SCRANTON – On the weekend when the war between Ukraine and Russia reached its two-year mark, more than 100 people came together in prayer at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and Father Myron Myronyuk, Pastor, Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church of Scranton, held a special Prayer Service for Peace on Feb. 25, 2024.

Serhii Railian, a Ukrainian soldier who was injured during the Russia-Ukraine war, attends a Prayer Service for Peace at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on Feb. 25, 2024. (Photo/Mike Melisky)

“We pray today for our brothers and sisters and all who are burdened by such unjust aggression,” Bishop Bambera said in welcoming those in attendance. “We ask God’s mercy and peace, God’s presence and an end to war.”

Sitting in a wheelchair near the front of the Cathedral, Serhii Railian knows first-hand the atrocities of war. He was severely injured while fighting in Ukraine and is now receiving rehabilitation in the Philadelphia-area.

With the help of a translator, Railian expressed gratitude for the crowd that attended the prayer service.

“He said he’s very grateful for the people of this community for remembrance and bringing this issue up because it helps the boys and girls on the frontlines, knowing all the support from America,” the soldier said.

Father Myronyuk said in addition to Railian, there was also a second injured Ukrainian soldier in attendance at the Cathedral.

“They are happy to be here, and they feel the support. Events like this show we’re not alone,” Father Myronyuk said.

On the same day as the prayer service, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters at least 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. It is the first time Ukraine has given a number for its military casualties, and Zelenskyy declined to say how many soldiers are wounded or missing.

“If Russia succeeds in this war, the prospects of a wider war grow exponentially and with it, the security of the entire world falls into peril,” Rev. John Seniw, a longtime pastor in Berwick whose mother was born in Ukraine, said during the homily of the prayer service.

“Let us continue to pray that God would heal the wounded, console those who mourn, sustain the soldiers and comfort all who suffer from this war,” he added.

Deborah Pusateri, a parishioner of Saint Vladimir’s Church, attended the prayer service. Her grandparents lived in Ukraine but came to the United States several decades ago.

“It was important to come out and pray,” she said. “It is just terrible that such a peaceful country is being destroyed.”

As the prayer service concluded, Bishop Bambera urged those in attendance to continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.

“While at times the world seems to forget the horrors of war and, at times, we become numb to news reports that over and over again speak of atrocities beyond belief, may our prayers never lose their intensity and may we continue to pray that God’s gift of peace would reign throughout this world and most especially this day – and someday soon – throughout Ukraine,” Bishop Bambera said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis paid a brief visit to Rome’s Gemelli Isola Hospital Feb. 28 for “diagnostic tests,” the Vatican press office said, without providing specifics.

After telling people at his general audience, “I’m still a bit sick,” and having aides read most of his prepared remarks, “Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests. Afterward, he returned to the Vatican,” the statement said.

Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, right, reads the talk Pope Francis had prepared for his general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Feb. 28, 2024. The pope said he was continuing to struggle with a cold. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The 87-year-old pope had canceled his appointments Feb. 24 and Feb. 26 because of what the Vatican press office described as “mild flu-symptoms,” but Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Feb. 25 without obvious difficulty. The Vatican provided no health update Feb. 27 since Tuesdays are his usual day off and he did not have to cancel any appointments.

Arriving for his audience Feb. 28, Pope Francis used a wheelchair instead of walking with his cane. His voice was hoarse and softer than usual.

Pope Francis also went to the Gemelli Isola Hospital in late November for a CT scan of his lungs. At the time, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office had said, “The CT scan ruled out pneumonia, but showed pulmonary inflammation that was causing some respiratory difficulties.”

The problems forced him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 for the U.N. climate change summit. On several occasions in the first weeks of December, he had aides read his speeches for him. In mid-January, saying he had “a bit of bronchitis,” he skipped several speeches although kept meeting different groups.

Pope Francis had undergone surgery in 1957 to remove part of one of his lungs after suffering a severe respiratory infection. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

But last year, he was hospitalized at the main Gemelli hospital March 29-April 1 for what doctors said was a “respiratory infection.” He tested negative for COVID-19.

In 2022 the hospital on Rome’s Tiber Island, founded and run by the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, became affiliated with the Gemelli hospital where St. John Paul II and Pope Francis himself have undergone surgery.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The ability of Catholic and other faith-based groups to “meet migrants’ basic human needs” at the U.S.-Mexico border is a religious liberty issue and must be defended, U.S. bishops said in recent statements.

In a Feb. 26 statement issued in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an attempt to shut down Annunciation House, a Catholic nonprofit in El Paso serving migrants, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed solidarity with faith-driven ministries to migrants.

Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, attends a march to demand an end to the immigration policy called “Title 42” and to support the rights of migrants coming to the border in downtown El Paso, Texas, Jan. 7, 2023. (OSV News photo/Paul Ratje, Reuters)

“It is hard to imagine what our country would look like without the good works that people of faith carry out in the public square,” Bishop Rhoades said. “For this, we can thank our strong tradition of religious liberty, which allows us to live out our faith in full.”

Paxton’s suit targeting El Paso’s Annunciation House comes as some Republicans have grown increasingly hostile toward nongovernmental organizations, particularly Catholic ones, that provide resources such as food and shelter to migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bishop Rhoades said that as “the tragic situation along our border with Mexico increasingly poses challenges for American communities and vulnerable persons alike, we must especially preserve the freedom of Catholics and other people of faith to assist their communities and meet migrants’ basic human needs.”

Paxton’s office alleged Annunciation House’s efforts amount to “facilitating illegal entry to the United States” and “human smuggling.”

“The chaos at the southern border has created an environment where NGOs, funded with taxpayer money from the Biden Administration, facilitate astonishing horrors including human smuggling,” Paxton said in a statement. “While the federal government perpetuates the lawlessness destroying this country, my office works day in and day out to hold these organizations responsible for worsening illegal immigration.”

Catholic and local leaders in El Paso condemned that effort, including the city’s Bishop Mark J. Seitz, who pledged his diocese and the wider church will “vigorously defend the freedom of people of faith and goodwill to put deeply held religious convictions into practice” and “will not be intimidated in our work to serve Jesus Christ in our sisters and brothers fleeing danger and seeking to keep their families together.”

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops said in a Feb. 23 statement that the state’s bishops “join Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso in expressing solidarity with ministry volunteers and people of faith who seek only to serve vulnerable migrants as our nation and state continue to pursue failed migration and border security policies.”

“Our border ministries are intended to be a stabilizing presence that protects both citizens and migrants,” their statement said. “The Catholic Church in Texas remains committed to praying and working for a secure border, to protect the vulnerable and for just immigration solutions to protect all human life.”

Bishop Rhoades commended the Texas bishops for “expressing solidarity with those seeking simply to fulfill the fundamental biblical call: ‘whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – “Love Means More,” a new teaching initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has a statement of purpose, a website and a promise to keep building the website to provide answers on a wide variety of questions about Catholic teaching on love, sexuality and marriage.

The premise speaks to the simple question of what “I love you” can portend.

“Imagine sincerely saying this to someone for the first time, and getting the response, ‘What do you mean?’ In that moment, the stakes would be too high to pause for a calm, honest exploration of this question. That’s why this site exists,” states the website,

This is an illustration of a couple displaying their wedding rings. (OSV News illustration/CNS file, Sam Lucero)

The initiative is led by Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. Bishop Barron also is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, author of numerous books and articles, and has a podcast and video presentations via YouTube.

“Conversations about love, marriage, sexuality, family, and the human person can be confusing and polarizing,” Bishop Barron said in a Feb. 21 news release, adding that he hoped the initiative would “help bring clarity and compassion to those questions.”

“Love Means More” renews and replaces “Marriage: Unique for a Reason,” an initiative launched by the U.S. bishops in 2011. It will “still allow us to defend marriage, but now as part of a larger set of questions about family, sexuality, and the human person,” according to an announcement on the website.

According to the USCCB, the new initiative has a broader scope than just the sacrament of matrimony, addressing “questions and concerns received from people who are uncomfortable with some church teachings. These include those who uphold the possibility of divorce and remarriage, LGBT-identifying individuals, and those who defend pornography.”

Developed through “wide consultation” with bishops, pastors, educators, medical and mental health professionals, and lay Catholic leaders involved with family life ministry, the initiative “also has heard, and seeks to address, questions and concerns received from people who are uncomfortable with some church teachings,” the news release said.

Reflecting long-held Catholic teaching, Bishop Barron observed in his statement that “cultural narratives tell us love is mostly about feeling good. True love is deeper than that, calling us to follow Christ’s example of sacrificial love so we can live in union with Him forever.”

The “Love Means More” website takes a kind of “stacking doll” approach to unpacking the church’s teaching. It starts with one question “What is Love?” which then opens into other topics and related questions: “Is love a feeling?” “Willing the Good” and “Eros + Agape.” Each new topic then leads into its own related subtopics. For example, “Eros + Agape” opens up two further topics — “biological sex” and “sexual relationships.” Those new topics in turn become the basis for opening into their own related subtopics, and so forth.

Teaching on other issues will be added over time.

The U.S. bishops’ new initiative comes as the church is grappling with how to engage people in the modern world, helping them encounter the love of Jesus Christ within the life-changing demands of his Gospel.

In December, the Vatican issued a narrow set of guidelines – “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”) on “the pastoral meaning of blessings” – addressing the possibility of informal, non-liturgical blessings for Catholics in irregular or same-sex unions.

The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration said a request for a blessing can express and nurture “openness to the transcendence, mercy and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live. It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.”

This is an updated map showing the four routes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Pilgrims traveling in “Eucharistic caravans” on all four routes will begin their journeys with Pentecost weekend celebrations May 17-18, 2024, leaving May 19. They will all converge on Indianapolis July 16, 2024, the day before the five-day Congress opens. (OSV News illustration/courtesy National Eucharistic Congress)


(OSV News) – On May 18-19, groups of eight young adults will leave San Francisco; New Haven, Connecticut; San Juan, Texas; and Itasca State Park in Minnesota.

For eight weeks they’ll travel, mostly on foot, along four routes through major U.S. cities, small towns and countryside toward Indianapolis, where they’re expected to arrive July 16, the day before the opening of the National Eucharistic Congress.

Together, they’ll cover more than 6,500 miles over 27 states and 65 dioceses. With them every step of the way will be the Eucharist, held in a specially designed monstrance, or reserved in a support vehicle’s tabernacle.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is a major prelude to the National Eucharistic Congress, which expects to bring together tens of thousands of Catholics July 17-21 in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium for worship, speakers and Eucharist-centered events. The pilgrimage and the congress are part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops that began in 2022 with the aim of deepening Catholics’ love for the Eucharist.

“A cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before,” said Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the Denver-based National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., in a Feb. 22 media release announcing updated routes and related events. “It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way.”

The pilgrimage’s four groups of Perpetual Pilgrims are young adults ages 19-29 selected in an application process to travel the full length of each route. Their names will be announced March 11.

People who wish to travel as a “day pilgrim” or attend a pilgrimage-related event along the routes may register online at Day pilgrims must make their own arrangements for meals, transportation and lodging, as needed.

Each route passes religious and secular landmarks, including Folsom State Prison in California, Ellis Island in New York, the campuses of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Benedictine College in Kansas, and the shrines of Our Lady of Champion in Wisconsin, the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Maryland.

Dioceses that the routes cross through have planned special events to welcome the pilgrims. Detailed event information for these events and each of the routes — the St. Junipero Serra Route from the West, St. Juan Diego Route from the South, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the East and Marian Route from the North — will be posted at

Pilgrimage events will include Masses, Eucharistic adoration and prayer, as well as service projects. All public events are free.

Supporting the Perpetual Pilgrims spiritually will be a “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Father Roger Landry of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, plans to accompany the Seton Route pilgrims for the entire route.

“Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life changing for the church across America,” Glemkowski said. “I personally cannot wait to participate in this pilgrimage!”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican is seeking to draw pilgrims to the four historic papal basilicas scattered around Rome – not physically, but virtually, through a website and podcast aimed at drawing young people into the spiritual depth of Rome’s sacred spaces.

The website – – was launched by the Vatican Feb. 22. It features a virtual “table” at which animated saints and artists are seated with descriptions of who they are and their significance for the holy spaces highlighted on the site. An empty chair is also present to invite each “digital pilgrim” to sit at the table with them and visit the four papal basilicas.

A screengrab of a new Vatican website dedicated to connecting young people to Rome’s papal basilicas is seen on the day of its launch Feb. 22, 2024. (CNS photo/Courtesy Holy See Press Office)

Rome’s four papal basilicas are St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran; they are the most highly ranked churches in the Catholic Church and each possess a holy door that is opened during Holy Years, typically every 25 years.

The new Vatican website showcases a podcast produced in partnership with Vatican News, “From Tourists to Pilgrims,” in which art historians, restoration experts, professors and religious men and women discuss the spiritual significance of the history and art of each basilica.

The first episode of the podcast, less than three minutes long, explains the history behind the tomb of St. Peter upon which the basilica was built: a poor man’s grave of bricks and stone assembled next to where he was martyred. Prayers centered on each of the saints for whom each basilica is named are also published on the site.

A Vatican press release accompanying the website’s launch said the project was born out of a pilgrimage undertaken by 16 young communications professionals from 10 different countries who explored the four basilicas “not just as architectural monuments but as living witnesses of our faith.”

“The multilingual minisite is the answer to the challenge of how to convert this experience into a digital project to introduce the Basilicas to a younger audience,” it said.

Five of the pilgrims behind the project were from the United States: Alexandra Carroll, Alexandria Rich, John Grosso, John Lilly and Vanesa Zuleta Goldberg.

Ahead of the Holy Year 2025, “the hope is that this experience will encourage a revival of the storytelling surrounding the millennia-old” tradition of going on pilgrimage to the threshold of the apostles, Vatican said.

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – The shrine of a beloved Philadelphia saint sustained thousands of dollars’ worth of damage in an apparent act of vandalism.

Panels of three stained-glass windows were shattered at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia in the early morning hours of Feb. 19.

A damaged stained-glass window is seen at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia Feb. 20, 2024. The damaged interior panels at the bottom of the window were removed and cardboard taped over the gaps. Three windows at the shrine were broken in a vandalism attack early Feb. 19 which is under investigation. (OSV News photo/Francis X. Morton)

The windows depicting scenes from the saint’s life are located in the lower church of the shrine, which is housed at St. Peter the Apostle Church. The saint’s remains — covered by a wax mask and vestments, and encased in glass beneath the altar of the lower church – were unaffected by the attack.

Staff at the shrine “discovered that someone had thrown a brick and stones” through the three windows, said Kenneth A. Gavin, chief communications officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in an emailed statement to OSV News.

“This incident was reported to the Philadelphia Police Department that day,” said Gavin. “The Shrine’s security camera showed one of the rocks going through the window at 5:33 a.m. Monday (Feb. 19) and landing in the choir section of the Shrine.”

Gavin said that “police detectives are currently reviewing security camera footage as part of an ongoing investigation,” adding that the “preliminary damage estimate to the windows is approximately $20,000.”

Images provided to OSV News Feb. 20 by a regular Mass attendee at the shrine show softball-sized holes in the exterior glass panels protecting the stained glass. The damaged interior panels were removed, with cardboard taped over the gaps.

One window shows the saint looking up from his desk, under the words “Visions missionary, vocation to save faith of Immigrants to America.”

A second window shows the saint kneeling in obedience to his bishop; above him are the words “First to join the Redemptorist Fathers in America.”

The third window, which lost multiple panes to the attack, depicts St. John Neumann with fellow Redemptorist and 19th-century contemporary Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. Above the pair is a quote from Seelos: “Father Neumann was to me in every respect a father whom I can never forget.”

Similarly damaged in the early hours of Feb. 19 were Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located some 2.2 miles south of the shrine; the InterAct Theater, a mile west of Mother Bethel; and a law firm building half a mile from the theater in the city’s downtown district.

Police have not yet advised if the incidents are related.

Born in 1811 in what is now the Czech Republic, John Nepomucene Neumann distinguished himself at an early age with his gift for learning and his zealous faith. As a seminarian, he discerned a call to minister to the immigrants of the U.S. Arriving in 1836, he was quickly ordained and set about missioning in his vast pastoral assignment, which extended from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania.

In 1842, he joined the Redemptorist order as its first U.S. vocation, and gained U.S. citizenship in 1848. Appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852, he labored tirelessly on behalf of the impoverished immigrant communities, adopting their austere lifestyle, learning their languages and establishing the nation’s first parochial school system for their children. Bishop Neumann also established Forty Hours devotion in the U.S.

He died of a sudden heart attack (sometimes reported as a stroke) in 1860 and was canonized by St. Paul VI in 1977.

On February 13, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2023 (H.R. 5856). This bipartisan measure would do several things to combat the scourge of human trafficking, including: 
• Reauthorize various programs under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 through Fiscal Year 2028 (which lapsed September 30, 2021), with approximately $1 billion in funding for anti-trafficking efforts over the next five years;
• Authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out a Human Trafficking Survivors Employment and Education Program to prevent the re-exploitation of eligible individuals with services that help them to attain life skills, employment, and education necessary to achieve self-sufficiency;
• Authorize grants for programs that prevent and detect trafficking of school-age children in a “linguistically accessible, culturally responsive, age-appropriate, and trauma-informed fashion”; and
• Require the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to encourage integration of activities to counter human trafficking into its broader programming. 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration formally endorsed the bill with other Catholic organizations during the previous Congress, stating at the time that “this legislation is critical for continuing and bolstering our nation’s efforts to eradicate human trafficking and assist human trafficking survivors.”
More recently, in a press release reaffirming the USCCB’s support for the bill, Bishop Mark Seitz, current chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, emphasized that it “is incumbent upon all of us to unite in promoting efforts that prevent the evil of human trafficking. I join our Holy Father in inviting the faithful and all people of good will to uphold and affirm human dignity and grow in solidarity with those who are vulnerable to exploitation and have been impacted by this terrible evil of modern-day slavery.” 
You can learn more about human trafficking and the Church’s anti-trafficking efforts by reading this explainer and by visiting the Justice for Immigrants campaign’s Saint Josephine Bakhita webpage
Message to Congress
Please Pass H.R. 5856 to Combat Human Trafficking and Support Survivors
As a Catholic and your constituent, I urge you to take up and support the House-passed Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2023 (H.R. 5856), an important, bipartisan bill that will help combat the evil of human trafficking. 
This bill would reauthorize important programs under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, provide about $1 billion in funding for anti-trafficking measures, authorize the creation of a Human Trafficking Survivors Employment and Education Program, support grants for programs that prevent and detect trafficking of school-age children, require that USAID encourage integration of activities to counter human trafficking in programs under its purview, and more. 
It is critical that our country continues to combat what Pope Francis has referred to as a “crime against humanity.” Please work with your colleagues in the Senate to pass H.R. 5856 without delay.
Click the link below to log in and send your message:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Arriving in a wheelchair instead of walking with his cane, Pope Francis began his weekly general audience by telling visitors and pilgrims, “I’m still a bit sick,” so an aide would read his prepared text.

The pope had canceled his appointments Feb. 24 and Feb. 26 because of what the Vatican press office described as “mild flu-symptoms,” but Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Feb. 25 without obvious difficulty.

Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, right, reads the talk Pope Francis had prepared for his general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Feb. 28, 2024. The pope said he was continuing to struggle with a cold. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

At his general audience Feb. 28, his voice was hoarser and softer. Besides briefly telling the crowd he would not be reading his prepared text, he took the microphone only to pray at the beginning and end of the gathering and to read his appeals for peace and for an end to the use of landmines.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that Pope Francis went from the audience to Rome’s Gemelli Isola Hospital for a checkup before returning to the Vatican. In late November when he was suffering similar symptoms, he had gone to that hospital for a CT scan of his lungs.

Pope Francis’ main audience talk focused on envy and vainglory, or exaggerated pride, as part of his continuing series of audience talks about vices and virtues.

Envy and vainglory “go hand in hand,” the pope wrote. “Together these two vices are characteristic of a person who aspires to be the center of the world, free to exploit everything and everyone, the object of all praise and love.”

Reading the Book of Genesis, envy appears to be “one of the oldest vices: Cain’s hatred of Abel is unleashed when he realizes that his brother’s sacrifices are pleasing to God,” he wrote.

“The face of the envious man is always sad: he’s always looking down, he seems to be continually investigating the ground; but in reality, he sees nothing, because his mind is wrapped up in thoughts full of wickedness,” he said. “Envy, if unchecked, leads to hatred of the other. Abel would be killed at the hands of Cain, who could not bear his brother’s happiness.”

The root of the vice and sin of envy, he said, “is a false idea of God: we do not accept that God has His own ‘math.'”

As an example, Pope Francis cited the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 about workers hired at different times of the day to work in a vineyard, but the owner pays them all the same.

When those who worked longest protest, the owner says, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

“We would like to impose our own selfish logic on God; instead, the logic of God is love,” the pope’s text said. “The good things he gives us are meant to be shared. This is why St. Paul exhorts Christians, ‘Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor’ (Rom. 12:10). Here is the remedy for envy!”

Pope Francis described vainglory as “an inflated and baseless self-esteem,” which leads to having no empathy and to seeing others only as objects to be used.

The vainglorious person “is a perpetual beggar for attention,” the pope wrote, and when recognition is not given, “he becomes fiercely angry.”

Usually, he said, the remedy for such pride comes automatically when people offer criticism rather than praise.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

A wise person recognizes, as St. Paul did, that freedom comes from recognizing one’s weaknesses and failures, relying only on God for strength, Pope Francis’ text said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A day after canceling an audience because of mild flu symptoms, Pope Francis led the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer as normal and marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine.

“How many victims, people wounded, destruction, anguish, tears in a period that is becoming terribly long and whose end is not yet in sight,” the pope said Feb. 25, reminding some 20,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square that Russia launched its major offensive Feb. 24, 2022.

Pope Francis gestures as he leads the recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 25, 2024, and prays for peace in Ukraine two years after Russia launched its major offensive on the country. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“It is a war that not only is devastating that region of Europe but is unleashing a global wave of fear and hatred,” Pope Francis said.

Although his voice was deeper than normal, the pope did not show signs of feeling unwell; he did not cough or seem to experience trouble breathing as he has in the past when the Vatican said, as it did Feb. 24, that he was experiencing “flu-like symptoms.”

Dozens of people in the crowd Feb. 25 held up banners bearing the word “Nonviolence” in Italian.

“While I renew my deepest affection for the tormented Ukrainian people and pray for all, especially for the numerous innocent victims,” the pope said, “I plead for that little bit of humanity to be found that will allow the creation of the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.”

Pope Francis also asked the crowd to pray “for Palestine, for Israel and for the many peoples torn apart by war, and to concretely help those who suffer! Think of all the suffering; think of the wounded children – innocents.”

Casting his gaze even wider, the pope said he is concerned about the increasing violence in eastern Congo, and he joins the nation’s bishops in asking everyone to pray for peace, “hoping for a cessation of the fighting and the search for a sincere and constructive dialogue.”

Pope Francis also joined the bishops of Nigeria and the leaders of the Dicastery for Evangelization in denouncing “the increasingly frequent kidnappings in Nigeria.”

“I express my closeness in prayer to the Nigerian people, hoping that efforts will be made to ensure that the rapid spread of these incidents be curbed as much as possible,” the pope said.