VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán believe strengthening Christian values can make Europe a better place, but they have key differences when describing those values and how they should be promoted.

Pope Francis will visit Hungary’s capital, Budapest, April 28-30. It will be his 41st foreign trip since becoming pope in 2013.

Pope Francis greets Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest, Hungary, in this file photo from Sept. 12, 2021. Pope Francis will return to Hungary April 28-30. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The top issues on the pope’s agenda are likely to be the ongoing war in Ukraine and immigration — pressing issues that will illustrate some common ground and substantial chasms.

Since Russia’s war on Ukraine began in February 2022, Hungary has seen some 2.5 million Ukrainians cross its borders, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. While the agency reports only about 35,000 of them have requested temporary protection status to remain in Hungary, the Hungarian government and Catholic and other private humanitarian agencies mobilized quickly to assist both those seeking refuge in the country and those simply passing through. A year later, that assistance continues.

Pope Francis will thank Hungary and its people for welcoming their next-door neighbors in need. And he will meet refugees April 29; Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said he assumed many of them would be Ukrainians.

But the pope is likely to say something like what Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told Hungarian officials a year ago: A welcoming attitude should be a permanent part of Hungarian government policy and should be extended to other people seeking refuge, not just Ukrainians.

Since 2015 Orbán has consistently maintained a “no migrants” policy, arguing that “ethnic homogeneity” was an important value for his country.

Pope Francis, while recognizing a nation’s right to control its borders and regulate migration, also insists that people fleeing danger and those seeking a decent life for themselves and their families have a right to move.

Father Csaba Torok, who is responsible for media relations for the Hungarian bishops’ conference, told reporters April 18 that when Pope Francis made a seven-hour visit to Hungary in September 2021 to close the International Eucharistic Congress, Orbán gave him a rather pointed gift: a copy of a letter written by King Bela IV to Pope Innocent IV in 1250 asking for help against Mongol warriors.

“It was a sign,” Father Torok said. “Victor Orbán portrays himself as a defender of Christianity and is intentionally seeking a connection with the pope.”

“Orbán says things that support the church, but he does things that are not always in harmony with church teaching,” the priest said.

Officially, the bishops’ conference and individual bishops have not taken strong public stances against Orbán’s anti-migrant policy, he said. “The Catholic Church in Hungary is not independent in terms of funding. Schools, institutes, hospitals, even dioceses are financed by the state. Whenever political tensions arise, whether internal or external, people prefer not to say anything because there is a risk of jeopardizing the inflow of funds. Should a government become an enemy of the church, it could drive the church to bankruptcy within a few months.”

On the question of the war in Ukraine, Orbán claims he and the pope are on the same page.

In his state of the nation speech in February, the prime minister defended his opposition to sanctions against Russia and to sending weapons or military supplies to Ukraine. His government’s opposition is consistently voiced in meetings of both NATO and the European Union.

The decision to send tanks to Ukraine, Orbán said in the February speech, moved Germany “from the peace camp into the war camp. That left two of us: Hungary and the Vatican. We cannot complain about the company, but we need to address some serious consequences.”

“In essence,” Father Torok said, “what Orbán is saying is: ‘We are the Vatican’s ally and the only country in Europe that protects Christianity; we are doing our utmost for peace in our foreign policy following in the footsteps of the pope.'”

Pope Francis recognizes Ukraine’s right to defend itself, but he also has insisted dialogue is the only way to stop the war. As he told an Italian newspaper in November: Lasting peace cannot be achieved by sending more weapons “because they don’t defeat hatred and the thirst for domination, which will reemerge.”

Orbán has described his policy regarding the war as “strategic calm,” providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians, but not interrupting Hungary’s strong economic ties with Russia.

Hungary for decades has been trying to promote détente between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Torok said. Before St. John Paul II visited the country in 1996 attempts were made to plan a meeting there between the pope and then-Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow. The meeting did not take place.

“The Hungarian Catholic Church has consistently tried to serve as a bridge connecting the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church,” he said. But given the situation with the war, it seems there is “nothing on the table” now.

Still, Bruni, the Vatican press office director, told reporters April 21 that Orthodox delegations could attend some of the papal events in April.

Those delegations likely would include Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who was head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church until, without explanation, he was made administrator of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Budapest and Hungary last June.

Whether or not the pope has direct contact with Russian Orthodox officials in Hungary, what he says about the war will make its way to Moscow.


Bishop Timothy C. Senior

SCRANTON (April 25, 2023) – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, released the following statement on the announcement of the Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior being named Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg on Tuesday, April 25, 2023:

“As Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, I am delighted to extend congratulations, best wishes and prayers to Bishop-designate Timothy C. Senior, who has been appointed by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to become the twelfth Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“Bishop-designate Senior brings wide ranging pastoral and administrative experience to his new position, which will undoubtedly help him to shepherd the faithful of the 15-counties that make up the Harrisburg Diocese. Having known Bishop Senior well and having worked with him on issues facing the Church here in Pennsylvania for many years, I have no doubt that he will dedicate himself
tirelessly to promoting the Gospel message and the mission of Jesus Christ.

“I ask the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton to join me in praying for Bishop-designate Senior as he prepares to accept this new assignment.

“On behalf of the priests, deacons, religious, and lay faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, I also extend heartfelt congratulations to Bishop Ronald W. Gainer who has led the Diocese of Harrisburg since 2014 and now will become Bishop Emeritus.”

HARRISBURG – The Most Reverend Ronald W. Gainer, Eleventh Bishop of Harrisburg, announced this morning that Pope Francis has named the Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior as the Twelfth Bishop of Harrisburg.

The Most Reverend Timothy C. Senior

Bishop-designate Senior succeeds Bishop Gainer, who, in keeping with canon law, offered his resignation to the Holy Father when he turned 75 years of age in August of 2022. Bishop Senior’s Mass of Installation will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Harrisburg.

Bishop Senior will be introduced at 10 a.m. today at a press conference. The press conference can be viewed live at

“This is a joyous day for our clergy, staff, the people of the Diocese and for me personally. I have known Bishop Senior for well over 25 years and have full confidence that he will be a caring, faithful shepherd who will speak the truth with love and conviction, leading the Diocese of Harrisburg with the truths of the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Gainer. “I am grateful to our Holy Father in sending the Diocese of Harrisburg a man devoted to answering the call of the Gospel, who also has numerous skills in business, education, and human service administration. The Diocese of Harrisburg will be well cared for in the hands of Bishop-designate Senior.”

Bishop Senior was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in July, 2009. He is currently Regional Bishop of Montgomery County and Philadelphia-South, as well as Chancellor of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Prior to assuming these responsibilities, Bishop Senior served as Rector of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary from 2012 to 2022, after having been the Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 2009 to 2012. He served as Vicar for Clergy from 2004 to 2009. From 1992 to 2004, Bishop Senior served in the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Human Services, both as Deputy Secretary and then Secretary.

A 1977 graduate of Lansdale Catholic High School, Lansdale, PA, Bishop Senior is a classically trained pianist and the youngest of the three children of the late James H. and Elise Rothwell Senior. Bishop Senior was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1985. He earned a Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, served as an assistant pastor at a parish in Bucks County and taught religion in an Archdiocesan high school. He was then assigned to graduate studies at Boston College, earning his Masters in Social Work and Masters in Business Administration in 1992.

In 1998, he was named Honorary Chaplain to His Holiness, and in 2005, he was named a Prelate of Honor. In 2009, Bishop Senior was appointed Titular Bishop of Floriana and Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, and was ordained a Bishop on July 31, 2009 by Cardinal Justin Rigali.

In responding to today’s announcement, Bishop Senior said, “I am profoundly grateful to Pope Francis for his confidence and trust in appointing me to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg as their next bishop. Trusting in God’s will and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I pray that I may be a faithful, holy, and worthy shepherd for the people of central Pennsylvania in service of Jesus Christ and for the good of His Church.”

Bishop Gainer has led the Diocese of Harrisburg since 2014 and plans to remain in the Diocese as our Bishop Emeritus.

As the Diocese enters this period of transition, please join us in praying for Bishop Senior and for Bishop Gainer.

Queen of Heaven Parish, 750 North Vine Street, Hazleton, will be the location for the Diocese of Scranton’s annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations Mass on Saturday, April 29, 2023.
The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will be the principal celebrant for the 5:30 p.m. liturgy.
The purpose of World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publicly fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2).
While those in attendance will pray for all those discerning and living out their vocation, on this weekend the Church concentrates its attention on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), consecrated life in all its forms (male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virginity), secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life.
This year, 2023, marks the 60th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Every parish in the Diocese of Scranton will be celebrating World Day of Prayer for Vocations at their weekend Masses on April 29/30.
May Christ the Good Shepherd guide and protect us as we respond to our vocations in total surrender to Him!

April 20, 2023

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 51 to 48 to reject a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn an interim final rule from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which added abortion to veterans’ and dependents’ health benefits packages. In response, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the USCCB’s Commttee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following joint statement:

“It is a gross failure that the Senate did not pass this lifesaving resolution. Our heroes and their dependents deserve quality health care services, instead of policies to end the lives of their own children. Many veterans face tremendous life challenges, especially as the active duty experience too often involves significant mental health traumas and can be followed by a difficult readjustment to civilian life. It is inhumane to provide fully taxpayer-funded abortion (which itself can increase mental health risks) as a so-called solution to pregnancy, instead of resources needed to welcome a child and flourish as a family. We continue to urge Congress to prevent implementation of this harmful policy, and to provide instead real support for our military veterans and their loved ones.”

The USCCB, together with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, submitted a joint regulatory comment letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs when the rule was announced in September, which can be read here.

A joint letter to Congress from Archbishop Broglio and Bishop Burbidge on the Department of Defense’s and the VA’s abortion policies can be read here.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Martyrdom is primarily an act of love, not heroism, and while it often comes in the midst of persecution, it should motivate Christians to seek peace and reconciliation, Pope Francis said.

Persecution and martyrdom are not a thing of the past, he told people at his weekly general audience April 19. “Today there is persecution of Christians in the world. A lot. There are more martyrs today than there were” in the first centuries of Christianity.

As part of his series of talks about “zeal” for evangelization, Pope Francis spoke about the witness of “the host of martyrs – men and women of every age, language and nation – who have given their life for Christ.”

Pope Francis gives his blessing at the end of his weekly general audience April 19, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“The martyrs, in imitation of Christ and with his grace, turn the violence of those who refuse the proclamation (of the Gospel) into a supreme occasion of love, which goes as far as forgiving their persecutors,” the pope said. “This is interesting: martyrs always forgive their persecutors. Stephen, the first martyr, died praying, ‘Lord, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ Martyrs always pray for their persecutors.”

To illustrate his point about modern martyrdom, Pope Francis drew attention specifically to Yemen, “a land that has for many years been afflicted by a terrible, forgotten war, that has caused many deaths and still causes many people, especially children, to suffer today.”

Out of a population of about 31.6 million people, the Vatican estimates the number of Catholics in Yemen to be about 1,000.

In a situation of war and dire poverty, Pope Francis said, “there have been shining witnesses of faith, such as that of the Missionaries of Charity. They are still present today in Yemen, where they offer assistance to elderly who are sick and to people with disabilities. They welcome everyone, of any religion, because charity and fraternity have no boundaries.”

The sisters’ witness of love to others has cost them dearly though. The pope reminded the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that three of the sisters – Sisters Aletta, Zelia and Michael – were “killed by a fanatic” in July 1998 as they were returning home from Mass.

“More recently, shortly after the beginning of the still ongoing conflict, in March 2016, Sister Anselm, Sister Marguerite, Sister Reginette and Sister Judith were killed together with some laypeople who helped them in their work of charity among the least,” the pope said.

The dozen laypeople included “some Muslim faithful who worked with the religious sisters,” he said.

“It moves us to see how the witness of blood can unite people of different religions,” he continued. “One should never kill in the name of God, because for him we are all brothers and sisters. But together one can give one’s life for others.”

Pope Francis prayed that Christians would “never tire of bearing witness to the Gospel, even in times of tribulation.”

“May all the martyr saints be seeds of peace and reconciliation among peoples for a more humane and fraternal world as we await the full manifestation of the kingdom of heaven when God will be all in all,” the pope said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The wounds of Christ, still visible after his resurrection, are the greatest sign of God’s love and mercy, Pope Francis said on Divine Mercy Sunday.

“Let us ask ourselves, however, if in the name of this love, in the name of Jesus’ wounds, whether we are willing to open our arms to those who are wounded by life, excluding no one from God’s mercy, but welcoming everyone – each person like a brother, like a sister, like God welcomes everyone. God welcomes everyone,” he said April 16.

Pope Francis greets an estimated 20,000 visitors and pilgrims who joined him for the recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer April 16, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

After reciting the midday “Regina Coeli” prayer with about 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis wished a happy Easter to Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian calendar and were celebrating the Resurrection that day.

He also expressed concern about Sudan where fighting between forces loyal to two different generals has led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians since April 13. “I am close to the Sudanese people, already so tried,” the pope said, “and I invite you to pray so that they might lay down their arms and take up the path of peace and harmony.”

In his main address, Pope Francis spoke about the day’s Gospel reading, John 20:19-31, which recounts the story of St. Thomas doubting the other disciples’ claim that they had seen the risen Lord.

In his hesitation to believe the others, “he represents all of us a little bit,” the pope said. “Indeed, it is not always easy to believe, especially when, as in his case, he had suffered a tremendous disappointment” after following Jesus, believing in him, and then watching him die on the cross.

St. Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them the evening after the resurrection, the pope noted.

“He had gone away from the community,” he said, and the only way he could have a chance of encountering Jesus was by going back, “returning to that family he had left behind, scared and sad.”

“Thomas wants an extraordinary sign — to touch the wounds. Jesus shows them to him, but in an ordinary way, coming in front of everyone, in the community, not outside,” the pope said. “It’s as if he said to him: ‘If you want to meet me, do not look far away, remain in the community, with the others. Don’t go away. Pray with them. Break bread with them.”

Jesus says the same to his disciples today, Pope Francis said. The community of the church “is where you will find me; that is where I will show you the signs of the wounds impressed on my body: the signs of the love that overcomes hatred, of the pardon that disarms revenge, the signs of the life that conquers death.”

Christians should ask themselves where they look for Jesus, the pope said. Is it “in some special event, in some spectacular or amazing religious manifestation, solely at the emotional or sensational level?”

Or, he said, do they look for the Lord “in the community, in the church, accepting the challenge of staying there, even though it is not perfect?”

“Despite all its limitations and failures – which are our limitations and failings – our mother church is the body of Christ,” the pope said. “It is there, in the body of Christ, that, now and forever, the greatest signs of his love can be found impressed.”

Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider a bill that would protect women and girls’ opportunities in sports by requiring federally-funded female sports programs to be reserved for biological females.

Consistent with the Church’s clear teaching on the equality of men and women and the truth that we are created male and female, this bill would promote fairness and safety for women and girls by ensuring female athletes can compete on a safe and level playing field with other females.

Youth who experience gender identity discordance should be able to participate in sports, and any harassment against these young people is unequivocally wrong. By passing the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, Congress would not deny such youth the ability to play sports, but would simply be protecting women and girls and preserving their hard-won opportunities.

Join USCCB in asking your member of Congress to protect women and girls in sports today!

To learn more, read the USCCB’s letter on H.R. 734, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023.

Messages in your own words can be more effective. Please consider customizing the message to Congress with your own story.

Take Action Now

The month of April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is a time to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The month of April gives us all a chance to recommit ourselves to creating safe environments in our parishes, schools and related institutions.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate the Diocese of Scranton’s annual “Healing Mass for Survivors of Abuse” on Thursday, April 20, at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

For those unable to attend in person, the Mass will be broadcast live on Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton. A livestream will also be available on the Diocese of Scranton website, YouTube channel and links available on all Diocesan social media platforms.

SCRANTON – Through your generous gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal, the Diocese of Scranton is able to support dozens of parish-based projects that benefit people and communities across the 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton.
From helping to stock parish food pantries, supporting parish nursing ministries and grief ministries, to caring for seniors, assisting pro-life ministries, addressing homelessness and much more, parish social ministry leaders are encouraged to attend an “Social Justice Trust Fund Grant Information Night” next Wednesday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
The new grant cycle for the Parish Social Justice Grant program is quickly approaching so parishes are encouraged to send representatives to the virtual information night.
Email Shannon Kowalski at to sign up and receive the Zoom meeting link.