VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God seeks and loves those who are humble because it allows him to be a part of their lives, Pope Francis said.

“This is Christian humility, which is not simply one virtue among others, but the basic disposition of life: believing ourselves to be in need of God, making room for him and putting all our trust in him,” the pope said in his homily Nov. 3.

Pope Francis gives his homily during a memorial Mass for Pope Benedict XVI and the cardinals and bishops who have died over the past year celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope celebrated a memorial Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope Benedict XVI and the six cardinals and 147 bishops who died over the past year. Eighteen of the bishops were from the United States and five were from Canada. Also included was Australian Cardinal George Pell, former prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, who died in January in Rome at the age of 81.

Pope Benedict, who died Dec. 31, 2022, reminded everyone “that faith is not primarily an idea to be understood or a moral precept to be followed, but a person to be encountered.” Pope Francis said. “That person is Jesus Christ, whose heart beats with love for us, whose eyes look with pity upon our suffering.”

The Lord is compassionate and “is moved by death, the greatest cause of our suffering,” Pope Francis said. “How important it is to communicate that same look of compassion to all those who grieve for the death of their loved ones!”

The Lord is especially compassionate and close to orphans, widows and “strangers,” those who are “most alone and forsaken, having no one else to trust but God,” the pope said.

“These are the people closest and dearest to the Lord,” he said. “We cannot be close and dear to God if we ignore those who enjoy his protection and preferential love, for one day they will be the ones to welcome us to heaven.”

“It is the humble, the poor in spirit, who reveal to us the ‘littleness’ so pleasing to the Lord, the path that leads to heaven,” he said.

“God loves humility because it permits him to interact with us,” he said.

Pope Francis recalled “the very first words with which Pope Benedict described himself following his election: ‘a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.'”

“Indeed, Christians, especially the pope, the cardinals and the bishops, are called to be humble laborers: to serve, not to be served and to put the fruits of the Lord’s vineyard before their own advantage,” he said. “What a fine thing it is to renounce ourselves for the church of Jesus!”

“Let us pray for our beloved, departed brethren. Their hearts were pastoral, compassionate and humble, for the Lord was the center of their lives,” he said. “In him may they find eternal peace.”




Annual effort seeks to assist more than 24,000 elderly women and men religious in the United States

November 6, 2023

WASHINGTON – On the weekend of December 9-10, participating dioceses will take up the annual collection that benefits approximately 24,000 elderly religious sisters, brothers, and religious order priests across the United States. Coordinated by the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), the collection provides qualified religious institutes with financial aid to address retirement necessities.

Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests have dedicated their lives to Church ministries such as parishes, schools and health-care institutions, usually with little to no compensation. Consequently, a significant number currently have insufficient retirement funds, combined with escalating health-care costs. Numerous religious communities in the United States are experiencing challenges with providing for their elderly members and are confronting a sizable disparity between available funds and the costs of care.

In 1988, the bishops of the United States established the Retirement Fund for Religious collection to address this serious retirement funding need among U.S. religious orders. In 2022, the NRRO’s annual collection raised $27.6 million.

“Addressing the needs of our aging religious demands substantial financial commitment. We are profoundly touched and blessed by the enduring generosity of the Catholic faithful. Their contributions to this fund are fundamental in aiding our elderly religious,” remarked Mr. John Knutsen, the NRRO’s director. “Through this national collection, we have the privilege to respond to the lifetime dedication of these individuals by ensuring their well-being in retirement,” he further commented.

Per the 2023 statistics collected by the NRRO, a mere 6% of religious communities that shared data with the NRRO reported having sufficient retirement funding. Since the fund’s inception, U.S. Catholics have graciously contributed more than $975 million, with almost $842 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of thousands of elderly sisters, brothers, and religious order priests. From 2009 onwards, the annual expenses of supporting senior women and men religious surpassed $1 billion.

For more about the initiatives of the National Religious Retirement Office and opportunities to support retired sisters, brothers and religious order priests, please visit

More than 20 men and women religious, who are celebrating milestone Ordination anniversaries this year, will be celebrated at the 2023 Jubilee Mass for Women and Men Religious on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will be the principal celebrant for the celebration at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton at 12:15 p.m.

The Mass will be broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton and livestream links provided on all Diocesan social media platforms.

All people are welcome and encouraged to attend the Cathedral Mass on Nov. 5!

A list of the 2023 Jubilarians is below:

Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.)

80 Years

Sister Jean Toolan, I.H.M.

75 Years

Sister M. Carleen Boehlert, I.H.M.

Sister M. Josaire Brady, I.H.M.

Sister Maureen Cryan, I.H.M.

Sister Mary Jane Maloney, I.H.M.

Sister Mary Joy O’Neill, I.H.M.

Sister Mary Rassley, I.H.M.

Sister M. Mercille Schneider, I.H.M.

60 Years  

Sister Mary Ann Adams, I.H.M. 

Sister Eileen Mary Coleman, I.H.M.

Sister Dolores Dunn, I.H.M.

Sister Marianne Knight, I.H.M.

Sister Theresa Petz, I.H.M.

Sister Miriam Joseph Reinhardt, I.H.M.                                                                             

50 Years

Sister Joyce Marks, I.H.M.


Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (R.S.M.)

80 Years  

Sister Stephanie Olek, R.S.M.

75 Years                                                                                                                                              

Sister Giuseppe DaBella, R.S.M.

Sister Anne Fleming, R.S.M.  

Sister Linus Loesch, R.S.M.                            

Sister Benedict Joseph Watters R.S.M.

70 Years   

Sister Agnes Therese Brennan, R.S.M.                                                                                         

Sister Ellen Mary Bringenberg, R.S.M. 

Sister Jane Frances Kennedy, R.S.M.

60 Years

Sister Elizabeth Ann Brody, R.S.M.

Sister Kathleen Mary Smith, R.S.M.


Sisters of Christian Charity (S.C.C.)

70 Years

Sister Verna Marie Stopper, S.C.C.


Oblates of Saint Joseph (O.S.J.)

70 Years

Reverend Raymond Tabone, O.S.J.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – A rule proposed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace,” would govern the implementation of federal law on harassment and associated nondiscrimination policies.

The seal of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is seen in the agency’s office in New York City Sept. 17, 2020. (OSV News photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters)

However, the U.S. Catholic bishops and other religious organizations have argued that the way the rule defines “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” to include abortion could result in pro-life views leading to a harassment charge.

The proposed guidance on workplace harassment seeks to protect employees from harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or genetic information, according to the Biden administration and the EEOC.

The rule, published for public inspection Oct. 2, states that “sex-based harassment” also includes harassment based on “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” which it defines as inclusive of “current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential pregnancy, lactation (including breastfeeding and pumping), use of birth control, menstruation, infertility and fertility treatments, endometriosis, miscarriage, stillbirth, or having or choosing not to have an abortion, among other conditions.”

EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a Sept. 29 statement announcing the proposed guidance that “preventing and addressing harassment in America’s workplaces has long been a key priority for the EEOC, and this guidance will provide clarity on new developments in the law and build on the Commission’s previous work.”

“The Commission looks forward to receiving public input on the proposed enforcement guidance,” Burrows said.

In an Oct. 27 letter to the EEOC, representatives of the bishops’ conference argued that “references to abortion in the harassment guidance are problematic and should be removed.”

“Opposition to abortion (including speech opposing abortion) is not sexual harassment because it is not based on sex,” the letter said.

“We encourage speech on abortion and other moral issues that is respectful, courteous, and constructive,” it said. “It is reasonable for employers and employees to insist upon civility and non-disruption in the workplace as a general matter. But on issues that involve no protected category, such as abortion, Title VII itself is silent and therefore has no role.”

In a message to its supporters, the USCCB urged the public to comment in opposition to the rule. The comment period was to close Nov. 1.

“It is good that we have laws prohibiting harassment in the workplace,” the bishops’ message said. “But speech expressing moral opposition to abortion, contraception, or same-sex unions, or speech that refers to people by their actual sex, is not harassment.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A report summarizing discussions at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops said the church may need more welcoming pastoral approaches, especially to people who feel excluded, but also acknowledged fears of betraying traditional church teachings and practices.

Pope Francis gives his blessing at the conclusion of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops’ last working session Oct. 28, 2023, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Among the topics addressed in the report were clerical sexual abuse, women’s roles in the church, outreach to poor and the concept of “synodality” itself.

The assembly, with 364 voting members – 365 counting Pope Francis – met in working sessions six days a week Oct. 4-28 after a three-day retreat outside of Rome. They were scheduled to join the pope Oct. 29 for the assembly’s closing Mass.

After the voting on the synthesis concluded, the pope said he wanted to remind everyone that “the protagonist of the synod is the Holy Spirit.” He briefly thanked the synod officers and joined members of the assembly in giving thanks to God.

The assembly’s discussions set the stage for a year-long period of reflection that will culminate in the second and final synod assembly in late 2024 on the same topic.

The 41-page synthesis report, voted on paragraph-by-paragraph Oct. 28, described its purpose as presenting “convergences, matters for consideration and proposals that emerged from the dialogue” on issues discussed under the headings of synodality, communion, mission and participation.

Every item in the report was approved by at least two-thirds of the members present and voting, synod officials said. They published a complete list of the votes.

Within the synod topics, members looked at the role of women in the church, including in decision making, and at the possibility of ordaining women deacons. The report asked for more “theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate,” including a review of the conclusions of commissions Pope Francis set up in 2016 and 2020.

The paragraph, one of several on the theme of women deacons, was approved 279-67, which was more than the needed two-thirds support but still garnered among the highest negative votes.

Among members of the assembly, the report said, some thought the idea of women deacons would be a break with tradition, while others insisted it would “restore the practice of the Early Church,” including at the time of the New Testament, which mentions women deacons.

“Others still, discern it as an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to the Tradition, and one that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the Church,” it said. But, the report added, some members thought that would “marry the Church to the spirit of the age.”

The paragraph on how different members explained their support of or opposition to women deacons also was approved by more than two-thirds of the voting members, but it received more negative votes than any other item, passing 277 to 69.

Assembly members also discussed pastoral approaches to welcoming and including in the life of parishes people who have felt excluded, including the poor, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ Catholics and Catholics whose marriages are not recognized by the church.

The synthesis report did not use the term “LGBTQ+” or even “homosexuality” and spoke only generally of issues related to “matters of identity and sexuality.”

Jesuit Father James Martin, a synod member involved in outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, told Catholic News Service, “From what I understand, there was too much pushback to make using the term ‘LGBTQ’ viable, even though it was contained in the ‘Instrumentum Laboris,'” or synod working document.

“This opposition came up often in the plenary sessions, along with others who argued from the other side, that is, for greater inclusion and for seeing LGBTQ people as people and not an ideology,” he said.

The synthesis said that “to develop authentic ecclesial discernment in these and other areas, it is necessary to approach these questions in the light of the Word of God and Church teaching, properly informed and reflected upon.”

“In order to avoid repeating vacuous formulas, we need to provide an opportunity for a dialogue involving the human and social sciences, as well as philosophical and theological reflection,” it added.

The divergences in the assembly, it said, reflected opposing concerns: that “if we use doctrine harshly and with a judgmental attitude, we betray the Gospel; if we practice mercy ‘on the cheap,’ we do not convey God’s love.”

Still, it said, “in different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality, also ask to be heard and accompanied. There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the Assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the Church, who want a place to call ‘home’ where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged.”

The report emphasized the “listening” that took place on the local, national and continental levels before the assembly and the “conversations in the Spirit” that took place during it, which involved each person speaking in his or her small group, other participants at first commenting only on what struck them, silent reflection and then discussion.

In several places throughout the report, assembly members insisted that greater efforts must be made to listen to the survivors of clerical sexual abuse and those who have endured spiritual or psychological abuse.

“Openness to listening and accompanying all, including those who have suffered abuse and hurt in the Church, has made visible many who have long felt invisible,” it said. “The long journey toward reconciliation and justice, including addressing the structural conditions that abetted such abuse, remains before us, and requires concrete gestures of penitence.”

Members of the assembly said the process helped them experience the church as “God’s home and family, a Church that is closer to the lives of her people, less bureaucratic and more relational.”

However, it said, the terms “synodal” and “synodality,” which “have been associated with this experience and desire,” need further clarification, including theological clarification and, perhaps, in canon law.

Some participants, it said, questioned how an assembly where about 21% of participants were lay women, lay men, religious and priests could be termed a Synod of Bishops.

The report also acknowledged fears, including that “the teaching of the Church will be changed, causing us to depart from the Apostolic faith of our forebears and, in doing so, betraying the expectations of those who hunger and thirst for God today.”

In response, though, assembly members said, “We are confident that synodality is an expression of the dynamic and living Tradition.”

“It is clear that some people are afraid that they will be forced to change; others fear that nothing at all will change or that there will be too little courage to move at the pace of the living Tradition,” the report said.

“Also,” it added, “perplexity and opposition can sometimes conceal a fear of losing power and the privileges that derive from it.”

Members of the assembly described the synodal process as being “rooted in the Tradition of the Church” and taking place in light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its emphasis on “the Church as Mystery and People of God, called to holiness.”

Synodality, they said, “values the contribution all the baptized make, according to their respective vocations,” and thus “constitutes a true act of further reception of the Council.”

The report also insisted the purpose of synodality is mission.

“As disciples of Jesus, we cannot shirk the responsibility of demonstrating and transmitting the love and tenderness of God to a wounded humanity,” the report said.

Throughout the synod process, the report said, “many women expressed deep gratitude for the work of priests and bishops. They also spoke of a Church that wounds. Clericalism, a chauvinist mentality and inappropriate expressions of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage its communion.”

“A profound spiritual conversion is needed as the foundation for any effective structural change,” it said. “Sexual abuse and the abuse of power and authority continue to cry out for justice, healing and reconciliation.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis asked Mary to look mercifully upon the human family, “which has strayed from the path of peace,” and entrusted to her protection the world’s regions and nations at war.

“Queen of Peace, you suffer with us and for us, as you see so many of your children suffering from the conflicts and wars that are tearing our world apart,” the pope said during a prayer service for peace in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 27.

Women religious join Pope Francis praying for peace in St. Peter’s Basilica with members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“At this dark hour — this is a dark hour, mother — we submerge ourselves in your luminous eyes, we entrust ourselves to your heart, sensitive to our problems,” he said, looking at an icon of Mary.

With a black-beaded rosary in hand, Pope Francis prayed with cardinals, bishops and delegates of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, recalling Mary’s strength and initiative from several Gospel scenes — the visitation, the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus’ passion and resurrection.

“Now, mother, once more take the initiative for us, in these times rent by conflicts and waste by the fire of arms,” the pope said. “Teach us to cherish and care for life — each and every human life! — and to repudiate the folly of war, which sows death and eliminates the future.”

Pope Francis asked Mary to “touch the hearts of those imprisoned by hatred, convert those who fuel and foment conflict.”

“Queen of all peoples, reconcile your children, seduced by evil, blinded by power and hate,” he said.

The pope also asked her to care for the victims of war: children, the elderly and isolated, the sick and wounded and those forced to abandon their homeland and loved ones due to conflict.

“To you we consecrate our world, especially those countries and regions at war,” the pope said without naming any particular nation or region. “To you we consecrate the church, so that in her witness to the love of Jesus before the world, she may be a sign of harmony and an instrument of peace.”

Present on the altar was icon of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” which has been present on the stage of the Vatican audience hall where the assembly of the synod on synodality has been held.

Among the cardinals present for the ceremony was Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, the pope’s Ukraine peace envoy and a synod delegate. Ambassadors to the Holy See from many nations also attended.

On the eve of the last working day of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis asked Mary to “help us preserve unity in the church and to be artisans of communion in our world.”

“Make us realize once more the importance of the role we play,” he said, “strengthen our sense of responsibility for the cause of peace as men and women called to pray, worship, intercede and make reparation for the whole human race.”

After Pope Francis’ prayer for peace, the Eucharist was exposed on the basilica’s main altar, and a moment for silent prayer in adoration was observed.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, led benediction, blessing the people gathered in the basilica by making the sign of the cross with the monstrance, praying “let us adore with living faith the holy mystery of your body and your blood.”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The number of legal abortions provided by virtual-only clinics via abortion pill prescriptions spiked 72% in the year following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, according to a report by #WeCount, a research project by the Society of Family Planning, a group that supports legal abortion.

The study is notable because it is the first full-year census of U.S. abortion providers following the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that sheds light on how they view trends in their industry. The survey only considered data from licensed clinics within the health care system, researchers said, and does not account for what may be illegal procedures, such as abortion pills ordered from overseas.

A box of medication used to induce abortion, known generically as mifepristone and by its brand name Mifeprex, is seen in an undated handout photo. Pro-life advocates have respond to a report by #WeCount, an effort by the pro-choice Society of Family Planning, claiming that the number of legal abortions provided by virtual-only clinics spiked 72% in the year following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. (OSV News photo/courtesy Danco Laboratories)

The increase in abortions at virtual-only clinics, which use telemedicine to prescribe an abortion-inducing drug regimen to patients, comports with some previous studies showing similar results post-Dobbs. Even prior to that decision, data from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than half of the abortions performed in the U.S. were chemical or medical, rather than surgical.

The #WeCount report, which examined the period from April 2022 to June 2023, found that although abortions decreased in states that have banned or limited the procedure, abortions increased nationally.

“The Dobbs decision turned abortion access in this country upside down,” Dr. Alison Norris, #WeCount co-chair and a professor at The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, said in a statement. The increase, she said, demonstrates that people seeking abortions will travel for them despite “tremendous hardships,” while those who cannot travel can face “mental, emotional and economic impacts.”

The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. As such, the church opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

After the Dobbs decision, church officials in the U.S. have reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, as well as about social issues that push women toward having an abortion.

Asked about the #WeCount report, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New Wave Feminists, told OSV News that “this is why at New Wave Feminists we have always said our goal isn’t to make abortion illegal, but to make it unthinkable and unnecessary through practical support.”

“You make it unnecessary by creating a society that doesn’t penalize pregnant people for choosing life,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Most of the individuals who contact us need help with housing, child care, health care resources and transportation. Many work at minimum wage jobs that don’t offer any type of family leave, and they know that continuing their pregnancy means they won’t be able to feed their other children, so they feel trapped.”

“The irony of ‘choice,'” she added, “is that abortion decisions are often only made when a person feels they have no other choice at all because society is only willing to provide the cheapest option (such as abortion pills), but won’t actually invest in the safety nets that would assist them in choosing life and parenting.”

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, told OSV News that “in a perfect world #WeCount and the Society for Family Planning would put as much energy into investing in programs to support parenthood as they do to support abortion.”

“The almost celebration of the increased number of virtual abortions is deeply disturbing,” Day said. “The push for virtual abortion leaves women alone and endangered if something goes wrong.”

A post-Roe world, Day said, requires society to be “more innovative and creative in ensuring that women have the opportunity to choose to have their babies.”

“We need to build support systems” for women, Day said, and “stop advocating for abortion by mail, leaving women to suffer by themselves in silence.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Holiness is a gift everyone receives with baptism, and it is a journey to be made together with the help of the saints in heaven, Pope Francis said on the feast of All Saints.

The saints “are our elder brothers and sisters, on whom we can always count,” he said before reciting the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 1.

Pope Francis gives his blessing to an estimated 20,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after praying the Angelus Nov. 1, 2023, the feast of All Saints. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“They support us and, when we take a wrong turn along the way, with their silent presence they never fail to correct us; they are sincere friends, whom we can trust, because they desire our wellbeing,” he said.

“Holiness is a gift from God which we have received with baptism,” Pope Francis said. “If we let it grow, it can completely change our life.”

“Therefore, saints are not unreachable or distant heroes, but people like us,” he said, “whose starting point is the same gift we have received — baptism.”

In fact, he said, people today have certainly met what he likes to call the “saints next door,” that is, people “who genuinely and with simplicity live a Christian life” as part of their “normal” everyday lives.

“Every gift, however, must be accepted,” he said. It comes with “the responsibility of a response” and “the invitation to commit oneself so that it is not squandered.”

Holiness, therefore, is also a journey “to be made together, helping each other, united with those excellent companions who are the saints,” he said.

Pope Francis invited Catholics to get to know the lives of the saints, “to be moved by their examples” and “to turn to them in prayer.”

“In their lives we find an example, in their prayers we receive help and friendship, and with them we are bound in a bond of brotherly love,” he said.

After praying the Angelus, the pope asked for continued prayers “for the people who are suffering because of today’s wars.”

“Let us not forget tormented Ukraine, let us not forget Palestine, let us not forget Israel and let us not forget so many other regions” where fierce wars are raging, he said.