From left to right: Board members, Sally Barnes, sister Marie Parker, Maureen Harkins, Sister Sara Sweeney and Sister Patricia Lapczynski

The Sisters of Mercy recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the Mercy Foundation at a luncheon at the Sisters’ Residence at Mercy Center in Dallas, Pennsylvania.

“The Mercy legacy continues because of the deep commitment of so many people willing to partner with us in response to need,” says Sister Marie Parker, RSM, chair of the board of directors of Mercy Foundation. 

Over the past ten years, the foundation has awarded 80 grants to local organizations. The foundation started with funds from the sale of Mercy Scranton, Mercy Nanticoke, Mercy Tyler, all part of the former Mercy Health System, as a way to retain a local Mercy presence and support ministries in Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wyoming Counties of Pennsylvania. The foundation serves to develop healthy communities and to commit resources in support of programs that respond to the needs of people who are poor and underserved within these three counties. Through the foresight and encouragement of Sister Virginia Hasson, a deceased Sister of Mercy who served on the board for several years, an on-going emergency fund was established in 2020, (in addition to the regular grant cycle), to respond to emergencies and financial hardships.

Ten local ministries received grants this year – CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) of Luzerne County, CEO (Commission on Economic Opportunity) /Weinberg Food Bank, Child Hunger Outreach Partners (CHOP), Catherine McAuley Center, HANDS (Helping Area Needs for Diverse Services of Wyoming County) , Immanuel Christian School, McGlynn Learning Center, Nativity Miguel School of Scranton, Wyoming County Special Needs Association and WVIA (Northeastern Pennsylvania Educational Television Association). 

Five Sisters of Mercy and others who currently serve on the board  recommend recipients of grants on an annual basis. Through prayer and service, the sisters address the causes and effects of violence, racism, degradation of Earth and injustice to women and immigrants. The sisters serve in more than 200 organizations that work with those in need in the U.S., Central and South America, Jamaica, Guam and the Philippines.  

Locally, the Sisters of Mercy have a 148-year old legacy in Northeastern Pennsylvania of serving in schools, hospitals, social service organizations, community outreach, spiritual counseling and pastoral care. For more than a hundred years they sponsored Mercy hospitals in the area. 


SCRANTON – Less than one year after making a pastoral visit to the Diocese of Sunyani in Ghana, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, is planning to return to the African nation.

This time, the trip came about simply by coincidence.

“It was not my expectation that I would be traveling back to Ghana in 12 months from my original trip there last August,” Bishop Bambera said. “As providence would have it, the Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue, which I’m very fortunate to co-chair, is being hosted this year by the Pentecostals. This year, the Pentecostals are inviting us to Accra, the capital of Ghana.”

The primary goal of the International Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue is to foster mutual respect and understanding between the Catholic Church and Classical Pentecostal leaders and churches in light of the prayer of Jesus that all may be one (Jn 17:21). Last year, the Dialogue, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary, was hosted by the Catholics in Rome.

Because Bishop Bambera will already be in Ghana to participate in the International Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue from July 13-19, 2023, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sunyani has invited him to return to their diocese one week earlier (July 5-12) for a very special reason.

“When it was made known to the priests of the Diocese of Sunyani that the Dialogue would take place in Ghana, their bishop, Bishop Matthew, asked me if I would honor them by celebrating the Ordination Rite for 14 men who are being ordained to the priesthood for their 50th anniversary year as a diocese,” Bishop Bambera explained.

Bishop Bambera said it was an honor to be asked to celebrate the Ordination Mass.

“I’m happily returning to Ghana both for ecumenical work and also to once again connect with the Diocese of Sunyani that has been so generous in providing for the needs of our people here in the United States,” Bishop Bambera said.

When Bishop Bambera last visited Ghana, Aug. 10-19, 2022, he celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with more than 15,000 people, while also visiting a seminary, schools, parishes and health care facilities.

On that trip, Father Gerald Shantillo and Father Brian J.T. Clarke joined him, but this time, two seminarians from the Diocese of Scranton will accompany Bishop Bambera.

“On many occasions, the Bishop of Sunyani, Bishop Matthew, invited me to send seminarians over just to experience their country and the background from which many of the priests who are serving in our land come from,” he said. “I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to invite our seminarians.”

Thomas Dzwonczyk and Andrew McCarroll have agreed to accompany the Bishop to Ghana.

“I’m really thrilled to be able to have them, not only to travel with, but more importantly to experience the Diocese of Sunyani and the African people,” Bishop Bambera noted. “I will be with them half the time. I will leave Sunyani after about a week and then travel to Accra for the Dialogue and while I’m in Accra, the seminarians will be hosted by the priests of Sunyani and the Bishop as well.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi met with a Kremlin foreign policy adviser during the peace mission he is making to Moscow on Pope Francis’s behalf.

Archbishop Giovanni d’Aniello, the apostolic nuncio to Russia, told reporters June 29 that the mission Pope Francis entrusted to Cardinal Zuppi “is to identify and encourage humanitarian initiatives that will make it possible to begin a journey that, we hope, will lead to the much-desired peace.”

Yuri Ushakov, Kremlin foreign policy adviser, left, is pictured alongside Duško Perovi, head of the Republic of Srpska’s representative office in Russia, right, during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow May 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Alexei Filippov, RIA Novosti/Kremlin)

Such humanitarian initiatives, he said, were the topic of the cardinal’s meeting June 28 with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Russian ambassador to the United States.

Humanitarian issues, the archbishop said, also would be the subject of a meeting June 29 with Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has been accused by the International Criminal Court of aiding the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Archbishop d’Aniello said Cardinal Zuppi would meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in the afternoon June 29 and then would preside at Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and meet with the local Catholic community. He was scheduled to return to Italy June 30, the nuncio said.

Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, had told journalists June 28 that Cardinal Zuppi and Ushakov were expected to “discuss the situation around the Ukrainian conflict and, of course, the possible ways of a political and diplomatic settlement,” according to a report in TASS, the Russian state news agency.

He also noted that Russia “appreciates the Vatican’s efforts and initiatives to find a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis and welcomes the pope’s desire to contribute to ending the armed conflict in Ukraine,” TASS reported.

Cardinal Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, arrived in Moscow June 27 accompanied by an official from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

He is on the second leg of a peace mission that also saw him travel to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The principal aim of the cardinal’s trip to Russia was “to encourage humanitarian gestures that may contribute to favoring a solution to the tragic current situation and finding ways of reaching a just peace,” the Vatican said in a statement announcing the trip June 27.

While the Vatican did not provide a list of the people Cardinal Zuppi would meet in Russia, the Archdiocese of Moscow had said on social media that a meeting between the cardinal and Patriarch Kirill was possible. The patriarch has been a staunch supporter of the war since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The archdiocese also said Cardinal Zuppi was scheduled to meet with Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow June 29 and participate in a Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow.

At his general audience June 28, Pope Francis prayed that “the example and protection of these two apostles may sustain each one of us in following Christ.”

“We entrust the dear people of Ukraine to their intercession, that they may soon find peace,” said the pope. “There is so much suffering in Ukraine, let us not forget it.”

The Ukrainian embassy to the Holy See said on Twitter that Ukraine welcomed Cardinal Zuppi’s mission to Moscow if it helps bring about the release of Ukrainian prisoners held in Russian captivity and the return of illegally deported children to Ukraine.

But, the embassy added, “we don’t need mediation with Russia.”

After his meeting with Cardinal Zuppi June 6, Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram channel that only diplomatic isolation and pressure on Russia could bring a “just peace” to Ukraine.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – After more than two dozen Catholic Democratic House lawmakers signed a “statement of principles” advocating for abortion access that cited tenets of their faith as their rationale, the U.S. bishops and other Catholics pushed back, arguing their position was contrary to church teaching.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of the USCCB’s pro-life and doctrine committees said in a joint statement issued late June 28 that invoking “teachings of the Catholic faith itself as justifying abortion or supporting a supposed right to abortion grievously distort the faith.”

The Second Vatican Council “called abortion an ‘unspeakable crime,” Stephen White, executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, told OSV News the same day. Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said that “as Catholics, it is our duty to live and advance our faith, not excuse or walk away from the faith when faced with political pressure.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2022. DeLauro, a Catholic, was joined by 30 other self-identified Catholics who are Democrats in the House in signing a “statement of principles” advocating for abortion access. (OSV News photo/Graeme Jennings, pool via Reuters)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who spearheaded the lawmakers’ statement, was joined by 30 other self-identified Catholics who are Democrats in the House — including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — in arguing that when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it “stripped women of their right to abortion and escalated an ongoing reproductive healthcare crisis in this country.”

“Today, as Catholic Democrats serving in the House of Representatives, we are proud that we are part of the faithful pro-choice Catholic majority — 68 percent of whom supported the legal protections for abortion access enshrined in Roe and 63 percent of whom think abortion should be legal in all or most cases,” the lawmakers wrote June 24. “Our faith unfailingly promotes the common good, prioritizes the dignity of every human being, and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to our most vulnerable.”

Their statement reaffirmed a similar effort in 2021, in which many of the same lawmakers argued that “we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience,” and that Catholic lawmakers who support legal abortion should not be denied Communion. That earlier statement came as the U.S. bishops, gathered for their spring plenary assembly, debated the drafting of a document on the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church, with some prelates saying it should include a call for Catholics in public office who support abortion, like President Joe Biden, to be denied Communion.

But the final document, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church,” approved at the bishops’ November 2021 meeting, did not include that language and was addressed to all U.S. Catholics “to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith.”

The lawmakers’ June 24 statement further cited the writings of St. John Paul II, arguing that in his 1988 apostolic exhortation on the role of the laity, “Christifideles Laici,” he wrote that the church “is the ‘people of God,’ called to be a moral force in the broadest sense.”

“We believe the Church as a community is called to be in the vanguard of creating a more just America and world,” the letter said. “The fundamental tenets of our Catholic faith — social justice, conscience, and religious freedom — compel us to defend a woman’s right to access abortion. We are committed to advocating for the respect and protection of those making the decision if and when to have children.”

The USCCB statement opposing the lawmakers’ statement was issued by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, USCCB president; Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine.

“It is wrong and incoherent to claim that the taking of innocent human life at its most vulnerable stage can ever be consistent with the values of supporting the dignity and wellbeing of those in need,” the bishops said. “‘Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,’ including through the civil law (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2270, 2273). Abortion violates this with respect to preborn children and brings untold suffering to countless women.”

In Catholic teaching and “in the public sphere,” conscience “rightly enjoys a special regard,” they said, but “conscience is not a license to commit evil and take innocent lives. Conscience cannot and does not justify the act or support of abortion.”

They urged policymakers “to support the freedom of Catholics and of others to serve the common good in accord with their beliefs in a wide range of areas — from services and assistance to recently arrived migrants, to offering health care and social services.” The bishops also called on the lawmkers to join them in working for the common good and “uplifting support for the vulnerable and marginalized, including mothers and families in need.”

In an interview with OSV News, The Catholic Project’s White noted that Vatican II likened abortion to “‘slavery’ and ‘the selling of women and children’ and other direct attacks on life,” and it also “insisted that abortion is a ‘poison on human society,’ that it does more harm to those who practice it than those who suffer from the injury, and is a ‘supreme dishonor to the Creator.'”

“Pope Francis calls it ‘murder,'” White added.

White, who is one of the organizers of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society, an annual three-week seminar on Catholic social teaching with an emphasis on the writings of St. John Paul and takes place in the pontiff’s native Krakow, Poland, pushed back on the argument in the lawmakers’ letter about the writings of the saint.

“As for what can be said about these politicians desperately trying to enlist Pope St. John Paul II to their cause, he gave the most succinct rebuttal to these claims himself, when he wrote, in ‘Evangelium Vitae’: ‘To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin’ (Jn 8:34),”’ White said.

Former Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., also a Catholic, told OSV News that the signatories’ understanding of the terms “social justice, conscience and religious freedom is fundamentally wrong.”

“Regarding social justice, the foundation of Catholic social teaching on social justice is the proclamation that human life is sacred and every person has dignity,” Lipinski said. “The right to life is the first right because without life a person has nothing and that is why the church opposes abortion. It is science, not only Catholic teaching, that shows us that human life begins at conception and thus abortion is the taking of the life of ‘the least among us.'”

Day, of Democrats for Life, concurred, arguing that “it is disconcerting to watch Catholic legislators continue to disassociate their religious affiliation to justify their position on abortion.”

“The letter talks about the value of human life and protecting the vulnerable, yet their position on abortion harms the very people they espouse to support, poor and minority communities,” Day said.

“The money that the abortion lobby provides to the Democratic Party is not a good enough reason to walk away from one’s faith and responsibility to protect the vulnerable and provide all, regardless of their income or race, an opportunity to have and raise their families,” she said. “I would encourage the members who signed the letter to go back and review the fundamental tenets of our Catholic faith.”

Day said they would find themselves “hard-pressed to find any reference or tenet” that would “justify killing conscience provisions,” justify their support for taxpayer funding for abortion, or “any social justice provision that would encourage unjust policies that support abortion for financially insecure women.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As Catholic schools worldwide face several challenges — including declining enrollments, funding or maintaining a distinctive religious character — the Vatican has urged religious orders, dioceses and laypeople to come together to “take risks” and be creative in finding solutions.

“It is urgent for the various institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life to sing together as a choir, and for bishops, parish priests and diocesan pastoral offices to sing in tune with the rich educational charisms present in schools run by institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life,” a joint document said.

“It is essential that clergy, religious men and women, and lay people all sing as one choir, and that lay people be given the chance to echo the educating voice of a diocese and even the unique timbre of a religious charism,” said the letter from the Dicastery for Culture and Education and the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Published June 28 and addressed to “all involved in the mission of education in Catholic schools,” the letter explained a few outcomes from a meeting the dicasteries held May 22 with “a number of leading figures in the worldwide network of Catholic schools, in order to discuss in person the prospects and difficulties involved in the mission of education in our time.”

Some of the serious difficulties the meeting addressed, it said, included: the effects of the recent pandemic; the global economic crisis; decreasing birth rates; severe poverty and “unjust disparities in access to food, water, health care, education, information, culture and the Internet.”

Some countries do “not acknowledge parity in the financing of non-state schools,” it added, and some dioceses and religious orders “have experienced a significant drop in vocations.”

In some cases, it said, schools have closed or been put up for sale, resulting in a loss of a unique charism and “personality” in educational offerings.

Lastly, it said, participants at the meeting said that “new and unprecedented circumstances, opportunities and questions are at times making it more difficult to express our Catholic Christian identity in a way that is open to dialogue yet firmly committed, solidly grounded and on good terms with all.”

“Sadly, Catholic schools sometimes operate in the same geographic area not as soloists who let their unique vocal timbre enrich the larger chorus, but rather as divided, isolated and in some cases even dissonant voices that clash with others,” the joint letter said.

“We wish to emphasize certain things that ‘need to be done.’ All of us, in fact, need to be increasingly determined to ‘sing together as a choir,'” it said. “For we are convinced of the possibilities and beauty of the mission to educate, as an ‘inalienable right’ that fosters the dignity of the human person.”

The Vatican dicasteries encouraged “initiatives and even experiments that are imaginative and creative, open to sharing with one another and to concern for the future, exact in their analysis yet like a breath of fresh air in their outlook.”

“May the fear of risks not dampen the spirit of boldness,” the letter said. “A crisis is no time for hiding one’s head in the sand, but for gazing up at the stars, like Abraham.”

The dicasteries thanked everyone who devotes “their lives and energies to the important mission of education” and thanked families who choose to “raise their sons and daughters in an educational partnership with Catholic schools.”

“We likewise thank those bishops, dioceses and institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life who invest significant human effort and financial resources in maintaining older schools and building new ones,” they added.

The dicasteries promised to “make use of both old and new ways to listen to your voices on our common journey, to address realities in a timely way and to help the body of the church to develop forward-looking solutions, even in the most difficult circumstances.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus says to have no fear of ridicule, persecution or criticism for being faithful to the Gospel, but to be afraid of wasting one’s life chasing after trivial things, Pope Francis said.

“There is a cost to remaining faithful to what counts. The cost is going against the tide, the cost is freeing oneself from being conditioned by popular opinion, the cost is being separated from those who ‘follow the current,'” he said.

“What matters is not to throw away the greatest good: life. This is the only thing that should frighten us,” the pope said before praying the Angelus with some 20,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 25.

Pope Francis greets visitors in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus June 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In his talk, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt 10:26-33) in which Jesus tells his disciples to “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

The pope said the valley of Gehenna was used by the inhabitants of Jerusalem as a large garbage dump. Jesus used this image, the pope said, “in order to say that the true fear we should have is that of throwing away one’s own life.”

Jesus was telling the disciples that they do not need to be afraid of “suffering misunderstanding and criticism, of losing prestige and economic advantages to remain faithful to the Gospel, no, but of wasting your existence in the pursuit of trivial things that do not fill life with meaning,” the pope said.

Jesus had already spoken about the persecutions the disciples would undergo for being faithful to the Gospel, “a fact that is still a reality,” he said.

“It seems paradoxical: the proclamation of the kingdom of God is a message of peace and justice, founded on fraternal charity and on forgiveness, and yet it meets with opposition, violence, persecution,” he said.

“Jesus, however, says not to fear, not because everything will be alright in the world, no, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost,” he said.

This requires renouncing “the idols of efficiency and consumerism,” he said, “so as not to get lost in things that end up getting thrown out, as they threw things out in Gehenna back then.”

It also means renouncing chasing after things and achievements instead of dedicating oneself to people and relationships, the pope said.

Some examples, he said, include: parents who know they “cannot live for work alone,” but also “need enough time to be with their children”; priests and religious who dedicate themselves to service without “forgetting to dedicate time to be with Jesus”; and young people who are busy with “school, sports, various interests, cell phones and social networks, but who need to meet people and achieve great dreams, without losing time on passing things that do not leave their mark.”

Pope Francis said the faithful should reflect on what they fear and consider the danger of “not pleasing the Lord and not putting his Gospel in first place” and pray to be “wise and courageous in the choices we make.”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for the families and victims of violence in a women’s penitentiary in Támara, Honduras.

Reports said gang violence in the prison left 46 women dead June 20. One group of female prisoners, armed with guns and machetes, gained access to the cell blocks of their rivals, news reports said.

Some of the women, who were locked in their cells, were burned to death and attacked with gunfire and the machetes, reports said.

The pope said he was “very saddened” by the “terrible violence between rival gangs,” which caused death and suffering.

“I pray for the deceased; I pray for their families. May the Virgin of Suyapa, mother of Honduras, help hearts to open to reconciliation and to creating space for fraternal co-existence, even within prisons.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Sheila and David Porter left their home in Newport News, Virginia, at 5 a.m. to celebrate the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in Washington June 24.

Together, the couple attended the 2023 National Celebrate Life Day rally held by national pro-life groups on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The event commemorated the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and freed states to decide abortion policy.

With the Washington Monument in the background, a crowd gathers at the Lincoln Monument in Washington June 24, 2023, for the National Celebrate Life Day rally to commemorate the first anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

“I hope next year, this time, that we have much more to celebrate,” 64-year-old David told OSV News. “In order to do that, I and the rest of the people that are pro-life have much work to do.”

Sheila, 63, agreed: “We can’t stop fighting.”

The Porters brought with them shirts, available for a donation, that cited the Bible verse Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you, I knew you.” In between the text, an image of an unborn baby appeared, resting in the palm of a hand.

The event invited pro-life Americans to celebrate the anniversary, honor past pro-life heroes and unite to protect the unborn from abortion as persons under the 14th Amendment, which says, in part, that no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

“I think it’s very important now that we’re living in this post-Roe era, this new dawn for our nation, that our generation, the pro-life generation, understands we haven’t reached high noon yet,” Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, or SFLA, which organized the rally, told OSV News.

“In order to achieve that moment, every human being must be recognized as they are: A unique, unrepeatable human person,” she added. “And the 14th Amendment does acknowledge that, and that is our path to success.”

Ahead of the event, crowds slowly gathered in front of the memorial as the threat of thunderstorms loomed. Curious tourists passed through, asking questions. Printed signs handed out by SFLA read, “Equal rights for all, born and preborn.” Others held handmade signs.

The crowd in the hundreds appeared significantly smaller than the March for Life rally, which challenged Roe each year in Washington. But, like the March for Life, the crowd was youthful. Nearly 2,000 joined to watch the event online, via livestream.

A dozen or so protesters crashed the start of the event, but soon disappeared. By the end, the hot afternoon sun replaced the cloudy morning.

In addition to SFLA and SFLA Action, the event was hosted by Pro-Life Partners Foundation, Live Action and 40 Days for Life. Sidewalk Advocates for Life and Patriot Mobile served as co-hosts. Heartbeat International and The Vulnerable People Project participated as partners.

The slew of speakers included Hawkins, former Vice President Mike Pence, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Live Action President Lila Rose, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser, activist and author Alveda King, and Catholic University of America professor Chad Pecknold.

People traveled from near and far to celebrate Dobbs and share their stories.

Kaylee Stockton, 20, traveled with her baby boy, Colton, from Phoenix. She carried a sign reading: “This Teen Mom didn’t build her SUCCESS off of MURDERING her CHILD.”

She was 18, she said, when she became pregnant.

“My biggest challenge being a teen mom was everyone telling me to get an abortion,” she told OSV News, before describing her life as a young mom. “It’s scary, and I think every mom feels that when she first finds out she’s pregnant, but it’s so rewarding.”

Kayla Garcia, 22, traveled to the event from Los Angeles. She used to defend abortion clinics. That changed when, at 18, she visited a Planned Parenthood while pregnant and in a physically abusive relationship.

“The only thing that they offered me was abortion, and so I took it because I really thought that was my only option,” she remembered, noting that Planned Parenthood failed to report the bruises on her arm.

Today, she leads a pro-life group with SFLA at her college, Citrus College, in Glendora, California. For women contemplating abortion, she encouraged them to visit, run by SFLA.

Nearby, 23-year-old Redi Degefa from the Washington area, held a sign reading “PRAY THE ROSARY TO END ABORTION.” She wanted to show people her age, especially young girls, that young people exist who believe that abortion is evil and that life starts at conception, she said.

The event followed a letter published June 15 by National Review in which pro-life leaders and scholars across the political aisle argued that “our North Star in the pro-life movement remains the same as ever: the end of abortion through ensuring the equal protection of the laws.”

The speakers June 24 appeared to come from more right-leaning groups, but more progressive groups, such as Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAUU) attended. Founder Terrisa Bukovinac said she arrived after PAUU held an event at the Supreme Court.

“I just want to join with my pro-life community in celebration of the overturning of the deadliest Supreme Court case in history,” Bukovinac, one of the signers of the letter, said. “We support equal application of the law for every single human being. And the unborn are human beings. They are persons.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With a green light from his doctor, Pope Francis has assured young people that he will be with them in Portugal for World Youth Day despite his recent surgery.

“Some think that because of the illness I won’t go, but the doctor told me that I can go, so I will be with you,” the pope said in a video message released June 22 for pilgrims traveling to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day Aug. 1-6.

Pope Francis speaks to young people in a video message released by the Vatican June 22, 2023, 40 days before World Youth Day gets underway in Lisbon, Portugal. (CNS screengrab/Courtesy Holy See Press Office)

In the video, filmed by Auxiliary Bishop Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar of Lisbon, the pope held up a backpack with the World Youth Day logo, saying “I am ready to go. I have everything in hand because I am looking forward to going.”

The pope noted that there are only 40 days until World Youth Day begins, “like a Lent before the meeting in Lisbon.”

He then gave some advice to young people, telling them not to listen “to those who reduce life to ideas.”

“Poor people,” the pope said, “they’ve lost the joy of life and the joy of encounter. Pray for them.”

Pope Francis encouraged young people, on the other hand, to always move forward while speaking the “three languages of life” — the languages of the head, heart and hands, which allow people to think, feel and act harmoniously.

In a separate video, the pope spoke to the workers who are preparing the infrastructure that makes World Youth Day possible. While he acknowledged that workers “don’t seem like the main characters of World Youth Day,” he said they are the ones who hold the entire celebration in place.

Pope Francis thanked them for their work and for being a “seed.”

“Because you are like a seed, you will bloom from below,” he said. “It’s not seen,” but “the fruit will show.”

Editor Note: The full text, in a variety of languages, can be found here:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a church that “bears the signs of serious crises of mistrust and lack of credibility,” members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be asked to find ways to build community, encourage the contribution of every baptized person and strengthen the church’s primary mission of sharing the Gospel, said the working document for the October gathering.

“A synodal church is founded on the recognition of a common dignity deriving from baptism, which makes all who receive it sons and daughters of God, members of the family of God, and therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, inhabited by the one Spirit and sent to fulfil a common mission,” said the document, which was released at the Vatican June 20.

A printed copy of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or working document, for the world Synod of Bishops on synodality is seen in the Vatican press office June 20, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

However, it said, many Catholics around the world report that too many baptized persons – particularly LGBTQ+ Catholics, the divorced and civilly remarried, the poor, women and people with disabilities – are excluded from active participation in the life of the church and, particularly, from its decision-making structures.

Based on the input from listening sessions held around the world since October 2021 and, especially, from reports submitted from continental and regional synod sessions earlier this year, the working document asks members of the synod to focus their prayer, discussion and discernment on three priorities:

— Communion, asking: “How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?”

— “Co-responsibility in mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?”

— “Participation, governance and authority: What processes, structures and institutions are needed in a missionary synodal church?”

The first synod assembly, scheduled for Oct. 4-29, “will have the task of discerning the concrete steps which enable the continued growth of a synodal church, steps that it will then submit to the Holy Father,” the document said. Some questions, perhaps many of them, will require further discernment and study with the help of theologians and canon lawyers, which is why a second assembly of the synod will be held in October 2024.

Even then, resolving every issue raised in the synod listening sessions is unlikely, the document said. But “characteristic of a synodal church is the ability to manage tensions without being crushed by them.”

The working document includes worksheets with questions “for discernment” that synod members will be asked to read and pray with before arriving in Rome.

One of them asks, “What concrete steps can the church take to renew and reform its procedures, institutional arrangements and structures to enable greater recognition and participation of women, including in governance, decision-making processes and in the taking of decisions, in a spirit of communion and with a view to mission?”

“Most of the continental assemblies and the syntheses of several episcopal conferences,” it said, “call for the question of women’s inclusion in the diaconate to be considered. Is it possible to envisage this, and in what way?”

As the synod process has taken place, questions have been raised about the relationship between participation in the life of the church and the call to conversion, the document said, which raises “the question of whether there are limits to our willingness to welcome people and groups, how to engage in dialogue with cultures and religions without compromising our identity, and our determination to be the voice of those on the margins and reaffirm that no one should be left behind.”

Another tension highlighted in the process involves shared responsibility in a church that believes its hierarchical structure is willed by Christ and is a gift.

The working document reported a “strong awareness that all authority in the church proceeds from Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit. A diversity of charisms without authority becomes anarchy, just as the rigor of authority without the richness of charisms, ministries and vocations becomes dictatorship.”

But the document asked members to discuss, think and pray about ways that authority can be exercised more as leadership that empowers shared responsibility and creativity.

“How can we renew and promote the bishop’s ministry from a missionary synodal perspective?” it asked.

“How should the role of the bishop of Rome (the pope) and the exercise of his primacy evolve in a synodal church?” the document said. The question echoed St. John Paul II’s invitation in his 1995 encyclical, “Ut Unum Sint,” (“That They May be One”), for an ecumenical exploration “to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”

The working document also asked synod members to consider ways more priests, religious and laypeople could be involved in the process of choosing bishops.

Throughout the listening sessions at every level, the document said, people recognized that Catholics cannot share fully in the spiritual discernment needed for true co-responsibility without further education in the Christian faith, Catholic social teaching and in the process of discernment itself and how it differs from simply discussing a problem and voting on possible solutions.

In particular, it said, “all those who exercise a ministry need formation to renew the ways of exercising authority and decision-making processes in a synodal key, and to learn how to accompany community discernment and conversation in the Spirit.”

“Candidates for ordained ministry must be trained in a synodal style and mentality,” it said, and the seminary curriculum must be revised “so that there is a clearer and more decisive orientation toward formation for a life of communion, mission and participation.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With a slightly quivering voice, before leading the recitation of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis thanked everyone who prayed for him and cared for him while he was in the hospital.

Greeting an estimated 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 18, two days after he was released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital following surgery to repair a hernia, the pope thanked everyone who “showed me affection, care and friendship and assured me of their prayerful support.”

Pope Francis smiles and waves at visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after praying the Angelus June 18, 2023. Pope Francis, released from the hospital two days ago, also thanked the medical staff who had cared for him. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“This human and spiritual closeness has been of great help and comfort to me,” the pope said. “Thank you all, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

As is customary, Pope Francis also commented on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 9:36—10:8, focusing on the line that Jesus sent his apostles out to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

“It is the same proclamation with which Jesus began his preaching,” the pope said, telling everyone that “the kingdom of God, that is, his lordship of love, has come near, it comes in our midst.”

The good news of God’s closeness, the pope said, should fill people with trust because “if the God of heaven is close, we are not alone on earth.”

When sharing the Gospel with others, he said, the first thing to let them know is that “God is not far away, but he is a father, he knows you and he loves you; he wants to take you by the hand, even when you travel on steep and rugged paths, even when you fall and struggle to get up again and get back on track.”

In fact, the pope said, “often in the moments when you are at your weakest, you can feel his presence all the more strongly. He knows the path, he is with you, he is your Father!”

The best way to proclaim God’s nearness, he said, is with “gestures of love and hope in the name of the Lord; not saying many words, but making gestures,” as Jesus instructed the apostles: “‘Heal the sick,’ he says, ‘raise the dead, heal the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.'”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis noted that June 20 is the U.N.-proclaimed World Refugee day and spoke of his “great sadness and deep sorrow” after a fishing boat, packed with migrants – estimates ranged from 500 to 700 men, women and children onboard – sank June 14 off the Greek coast as it attempted to travel from Tobruk, Libya, to southern Italy.

Just over 100 people, all men, were rescued and, as of June 18, 78 bodies had been recovered.

“It seems the sea was calm,” the pope said.

There are conflicting reports from the Greek coast guard, the European border agency and humanitarian organizations about whether the boat was in distress and about what caused it to capsize.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis said, “I renew my prayer for those who lost their lives and I implore that always everything possible be done to prevent such tragedies.”

The pope also prayed for “the young students, victims of the brutal attack that took place against a school in western Uganda” late June 16. Officials said members of the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group attacked a secondary school near the Uganda border with Congo, killing 41 people and kidnapping six others.

“This struggle, this war, is everywhere,” the pope said. “Let us pray for peace!”