SCRANTON – Starting on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, the main entrance to Cathedral Cemetery, located in the 1700 block of Oram Street, West Scranton, will be temporarily closed to both vehicles and pedestrians.

The temporary closure is necessary so that renovation work to the cemetery entrance gates and sidewalks can be completed. The work is expected to be completed, and the main entrance to Cathedral Cemetery reopened, no later than Labor Day weekend.

Cathedral Cemetery will remain open to visitors throughout the duration of the renovation work, however access by both vehicles and pedestrians will be the alternative entrance on Pettibone Street (adjacent to the green maintenance garage).

The Diocese of Scranton and the staff of Cathedral Cemetery appreciates the understanding of all people avoiding the construction area to ensure the safety of both workers and visitors.


Shown are members of the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen Advisory Board. First row, from left: Carl Frank, Monsignor John J. Sempa, Board President Chris Bedwick, Alan Stout, Katie Kemmerer. Second row: John Graham, Andy Reno, Tom MacNeely, Kim Cardone, Deacon Bill Behm. Absent from photo: Joseph Frank Jr., Janet Kobylski, Gary Lambert Jr., Jack Nolan, Frank Orloski Jr., Chip Prescott, Sam Rostock, Dr. Dave Shemo, Deb Brezna and Mark Soprano.

The St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre will be kicking off its annual “Sponsor For A Day” campaign on June 1.

For $125, one can sponsor the day’s meal at St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen and help provide meals to those in need. The sponsorship can be from oneself, a family, in memory of a loved one, or on behalf of a business. Sponsors are recognized each day on the “Sponsor For The Day” draw-board in the Kitchen as well as on the Kitchen’s Facebook page. Past sponsors will be receiving letters asking for renewals during the week of June 1-7. New sponsors may call (570) 829-7796 for more information.

To follow St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen on Facebook, visit




ROME (CNS) – The first years of priesthood are challenging, and the best way to survive and thrive is through closeness to God, to one’s bishop, one’s fellow priests and to one’s parishioners, Pope Francis told priests who have been ordained less than 10 years.

“One never comes out of a crisis alone,” the pope told them, according to the Vatican press office.

Pope Francis listens to a question during a meeting with priests ministering in the Diocese of Rome who have been ordained 10 years or less in the Church of Jesus the Divine Master May 29, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis held a closed-door meeting May 29 with about 90 priests working in the Diocese of Rome who have been ordained since 2014; they included priests who were ordained for the diocese in April.

Earlier in May the pope had met with priests who have been in ministry for more than 40 years, and he is scheduled to meet June 11 with clerics ordained between 11 and 39 years ago.

Meeting at a church complex owned and staffed by the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, a religious order of women, Pope Francis and the priests began with prayer and then moved into a private question-and-answer session.

“Among the topics at the center of the dialogue were the experience of the early years of priesthood, the happy discovery of people’s faith but also the challenge of ministering to the sick, to whom one must respond with closeness, compassion and tenderness, and the crises one faces in priestly life,” including loneliness, according to a summary provided by the Vatican press office.

The pope and priests also talked about what is going well and what challenges the Diocese of Rome faces, the summary said. Pope Francis told the priests the problems must be faced “not with gossip, but with dialogue.”

Rome Auxiliary Bishop Michele Di Tolve, who was present at the meeting, described the dialogue with the pope as part of the priests’ formation.

“It is not enough just to have seminary training; one becomes a priest by exercising ministry,” he told Vatican News. “And so, the questions of our priests were precisely in reference to their becoming pastors in the midst of the people of God.”

In response to several of the questions, he said, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of “the four proximities: closeness to God, to the bishop, to each other in fraternity and closeness to the people of God.”

Auxiliary Bishop Baldo Reina, who also was present, told the diocesan media that Pope Francis “gave advice, like that which a father gives — or a grandfather, we might say — to grandchildren, to younger children, related to his experience. He talked a lot about closeness: to the elderly, to the sick, to those living in distress.”

“He also recommended closeness among them, among priests, without giving space to the gossip that sometimes frays relationships and a healthy spiritual life,” Bishop Reina said. “The meeting was beautiful as was the frankness with which the young priests put questions to the Holy Father, even questions about problematic issues, and he answered them naturally, without hiding problems but manifesting his willingness to deal with them and resolve them in a positive way.”

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (OSV News) – Almost halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan May 26, “amazing” was the only word Riya D’Souza-Pereira could come up with to describe the scene around her of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

“I don’t have words to say, but it’s giving me goosebumps just that they’re coming there and we’re coming to meet our Lord over here and from here it goes ahead,” D’Souza-Pereira said. “It’s just amazing.”

Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, N.Y., carries the monstrance while leading a Eucharistic procession across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn from Manhattan on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s Seton (East) Route May 26, 2024. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, The Tablet)

D’Souza-Pereira was referring to hundreds of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Brooklyn converging on the Brooklyn Bridge that afternoon, where New York Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo J. Colacicco and Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn met for benediction before Eucharist continued in the monstrance into Brooklyn.

The major liturgical event was a high point for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which launched the week before from California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas. Groups of young adults known as “perpetual pilgrims” walking the four routes with the Eucharist are tacking toward Indianapolis, where they will converge for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21.

The Memorial Day weekend included key highlights along all four routes. Before entering Brooklyn, pilgrims on the eastern route spent the weekend in other New York boroughs, with Masses, Eucharistic adoration, and processions through Central Park and Midtown Manhattan. On May 27, the perpetual pilgrims and their priest chaplains boarded a boat in New York Harbor with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who, from the water near the Statue of Liberty, gave benediction and blessed the city with the Eucharist before the pilgrims continued on to the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.

“For Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives and I can’t think of a better way to bring that message to the world than something like this kind of display of solidarity, and faith, and conviction,” Joe Cerato, who participated in Brooklyn’s procession, told The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn. “I think it’s tremendous that we can be a part of what’s happening across the country.”

In St. Paul, Minnesota, an estimated 7,000 Catholics gathered for a 4.5-mile procession from the St. Paul Seminary along a historic avenue to the Cathedral of St. Paul. Despite predictions for thunderstorms, the sun shone as pilgrims pushed children in strollers and wagons while others in the procession rode wheelchairs or leaned on canes. Passersby knelt in reverence for the Eucharist or stared in awe at the massive crowd, which spanned several blocks of shoulder-to-shoulder pilgrims. The procession also included many priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious sisters and brothers.

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis led the procession with Auxiliary Bishops Michael J. Izen and Joseph A. Williams, who was recently named coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey.

Also processing were retired Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, a leader in the National Eucharistic Revival, first in a three-year role for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and now as board chairman of National Eucharistic Congress, Inc. Bishop Cozzens oversaw the northern route’s launch May 19 at Itasca State Park, and he accompanied the pilgrims for several days their first week.

“Here we are so close to our God, filled with gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist, and really desiring that all would come to know the greatness, the closeness, the tenderness and the compassion of our God,” Bishop Cozzens said shortly before the procession began. “The Lord has accompanied us all these years, and today we are accompanying him. This pilgrimage reminds us that we are on our way with him to the Father’s house.”

On the pilgrimage’s southern route, pilgrims spent the weekend in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, named for the body and blood of Jesus, where Catholics joined a mile-long procession after Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop W. Michael Mulvey at the Corpus Christi Cathedral May 26.

“It’s a reverent movement as Jesus is with us,” said Elizabeth Morales, the diocese’s social media coordinator, as she reported live from the procession. “It’s been a beautiful five days of faith and people witnessing to their love of Christ.”

On Memorial Day, the southern route’s perpetual pilgrims entered the Diocese of Victoria, Texas, spending the evening in praise and Eucharistic adoration at Presidio La Bahía, an historic Spanish colonial fort that played a significant role in the Texas Revolution.

After crossing from California into Nevada via a Eucharistic procession on Lake Tahoe May 24, perpetual pilgrims on the western route spent three days in the Diocese of Reno, with a Eucharistic procession following Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral May 26. That afternoon, the pilgrims headed north to the Nevada-Oregon border town of McDermitt, where Bishop Liam S. Cary of Baker, Oregon, met them for a driving procession to Burns, Oregon, for dinner, faith-sharing and overnight adoration. Memorial Day included a series of driving processions across the state.

The perpetual pilgrims crossed in vehicles from Oregon into Idaho — with Bishop Cary leading the procession on a float, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament — to meet Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Boise and hundreds of Catholics for a short time of Eucharistic adoration at Corpus Christi Church in Fruitland, Idaho.

Across the country in New York, as the eastern route’s entourage prepared to leave May 27, perpetual pilgrim and New York resident Marina Frattaroli stood in the rain at Pier Four in New York Harbor and, via social media, asked the Catholic faithful for prayers. “Please pray for us, for all of the seeds we just planted, all the fruit that’s going to come from our time in New York,” she said. “Pray for the revival, pray for the church, pray for us pilgrims.”

(OSV News) – Growth, undeniable tensions and “a deep desire to rebuild and strengthen” the body of Christ have emerged as key themes in the latest synod report for the Catholic Church in the U.S.

Released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops May 28, the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Interim Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod” summarizes responses from more than 35,000 participants and over 1,000 listening sessions, with 76% of the nation’s dioceses and eparchies submitting reports to the U.S. synod team.

Participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops gather Oct. 25, 2023, for an afternoon session in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In addition, over 350 people met in some 15 listening sessions that focused on church life, social justice and vocations, while U.S. bishops also met for a synod listening session.

Launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, organized around the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” was held Oct. 4-29, 2023, in Rome.

Ahead of the concluding session of the synod, which will take place in Rome in Oct. 2-27, dioceses across the U.S. were asked to hold additional listening sessions during Lent 2024, following a request from the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. Those responses were incorporated into the newly released synthesis.

“We had to be nimble with the Spirit,” U.S. synod team member Alexandra Carroll, who serves as the USCCB’s communications manager for social mission, told OSV News, adding that even with short notice of the extra sessions, “our diocesan synod leaders took it on and really owned the process.”

Fellow synod team members Richard Coll, executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, and the USCCB’s senior adviser for the synod Julia McStravog agreed.

Coll said he was “very, very taken by the commitment that was evident” in the responses to the listening sessions.

“The diocesan directors continue to be very devoted to this path,” he told OSV News. “It’s a wonderful thing to see, because it is now the third year of this process, but it didn’t seem … to me that there was any kind of ‘synod fatigue.’ People seem to be even more enthusiastic.”

“Synodality is really taking root,” said McStravog. “People are getting accustomed not only to sharing, but to listening in a deeper way.”

In his introduction to the synthesis, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas — who serves as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, and who has shepherded the synodal process in the U.S. — noted that “while no document could cover the full range of topics on the hearts and minds of Catholics” who took part in the listening sessions, the report showed the synodal journey has made progress in the U.S.

Among their insights, many of which were directly quoted in the report, participants expressed “two basic hopes for the church” — that it be both a “safe harbor” and a “fiery communion.”

As a “safe harbor,” the church can be a place “where the faithful are embraced, sustained and loved,” said the synthesis, citing one respondent who observed, “People come when they are broken. … At my parish, I feel I have a family there.”

That welcome must be more than “superficial,” the report said, pointing to parishes with numerous small communities and prayer groups as being “most successful” in reaching and integrating people from diverse backgrounds. With the church in the U.S. comprising “countless cultural and ethnic groups,” the report noted a desire “to promote interculturality, so that there is more unity between cultures that share the same church.”

At the same time, respondents described the church as a “fiery communion,” with the synodal process digging up a number of tensions within the church.

In particular, a lack of clear communication from church hierarchy and from media, both Catholic and secular, creates confusion and division over what it means to be Catholic — and hinders the church’s mission, said synod participants.

That uncertainty can be especially evident when trying to balance welcoming LGBTQ and other marginalized persons while making known the truths of the Catholic faith, said synod participants.

Catholic social teaching was “another area where division was keenly experienced,” with “conversations ‘on social justice and inclusion … filled with moments of profound pain and generational hurt,'” the report said. “Participants expressed concerns that the church has allowed the ongoing polarization and conflict (in civil society) to lead to a denial of the church’s social magisterium in many situations.”

The liturgy itself can be a flashpoint for tension, with the celebration of the Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 (informally known as the “Latin Mass”) becoming “a focal point of broader debates about tradition, modernity, and the best ways to nurture faith across the diverse spectrum of Catholic belief and practice,” the interim synthesis said.

Another sore spot identified by participants was complacency in many parts of the church, which potentially stands to pave the way for “grave institutional sins such as sexual abuse and racism” — both of which remain “enduring wounds” that “continue to inflict pain today,” said the document.

“The trauma and scandal (of the clerical abuse crisis) have had a generational impact,” keeping youth and young adults distrustful and desiring an apology “for abuses that happened not to them, but to their parents, grandparents or further generations,” the interim synthesis said.

Likewise, the sin of racism, and “the sin of enslaving Black people for the betterment of the church,” continue to haunt the church, the report said.

At the same time, the listening sessions revealed a commitment to the importance of evangelization, and the need for catechesis and formation to sustain such witness. Participants also articulated a desire to actively participate in the church’s mission, seeking greater co-responsibility for the laity (especially women and young adults) in that task through their “baptismal dignity.”

Both clericalism and a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life were lamented, as was division among priests, with one priest participant sharing that clergy “need to be better at getting past the bitterness and different theologies and political preferences.”

Bishops who attended the listening session also highlighted polarization among priests, with some shepherds likening themselves to “the episcopal referee” among an increasingly diverse clergy, many of whom hail from other countries. The Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the U.S. expressed their gratitude for the positive relationships they enjoyed with the USCCB and the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., noting that “sometimes the Latin Church in other parts of the world (is) not so accepting and supportive.”

The bishops also applauded recent changes in the structure of their biannual meetings, which have facilitated more small group encounters reminding them they are “spiritual brothers and not just ecclesial figures.”

On balance, bishops’ relations with the Holy See were “generally positive,” and although “direct contact with Rome is not very frequent,” the report said that the apostolic nuncio, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, has succeeded in “fostering a spirit of communion” and in “facilitating communication with the Holy See.” At the same time, the bishops “did express some frustration that communication between bishops and the offices of the Holy See could be better,” but described their ad limina visits to Rome — during which they provide the pope with an update on the status of their respective dioceses — as “occasions of fraternity and joy.”

The interim synthesis concluded by noting that “a major theme” articulated by participants was “the deepening awareness of how our trust in God expresses itself in relation to our imperfect institutions within the church.”

“It was noted by many that the faithful ‘should not be embarrassed about recognizing that our
church might be a little messy — it’s better not to pretend that we are the perfect institution, but that we belong to the perfect and one, true faith,'” said the report.

Carroll, Coll and McStravog told OSV News that the synodal process of listening and dialogue is essential to healing the church’s wounds — and that dynamic is for all the faithful, they said.

“Synodality isn’t just in Rome or at the USCCB,” said Coll. “It’s right here. It’s with you. It’s with all of us.”

JERUSALEM (OSV News) – As tensions and the number of victims mount in southern Gaza Strip, Catholic Relief Services said it has not been able to get humanitarian aid through to the southern Gaza Strip since May 6 and it no longer has any supplies left in its warehouses in that area, said Jason Knapp, CRS country director for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.

Knapp also called for all crossings into Gaza to be opened for humanitarian aid.

CRS carries out the work of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor and vulnerable worldwide who live in extreme poverty, war zones or who have suffered natural disasters.

Palestinians search for food among burned debris May 27, 2024, in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on an area designated for displaced people in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (OSV News photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

“Right now our distribution has been paused. We need to get things in from either Jordan or Egypt. In the last few days we have distributed everything we have access to, which is why it is becoming all the more urgent to make sure those crossings are functioning,” said Knapp.

The agency’s functioning capacity in Rafah in southern Gaza is still in place in partnership with local groups and other agencies such as the World Food Program through the logistics structure they set up in the beginning of the war with warehouses and trucking capacities, Knapp noted.

However, their ability to move things has been severely impacted by the Israeli incursion launched in early May that has caused nearly 1 million people to flee from Rafah. They now seek refuge in squalid tent camps and other war-ravaged areas.

Palestinian health officials said at least 45 people, around half of them women and children, were killed in a strike on May 26 in Rafah’s camp, a consequence of an Israeli strike nearby that caused fire in the densely populated camp.

According to The Associated Press, the strike caused widespread outrage, including from some of Israel’s closest allies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was the result of a “tragic mishap.”

The International Court of Justice May 24 called on Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, an order it has no power to enforce.

CRS moved its operations from Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip at the start of the war, which broke out following an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israeli communities.

The Hamas assault left 1,200 mostly civilians murdered and 254 people taken captive into Gaza, according to Israel, with 125 hostages still remaining in Gaza, including 39 bodies.

The subsequent Israeli military campaign into Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women, according to the Hamas Gaza Ministry of Health, which does not differentiate between Hamas members and civilians.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has said that 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced since the start of the war in October.

Families that have been already displaced several times are on the move again due to military operations and Israeli evacuation orders. As of May 19, the estimated number of people displaced from Rafah is nearly 815,000 people since May 6, with a further 100,000 people displaced in northern Gaza, UNRWA said in its latest report published on May 24.

For many families this most recent displacement is the seventh or eighth time they have had to move since the start of the war, said Knapp. People are lacking not only in basic supplies such as food and shelter but also clean water, sanitation, health care and education, he said.

“It is the needs of the whole of the person and it is what has been challenging on a large scale in such a significant crisis for the past seven, eight months,” he said.

U.N. humanitarian organizations also have repeated warnings that famine is still an imminent threat because of aid restrictions and lack of safe access.

Knapp said CRS has now had to shift its operations from Rafah to the middle area of the Gaza Strip and Khan Younis.

“We are not able to service Rafah. Our operational capacity is still in place but the big obstacle is the functioning of the crossings where a deep focus is needed for goods to be able to come to the north and south of Gaza,” he said. “That is what we are advocating for, especially that the Kerem Shalom crossing be accessible from the Gaza side as soon as possible.”

Since the start of the war CRS has been able to serve almost 800,000 people with aid including cash, food parcels, bedding supplies, tarps, tents and hygiene kits through its already established partnerships network, said Knapp, who was in Gaza almost at the beginning of May and expressed “deep concern” about the physical conditions and enormous human displacement he witnessed.

“It has been so challenging to get things in and to operate safely. We are not able to provide the same standards in Gaza as we are in other places,” he said.

CRS head of Gaza Office Bassam Nasser said in a Whatsapp written exchange that looting of warehouses is rampant, and even if people have money, they are unable to access their cash from banks with only three ATMs in service in the southern Gaza Strip. Goods are only sold in stalls in the streets for cash and there is a critical shortage of feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, cooking gas, fuel and bottled water, said Nasser.

Nasser said critical needs vary for each family. As a pharmacist, his wife has been trying to maintain a supply of medicines for the chronically ill in Rafah, to where his family fled from their home in northern Gaza in the early days of the war.

Nasser’s family was among the tens of thousands of people who had to once again escape from Rafah.

“The threats turned into artillery bombardment and air strikes in the neighborhood (where) we lived in,” Nasser said. He said his family was “among the lucky families” who found an apartment shared with three other families with 20 people living in a 1,300-square-foot apartment of a family who was able to leave Gaza in the early days of the war. Each family pays $500 rent without any services and must buy water from trucks and has electricity only if there are solar panels, he said.

“I am losing faith in global and universal values, and day after the other, (I turn) to think that the world is ruled by racists powers and elements. Personally, I never want to get to this conclusion as it will destroy what I live for,” said Nasser.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To change the world, children must press ahead, be joyful, ask adults why there is injustice and always help others, Pope Francis told thousands of children gathered in Rome’s Olympic Stadium for the church’s first ever World Children’s Day.

“We are gathered here at the Olympic Stadium, to ‘kick-off’ the movement of boys and girls who want to build a world of peace, where we are all brothers and sisters, a world that has a future because we want to take care of the environment around us,” he said May 25.

Pope Francis hugs a young girl named Valeria, who was representing all the children who could not attend the first World Day of Children because of war or poverty, in Rome’s Olympic Stadium May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

About 50,000 people gathered in the stadium for a sunny afternoon of music, dance and even a brief friendly match in the center field between two teams made up of kids and retired Italian soccer champions. Multiple award-winning goalie, Gianluigi Buffon, placed a soccer ball in front of the pope’s chair. The pope stood and kicked the ball from the sidelines to symbolically kick-off the game. The pope later signed the ball and the kids’ jerseys.

The pope established the world day, which will include a Mass in St. Peter’s Square May 26, after holding a smaller encounter at the Vatican in November 2023 with some 7,500 children from 84 countries dedicated to learning from young children and listening to their questions about the future.

That event “brought a wave of joy” and “left a lasting impression in my heart,” he told the kids and those accompanying them in the stadium. He said he wanted that conversation to continue and expand to reach more children and young people, and “that is why we are here today: to keep the dialogue going, to ask questions and seek answers together.”

The pope told the children he knows they are sad about war, and he recounted his meeting earlier that day with children from Ukraine, Palestine and other parts of the world experiencing war. Many of the children had been injured and were in Italy to receive care. Vatican News reported that among those at the audience was Yana Stepanenko, 13, who lost both legs from a Russian missile strike in Ukraine. She ran the 5K at the Boston Marathon in April to raise money for prosthetics for a Ukrainian soldier in need.

The pope asked the children in the stadium to pray for their peers who cannot go to school, who suffer from war, who have no food or who are sick and lack medical care.

“Dear children, let us press ahead and be joyful. Joy is healthy for the soul,” he said, quizzing them to make sure they knew that Jesus loved them, and the devil did not.

Dozens of children representing different continents and countries gave the pope gifts, including two baskets of letters, 5,000 drawings and a pectoral cross modeled after the large and colorful “cross of joy” that was created for the world day and accompanied the events.

Riad, a young boy from Syria, gave the pope copies of photos taken in 2016 when Pope Francis invited 12 Syrian refugees, Riad included, to fly with him to Italy from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece.

“He’s grown!” the pope said, looking at the young boy and the photos of him as a small child.

Between musical sets, children from different parts of the world asked the pope questions, such as what can children do to make the world a better place. Speak nicely, play together and help others, the pope replied.

How can people truly love everyone? a boy asked the pope. “It’s not easy,” the pope said. But start with just the people in one’s own life, including one’s classmates, and expand from there, he said.

When asked about why there were people without jobs or homes, the pope said all injustices were “the fruit of malice, egoism and war.”

Those who “climb the ladder,” crushing those below, are bad, and many countries spend money to build or buy arms while there are people going hungry, he said. He asked the huge crowd to be quiet for a moment of silence, praying for all those facing injustice and remembering that everyone shares a bit of the blame.

When asked how to help adults be more compassionate about those who are less fortunate, the pope said kids can help others and be a good example, and they can create “a true revolution” by always asking God and their parents, “Why?” such as why are there people living on the street or going without food.

He also urged the kids to visit their grandparents, who gave life, raised families and passed down their wisdom. “We have to respect,” visit and listen to grandparents, he said.

MALMÖ, Sweden (OSV News) – While many Catholics around the world rejoiced upon hearing the news that Pope Francis had approved a second miracle attributed to Blessed Carlo Acutis, none was happier than his mother, Antonia Salzano.

“We were very happy, of course, as you can imagine,” Salzano said in a telephone interview with OSV News May 24. “It was great news because we were waiting for this declaration — especially for all the devotees he has around the world.”

Yet for her, the approval of the miracle “was a big sign of hope because through (Carlo’s) example, he gave witness to values that are for everybody; not just for (believers), but for nonbelievers, like helping the poor, human respect, the love for nature, love for the environment.”

Pope Francis recognized May 23, 2024, the second miracle needed for the canonization of Italian Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. He is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Carlo Acutis) Editors: best quality available.

It’s also the fulfillment of the teen’s lifelong dream of becoming a saint, which he had expressed since he was a boy, she said.

“He always said, ‘I want to please God,'” Salzano told OSV News. “When he did his first holy Communion — when he was 7 years old — he wrote, ‘To be united with God: this is my life program.’ And he maintained this promise all his life until the end, until his death.”

Before his death from leukemia in 2006, Carlo was an average teen with an above-average knack for computers. He used that knowledge to create an online database of Eucharistic miracles around the world.

Although Salzano vividly remembers her son’s devotion to Jesus and the Virgin Mary and his care for the poor, including using his own money to purchase sleeping bags for the homeless, she also remembers him as an average teenager who enjoyed life.

“He loved (soccer), he loved basketball, he liked animals, he liked to play. A lot of friends loved him very much because he was always joking, making films,” she recalled.

“But at the center of his life was Jesus; he had a daily meeting (with Jesus) through the holy Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and the holy rosary. This was characteristic (of Carlo). And when you open the door of your heart to God, your ordinary life becomes extraordinary.”

“This is Carlo’s secret,” she continued. “And this is possible for everybody because Carlo had a simple spirituality. He didn’t have the stigmata, or apparitions, or (experienced) levitation. He had a simple childhood. Everything Carlo did was in Jesus, through Jesus and for Jesus.”

As part of his sainthood cause, the young teen’s body was exhumed and transferred to a place suitable for public veneration, the Shrine of the Renunciation at the Church of St. Mary Major in Assisi in 2019.

The first miracle attributed to Carlo’s intercession was approved by Pope Francis in February 2020. It involved a young Brazilian boy who was completely healed from a rare congenital disease of the pancreas. In October of that year, the teen was beatified during a Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

The second miracle, which now paves the way for Carlo’s canonization, was approved by the pope May 23 after a meeting with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

According to the website of the dicastery, Pope Francis recognized the miraculous healing of Valeria Valverde, a young Costa Rican woman living in Florence who suffered a severe head injury.

The same day her mother visited Carlo’s tomb, Valverde “regained the ability to breathe on her own, and the following day, doctors recorded the recovery of upper limb motility and partial speech,” the dicastery said.

Salzano told OSV News that she spoke with Valverde who was “suspended between life and death” before her mother prayed at the tomb of the young teen.

“The mother was a woman of faith. She prayed; she went to Carlo because she had a devotion (to him) and kneeled in front of his grave all day praying for her daughter’s healing and she received the grace,” she said.

But for the future saint’s mother, countless other miracles have been attributed to Carlo since his death.

“Consider that when he died, people started to pray to him spontaneously and the first miracle occurred the day of his funeral,” Salzano told OSV News. “A woman diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to start chemotherapy prayed to Carlo to heal her. And she was healed completely without any chemotherapy instantly. It was incredible; two days (after the funeral), she did all the examinations and there was nothing. (The cancer) had disappeared.”

Pope Francis has praised the young teen as a role model for today’s young people, who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation, and empty pleasure.”

Salzano recalled one of her son’s now most well-known quotes, “All are born originals, but many die as photocopies” and said that everyone is unique and shares “a special call to holiness.”

With all the trials Christians, especially young people, face today, Carlo’s life serves as a reminder that every person has “beautiful things” inside them and to “not be scared” but “be confident.”

“I think that is very important nowadays because young people tend to imitate very much,” Salzano said.

Carlo tells “each one of us that we are special, that we are unique and especially remember that there is an afterlife and that somebody created us, that loves us, that wanted us to be alive,” she told OSV News.

“We are not made to be people in this universe of chaos without a goal. God created us for a goal, and that goal is paradise,” Salzano said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As young delegates and the coordinators of youth and young adult ministry from the world’s bishops’ conferences gathered near Rome, an archbishop asked them: “How can we be a church that young people come back to, not a church they leave? How can our young people find hope and courage in the church and transform their lives?”

The questions were posed by Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul, South Korea, host of World Youth Day 2027, during the Vatican-sponsored International Youth Ministry Congress May 23 in Ciampino, just south of Rome.

Participants attend the International Congress on Youth Ministry May 23, 2024, at a conference center in Ciampino, outside Rome. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life convoked the three-day congress to consider answers to the archbishop’s questions as they marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people, “Christus Vivit,” reviewed World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, and looked forward to the Holy Year 2025 jubilee of young adults and, more remotely, to WYD in Seoul.

The theme for the gathering was “Synodal Youth Ministry: New Leadership Styles and Strategies.”

Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, said that since the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, many bishops’ conferences, dioceses and Catholic movements have worked with young adults to uncover new ways of communicating with them, to set up structures to listen to them and encourage their participation and to launch “programs of faith education, accompaniment and evangelization in both the digital and the non-digital spheres.”

“It is precisely young people who can be the main agents of renewal so that the church can ‘unblock’ itself and become young again,” Cardinal Farrell said, adding a quote from “Christus Vivit”: “Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make it grow old, encase it in the past, hold it back or keep it at a standstill.”

Archbishop Chung told the group, “When the decision was made for Seoul to host WYD, I wondered, ‘Are our young people happy right now?'”

“They are connected to others 24 hours a day through social media and are more materially affluent than ever before,” he said, “but our young people today just don’t seem that happy.”

In many parts of the world, they struggle with “unemployment, low wages, endless competition, polarization and inequality, hatred, war, terrorism, the climate crisis,” he said. “Why do our precious youth, whose only job is to love, be loved and dream of a better world and future have to live in this reality?”

When celebrated as a pilgrimage of faith rather than an event, the archbishop said, World Youth Day can help people find a response. “It’s a pilgrimage, a time to share our stories, work through our concerns together and find answers in our faith,” he said.

Paul Jarzembowski, associate director for laity at the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, was attending the congress and told Catholic News Service, “Listening is a foundation to so much of what we do in ministries with young people as our response and activities build upon what we have heard in the stories of youth and young adults.”

In response to “Christus Vivit,” the U.S. bishops launched “Journeying Together,” a process that brought together young adults, bishops, youth ministers and campus ministers “to engage in respectful yet honest dialogue in matters of faith, culture, racism, inclusion and the issues that affect them as young people,” according to the program’s web pages.

Although it formally concluded in 2023, Jarzembowski said the conversations are ongoing “as the young adults continue to convene together and engage us at the USCCB.”

The 1,500 young adults involved, who came from many cultural and ethnic groups, “included those who were active in their practice (of the faith) and those who are less engaged,” he said. The initiative was not about convincing them to return to church, “but about trying to understand the realities facing younger generations. Through this process, some did reconnect with active practice, but that was not its original goal. It was a pleasant surprise and the result of authentic listening.”

In June, he noted, the U.S. bishops will vote on a new national framework on ministries with youth and young adults. The document, “Listen, Teach, Send,” he said, aims to help the church engage and build up trust with young people by being a church “that truly listens, one that teaches as an act of response and witness, and one that motivates young people to be sent out to transform the world in the company of the Holy Spirit.”

Another key result of listening, he said, has been the church’s efforts to respond to the mental health crisis among teens and young adults, “raising awareness, combating stigmas and promoting a balance of clinical and spiritual support so that those who need help” can get it.

In discussions at the congress, Jarzembowski said, it was clear that “most continents are experiencing this crisis yet in different ways. However, the U.S. experience is certainly amplified by our polarization, digital landscape, consumerism and the struggle many families experience, especially around divorce.”

Cardinal Américo Aguiar of Setúbal, Portugal, one of the chief organizers of World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, told the group that an essential part of planning involved setting up committees in every Portuguese diocese and almost every parish, involving thousands of young adults, many of whom “were not part of or engaged in any other ecclesial reality. They were and are one of the most important fruits for the Portuguese church and society.”

Those planning the Lisbon gathering “did everything and gave everything” to ensure it would promote a true encounter of young people from around the world with their peers, their pastors and with Pope Francis, “but above all an encounter with the living Christ,” the cardinal said. “Did it happen? We do not know, there are no statistics” that can answer that question.

But “personally, I know they did. I know it in my heart of hearts,” he said. And God knows, too; “he knows about each particular person, as only a Father can.”

BALTIMORE (OSV News) – The Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed the final plan May 22 for parish planning in Baltimore City, with 23 parishes at 30 worship sites, about half the current number of churches available for Sunday Mass.

Currently in Baltimore City and some nearby areas of Baltimore County that were part of the project, 61 parishes at 59 worship sites serve approximately 5,000 Catholics. They make up about 1% of the Catholics in the archdiocese, served by 44% of the parishes.

The Seek the City to Come initiative began in fall 2022 with listening sessions, followed by visioning, discernment and decisions. The archdiocese released a proposal in April that would have created 21 parishes at 26 worship sites, so the final map is an expansion of that plan.

“The whole orientation of Seek the City is toward the creation of parishes that are well positioned and well equipped to evangelize neighborhoods and to really gather the people in those neighborhoods, especially the unchurched, around the table of the Lord,” said Archbishop William E. Lori.

He noted that the goal is to create “parishes that have what it takes to have a full range of pastoral services to do outreach, to do social ministry, and, if I may say, to be a light brightly visible in the neighborhoods where they exist.”

The archdiocese sought feedback on the proposal released in April at four public forums, which drew thousands of people, and the archbishop acknowledged that the interest at those events was beyond what most of the venues that were selected could hold. He said that was part of the “bottom-up, synodal process” of listening and responding. The final map makes that evident, since it is different from just five weeks earlier.

“People spoke passionately. People demonstrated their love for their parishes,” the archbishop said. “But also, there were points made in those meetings that were very constructive and helpful in shaping the final map.”

The Seek the City initiative included 20 months of effort by a working group of about 250 clergy and parish leaders from the city, with assistance from several departments at the Catholic Center. Seek the City leadership visited every parish site in the study area for an assessment of facilities and needs, and met with parish leadership for prayer and listening.

Open, prayerful discussions were held at points in the process, before the working group gathered to develop proposals that could be refined. The process also included data about the number of parishioners; the practice of sacraments such as baptisms, weddings and funerals; and other demographics.

Archbishop Lori estimates that the archdiocese has heard some 6,000 voices in the process.

“We recognize that not everyone will be pleased with the outcome. But we truly have striven to listen. And listening has truly affected the outcome,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, vicar for Baltimore City and co-director of Seek the City, said the initiative provided many and varied ways for people to be heard — in-person visits, parish visits, open public sessions, emails, letters and phone calls.

“The reality of it is, you know, at some point we have to stop and say I think we’ve got a good sense of what people are concerned about, what they’re hoping for, what they might be worried and anxious about, what ideas and other possibilities that they have for the parishes.”

The bishop said that input also will be helpful in the next phase of implementation.

Some worship sites were moved or added in the final plan.

Bishop Lewandowski said the overall plan has more parishes and worship sites than the proposal based on feedback and a closer look at the data. The goal was to have fewer, larger parishes spread out to ensure a presence in many neighborhoods across the city to renew the work of evangelization.

“We mean evangelization in the strict sense: forming missionary disciples and going out into the neighborhoods and bringing the Gospel,” Bishop Lewandowski said. He said the current configuration of parishes in the city spread the church too thin. “We wanted to strike a balance, because too few would not be a solution, either.”

Bishop Lewandowski said implementation of the plan will be phased in, with archdiocesan offices providing support in human resources, clergy personnel, facilities, finance and the Office of Parish Renewal in the Institute for Evangelization. For most parishes, the new configurations and mergers will be done by the First Sunday of Advent 2024, Dec. 1. For others, it could be the first Sunday of Lent 2025, or even longer for some.

“What we’ve learned in other dioceses is it takes maybe three to five years for some people to settle into a new parish configuration. … There’s going to be a great need for patience, flexibility, kindness, gentleness and compassion because it is a jolt to the system,” he said.

The churches in the city that will no longer be worship sites for daily or Sunday Mass will remain available to parishioners for weddings, baptisms or funerals, at least until the newly formed parish decides how best to utilize all the properties.

“We want the new parish to be successful and financially strong, to be well resourced and so if any of the merging properties are sold, those funds go with the people to their new parish — according to canon law, it follows the territory and the people,” Bishop Lewandowski said.

Bishop Lewandowski believes that in a few years, the church will be able to look back on this time and see new life, new growth, renewed mission and energy and a revitalized church. “We live in the hope of a new life to come.”

Archbishop Lori said the initiative “aims to create bonds of cooperation and collaboration among the parishes themselves, to avoid a parochial competition and to foster in its place a sense of shared ministry, shared concern for our city and its environs, shared concern for those who live there and who are in need of the Lord and the faith.”

That includes new forms of partnership with Catholic Charities, Catholic education and Catholic health care organizations, among others, especially those supported by the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries.

Geri Royale Bird, co-director of Seek the City, sees the process that got the archdiocese to this point as the keystone to collaboration moving forward. The listening, visioning, discerning and modeling sessions created an opportunity and a platform of working together and gave parish leaders a chance to work with people they had not known before.

“What’s valuable is that all along we have been working together. Now we are going to put that to use even more,” she said. “The excitement of this is that … we get to have a fresh start to have an evangelizing church now.”

She understands some people will be anxious, but she hopes they “will look beyond that and know that there are brighter days because we’re creating a landscape where we will have the resources … to really do the work.”

Archbishop Lori said, “We want to bring to bear upon the city of Baltimore and its environs all the gifts, all the ministries that the Holy Spirit.”

Clergy assignments for the new parishes will be forthcoming.

For now, the new parishes will take on the name of the church where it is sited, but the parishioners of the newly formed entity can eventually petition to change that name. In such cases, usually the parishioners make suggestions, and the pastor can present three or four names to the archbishop for his final choice.