Pope Benedict XVI gives Communion to a young man during Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London in this Sept. 18, 2010, file photo. During the service the pope expressed his “deep sorrow” to the victims of clerical sexual abuse, saying these crimes have caused immense suffering and feelings of “shame and humiliation” throughout the church. (CNS photo/Reuters pool)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A Vatican editorial defended retired Pope Benedict XVI’s record in fighting clerical sexual abuse after the release of a report that accused him of mishandling four cases during his time as archbishop of Munich.

Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Dicastery for Communication, said a report on the handling of cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising was an important contribution to “the search for justice in truth and to a collective examination of conscience on the errors of the past.”

However, he warned, “the reconstructions contained in the Munich report, which — it must be remembered — is not a judicial inquiry nor a final sentence, will help to combat pedophilia in the church if they are not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments.”

The 1,900-page report was released Jan. 20 and looked at the handling of cases in the archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Archdiocese of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

The report identified 497 victims and 235 abusers over the more than 70 years covered by the investigation, but the lawyers who conducted the study said they are convinced the real numbers are much higher. In the report, the lawyers said that, on four occasions, then-Cardinal Ratzinger mishandled abuse allegations.

In his editorial, Torniell noted that during the initial phase of the investigation, Pope Benedict “did not evade the questions” and provided an 82-page response regarding his time leading the Munich Archdiocese.

“Predictably, it was (then-Cardinal) Ratzinger’s four-and-a-half years at the helm of the Bavarian diocese that monopolized the attention of commentators,” he said.

Although the retired pope is expected to issue a statement after examining the report’s findings, Tornielli said the steps taken by the Catholic Church to fight clerical sexual abuse can be retraced “starting from his pontificate.”

“Child abuse is a horrendous crime. The abuse committed against minors by clerics is possibly an even more revolting crime, and this has been tirelessly repeated by the last two popes,” Tornielli wrote.

He also noted that as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Ratzinger “promulgated very harsh norms against clerical abusers” as well as “special laws to combat pedophilia.”

During his pontificate, he continued, Pope Benedict paved the way for a change of mentality in how the church treats survivors of abuse who, instead of being welcomed and accompanied, were often “distanced and even pointed to as ‘enemies’ of the church and its good name.”

“It was Joseph Ratzinger, the first pope to meet several times with victims of abuse during his apostolic journeys. It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” Tornielli said.

Recalling Pope Benedict’s assertion that “the sufferings of the church come precisely from the inside of the church, from the sin that exists within the church,” Tornielli said the former pope emphasized the need for the Catholic Church to ask forgiveness from victims and from Jesus, “who has always been on the side of the victims and never of the executioners.”

“These words were preceded and followed by concrete facts in the fight against the scourge of clerical pedophilia,” he wrote. “All this can neither be forgotten nor erased.”

Pope Francis kisses the Nazi concentration camp number tattooed on the arm of Lidia Maksymowicz, 80, who spent three years at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, during his general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican May 26, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The cruelty of the Holocaust must never be repeated, Pope Francis said on the eve of the international day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The day, celebrated Jan. 27, falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp complex in 1945.

At the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican Jan. 26, Pope Francis said, “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews and people of different nationalities and religious faiths.”

“This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated,” he said. “I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history.”

“It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot,” the pope said.

At the end of his audience, the pope met with Belarus-born Lidia Maksymowicz, 81, who had spent 13 months at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where she and other children were subjected to Josef Mengele’s medical experiments.

It was her second meeting with Pope Francis, who – at an outdoor general audience May 26, 2021 – had spoken with her, kissed the prisoner number – 70072, tattooed on her left arm and embraced her.

That meeting sparked an idea for her to write an autobiography, with help from the Italian journalist Paolo Rodari. The book, “La bambina che non sapeva odiare. La mia testimonianza” (“The child who did not know how to hate. My testimony”), was recently released in Italian.

At the Jan. 26 audience, she gave the pope a copy of the book, which also contains a preface Pope Francis wrote.

Maksymovicz told ANSA, the Italian wire service, Jan. 26 that she and Rodari decided it would be important to describe the experience of a child during the Holocaust, since so many books cover the experiences of adults who survived.

“One must not forget that more than 200,000 children died just at Auschwitz-Birkenau,” she said.

Even though she was only 3 years old when she and her young mother were taken to the extermination camp, she explained those memories are still vivid and correspond with facts and evidence found by researchers years later.

Her mother was sent to the camp because she was part of the partisan resistance movement in Belarus, while she, as a young child, was designated to become one of Mengele’s “guinea pigs,” she said.

Maksymovicz found her birth mother 17 years after her release from the camp in 1944, when she was adopted by a Polish family.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the day Pope Francis established as a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, the pope appealed for an end to all war and prayed that dialogue, the common good and reconciliation would prevail.

“Let us ask the Lord to grant that the country may grow in the spirit of brotherhood, and that all hurts, fears and divisions will be overcome,” he said at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall Jan. 26.

“May the prayers and supplications that today rise up to heaven touch the minds and hearts of world leaders, so that dialogue may prevail and the common good be placed ahead of partisan interests,” he said.

With rising tensions in the region and the threat of a possible Russian-Ukrainian conflict spreading, Pope Francis had set Jan. 26 as a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine.

With the day coinciding with his weekly audience, the pope asked people to pray throughout the day.

“Let us make our prayer for peace in the words of the Our Father, for it is the prayer of sons and daughters to the one Father, the prayer that makes us brothers and sisters, the prayer of children who plead for reconciliation and concord,” he said.

The pope said that as people remember the Holocaust on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also “think about the more than 5 million people who were annihilated (in Ukraine) during the time of the last war. They are a suffering people, they suffered famine, they suffered so much cruelty and they deserve peace.”

During a prayer service in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, said that war and its serious consequences deprive many people of their most fundamental rights. The Jan. 26 prayer service was sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio.

“It is even more scandalous to see that those who suffer most from conflicts are not those who decide whether or not to start them but are above all those who are just defenseless victims,” the archbishop said.

“It is truly sad to see entire populations torn apart by so much suffering caused not by natural disasters or events beyond human control, but by the ‘hand of man,’ by actions made not in a violent outburst, but carefully calculated and carried out in a systematic way,” he said.

Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014 and, shortly afterward, Russian-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian government forces in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Some 1.5 million people have fled the region to other parts of Ukraine and thousands of civilians and soldiers have died or been injured.

While in the spring of 2021 Russia was accused by many Western nations of trying to provoke more active fighting by holding military exercises near the border, a massive Russian buildup of troops just over the border created alarm in early December. The buildup has continued and, late Jan. 22, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a statement saying it had evidence that Russia was developing plans to install a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.


A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces is seen at combat positions at the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels near the village of Novomykhalivka in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022. Pope Francis at his Jan. 23 Sunday Angelus said he is deeply concerned by growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine and called for a day of prayer for peace Jan. 26. (CNS photo/Anna Kudriavtseva, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was worried about Ukraine and how a possible Russian-Ukrainian conflict could spread, Pope Francis proclaimed Jan. 26 as a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Responding to a buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian-Russian border and the inability of major powers to agree on a solution, Catholic bishops in Ukraine and Poland and Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States also called for prayers for the prevention of war.

After reciting the Angelus prayer Jan. 23, Pope Francis said, “I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to strike a new blow at peace in Ukraine and put into question the security of the European continent, with even wider repercussions.”

“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill to pray to Almighty God that all political actions and initiatives will serve human fraternity rather than partisan interests,” the pope said.

“Those who pursue their own goals to the detriment of others despise their vocation as human beings, because we have all been created brothers and sisters,” he said. “For this reason and with concern given the current tensions, I propose that next Wednesday, Jan. 26, be a day of prayer for peace.”

Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the U.S. asked Catholics to pray, be informed, and donate to help those affected by Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis. “People near the front line often lack the basics – clean water, food, clothes, medicine,” they said.

They compared Russian buildup of troops to King Herod’s thirst for power and hegemony.

“This is a question of life and death, as nostalgia for an empire lost has led to senseless slaughter and immense suffering throughout Ukraine,” said the Jan. 22 statement signed by all five Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States.

“The war in Ukraine is real. It kills, maims and destroys daily. An escalated Russian invasion will generate additional millions of refugees, more dead and injured, more tears and pain. Still, the people of Ukraine courageously endure. As they stand with a gun to their head, they ask for our solidarity,” they said.

In a statement Jan. 24, Catholic bishops in Ukraine and Poland cited former popes, papal encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to show Catholic teaching that war is never the answer to problems.

“The current situation represents a great danger for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the entire European continent, which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe,” said the joint statement.

“We call upon those in power to refrain from hostilities. We encourage leaders to immediately withdraw from the path of ultimatums and the use of other countries as bargaining chips. Differences in interests must be resolved not by the use of arms, but through agreements,” they said.

They included a prayer from St. John Paul II that said, in part: “Hear the cry of all your children, the anguished plea of all humanity. Let there be no more war — an evil adventure from which there is no turning back; let there be no more war — a maelstrom of struggle and violence. Grant that the war … which threatens your creatures in heaven, on earth, and at sea may cease.”

Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014 and, shortly afterward, Russian-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian government forces in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Some 1.5 million people have fled the region to other parts of Ukraine and thousands of civilians and soldiers have died or been injured.

While in the spring of 2021 Russia was accused by many Western nations of trying to provoke more active fighting by holding military exercises near the border, a massive Russian buildup of troops just over the border created alarm in early December. The buildup has continued and, late Jan. 22, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a statement saying it had evidence that Russia was developing plans to install a pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

An Appeal of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of the United States


A new lector receives a Bible from Pope Francis during a Mass marking Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 23, 2022. At the Mass, the pope formally installed women and men in the ministries of lector and catechist. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Highlighting the importance of the Bible in the life of faith and the role of lay women and men in sharing the Gospel, Pope Francis formally installed eight men and women in the ministry of lector and eight others in the ministry of catechist.

During Mass Jan. 23, the church’s celebration of Sunday of the Word of God, the pope used a revised rite for formally installing lectors, a ministry he opened to women a year earlier, and the new rite for the ministry of catechist, which he established in May.

In most countries, women and men have long served as lectors and catechists and even have been commissioned for those roles. But those formally installed in the ministries are recognized as having a specific vocation to leadership in their communities and will serve in what the church defines as a “stable” manner.

Pope Francis installed six women – from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana and Italy – and two Italian men in the ministry of lector, telling them they were placing themselves “in the service of the faith, which is rooted in the word of God.”

As they knelt on the marble floor before the main altar, Pope Francis prayed over them and told them, “You will proclaim that word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith and prepare them to receive the sacraments worthily. You will bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it.”

Three women from Spain, Brazil and Ghana and five men from Italy, Peru, Brazil and Poland were installed as catechists, and Pope Francis told them they were called “to live more intensely the apostolic spirit, following the example of those men and women who helped Paul and the other apostles to spread the Gospel.”

They, too, knelt before the altar as the pope said, “May your ministry always be rooted in a profound life of prayer, built on sound doctrine and animated by true apostolic enthusiasm.”

Pope Francis gave each of the lectors a Bible and the catechists a crucifix modeled after the crucifix on the crosier regularly used by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II.

In December, the Vatican released the Latin text of the Rite of Institution of Catechists and said the revised Latin text for the Rite for the Institution of Lectors and Acolytes would be published soon. Bishops’ conferences will translate the texts into local languages.

In his homily, the pope said the 16 lectors and catechists “are called to the important work of serving the Gospel of Jesus, of proclaiming him, so that his consolation, his joy and his liberation can reach everyone.”

But, the pope said, “that is also the mission of each one of us: to be credible messengers, prophets of God’s word in the world.”

For that to happen, he said, Christians must devote themselves to reading the Bible, digging “deep within the word that reveals God’s newness and leads us tirelessly to love others.”

“Let us put the word of God at the center of the church’s life and pastoral activity,” he said.

Jesus, through the Scriptures, “reveals the face of God as one who cares for our poverty and takes to heart our destiny,” the pope said. “God is not an overlord, aloof and on high, but a Father who follows our every step.”

“This is the ‘good news’ that Jesus proclaims to the amazement of all: God is close at hand, and he wants to care for me and for you, for everyone. He wants to relieve the burdens that crush you, to warm your wintry coldness, to brighten your daily dreariness and to support your faltering steps,” he said.

Faith, prayer and Bible reading, he said, also should prompt Christians to read out to others with that same kind of care and consolation.

Through the Gospels, the pope said, it is clear that Jesus “has not come to deliver a set of rules or to officiate at some religious ceremony; rather, he has descended to the streets of our world in order to encounter our wounded humanity, to caress faces furrowed by suffering, to bind up broken hearts and to set us free from chains that imprison the soul. In this way, he shows us the worship most pleasing to God: caring for our neighbor.”

Pope Francis said “rigidity” can be a temptation in the church, giving some people the idea that the stricter they are and the more they follow precise norms the better Catholics they will be. But, he said, “our God is not like that.”

A spiritual life without care for others and work for justice may put a person “in orbit” but it touches no one, he said. “The Word of God became flesh and wants to become flesh in us.”

“Sacred Scripture has not been given to us for our entertainment, to coddle us with an angelic spirituality,” he said, “but to make us go forth and encounter others, drawing near to their wounds.”

SCRANTON – Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will celebrate Mass for the 30th World Day of the Sick on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The annual Mass is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in health care institutions and within families and communities.

This year, the faithful will once again pray in a particular way for those who have suffered – and continue to suffer – the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mass is a special time to pray for healing and recovery of those sickened by the virus and for the medical community that has been on the frontlines of battling the coronavirus.

While in-person participation is encouraged, those who are unable to attend will be able to view the World Day of the Sick Mass live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton. A livestream will also be made available on the Diocese of Scranton website and across all Diocesan social media platforms.

In his message for the 2022 World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis said although scientists have made great strides in the field of medicine, genuine care and listening to those who suffer must always be at the forefront of any therapy.

“Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can disregard listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears,” the pope said.

Care that respects each patient’s “dignity and frailties” is especially needed when “healing is not possible,” he added.

“It is always possible to console; it is always possible to make people sense a closeness that is more interested in the person than in his or her pathology,” the pope wrote.

SCRANTON — As has been a tradition for nearly 50 years, the Diocese of Scranton looks forward to joining with Catholic schools across the country to celebrate Catholic Schools Week this month.

Customarily observed during the last week of January, the 2022 edition of Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated Jan. 30-Feb. 5. Each of the 19 schools in the Scranton Diocesan education system is planning numerous activities for students, families, parishioners and community members to mark this year’s celebration.

Schools typically celebrate the weeklong observance with liturgies, open houses and other programs and events focusing on the value of Catholic education, which benefits not only young people but churches, communities and the nation itself.

“While we invite and welcome families at any time throughout the year, Catholic Schools Week is a time when our current and prospective families join together to experience what sets our schools apart,” Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer, said. “Our unwavering commitment to serving students, particularly throughout the pandemic, ensures that we excel at providing the optimal environment to grow and achieve one’s God-given potential. We welcome you to be a part of the Catholic school difference.”

The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) continues to emphasize the central theme that has highlighted recent Catholic Schools Week celebrations: “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence, Service.”

The week’s theme calls attention to the purpose of Catholic schools — to form disciples, to grow the whole person and encourage students to be witnesses to Catholic social teaching.

“As we approach Catholic Schools Week we are reminded of the incredible dedication of our teachers, staff and administration who provide the most excellent education in the most compassionate, safe and welcoming atmosphere,” Superintendent of Schools Kristen Donohue said. “Our steady delivery of instruction stretches beyond academic excellence; it very naturally includes a focus on the spiritual, emotional and social well-being of our students, faculty, staff and administrators. We are proud of the commitment of our Catholic schools to this vitally important mission.”

In addition to holding fun events for students, numerous Diocesan schools celebrate Catholic Schools Week by engaging students in selfless service to others — a central aspect of Catholic education.

Catholic schools offer academic excellence and a faith-filled education for their students. National test scores, high school graduation rates, college attendance and other data show that Catholic schools frequently outperform schools in both the public and private sectors.

Based on the average public school per pupil cost of nearly $13,000, Catholic schools also provide $22 billion in savings each year for the nation.

Pope Francis speaks as Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, looks on during a meeting with representatives of bishops’ conferences from around the world at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2021, file photo. Cardinal Grech and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, released a joint prayer that calls for the Catholic church to “walk together with all Christians” during the synod process. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – All Christians are invited to pray for unity and continue to journey together, said Cardinals Mario Grech, general secretary of the Synod of the Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Toward that end, the two offices came together to offer a prayer, which could be added to the other intentions during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25.

Inspired by the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him,” the prayer “offers a propitious occasion to pray with all Christians that the synod will proceed in an ecumenical spirit,” the two cardinals said in a joint news release Jan. 17.

“Conscious of our need for the accompaniment and the many gifts of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we call on them to journey with us during these two years and we sincerely pray that Christ will lead us closer to him and so to one another,” they said.

The prayer is:
“Heavenly Father, as the Magi journeyed toward Bethlehem led by the star, so by your heavenly light, guide the Catholic Church to walk together with all Christians during this time of synod. As the Magi were united in their worship of Christ, lead us closer to your Son and so to one another, so that we become a sign of the unity that you desire for your church and the whole creation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Cardinals Koch and Grech have been highlighting ways the local churches can implement an ecumenical dimension of the synodal process given that “synodality and ecumenism are processes of walking together,” they wrote in a joint letter dated Oct. 28, 2021, sent to bishops responsible for ecumenism within their episcopal conferences.

The Catholic Church inaugurated a synodal process, titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission” in October 2021. It will lead to a general assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.

Because a synodal church is a church which listens, “this listening should concern the totality of those who are honored by the name of Christian, since all the baptized participate to some degree in the sensus fidei,” Cardinals Grech and Koch wrote.

Ecumenism is an “exchange of gifts” and “one of the gifts Catholics can receive from the other Christians is precisely their experience and understanding of synodality,” they added.

Among the suggestions in the letter, the cardinals ask that dioceses reach out to the leaders of the main Christian communities in their area, inform them about the synodal process, invite them to appoint delegates to participate in the pre-synodal diocesan meetings and possibly to address the diocesan synodal assembly, organize listening sessions, and encourage them to send written reflections on the questionnaire included in the preparatory document.

Pope Francis blesses people during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 19, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God is not frightened by people’s sins, mistakes or failures, Pope Francis said.

What God is afraid of is “the closure of our hearts – this, yes, this makes him suffer – he is frightened by our lack of faith in his love,” the pope said Jan. 19 during his weekly general audience.

Everybody must “square accounts” with what they have done, but “settling the accounts with God is a beautiful thing because we start talking and he embraces us” with tenderness, the pope said.

Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about St. Joseph, reflecting on his tenderness.

Very little detail is found in the Gospels about St. Joseph’s fatherly approach, but “we can be sure that his being a ‘just’ man also translated into the education he gave to Jesus,” the pope said.

Jesus understood God’s tenderness and love, experiencing it first through St. Joseph, he said. “The things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences.”

“There is great tenderness in the experience of God’s love, and it is beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself,” he said.

In fact, Jesus always used the word “father” to speak of God and his love, he said. The most memorable account of God’s mercy is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, who expected punishment for his sins, but instead “he finds himself wrapped in his father’s embrace.”

“Tenderness is something greater than the logic of the world. It is an unexpected way of doing justice,” Pope Francis said.

“That is why we must never forget that God is not frightened by our sins,” he said, because God “is greater than our sins: he is the father, he is love, he is tender.”

Tenderness is “the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God’s love,” the pope said.

“The Lord does not take away all our weaknesses, but helps us to walk on with our weaknesses, taking us by the hand” and walking by people’s side, he said.

“The experience of tenderness consists in seeing God’s power pass through precisely that which makes us most fragile; on the condition, however, that we are converted from the gaze of the Evil One who ‘makes us see and condemn our frailty,’ while the Holy Spirit ‘brings it to light with tender love,'” the pope said, quoting from his apostolic letter on St. Joseph, “Patris corde.”

If the devil ever speaks the truth to people, it is because he is twisting it “to tell us a lie” and to “condemn us,” the pope said. “Instead, the Lord tells us the truth and reaches out his hand to save us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us.”

The world needs this “revolution of tenderness” and, without it, “we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to rise easily and that confuses redemption with punishment,” he added.

With this in mind, the pope highlighted what people in prison need most.

“It is right that those who have done wrong should pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have done wrong should be able to redeem themselves from their mistake. There cannot be sentences without a window of hope,” he said, which, in past speeches, he has explained would be sentences of life in prison or the death penalty.

“Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and think of God’s tenderness for them, and let us pray for them, so they might find in that window of hope a way out toward a better life.”

St. Irenaeus of Lyon is pictured in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario. Pope Francis received a formal recommendation Jan. 20 to declare St. Irenaeus of Lyon a doctor of the church, the Vatican announced. (CNS photo/The Crosiers)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis received a formal recommendation to declare St. Irenaeus of Lyon a doctor of the church, the Vatican said.

During a meeting with Pope Francis Jan. 20, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, asked the pope to “accept the affirmative opinion” of the cardinals and bishops who are congregation members to confer the title on the second-century theologian known for his defense of orthodoxy amid the rise of gnostic sects.

Once declared, St. Irenaeus would be the second doctor of the church named by Pope Francis after St. Gregory of Narek, who was given the designation in 2015. He would bring the total number of doctors of the church to 37.

Born in Smyrna, Asia Minor — now modern-day Turkey — St. Irenaeus was known as a staunch defender of the faith.

Concerned about the rise of gnostic sects within the early Christian church, he wrote “Adversus haereses” (“Against Heresies”), a refutation of gnostic beliefs that emphasized personal spiritual knowledge over faith in Christian teachings and in ecclesiastical authority.

In October, the pope had told members of the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group that he intended to declare their namesake a doctor of the church.

“Your patron, St. Irenaeus of Lyon — whom I will soon declare a doctor of the church with the title, ‘doctor unitatis’ (‘doctor of unity’) — came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West, and was a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” he said.

During his meeting with Cardinal Semeraro, Pope Francis also signed decrees recognizing how three sainthood candidates — one man and two women — heroically lived the Christian virtues. The three were:

— Italian Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi, the former prelate of Pompei, who was known for his devotion to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. He was born in 1925 and died in 2007.

— Italian Sister Maria Teresa De Vincenti, founder of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart. She was born in 1872 and died in 1936.

— Italian Sister Gabriella Borgarino, a member of the Daughters of Charity. She was born in 1880 and died in 1949.