Pope Francis blesses people during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 19, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God is not frightened by people’s sins, mistakes or failures, Pope Francis said.

What God is afraid of is “the closure of our hearts – this, yes, this makes him suffer – he is frightened by our lack of faith in his love,” the pope said Jan. 19 during his weekly general audience.

Everybody must “square accounts” with what they have done, but “settling the accounts with God is a beautiful thing because we start talking and he embraces us” with tenderness, the pope said.

Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about St. Joseph, reflecting on his tenderness.

Very little detail is found in the Gospels about St. Joseph’s fatherly approach, but “we can be sure that his being a ‘just’ man also translated into the education he gave to Jesus,” the pope said.

Jesus understood God’s tenderness and love, experiencing it first through St. Joseph, he said. “The things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“There is great tenderness in the experience of God’s love, and it is beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself,” he said.

In fact, Jesus always used the word “father” to speak of God and his love, he said. The most memorable account of God’s mercy is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, who expected punishment for his sins, but instead “he finds himself wrapped in his father’s embrace.”

“Tenderness is something greater than the logic of the world. It is an unexpected way of doing justice,” Pope Francis said.

“That is why we must never forget that God is not frightened by our sins,” he said, because God “is greater than our sins: he is the father, he is love, he is tender.”

Tenderness is “the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God’s love,” the pope said.

“The Lord does not take away all our weaknesses, but helps us to walk on with our weaknesses, taking us by the hand” and walking by people’s side, he said.

“The experience of tenderness consists in seeing God’s power pass through precisely that which makes us most fragile; on the condition, however, that we are converted from the gaze of the Evil One who ‘makes us see and condemn our frailty,’ while the Holy Spirit ‘brings it to light with tender love,'” the pope said, quoting from his apostolic letter on St. Joseph, “Patris corde.”

If the devil ever speaks the truth to people, it is because he is twisting it “to tell us a lie” and to “condemn us,” the pope said. “Instead, the Lord tells us the truth and reaches out his hand to save us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us.”

The world needs this “revolution of tenderness” and, without it, “we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to rise easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he added.

With this in mind, the pope highlighted what people in prison need most.

“It is right that those who have done wrong should pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have done wrong should be able to redeem themselves from their mistake. There cannot be sentences without a window of hope,” he said, which, in past speeches, he has explained would be sentences of life in prison or the death penalty.

“Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and think of God’s tenderness for them, and let us pray for them, so they might find in that window of hope a way out toward a better life.”

St. Irenaeus of Lyon is pictured in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario. Pope Francis received a formal recommendation Jan. 20 to declare St. Irenaeus of Lyon a doctor of the church, the Vatican announced. (CNS photo/The Crosiers)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis received a formal recommendation to declare St. Irenaeus of Lyon a doctor of the church, the Vatican said.

During a meeting with Pope Francis Jan. 20, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, asked the pope to “accept the affirmative opinion” of the cardinals and bishops who are congregation members to confer the title on the second-century theologian known for his defense of orthodoxy amid the rise of gnostic sects.

Once declared, St. Irenaeus would be the second doctor of the church named by Pope Francis after St. Gregory of Narek, who was given the designation in 2015. He would bring the total number of doctors of the church to 37.

Born in Smyrna, Asia Minor — now modern-day Turkey — St. Irenaeus was known as a staunch defender of the faith.

Concerned about the rise of gnostic sects within the early Christian church, he wrote “Adversus haereses” (“Against Heresies”), a refutation of gnostic beliefs that emphasized personal spiritual knowledge over faith in Christian teachings and in ecclesiastical authority.

In October, the pope had told members of the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group that he intended to declare their namesake a doctor of the church.

“Your patron, St. Irenaeus of Lyon — whom I will soon declare a doctor of the church with the title, ‘doctor unitatis’ (‘doctor of unity’) — came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West, and was a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” he said.

During his meeting with Cardinal Semeraro, Pope Francis also signed decrees recognizing how three sainthood candidates — one man and two women — heroically lived the Christian virtues. The three were:

— Italian Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi, the former prelate of Pompei, who was known for his devotion to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. He was born in 1925 and died in 2007.

— Italian Sister Maria Teresa De Vincenti, founder of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart. She was born in 1872 and died in 1936.

— Italian Sister Gabriella Borgarino, a member of the Daughters of Charity. She was born in 1880 and died in 1949.

Then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, is pictured in this file photo May 28, 1977, the day of his ordination as archbishop of Munich and Freising. (CNS photo/KNA)

MUNICH (CNS) – A law firm’s report on how abuse cases were handled in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising incriminated retired Pope Benedict XVI, with lawyers accusing him of misconduct in four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop.

Lawyer Martin Pusch of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl said the retired pope had denied wrongdoing in all cases, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

Pusch expressed doubt about Pope Benedict’s claim of ignorance in some cases, saying this was, at times, “hardly reconcilable” with the files.

At the Vatican, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said, “The Holy See believes it has an obligation to give serious attention to the document” on cases of abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, but it has not yet had a chance to study it.

“In the coming days, following its publication, the Holy See will review it and will be able to properly examine its details. Reiterating its sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors committed by clerics, the Holy See assures its closeness to all victims and confirms the path taken to protect the youngest, ensuring safe environments for them,” Bruni said.

Retired Pope Benedict headed the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1982, before being called to the Vatican to head the doctrinal congregation.

From 2001, when St. John Paul II charged the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – headed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – with the authority to take over cases from local bishops for investigation, Pope Benedict was aware of many examples of abuse. It was his office in 2003 that expedited the process for laicizing priests guilty of sexually abusing minors.

After his election in 2005, Pope Benedict worked to address lingering concerns.

Although he mostly stayed out of public view in retirement, in April 2019 the former pope published what he described as “notes” on the abuse crisis, tracing the roots of the scandal to a loss of a firm faith and moral certainty that began in the 1960s. The church’s response, he insisted, must focus on a recovery of a sense of faith and of right and wrong.

The Munich investigation followed two years of research and covers the period from 1945 to 2019, centering on who knew what about sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any, KNA reported. The report identified 497 victims and 235 abusers, but the lawyers who conducted the study say they’re convinced the real numbers are much higher.

Four volumes with almost 1,900 pages comprise the “litany of horror” that lawyers presented. They spoke of the “total failure” of a system, at least until 2010.

Pope Benedict’s statements on the case of the repeat offender Peter H., who came to Munich from Essen in 1980, were described by lawyer Ulrich Wastl as “not very credible.”

In a written statement, 94-year-old former pope had said he did not take part in a decisive meeting on the case when he was the archbishop of Munich. At the news conference where the legal report was presented, Wastl read out the minutes of that meeting. In it, then-Archbishop Ratzinger is mentioned in several places as a rapporteur on other topics.

The lawyers also identified misconduct by the former pope in three other cases, which he denies. These involve the transfer of clerics who had committed criminal offenses and were allowed to continue pastoral care elsewhere. The retired pope wrote that he had “no knowledge” of their deeds.

Wastl repeatedly urged people to read Pope Benedict’s 82-page statement for themselves. It provided “authentic insight” into how a top representative of the Catholic Church thinks about sexual abuse, the lawyer said.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, told Vatican News Jan. 20 that the retired pope would read the Munich report “with the necessary attention. The pope emeritus, as he already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness to and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic trips.”

It remains to be seen whether the report will have any legal consequences. The Munich state prosecutor’s office is investigating 42 cases in which the lawyers found misconduct on the part of senior church officials.

The lawyers refrained from making recommendations to their client, the archdiocese that commissioned the report. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, whom they mainly accuse of having delegated the handling of abuse cases, said he did not want to provide detailed comment for another week.

However, later in the day, he issued a statement, which began: “My first thought today is for those affected by sexual abuse, who have experienced harm and suffering at the hands of church representatives, priests and other employees in the space of the church, on an appalling scale. I am shocked and ashamed.”

In early summer 2021, Cardinal Marx — the current archbishop of Munich — tried to resign from office to take responsibility for abuses — explicitly also for possible mistakes of his predecessors. Pope Francis rejected his request.

In his Jan. 20 statement, Cardinal Marx reiterated that “as archbishop of Munich and Freising, I feel jointly responsible for the institution of the church in recent decades. As the acting archbishop, I therefore apologize on behalf of the archdiocese for the suffering inflicted on people in the space of the church over the past decades.”

He said he followed the news conference and hoped that by Jan. 27 the archdiocese “will be able to identify initial perspectives and outline the way forward. In doing so, the diocesan authorities will continue to work closely together.”

The day before the report was released, German bishops’ Advisory Board for Victims of Abuse issued a statement noting that a series of reports on abuse in the German church showed that protection of perpetrators took precedence over protection of victims.

“If different investigations, whether forensic or with a systemic approach, always come to the same results, then there is no need for further analysis. Then it is finally time to take responsibility, then it is finally time for decisions and courageous action,” the statement said.

It noted that future abuse must be prevented, but the suffering of thousands of victims must be acknowledged in a way that changes attitudes.

“Seeing and judging is over, it is time to act – finally to act,” the statement said. It added that all people, lay as well as priests and bishops, are responsible for factors favoring abuse.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With so many problems and challenges in the world, especially worsened by the pandemic, people can find strength and guidance in St. Joseph, Pope Francis said.

“Precisely in this time that is so difficult, we needed someone who could encourage us, help us, inspire us, in order to understand which is the right way to know how to face these dark moments,” he said in a new interview.

“Joseph is a bright witness in dark times. This is why it was right to make room for him at this time, in order to find our way again,” he said in an interview with the Vatican’s media outlets published Jan. 13.

He said he was praying for all families that are suffering, and he understands how difficult it is to face “not being able to feed one’s children, feeling the responsibility for the life of others.”

So many families are forced to flee war, but are rejected at borders where “no one takes seriously or willingly ignores” their great need, he added. “I would like to say to these fathers, to these mothers, that for me they are heroes because I see in them the courage of those who risk their lives for love of their children, for love of their family.”

“May these fathers turn with trust to St. Joseph, knowing that as a father, he too had the same experience, the same injustice. And I would like to say to all of them and to their families, do not feel alone! The pope remembers them always and as far as it is possible, will continue to give them a voice and will not forget them,” he said.

The interview, conducted in Italian and translated into five other languages, focused on the theme of “paternity” and how St. Joseph – with his strength, determination and tenderness – is an important example for fathers, the church and families.

The pope led a special year dedicated to St. Joseph from Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021, and he is currently giving a series of talks on the saint at his weekly general audiences. His papal ministry officially began on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and his papal coat of arms includes symbols representing Joseph as well as Mary and Jesus.

“I have always nurtured a special devotion for St. Joseph because I believe that his person represents what Christian faith should be for each of us, in a beautiful and simple way,” he said. “In fact, Joseph is a normal man, and his holiness consists precisely in making himself a saint through the beautiful and ugly things he had to experience and face.”

Mary gave birth to the Word-made-flesh and Joseph is the one “who defended him, who protected him, who nourished him, who made him grow,” the pope said.

The Holy family experienced difficult events, but St. Joseph accepted his responsibilities and knew how to listen to God speaking to his heart, he said.

The lesson there, he said, is “only someone who prays, who has an intense spiritual life, can have the capacity to know how to distinguish God’s voice in the midst of many other voices that dwell in us.”

Another lesson, he said, is “Joseph is a concrete man, that is, a man who faces problems with great practicality, who never assumes the position of being a victim when faced with difficulties and obstacles. Instead, he always places himself in the perspective of reacting, of responding, of trusting God and finding a solution in a creative way.”

At a time when many young people “are often afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk” in life, the church can help by modeling the parenthood of Joseph: not simply saying “yes or no” to certain choices, but by encouraging the young not to be afraid to make a choice.

Every choice carries consequences and some risks, he said, and “a true father does not tell you that everything will always go well, but rather that even if you may find yourself in a situation in which things are not going well, you will be able to face and live with dignity even those moments, those failures.”

Fatherhood is facing a crisis in wider society today, and the pope said “we should have the courage to say that the church should not only be maternal but also paternal. She is called to exercise a paternal, not a paternalistic ministry.”

The church is correctly thought of as a mother and she carries out that motherhood by being merciful with a “love that generates and regenerates life,” he said. Forgiveness and reconciliation, in fact, are how people get back on their feet again.

However, the church should rediscover its paternal aspect, the pope said, which is the ability to offer the right conditions for people to carry out their responsibilities, “to exercise their freedom, to make choices.”

“If, on the one hand, mercy heals us, cures us, comforts us, encourages us,” he said, “on the other, God’s love is not limited simply to forgiving and healing, but rather, God’s love spurs us to make decisions, to go out to sea.”

SCRANTON – On Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, Jacob Mutchler and Harrison Rapp were accepted as seminarians for the Diocese of Scranton by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera and members of the Seminary Admissions Committee.

Jacob is a member of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg and Harrison is a member of Saints Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore.

Let us pray for them, their families, our nine other seminarians and all those who are discerning a call to serve our local Church as a Diocesan Priest.

Pictured, from left: Monsignor David Bohr, Diocesan Secretary for Clergy Formation; Jacob Mutchler; Harrison Rapp; and Father Alex Roche, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians.

SCRANTON — Faithful throughout the Diocese of Scranton will join with members of various Christian congregations of Northeastern Pennsylvania for an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The event highlights the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – celebrated each January since its inception in 1908 – which will be observed this year during Jan. 18-25.

The theme for the 2022 celebration is: “We saw the star in the East and we came to worship him.” (cf. Matthew 2:2)

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will serve as both leader of prayer and homilist for the traditional ecumenical prayer service. Past chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Bishop Bambera has also served as Diocesan Director of Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations.

All faithful are welcome to attend the Jan. 19 Ecumenical Prayer Service at the Scranton Cathedral, as well as encouraged to participate in local Christian unity events throughout the weeklong observance.

The prayer service will be broadcast live at 12:10 p.m. on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton. It will also be made available on the Scranton Diocese website and across all diocesan social media platforms.

As the universal Catholic Church, including local dioceses, immerses itself deeply into the call for a new evangelization proclaimed by Pope Francis through the 2023 Synod of Bishops on Synodality, both ecumenism and interreligious dialogue have been given prominence in the discussion.

The Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality, the Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches, it is stated: “The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey.”

Further, it addresses such key questions as: “What relationships does our Church community have with members of other Christian traditions and denominations? What do we share and how do we journey together? What fruits have we drawn from walking together? … How can we take the next step in walking forward with each other?”

According to Monsignor Vince Grimalia, Diocesan Coordinator for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity provides not only an opportunity for prayer for Christianity, but a time to learn more about various Christian churches and communities while offering motivation and commitment for participation in ecumenical activities.

“It is an opportunity to renew and re-energize our commitment to Christian unity,” Monsignor Grimalia said. “In a world with so much disunity, there is a need to overcome divisions and polarization and work to get nations and various ethnic, cultural and language groups to work together.”

In accord with such strong beliefs for religious unity, the United Nations since 2010 has celebrated the first week of February as “World Interfaith Harmony Week.”

During the observance, an “International Day of Human Fraternity” designated by the UN on Feb. 4 commemorates the signing of “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb on Feb. 4, 2019.

March for Life participants demonstrate near Union Station in Washington Jan. 29, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The annual national March for Life – with a rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court Jan. 21 – will go on as scheduled this year amid a surge in the omicron variant in the nation’s capital.

Outdoor events are not affected by the District of Columbia’s vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but participants should expect to wear face masks. Indoor events associated with the annual march will have to comply with city COVID-19 restrictions.

The national Pro-Life Summit, sponsored by Students for Life, is also scheduled to take place Jan. 22 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. The event will feature former Vice President Mike Pence as its keynote speaker. Pence has been a frequent March for Life speaker, and in 2020 he introduced President Donald Trump at the event’s rally.

The March for Life has canceled its three-day Pro-Life Expo and is combining two planned Capitol Hill 101 panel discussions Jan. 20 into a single event. The organization is still holding its annual Rose Dinner Gala.

March for Life never projects attendance figures, but an informal survey by Catholic News Service of a few groups planning to attend this year’s march indicates that the turnout may approach pre-pandemic levels.

Last year’s march was turned into a virtual event due to the pandemic and the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Only an invited group of 80, joined midway by more than 100 others, marched from the nearby Museum of the Bible to just behind the Supreme Court. It was the first outdoor event in Washington since the Capitol violence, with both the Capitol and Supreme Court surrounded by high fences.

In previous years, total attendance for the rally and march up Constitution Avenue was estimated to be as high as 100,000.

“We have nearly 250 students and faculty headed to D.C.,” said Ed Konieczka, assistant director of university ministry at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. “That is five full buses – our largest contingent since leading the march in 2017.”

A similar number was estimated by organizers of the bus caravan for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.

However, the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, decided in December 2021 that the COVID-19 risk was too high to sponsor a bus caravan.

The march is held annually on a date nearest the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

The first march was held Jan. 22, 1974, organized by Nellie Gray, a government lawyer, and the Knights of Columbus. The idea was to form a “circle of life” around the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Jeanne Mancini assumed leadership of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund after Gray died in 2012.

This year’s theme is “Equality Begins in the Womb.” The rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with a performance by singer Matthew West. The march starts at 1:15 p.m. after the political speeches are completed.

Pennsylvanians for Human Life announce buses to March for Life on Jan. 21

Hazleton PHL Chapter

The Greater Hazleton Area Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life (PHL) will host a round-trip bus excursion to Washington, D.C., for participation in the 2022 National March for Life on Friday, Jan. 21.

For further information and reservation details, contact Carol Matz at (570) 956-0817; or Maryann Lawhon at 870-788-JOHN (5646).

Wyoming Valley PHL Chapter

Pennsylvanians for Human Life, Wyoming Valley Chapter, will sponsor a bus for those wishing to attend the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 21, with a morning departure from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Swoyersville.

Transportation cost, which includes dinner, is $65 for adults; $35 for students. Student sponsors are most welcome and appreciated.

For more information and reservations, contact Chris Calore at (570) 824-5621.

Susquehanna Valley PHL Chapter

The Susquehanna Valley Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life will sponsor a bus for those wishing to attend the March for Life. For a seat on the bus, call Evelyn Rall at (570) 398-0722. There is a non-refundable fee of $25. The bus will depart from Beiter’s Home Center on Route 15, Williamsport, at 5:45 a.m.


CARBONDALE – The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton are invited to participate in a Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth for Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

Everyone is invited to participate and greet Bishop-elect Walsh, who was appointed by Pope Francis to be the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich., on Dec. 21, 2021. His episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for early March.

Many parishioners and friends of Bishop-elect Walsh plan to attend the Mass. They were equally as excited to find out the announcement.

Less than two hours after the news initially broke – Father Jeffrey J. Walsh was being appointed as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord – many of the Bishop-elect’s current parishioners already knew about the exciting announcement as they gathered for morning Mass on Dec. 21, 2021.

Even before the 8 a.m. liturgy at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, long-time parishioner Skip Scarpino made sure everyone arriving had heard.

“Did you hear the news?” he asked multiple people as they arrived on a beautiful Tuesday morning.

Scarpino had just learned the exciting information himself when someone showed him a Facebook post.

“I was shocked when I heard the news. I remember the first year Father Walsh was a priest, he was stationed here, him and I got to be very good friends. I’m happy for him,” Scarpino said.

Right after Father Walsh was ordained a priest on June 25, 1994, his first assignment was to serve as assistant pastor at Saint Rose of Lima Church.

“He is a good pastor. He takes care of his people,” Scarpino added. “Ever since then we kept in touch, every Christmas, so on and so forth, I’m happy for him. I wish him all the luck in the world.”

Parishioners Glenn and Anna Moskosky also remember Father Walsh from his first assignment more than 25 years ago at Saint Rose of Lima Church.

“I remember him when he first came to Saint Rose. It was his first assignment. He moved on and when he came back (in 2020) we were all excited about having him,” Glenn said.

The couple, who has been married 56 years, admit the announcement is bittersweet because they will once again have to send off Father Walsh – this time to the Diocese of Gaylord.

“They’re very lucky. He’s a very humble person, I believe, and he’s truly going to be missed,” Anna said.

“He’s very pious. I think he’s going to do a really nice job,” Glenn added. “He’s not only a very good priest but he’s a good friend.”

Hundreds of people on social media echoed the feelings of Bishop-elect Walsh’s parishioners in Carbondale.

Reacting to the news on the Diocese of Scranton’s Facebook page, Lynn Cawley wrote, “Father Jeff Walsh is the epitome of a humble servant of God. Northeast PA is losing a great man!”

Martin Kearney added, “Scranton’s loss in Northern Michigan’s gain of a humble and prayerful servant. Pope Francis couldn’t have chosen a better person.”

In response to the overwhelming number of messages, Bishop-elect wanted to thank everyone who posted a kind message or send him congratulations.

Father Walsh said, “In gratitude for all the comments regarding my announcement as Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, I want to say thanks to all who took time to express congratulations/well wishes/kind remembrances via social media. My heart swelled with love as I read each comment and I felt truly blessed with the gift of friendship. As the adventure unfolds, the welcome mat will always be out in the wilds of northern Michigan to family and friends from NEPA. God Bless!”

GAYLORD, Mich. – Father Jeffrey J. Walsh was sitting at Alfredo’s Pizza in Scranton in late December, celebrating his father’s birthday, when his phone rang.

It was a call that would eventually change his life.

“Your phone buzzes; you can feel it in your pocket. I looked at it and it was Washington, D.C.,” Father Walsh said. “I thought it was probably a robocall. I don’t think I know anybody in Washington, D.C., so I just let it go and finished the meal.”

When he got to his car, Father Walsh learned the person on the other end of the call was actually Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, asking to have a conversation.

“My heart sunk and I went to a place where I could call him,” Father Walsh added.

Archbishop Pierre was calling to inform Father Walsh that Pope Francis appointed him the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.

Father Walsh recited the events leading up to his announcement as Bishop-elect in the Diocese of Gaylord at a news conference on Dec. 21, 2021, at Saint Mary Cathedral in Gaylord. It was the first time Father Walsh was publicly introduced as “Bishop-elect.”

“It’s obviously not something you ever expect to happen in your life but here it is and I’m so grateful,” Bishop-elect Walsh said.

Bishop-elect Walsh thanked God, Pope Francis, Archbishop Pierre and many others for the trust they have placed in him as he delivered remarks.

“It’s amazing how much gratitude surfaces during something like this. There’s a lot of fear that comes as well but gratitude surfaces in such a powerful way and there is nothing more powerful than my gratitude to family,” he explained.

The Diocese of Gaylord livestreamed the news conference and the 30-minute program was broadcast live in the Diocese of Scranton on CTV: Catholic Television. That is how many people, including Bishop-elect Walsh’s parents, were able to view it.

During his introductory remarks, Bishop-elect Walsh was able to share his vocation story as well. After being educated in public schools and raised in the Catholic faith by his parents and grandparents, it was not until attending The University of Scranton when the opportunity really presented itself.

“I think I started to realize that faith was something more than what I could just take on a surface level. I heard my peers talking about faith and was challenged through a retreat to consider more deeply what faith meant in my life,” he explained. “I heard that voice. It’s really a matter of taking the first step to say ‘Yes Lord, here I am, let me give this a try.’”

Looking forward to his episcopal ministry, Bishop-elect Walsh hopes to mirror the vision of the Gospel.

“Something that is important to me, that governs my life, is the sense of God’s Providence and that has come very powerfully to me especially through the story of (Father) Walter Ciszek. You’ll hear me preach about him often. I’m a real advocate for his cause. He really came home from his experience of being a prisoner in Russia during the Second World War, convinced that is what God preserved him for, so that he could get that message of God’s Providence out to as many people – just trusting that even in the midst of difficulty, trials and sorrow – God has a plan,” Bishop-elect Walsh said.

The news conference also featured a few ‘lighter’ moments.

Bishop Walter A. Hurley, who has been serving as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord for 18 months, recalled how when Archbishop Pierre called to inform him of Walsh’s appointment, he replied, “I have never heard of him before.” Likewise, when Archbishop Pierre called Father Walsh, he admitted to not knowing where Gaylord was.

“The only way you could describe this situation is this is a marriage made in heaven because we couldn’t come up with it on our own. It’s a special joy to welcome him today,” Bishop Hurley said, prompting a laugh from the crowd gathered at the news conference.

Before ending the news conference, Bishop Hurley thanked the people of the Diocese of Scranton.

“We’re grateful for the sacrifice that you make, so that we may have a new bishop here,” he said.

Bishop-elect Walsh’s episcopal ordination and installation has been set for March 4, 2022, at 2 p.m. in Saint Mary Cathedral in Gaylord.

Pope Francis is assisted by Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, as he celebrates Mass for the feast of Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6, 2022. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

Just as the Magi were guided by a shining star, Christians can rest assured that the light of Christ will guide them to a happy and meaningful life, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Epiphany.

“The Magi teach us that we need to set out anew each day, in life as in faith, for faith is not a suit of armor that encases us; instead, it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God,” the pope said.

Pope Francis celebrated the feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6.

In accordance with an ancient tradition, after the proclamation of the Gospel, a deacon chanted the announcement of the date of Easter 2022 (April 17) and the dates of other feasts on the church calendar that are calculated according to the date of Easter.

After celebrating Mass, the pope led the recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

In his Angelus address, the pope said that in prostrating and worshipping baby Jesus, the humble Magi showed that their true wealth did not lie in fame or success, but in “their awareness of their need of salvation.”

Like the Magi, Christians must also follow their example of humility, otherwise, “if we always remain at the center of everything with our ideas, and if we presume to have something to boast of before God, we will never fully encounter him, we will never end up worshipping him.”

“If our pretensions, vanity, stubbornness, competitiveness do not fall by the wayside, we may well end up worshipping someone or something in life, but it will not be the Lord,” the pope said.

Earlier, in his homily at Mass, the pope reflected on the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem. Although “they had excellent reasons not to depart,” having already attained knowledge and wealth, the three men “let themselves be unsettled” by the question of where the Messiah would be born.

“They did not allow their hearts to retreat into the caves of gloom and apathy; they longed to see the light,” the pope said. “They were not content to trudge through life, but yearned for new and greater horizons. Their eyes were not fixed here below; they were windows open to the heavens.”

The “spirit of healthy restlessness” that led them on their journey, he explained, was “born of a desire” to seek something greater than themselves or what they possessed.

Christians also must live their journey of faith like the Magi, which “demands a deep desire and inner zeal,” and they must ask themselves whether their faith has remained stagnant in a “conventional, external and formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives,” he said.

“Do our words and our liturgies ignite in people’s hearts a desire to move toward God or are they a ‘dead language’ that speaks only of itself and to itself?” he asked. “It is sad when a community of believers loses its desire and is content with ‘maintenance’ rather than allowing itself to be startled by Jesus and by the explosive and unsettling joy of the Gospel.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said it was also sad when a priest or bishop closes the door to a desire for God and instead falls into “clerical functionalism.”

The current crisis of faith in life and in society, he added, is “related to a kind of slumbering of the spirit, to the habit of being content to live from day to day, without ever asking what God really wants from us.”

And, he said, Christians must allow themselves to be “unsettled by the questions of our children, and by the doubts, hopes and desires of the men and women of our time.”

Their journey, he said, also mirrors the upcoming Synod of Bishops on synodality, which is a time of listening “so that the Spirit can suggest to us new ways and paths to bring the Gospel to the hearts of those who are distant, indifferent or without hope, yet continue to seek what the Magi found: ‘a great joy.'”

The Magi’s journey ends with the adoration of baby Jesus, Pope Francis noted.

“Indeed, our hearts grow sickly whenever our desires coincide merely with our needs,” the pope said.

“God, on the other hand, elevates our desires; he purifies them and heals them of selfishness, opening them to love for him and for our brothers and sisters. This is why we should not neglect adoration: let us spend time before the Eucharist and allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus,” he said.