ROME (OSV News) – Israel’s escalation in Rafah is only worsening the humanitarian situation for countless men, women and children caught in the crossfire, said Ireneusz Krause, deputy director for Caritas Poland.

In a statement released May 7, Krause said that Caritas Poland workers were on the ground and working to help the ‘desperately hungry people trapped in the rubble of bombed cities, dying wounded, emaciated from thirst with no access to drinkable water, with no hope for help.”

Displaced Palestinians wait to evacuate a tent camp after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. (OSV News photo/Hatem Khaled, Reuters)

“According to international law, humanitarian aid should reach the civilian victims of any conflict and access to it should never be one of the bargaining chips in negotiations,” he said.

“Convoy crossings in a humanitarian crisis should be unquestionably open,” Krause added.

Despite cease-fire talks continuing in Cairo, a brigade of Israeli tanks seized control May 7 of the southern Gaza Strip town, which borders Egypt. In doing so, Israel not only threatened a further escalation of the conflict, but further prevented aid from entering into the strip, when the head of the United Nations World Food Program said northern Gaza is experiencing “full-blown famine.”

According to the Associated Press, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended seizing control of the Rafah crossing as a strategic step in dismantling Hamas’ government and military capability.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has warned against escalating the conflict on humanitarian grounds in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians have fled to escape the war in other areas of Gaza.

Caritas Poland, which is working in partnership with Caritas Jerusalem, said that it has workers on the ground and that arrangements for more humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip “are being made in Jerusalem.”

Nevertheless, the Catholic charitable organization said that an attack on Rafah would only “worsen the humanitarian situation.”

“Due to the blocking of humanitarian convoys, there is a shortage of food and residents are suffering from hunger; 75% of the Gaza Strip’s population — nearly 2 million people — have been internally displaced,” Caritas Poland said in a statement.

In a telephone interview, Dominika Chylewska and Sylwia Hazboun, two Caritas Poland employees working from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, told OSV News that food security for Palestinians caught in the crossfire is at a critical level.

“Everything is in a state of chaos,” Hazboun said. When it comes to food security, “on a scale from 1 to 5, the entire Gaza Strip is on the third level of famine. Some researchers have pointed out that at the end of the month, northern Gaza will be on the fifth level of this 1 to 5 scale.”

Soaring prices and limited access to very basic necessities, she added, have also contributed to the chaos.

Chylewska told OSV News that to flee Gaza is a rare feat, she noted, given that “it costs about $5,000 to $6,000” to flee.

Chylewska recalled the latest tragedy that struck the Catholic Gaza community amid news that, during a 100-degree heat wave at the end of April, 18-year-old Lara al-Sayegh died of heatstroke and sunstroke.

She and her mother were making an almost 20-mile trek, mostly on foot, from Gaza City — where they had been sheltering at the Holy Family Parish — to the Rafah crossing in the south after receiving permission to leave Gaza. Lara’s father had died in December due to lack of medical care. Her mother also suffered from sunstroke, as well as shock from losing her daughter, and fell into a coma.

“What is striking me the most is that the international community is not doing enough to stop this,” Hazboun told OSV News. While humanitarian aid is needed, it does not help in solving the “root of the problem.”

“Whatever we do is only a reaction to human suffering, but we are not healing the root causes; the root causes can only be healed by the international community and they are not being healed,” Hazboun said.

Chylewska added that people following the conflict in the media are not aware of soaring food prices that have made it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain food.

“That’s what surprised me,” she said. For example, “if you want to buy flour, you would have to pay €370 ($398). That is why most of the people have no food to eat or they eat very little. It was calculated that (they eat about) 245 calories. This is what people can get in a day; it’s less than a yogurt. So, I think this really brings some real images of how hard the situation is.”

Furthermore, she said, not enough food and humanitarian aid are entering Gaza even though international law dictates “that civilians should be taken care of no matter what happens,” Chylewska indicated.

“This is a fact — that not enough humanitarian assistance is entering the Gaza Strip,” she said. “It’s not like there isn’t enough help being offered; it’s only that not enough is being allowed to enter the Gaza Strip.”

The war has also affected Palestinians living in Bethlehem and the West Bank, who are struggling “with having money for everyday life’ due to the lack of tourism in the Holy Land,” she added.

Hazboun noted that while the current war may be the largest in scale, it is “not the first escalation in this conflict.”

“We have to remember that we should not only be hopeful for an immediate cease-fire, but (also for) negotiations to solve the conflict or to find a just solution for the conflict, which takes into consideration the equality of both peoples.”

“Only a just solution and equality will bring peace to this land,” Hazboun said.

Despite the dire circumstances, both Chylewska and Hazboun told OSV News “that there is always hope” and encouraged people to financially support Caritas “because this is the only way the organization can continue to help.”

“This help will be needed for many years because the situation is very bad,” Chylewska said.

Hazboun expressed her hope that the Catholic Church can strengthen its advocacy not just for an immediate cease-fire but also for a just solution to the conflict, as the “church is the only institution on a global level that has such a balanced approach, which is taking into consideration the well-being and equality of both peoples as well as the need to reconcile.”

The church “should not only be helping, but also advocating and educating the international community, and especially Catholics, about its position, not only with general words about peace, but from a theological point of view and from the political point of view.

“Everything comes down to the equality of both peoples and the exact same rights for both people to live in their own country,” Hazboun said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – For more than 700 years, the Catholic Church has celebrated “jubilee” or “holy” years as special times to renew people’s faith and experience God’s forgiveness, particularly by going on pilgrimage.

The official Vatican website for the Holy Year 2025 — — says, “In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII called the first Jubilee, also known as a ‘Holy Year,’ since it is a time in which God’s holiness transforms us.”

Popes typically announce a jubilee every 25 years, although extraordinary holy years have been proclaimed for special anniversaries and occasions — for example, the Holy Year 1983 marked the 1,950th anniversary of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the 2015-2106 Jubilee of Mercy called all Catholics to reflect on God’s mercy and compassion.

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Vatican in this file photo from Dec. 8, 2015. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While the main purpose and some of the key features of a holy year have remained unchanged over the centuries, each pope who called a jubilee has put his own spin on it, usually in response to changes he sees in the church or the world.

The preparations for the Holy Year 2025 officially began in February 2022 when Pope Francis announced the jubilee’s theme, “Pilgrims of Hope,” and said the focus would be on “restoring a climate of hope and trust” after the coronavirus pandemic and on helping people repair their relationships with God, with each other and with the Earth.

But the formal kickoff for a holy year is the publication of a papal “bull of indiction,” and the pope’s formal delivery of the document to the archpriests of the papal basilicas of St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major and other church representatives.

The document is named for the round seal — a “bulla” in Latin — which used to be made of metal and is now simply an ink stamp. The bull officially announces the opening and closing dates of the holy year and outlines the aims of the celebrations.

Excerpts of the bull are read in front of the bricked-up Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of the pope.

The removal of the bricks, the opening of the Holy Door by the pope and pilgrims passing through the doorway are central symbols of a jubilee celebration and have been since the Holy Year 1500 during the papacy of Pope Alexander VI.

The current Holy Door, with its 16 bronze panels made by Vico Consorti, were consecrated and the door first opened Dec. 24, 1949, by Pope Pius XII in proclamation of the 1950 Jubilee, a scene represented in the bottom right panel.

For centuries, the doors were opened with a silver hammer, not a key, “because the doors of justice and mercy give way only to the force of prayer and penance,” according to “Mondo Vaticano,” a mini encyclopedia published by the Vatican.

The theme of human sin and God’s mercy is illustrated in the other 15 panels on the door, with episodes from both the Old and New Testament, including the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Annunciation, and the Prodigal Son.

Between the panels on the door at St. Peter’s are little shields with the coats of arms of all the popes that have opened it for a holy year.

Another key ingredient of a holy year — one that is much less tangible and often confusing — are the indulgences that pilgrims receive during a jubilee after making a pilgrimage or doing some sort of penance, going to confession, receiving Communion, making a profession of faith and praying for the intentions of the pope.

Perhaps as an indication of the confusion, Vatican News published a 3,200-word article about indulgences May 7.

The Code of Canon Law says, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment for sin, the guilt of which is already forgiven.”

With an indulgence, Vatican News said, “one can obtain more than simple forgiveness and, in fact, return to the state of grace one had with baptism. It is as if the slate were wiped clean, given a complete wash.”

“An indulgence is a mercy that, like abundant rain, falls on a person and transforms him or her, orienting the person to goodness, to love, to fraternity,” healing what sin had wounded, Bishop Antonio Staglianò, president of the Pontifical Theological Academy, told Vatican News.

In the modern era, a holy year is made up of dozens of specific jubilees. No matter how young or old, no matter what their vocation or profession, almost every Catholic will find a date set aside for him or her on the Vatican’s Holy Year 2025 calendar.

Journalists, artists, soldiers, grandparents, deacons, prisoners, government officials, missionaries and the poor all will have their day. The calendar is available on the Holy Year 2025 website.

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


(OSV News) – By boats, over bridges and along byways, pilgrims on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s eastern route will accompany the Eucharist to many sites associated with America’s saints as they make their way across eight states and the District of Columbia.

Beginning in New Haven, Connecticut, May 18, the day before Pentecost, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route is one of four National Pilgrimage Routes that will converge in Indianapolis ahead of the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress. The pilgrimage and the congress are part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that launched in 2022.

The roughly 1,000-mile route will be traveled by six perpetual pilgrims accompanied by Father Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, who serves as the Catholic chaplain at Columbia University in New York. While Catholics may join the pilgrims for legs of their journey, they are especially encouraged to join the route’s public events, which include Masses, all-night adoration, a boat-based procession, service projects, testimonies, socializing and meals with regional flair. The route is named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, and includes stops at places she served in New York and Maryland.

The following is a list of selected highlights from the pilgrimage’s Eastern route. Find information for the full Seton Route at

— Blessed Michael McGivney Parish, New Haven, Connecticut: The pilgrimage begins May 18 with a solemn, extended vigil Mass for Pentecost followed by all-night Eucharistic adoration at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Blessed Michael McGiveny was ministering when he founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. The parish church now houses his tomb. The pilgrims process May 19 to the nearby parish of St. Joseph for Mass before traveling by boat to Bridgeport.

— St. Frances Cabrini Shrine, New York: After journeying through the Bridgeport Diocese, the pilgrims will spend time in the Archdiocese of New York, where they’ll stop May 25 at the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan to venerate the saint, who left Italy with six of her religious community’s sisters in 1889 to serve Italian immigrants in the New York slums. (Her life is the subject of the recently released film “Cabrini.”) That night, New York Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo J. Colacicco and the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne — whose Massachusetts-born founder, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, was declared venerable in March: will host adoration at St. Vincent Ferrer Church. While still in the city, the pilgrimage will process across the Brooklyn Bridge into the Diocese of Brooklyn May 26, and the following day take the Dorothy Day Ferry — named for the Catholic Worker Movement co-founder and servant of God — to the Statue of Liberty State Park for Eucharistic adoration.

— National Shrine of St. John Neumann, Philadelphia: The pilgrimage continues through New Jersey’s dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton and into Pennsylvania. On June 1, the pilgrimage in Philadelphia for morning Mass at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, who served as bishop of Philadelphia from 1852-1860 and was a champion of the Catholic parochial school system in the U.S. That evening, the shrine will host a “Eucharistic encounter” and open mic night for young adults. The following day, the pilgrims will venerate another Philadelphia saint, St. Katharine Drexel, who is entombed at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

— National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, Maryland: From the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the pilgrimage travels through the Diocese of Harrisburg into the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where the pilgrims will spend time at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton June 6. Born in 1774, their route’s namesake was a wife, mother of five, teacher, Catholic convert and eventual founder of the first women’s religious community established in the U.S. She moved from New York to Emmitsburg in 1809 after her husband died while they were in Italy, which also is where she encountered Catholicism. The following day, the pilgrims will attend Mass and participate in a Eucharistic procession around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore’s co-cathedral and the first cathedral in the United States.

— Ohio River Sternwheeler procession: From Baltimore, the pilgrimage will continue into the Archdiocese of Washington with Mass June 8 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception followed by a procession with stops at the many Catholic sites around the shrine and The Catholic University of America campus. It then heads northwest through western Maryland; the dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown, Greensburg and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia; and Steubenville, Ohio, where the pilgrims will join adoration events at a Franciscan University of Steubenville Conference. On June 23, Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston and Bishop Paul J. Bradley, apostolic administrator of Steubenville, will lead a “boater-cade” Eucharistic procession down the Ohio River aboard a sternwheeler, blessing pilgrims on shore at four sites.

— Downtown Cincinnati. The pilgrimage continues through the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, with a July 6 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr at Cincinnati’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. The Mass is followed by a Eucharistic procession through downtown and a Eucharistic festival at the city’s Fountain Square. The Seton Route enters the Archdiocese of Indianapolis July 8 with several events in Indianapolis ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith will publish its new norms for the discernment of apparitions and other supernatural phenomena May 17, the Vatican press office said.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the dicastery, and Msgr. Armando Matteo, secretary of the doctrinal section of the dicastery, will present the document at a news conference, the press office announced May 7.

The last time the Vatican’s doctrinal office issued norms for evaluating alleged apparitions and reports of supernatural events was in February 1978.

At the time, the prefect, Cardinal Franjo Seper, said the norms were necessary given how news of alleged apparitions spreads rapidly thanks to the mass media. “Moreover, the ease of going from one place to another fosters frequent pilgrimages, so that Ecclesiastical Authority should discern quickly about the merits of such matters,” he wrote.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at a news conference to present the dicastery’s declaration, “Dignitas Infinita” (“Infinite Dignity”) on human dignity at the Vatican press office April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

In a written interview with OSV News in February, Cardinal Fernández said that given increasing reports of spiritual, psychological and sexual abuse tied to “false mysticism,” it would “certainly be necessary to include some considerations related to the special gravity of these risks” in the document on evaluating presumed apparitions and other supernatural occurrences.

The Vatican’s 1978 rules entrust to the local bishop the initial evaluation of alleged apparitions of Mary or weeping statues or supposed messages from God, Mary or the saints.

The first things to look for, it said, are “true theological and spiritual doctrine” free of error and that the person reporting the phenomenon is psychologically balanced, honest, leads a morally upstanding life and is obedient to church authority.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus calls believers not only to be servants of his kingdom, as the prophets and Mary were, but also to be his friends, Pope Francis said.

“Friendship is not the fruit of calculation, nor of compulsion, it is born spontaneously when we recognize something of ourselves in the other,” he said May 5. “Jesus, in the Bible, tells us that for him we are precisely this: friends, people beloved beyond all merit and expectation, to whom he extends his hand and offers his love, his grace, his word.”

Pope Francis smiles at people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the “Regina Coeli” at the Vatican May 5, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Before leading the “Regina Coeli” prayer in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus tells the apostles, “I do not call you servants any longer, but friends.”

Jesus does not only want to entrust humanity with his mission of salvation, the pope said, “he wants more, something greater that goes beyond goods and plans themselves; it takes friendship.”

The pope asked people to think about the beauty of friendship that they experience throughout the course of their lives, from sharing toys as children and confiding secrets to one another as teenagers to exchanging joys and worries as adults and recounting memories together as seniors.

“Let us think a moment of our friends and thank the Lord for them,” he said.

In friendship, Jesus “shares what is dearest to him” with humanity, the pope said: “All that he has learned from the Father.”

Jesus is invested in his friendship with humanity “even to the point of making himself fragile for us, of placing himself in our hands, without defense or pretense, because he loves us,” he said. “The Lord loves us; as a friend he wants our good and he wants us to share in his.”

If a friendship is true, it is “so strong that is does not fail even in the face of betrayal,” he said, noting that Jesus calls Judas “friend” even after he had been betrayed.

“A true friend does not abandon you, even when you make mistakes: he corrects you, perhaps he reproaches you, but he forgives you and does not abandon you,” he said.

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer, the pope asked Christians to pray for Ukraine, Palestine and Israel, “that there may be peace, that dialogue may be strengthened and bear good fruit. No to war, yes to dialogue!”

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The annual collection for the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign takes place in most U.S. parishes during Masses the weekend of May 11-12.

Half of the gifts to the diocesan collection stay in the participating diocese where they support the local diocese’s communications programs. The other half supports communication activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some projects across the United States and abroad, according to an April 29 USCCB news release.

Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, is featured on the poster for the 2024 Catholic Communication Campaign. (OSV News illustration/Shelly Connor, USCCB/CNS file photo)

“Jesus called us to take his message of love, mercy, and salvation to the ends of the earth,” said Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Catholic Communication Campaign. “His first disciples reached hearts eager to hear this message by preaching to crowds, writing letters, and personal encounters with people they met on their travels.”

Today, Jesus’ disciples “share this same message of hope through videos, podcasts and social media,” which is what the Catholic Communication Campaign “is all about,” he wrote in a column provided to OSV News.

Some dioceses use other dates for the collection, and #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts donations for the collection.

According to the Catholic Communication Campaign’s most recent annual report, more than $3.6 million in campaign funds supported both national and international Catholic media outreach in 2022. About 35% of those funds supported evangelization through media, such as podcasts, videos and documentaries. A nearly equal amount underwrote Catholic News Service in Rome, which has provided the Catholic Church in the United States with in-depth coverage of the Vatican and the pope since 1950.

Smaller amounts subsidized a wide range of projects, the report said, such as equipping church-related social ministries with the digital tools to promote concerns such as ecology, human life and dignity, social justice and immigration reform, the report said. Some funds also went to media training and projects to preserve church history.

It added that the campaign sponsors Catholic Current, a weekly news show about activities of the U.S. bishops that is available via YouTube and carried by some Catholic television and radio stations. The campaign also supports the USCCB’s video reflections on the daily Mass readings, featuring which lay and religious leaders from various cultural backgrounds and pastoral experiences.

As chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign, Archbishop Hartmayer said he is “awed by the power of media to instantly reach people across the globe.”

The campaign “helps the Catholic Church use these tools with love, for good and to the glory of God,” he added.

(OSV News) – “In the United States, more than 60% of the Hispanic community is under 18 years of age, (so) we have to talk about youth ministry, not because (young people) are the future but because they are the present,” said Félix Palazzi as he began a webinar on “Transforming Futures: Visions and Challenges of Youth Ministry in America.”

Palazzi, a theologian and member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry, opened the April 10 Spanish-language webinar featuring a panel of four leaders whose work experiences in various areas of youth and young adult ministry — often referred to as pastoral juvenil — reflect its realities at the diocesan and national levels in the U.S. and at the Latin American and Caribbean levels.

Pilgrims from Puerto Rico pose prior to the opening Mass for World Youth Day at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1, 2023. (OSV News photo/Bob Roller)

Presenting the work done by the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, known as LaRED, in leadership formation was José Julián Matos Auffant, vice president of this organization that was established in 1997 “with the mission of promoting, supporting, and accompanying the missionary disciples who are the young people,” he said.

With the Década de la Pastoral Juvenil (Decade of Hispanic Youth/Young Adult Ministry) underway — a project that began in 2020 and is scheduled to conclude in 2030 — Matos said his organization intends to “foster communication, collaboration, and mutual support among all agents of youth ministry” in addition to “establishing a bridge between civic and ecclesial organizations that work with Hispanic-Latino youth and young adults and with youth ministry in Latin America.”

Matos said that LaRED’s ambitious plan seeks to organize youth ministry at the diocesan level in each diocese of the United States, setting the course for the development of this ministry, so that it acquires a vital role in parish life during the next six years.

The hard work that LaRED does to involve more Hispanic/Latino youth in the life of the church aligns with the mission of the Pastoral Juvenil Latinoamericana y Caribeña (Latin American and Caribbean Youth Ministry), an organization belonging to the Latin American Episcopal and Caribbean Council, explained Paola Balanza, a 22-year-old from Tarija, Bolivia.

Balanza said this ministry is organized in four regions: the Mexico and Central America Region; the Caribbean Region; the Andean Region, of which she is a delegate; and the Southern Cone Region, made up of Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Describing the tight bonds among the young people in the organization, Balanza also spoke of the challenges it has faced in recent years, highlighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the political problems facing several nations in Latin America.

Youth and young adult ministries suffered as a result of these events, as many groups disintegrated; others were forced to discontinue their daily meetings and activities. Many young people also lost their lives in the political conflicts, Balanza said, adding: “It has taken us a long time to rebuild, to be able to work from within, because these conflicts have had a significant impact on the young person’s being.”

However, the young Bolivian said that the 2021 Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico, where she participated as a young assembly member, brought with it hope for her organization by recognizing young people as agents of transformation in society. This “has really given us a lot of visibility and also a lot of work, organized with the entire church,” she explained.

Responding to Pope Francis’ call to go out to encounter everyone where they are, especially to be able to reach young people through the use of technology, Andreina Barroso from Lente Católico (Catholic Lens) spoke about her organization’s project for the digital evangelization of young people.

Barroso said it is an “informative and entertaining” Catholic content channel that publishes information for young people of all ages, written by young people and endorsed by priests.

Content is based on the doctrine of the catechism, is of quality and is completely free, added Barroso, giving credit for this effort to “groups of donors, who want to invest in the growth of the faith of our young people.”

For her part, Brilema Pérez, associate director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults of the Diocese of San Diego, spoke of the experience of youth ministry in dioceses and parishes — especially in border contexts, as her diocese is located just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico.

She noted that young immigrants come to these Catholic communities with a vision and their own way of expressing their spirituality, informed by their unique life experiences, “so, in those moments, more than anything, our role at the diocesan level is to support them.”

Speaking about the ever-changing nature of the border environment, Pérez said that while for many years, young people arriving were mostly from Mexico, that is no longer the case.

“We are seeing more diversity in the various countries of Latin America. … Among them are the Mayan communities, El Salvador, Central America, Venezuela,” she said.

This means, Pérez pointed out, that pastoral juvenil needs to constantly reinvent itself to ask “¿Quiénes son los jóvenes?” (“Who are the youth?”), instead of evangelizing with a uniform vision.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis signed a letter on synodality in the presence of parish priests and urged them to be “missionaries of synodality,” said several of the priests present.

Father Donald J. Planty Jr., pastor of St. Charles Church in Arlington, Virginia, and one of the U.S. pastors at the meeting, said, “He told us, ‘I want you to take this letter, and I want you to put it into action. I want you to share it and speak to your bishops about it and speak to your brother pastors about it.'”

Pope Francis meets with parish priests from around the world who were chosen by their bishops to share their reflections with the Synod of Bishops on synodality May 2, 2024, in the Synod Hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope signed the letter May 2 as he met with more than 200 parish priests in the Vatican Synod Hall. The meeting came at the end of an April 29-May 2 gathering designed as an opportunity for the priests to share their experiences and offer input for the drafting of the working document for the Synod of Bishops on synodality’s second assembly in October.

Father Planty, who served for a time in the Vatican diplomatic corps and in the Vatican Secretariat of State, said it was clear that what participants from around the world had in common was “love for our identity as priests and our mission as priests.”

Clearly, he said, some priests have difficulty getting parishioners to open up and share their hopes, dreams and skills – a crucial part of building a “synodal church” where people listen to one another and share responsibility for the life of the parish and its missionary outreach.

That is not a problem in the United States, Father Planty said. “Especially in a country of an Anglo-Saxon democratic tradition,” people are used to sharing their opinions, including with their priests. They comment after Mass or send an email or phone the parish office.

“A priest who really knows his parish, loves his parishioners, has his finger on the pulse of the parish” not only through the pastoral council and finance council but “also through other, informal settings,” he said. Such a pastor “knows his people, consults with them, listens to them, takes their advice, and ultimately that factors into his pastoral decisions and planning and actions.”

Father Clint Ressler, pastor of St. Mary of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church in Texas City, Texas, said spiritual discernment adds a key factor because synodality “is not listening to the voice of the people, but the voice of God in the voice of the people.”

“It isn’t just about your voices and your opinions,” he said. “We have to all be willing to then go deeper beneath those voices to try to hear what the Spirit is saying among us.”

People are hesitant about synodality when it is erroneously presented as debating “the issues that are controversial in the church” and “whether or not this is some new instrument to foment change in doctrine or church teaching,” he said. When that happens, “I think it’s disturbing. It’s scary. It’s unsettling,” and it leaves some wondering, “Why are we going to let the people decide what God wants?”

Father Paul Soper, pastor of St. Margaret Mary and St. Denis parishes in Westwood, Massachusetts, and secretary for ministerial personnel in the Archdiocese of Boston said priests and laypeople who have fears or concerns about synodality are afraid of different things.

“The fear of the priests is that there is a degree of randomness to the process,” he said, and that the synod “is going to be recommending big changes in the life of the church somehow or another that will have come from a bunch of random voices rather than from a clearly traceable conciliar process.”

“I think what the people fear is different,” he said. “I think that they fear that this is a conversation that’s not going to go anywhere. That it will simply, in the end, be a collection of reflections on the process of reflecting — a meeting on meetings, if you will.”

But, he said, his experience in evangelization has taught him that the “deep listening” or “contemplative listening” that the synod process is teaching people is what will enable Catholics to understand other people’s stories and invite them into or back into a relationship with Jesus and with the church.

Father Robert L. Connors, director of the Office for Senior Priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and episcopal vicar of the archdiocese’s south region, said the synod’s emphasis on listening also can help Catholics “learn the art of respect in a world where there is very little respect.”

And, especially in parishes and dioceses where there is growing diversity, he said, synodality helps people realize, “we’re all in this together.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As more than 200 priests from around the world met to share how their parishes experience a sense of shared mission and shared decision-making, many of them spoke of the essential bonds of priests with their parishioners and priests with each other.

The pastors met at a retreat center outside of Rome April 29-May 2 to provide input to the Synod of Bishops on synodality; most of their work took place in small groups divided by language: Spanish, English, French and Italian.

Parish priests who are part of an international gathering to provide input to the Synod of Bishops on synodality meet in small groups May 1, 2024, at a retreat center in Sacrofano, outside of Rome. (CNS photo/Courtesy of the Synod of Bishops)

The priests were chosen by their bishops’ conference or Eastern Catholic bishops’ synod to attend the meeting, and the Vatican had asked the bishops to select parish leaders who had had “significant experience in the perspective of a synodal Church.”

The questions they were asked focused on ways they have experienced synodality — processes for praying, listening, discerning and making decisions together for the good of the community and for evangelization.

But the working group reports April 29 also often mentioned loneliness and burnout in the life of pastors, a need to recognize the contributions of women to church life and a need to promote a sense of brotherhood and mutual support among a diocese’s or eparchy’s priests.

One group mentioned the need for “mutual care among brother priests.”

A group report from April 30 spoke of “a deficit of fraternity and communion among us priests” and a lack of care from the bishop. “One person commented that in 30 years of ministry, a bishop never asked him how he was doing, but only told him what to do,” the report said.

Another said that many priests are just trying to survive “and rarely feel valued in what they do.”

The same group said that “the ministry of women is not a problem of the laity but of the priests.”

Many of the groups reported that while their parishioners were eager to share and to listen to one another, the word “synodality” and many of its associated themes, like “discernment,” were unclear or confusing to people.

And one of the French groups submitted a basic question: “If synodality helps us to discern, the fact remains that a decision has to be taken in our parish communities. But ultimately who decides? This remains a strong question in our group, and we look forward to further exploration of this open-ended issue.”

One English group said, “While there is a positive outlook on Synodality, it’s evident that some parish priests may lack interest in embracing new initiatives along this path. Therefore, ongoing formation for parish priests becomes imperative to effectively implement the principles of Synodality at the parish level.”

Another group said that while the synod process “has been more positive than negative,” sometimes the parish listening sessions were used “as a place to vent, complain about the perceived state of the church or to bring up the ways in which they felt they have been hurt by the church. But again, all in our group found that these were occasions to walk with the people and listen.”

Many of the groups echoed what synod-related sessions on the parish, diocesan, continental and universal levels have emphasized: laypeople want and need more education about the Christian faith and more guided experiences of prayer and discernment.

One of the Italian-language groups said that priests are afraid to entrust their parish councils with certain decisions because they fear the members do not have enough theological and pastoral background to understand what is at stake. At the same time, the group said, the priests “are afraid of losing power,” and they know it is easier to give orders than to reach a consensus.

At the end of the day April 30, one of the Spanish groups said that with parishioners often expressing different needs and preferences, a parish might best become “a community of communities,” and synodality could be the key to preserving unity and peace while allowing diversity.

Another group said that just coming together to share their stories has helped the priests, “because the Spirit blows in different ways, and God is at work. We see that in one place there are seven priests for one parish and in others there are seven chapels for one priest.”

Most of the 18 working groups mentioned at least once a need to change seminary formation and to give candidates for the priesthood more practical help in learning what discernment is and how to exercise leadership in a way that values the baptismal dignity and gifts of the laity.

Several of the reports also mentioned the clerical sexual abuse crisis and how it has led many people to leave the church and many others to look at priests with suspicion or at least caution.

One Italian group said that Pope Francis’ emphasis on synodality “has allowed us to start dreaming about the church again after the crisis,” and, in fact, “the synodal journey pays attention to overcoming the logic of abuse of individual power and gives us the antibodies to overcome the contagion from oppressive and controlling dynamics.”


Pictured are May Queen Maura Heinsch with attendants Kathryn Gilchrist and Ryann Canfield and James John “J.J.” Galvin, crown bearer.

Queen of the Apostles Parish held its May Crowning of the Blessed Mother following the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 5, at the church, 715 Hawthrone St., Avoca.

The Rev. Joseph Sibliano, OSJ, and Deacon Jim Rose led the prayerful service.