EXETER – In his two decades serving as a chaplain to the Pennsylvania State Police, Father Thomas Muldowney has faced some of the most difficult situations imaginable. He has also been a witness to the miraculous.

“I’ve seen two miracles in my life. I’m eternally grateful,” Father Muldowney told a crowd of young adults gathered for a Theology on Tap event April 11 at Sabatini’s Bottleshop.

Father Thomas Muldowney, Pastor, Saint Catherine of Siena Parish, Moscow, speaks on the topic of “Trauma, Self-Image & Spiritual Formation” during a Theology on Tap session April 11 at Sabatini’s Bottleshop in Exeter. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Father Muldowney was invited to speak on the topic of “Trauma, Self-Image & Spiritual Formation: How Trauma Impacts How We See Ourselves and God.”

“Trauma is an emotional response to a very bad situation,” Father Muldowney told the group gathered.

After discussing the signs of trauma and how people deal with trauma from a psychological perspective, the pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow also talked about the spiritual implications of trauma, giving examples of the real-life situations he has faced.

“Many people turn to their spirituality, their religion, as a sense of support and coping. People turn to their spirituality and say, ‘God will get me through this,’” Father Muldowney said.

Conversely, when faced with traumatic experiences, like the death of a loved one, others wonder why God would punish them or take away their loved one.

“I always respond, ‘My God is not a punitive God. God is a loving, merciful God, and bad things happen because of human nature,’” the pastor added.

Father Muldowney is board certified as a Crisis Chaplain and Trauma Expert. He is certified in Crisis Intervention and in Emergency Crisis Response and has been designated as a Diplomate by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

“When people go through traumatic events in their life, it has a holistic effect on their entire being,” he stated. “We cannot take away our traumatic experiences, but we can have a path of healing as we move forward.”

Father Muldowney’s message was something that impacted and interested many in the crowd.

“It was really incredible to see such a dedicated priest who is working in the field of trauma and to see how his past careers have informed how he ministers now to people,” Courtney Schmidt, who works in campus ministry at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, said. “It was also really incredible to hear him talk about miracles that he has seen and tie his faith into a field of science and medicine. It was really cool to see him explain how these personal stories of ministering to others have impacted his own faith life.”

Evan Gedrich, a parishioner of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Duryea, said many of the things Father Muldowney discussed he had never considered before.

“Father Muldowney was incredible,” Gedrich said. “It’s great that we have priests in the Diocese with backgrounds other than the typical seminary experience because that really nourishes the people well.”

The purpose of Theology on Tap events is two-fold. It not only provides young adults with a chance to gather as a community but allows them to learn more about topics relevant to their faith lives.

“I think it is easy or tempting for young adults to think they’re the only ones who feel a certain way – or are the only ones who have certain questions about life or faith – so when you come to an event like this, it’s really easy to see that you’re not the only one who has questions. You’re not the only one who is interested,” Shannon Kowalski, Diocesan Director of Pontifical Missions & Service, said.

LAFLIN – Dozens of people gathered at Saint Maria Goretti Parish on April 4 to celebrate the beginning of the Easter season by adoring Christ in the Eucharist and praising Him for the gift of faith.

The Diocese of Scranton Vocations Office and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Scranton teamed up to sponsor the inaugural ‘Festival of Praise.’

The music ministry team from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Scranton, along with Joel Kankiewicz, perform during the ‘Festival of Praise’ at Saint Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin April 4, 2024. (Photo/Dan Piazza)

“It was an absolutely incredible event,” Matthew Kelly, a parishioner of Saint Gregory Parish in Clarks Green, said. “I look forward to many events like the Festival of Praise to connect with other Catholics, because especially now in today’s world, young Catholics in the Church are always looking for something greater than ourselves.”

Beautiful music, led by Joel Kankiewicz and the Charismatic Renewal’s music ministry, was a signature part of the event.

Kyra Krzywicki, Vocation Program Coordinator for the Diocese of Scranton, also gave a reflection on the goodness of God, the power of discerning his will, and his everlasting love.

“I really prayed in preparing this speech that the Lord would pierce hearts and speak to them a unique message for each person here,” she said. “Looking out at their faces during the talk, it’s really powerful to see how the Lord is affecting people through you. I know that none of it is me, it’s all Him!”

Krzywicki’s message really touched Joni Host, a parishioner of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Montrose, who attended the event.

“The speech that Kyra gave tonight really resonated with me. The idea of praise, giving forth praise to God at all times, first and last, is such an important thing. I really liked the message,” Host said.

Host said the ‘Festival of Praise’ was filled with people, both young and old, who have a passion and zeal for the Catholic faith. She said that was “encouraging to see.”

“I think it’s really important to strengthen each other, iron sharpens iron, and then to go forth into the world and bring Christ’s Good News,” she added.

Kelly agreed with that sentiment.

“Everybody here tonight might be going through something personally, whether it be hope, sadness, sorrow or joy, but we’re all here together as one,” he said. “We have so many differences but at the end of the day, we share one similarity, we worship the same God and the same Christ!”

EAST STROUDSBURG- Thanks to the geneorsity of its parishioners, Saint Matthew Parish was recently able to raise more than $6,000 to support pro-life efforts in the community.

The parish held a baby bottle drive to collect funds for Shepherd’s Maternity House in East Stroudsburg, which is operated by Catholic Social Services, as well as the Pregnancy Resource Center of the Poconos, and Saint Joseph’s Center in Scranton.

Check presentations were recently held at each facility.

Presentation of check to Saint Joseph’s Baby Pantry March 21, 2024. Shown, left to right: Gerry Burns, Saint Matthew Pro-Life Committee Chairperson; Sister Maryalice Jacquinot, I.H.M., President & CEO, Saint Joseph’s Center; Patty Stys and Mary Labar, Saint Matthew Pro-Life Committee members; Tamara Hall, Saint Joseph’s Director of Adoption Services; and Father Don Williams, Pastor, Saint Matthew Parish.


Presentation of check to the Pregnancy Resource Center of the Poconos (PRCP) April 5, 2024. Shown, left to right: Anthony Matrisciano, Past Grand Knight Council 11434; Alice Marchesani, PRCP Executive Director; Gerry Burns, Dr. Nancy Gabana, and Mrs. Sophie Gabana, Saint Matthew Parish Pro-Life Committee; Frank Leo, Knights 11434 Culture of Life Director.


Presentation of check to Shepherd’s Maternity House in East Stroudsburg March 26, 2024. Shown, left to right: Frank Leo, Knights of Columbus Council 11434 Culture of Life Director; Patty Stys, co-founder, Shepherd’s Maternity House; Kathy Chelednik, Director, Shepherd’s Maternity House; Dr. Chris Lynch, Grand Knight of Council 11434, Saint Matthew Parish.



HARVEYS LAKE (OSV News) – Life on a small organic farm in northeastern Pennsylvania in the cool early days of spring, adapting to the rhythms of planting, livestock care and chores, can sound blissful to anyone buffeted by adult pressures and responsibilities.

Carmina Chapp hopes you think that. Because she does, too, and she believes a quiet pastoral setting helps deepen your faith.

Carmina Chapp, a Catholic theologian and founder of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pa., is pictured in an undated photo with her husband, Larry Chapp, a retired theology professor who taught for 20 years at DeSales University. The Chapps, Oblates of St. Benedict, established the farm in 2013 with the goal of providing food for people in need served by soup kitchens and food pantries as well as a place of contemplation for visitors encouraged to follow a Benedictine spirituality. (OSV News photo/courtesy the Chapp family)

Her big moment of discernment came while reading the 1952 autobiography of Dorothy Day, “The Long Loneliness,” which asserts that respite from life’s losses can be found in service to others.

After trying to live her Catholic faith through the examples of saints, priests and women religious, but not finding inspiration in long-ago figures, Chapp read Day (1897-1980), the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and still very much a contemporary figure. She realized, “This is it.”

Chapp, a Catholic theologian with degrees from Providence College and Duquesne University, is the founder of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm near the borough of Harveys Lake. Her husband, Larry Chapp, a retired theology professor who taught for 20 years at DeSales University, creates podcasts and blog posts under the title “Gaudium et Spes” (“Joy and Hope”).

The Chapps, Oblates of St. Benedict, established the farm in 2013 with the goal of providing food for people in need served by soup kitchens and food pantries as well as a place of contemplation for visitors encouraged to follow a Benedictine spirituality.

She touted the farm at a March 20 webinar sponsored by the Minnesota-based Catholic Rural Life.

“It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful, peaceful life,” Chapp said.

It came about after she and her husband prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the divine office, and found an identical discernment: “We need to simplify our lives” and “we need to feed people.”

The farm exemplifies the dignity of work – to “live by the labor of their hands” – as referenced in Chapter 48 of the Rule of Benedict, produced in the year 530.

“We’re in the mindset of we want to glorify God in our work now,” Chapp said. “Voluntary poverty, it’s called. We’re intentionally living as simple a life as we can, so we just don’t need very much.”

The Chapps, assisted by volunteers, raise produce – tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cabbages, cucumbers — and tend to chickens for the eggs, goats for the milk, and sheep for the wool, on eight of the property’s 11 acres.

As a noncommercial operation, the farm operates on a modest budget. A recent capital campaign raised $15,000, enabling the farm to meet annual expenses and buy a new goat milking shed as well as animal feed, and meet the cost of sheep shearing. Chapp processes the wool herself.

“It’s not a huge enterprise, but it’s big enough for us,” Chapp said. “I think our bigger mission is evangelization. It’s a place to show that it’s possible to follow God’s will. He won’t let you down.”

Although visiting volunteers are always welcome, there are no overnight accommodations on the farm, making day trips currently the easiest way to participate.

But the Benedictine virtue of hospitality comes into that as well. “It takes a lot of energy to host people and visit with people, but it’s brought us a lot of blessings,” she said.

“If we all answered the call of what God asked us to do, the world would work perfectly,” she added.

Chapp said the operation also is an example of Catholic social teaching in action.

Critics think “it’s sort of a modern thing” with its emphasis on social justice, but, she points out, it’s rooted in the 1891 encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, “Rerum Novarum” (“On Capital and Labor”), and it’s simply “the Gospel in action.”

“It’s actually a pretty intentional way the church deals with modern situations, particularly economic situations,” she said.

And it offers an important perspective.

“The world may tell you (that) you have to work 60 hours a week to make money, to get your promotion.” Chapp said. But this doesn’t answer the question, “Does this build the kingdom of God?”

In addition, the constant pressure of work can mean, “I’m not doing what my family really needs, which is my presence,” she said. Farm life, in which the chief pressure is always the weather, provides “so many opportunities to surrender to God’s will.”

As for Dorothy Day, her sainthood cause, launched in 1997 but officially opened in 2000, has been slow in making progress. In November, Msgr. Maurizio Tagliaferri was appointed by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints as the relator for her cause.

If the summary of her life of heroic virtue is accepted, she will be declared “venerable.” After that, evidence of two miracles attributed to her intercession is required for canonization. In general, one such miracle is required for beatification and a second one for canonization.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Final regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will grant workers protections for time off and other job accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions like miscarriage, stillbirth and lactation – but also for abortion, which was opposed by many of the bill’s supporters.

The regulations govern the implementation of the bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2022, and went into effect the following June. The law prohibits employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for qualified employees due to their pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

But a rule proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August 2023 governing the implementation of that law contained broad language including abortion among “related medical conditions,” and the potential circumstances for which employers may have to grant workplace accommodations, such as time off for medical appointments or additional rest breaks.

The EEOC issued a notice on April 15 that the final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Apr. 19.

This is an infographic from the website of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Final regulations published for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act grants workers protections for time off and other job accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions like miscarriage, stillbirth and lactation — but also abortion. (OSV News illustration/Brett Brenner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)

The EEOC noted in its final rule that it had received 54,000 comments against, and 40,000 comments for, the inclusion of abortion in the regulations. Regarding abortion’s ultimate inclusion in the regulations governing the workplace anti-discrimination law, it stated “the type of accommodation that most likely will be sought under the PWFA regarding an abortion is time off to attend a medical appointment or for recovery.”

In an April 15 statement, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said, “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a win for workers, families, and our economy.”

“It gives pregnant workers clear access to reasonable accommodations that will allow them to keep doing their jobs safely and effectively, free from discrimination and retaliation,” Burrows said.

Burrows said the EEOC has assisted women who have “experienced serious health risks and unimaginable loss” for the simple reason that they could not access reasonable accommodations.

“This final rule provides important information and guidance to help employers meet their responsibilities, and to jobseekers and employees about their rights,” she said. “It encourages employers and employees to communicate early and often, allowing them to identify and resolve issues in a timely manner.”

Dr. Verda J. Hicks, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement that the legislation “plays a critical role in protecting the health and improving the lives and well-being of people during and after pregnancy and in ensuring that people are able to continue working without jeopardizing their health.”

Hicks said the “broad, compassionate application of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will ensure that fewer workers are subject to unfair treatment, recrimination, or retaliation as a result of or after a pregnancy.”

But in a statement, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the rule “goes well beyond EEOC’s authority.”

“The PWFA was intended to ensure employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees,” Foxx said. “The PWFA does not apply to abortions. The term ‘abortion’ is not once mentioned in the law. Instead of following congressional intent, the Biden administration is using the regulatory process to advance radical policy goals.”

Many pro-life organizations, as well as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, backed the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, but have criticized the Biden administration’s inclusion of abortion in regulations implementing the law.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in August 2023 the bishops supported the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because it was “pro-worker, pro-family, and pro-life.” He called it “a total distortion to use this law as a means for advancing abortion, and the complete opposite of needed assistance for pregnant mothers.”

(OSV News) – Personal encouragement and Eucharistic adoration are crucial in fostering vocations to the priesthood, according to data from a newly released report.

On April 15, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University released the 2024 “Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” a report made directly to the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Father Jinwoo (Michael) Nam, a member of the Idente Missionaries, kneels in the sanctuary as a priest lays hands on him during his ordination to the priesthood at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y., June 10, 2023. Personal encouragement and Eucharistic adoration are crucial in fostering vocations to the priesthood, according to data from a report released April 15 by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The report comes in advance of the 61st annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations, celebrated this year on April 21, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday in the Latin Church. The Gospel passage (Jn 10:11-18) for the Mass highlights Jesus’ role as the Good Shepherd.

The online survey, which CARA has overseen since 2006, was completed by 392 of the 475 total ordinands for 2024 from both diocesan and religious order seminaries who were invited to participate. The ordinands represented 128 dioceses and 29 religious institutes in the U.S.

Most 2024 respondents said they had first considered a vocation when they were 16 years old, and their average age of ordination was 34, a number consistent with the range of 33-37 reported since 1999.

Two thirds (67%) of the ordination class is white; 18% Hispanic or Latino; 11% Asian, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian; and 2% are Black or African American. About one quarter (23%) of the ordinands are foreign-born — coming to live in the U.S. on average 14 years ago at 22 years old — with Mexico (5%), Vietnam (4%), Colombia (3%) and the Philippines (2%) the most common countries of origin among them.

A majority of ordinands (82%) said they grew up with both their parents as Catholic, and 29% reported having a relative who was a priest or religious.

More than half of the respondents (60%) had completed an undergraduate or graduate-level degree prior to entering the seminary, with business, liberal arts, philosophy and engineering topping the areas of study. Between 32% and 42% had attended a Catholic elementary school, high school or college.

Most ordinands (70%) had worked full time before entering the seminary, particularly in education (21%), business (16%) and church ministry (13%).

CARA’s executive director, Jesuit Father Thomas Gaunt, told OSV News that direct encouragement of young men to consider priestly life is a “perennial factor” in vocations, with 89% of the respondents, or nine in 10, reporting they had received such support – usually from a parish priest (63%), friend (41%) or parishioner (41%).

“You could almost say that … no one shows up at the seminary who was not encouraged,” Father Gaunt said. “We generally see that men were encouraged by one, two, three, four different people in their life.”

Eucharistic adoration also emerged as significant in vocational discernment, with 75% of the respondents noting they had regularly prayed before the Blessed Sacrament prior to entering the seminary. The rosary was also a favorite devotion for 71% of those surveyed; another 40% practiced lectio divina, or meditative prayer with Scripture.

PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) – Jesuit Father William J. Byron, known for his leadership of Jesuit institutions of higher learning and his many years of lecturing, teaching and writing on the relationship between business practices and Catholic spirituality, died at Manresa Hall, the health center of the Jesuit community at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia April 9. He was 96.

Father Byron was a former president of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, 1975-1982, and The Catholic University of America in Washington, 1982-1992. He spent a year as acting president of Loyola University New Orleans, 2003-2004, and served as president of his high school alma mater, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, 2006-2008.

Jesuit Father William J. Byron, a former president of The Catholic University of America in Washington and University of Scranton, Pa., and known for his writings on the relationship between business practices and Catholic spirituality, died at age 96 April 9, 2024. He is pictured in a file photo. (OSV News photo, CNS file)

His other leadership roles for the Society of Jesus included rector of the Jesuit community at Georgetown University in Washington, 1994-2000.

A funeral Mass for Father Byron will be celebrated April 20 at St. Matthias Church in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. A viewing will take place in the church at 10 a.m. followed by the Mass at 11 a.m.

Jesuit Father Joseph Marina, current president of the University of Scranton, said Father Byron “will be greatly missed.”

“As I walked into his room at the Jesuit infirmary, Father Byron was sitting up in his chair, alert but struggling,” Father Marina said in an April 9 message to the university community. “He managed to ask if I was the president at Scranton now. When I nodded yes, he said, ‘Take good care of it.'”

“Father Byron is among those who have given greatly to build a solid foundation for our mission and success at Scranton on which we continue to flourish to this very day,” Father Marina added.

During his tenure at Scranton, among other things, Father Byron launched a multimillion-dollar capital campaign for the school. Also, a new undergraduate college, the School of Management, was created, along with new programs including nursing and physical therapy.

After serving as Scranton’s 21st president, Father Byron became the first member of a religious order to be named president of The Catholic University of America in Washington. He was the school’s 12th president.

“Father Byron was an exceptional leader in Catholic higher education,” Catholic University’s current president, Peter Kilpatrick, said in an April 9 message to the university community. “Father Byron was known for being an inspiring intellectual who had an ability to connect powerfully with people and with ideas. Alumni remember him fondly for his close relationships with students, and for his leadership.”

He tripled the university’s endowment while fundraising the first $50 million that went toward the construction of more undergraduate housing, the Columbus School of Law building and the Pryzbyla Center, a venue at the heart of the campus for concerts, live stage performances, public forums and lectures.

Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey, was a student at Catholic University in the mid-1980s when Father Byron was president. “He left an impressive mark on CUA and I was privileged to succeed him there as president in 1998,” said Bishop O’Connell, who served as president until 2010. “He was a gifted Jesuit priest and academic leader who served several universities effectively and well. … May he rest in peace.”

After helming the nation’s only papally chartered university, he became a professor at Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington. At the same time he was rector of the Jesuit community at Georgetown and director of the university’s Center of Advanced Study of Ethics. He then was pastor for three years at nearby Holy Trinity Church, 2000 to 2003. Next, he was acting president at Loyola University New Orleans, followed by two years as a professor of economics at Loyola Maryland in Baltimore, 2004 to 2006, the year he became president of St. Joseph’s Prep.

Before retiring from academia in 2009, Father Byron taught a graduate course in the Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University. In his later years, he continued writing and publishing. In 2019, he moved to Manresa Hall at St. Joseph’s University, “where he enjoyed visits with students and never missed an opportunity to sing the St. Joseph’s prep fight song,” said a news release from the Jesuits’ USA East Province, based in New York.

Whether he was serving “as an administrator, professor or parish priest,” Father Byron “always made a concerted effort to build up community with his Jesuit brothers in unassuming ways and to promote the apostolates of the Society of Jesus with a discerning, generous, and upbeat spirit,” the province said in a statement.

Father Byron was the author of more than 20 books and dozens of articles. In 2001, he became a regular columnist for Catholic News Service. The biweekly column, titled “Looking Around,” covered current issues. He wrote his last column, which ran April 18, 2017, as a “fond farewell” to “those who have enjoyed my writing over the years.”

“Writing a column is like putting a note in a bottle and tossing it into the river so it can float down and across the bay and out into the ocean. You never know whose shore it will wash up on,” he said, noting that the latest of his many books, “Growing Old Gratefully,” would be published later that year by Paulist Press.

“Old age is a gift,” he said. “I can attest to that, so why not welcome it with gratitude?”

A Pittsburgh native who grew up in Philadelphia, William James Byron was born May 25, 1927. His father, a physician, died when Bill was 1, and his mother moved with him and his older brother, Harold, to Philadelphia’s East Germantown neighborhood. Both boys graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School.

After Bill turned 18, he registered for the draft and subsequently spent 17 weeks in the Army’s basic training camp near Macon, Georgia, but was never deployed overseas. After the war, he went to Germany as part of the Army of Occupation, where he joined the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He finished his tour of duty there in November 1946 and returned to Philadelphia.

He joined the Jesuit order in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1961 by Archbishop Francis P. Keough of Baltimore. He held degrees in philosophy and economics from St. Louis University, two theology degrees from Woodstock College and a doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland. Over his lifetime, he received 30 honorary degrees.

Father Byron’s career as an administrator began in October 1969 as an associate professor and rector of the Jesuit community at the now-closed Woodstock College, the Jesuit seminary in New York. It was relocated to New York from Baltimore in 1969 and closed in 1974.

He served on a number of boards for Catholic entities including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, which in 1999 bestowed on him its Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for his contributions over the years to the advancement of Catholic higher education. He was a founding director and chairman of Bread for the World, a Christian lobby group that fights hunger.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The morning after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, Pope Francis pleaded with nations to avoid a further escalation of the violence.

“I make a heartfelt appeal for a halt to any action that might fuel a spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict,” the pope said April 14 after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis gives his blessing to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 14, 2024, for his midday recitation of the “Regina Coeli” prayer. The pope pleaded with nations to exercise restraint and avoid an escalation of violence in the Middle East. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Iran launched 330 exploding drones and missiles at Israeli military facilities late April 13 and early April 14. The vast majority of the weapons were intercepted. 

Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “I am following in prayer and with concern, also sorrow, the news that has come in the last few hours about the worsening of the situation in Israel because of the intervention by Iran.”

“No one should threaten the existence of others,” the pope said. “Instead, all nations should take the side of peace, and help the Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side, in security.”

Israelis and Palestinians have a “deep and legitimate desire” to live peacefully and independently, he said, “and it is their right! Two neighboring states.”

Once again Pope Francis urged Israel and Hamas to stop the fighting in Gaza “and let the paths of negotiation be pursued with determination.”

“Let that population, plunged into a humanitarian catastrophe, be helped; let the hostages kidnapped months ago be freed at once,” he said, referring to the hundreds of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in October.

“So much suffering,” he said. “Let us pray for peace. No more war, no more attacks, no more violence! Yes to dialogue and yes to peace!”

Later in his remarks, addressing children and inviting them to participate in the first celebration of World Children’s Day at the Vatican in May, Pope Francis said everyone needs young people’s joy and their hopes “for a better world, a world at peace.”

“Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for the children who are suffering because of wars — there are so many — in Ukraine, in Palestine, in Israel, in other parts of the world, in Myanmar,” he said. “Let’s pray for them and for peace.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis is planning to make the longest trip of his papacy in September, visiting Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Singapore, the Vatican press office announced.

During the 12-day Asian tour, the press office said April 12, he intends to visit: Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, Sept. 3-6; Port Moresby and Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, Sept. 6-9; Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, Sept. 9-11; and Singapore Sept. 11-13.

Pope Francis answers a question from a journalist aboard his flight back to Rome from Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023, after his two-day trip there. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The last papal trip announced by the Vatican — a visit to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 for the U.N. climate conference — was canceled three days before Pope Francis was scheduled to leave because he was suffering from bronchitis.

The longest foreign trip Pope Francis has made was his September 2015 visit to Cuba and the United States. Vatican News, which tracks the length of papal trips by both days and distance, said the 2015 trip lasted eight days, 23 hours and 45 minutes and covered a distance of 19,171 kilometers, which is close to 12,000 miles.

The Vatican did not mention the possibility of the 87-year-old pope extending the trip to include Vietnam.

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, was visiting Vietnam April 9-14. According to Vatican News, he discussed a possible papal trip to the country when he met April 10 with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chính, Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Son and Home Affairs Minister Pham Thi Thanh Trà.

In an Italian television interview Jan. 14, Pope Francis said, “In August I have to make a trip to Polynesia.” It was widely assumed he was referring to a trip originally planned for 2020 to Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and perhaps other countries, but plans were scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ten days later, the foreign minister of Papua New Guinea said his government had received an “official note” that Pope Francis intended to visit the country for three days in August, but the director of the Vatican press office had said plans for a trip were in the “very preliminary” stages at that point.

Pope Francis would be the third pope to visit Indonesia. St. Paul VI visited in 1970, and St. John Paul II went to the country in 1989 on a trip that also included Timor-Leste. St. John Paul II made two brief visits to Papua New Guinea in 1984 and 1995.

The Polish pope, who set an absolute record for both the number of countries he visited and the number of trips he made, had spent five hours in Singapore in 1986 during a trip that included Bangladesh, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the Seychelles.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Today’s “throwaway culture,” driven by “profit, efficiency and success,” marginalizes people with disabilities and threatens their God-given dignity, Pope Francis said.

Using “utilitarian and functional criteria” to decide the value of a human life can lead to “serious violations of the rights of the weakest people” and create “great injustice and inequality,” he told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences April 11.

Pope Francis greets to members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences during a meeting at the Vatican April 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The academy, formed by scholars from around the globe, held a three-day plenary session on “Disability and the Human Condition” at the Vatican.

Meeting with them on the last day of their conference, Pope Francis highlighted a “less visible and very insidious” aspect of today’s culture that erodes the value of disabled persons in the eyes of society: “the tendency that leads one to consider their own existence a burden to his- or herself and to his or her loved ones.”

“The spread of this mentality transforms the throwaway culture into a culture of death,” he said.

The pope condemned the idea that certain lives are “not needed,” such as the unborn who are aborted or the elderly who pursue assisted suicide.

To combat a “throwaway culture,” Pope Francis proposed promoting a “culture of inclusion” which removes the barriers that impede all people from accessing basic rights and freedoms.

While he said such active efforts are predominantly seen in economically developed countries, the pope encouraged the international community to support the efforts of poorer nations to further include disabled persons in all fields of society, including education, culture, work and sport.

Yet Pope Francis also noted that true inclusion occurs “when people with disabilities are not passive recipients but participate in social life as protagonists of change.”

The pope underscored the injustice of people and their families being pushed to the margins of society due to disability, particular in poor countries, but he noted how even in wealthier contexts a person’s disability “is considered a ‘personal tragedy'” and not taken into consideration by the whole of society.

Jesus did not ignore or turn away people with disabilities, he said, rather he went out to meet them and “changed the meaning of their experience.”

“Indeed, for him, every human condition, even those marked by great limitations, is an invitation to weave a singular relationship with God who makes people flourish once again,” the pope said.