Pope Francis listens as Joachim Von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, addresses the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – High-level representatives of the world’s religions came together with Pope Francis at the Vatican to show their joint commitment to caring for the Earth and to appeal to world leaders to deepen their commitments to mitigating climate change.

To the strains of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and surrounded by potted greenery and the colorful frescoes of the Hall of Benedictions, nearly 40 faith leaders signed a joint appeal that Pope Francis then blessed and gave to Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP26, and to Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign affairs minister.

“Future generations will never forgive us if we miss the opportunity to protect our common home. We have inherited a garden: We must not leave a desert to our children,” said the written appeal, signed Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.

Pope Francis pours dirt into a potted olive tree during the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The appeal urged world leaders, who will meet at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of Parties – COP26 – in Glasgow Nov. 1-12, “to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”

Participants included top scientists and major religious leaders including: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England; Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, representing Patriarch Kirill of Moscow; Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar; Rabbi Noam Marans of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations; and top representatives of other Christian denominations, Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.

The appeal called on nations to: increase their levels of commitment and international cooperation; meet net-zero

Pope Francis leads the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

carbon emissions as soon as possible as part of efforts to mitigate rising global average temperatures; step up climate action at home and financially assist more vulnerable countries in adapting to and addressing climate change; increase their transition to cleaner energy and sustainable land use practices; and promote environmentally friendly food systems and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

The religious leaders also pledged that they themselves would promote ecological education; advocate for a “change of heart” in their own communities concerning caring for all of creation; encourage sustainable lifestyles; take part in public debates on environmental issues; and support “greening” their institutions, properties and investments.

They symbolically marked their personal commitment by pouring a cup of soil onto a potted olive tree that will be planted in the Vatican Gardens.

Pope Francis signs a joint appeal during the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The representatives took to the floor with a brief speech, commentary or declaration, with many detailing what their faith tradition teaches about the moral imperative of caring for humanity’s common home. At the end of the ceremony, recorded messages and appeals were played from those religious leaders that could not attend the event due to pandemic restrictions.

Saying he wanted to leave more time to hear from everyone, Pope Francis chose to skip reading his speech aloud since everyone had a written copy.

In the full text, the pope said COP26 “represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.”

He proposed “three concepts” to guide their joint efforts: “openness to interdependence and sharing; the dynamism of love; and the call to respect.”

“Recognizing that the world is interconnected means not only realizing the harmful effects of our actions, but also identifying behaviors and solutions to be adopted, in an attitude of openness to interdependence” and sharing the responsibility and ways to care for others and the environment, he wrote.

Religious and spiritual traditions can help promote love, which “creates bonds and expands existence, for it draws people out of themselves and toward others,” especially the poor, he wrote.

Faith traditions, he said, can help break down “barriers of selfishness,” counter today’s “throwaway culture” and combat the “seeds of conflict: greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence,” which harm people and the planet.

“We can face this challenge” with personal examples, action and education, the pope wrote.

Finally, the pope wrote, there must be respect for creation, respect for others, “for ourselves and for the creator, but also mutual respect between faith and science.”

Respect, he wrote, is “an empathetic and active experience of desiring to know others and to enter into dialogue with them, in order to walk together on a common journey.”

The meeting, “Faith and Science: Toward COP26,” was organized by the embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See, together with the Vatican. The U.K. and Italy were co-chairing the summit in Glasgow, where parties from 197 nations are meant to find agreement on how to tackle the threat of climate change.

The appeal of religious leaders and scientists came after months of dialogue and agreement that there is a common moral duty to tackle climate change.

The COP26 co-chairs wanted to include the voices of religious leaders given the moral and ethical imperative of environmental protection, but also because of their global reach and authority as they represent an estimated 84% of the world’s population who identify with a faith.


People have their Green Pass, signifying vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test taken within 48 hours, checked before entering the Vatican Museums at the Vatican in this Aug. 6, 2021, file photo. Beginning Oct. 1 the Vatican will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from most people wanting to enter Vatican territory or offices. People attending Vatican liturgies are exempt from the requirements. (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Visitors, tourists and employees who want to enter Vatican territory will be required beginning Oct. 1 to show proof of vaccination, recovery from the coronavirus or a negative COVID-19 test.

The anti-COVID ordinance, which was approved by Pope Francis and signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission in charge of Vatican City State, was released by the Vatican press office Sept. 20.

The only exemption in the order is for people entering Vatican territory for the sole purpose of attending a liturgical celebration; in that case, they will have access only “for the time strictly necessary” for the liturgy and if they follow the health measures already in force: mandatory masking, temperature checks and social distancing.

The ordinance did not specify whether the pope’s weekly general audiences on Wednesdays or his midday recitation of the Angelus on Sundays would be treated like a liturgy or like entrance to the Vatican Museums, which has been requiring proof of vaccination for admittance since early August. Even with the vaccination proof, visitors undergo a temperature check before admittance and are required to keep a mask over their nose and mouth throughout the visit.

The Vatican police, known as the gendarme, will be charged with checking the documentation.

The ordinance specified that it applies to all Vatican “citizens, residents of the state, personnel in service at any level in the governorate of Vatican City State and in the various organisms of the Roman Curia and the institutions tied to it, to all visitors and beneficiaries of services.”

Italy requires foreign visitors to have vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country. The vaccination pass or a negative test are required to enter restaurants, museums, gyms, indoor pools, cinemas, theaters and to visit patients in a hospital or nursing home. Beginning Oct. 15, Italy also will require the pass to fly or take long-distance trains or buses and to enter workplaces.


Pope Francis leads his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Sept. 8, 2021. At left is Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, an official of the Prefecture of the Papal Household. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – There is no place for discrimination or divisive distinctions among people who believe in Christ, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

That everyone is made new and equal in Christ overcomes all ethnic, economic and social differences, even between the two sexes, “establishing an equality between man and woman which was revolutionary at the time and which needs to be reaffirmed even today,” he said Sept. 8 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

“How many times we hear expressions that denigrate women,” he said, adding that even today women experience a kind of slavery in which “women do not have the same opportunities as men.”

The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians by looking at what faith in Christ brings.

With faith and baptism, people become new creatures, “clothed” with Christ and children of God in Christ, the apostle writes. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The pope said this shows how “baptism, therefore, is not merely an external rite. Those who receive it are transformed deep within, in their inmost being, and possess new life” with an identity that is so new “that it prevails over the differences that exist on the ethnic-religious level” and social and economic levels.

St. Paul’s teaching was “shocking” and “revolutionary” at a time when distinctions, for example, between slaves and free citizens “was vital in ancient society,” the pope said.

“By law, free citizens enjoyed all rights, while the human dignity of slaves was not even recognized,” he said.

The same thing is happening to many people in the world today, “who do not have the right to eat, who do not have the right to education, who do not have the right to work. They are the new slaves. They are the ones who live on the margins, who are exploited by everyone” and whose human dignity is denied, he said.

“Equality in Christ overcomes the social differences between the two sexes, establishing an equality between man and woman,” he said, calling for a reaffirmation of this truth.

St. Paul “confirms the profound unity that exists between all the baptized, in whatever condition they are bound to, because every one of them is a new creature in Christ. Every distinction becomes secondary to the dignity of being children of God.”

Therefore, “it is decisive even for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, to be brothers and sisters among ourselves, because we have been united in Christ, who redeemed us,” he said.

Differences and conflicts caused by separation “should not exist among believers in Christ,” he said, cautioning against creating differences between people, “many times unconsciously.”

“Rather, our vocation is that of making concrete and evident the call to unity of the entire human race.”

“Everything that exacerbates the differences between people, often causing discrimination — all of this, before God, no longer has any meaning, thanks to the salvation effected in Christ.”

At the end of the general audience, the pope marked the day’s feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by asking people to pray that “our mother help us to rediscover the beauty of being children of God and, overcoming differences and conflicts, to help us live as brothers and sisters.”

The day is also when the people of Cuba celebrate their patroness, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, he said. Recalling his visit to her shrine in 2015, “I want to once again present at the feet of the Virgin of Charity the life, dreams, hopes and sorrows of the Cuban people,” so that wherever they find themselves, they may experience the tenderness of Mary be led to Christ.

The pope also greeted all students heading back to school, saying he hoped the coming academic year would be “a time of educational growth and deepening of the bonds of friendship.”

“May the Lord help you safeguard the faith and cultivate science in order to become protagonists of a better future in which humanity may be able to enjoy peace, fraternity and tranquility.”

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod will take place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican has issued the preparatory document and a “handbook” for dioceses as part of the global church’s preparation for the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops, discussing the theme, “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.”

“Pope Francis invites the entire church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: ‘It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the church of the third millennium,'” the new document said.

As such, the preparatory document and its questions are “at the service of the synodal journey, especially as a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the people of God in the particular churches in the hope of helping to set in motion the ideas, energy and creativity of all those who will take part in the journey, and to make it easier to share the fruits of their efforts,” it said.

“The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission,” the preparatory document said.

The handbook or “vademecum” offers guidelines for bishops and those helping facilitate the synodal process locally on how they can best listen to and consult with Catholics and the wider community, particularly those on the margins of society, as well as Christians and non-Christians.

The materials were released Sept. 7 at a news conference at the Vatican and online in English and Spanish at the synod’s official website: synod.va/en.html and synod.va/es.html.

Pope Francis is scheduled to formally open the synod process at the Vatican Oct. 9-10, and the bishop of every diocese should open the process in his diocese Oct. 17. The diocesan phase runs until April.

The materials present a number of questions to help prompt reflection, input and ideas from as many people as possible.

The questions fall under 10 general themes, and people can address what is most pertinent to their situation and “share with honesty and openness about their real-life experiences, and to reflect together on what the Holy Spirit might be revealing through what they share with one another,” the document said.

Some suggested questions include: “To whom does our particular church ‘need to listen to'” and “how are the laity, especially young people and women, listened to? How do we integrate the contribution of consecrated men and women? What space is there for the voice of minorities, the discarded, and the excluded? Do we identify prejudices and stereotypes that hinder our listening? How do we listen to the social and cultural context in which we live?”

However, the basic and most fundamental question guiding the whole process is: “How does this ‘journeying together,’ which takes place today on different levels — from the local level to the universal one — allow the church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal church?” the document said.

Speaking at the Sept. 7 news conference, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and others explained the main objectives and characteristics of a synodal process, which is “a spiritual process” that requires listening to the Holy Spirit as well as to each other.

“The synod will succeed or fail to the extent to which we rely on the Holy Spirit,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal urged reporters to offer “correct communication” of what the synod and synodality are about, including not painting it as “a parliament” or as different sides playing against each other “in which the one who has more strength influences or subjugates the other.”

When asked about the possibility of allowing women to vote in a Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Grech said he felt troubled by so much focus being on “the vote,” saying “it is not the vote that matters.”

What matters is the larger process that involves the entire people of God coming together to find common ground, which is not easy, he said. “So perhaps we have to insist more on how we can dialogue, converse, discern together in order to possibly reach this harmony,” find consensus and not depend so much on the votes cast during the later phase of a synod.

Xaviere Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, one of two undersecretaries to the Synod of Bishops, will be the first woman with a right to vote at a meeting of the Synod of Bishops. In March, when she was appointed, Cardinal Grech said permitting her to vote in a synod was “a major milestone” and was something that should not be limited to just this one institution or just to voting rights.

Myriam Wijlens, a canon lawyer and Synod of Bishops consultor, told reporters that women need to “present themselves” and speak up “courageously” during this consultation phase. It will also be important to listen to what women from non-Western cultures are saying, she added.

The handbook said even though dioceses will be asked to spend six months doing extensive outreach and consultation with as many people as possible, the synodal process “is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates.”

“Synodal listening is oriented toward discernment,” in which people listen to each other, to their faith tradition and to “the signs of the times in order to discern what God is saying to all of us,” it said.

Widespread participation is an important part of the diocesan process, the document said, with no one being excluded. “We must personally reach out to the peripheries, to those who have left the church, those who rarely or never practice their faith, those who experience poverty or marginalization, refugees, the excluded, the voiceless, etc.”

This will require creativity, especially in parts of the world where restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 are still in place, it added.

All the feedback that is generated throughout the listening process should be gathered into a “synthesis” after each gathering, followed by a “synthesis” to be written for each diocese and ultimately for each bishops’ conference.

Bishops’ conferences and the synods of the Eastern Churches will provide a synthesis of all the local feedback to the Synod of Bishops, and all of that material will be the basis for the writing of two working documents. Bishops and auditors will then gather with Pope Francis at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023 to speak and listen to one another on the basis of the process that began at the local level.

The handbook said the synthesis “does not only report common trends and points of convergence, but also highlights those points that strike a chord, inspire an original point of view, or open a new horizon. The synthesis should pay special attention to the voices of those who are not often heard and integrate what we could call the ‘minority report,'” it said.

Bishops have an important role throughout the synodal process as “pastors, teachers and priests of sacred worship,” the handbook said. “Their charism of discernment calls them to be authentic guardians, interpreters, and witnesses to the faith of the church.”


Pope Francis leads his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Hypocrites are afraid of the truth, fearful of who they really are and incapable of truly loving, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

What hypocrites do “is like putting makeup on your soul, like putting makeup on your behavior” and hiding the truth, the pope said Aug. 25 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

All this pretending, he said, “suffocates the courage to openly say what is true and thus the obligation to say the truth at all times, everywhere and in spite of anything can easily be evaded,” he said.

The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and focused on the dangers of the law by looking at the apostle Peter’s “inconsistency” at Antioch.

Gentile Christians were free from the Jewish law, but there was pressure from people from Jerusalem that caused Sts. Peter and Barnabas to draw back from what the Gospel said.

That is why, in his letter, St. Paul condemns St. Peter “to his face because he clearly was wrong” by trying to appease critics who still observed Mosaic law and to justify his hypocritical behavior.

“Peter had been eating with the Christians of pagan origin without any difficulty; however, when some circumcised Christians from Jerusalem arrived in the city, he then no longer did so, because he did not want to incur their criticism,” Pope Francis said.

“Watch out. The mistake was paying more attention to the criticism, to make a good impression than the reality of the relationships,” the pope said.

This was serious in St. Paul’s eyes, because other disciples imitated St. Peter, and, even though he did not mean to, “Peter was, in fact, creating an unjust division within the community” by not being transparent or clear about what he was doing, Pope Francis said.

In his letter, St. Paul “wanted to remind the Christians of that community that they were absolutely not to listen to those who were preaching that it was necessary to be circumcised, and therefore be ‘under the law’ with all of its prescriptions,” Pope Francis said.

These “fundamentalist preachers,” he said, “created confusion and deprived that community of any peace.”

In his reproach to St. Peter, St. Paul uses the term “hypocrisy,” which “the apostle wanted to combat forcefully and convincingly,” the pope said.

Hypocrisy can be seen as a “fear of the truth. It is better to pretend rather than be yourself,” he said.

Wherever people are living “under the banner of formalism, the virus of hypocrisy easily spreads,” he said, mimicking the kind of strained, forced smile one might see — a smile “that doesn’t come from the heart,” but comes from a person “who tries to get along with everyone,” but, in the end, gets along with no one.

“Hypocrites are people who pretend, flatter and deceive because they live with a mask over their faces and do not have the courage to face the truth,” he said. “For this reason, they are not capable of truly loving” because they are limited by their ego and cannot “show their hearts transparently.”

Hypocrisy can be hidden at a workplace “where someone appears to be friends with their colleagues while, at the same time, they stab them behind the back due to competition,” he said.

It is not unusual to find hypocrites in the world of politics, when someone lives one way in public and another way in private, he added.

“Hypocrisy in the church is particularly detestable. Unfortunately, hypocrisy does exist in the church and there are many hypocritical Christians and ministers,” he said.

Jesus, too, condemned hypocrisy, Pope Francis said, asking people to read Chapter 23 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew to see how often Jesus condemned such behavior.

“Let’s not be afraid to be truthful, to speak the truth, to hear the truth, to conform ourselves to the truth, so that we can love. A hypocrite does not know how to love,” he said.

“To act other than truthfully means jeopardizing the unity of the church, that unity for which the Lord himself prayed,” the pope said.

At the end of the general audience, the pope greeted athletes competing at the Paralympics in Tokyo. He thanked them for showing the world what hope and courage look like.

These athletes, he said, “show how pursuing a sport helps overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties.”


When each individual makes a small act of charity, like getting the COVID-19 vaccine, every gesture added together can transform the world, Pope Francis said in a global ad campaign.

“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love — love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people,” he said in a public service announcement released Aug. 18 in Rome.

The video message was part of a global effort by the U.S.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative’s “It’s Up To You” campaign to increase people’s confidence in COVID-19 vaccines by reminding them that the vaccines are safe, effective and save people’s lives. The Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development also cooperated with the educational initiative.

The video in Spanish with English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles features Pope Francis and six cardinals and archbishops from North and South America. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is among them.



Pope Francis greets a child during his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Aug. 11, 2021. The pope continued his series of audience talks focused on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and reflected on what role God’s law to Moses plays in helping people encounter Christ. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – What made Christian life radically new was the call for those who have faith in Jesus Christ to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the law God handed down to Moses, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

Mosaic law was necessary and important to follow at that time in history, but it served as a path to follow toward an eventual encounter with Christ and his commandment of love, he said Aug. 11 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

The pope continued with his series of talks reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, focusing on the apostle answering the question, “Why, then, the law” if, after all, “there is the Holy Spirit and if there is Jesus who redeems us?”

“The law is a journey” and it acts like a teacher that takes people by the hand, leading them forward, toward an encounter with Jesus and having faith in Christ, he said.

God gave Moses the law to prepare his people on this journey during a time of rampant idolatry and to help his people guide their behavior in a way that showed and expressed their faith and covenant with God, he said.

However, he said, the law was not the covenant; the covenant came first with Abraham, hundreds of years before Moses, the pope said. The covenant was based not on the observance of the law, but on faith in the fulfilment of God’s promises, he said.

St. Paul needed to clarify the role of the law to the Galatians because there were “fundamentalist missionaries” among them who seemed almost “nostalgic” about observing Mosaic law, believing that adhering to the covenant also included observing the Mosaic law, he said.

The apostle explains that, “in reality, the covenant and the law are not linked indissolubly,” the pope said. “The first element he relies on is that the covenant established by God with Abraham was based on faith in the fulfillment of the promise and not on the observance of the law that did not yet exist.”

“Having said this, one should not think, however, that St. Paul was opposed to the Mosaic law” because he does defend its divine origin and says it has “a well-defined role in the history of salvation,” the pope said.

“The law, however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of (God’s) promise, because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it. Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ,” he said.

This was the problem — when people put more importance on observing the law than with encountering Christ, he said.

This passage of St. Paul to the Galatians “presents the radical newness of the Christian life: All those who have faith in Jesus Christ are called to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the law and, at the same time, brings it to fulfillment according to the commandment of love,” he said.

The law is a path and “may the Lord help people walk along the path of the Ten Commandments, however, by looking at Christ’s love, the encounter with Christ, knowing that the encounter with Jesus is more important than all the commandments,” he said.

Addressing people after the main audience talk, Pope Francis told French-speaking visitors that it was “with great sorrow” that he learned of the Aug. 6 murder of the 60-year-old Montfort Father Olivier Maire.

“I extend my condolences to the religious community of the Monfortians in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in Vendée, to his family and to all Catholics in France,” he said, assuring everyone of his closeness.

At the end of the audience, right before the pope was set to greet visitors, an aide went to the pope, spoke to him for a few minutes and handed him a mobile phone. The pope spoke on the phone for a few minutes, then left the hall briefly before returning to greet visitors as usual.

Visitors were required to wear face masks, but not present a so-called “green pass” of proof of vaccination, of a negative COVID-19 test or of recovery from COVID-19.

Italy recently passed a decree as part of ongoing measures to curb the spread of the virus, by making it obligatory for anyone over the age of 12 to show a “green pass” for certain activities, including to eat indoors at restaurants, enter gyms or movie theaters, visit museums, including the Vatican Museums, and, starting in September, to attend school on-site.

The Italian bishops’ conference published a note July 26 saying the pass was not required for going to Mass or joining in processions, but health measures such as wearing masks and social distancing would be continuing. The green pass was required for people entering church-owned or church-operated movie theaters, museums, restaurants and coffee bars, sporting events, conferences, indoor swimming pools, gyms, social centers and reception venues.


Pope Francis greets a young person during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 4, 2021. It was his first audience since undergoing colon surgery July 4. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The true Gospel has been revealed by Jesus Christ, not by individuals or founders of movements, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

“With the truth of the Gospel, one cannot negotiate. Either you receive the Gospel as it is, as it was announced,” or one embraces something else, he said Aug. 4 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

“One cannot compromise. Faith in Jesus is not a bargaining chip; it is salvation, it is encounter, it is redemption. It cannot be sold off cheaply,” said the pope, as he led his first general audience since his colon surgery July 4 and after the usual suspension of general audiences for the month of July.

Continuing with a new catechesis series reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Pope Francis focused on the apostle’s insistence that the faithful be loyal to the Gospel Jesus preached and not be swayed by new missionaries who “wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.”

St. Paul understands the need to keep the young community safe from that which threatens its foundations, that is, a new “gospel,” which is “perhaps more sophisticated, more intellectual,” but which distorted “the true Gospel because it prevents (people) from attaining the freedom acquired by arriving at faith,” the pope said, emphasizing the key here was “freedom.”

The true proclamation is “that of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the source of salvation,” he said. “Whoever accepts it is reconciled to God, is welcomed as a true son or daughter and receives the inheritance of eternal life.”

Instead, some of the Galatians seemed to be veering off onto another path: listening to new missionaries who think “that by circumcision they will be even more devoted to the will of God and thus be even more pleasing to Paul,” the pope said. They seem to be “inspired by fidelity to the tradition received from the fathers and believe that genuine faith consists in observing the law.”

St. Paul, therefore, seems unorthodox with regard to tradition, but he knows “that his mission is of a divine nature — it was revealed by Christ himself, to him” as something that is radically and always new, the pope said.

In this complicated situation, he said, “it is necessary to disentangle oneself in order to grasp the supreme truth that is most consistent with the person and preaching of Jesus and his revelation of the father’s love.”

“This is important: knowing how to discern,” he said. “Many times we have seen in history, and we also see it today, some movements that preach the Gospel in their own way, sometimes with their own real charisms; but then they exaggerate and reduce the entire Gospel to the ‘movement.'”

When that happens, it becomes a gospel of the founder and not of Christ, he said.

“It may help at the beginning, but in the end, it does not bear fruit with deep roots. For this reason, Paul’s clear and decisive word was salutary for the Galatians and is salutary for us too,” he said.

The pope said the true Gospel is “Christ’s gift to us; he himself revealed it to us. It is what gives us life.”


Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 15, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass.

“An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16.

The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy.

Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

Pope Francis also transferred to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the new rules.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy. It said any priest of the Latin-rite church may, without any further permission from the Vatican or from his bishop, celebrate the “extraordinary form” of the Mass according to the rite published in 1962. The Roman Missal based on the revisions of the Second Vatican Council was published in 1969.

The conditions Pope Benedict set out for use of the old rite were that there was a desire for it, that the priest knows the rite and Latin well enough to celebrate in a worthy manner and that he ensures that the good of parishioners desiring the extraordinary form “is harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole church.”

The now-retired pope also insisted that Catholics celebrating predominantly according to the old rite acknowledge the validity of the new Mass and accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Francis said that responses to a survey of the world’s bishops carried out last year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded.”

“Ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true church,'” Pope Francis wrote.

To promote the unity of the church, Pope Francis said, bishops should care for those Catholics “who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” while helping them “return in due time” to the celebration of Mass according to the new Missal.

The pope also indicated he believed that sometimes parishes and communities devoted to the older liturgy were the idea of the priests involved and not the result of a group of Catholic faithful desiring to celebrate that Mass.

Pope Francis asked bishops “to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the ‘holy people of God.'”

However, he also said that many people find nourishment in more solemn celebrations of Mass, so he asked bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.”

The liturgical life of the church has changed and developed over the centuries, the pope noted.

“St. Paul VI, recalling that the work of adaptation of the Roman Missal had already been initiated by Pius XII, declared that the revision of the Roman Missal, carried out in the light of ancient liturgical sources, had the goal of permitting the church to raise up, in the variety of languages, ‘a single and identical prayer’ that expressed her unity,” Pope Francis said. “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the church of the Roman Rite.”


An elderly woman becomes emotional as Pope Francis greets her as he arrives for a May 2014 weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Pope Francis wanted the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 25 to be inaugurated as the world seeks to recover from a deadly pandemic, calling for the faithful to be “angels,” who care, console and caress. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Highlighting the importance and gifts of older people has been a constant refrain throughout Pope Francis’ ministry.

So it seemed only a matter of time before the pope would establish the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which was to be July 25. It comes after he created the World Day of the Poor several years ago, showing how the pope considers these world days to be a powerful and universal reminder to the faithful to rediscover or strengthen their service to and relationships with the forgotten or discarded members of the human family.

But he had a reason for inaugurating the day for elders in 2021: After more than a year of a global pandemic, which left a huge number of older people isolated, hospitalized or dead, there are finally signs in some parts of the world of a new horizon.

“Even at the darkest moments, as in these months of pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to remind us: ‘I am with you always,'” the pope said in his message for the world day.

“That is the meaning of this day, which I wanted to celebrate for the first time in this particular year, as a long period of isolation ends, and social life slowly resumes. May every grandfather, every grandmother, every older person, especially those among us who are most alone, receive the visit of an angel!” he wrote.

The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a call for the faithful to flex their wings and be those “angels,” who care, console and caress.

Respecting, honoring and reaching out to one’s elders is not just for do-gooders checking off their compliance with the Fourth Commandment. According to Pope Francis, it is the only way a society can thrive, and the church can remain faithful.

“In a civilization in which there is no room for the elderly or where they are thrown away because they create problems, this society carries with it the virus of death,” he said in a March 2015 general audience talk dedicated to the elderly.

As with everything Pope Francis highlights, it is a two-way street. Not only must people reach out to and serve their elders, older people have to step up and do their part in living out their vocation in whatever ways they can, adapting to the unexpected limitations and challenges they may face.

It’s a message that dovetails perfectly with the pope’s recent encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” which calls everyone to wipe away a tired and cynical view of the world and instead be driven by compassion to take action.

Because “we are all indebted to one another, we are all brothers and sisters,” and no one can be saved or improve the world alone, he said in his world day message, the elderly “are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow: the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided.”

“You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship” and to “use those experiences to learn how to pull through now,” he told his older peers. In essence, who better to give the world hope than those who have already lived through and endured decades of joys and sorrows.

The pope brought together thousands of older people in September of 2014 for a meeting and Mass in their honor in St. Peter’s Square. Even retired Pope Benedict XVI was in attendance.

There, as elsewhere, he used the metaphor of a tree to describe their role — the elderly are the roots that nourish the tree, helping it bear new fruit.

A connection — dialogue — is essential.

This encounter between the elderly and the young is “for the construction of a society that is more just, more beautiful, more supportive, more Christian,” he said in a talk with members of two Italian associations of seniors in October 2019.

“If grandparents do not dialogue with grandchildren, there will be no future. We are all called upon to counter this poisonous throwaway culture,” he said.

But those conversations must be filled with patience, tenderness and understanding, he said. “Do not berate them. No. Listen to them, and then sow something.”

Or, as he said at an intergenerational meeting presenting the book, “Sharing the Wisdom of Time,” in 2018, even silent witness to one’s faith is enough.

He recalled how his grandmother Rosa wasn’t a big talker, but her deep faith and example still left a huge impression on him.

At that meeting an older couple asked the pope what they should do when, despite all their efforts, their children and grandchildren have not embraced their Catholic faith.

“Faith is shared in dialect,” the pope said, meaning, not with the standardized words of dogma and the catechism, but with the language of love, friendship and encouragement, because faith does not come just from content.

He said they did not fail in their duty, it’s that sometimes life just unfolds that way, with children either unconsciously following current trends or losing their faith because of “terrible witnesses” and scandal by church members.

They must be at peace, he said at that meeting, and they must never argue or debate with their children or grandchildren about the faith but instead listen, show love, understanding, patience, be good witnesses and pray.

He said it gives him strength to remember “when Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple where they met the two grandparents, who were the wisdom of the people; they praised God because this wisdom was able to continue with this child. Jesus was received in the temple not by the priest, but by grandparents.”