A crown of thorns is seen at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J. “Giving something up” for Lent is an act of penance and sacrifice that reminds us of Christ’s sacrifices for us. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Christians pray, fast and give alms during Lent, they also should consider giving a smile and offering a kind word to people feeling alone or frightened because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said.

“Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need,” the pope wrote in his message for Lent 2021.

The message, released by the Vatican Feb. 12, focuses on Lent as “a time for renewing faith, hope and love” through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And, by going to confession.

Throughout the message, Pope Francis emphasized how the Lenten practices not only promote individual conversion, but also should have an impact on others.

“By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others,” he said. “Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain.”

The pope’s message contained several references to his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

For example, he prayed that during Lent Catholics would be “increasingly concerned with ‘speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn,'” a quote from the encyclical.

“In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be ‘willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference,'” he said, again quoting the document.

The Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer were preached by Jesus and continue to help believers experience and express conversion, the pope wrote.

“The path of poverty and self-denial” through fasting, “concern and loving care for the poor” through almsgiving and “childlike dialogue with the Father” through prayer, he said, “make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of fasting “as a form of self-denial” to rediscover one’s total dependence on God and to open one’s heart to the poor.

“Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down — like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false — in order to open the doors of our hearts to the one who comes to us, poor in all things, yet full of grace and truth: the son of God our savior.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presenting the message at a news conference, also insisted on the importance of “fasting and all forms of abstinence,” for example, by giving up “time watching TV so we can go to church, pray or say a rosary. It is only through self-denial that we discipline ourselves to be able to take the gaze off ourselves and to recognize the other, reckon with his needs and thus create access to benefits and goods for people,” ensuring respect for their dignity and rights.

Msgr. Bruno-Marie Duffe, secretary of the dicastery, said that at a time of “anxiety, doubt and sometimes even despair” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lent is a time for Christians “to walk the way with Christ toward a new life and a new world, toward a new trust in God and in the future.”


Volunteers from Epiphany Parish in Sayre prepare dozens of meals to be distributed to the community in 2020.

SCRANTON – For the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created struggles and hardship for many people. Parishes throughout the Diocese of Scranton have responded compassionately to that need in an overwhelming way.

Parishes across the Diocese formed nearly 50 new ministries since the beginning of the pandemic, including youth ministry outreach to essential workers, volunteer programs that serve free meals to the community and outreach efforts to the homebound.

In December 2020, The Catholic Light sent a survey to all parishes, looking for the ways that they are responding to community needs during the coronavirus.

An overwhelming response from 93 parishes provided great clarity on the impact our parishes are having in our community – and how parishioners have provided selfless service to their brothers and sisters in need.

Here are just a few of the survey highlights:

  • Thirty-percent of responding parishes operated their own food pantry in 2020. Together, these pantries helped more than 2,000 families/individuals each month during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • For parishes that did not operate their own food pantry, 94-percent collected food for another local agency or food bank. The food collected benefitted tens of thousands of additional local residents during the coronavirus.
  • Despite the challenges of organizing volunteers on a large-scale basis, 23% of parishes hosted a free community meal during the pandemic. Another 20% provided meals directly to seniors or the homebound.
  • Nearly two-thirds of parishes provided direct help to families struggling with food, fuel, utilities or rent. Often unadvertised, many parishes reported that the number of requests received in 2020 rose due to people facing unexpected layoffs or a reduction of hours.
  • Currently, 75% of Diocesan parishes are now streaming Mass to the faithful. This effort comes after Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has stressed the importance of keeping the faithful connected during the pandemic.



Nearly every parish responding to The Catholic Light survey indicated that food assistance for the community was a main priority of their social ministry programs.

That includes the widespread outreach of Saint Ann Parish in Shohola and its sister parish of Saint John Neumann in Lords Valley, both of which are located in Pike County.

According to Carol Laput, administrative manager at Saint Ann’s, the parish coordinates no less than a four-prong effort in providing social services to the area’s less fortunate, especially with regard to food assistance.

The Saint Ann’s Bridgepoint Food Pantry opens its doors on the first and third Thursday of each month, with 45 families registered as patrons, but serving many more.

Supported by the generosity of parishioners and assisted by several community grants, including those provided by the Diocesan Annual Appeal, the food pantry recorded 620 food distributions in 2020.

Located near the bank of the Delaware River in the eastern most part of the Diocese, the food pantry and other parish charitable giving programs are “interstate,” whereby also providing for their neighbors in need across the New York state border in Sullivan County.

“Our parish is literally in walking distance of the bridge that takes you across the river into New York,” Laput said. “We are so proud to provide assistance to those who make the trip into Pennsylvania for help. The fact we can serve all who arrive at our doorstep is a true tribute to the generosity of our community.”

The “Food for Families and Friends” program operated by Knights of Columbus Council 12571, which is based at Saint John Neumann Parish, provides a nutritious, home-cooked meal every month for families and individuals experiencing financial difficulties.

Dinners are distributed on the second Sunday of the month and it is estimated the Knights and their army of volunteers provided nearly 1,400 meals last year.

“This is most impressive when you keep in mind the program was shut down for two months due to COVID precautions,” Laput added.

Between 150 to 180 meals are typically served each month and the food assistance effort estimates that it may provide nearly 2,000 dinners in 2021.

Holiday assistance programs providing Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets are also a hallmark of Saint Ann Parish.

“We make available grocery bags with one of four shopping lists,” Laput explained. “Parishioners shop for the items on their list and return the bags to the church.”

She also noted that special collection envelopes are distributed for the Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, which allow parishioners to donate funds to purchase extra food.

Finally, the parish’s “Lorenzo’s Lunch” program, recently highlighted in The Catholic Light, was launched to give out-of-school children a healthy meal during the summer months. The project has since expanded to include anyone in need.

Laput noted that with the pandemic postponing students return to the classroom, the program extended into the first week of October. Operating every Thursday from June through Oct. 1, “Lorenzo’s Lunch” distributed more than 1,900 afternoon meals during 2020.

In addition, nearly 1,300 lunches were served as part of Saint Ann’s “Grab ‘n Go” program to ensure area students had access to nutritious food while schools were closed due to the coronavirus.



The food pantry sponsored by Saint Paul Parish in Scranton’s Green Ridge section has been a mainstay for providing help to working families and senior citizens facing a food shortage.

“For a long time (Saint Paul) parish has always felt a need to support as broad a clientele as possible,” Barbara Burkhouse said of the program, which operates out of the basement of Saint Clare Church, a nearby worship site of Saint Paul Parish. “People would be surprised, and just don’t realize, how many individuals count on a place like this to meet their food needs.”

The Scranton food pantry welcomes clients twice a month on Friday afternoon from 3 to 4:30 p.m., with plenty of volunteers to serve the incoming patrons.

Burkhouse explained the assistance program is unique in that it features “client choice,” or a la carte service, where clients can pick between various items based on their needs, rather than being given an assortment of pre-packaged or bundled food.

“Volunteers are absolutely critical,” Burkhouse said of the operation. “Parishioners are always there to help, along with students from The University of Scranton,” who volunteer while in school during their fall and spring semesters. “Every year, they also recruit new volunteers among their college peers.”

In Luzerne County, Holy Family Parish helps roughly 50 to 75 families in need on a monthly basis. Its food pantry provides non-perishable meal items on the last Saturday of every month.

According to pantry coordinator Carol Cardoni, bags of food are distributed based on family size and no one is ever turned away.

“We give food to anyone in need from the surrounding areas, so we do not only serve members of our parish,” Cardoni explained. “In fact, almost all of the people who come for food are not members of the parish.”

Cardoni credited former pastor Father Dave Cappelloni for launching the parish food pantry nearly 20 years ago. She and her husband Louis have served as coordinators for the past six years after taking over the reins from longtime directors Kathy and Ken Long.

“We have a loyal group of volunteers who faithfully come to work at the pantry every month,” Cardoni noted. “Some are members of our parish and some are from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Swoyersville,” which holds food drives on a regular basis to support the pantry.

According to the Holy Family pantry coordinator, the program receives tremendous support from local groups and businesses that often run food collections to donate to its operation. Faithful parishioners donate food via receptacles at the church’s entrance, and a parish envelope is distributed four times during the year for monetary donations in support of the pantry.

“All of the volunteers love their work at the pantry,” Cardoni concluded. “We feel that the pantry is such a worthwhile endeavor. It feels good to be able to help our community out in this way.”



During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been significant focus on individuals who are hospitalized with the virus. Numerous parishes, including Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown, have established ministries to make sure people know someone in their parish is thinking about them.

“We have a program in place where if we know a parishioner is home from a recent hospital stay, we give them a call to see how they are doing,” Saint Therese staffer Terri Besecker, who heads up the parish ministry support team, explained. “We ask if they are in need of assistance by way of meals or transportation to a follow-up visit with a doctor.”

According to Besecker, the unique apostolate is part of the Pastoral Outreach and Hospital Ministry at the parish in Luzerne County’s Back Mountain region, and has adapted with the changing times over the years.

One parishioner who knows that better than anyone is Terry Brown, who has been contacting area hospitals to reach out to Saint Therese patients every weekday morning since the program’s inception in the late 1990s.

“That information is given to the Hospital Visitation Volunteer for that week, as well as the pastor,” Brown said. “If allowed, the volunteer would personally visit any patients and pray with them for their health and healing.”

Once the patient is released, Brown alerts the next volunteer to offer any assistance the parish can provide.

Due to HIPAA regulations and the current COVID restrictions, Besecker said, “Things are much different these days.”

“We now rely on family members or the parishioners to tell us when they or a loved one is in the hospital, because we can’t always get the information we need by calling the hospital,” she continued.

Meals and transportation are considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on volunteer feasibility.

“This program has had to change with the times,” Besecker remarked. “Even though we cannot visit anyone in person for the time being, we still want to know when someone is sick and in need of prayers.

“We know how important a phone call can be or a kind word to say we care. Of course, prayers for someone who is going through a tough time are most appreciated.”

How Every Parish in the Diocese of Scranton is Responding to Community Needs during COVID-19


Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Diocese of Scranton’s annual Developmental & Intellectual Disabilities Mass on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The liturgy prayerfully celebrates the many gifts those with developmental or intellectual disabilities bring to the Church and the community. The Mass will be sign-language interpreted for the hearing impaired.

The Mass will be open to the public following COVID-19 guidelines and will also be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and livestream on the Diocese of Scranton website and across all social media platforms.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his 2022 Lenten message to the Church, Pope Francis invites us to reflect upon Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Galatians 6:9-10).

The Holy Father challenges us to reflect upon the urgency of using the time that God has given to us in a productive manner by sowing goodness in our world with a view to a future harvest. And Lent, Pope Francis continues, is the opportune time for us to recollect our thoughts and to move forward with resolve, seeking to fulfill our baptismal promises by making the pattern of Jesus’ life our own through our authentic response to his call to discipleship.

Through his invitation to place our trust in the Lord as the surest means of responding to the apostle Paul’s appeal, Pope Francis provides us with some practical reminders of how we might achieve this noble end:

“Let us not grow tired of praying” … We need to pray because we need God.

“Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives or of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance,” knowing that God never tires of forgiving us.

And “Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors,” the surest means of reflecting the life of Jesus in our own lives.

This year during our Lenten journey, we have all been given a unique opportunity to sow seeds of goodness in our Church to reap a bountiful harvest. The entire People of God, including our own local Church, have been invited to participate in the preparatory phase of the Synod of Bishops that is being convened by Pope Francis in October 2023, entitled a Synod on Synodality.

A “synodal” Church implies a way of being and of working that engages a more grassroots, collaborative effort among the members of the Christian faithful as we all seek to grow in awareness of the presence of God and engage the mission of evangelization. A “synodal” Church takes the time to discern the path forward that the Holy Spirit is calling us to embrace as together we seek to build a Church where all are welcome, valued and sent forth as ambassadors of Christ. A “synodal” Church highlights the fact that each member of the Body of Christ has been entrusted with gifts for the building up of the Church – “good” that we ought never tire of doing on behalf of one another.

I encourage you to participate in the synodal process through listening sessions in your parishes and through online opportunities that have been generously provided to all of you who desire to share your thoughts, your dreams and where you believe the Holy Spirit is calling the Church at this time in its history. The Diocese of Scranton’s online survey can be found on the “Synod on Synodality” page on the Diocese of Scranton website at dioceseofscranton.org.

As Pope Francis has reminded us, a “synodal Church” is above all a Church that listens: “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The lay faithful, the bishops, the pope: all listening to each other, all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), in order to know what He is saying to the Church” and how best to move forward in faith.

Finally, one of the great gifts given to us by the Church to assist in our response to the Lord’s invitation to do “good” is found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we have done for many years, all of the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton will participate in The Light Is On For You. Every Monday evening during the Lenten season, beginning on the first Monday of Lent, March 7, and continuing through Monday of the last full week of Lent, April 4, confessions will be heard in every parish from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

My friends, our resolve to deepen our faith and to do good on behalf of our brothers and sisters is needed today more than ever. May we open our hearts to this blessed season of Lent and all of the opportunities that we are given to deepen our trust in the ever-present grace of God, that alone can sustain us in our journey of faith as his disciples.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


February 9, 2021

“I take this opportunity to congratulate Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., Ph.D., on being selected to serve as the 28th president of The University of Scranton. As we welcome him to northeastern Pennsylvania, I also ask everyone to join me in praying for God’s continued grace and health for Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., who will conclude his remarkable second tenure as president.

“Father Marina brings a vast array of experience that will affirm the Catholic and Jesuit values upon which The University of Scranton has already been built. We are blessed that he has chosen to share his unique gifts and experiences with the students, faculty and staff of The University of Scranton.

“With a proven track record of being a knowledgeable and respected voice in higher education, Father Marina’s presence will serve The University of Scranton well as it continues to distinguish itself as an academically rigorous, socially responsible learning community where students become men and women for others.

“Rooted in Our Lord’s love and mercy, we ask God’s blessing on Father Marina, that he be filled with the strength, wisdom and courage needed to take on this new role.”

The chair of The University of Scranton’s Board of Trustees announced Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Le Moyne College, will serve as Scranton’s 28th president beginning this summer.

The University of Scranton Names 28th President

Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y., will serve as the 28th president of The University of Scranton. James M. Slattery ’86, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, made the announcement to the University community today. Father Marina, who will take office in the summer, will succeed Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., ’H15, whose second term as president ends at the close of the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Father Marina brings to Scranton his unique experience as teacher, pastor, scholar and school administrator with more than 20 years of experience in higher education,” said Slattery. “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank the members of the presidential search committee for their careful work in leading us through the search process to its successful conclusion.”

“Father Marina has a special dedication to Catholic and Jesuit higher education, and a pastoral approach to leadership that is grounded in his faith, in Ignatian spirituality and in a call for justice. He will further Scranton’s commitment to provide a transformative education, rooted in the liberal arts, and will guide our students to become ‘men and women for and with others,’” said Father Pilarz.

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as The University of Scranton’s next president and to succeed Father Pilarz who has with his colleagues on campus fostered such a strong foundation on which to build Scranton’s future success,” said Father Marina. “From day one as a Jesuit I have heard time and again how seriously Scranton takes its mission and identity. What strikes me most is how students excel with the help of the authentic commitment of faculty and staff. As we take this journey together beginning this summer, the wonderful truth remains that anything and everything we do at Scranton should be and will be done for our students first. Our shared focus is precisely where it belongs, on our students and their success.”

Father Marina was selected following a national search, which began in August with the appointment of a broadly representative search committee that included trustees and representatives from the faculty, staff, student body, alumni and administration. University Trustee Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Ph.D. ‘93, G’93, H’19, served as chair of the search committee.

“On behalf of the search committee, I want to say how pleased and excited we are that Father Marina has agreed to lead our beloved University,” said Dr. Sprows Cummings. “I am so very grateful to my colleagues on the committee for their thoughtfulness and dedication throughout the search process. Father Marina has our full and enthusiastic support as he prepares to begin his service this summer.”

Since 2016, Father Marina has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Le Moyne College, where he oversees the Jesuit college’s three academic schools, honors program, library, campus life, student housing, conduct and Title IX compliance, diversity and inclusion programming, global education, student success and support services, disability services, and several other areas. Previously at Le Moyne, he held positions as associate provost, interim chair of the education department and special assistant to the president.

On Feb. 12, he will conclude just over two months serving as acting president at Le Moyne while Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D., president, is a Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Syracuse University.

“I commend The University of Scranton for selecting Father Marina as its next president,” said Dr. LeMura. “Joe has been a vital part of Le Moyne’s success over the past five years. Among his accomplishments as provost are the continued growth of graduate programs, including the launch of our first doctoral program in Educational Leadership, his work on our strategic plan Sempre Avanti, and the establishment of the Quantitative Reasoning Center and the Writing Center. On a personal level, he has been a confidant, friend and wonderful colleague. I wish him nothing but the best in his new role.”

His prior experience includes serving as the dean of the School of Continuing Education at Providence College, assistant dean for the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University, and assistant dean for Metropolitan College at St. John’s University. In addition, he taught religious studies at Providence College and mathematics at St. John’s University. He served as pastor of the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City and as associate pastor of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, also in New York City.

Father Marina is currently a trustee at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York, and Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York, where he is chair of the board’s governance committee. He previously served on the boards of St. Thomas Aquinas College, Regis University, Canisius College, Xavier High School and Le Moyne College.

His research interests include leadership and organizational change, and, in the area of theology, scripture and the question of non-belief. His presentations include “Inner-city Healthcare and Higher Education: A Partnership in Catholic Social Teaching,” “Graduate and Continuing Education in the Jesuit Tradition” and “Educational Delivery System Options: Programs to Attract and Retain and Educate Adult Students.”

Father Marina holds a Doctor of Philosophy in administration and supervision from Fordham University, a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Boston College and a Master of Science in Secondary Education from St. John’s University. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Sciences, with a theology minor, from St. John’s University.

Father Marina entered the Society of Jesus in 2004 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2012.

Rev. Joseph M. O’Keefe, S.J., Provincial of the East Coast Province of the Society of Jesus remarked, “I will be delighted to mission Fr. Marina to Scranton. He will bring a wealth of experience as an academic administrator and a pastor. He has a tremendous ability to articulate the Jesuit education vision, and he has the requisite management skills to make that vision a reality.”

Founded in 1888, The University of Scranton is a Catholic and Jesuit institution located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Northeast with an enrollment of nearly 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Scranton consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, The Princeton Review and others. Scranton is known for the outstanding success of its graduates.



Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre received a $25,306 grant from the AllOne Charities Collaborative Philanthropy Fund. The John and Josephine Thomas Foundation contributed $12,653 that was matched by AllOne Charities to help meet the continuing need for food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating in the check presentation, left to right: John W. Cosgrove, Executive Director, AllOne Charities; Mike Cianciotta, Director, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen and John Graham, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen Advisory Board Member.

February 4, 2021

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre has been awarded a $25,306 grant from the AllOne Charities Collaborative Philanthropy Fund. The John and Josephine Thomas Foundation contributed$12,653 that was matched by AllOne Charities to help meet the continuing need for food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant will be used to continue offering hot, nutritious meals to individuals and families in need in the greater Wilkes-Barre area on a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen has continued to meet the needs of its community, transitioning its traditional sit-down meals to meals served to-go in order to adhere to physical distancing and safety protocols.

“The Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is on the front-lines of providing consistent and nutritious meals to those of our neighbors who find themselves most in need. As importantly, the kitchen and their volunteers directly represent the compassionate concern of our entire community in service to others. AllOne Charities is pleased to support their invaluable work,” John Cosgrove, Executive Director, AllOne Charities, said.

During the 2020 calendar year, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen served more than 56,000 meals to the less fortunate of the Wyoming Valley. In addition to providing warm meals daily, kitchen staff has also provided extra food, vegetables and desserts for clients to take home as well. In addition, the Saint Vincent de Paul Food Pantry assisted more than 4,100 households during the pandemic.

“The grant from AllOne Charities and the John and Josephine Thomas Foundation will have a tremendous impact on making sure all of our neighbors and friends continue to receive a nutritious meal each day,” Mike Cianciotta, Director of Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen, said. “During the pandemic, we have seen many new people looking for help, whether they lost jobs, had their hours reduced or have struggled to get unemployment assistance.”

Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is a part of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton. Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen operates every day of the year and is traditionally staffed almost entirely by volunteers. During the pandemic, dedicated staff members have filled all the necessary roles to make sure all meals are prepared and served with dignity and respect.

“Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen is one of the cornerstones of the mission of Catholic Social Services. The kitchen responds compassionately to the needs of our community on a daily basis. Most importantly in the midst of the pandemic, we have been able to replace despair with hope for many people,” Mary Theresa Malandro, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services & Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, said.


Lazarus is depicted in stained-glass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 30, 2006. In a decree published Feb. 2, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said Pope Francis has approved adding the memorial of Martha, Mary and Lazarus to the General Roman Calendar. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Recognizing their welcome of and witness to Christ, Pope Francis has approved changing the liturgical feast of St. Martha to include her sister and brother, Mary and Lazarus, on the church’s universal calendar of feast days.

The names of Mary and Lazarus will be added to the July 29 feast on the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican Feb. 2 published the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments’ decree ordering the change in calendars.

Signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the congregation’s prefect, the decree said Pope Francis approved the memorial for Martha, Mary and Lazarus after “considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, (and) in believing that he is the resurrection and the life.”

“In the household of Bethany, the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them,” it said. “Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the one who humiliated death.”

The decree explained that “the traditional uncertainty of the Latin church about the identity of Mary — the Magdalene to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection, the sister of Martha, the sinner whose sins the Lord had forgiven — which resulted in the inclusion of Martha alone on 29 July in the Roman Calendar, has been resolved in recent studies and times,” thus paving the way for celebrating the siblings in one memorial.

A separate congregation decree, also published Feb. 2, said the pope also approved the optional memorial of three doctors of the church: Sts. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk; John of Avila, the famed 16th-century preacher, confessor and spiritual writer; and 12th-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

Mary Magdalene is pictured in a stained-glass window in the Church of St. Waudru in Mons, Belgium. In a decree published Feb. 2, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said Pope Francis approved adding the memorial of Martha, Mary and Lazarus to General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. (CNS photo)

The saints, who hail from both the Eastern and Western church traditions, were declared doctors of the church for their important contributions to theology and spirituality.

In its decree, the congregation explained that those given the title of “doctor of the church” exemplify the “link between holiness and understanding things divine and also human.

“Indeed, the wisdom that characterizes these men and women is not solely theirs, since by becoming disciples of divine wisdom, they have themselves become teachers of wisdom for the entire ecclesial community,” it said. “It is in this light that the holy ‘doctors’ are inscribed in the General Roman Calendar.”

The optional memorial for St. Gregory of Narek will be celebrated Feb. 27, while those for Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen will be celebrated May 10 and Sept. 17, respectively.

There are currently 36 doctors of the church, including Sts. John Chrysostom, Augustine, Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux.


EAST STROUDSBURG — Bundled up in jackets, hats and gloves, dozens of people took to the streets of Monroe County on Jan. 29 to call for an end to legalized abortion.

After youth groups from Saint Matthew Parish and Our Lady Queen of Peace determined they could not make their annual trip to Washington for the 2021 March for Life, they decided to co-organize a local “March for Life” throughout East Stroudsburg.

“I feel like it’s more powerful to do local things sometimes,” Kyli Ramsay, 17, a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brodheadsville, said.

Ramsay has made the trip to the March for Life in Washington five times. While she calls each of those experiences powerful, she admitted holding this year’s march locally would likely have a greater impact.

“It has been cool to see the different people that get involved across churches, the kids that I know from school,” Ramsay said. “Sometimes it’s not always people that you would expect.”

The local March for Life in East Stroudsburg lasted for more than an hour. Marchers started at Saint Matthew Parish and followed a pre-determined route that took them near the community’s hospital, university and other landmarks. Participants created signs and offered prayers along the way.

The March for Life in East Stroudsburg was the first big pro-life event for David Mierzwa, 16, a parishioner of Saint Matthew Parish. Even though temperatures for the walk were barely over 12 degrees, he marched in order to spread a pro-life message to his peers.

“God intended us to have new life and Jesus was a part of that. Mary was a virgin and God gave her the blessing to have Jesus. Jesus was a great example that all babies should have a chance,” Mierzwa said.

The cold weather also didn’t bother marcher Andrew Lafiura, 16, a parishioner from Our Lady of Queen of Peace Parish.

“It could be in the negatives (temperatures) and there would be the same amount of people,” the Effort teenager said. “I think it’s astonishing that people are doing this locally.”

Local marchers acknowledged that it has been 48 years since two Supreme Court decisions removed protections for the unborn.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a fetus was not a person but a “potential life” without constitutional rights of its own, and limited state regulation of abortions according to each trimester. That same day, the court’s Doe v. Bolton decision prohibited state regulation of abortion during all trimesters if the procedure was sought for reasons of maternal health, including “physical, emotional, psychological, familial” factors or the woman’s age.

For teenagers, the abortion debate can be a sensitive subject and difficult to talk about.

“It is really hard. My generation very much advocates for pro-choice, a lot of them do and I think a lot fail to understand what they really mean when they say that,” Ramsay explained.

Lafiura agreed that discussing abortion is not a “light-hearted” topic, he says seeing so many people take part in the local march will help facilitate those talks.

“To see so many people understanding each other for this huge topic is amazing,” he said.

In addition to people from the two parishes organizing the local March for Life taking part, parishioners and friends from many other parishes, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Pocono Pines, Our Lady of Victory Parish in Tannersville and Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top also participated.

Boiling his experience up in just a few words, Mierzwa said, “We want people to know that a life is a life and that


A screen capture shows Pope Francis speaking during a Feb. 4, 2021, virtual meeting marking the International Day of Human Fraternity, a new effort to promote dialogue between cultures and religions. The pope was among several world and religious leaders who participated in the meeting. (CNS photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The world must begin to realize its shared humanity in order to live peacefully, otherwise it risks falling apart in endless conflicts, Pope Francis said.

“Today, there is no time for indifference,” the pope said Feb. 4 at a virtual event commemorating the first International Day of Human Fraternity.

“We cannot wash our hands of it, with distance, with disregard, with contempt. Either we are brothers and sisters or everything falls apart. It is the frontier, the frontier on which we have to build; it is the challenge of our century, it is the challenge of our time,” he said.

The pope was among several world and religious leaders who took part in the Feb. 4 virtual event, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince.

Among those taking part in the online global meeting were Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, and António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations.

This is a promotional image for the Feb. 4 International Day of Human Fraternity. Pope Francis was among several world and religious leaders who participated in a virtual meeting Feb. 4 to mark the celebration, which has been established by the United Nations. (CNS photo/Vatican Newsm handout)

The date chosen for the event marks the day in 2019 that Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb signed a document on promoting dialogue and “human fraternity” during his apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was established after the pope’s visit to implement concrete proposals toward fraternity, solidarity and mutual understanding proposed in the document.

The event also included a presentation of the committee’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to Guterres and to Moroccan-born Latifa Ibn Ziaten.

Accepting the award, Guterres thanked Sheikh el-Tayeb and Pope Francis for “pushing humankind to come together in unity, in dialogue to promote peace, to promote fraternity, to promote the unity that is necessary to address all the challenges to defeat hate and to make sure that human solidarity wins the battles we are facing.”

Ziaten was honored for her work in France in promoting peace and dialogue to young people who often fall prey to extremist ideology. Ziaten established the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, which she founded after her son, a French soldier, was murdered in 2012 by a Muslim extremist in Toulouse.

Congratulating her for the award, the pope said that despite the pain of losing a child, Ziaten risked her life to “dare to say, ‘We are brothers and

This is the logo for the Feb. 4 International Day of Human Fraternity, a new effort to promote dialogue between cultures and religions. Pope Francis was among several world and religious leaders who participated in a virtual meeting Feb. 4 to mark the celebration, which has been established by the United Nations. (CNS photo/Vatican News, handout)

sisters’ and to sow words of love.”

“Thank you being the mother of your son, of so many boys and girls; for being a mother of this humanity that is listening to you, learning from you the path of fraternity,” he said.

Thanking the pope and Sheikh el-Tayeb for the award, Ziaten said the recognition “will really help me in my fight, my work today.

“I lost a son, but today I reach out to many children. Today I’m a second mother to many children I saved in detention centers, in homes, in schools so they don’t fall into hatred,” she said.

In his address, the pope began by greeting participants as “sisters and brothers” and affectionately greeted Sheikh el-Tayeb as “my brother, my friend, my companion in challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”

The pope thanked the grand imam “for his company on the path of reflection and the drafting” of the document on human fraternity.

“Your testimony helped me a lot because it was a courageous testimony. I know it was not an easy task. But with you we could do it together and help each other. The most beautiful thing of all is that first desire of fraternity turned into true fraternity. Thank you, brother; thank you,” he said.

The pope also thanked Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, calling him “l’enfant terrible” of the project, a French expression meaning a successful person who uses unorthodox or innovative methods to achieve their goals.

The pope thanked Salam for his efforts and lauded him as “hard-working, full of ideas” and one “who helped us to move forward.”

Fraternity, he continued, not only means respecting and listening to others “with an open heart,” it also means remaining firm in one’s own convictions; otherwise “there is no true fraternity if one’s own convictions are negotiated.”

“We are brothers and sisters, born of the same father; with different cultures and traditions, but all brothers and sisters. And while respecting our different cultures and traditions, our different citizenships, we must build this fraternity, not negotiate it,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said the International Day of Human Fraternity was a moment of listening, of sincere acceptance and “of certainty that a world without brothers and sisters is a world of enemies.”

“It not only takes a war to make enemies,” the pope said. “It is enough with that technique — it has become a technique — that attitude of looking the other way, of getting rid of the other as if he or she didn’t exist.”

A Vatican stamp commemorates Pope Francis’ meeting with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, at the main synagogue in Rome Jan. 17, 2016. (CNS photo/Vatican stamp and coin office)


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis’ ongoing efforts to promote interreligious dialogue will be highlighted in a new series of Vatican stamps.

The series, which will be released in late February, feature photographs of some of the pope’s meetings over the past six years with leaders of other world religions.

At the end of his weekly general audience Feb. 3, Pope Francis praised the decision of the United Nations to mark an International Day of Human Fraternity Feb. 4.

“I am very pleased that the nations of the entire world are joining in this celebration aimed at promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue,” the pope said. The U.N. resolution establishing the day “recognizes ‘the contribution that dialogue among all religious groups can make toward an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind.’ May this be our prayer today and our commitment every day of the year.”

The Vatican Philatelic Office said the stamp series illustrates Pope Francis’ teaching in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” that, as the encyclical said, “the different religions, based on their respect for each human person as a creature called to be a child of God, contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice in society.”

A Vatican stamp commemorates Pope Francis’ meeting with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Thailand’s Buddhist community, in Bangkok Nov. 21, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican stamp and coin office)

“Dialogue between the followers of different religions does not take place simply for the sake of diplomacy, consideration or tolerance. In the words of the bishops of India, ‘the goal of dialogue is to establish friendship, peace and harmony, and to share spiritual and moral values and experiences in a spirit of truth and love,'” the pope wrote in the encyclical.

The stamp series marks the beginning of the ninth year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, which begins March 13.

The four designs in the series show: The pope’s January 2016 meeting with Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome; his February 2019 meeting with Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university; Pope Francis’ November 2019 meeting with Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong, supreme patriarch of Thailand’s Buddhist community; and his January 2015 meeting with Ndu-Kurukkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva, a Hindu leader, in Sri Lanka.