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Pope Francis speaks to Italy’s Catholic bishops in ‘strictly private’ meeting

Pope Francis addresses the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome, Nov. 22, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome, Italy, Nov 23, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke with the Italian bishops’ conference on Monday afternoon in what was a “strictly private” meeting, according to the Vatican.

The two-hour encounter took place at the Ergife Palace Hotel and Conference Center, around three miles from the Vatican, for the opening session of the bishops’ 75th Extraordinary General Assembly.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

According to a brief Vatican statement, at the beginning of the meeting, Pope Francis gave the 210 bishops a card with an image of the Good Shepherd and a meditation called “The Bishop’s Beatitudes.”

The eight “beatitudes,” which loosely correspond with the eight beatitudes spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, appear to have originated with Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples.

The 58-year-old Battaglia became archbishop of Naples in December 2020. Prior to the appointment, he was a parish priest in another southern Italian archdiocese, Catanzaro-Squillace, where he was called “Don Mimmo” and known as a “street priest” who cared for the marginalized.

Battaglia outlined the eight qualities of a bishop (listed below) in a homily at the ordination of three auxiliary bishops for Naples archdiocese on Oct. 31.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The closed-door meeting took place six months after Pope Francis addressed the Italian bishops’ spring assembly on May 24.

The May meeting was live streamed until the video feed was abruptly cut off by Vatican Media roughly five minutes in.

Before giving unscripted remarks about Italy’s synodal journey, Pope Francis could be heard over the microphone asking those on stage if journalists were present in the room. After he was assured that the media were not present, the pope replied: “Good, so we can speak freely.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Earlier that day, he had visited the offices of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and spoken live on Vatican Radio about the importance of Vatican media reaching the people.

During the broadcast, he questioned the number of listeners the radio has, as well as how many people read the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which was established in 1861.

The national conference’s fall assembly is taking place on Nov. 22-25 on the theme “Synodal Way of the Churches in Italy.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

At the beginning of the second day, conference president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti addressed the other bishops, saying that, in Pope Francis, “we recognize the Bishop of Rome and the successor of Peter, the one who received from Christ the task of ‘confirming his brothers.’”

“Our love and thanks go to him,” the archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve said. “As always, Pope Francis has addressed important words to us, which spur us to seize the opportunities of grace that this time offers us.”

The Bishop’s Beatitudes

Blessed is the Bishop who participates in poverty and the sharing of his lifestyle, because by his testimony he is constructing the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed is the Bishop who is not afraid to mark his face with tears until they reflect the sorrows of his people and the difficulties of his priests, finding in embrace with those who suffer the consolation of God.

Blessed is the Bishop who considers his ministry a service and not a power, making meekness his strength, and giving everyone the right of citizenship in his heart to inhabit the land promised to the meek.

Blessed is the Bishop who does not close himself in government buildings, who does not become a bureaucrat more attentive to statistics than to faces, to procedure than to stories, who tries to fight at the side of men for the dream of the justice of God, so that the Lord, met in the silence of daily prayer, will be his nourishment.

Blessed is the Bishop who has a heart for the misery of the world, who is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the mud of the human soul to find the gold of God, who is not scandalized by others’ sin and fragility, because he is aware of his own misery, so that the gaze of the Risen Lord will be for him the seal of infinite pardon.

Blessed is the Bishop who drives away duplicity of the heart, who avoids any ambiguous dynamic, who dreams of good even in the midst of evil, so that he will be able to rejoice in the face of God, finding its reflection in every puddle of the city of men.

Blessed is the Bishop who works for peace, who accompanies the paths of reconciliation, who sows the seed of communion in the heart of the presbytery, who accompanies a divided society on the path of reconciliation, who takes every man and every woman of goodwill by the hand to build fraternity: God will recognize him as his son.

Blessed is the Bishop who is not afraid to go against the tide for the Gospel, making his face “resolute” like that of Christ on his way to Jerusalem, without letting himself be held back by misunderstandings and obstacles because he knows that the Kingdom of God advances in the contradiction of the world.

Cordileone to Catholic students after boycott of pro-life assembly: 'Do not be victims of the culture'

Credit: Wuttichai Jantarak/Shutterstock / null

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 22, 2021 / 19:19 pm (CNA).

The archbishop of San Francisco has encouraged students at a local Catholic high school to reject the lies of the abortion industry and become courageous advocates for life, following a boycott of a pro-life assembly at the school. 

“Do not be victims of the culture,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote in an open letter to students at Archbishop Riordan High School. 

Cordileone met with student leaders at the high school on Nov. 8 to discuss the incident.

The meeting was "a chance for productive and thoughtful dialogue," said the high school's interim president, Tim Reardon.

Cordileone wrote an open letter to all students in preparation for the meeting. The text of his letter was published by First Things Nov. 19. 

“There are powerful forces in our country that use slogans to co-opt you into being agents of their own self-serving agendas. You must see through the lies,” he said in the letter.

The students staged a walkout Oct. 22 to protest an all-school assembly featuring pro-life speaker Megan Almon.

According to an account of the incident by the San Francisco Chronicle, students began to exit the auditorium and file into an adjacent gym about “five minutes” into the presentation, leaving “a few dozen of the school’s more than 800 students” in the auditorium for the entire talk.

The walkout has since gained media attention after a video of the walkout went viral, with several hundred thousand views on TikTok.

“My school tried to hold a pro-life assembly,” on-screen text on the video of a throng of masked students reads, “So we walked out.”

In his letter, Cordileone praised students for their idealism and energetic advocacy for justice. He then challenged the students to discern the truth about abortion. 

“Abortion is the killing of a human life,” Cordileone wrote. “This is a scientific fact. The fetus in the mother’s womb is a unique, growing human being, with its own unique DNA. 

“The method of killing depends on the stage of pregnancy and type of abortion, but often involves such techniques as dismembering the limbs, crushing the skull, and burning the body,” he said.

But above all, abortion is a moral issue, the archbishop wrote. 

“No matter the method, abortion is a horrendously violent act,” Cordileone said. “This is not hyperbole. It is scientific fact.”

Cordileone went on to challenge students to advocate for the truth about abortion, which is not glamorous, but fosters greatness. 

“Think of the abolitionists of the mid-19th century, or the advocates of civil rights of the mid-20th century: They did not fit into the societies of their times, advocating for politically unpopular and unfashionable causes,” he wrote. “They risked, and some lost, their lives in the effort to correct the greatest injustice of their time. We now regard them as the moral heroes of their generation.”

He cited Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“This, though, only happens when a new generation of moral heroes rises up to correct the injustice,” the archbishop wrote. “This requires a strong backbone, great spiritual stamina. Will you be the moral heroes of your generation? Do you have what it takes?”

Cordileone urged the students to cultivate their prayer lives. He wrote that only Christ—and His Church—can offer women true choice in the face of an unplanned pregnancy, and healing after an abortion. 

He encouraged young women at the high school to cherish their fertility as a blessing that does not come at the cost of progress for women.  

“God has given you the awesome gift of being able to conceive and bring to the light of day a new, unique human being, with an immortal soul,” he wrote. “I’m old enough to remember a time when our society cherished this gift and protected it; indeed, in effect, society organized itself around it.”

“It is true that back then women were deprived of many opportunities that they now enjoy, and this is progress to be celebrated. However, it should not come at the cost of women having to cancel out this awesome gift.”

Cordileone challenged young men at the high school to respect women as equals, not as tools to be used for selfish pleasure. 

“You still have a ways to go before you mature into full manhood,” he wrote. “If you want to remain a boy forever, then spend your life caring only about yourself and every little immediate pleasure that you desire, because to be a real man requires a life of sacrifice and virtue. 

“It also means acting responsibly by showing respect toward women as your true equals and cherishing and respecting that awesome gift she has of bringing new life into the world,” he said.

He prayed that students at Archbishop Riordan High School would be open to learning and growing in their knowledge, “and especially open to hearing and trying to understand points of view different from your own, even points of view with which you strongly disagree.”

“I wish that is what those of you who walked out of the speech by a pro-life activist recently would have done,” he wrote. “This action put on full display one of the blind spots of youth due to young people’s lack of extended life experience: gullibility.”

After shocking Waukesha Christmas parade attack, Wis. Catholics grieve and pray

Catholics and others were injured, and at least four people killed, when a car drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Nov. 21. / Getty Images

Waukesha, Wisconsin, Nov 22, 2021 / 16:51 pm (CNA).

Catholics in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha have responded with grief, prayer, and solidarity after an SUV drove into marchers in the city’s Christmas parade. Five people were killed, and among the nearly 50 injured are a Catholic priest, multiple parishioners, and Catholic schoolchildren.

“As the shepherd of the Catholic community of southeastern Wisconsin, I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those who have been affected by this senseless act,” said Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee said in a video message on Monday. “When confronted with the shock and the grief encountered by our brothers and sisters in Waukesha, it is now important for us to turn to our faith which offers us God’s loving presence and consolation.”

Like other schools in the city, Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha cancelled Monday classes. The high school, which had a contingent marching in the parade, held a prayer service at 12:30 p.m.

St. William Church in Waukesha scheduled a bilingual prayer service at 6 p.m. Central Time Monday and said it would be streamed live on its Facebook page and YouTube.

“Our prayers are with the people who have been injured and killed during the tragic incident in Waukesha,” the archbishop continued in the video. “Please join us in prayer for all those involved, their families, and those who are traumatized from witnessing the horrible scene.”

“I know that people of every faith and tradition will call their communities together and offer to God their sense of confidence in his ability to guide us through this difficult period and offer hope and healing,” said Listecki. “God bless you.”

A red SUV barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of Waukesha just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21. Videos posted on social media showed a dark SUV racing down the parade route past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck, with police in pursuit.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team, and a marching band were also struck by the vehicle, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Several of the dead were part of the dancing grandmothers’ group, while another was a Citizen Bank employee walking with a float. 

The youngest to die was 52, while the oldest was 81. Those hospitalized for their injuries included at least 18 children.

Also marching in the parade were individuals and institutions of the local Catholic community.

Waukesha has four Catholic parishes. In the wake of the incident, the city’s parishes provided social media livestreams of the rosary and Eucharistic adoration.  

Authorities named Darrell Brooks Jr. as the suspected driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Among other recommended charges, he could face five charges of first-degree intentional homicide, each of which has a sentence of mandatory life in prison.

Brooks, 39, was the subject of an ongoing domestic violence case. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said Nov. 22 that prosecutors had recommended an “inappropriately low” bail in this case and it is investigating the recommendation.

In the last two years Brooks has faced three charges of recklessly endangering others’ safety. He jumped bail for a July 2020 incident for allegedly firing a handgun during an argument.

Most recently, in early November, he allegedly ran over a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station. She was hospitalized for her injuries. Brooks was free on $1,000 bail.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Waukesha police chief confirmed that Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove onto the parade route. There was an unconfirmed report that a knife was involved. Officials said on Monday that there was no police pursuit related to that incident, CNN reports.

Brooks has a significant record of other criminal convictions.

Bishop of Charleston prohibits confirmation, anointing of the sick in ‘Tridentine Form’

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, South Carolina / Bill Kennedy/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 16:12 pm (CNA).

Priests in the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. may no longer administer confirmation or the anointing of the sick in Latin using the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal, under a new policy that goes into effect Sunday.

The policy announced by Charleston Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone also limits the use of the Traditional Latin Mass, and comes in response to Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditionis custodes, or “Guardians of the tradition.” The papal edict states that it is each bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the use of the Traditional Latin Mass in his diocese.

The Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 is known as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

The new “Policy Regarding Celebration of the Mass of 1962 in the Diocese of Charleston” goes into effect on Nov. 28, the first Sunday of Advent. It identifies four parishes in the diocese where the Traditional Latin Mass may be said on Sundays and holy days of obligation, under certain conditions.

Guglielmone stipulates in the new policy that the Traditional Latin Mass cannot be celebrated for midnight Mass at Christmas, or during the Triduum or the Easter vigil. A single Traditional Latin Mass is allowed on All Souls Day. On weekdays, the older rite may be celebrated “if an additional Mass is celebrated according to the ‘NOVUS ORDO’ on the same day,” the policy states.

The four parishes where the Traditional Latin Mass can be celebrated are: Stella Maris in Sullivans Island; Sacred Heart in Charleston; Prince of Peace in Taylors, and Our Lady of the Lake in Chapin.

The policy also limits the celebration of certain sacraments in the “Tridentine form.”

Confirmation and anointing of the sick are not permitted, the bishop states. Baptism is allowed only at the request of the parents. Matrimony using the older rite is permitted with permission of the bishop, and funerals are allowed only at “specific prior written request of the deceased.”

A note adds that “Baptism, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick can be celebrated in Latin according to the most recent updating of the rites.”

“Those priests who have been celebrating this Mass prior to the date of Pope Francis’ MOTU PROPRIO and who have indicated to me that they were doing so, may celebrate this Mass” in the four parishes, Guglielmone states in the policy.

A spokeswoman for the diocese confirmed that the new policy is in response to Traditionis custodes. “The motu proprio from the Holy Father requested that each bishop evaluate their diocese and implement specific instructions regarding the celebration of the Mass of 1962,” she told CNA. “After reviewing the rites thoroughly and consulting with the pastors of our diocese, the bishop approved this policy effective the first Sunday of Advent.”

The spokeswoman also addressed the sacramental regulations in the policy. “Regarding the specific limitations on certain sacraments, these decisions were made based upon the rubrics and study of the rites,” she said. “For example, before Vatican II the Mass could not be celebrated after 12:00 p.m. on a Sunday and not before midnight the day before a major feast day. Thus, there is no permission in the rubrics to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass on Christmas Eve.”

Guglielmone was appointed bishop of Charleston by Pope Benedict in 2009. The text of the new policy is below.

The new policy of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., regarding the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. CNA
The new policy of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., regarding the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. CNA

Catholic University of America: Unintentional abortion coverage for students wasn't used

The Catholic University of America. / Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 14:51 pm (CNA).

Although it has acknowledged that its student health plan unintentionally covered certain abortion services for the past three years, The Catholic University of America said Monday that no abortion claims occurred during that time.

"Aetna reported that there were no abortion claims paid under the plan," university spokeswoman Karna Lozoya told CNA. 

Aetna is a healthcare provider often used by universities to offer students and staff a university-sponsored health insurance option. 

CUA’s report comes days after a media report uncovering that the university's student health care plan provided by Aetna covers abortion “when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or if it places the woman’s life in serious danger.”

The College Fix, a new site that features the work of student journalists, originally reported Nov. 9 that CUA was offering the services. 

The news outlet has written a series of stories about student health care plans at a number of Catholic higher-education institutions that cover abortion services, sterilization surgeries, contraception, and even sex change surgeries, all in contradiction to the explicit teachings of the Catholic Church.

In an earlier statement to CNA, Lozoya explained that the abortion coverage was not intentional on the university’s part.

“The Catholic University of America is committed to defending life at every stage, and we work hard to live out that commitment in all aspects of University operations. For our student and staff health plans, we have always excluded abortion from coverage,” she said.

“A few years ago our health insurance provider for our student health plan (Aetna) made a blanket change to their plans to add limited exceptions to the abortion exclusion — in the case of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is in danger. Unfortunately, the change was not intentional on our part. Our health insurance plan for staff never included these exceptions,” the statement continued.

“As a result of our direct communications with Aetna, they have removed all exceptions to the comprehensive exclusion of abortion coverage from our student health plan, and we have removed the plan from our website. An amended plan will be available soon, and it will be explicit that abortion is excluded from coverage,” Lozoya said. “The Catholic University of America apologizes for the error.”

A senior and student senator at Catholic University of America, Gerald Sharpe, told CNA that the university is pro-life.

“As the university mentioned, this was a colossal error. I know and have worked closely with the administration when I was student body President — they are deeply committed to protecting all life in the womb. As a senior at Catholic U, I can easily say the Church’s teaching on life is upheld and fostered on campus,” he said.

This article was updated with additional information on Nov. 22.

Faith leaders unite to ‘Pray for Dobbs,’ the case that could overturn Roe

Adult and young people hold signs protesting abortion. / Murloc / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 14:13 pm (CNA).

Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians recently united for a day of prayer in anticipation for an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case concerning abortion. 

“Our Christian churches and all people of goodwill must pray, fast, and work harder to end this pandemic of child sacrifice,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., said at the event held on Nov. 18.

The National Virtual Prayer Gathering comes as part of the “Pray for Dobbs” campaign. On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that involves Mississippi’s law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks. The case challenges two landmark cases: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.

The “Pray for Dobbs” campaign provides “resources to help your church, school, ministry, or faith community pray for a just decision in the Dobbs case,” including an informational webinar, flyers detailing the case, and action ideas. Those ideas include prayer, fasting, and organizing local prayer vigils for Dec. 1.

Kat Talalas, the assistant director for pro-life communciations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), explained the initiative during in an informational webinar on Oct. 19. Some 3,500 church leaders participated in the webinar.

“Several faith leaders, all around the same time, had simultaneously the same idea, which is that we need a unified effort of Christians across the country joining together in prayer and fasting to end the scourge of abortion,” Talalas said during the webinar. “They also realized this would have to be an effort that comes out of the body of Christ and is not necessarily tied to any political group or political movement, but is truly an effort from people who are seeking to intercede and to ask God to protect all human life.”

With leaders of different faith traditions involved, she stressed, “We welcome you, we hope that you will join us in prayer and fasting from now until June 22.” The Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case is expected to come sometime before July 2022.

The prayer event, hosted by Mary Szoch, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council (FRC), featured 16 guests including Naumann, former chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Our nation stands guilty of not only promoting, endorsing, and enshrining abortion across the land, but we are responsible for exporting abortion throughout the world in a sinister form of colonial imperialism,” Naumann said during the event. He asked God for forgiveness and to “strengthen us to stand against evil, to love those who may attack us, and show great compassion to those who’ve been involved in sins against life.”

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general of the Sisters of Life, began her prayer during the event with the sign of the cross. She prayed for those wounded by abortion and for the children who have perished by abortion. 

“We pray that those whose hearts have been pierced by abortion may experience anew your gaze of love upon them and, in your gaze, be restored to experience their own great dignity,” she said.

“Holy Spirit,” she added, “inspire our Supreme Court justices and clerks for the deep sense of reverence for the sacredness of every human life so that every human life be protected in law. That the sufferings of abortion may end.”

Szoch described “Pray for Dobbs” as “bringing together Christians from around the country to pray for the end to abortion in America.” 

“It was really an effort all across the board,” she told CNA. “We had Catholics involved, we had Baptists involved, we had Presbyterians involved. I know I'm leaving out people there, but we really did have a unified effort.”

The speakers at the prayer event included Tony Evans, the senior pastor Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Benjamin Watson, a former NFL star and Super Bowl champion, Tony Meléndez, a singer and concert guitarist, and Metropolitan Tikhon, the archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada for the Orthodox Church.

She said it was advertised by churches across the country, the USCCB, FRC, and the Alliance Defending Freedom.

She acknowledged the importance of prayer and fasting in anticipation of the case.

“The atrocity of abortion is a grave evil and we know that God, the author of life, is pro-life,” she said. “He is the being who brought every unborn child into being, and he knows each unborn child intimately, and he has called each one of them by name for a purpose.”

Szoch highlighted another upcoming cross-denominational and non-partisan event called “Pray Together for Life.” Separate from “Pray for Dobbs,” FRC is organizing it to be held on Nov. 28 in Jackson, Miss.

“We need America to return to a nation that believes in the dignity of the human person,” she said, “and for that, we can't do it without God.” 

Relic of Saint John Paul II stolen from historic basilica

Blessed Sacrament Basilica in Buenos Aires, Argentina. / Flickr/Luis Alveart (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 22, 2021 / 13:07 pm (CNA).

The rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in Argentina, Father Jorge Jacek Twarog, reported Sunday that the relic of Saint John Paul II, which was kept in Blessed Sacrament Basilica in Buenos Aires, was stolen.

The relic, which came to Argentina from Poland in 2016, consists of a drop of the blood of Saint John Paul II held in a small square shaped case with a golden frame and mounted on a metal representation of the pope’s papal coat of arms.

It was personally given to Twarog on August 19, 2016 by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow, at the Archbishop's Palace in the former capital of Poland.

The basilica’s pastor, Father Rafael Cáceres Olave and the Catholic community are taking all measures to find the relic and praying that it is retrieved soon.

Heart surgery scheduled for San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy

Bishop Robert McElroy. / Catholic News Agency

San Diego, Calif., Nov 22, 2021 / 11:32 am (CNA).

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego is scheduled for a coronary bypass surgery on Monday. He is expected to make a full recovery, though he will not return to work until after Christmas.

“I have great confidence in the medical staff who are carrying out this operation and, generally, patients are able to return to work in about four weeks,” he told the diocese’s priests in a letter.

“Of course, God will be in charge of all this,” he added.

The 67-year-old bishop began discussing the possible surgery with doctors after he received results from medical tests over the summer, the diocese said in a statement on Friday.

McElroy was born in San Francisco and ordained a priest there in 1980. He served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Francisco from 2010 to 2015, when he was named Bishop of San Diego.

He is currently president of the California Catholic Conference and a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

His predecessor in San Diego, Bishop Cirilo Flores, died in September 2014 at the age of 66 after only one year in office. Flores had suffered a stroke and was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

Pope Francis tells young adults to hold onto hope as Advent nears

Pope Francis met participants and organizers of a Christmas songwriting contest at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told young adults and teens participating in a Christmas songwriting contest to hold onto the hope, beauty, and love present in the season which celebrates Christ’s birth.

“I am happy to meet you, now at the doors of Advent, the period which every year introduces us to Christmas and its Mystery,” the pope said Nov. 22.

“This year too its lights will be subdued due to the consequences of the pandemic, which still weighs on our time,” he noted. “All the more reason we are called to examine ourselves and not to lose hope.”

“The feast of the Birth of Christ does not clash with the trial we are experiencing, because it is the feast of compassion, of tenderness par excellence. Its beauty is humble and full of human warmth,” Francis told the contestants and its organizers.

He added: “I like to repeat the words of Saint Paul VI: ‘This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to fall into despair.’ What kind of beauty? Not the false one made up of appearance and earthly wealth, which is empty and generates emptiness. No.”

“But that [beauty] of a God who became flesh, that of faces, of stories; that of the creatures who form our common home and who – as St. Francis teaches us – participate in the praise of the Most High,” he said.

Pope Francis met participants in a Christmas song contest initiative at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021. Vatican Media
Pope Francis met participants in a Christmas song contest initiative at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021. Vatican Media

Pope Francis addressed participants of the Christmas song competition and others involved in its organization, including its creators, the Pontifical Gravissimum Educationis Foundation and the non-profit Missioni Don Bosco, in a hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

The Pontifical Gravissimum Educationis Foundation was founded by Pope Francis in 2015. The foundation’s website says the Christmas Concert wants to enrich the repertoire of Christmas songs and carols known all over the world “through the creativity of young people, inviting them to produce new songs inspired by Christmas and its values: life, love, peace, light.”

The contest, which was open to young people ages 16-35, is divided into the categories of lyrics, music, and interpretation. The three best songs, as chosen by a jury, will be performed at the 29th edition of the Christmas Concert in the Vatican, a benefit for Scholas Occurrentes and Missioni Don Bosco.

The Dec. 16 concert will have a live audience after last year’s show was taped without spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.

The concert, which features international music artists, will air on Italian TV on Christmas Eve.

Pope Francis said “the beauty of Christmas shines through in the sharing of small gestures of concrete love. It is not alienating, is not superficial, is not evasive; on the contrary, it widens the heart, opens it to give freely – you artists know – opens it to the gift of self, and can also generate cultural, social and educational dynamics.”

The last surviving Trappist monk from Algeria massacre has died at 97

Pope Francis greeted Father Jean Pierre Schumacher in Morocco March 31, 2019. His martyred community was beatified in December 2018. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 22, 2021 / 07:15 am (CNA).

Father Jean Pierre Schumacher, one of two monks who survived the Tibhirine abbey massacre in Algeria in 1996, has died at the age of 97.

Schumacher died in Morocco, where he had been living in a Trappist monastery in Midelt, on Nov. 21, the feast of Christ the King.

The late monk served as the night porter of the Tibhirine abbey on March 27, 1996 when members of the Armed Islamic Group kidnapped and later beheaded seven of his confreres.

The kidnappers, who entered the abbey through the basement, did not pass the front door where Schumacher was stationed that night. The only other survivor from the community, Father Amédée Noto, died in 2008.

The seven martyred monks from his community were beatified on Dec. 8, 2018, along with 12 other Christians killed during the Algerian civil war in the 1990s. Schumacher was present at their beatification at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Cross in Oran.

The Tibhirine monks’ story was also dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pope Francis greeted Schumacher and kissed his hand during his apostolic visit to Morocco in March 2019.

Schumacher was born in Lorraine, France in 1924. After Germany took de facto control of Alsace-Lorraine during World War II, he was enlisted by force into the Wehrmacht, but was never sent to the front due to a medical diagnosis of tuberculosis.

He joined a seminary run by the Marist fathers after the war and was ordained a priest in 1953. A few years later he joined a Trappist monastery in Brittany, France.

Schumacher was sent to Algeria to join the Tibhirine abbey in 1964 at the request of the Archbishop of Algiers. He had been part of the community for 30 years when his brothers were martyred.

After the massacre, Schumacher reestablished Notre Dame de L'Atlas Monastery in Morocco along with Father Noto.

The monk said in an interview in 2011 that he prayed continuously for the Muslim extremists who killed the other members of his community, noting that his community’s prior, Father Christian, forgave his assassins before his martyrdom.

“We must forgive. God calls us to love each other,” Schumacher said.