than 20 books and a frequent radio and television guest.

    He also speaks at conferences and leads retreats throughout Italy.

    With his new role in Vatican communications, Epicoco will also be a columnist for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

    During his annual Christmas speech in December 2019, Pope Francis gifted Epicoco’s book, “Someone to Look To: For a Spirituality of Witness,” to members of the Roman Curia.

    Epicoco has been a priest of the Archdiocese of L’Aquila since 2005. He was a university chaplain in the archdiocese when the area was hit by the devastating 2009 earthquake which killed more than 300 people.

    Last year, he oversaw the publication of an Italian-language book, “St. John Paul the Great,” featuring Pope Francis’ reflections on his Polish predecessor.

    Pope Francis began a major reform of Vatican communications in 2015. The dicastery is responsible for overseeing all of the Vatican media operations, including Vatican News, Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano, and the Vatican publishing house.

    In July 2018, the pope named Paolo Ruffini, then director of the Italian bishops' television network TV2000, as the department’s first lay prefect.

    Ruffini’s appointment followed the departure of Msgr. Dario Viganò, who stepped down after he was discovered by media to have altered an image of a letter from Benedict XVI. Viganò continues to work in the communications department in an advisory role.

    Another lay man, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, was appointed editorial director for the Dicastery for Communication in December 2018.

    On May 24, Pope Francis paid a visit to the Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano offices.

    While there, he greeted the 300-some Vatican communications employees and spoke live on Vatican Radio about the importance of reaching an audience.

    The pope said: “There are a lot of reasons to be worried about the Radio, L’Osservatore, but one that touches my heart: How many people listen to the Radio? How many people read L’Osservatore Romano?”

    He compared the operation to “a mountain that gives birth to a mouse.”

    “The question you should ask is: how many? How many people do [the programs] reach? It is always a danger that... you are well organized, do good work, but you do not reach people,” Pope Francis said.