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Ukraine war: Catholics invited to join Pope Francis in praying rosary for peace

Pope Francis prays before Our Lady of Fatima May 13, 2015. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, May 26, 2022 / 06:42 am (CNA).

The Vatican is inviting Catholics to join Pope Francis in praying the rosary for peace in Ukraine and around the world at the end of the Marian month of May.

The pope will pray the rosary before the statue of Mary Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major at 6 p.m. local time on May 31.

“At the conclusion of the Marian month, Pope Francis wishes to offer a sign of hope to the world, suffering from the conflict in Ukraine and deeply wounded by the violence of the many wars still active,” the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization said on May 26.

It added: “All the faithful in every part of the world are invited to support Pope Francis in his prayer to the Queen of Peace.”

The pope will pray the rosary in union with Marian shrines around the world, including the Shrine of the Mother of God in Zarvanytsia, western Ukraine. They will be connected via video link to the live broadcast from Rome.

Pope Francis is expected to lay flowers at the foot of the Marian statue before reciting the rosary. The statue of Mary Regina Pacis, in the basilica’s left aisle, was commissioned by Pope Benedict XV to ask for the Virgin Mary’s intercession to end the First World War.

The sculptor Guido Galli depicted Mary with her left arm raised, commanding the war to end. In her right arm, she holds the Child Jesus, who is poised to drop an olive branch symbolizing peace.

Visitors often leave handwritten notes with prayers intentions at the base of the statue.

The statue of Mary Regina Pacis at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Fczarnowski via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The statue of Mary Regina Pacis at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Fczarnowski via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Pontifical Council said that the pope will be accompanied at the basilica by children who have recently made their First Communions or received the Sacrament of Confirmation, as well as families from Rome’s Ukrainian community.

A Ukrainian family is expected to pray one of the decades of the rosary.

Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

Gunmen kidnap 2 Catholic priests in Nigeria

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara, who were abducted in Nigeria’s Sokoto diocese on May 25, 2022. / Father Chris Omotosho.

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Gunmen attacked a Catholic rectory and kidnapped two priests in northwest Nigeria on Wednesday.

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara were abducted after gunmen broke into the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Gidan Maikambo, in the middle of the night on May 25, according to a statement from the Diocese of Sokoto.

Two boys were also kidnapped along with the priests, according to Father Chris Omotosho, a spokesman for the diocese, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Omotosho, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria, of which one of the abducted priests is also a member, appealed for prayers “for their safety and release.”

The kidnapping is the latest incident in a series of attacks that have reportedly targeted Church institutions in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

ACI Africa reported on May 14 that Muslim youths vandalized multiple Catholic churches in the area, including the Sokoto diocese’s Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, and the St. Bakhita Center.

The young people vandalized the churches in protest at the arrest of suspects in the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu on May 12.

Yakubu, a young Christian woman who was studying economics at a college in Sokoto, was stoned to death and then burned by male students at the college who accused her of blasphemy.

She had reportedly testified that Jesus Christ helped her pass exams, and was then accused of making blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.

Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, Benue State, issued a statement on May 20 questioning why the Nigerian government continued to remain silent amid persistent attacks in the West African nation.

Anagbe said that widespread terrorism by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Benue State had made it nearly impossible to conduct pastoral visits in the area.

The bishop decried the silence of the international community amid the suffering of Christians in Nigeria.

“Sadly, we continue to draw the attention of the outside world to the plan by Islamists to Islamize Christian territories countless times with little or no attention paid to our cry and call for help,” he said.

“Sometimes it appears we have been abandoned to the mercy of the jihadists.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

Catholic pro-life student attacked at public school, school criticized for lack of protection

Sisters Vanessa Pagano (left) and Nichole Pagano, who are both students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School and attended an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally at the school in order to stand up for the unborn with a pro-life sign. / Vanessa Pagano.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Seven students have been suspended from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey — and seven “extended detentions” given, with more disciplinary measures possibly to come — after a rowdy pro-abortion protest by students resulted in the physical and verbal assault of a sophomore holding a pro-life sign.

Jeffrey Moore, the school’s superintendent, acknowledged the “distressing” behavior of the pro-abortion students toward 16-year-old Nichole Pagano at a live-streamed school board meeting on May 23. But he was still severely criticized at the meeting for the way the situation was handled.

At the meeting, Moore gave a presentation about the unsanctioned protest, which took place on May 16.

“I want to reiterate, certainly the most distressing moments of this incident were in the behavior that was shown to counter-protesters who had arrived and those involved,” he said.

“Shoving, expletive-laden verbal aggression, vandalism to signs, signs were knocked over, thrown, kicked, all of those things that made this a most distressing and disrespectful scene and example of student behavior against a student there who showed up with another viewpoint.”

Nichole speaks out

Nichole told CNA on May 24 that when she and her senior sister Vanessa, both Catholics, saw around 200 students forming a pro-abortion protest in the middle of the school’s campus during class hours, they immediately felt a call to action: they needed to stand up for the unborn. And they did.

As Nichole walked around the protest holding a pro-life sign that said “Equal Rights For Babies in the Womb,” she was physically attacked and screamed at by students.

Nichole, of Readington Township, recalled: “There’s like 200 kids there and then all of a sudden they come surrounding us — mostly trying to come at me and attack me because I had the sign — and then they came at me all up in my face, verbally screaming at me, and physically even grabbed me and ripped me down.”

Nichole Pagano, 16, stands holding a pro-life sign at an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally that occurred at Hunterdon Central Regional High School May 16, where she was verbally and physically harassed while having her sign vandalized. Vanessa Pagano.
Nichole Pagano, 16, stands holding a pro-life sign at an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally that occurred at Hunterdon Central Regional High School May 16, where she was verbally and physically harassed while having her sign vandalized. Vanessa Pagano.

Nichole said that her 18-year-old sister was the only person protecting her, “trying to get these kids away from me and almost pushing them off of me, off my arm, and blocking them so they wouldn’t get my sign.”

Nichole said that after the protest she had scratches on her arm and legs, and her shoulder hurt. Her father, Michael Pagano, described the shoulder injury as being a “sore shoulder.”

Superintendent Moore said at the board meeting that some school and town police officers “were attached near that student so that she would have that presence nearby as we continue to work to dissipate the crowd.”

After he said this, someone could be heard yelling from the crowd: “That’s a lie!”

Nichole told CNA that the school’s principal Edward Brandt apologized to her at a school board meeting on the day of the protest. Moore also publicly apologized to her.

Referring to Brandt’s apology, she said that “it didn’t seem like too big of an apology, though. It kind of seemed like a quick, short, little apology. It didn’t seem very long and even that concerning.”

She added that after the apology, she “didn’t hear anything from anyone,” adding that the school didn’t contact her parents. Her father confirmed that no one had contacted him or his wife, Jennifer, as of May 25.

Nichole spoke publicly at the May 16 board meeting about the “hurtful” events that occurred that day.

She told CNA that when she saw the protest, she was baffled that students thought it was acceptable to protest in favor of abortion, especially in school.

“Like, do they really know what that is? I don’t think enough of them even know exactly what it is and how it works,” she said.

Nichole said that if she were to give other high school students advice on how to deal with similar situations, she would say: “You’ve got to just do what your heart says and what you believe in. You’ve got to do what’s right.”

“Even if it’s sometimes hard to do, you go to do it to make a stand and make a point.”

School board members scolded by the public

At the most recent school board meeting, the school’s handling of the situation was criticized multiple times, with one man even calling for Moore’s job termination.

The critical comments included a statement from New Jersey state assemblyman Erik Peterson, who represents the 23rd Legislative District, including parts of Hunterdon.

Explaining that he was present at the meeting “in solidarity with the parents,” Peterson said that Nichole “is the victim, not the ‘counter-protester.’ She was assaulted. It’s on video.”

“The problem, from my perspective, is the leadership,” he said. “These kids didn’t learn this on their own, they learned it here. And it starts with this board and the superintendent.”

Peterson called Moore’s presentation “disrespectful to everybody in this room and to this board, to everybody, and to the victim.”

Asked if the school had checked in with Nichole to ensure her future safety and well-being, a school spokesperson said in a statement: “We are deeply distressed by the behavior between students who engaged in verbal and, in a very small number of instances, physical aggression during this gathering.”

“Youth demonstrations have a long history of educating students toward civic-mindedness; however, the behavior in this demonstration was disrespectful and distressing enough to be an affront to that tradition of peaceful assembly and protest. We are investigating thoroughly and taking all appropriate disciplinary actions.”

The statement went on: “This demonstration brings us to serious reflection on the procedures we have for managing such events and, most especially, on the examples that we, as adults, are setting for our children.”

“The actions that they see taken by adults impact the actions that they believe to be appropriate and acceptable.”

“As we move to correct their behavior, we must work together to offer better object lessons. We must provide outlets for expression, but these need to be exercised with care, respect, and dignity for ourselves and one another. We need to teach these lessons of civil discourse to our children in much more deliberate ways, especially in these times.”

The statement concluded: “At Central, we will continue to insist on respect in all civic and political processes and hope that this contributes to a future in which there is better and more constructive civic participation. We are thankful for the partnership with our community in that effort.”

Nancy Pelosi's Communion ban will apply in Diocese of Arlington, bishop says

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 21:21 pm (CNA).

The Communion ban in place within House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home diocese in California now extends to the Diocese of Arlington, located just outside Washington, D.C.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said Wednesday that he would respect the ban imposed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone last week because of Pelosi's staunch advocacy for legalized abortion.

“He is her bishop and as that bishop the direction and guidance he provides is not limited to just a geographical area,” Burbidge said on his diocese's "The Walk Humbly Podcast." His comments were first reported Wednesday by the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese's newspaper.

Burbidge is the second U.S. bishop to announce that he will apply San Francisco Archdiocese ban in his own diocese. Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he would do so in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, where Pelosi reportedly attends Mass occasionally. At least a dozen U.S. bishops have publicly come out in support of Cordileone's action.

Bishop Joseph Strickland said on May 25 that Pelosi would be barred from receiving Communion in the Diocese of Tyler in eastern Texas.

He wrote on Twitter: "The concern for Mrs Pelosi’s eternal salvation extends to the Diocese of Tyler. She is barred from Communion here until she repents & stops advocating the murder of children. Pray for her heart to be turned to God & away from the power of this world."

Cordileone has stressed that his decision was "pastoral, not political." Burbidge said on the podcast that he views the issue the same way.

“I can’t say it enough, (these) decisions are made for the good of individuals to guard the faithful from scandal," which is caused when Catholics in public office take positions at odds with Church teaching," the bishop said, according to the newspaper's report. "That confuses people and a bishop has to guard against that."

Burbidge revealed that while he has not publicly announced that someone should not receive Communion in his diocese, "I have privately shared that directive with individuals who have continuously scandalized the Church by holding a personal Catholic identity while also publicly advocating for abortion or other inherent moral evils," the newspaper reported.

“All people, including those who are not public individuals, have to approach the sacraments truly in communion with the Church and Our Lord,” Burbidge said.

This report was updated at 05:32 MDT on May 26 with Bishop Strickland's comments

Spanish priest responds to Whoopi Goldberg on Nancy Pelosi and Communion

Nancy Pelosi (L) Whoopi Goldberg (R) / Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0) / David Shankbone (CC BY 3.0)

Lima, Peru, May 25, 2022 / 17:41 pm (CNA).

Actress Whoopi Goldberg defended what she considers the right to Communion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in wake of the decision of Archbishop  Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to deny her Holy Communion for her obstinate and public support for abortion.

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in a letter released to the public May 20.

The archbishop explained that for his decision to not take effect, Pelosi must  “publicly repudiate (her)advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”

Goldberg said in a video posted on Twitter that "The abortion rights battle is starting to blur the lines between Church and State."

“The archbishop of San Francisco is calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be denied receiving Communion because of her pro-choice stance,” she said.

Addressing the archbishop, Goldberg exclaimed “This is not your job, dude! That is not up to you to make that decision! It’s kind of amazing. What is the point of Communion? Right? It’s for sinners. It’s the reward of saints but the bread of sinners. How dare you?”

Commenting on Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks, Father Juan Manuel Góngora, a Spanish priest who has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, said that “this lady is confused. Eucharistic communion is not a ‘right.’”

“Any priest can deny it when there are appropriate circumstances and it’s a gift that must be received in a state of grace. But of course, for the unwary, the story of victimization is more interesting,” said Fr. Góngora.

In Lumen gentium, its 1964 dogmatic constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council stated that bishops "govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant ... In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate."

Archbishop Cordileone explained that his decision is in accord with Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

"Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi's position on abortion has become only more extreme over the years, especially in the last few months," the archbishop said in his statement.

The Archbishop of San Francisco also recalled that on Sept. 20, 2013, Pope Francis told a group of Catholic doctors that “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”

Catholic community ministers to Texas shooting victims: 'God's love will prevail'

Parishioners mourn at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. On May 24, 21 people were killed, including 19 children, during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement. / Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The local Catholic community is ministering to the victims of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. The Archbishop of San Antonio, along with priests in that archdiocese, sprang into action as soon as they learned of the tragedy.

“We're inviting people just to pray that love will prevail — that the love of God through us will prevail,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller told CNA.

García-Siller visited the hospital and the civic center in Uvalde, where the families of missing children gathered, on Tuesday. That evening, he celebrated Mass at the city's Catholic church, Sacred Heart.

Several of the victims and their families belonged to the Sacred Heart community, he told CNA, including two adults who were killed. Many involved in responding to the shooting attended the Mass: the person who dialed 911 from the school, the person who drove the children to the hospital, and a person who was tasked with taking photos of the victims’ bodies.

Their response came after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, located about 90 miles west of San Antonio. The incident is reported to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

The two adults have been identified as 4th-grade teachers: 46-year-old Irma Garcia, a mother of four, and 44-year-old Eva Mireles, a mother of one. News outlets such as NBC News reported their relatives as saying that the two died while trying to protect their students.

“I was able to meet the husband of one of the teachers who was killed, and the two daughters and son,” García-Siller said of Irma Garcia’s family.  

He met with them at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, as they waited to hear what had happened to the wife and mother. 

“The husband showed a lot of strength,” he told CNA. The three teenaged children, he said, were devastated. 

García-Siller described the other families at the center as very quiet, with some crying. He called the mood “very somber,” with everyone silently sitting on their own without engaging with one another. 

“So I asked them what we were able to do for them” and what they needed, García-Siller said. The only consistent request he received was for prayers and, in particular, “to pray for my child.” 

García-Siller described Uvalde as a tight-knit community, including a large Catholic community. He credited Sacred Heart for organizing the Tuesday Mass and setting up “the vision for how we can be of use, how we can be of help, to the larger community.”

“We have, already since [Tuesday], deacons, permanent deacons, priests, nuns, lay people, available for prayer, for counseling,” he told CNA, “which was the main thing the families directly affected asked for.”

“It's a lot of pain,” García-Siller described. “It’s just hard to communicate, or articulate the situation.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio

Next steps

“Today we're going back,” García-Siller told CNA on Wednesday. “We're driving back to Uvalde to be at the school where the shooting took place, at the civic center, at the hospital, and the parish.”

He will be present to say Mass and “to be all day with the people.”

Catholic Charities, García-Siller added, is providing counseling. And, he added, “We are opening an account to invite people to provide funds for all the funerals” and whatever the victims’ families need, including traveling expenses, lodging, food, and legal assistance. The archdiocese's Catholic Charities has opened an Uvalde Relief fund to aid those affected by the shooting.

The Bishop of Piedras Negras, located in Mexico near the border, will also travel to Uvalde. The two cities are connected, García-Siller said, since many of the people in Uvalde originally came from that city. 

The archbishop has also engaged teams of prayer. Before he drove Uvalde on Tuesday, he contacted prayer teams in San Antonio — teams that he calls from his office any time he has a need.

He revealed to CNA how he, personally, is dealing with the response. 

“You know that you are tired, but you don't recognize it because you're on the move,” he described. “I feel OK. As I said, this is a very community effort and so I don't feel in any way alone.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.

A meaningful Mass

The archbishop told CNA that Catholics and leaders of other religions attended the Tuesday evening Mass at Sacred Heart. The Gospel, he said, told the story of when the disciples discouraged little children from approaching Christ. 

Christ responded by saying, “Let the children come to me,” García-Siller recalled, as the Kingdom of God belongs to them and people like them. 

He stressed the importance of the Mass and “to at least to know what we're doing, why we are doing it, having very clearly the presence of these families before us and knowing that our God will intervene and that God is present.”

Catholic priests take action

Father Jaime Paniagua from Del Rio and Father Matthew De León from Sabinal concelebrated the Mass at Sacred Heart, Aleteia reported. Like García-Siller, both Paniagua and De León traveled to a hospital in Uvalde and the civic center. 

They stayed at the hospital for hours, Paniagua said in a video shared by reporter Ashlee Burns of Caller.com and USA Today.

“We talked to the authorities, we talked to the staff, doctors, nurses. And we were able to visit at the ER with some of the wounded, with the families, with the kids,” he said. “In some of the cases, the parents hadn’t arrived yet. So we were there in the ER rooms with the doctor and the kid, and praying with them.” 

“We were present there as well when several families received the news of their kids being deceased,” he added, “being able to pray there for them.”

The victims Paniagua met with included a Border Patrol agent grazed by a bullet, a girl with a gunshot wound, and a girl whose face was injured from fragments, the Washington Post reported.

“She was very talkative, describing what happened, step by step,” Paniagua said. “When the shooting was happening, she held another girl’s hand, and they were screaming. Their teacher protected them, and they saw the teacher get shot.”

The priest said that he asked each injured child he enountered how they were doing and if they wanted to pray with him. 

“I experienced powerlessness, being there for six hours,” he said. “But God is almighty.”

Read Cardinal Sarah's commencement address at Christendom College

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, delivers the commencement address at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., May 14, 2022. / Christendom College

Denver Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Addressing the graduates of Christendom College this month, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, focused on the virtue of practical wisdom, or prudence, "the crown of the virtues."

We are called "to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us," the cardinal said May 14 on the campus in Front Royal, Virginia.

"Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not."

During the commencement ceremony, Sarah was given an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Find below the full text of Cardinal Sarah's commencement address:

I. Introduction

"Christendom." The name of a Catholic college that unabashedly places Christ as its center. With a distinct mission to restore all things in Christ — instaurare omnia in Christo (Ephesians 1:10) —and to rebuild Christendom, so that our culture may be inspired again by Jesus Christ and what He left us. Today, I am honored to graduate from such a College. I am proud to be a member of the Class of 2022!

Fellow graduates: you leave today from Christendom College as confident and courageous disciples of Jesus Christ, having been equipped with a solid Catholic formation in an extraordinary time. Thank you to your parents, benefactors, the President, Faculty and staff of the College, who have made your formation possible. Formation that is open to the True, the Good and the Beautiful, wherever that is found, as enlightened by the truths of Divine Revelation as found in Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. For those of you who have been here for at least four years, your formation at Christendom has been marked by a global pandemic, by the most divisive national election in the living memory of this country, and by the ongoing threat of major war in Europe for the first time since World War II. All along, the liquidation of God and moral relativism with the creation of false moral norms become ever more widespread. The Evil One is at work to sow confusion even in terms of our most basic identity as men and women, created in the divine image and likeness from the very first moment of conception in the womb of the mother — a demonic, spiritual revolt against what we have received from God, the gift of grace.

Every university exists to form its students for the challenges that they will face. For a Catholic college, like Christendom, that means having the courage to adhere to the faith of the Church, even if that contradicts the scheme of the modern world. If it recognizes what is in its nature to do, every university seeks to cultivate in its students the good habits of virtue, which fortify them for all the years ahead. The mission of Christendom College is precisely this. I quote: "The chief goal of the academic program is to form intellectual virtues in the students. Man is called not only to know the truth, but to love it, and to make it the formative principle of his life."

I hope that the extraordinary events of the last years have impressed upon your minds and hearts all the more deeply the beauty of virtue, the perennial value of firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good. You and I — all of us here — will need it. In the years ahead, we will all lean on the habits that we have formed, on the formation that we have received. It is the foundation of virtue, aided by grace, that allows us to perceive clearly and to respond generously to the persons and situations and opportunities that God places before us.

II.    Practical Wisdom

In the few minutes that I have to speak with you, there are two aspects of virtue on which I would like to reflect. Both concern the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom. I have deliberately chosen this topic as the focus of this Commencement Address, since the motto of Christendom College - instaurare omnia in Christo — entails precisely this: to sum up every aspect of creation in Christ, who is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). I expect that most of you will have spent some time while at Christendom getting to know the work of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to the Aristotelian and Thomistic tradition, practical wisdom is the crown of the virtues, which we attain supernaturally by grace, but naturally only after we have formed all the other moral virtues. These other virtues enable us to perceive clearly and to respond rightly to specific goods, such as wealth or health or honor. Practical wisdom, by contrast, enables us to integrate these goods, to discern how they fit together within each of our lives and in accord with each of the vocations given to us by God.

Practical wisdom, therefore, is key to our moral development. In the order of nature, the attainment of the natural virtue of practical wisdom is the culmination of our journey to moral maturity. In the order of grace, its perfection helps us to imitate Christ, to fulfill His command: "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). I pray that God bless every one of you with the wisdom that you will need in the journeys that commence today.

III. Taking Time for Deliberation

I said that I would reflect on two aspects of practical wisdom. The first is this: Practical wisdom enables us to make decisions. In the next weeks, months and years, you will be making decisions that change your lives and can change the world. Not just any decisions, but difficult decisions, decisions that draw upon multiple perspectives and multiple virtues, decisions that involve competing goods or conflicts of interest. When faced with such a decision, it is a virtue unto itself — or an aspect of practical wisdom — to understand how quickly or how slowly to arrive at a conclusion.

Noting this is of great help: You need not rush. Nor should you delay. How we arrive at the right balance, the right speed, is something that we learn through practice. We get better at making decisions, and at pacing our decisions, through practice and through listening carefully to the advice of our elders. For those of you who face great decisions on the horizon, and perhaps feel anxiety or stress about them, this advice might bring little consolation. But I shall not leave it there.

We can extract from Aristotle some more detail. He suggests that taking time for deliberation before we make a decision is itself a good, a good which we ought not overvalue or undervalue. He recommends that we deliberate slowly in most cases. First, he recommends that we give more time to more grave choices and less time to less grave choices. In other words, we ought not distract ourselves over lesser things, and fail to give adequate attention to what matters more and to what matters most.

Second, he recommends that we seek further clarity in a situation only to the degree that the field under consideration allows for it. For example, there was no way for any of you to guarantee ahead of time that the choice of Christendom would be the best choice of school for you. The process of choosing a school does not admit of such a guarantee. The choice of a school always involves a risk. Likewise, in any domain, we should respect the degrees to which we may attain certainty, on the one hand, or to which we must admit uncertainty, on the other. This point too saves us time and protects us from needless worry. It sharpens our deliberation and discernment.

Finally, Aristotle acknowledges that we do not always have the time that we might like for deliberation and discernment. Sometimes situations demand that we make decisions, even momentous decisions, quickly. It is in times like these that the value of the habits that we have formed and the formation that we have received is clearest of all. In these moments, when a decision is demanded of us, we fall back on what we have practiced. We fall back on the insights with which we have grown familiar and on the skills that we have developed over many years. It is then that we are most grateful for our firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good.

This was the first characteristic of practical wisdom that I wanted to discuss: It is a distinct aspect of practical wisdom to understand how quickly or slowly to arrive at a conclusion in a given situation. You need not rush. Nor should you delay. This is a skill for each of you to acquire.

IV.    An Example of Practical Wisdom: St. Ignatius of Loyola

The second characteristic upon which I would like to reflect is not a systematic component of practical wisdom but a particular example of its appearance. It is an example both fitting and startling in light of our experience of the pandemic and comes from the autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I quote:

"At that time the plague was beginning to spread in Paris ... Ignatius [entered a house in which there were many corpses of those who had died of the plague, and he] consoled and revived a sick man he found lying there. When he had touched the wounds with his hand, Ignatius departed alone. His hand began to cause him great pain, and it seemed as if he had caught the disease. The fear that came upon him was so great that he was unable to vanquish and drive it away, until with a great effort he placed his fingers in his mouth, and for a long time kept them there, saying [to himself], 'If you have the plague in your hand, you will also have it in your mouth.' As soon as this was done, the illusion left him and the pain he had felt in his hand ceased."

After caring for a sick man, Ignatius worried that he too had been infected. If he had had a deeper understanding of bubonic plague, he would have known that infection would not have been indicated by pain in his hand. But that is beside the point. What is striking is his deliberate action. He puts what he takes to be his infected hand in his mouth. He does not want to fear infection. He prefers to have the infection, and to know that he has it, rather than to fear it. For us, after the enormous sacrifices made to reduce the spread of COVID, the action of Ignatius might appear utterly reckless, even offensive.

But his action brings to light something profound, or rather a series of profound insights. First, you are all familiar with the claim that virtue seeks the mean, the middle way between two extremes. In order to hit the middle, virtuous action must often overshoot its target. When we naturally incline to one extreme, such as fear for our own health, virtue must tend toward the opposite extreme, again and again, until what is truly the middle way becomes clear to us. What may appear to be an extreme action by St. Ignatius perhaps allowed him to find the mean. He feared that he had already been infected with bubonic plague. By his dramatic action, he did not expose himself anew but simply disciplined his own fear. He rebuked himself, prohibiting fear from troubling him, from discouraging him from tender care for the sick, and from distracting him from the work of God.

Second, Ignatius' action is decisive. Once he has spread the infection to his mouth, according to his own understanding of the plague, there is no turning back. Beforehand, he was greatly troubled. He could not contain his fear. Different goods, different interests pulled him in different directions. In those minutes or hours of anxiety, he must have undertaken some form of deliberation, as much as his overwhelming fear would permit — considering, on the one hand, the value of his health, his natural fear of death, his fear of suffering the agony of plague, and then, on the other hand, his vocation to service, the freedom to which God calls us all, and the judgment before God that awaits us after death. Once these factors were weighed and considered, he acted suddenly. No further deliberation was necessary. There was no need for delay. And by his action, the tension is resolved. He has made his choice.

This is the third insight that we can glean from Ignatius' account. Not only does virtuous action appear to be extreme at times, and not only is it decisive, it reveals a choice. Practical wisdom culminates in decision. It commits us to one path instead of others. And in so doing, it re-arranges the values in our lives. It reorders how they appear to us and how they appear to others. The choice of Ignatius to risk his life to overcome his fear affects us all. He presents to us courage and self-sacrifice and perhaps even a degree of foolhardiness as choice worthy and preferable to overwhelming fear of disease. Health is a legitimate good, which we ought to take care to preserve. So, the choice of Ignatius was not simply an act of courage. It was a decision of practical wisdom, aided by the supernatural perspective on life and death that comes from Christian faith. He shaped his life in that moment, and set before us all a startling manifestation of human choice and human virtue.

V.    Conclusion

It is to such action that we here today are called. Not necessarily to expose ourselves to disease. But to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us. I propose to all of you to carry the account of St. Ignatius in your heart, knowing that God will call you, too, to surprising, startling, and decisive choices that will shape your lives and the lives of all around you.

We live in a time of crises — a time that demands of us decision after decision to respond to the immense challenges that we face and that will shape our lives and the lives of generations to come. I think of Saint Joseph, who is rightly called the "Terror of Demons," since he made decisions without delay in obedience to God's Word. At yesterday's Baccalaureate Mass, I invited you to take Mary "into your own home," "into your own affairs" and into every aspect of your lives. Today, I invite you also to "go to Saint Joseph." Ite ad Joseph. With the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph at our sides, let us rise to the challenge. Let us thank God for the formation that we have received. Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not.

Our most profound deliberations and our clearest vision of what lies ahead come to us when our hearts rest in silence. Especially silence before the Lord in the Eucharist — either in the silence of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or in the sonorous thread of silence that runs through the Holy Mass. Before Him, in light of faith and in the grace of the sacraments, we receive the greatest help in confronting the crises that we face and in choosing rightly and in accord with His will. By recognizing the responsibilities to which we are called, and by taking the appropriate time to deliberate, especially in silence, and to respond to the challenges ahead with practical wisdom, we will fulfill our vocations and reveal to the world the beautiful constellation of values that God shapes within each of us in order to "restore all things in Christ" and so to rebuild Christendom.

Pope Francis prays for consolation for injured and bereaved in Texas shooting

Pope Francis at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, March 14, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 11:24 am (CNA).

A telegram sent to the Archbishop of San Antonio on Wednesday conveyed Pope Francis' deep sadness over the deaths of 21 people at a school shooting in Texas the previous day.

“Assuring those affected by this attack of his spiritual closeness, His Holiness joins the entire community in commending the souls of those children and teachers who died to almighty God's loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved,” reads the May 25 telegram sent on the pope's behalf.

“With firm faith in the risen Christ, through whome every evil will be overcome by good, he prays that those tempted to violence will choose instead the path of fraternal solidarity and love,” it continued.

A gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, about 90 miles west of San Antonio, May 24, killing 19 children and two adults.

A Border Patrol officer killed the shooter, a local 18-year-old identified as Salvador Ramos. Two police officers were injured by rounds from Ramos.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pope Francis had addressed the tragedy after his General Audience address.

“My heart is broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas. I am praying for the children and the adults killed and their families,” he said in St. Peter's Square.

“It is time to say enough to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons. Let us all work hard so that such tragedies can never happen again.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said May 24 that the country was facing an “epidemic of evil and violence.”

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent,” the USCCB’s public affairs director Chieko Noguchi said in a statement.

“Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others, and we join our prayers along with the community in Uvalde and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.”

“As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

Hours before the general audience, Archbishop Garcia-Siller appealed to Pope Francis to pray for the victims of the shooting in his San Antonio archdiocese.

He tweeted: “Holy Father Pope Francis, say some prayers for the souls of our little ones killed today and two teachers. Uvalde is in mourning. The families are having a very dark time. Your prayer will do good to them.”

He added in Spanish: “Gracias por ayudarnos. Queremos ser como Jesús. Cuente con nuestra oración” (“Thank you for helping us. We want to be like Jesus. Count on our prayers”).

Will Cardinal Zuppi lead Italy’s bishops’ conference in a new direction?

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, Italy. / Francesco Pierantoni from Bologna, Italy - Premio Colombe d’oro per la pace via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2022 / 10:57 am (CNA).

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi’s election as president of the Episcopal Conference of Italy is, at one level, unsurprising. For at least two years, he was spoken of as a frontrunner to succeed outgoing president Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti. And everyone pointed to Zuppi as the only figure who could lead the bishops’ conference in the direction desired by Pope Francis. Yet, on another level, the appointment was somewhat unexpected.

Zuppi’s election was announced as Italy’s bishops met for their plenary assembly at the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel. In the corridors of the hotel near Rome’s Fiumicino airport, there was a somewhat defiant air.

Some bishops, who asked to remain anonymous given that the ballot took place in secret, suggested that the pope was “forced” to select Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna, because he received the most votes among the three candidates sent to him for a final decision. It was evident, they said, that the pope would have preferred Cardinal Paolo Lojudice of Siena, who, they indicated, would be appointed as the new vicar of Rome.

Presidents of Italy’s bishops’ conference have a five-year term. At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis had asked for the statutes to be modified so that the bishops would elect the president themselves. But they preferred to keep the existing arrangement whereby the pope, as Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, chooses the president.

A compromise was reached: the bishops would settle on three names and the pope would either choose one of them or appoint his own candidate.

Shortly before the latest election, Pope Francis said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he preferred that the next president was a cardinal. After this, the three candidates were narrowed down to Zuppi, Lojudice, and Bishop Antonino Raspanti of Acireale, Sicily.

The bishop made the final three for two reasons. First, two other cardinals were ruled out of the running: the current vicar of Rome Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, who no longer seems to enjoy the pope’s favor, and Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence, who is heading for retirement. Second, there was a need for a “weak” name to better highlight the two real contenders.

Zuppi received by far the most votes from his brother bishops and Pope Francis had to take this into account. Rumors had previously suggested that the pope was wary of the great publicity that surrounds the “papabile” Zuppi and was leaning toward a different candidate. The pope was also said to have been negatively surprised when Zuppi applied the motu proprio Traditionis custodes in the Bologna archdiocese in a benevolent way.

The rumors that constantly circulate in the Vatican, aiming to scuttle or promote candidates, have always carried a lot of weight. Those cited are, in any case, sensitive issues for the pope.

“The bishops were courageous in voting for Zuppi and giving a signal to the pope,” a participant in the Italian bishops’ assembly told CNA. “Now it will be necessary to see who will be the secretary general [of the bishops’ conference] to understand the line.”

In his interview with Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis said that he wanted the new president to choose the secretary general, so that he would be “someone willing to work with and for him.” But the pope did not specify how this choice should take place.

In formal terms, the pope also chooses the secretary general, based on a list of names suggested by the bishops’ conference.

When he picked Bishop Nunzio Galantino in 2013, he selected him though he did not appear among the initial three names presented by the then bishops’ conference president Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. In 2018, the pope chose Bishop Stefano Russo from a list of seven offered by Cardinal Bassetti.

That Pope Francis was unhappy with the work of the bishops’ conference presidency over the past five years could be seen from a series of details.

The most striking was that Russo ended his mandate as secretary general a year in advance. Moreover, his appointment as a residential bishop was announced a week before the bishops’ plenary assembly, effectively delegitimizing him.

A tense climate could also be seen during the closed-door meeting that the pope held with the bishops on May 23. Nobody other than bishops was allowed to attend, not even their secretaries. The pope reportedly joked about Russo’s appointment to the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri–Segni, saying that the 60-year-old had been “sent on vacation to the Castelli Romani,” a hilly area serving as a popular leisure destination for Romans.

The pope also reportedly told the bishops that he had not sought to highlight the idea that the next president should be a cardinal in his Corriere della Sera interview. Rather, he said, he had simply emphasized his preference when the journalists suggested that Archbishop Erio Castellucci of Modena might be a candidate.

Other topics of discussion included the pope's health and the Vatican’s China policy.

Pope Francis reputedly said that he did not want an operation to resolve his knee problems and would prefer to resign rather than undergo general anesthesia again.

Regarding China, Pope Francis praised the diplomatic approach of Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He spoke about the “martyrdom of patience,” a phrase attributed to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who served as Vatican Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II and is the architect of the Vatican’s Ostpolitik.

The future direction of Italy’s bishops’ conference now hinges on the choice of the secretary general, the body’s real engine. Will it be someone who will work with Zuppi to forge a new line that goes beyond the pope’s indications?

In his first comments after his election on May 24, Zuppi said that he would be guided by three criteria, which he named in order of importance as “obedience to the primacy of the pope, synodality, and collegiality.” How he puts these into practice will be closely watched in the coming months.

Bishop Flores on Texas elementary school shooting: ‘Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem’

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville delivers the St. Thomas Day Lecture at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paul, Calif., Jan. 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of TAC. / null

Rome Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 07:55 am (CNA).

Bishop Daniel Flores said on Wednesday that he was sick of hearing people say that “guns aren’t the problem” after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.

“We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them,” the bishop of Brownsville, Texas, wrote on Twitter on May 25, the day after the shooting.

“Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin,” Flores said.

It was one of many responses from Catholic bishops around the U.S. after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. Among the victims were 10-year-old students in the fourth grade.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston was one of the bishops who took to social media to share his reaction to “the unthinkable loss of so many innocent young lives.”

“Our nation has too often become a place of unspeakable crimes of gun violence that have taken far too many lives, though none more heartbreaking than innocent children. We must take action to stop this senseless carnage,” O’Malley said.

“We pray for the grieving families and the Uvalde community, whose lives are forever changed. In this moment we embrace them with prayers for peace and healing as we commend to the Lord those lost, consoled by the promise of eternal life,” the cardinal wrote on Twitter.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago published a long thread on Twitter, highlighting how parents at the Uvalde elementary school faced “a delay in identifying the victims — such was the extent of the damage done to these children’s bodies by the killer’s weapons.”

Cupich shared statistics on the uptick in gun violence in the U.S. in 2020 and noted that the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting is scheduled to take place in Texas this week.

He wrote: “As I reflect on this latest American massacre, I keep returning to the questions: Who are we as a nation if we do not act to protect our children? What do we love more: our instruments of death or our future?”

“The Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them,” Cupich said.

Other U.S. bishops focused their social media responses on praying for the victims and their families.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence wrote: “I join my fervent prayers to those of many others for the victims of the horrible shooting at the school in Uvalde, Texas. May God grant eternal peace to those who died and as much consolation as possible in this dark hour to their families and loved ones.”

Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles said: “May Our Lady of Guadalupe take the victims of this violence in her tender arms, and bring comfort to those who mourn, and healing those who are hurt. And may God grant peace to every heart that is troubled tonight. We ask this in Jesus’ name.”

Pope Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on May 25: “My heart is broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas.”

“It is time to say enough to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons. Let us all work hard so that such tragedies can never happen again,” the pope said.