Pope Francis prays in front of the Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani” at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome July 14, 2021. The pope visited the basilica after his release from Rome’s Gemelli hospital following his recovery from colon surgery. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Ten days after undergoing intestinal surgery, Pope Francis was released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital, the Vatican confirmed.

In a statement released July 14, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that after leaving the hospital midmorning, the pope visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major to say a prayer of gratitude before the icon of “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people).

The pope thanked Mary “for the success of his surgery and offered a prayer for all the sick, especially those he had met during his stay in hospital,” the statement said.

After praying at the basilica, the pope returned to his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Bruni said.

The pope was admitted to Gemelli hospital in the early afternoon July 4 to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.”

He underwent a three-hour left hemicolectomy, which is the removal of the descending part of the colon, a surgery that can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected.

Initially expected to remain in the hospital for seven days, the Vatican said July 12 that the pope would “remain hospitalized for a few more days in order to optimize his medical and rehabilitation therapy.”

During his stay, the pope continued working and spent time visiting patients at the hospital.

In his Sunday Angelus address July 11 from the 10th floor balcony of his suite of rooms at the hospital, Pope Francis said his time in the hospital gave him the opportunity to experience “once again how important good health care is” and that free, universal health care, especially for the most vulnerable, is a “precious benefit (that) must not be lost.”

“It needs to be kept,” the pope said. “And for this, everyone needs to be committed because it helps everyone and requires everyone’s contribution.”

The evening before his release, Pope Francis visited Gemelli’s pediatric oncology ward, which also is on the 10th floor, and greeted the young patients, their families and the staff.

While Pope Francis usually takes July as his vacation month, he is scheduled to lead the recitation of the Angelus at noon July 18 and to celebrate Mass July 25, the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.


A patient in the pediatric oncology ward of Rome’s Gemelli hospital made a card for Pope Francis, who is recovering there from colon surgery. The child wrote, “Dear Pope Francis, we heard you are not so well and that you are in our hospital now. Even if we cannot see each other, we send you a big hug and hope you will heal quickly.” (CNS photo/Courtesy Policlinico Gemelli)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Although still hospitalized, Pope Francis has resumed working and celebrated Mass for his caregivers in the small chapel that is part of the suite of rooms reserved for the popes at Rome’s Gemelli hospital, the Vatican press office said July 9.

“He walked in the corridor and resumed his work, alternating it with moments of reading texts,” said the statement issued on the fifth morning of his hospitalization for colon surgery.

Matteo Bruni, director of the press office, also announced that Pope Francis will lead the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer July 11 from his room on the 10th floor of Gemelli hospital.

“Following the brief episode with a slight temperature (July 7), the Holy Father is without fever,” he added.

The morning after the running a temperature, the pope’s doctors performed a CT scan of his abdomen and chest as well as routine exams to ensure that he was not suffering from an infection, a common complication of intestinal surgery.

The results of the scan and exams were negative, the Vatican press office had said July 8.

Pope Francis had sent a message of “paternal closeness” to the “young patients in the nearby pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards,” Bruni said.

Early July 9, the Gemelli hospital released photos of a card one of the young oncology patients had made for the pope. The cover features a simply drawing of Pope Francis and the inside has the message: “Dear Pope Francis, we heard you are not so well and that you are in our hospital now. Even if we cannot see each other, we send you a big hug and hope you will heal quickly.”

“The Holy Father gives thanks for the many messages of affection and closeness that he receives daily and asks that we continue to pray for him,” Bruni said.

The Vatican’s July 7 midday bulletin, issued before the pope’s temporary temperature, said the doctors had removed his intravenous drip, and that “the post-operative progress of His Holiness Pope Francis continues to be regular and satisfactory.”

“The Holy Father has continued to eat regularly, and infusion therapy has been suspended,” it added.

Announcing that the pope had arrived at the Rome hospital July 4, the Vatican had said he was to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.”

The next morning, the Vatican said the surgery lasted three hours and included “a left hemicolectomy,” the removal of the descending part of the colon, which can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected.

Three days after surgery, the Vatican said, “the final histological examination has confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis,” a hardening of the tissue. The statement seemed to indicate that the biopsy showed no cancerous cells.

Pope Francis is expected to remain in the hospital at least until July 12. Since St. John Paul II was shot in 1981, the Gemelli hospital, part of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, has maintained a suite of rooms for use by the pope.

Hospitalized there on several occasions, St. John Paul would lead the Sunday Angelus from his room when able and even would go to the window to greet people gathered in the square in front of the hospital’s entrance.



Pilgrims holding the Slovak flag cheer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican July 4, 2021, as Pope Francis announces he will visit their country Sept. 12-15 after stopping in Budapest, Hungary, to celebrate the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Before going to the hospital for colon surgery July 4, Pope Francis told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square that he would be visiting Hungary and Slovakia Sept. 12-15.

With pilgrims from Slovakia holding their country’s flag aloft in St. Peter’s Square, the pope told the crowd, “I am happy to announce that from Sept. 12 to 15, God willing, I will travel to Slovakia to make a pastoral visit.”

But, first, he said, the morning of Sept. 12 “I will celebrate the concluding Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest,” Hungary.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank those who are preparing this journey, and I am praying for them,” he said. “Let us all pray for this journey and for the people who are working to organize it.”

The Vatican press office said the Slovakia trip would include stops in the cities of Bratislava, Presov, Kosice and Sastin, but did not immediately provide details of the pope’s program.

Eduard Habsburg, the Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See, replied on Twitter to people who asked why the pope was going to Hungary only for a Mass, but then would make a full pastoral visit to Slovakia.

“Hungary, a few hours, Slovakia, a few days. Why?” he tweeted. The pope “is doing exactly what he has been invited for — in Budapest, the final Mass of the @iec2021Budapest (the eucharistic congress), in Slovakia, an extended visit to the country.”

In a statement shared by the Vatican-based secretariat of the International Eucharist Congress, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest said, “The Catholic community is waiting for the arrival of the Holy Father with great joy and love. We are praying for his visit to be the sign of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic.”

While the visit was scheduled to be brief, the cardinal said the pope’s visit was significant since, for the past two decades, popes had sent representatives to the congress rather than participating themselves.

“The last time a pope participated in the international congress was 21 years ago in Rome, where Pope John Paul II was present,” the statement said.

The International Eucharistic Congress generally is held every four years and includes workshops, catechesis, adoration, a solemn procession with the Blessed Sacrament and a closing Mass. The Budapest gathering originally was scheduled for 2020 but was postponed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Cardinal Angelo Becciu speaks with journalists during a news conference in Rome Sept. 25, 2020, after he was asked by Pope Francis to resign as prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. On July 3, 2021, the Vatican announced Cardinal Becciu and nine other individuals and entities were indicted on charges ranging from embezzlement to money laundering and abuse of office. (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The alleged mishandling of millions of dollars of church funds will bring several high-profile individuals to a makeshift Vatican courtroom set up in a multifunction room of the Vatican Museums.

The surprise announcement July 3 that Vatican prosecutors indicted 10 individuals and entities, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on a slew of charges related to financial mismanagement and malfeasance was the latest twist in the seemingly unending saga of the Vatican’s controversial investment in a property in London’s Chelsea district.

The indictments, especially of former Vatican officials, also may prove to be a litmus test for Pope Francis’ efforts to reform the Vatican’s finances, which have been marred by scandals over decades.

This also is the first time in modern history that a cardinal is among those facing a Vatican criminal trial.

Most of the accused, including Cardinal Becciu, have declared their innocence and say they are peacefully awaiting their day in court.

“Finally, the moment of clarification is coming, and the court will be able to find the absolute falsity of the accusations against me and the dark plots that have evidently sustained and fed them,” Cardinal Becciu said in a statement released by his lawyers July 3.

René Brülhart, former president of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, said he “always carried out my functions and duties with correctness, loyalty and in the exclusive interest of the Holy See and its organs.”

“I face this matter with serenity in the conviction that the accusations against me will fully disappear,” he said shortly after the indictment was announced.

“I am serene and confident that the truth of the facts and my innocence will emerge and will be clarified soon by the Vatican judicial authorities,” said Tommaso di Ruzza, who worked with Brülhart as former director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, now known as the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority.

But the indictment document detailing the Vatican’s extensive two-year investigation into how the Vatican Secretariat of State used over $200 million to finance a property development project in London paints a serious and complex picture.

For years, Cardinal Becciu defended the London property deal and insisted there was nothing wrong with the purchase. He consistently denied that funds from the Peter’s Pence collection were used; the money, he said, came from a fund within the Secretariat of State.

“I want to deny this because we did not use that money,” the cardinal said during a book presentation in February 2020. “Peter’s Pence was not affected; an investment was made on a building. It was a good and opportune occasion, which many people envy us for today.”

However, according to the 488-page indictment seen by Catholic News Service, funds worth an estimated $200.5 million held in Credit Suisse bank accounts owned by the Secretariat of State were transferred to Athena Capital Global Opportunities, a Luxembourg-based investment fund owned by Raffaele Mincione, who also was indicted.

The investment, the indictment stated, “was made with funds from Peter’s Pence.”

Mincione, a London-based Italian financier who owned the London property, is accused by the Vatican of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation of funds and money laundering.

According to the Vatican’s investigation, the money was originally intended “to subsidize an operation in the petrol sector in Angola sponsored by a local entrepreneur, Antonio Mosquito, who was introduced to the Vatican environment” by then-Archbishop Becciu. The two met when the Italian prelate served as apostolic nuncio to Angola from 2001-2009.

However, when that deal fell through, the money was used to invest in Mincione’s London property with Gianluigi Torzi, an Italian broker, serving as the middleman in the development deal. Torzi faces several charges, including the extortion of $17 million from the Vatican as payment for his role in brokering the deal.

The indictment also stated that Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, the former head of the Vatican Secretariat of State’s administrative office, provided prosecutors with a reconstruction of the events that led to the London property investment.

Msgr. Perlasca initially was seen as a possible suspect after Vatican police seized documents, computers and even floppy disks from his home and office in 2020. However, the report stated that he requested to speak to investigators.

In August 2020, the report said, Msgr. Perlasca gave his testimony and provided investigators “with a precious contribution for the reconstruction of some central moments relating to the case of the London property.”

Furthermore, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who serves as “sostituto,” the No. 3 position in the Secretariat of State, are not named as defendants in the lawsuit despite the fact that both, as well as Msgr. Perlasca, had approved several key steps in the failed deal.

According to a summary of the case by Vatican News published July 3, “neither Msgr. Perlasca, who signed the Share Purchase Agreement, nor his superiors, the substitute (Archbishop) Edgar Peña Parra, and above all Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had been effectively informed to be fully aware of the juridical effects that the different categories of actions would cause.”

Speaking with journalists in Strasbourg, France, July 4, Cardinal Parolin said that, in this case, the Secretariat of State “is the victim,” and he expressed his willingness to testify at the trial if asked.

“As an institution, we believe that we have been damaged by everything that has happened,” the cardinal told the journalists. “We have to defend our position and our morality,” but also “get back possession of the money.”

“If they say, ‘You are responsible for everything that happened,’ I will undoubtedly have things to say, answers to give,” he said, according to La Croix, the French Catholic daily newspaper.



This is a view outside Gemelli hospital in Rome where Pope Francis had a prescheduled colon surgery July 4, 2021. Pope Francis’ recovery from colon surgery continues to go well, the Vatican said. (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Recovering from colon surgery, Pope Francis briefly ran a fever late July 7, leading his doctors to perform a CT scan of his abdomen and chest the next morning to check for signs of infection.

The results of the scan were negative, as were the results of “routine and microbiological examinations,” the Vatican press office said July 8.

“His Holiness Pope Francis spent a quiet day, eating and moving unassisted,” the press office said in its daily update on how the pope is recovering after undergoing a three-hour surgery July 4 at Rome’s Gemelli hospital.

As with any operation, but especially intestinal surgery, infection is a major post-op concern.

Before the passing fever, the press office said, Pope Francis had sent a message of “paternal closeness” to the “young patients in the nearby pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards.”

“At this particular moment, he looks toward all those who suffer, expressing his closeness to the sick, especially those most in need of care,” the press office said.

The Vatican’s July 7 midday bulletin, issued before the pope’s temporary temperature, said the doctors had removed his intravenous drip, and that “the post-operative progress of His Holiness Pope Francis continues to be regular and satisfactory.”

“The Holy Father has continued to eat regularly, and infusion therapy has been suspended,” it added.

Announcing that the pope had arrived at the Rome hospital July 4, the Vatican had said he was to undergo “a scheduled surgical intervention for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon.”

The next morning, the Vatican said the surgery lasted three hours and included “a left hemicolectomy,” the removal of the descending part of the colon, which can be recommended to treat diverticulitis, when bulging pouches in the lining of the intestine or colon become inflamed or infected.

Three days after surgery, the Vatican said, “the final histological examination has confirmed a severe diverticular stenosis with signs of sclerosing diverticulitis,” a hardening of the tissue. The statement seemed to indicate that the biopsy showed no cancerous cells.

“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages and the affection received in these days, and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the Vatican message said.

Pope Francis is expected to remain in the hospital at least until July 11. Since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Gemelli hospital, part of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, has maintained a suite of rooms on the 10th floor for use by the pope.



Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels during Mass on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 29, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Sts. Peter and Paul were great not just because of their zeal for the Gospel, but because they allowed Christ to enter their hearts and change their lives, Pope Francis said.

“The church looks to these two giants of faith and sees two apostles who set free the power of the Gospel in our world, but only because first they themselves had been set free by their encounter with Christ,” the pope said during his homily at Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

The feast day celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica included the traditional blessing of the pallium, the woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments.

The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him. The pope blessed the palliums after they were brought up from the crypt above the tomb of St. Peter.

According to the Vatican, 34 archbishops from 18 countries who were named over the past 12 months were to receive the palliums, including: Canadian Archbishops Brian J. Dunn of Halifax-Yarmouth and Marcel Damphousse of Ottawa-Cornwall; Filipino Cardinal José Advincula of Manila and Irish Archbishop Dermot P. Farrell of Dublin.

“This sign of unity with Peter recalls the mission of the shepherd who gives his life for the flock,” the pope told the archbishops before concluding his homily. “It is in giving his life that the shepherd, himself set free, becomes a means of bringing freedom to his brothers and sisters.”

Keeping with a long tradition, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was present for the Mass and, afterward, went with Pope Francis down the stairs below the main altar to pray at St. Peter’s tomb.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul, the “two pillars of the church” who, after experiencing God’s love in their lives, “became apostles and ministers of freedom for others.”

Because of Jesus’ unconditional love, Peter was set free “from his sense of inadequacy and his bitter experience of failure,” the pope explained. While Peter “often yielded to fear,” Jesus “was willing to take a risk on him” and encouraged him to not give up.

“In this way, Jesus set Peter free from fear, from calculations based solely on worldly concerns,” the pope said. “He gave him the courage to risk everything and the joy of becoming a fisher of men. It was Peter whom Jesus called to strengthen his brothers in faith.”

On the other hand, the pope continued, Paul experienced a different kind of freedom “from the most oppressive form of slavery, which is slavery to self.”

Christ also freed Paul “from the religious fervor that had made him a zealous defender of his ancestral traditions and a cruel persecutor of Christians,” he added.

“Formal religious observance and the intransigent defense of tradition, rather than making him open to the love of God and of his brothers and sisters, had hardened him,” the pope said.

God, however, did not spare Paul from “frailties and hardships,” such as illness, violence and persecution during his missions, thus revealing to the apostle that “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to be free from fear like Peter and, like Paul, to be free “from the temptation to present ourselves with worldly power rather than with the weakness that makes space for God” and “free from a religiosity that makes us rigid and inflexible.”

“Peter and Paul bequeath to us the image of a church entrusted to our hands, yet guided by the Lord with fidelity and tender love,” the pope said.

“A church that is weak, yet finds strength in the presence of God. A church set free and capable of offering the world the freedom that the world by itself cannot give: freedom from sin and death, from resignation, and from the sense of injustice and the loss of hope that dehumanizes the lives of the women and men of our time,” he said.


An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this March 22, 2017, file photo. The pope has chosen the theme “I am with you always,” for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Writing to his peers, Catholics who have reached a venerable age like he has, Pope Francis told older Catholics that God is close to them and still has plans for their lives.

“I was called to become the bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age, and thought I would not be doing anything new,” said the pope, who is 84 now and was elected when he was 76.

“The Lord is always – always – close to us. He is close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, new consolations, but always close to us. You know that the Lord is eternal; he never, ever goes into retirement,” the pope wrote in his message for the Catholic Church’s first celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The message was released at the Vatican June 22 in anticipation of the celebration July 25, the Sunday closest to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents.

The Vatican also announced that people who attend a Mass or other celebration for the day, “devote adequate time to actually or virtually visiting their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty” or join in prayers for the elderly July 25 can receive a plenary indulgence as long as they fulfill the usual requirements of also going to confession, receiving the Eucharist and praying for the intentions of the pope.

The indulgence also is available to “the elderly sick and all those who, unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, will unite themselves spiritually to the sacred functions of the world day, offering to the merciful God their prayers, pains or sufferings of their lives,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis’ message, which was distributed in writing and on video, acknowledged how much many older people around the world suffered and continue to suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he also insisted that the Christian call to share the Gospel is as pertinent now for all of them as it ever was.

“Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones,” he wrote. “Never forget this.”

“It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance,” he said. “There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”

Pope Francis said he knew many older people might wonder how they could be called to something new when their “energy is running out” or they cannot even leave the residence where they live. They may even ask, “Isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden?”

“You 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,” the pope insisted.

A better future, he said, must be built on the pillars of “dreams, memory and prayer,” pillars that “even the frailest among us” can help erect with God’s help.

While it is true that the energy and enthusiasm of the young is needed to help set the global society on a new path, “our dreams of justice, of peace, of solidarity can make it possible for our young people to have new visions,” the pope wrote. “You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship. I am sure that you have had more than one such experience: in your life you have faced any number of troubles and yet were able to pull through. Use those experiences to learn how to pull through now.”

While many people, young and old, act as if the reminiscences of the elderly are boring, Pope Francis said that “without memory, however, we will never be able to build; without a foundation, we can never build a house. Never. And the foundation of life is memory.”

As examples, the pope cited the experience many older people have had of war or of needing to emigrate.

Sharing “the painful memory of war,” he said, is important “for helping the young to learn the value of peace.”

“I also think of my own grandparents, and those among you who had to emigrate and know how hard it is to leave everything behind, as so many people continue to do today, in hope of a future,” he said. “Some of those people may even now be at our side, caring for us. These kinds of memory can help to build a more humane and welcoming world.”

Turning to the importance of prayer, Pope Francis cited “my predecessor, Pope Benedict, himself a saintly elderly person who continues to pray and work for the church” at the age of 94.

“The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it perhaps more effectively than the frenetic activity of many others,” the pope quoted his predecessor as saying. “He spoke those words in 2012, toward the end of his pontificate. There is something beautiful here.”

“Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the church and the world urgently need,” Pope Francis told the elderly. “Especially in these difficult times for our human family, as we continue to sail in the same boat across the stormy sea of the pandemic, your intercession for the world and for the church has great value: it inspires in everyone the serene trust that we will soon come to shore.”

The text of the pope’s message in English is at: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html

The text of the message in Spanish: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/nonni/documents/20210531-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html



Pope Francis leads an audience June 7, 2021 at the Vatican with priests staying at the St. Louis of France residence for priests in Rome. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis told a group of priests studying in Rome that if they do not want to be pastors, spending time with the faithful, they should request dismissal from the priesthood and concentrate on academics instead.

“Be pastors with the scent of your sheep, persons able to live, laugh and cry with your people — in other words, to communicate with them,” the pope told the priests June 7.

The priests, who are studying at pontifical universities in Rome, live at the city’s St. Louis of France residence.

The priesthood cannot be understood without its essential connection to “the holy people of God,” the pope told them. “The ministerial priesthood is a consequence of the baptismal priesthood of the holy faithful people of God.”

“If you think of a priesthood isolated from the people of God, that is not a Catholic priesthood,” he said. A Catholic priest puts God and God’s people at the center of his daily concerns, setting aside self-interest and “dreams of greatness.”

“To put God’s holy faithful people at the center, you must be a pastor,” he said.

A priest who would say, “No, I would like to be an intellectual only, not a pastor,” would be better off asking for “a reduction to the lay state,” the pope said. “But if you are a priest, be a pastor.”

Obviously, there are many ways to be a pastor, he said, but all those ways involve being “in the midst of God’s people.”

During the ongoing year dedicated to St. Joseph, Pope Francis asked the priests “to rediscover the face of this man of faith, this tender father, a model of fidelity and trusting abandonment to God’s plan.”

St. Joseph is a reminder that “having faith in God also includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses,” he said. “We must not leave frailty aside: it is a theological place.”

“My fragility, the fragility of each one of us, is a theological place of encounter with the Lord. The ‘superman’ priests end up badly, all of them,” Pope Francis said. “The fragile priest, who knows his weaknesses and talks about them with the Lord, he will be fine.”

To be the “apostles of joy” that the church and its people need, priests also must have a sense of humor, he said, and they must cultivate gratitude for being called to serve people and the church.



Archbishop Filippo Iannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, attends a press conference to discuss revisions to the Code of Canon Law, at the Vatican June 1, 2021. Pope Francis has promulgated a revised section of the Code of Canon Law dealing with crimes and punishments. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The new series of laws and provisions set out in the revised section on crimes and penalties in the Code of Canon Law will help the Catholic Church in its efforts at safeguarding, said two canon lawyers.

And yet, like with every new norm and measure, its success will depend on following through on enforcement, being mindful in interpreting still unclear aspects and working on remaining gaps, they said.

Pope Francis promulgated the new changes in “Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church,” and they will go into effect Dec. 8 — the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The revisions reflect almost two decades of work in updating, adding, clarifying and strengthening what the church considers to be crimes and what provisions for sanctioning are available.

Much damage has come from not understanding how applying sanctions is part of exercising charity and establishing justice, the pope said, as “charity and mercy require a father to commit himself also to straightening what at times becomes crooked.”

Claudia Giampietro, a canon lawyer and project officer at the office for care and safeguarding for the International Union of Superiors General, told Catholic News Service that this mindset of respect and protection is a significant change.

The ultimate principle of safeguarding “is recognizing that a wounded humanity needs respect, and this must inform every single act performed within and outside of the Catholic Church,” she told CNS in an email response to questions June 3.

It shows how the revisions have been informed by and reflect “the voice of victims and survivors of abuse, which is making the church aware and, therefore, responsible” in turning their requests “into canonical provisions which can support the healing process involving the entire ecclesial community,” she added.

Also, she said, by putting abuse, indecent exposure, pornography and grooming in a new chapter that adds the term “dignity,” — under the heading “Offences Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty” — this shows an understanding that such crimes “harm the inalienable dignity of human beings acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and are not just a violation of the Sixth Commandment.

“I believe that this choice of language expresses at its best the mind of a legislator (the pope) who has been always defending the inestimable value of every human life in his pontificate and in his entire life,” Giampietro said.

Msgr. Robert Oliver of the Archdiocese of Boston and formerly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors told CNS that “the one thing that stands out for safeguarding is that the Holy Father has introduced legal requirements that suspected offenses be reported and that bishops respond to these reports by making use of the church’s penal procedures” for the restoration of justice, the reform of the offender and the repair of scandal.

In other words, where previous canons suggested what “can” be done when an offense has been committed, now the rules are what “must” be done and making sure the law is applied.

Giampietro said all the changes and new provisions created over the years “needed to be codified in the universal law to give clear normative directions to the whole church.”

It also includes changes “that had to be included in the code more permanently,” she said, such as those found in “Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” which was promulgated “ad experimentum,” for greater accountability of church leaders.

Another significant change is expanding the application of canons dealing with abuse to religious and laypeople who have a role, office or function in the church — not just to clergy, she said.

“It was a very much needed change as religious always felt that there was a gap in the legislation concerning them in relation to abuse cases,” she said, underlining how the women’s UISG has a safeguarding office and organizes online formation together with the men’s Union of Superiors General and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Here, “canon law is being studied and discussed as one of the instruments which can help to establish safe environments,” she said, and “it is encouraging, as a laywoman, to see how much superiors general work together for the care and protection of minors and vulnerable persons.”

One critical element still needing attention, Msgr. Oliver said in an email response to questions June 4, is “clarifying the definition of ‘vulnerable persons,’ a process that will include deciding individual cases of people, who were ‘limited in their ability to understand or to want or otherwise resist the offense.'”

Other issues needing work to further help the church in its response to abuse, he added, would be publishing how cases are decided and explaining the reasoning behind those decisions.

“Now the task is to implement these principles and norms effectively and to work out areas that still need to be better related to one another,” he said, saying “the size of this task can easily be underestimated.”

“It will require that dioceses, eparchies and conferences of bishops and of religious build the necessary organizational structures, especially by investing in the training of experts to carry out the investigations and penal processes,” he said.

Giampietro said she was “very hopeful that more positive changes concerning (laypeople) will be implemented in canon law” in the future. For example, “we would need a greater balance with the inclusion of more ecclesiastical lay judges. This would help to tackle clericalism in the church, which Pope Francis has always discouraged.”

Every document and decree drafted over the years, she said, are pieces compiling a larger picture of what it looks like to “care for humanity.”

It shows “the will to learn from mistakes of the past and make sure that they are not repeated. Once we see these changes within this picture, we acquire the right disposition necessary to follow a path of universal healing,” she said.

The Code of Canon Law, first published in 1917 and revised in 1983, is still subject to alterations between revisions, according to Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer, an associate professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Unlike legislatures in many nations, “the legislator is the Roman pontiff. It is the pontiff who can revise a canon or abrogate it,” Sister Bauer said. “It’s not like the Synod of Bishops can get together and do this.”

She added, “Individual bishops can legislate certain things for their diocese and the conference of bishops can legislate certain things for their territory, but they have very limited ability.”

Last November, she noted, one canon was revised that governed the norms for who can establish an institute of consecrated life.

Between the 1917 and 1983 codes, “the code revision started in the late 1960s, went through the ’70s, and was pretty much done by 1980. It was pretty much done by the time (St.) John Paul II promulgated it in 1983,” Sister Bauer told CNS in a June 4 phone interview.

Has the pace of canon law revision picked up? “I think Pope Francis has revised more than I expected he would,” she replied. “He has a very pastoral heart, and I didn’t expect that he would be as involved in the law, the legal part. But I think it’s his pastoral heart that has prompted him to do this in many ways — the concern for the faithful, certainly the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.”

However, Sister Bauer said, “not all of the laws in the church are in the Code of Canon Law. The work of the church is to know where they are … so if a case comes up, they can really know what is the current law, whether it’s been revised or changed.”


Archbishop Filippo Iannone, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, attends a press conference to discuss revisions to the Code of Canon Law, at the Vatican June 1, 2021. Pope Francis has promulgated a revised section of the Code of Canon Law dealing with crimes and punishments. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A series of laws and procedures promulgated by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and, especially, by Pope Francis to protect children, promote the investigation of allegations of clerical sexual abuse and punish offenders are included in a heavily revised section of the Code of Canon Law.

The revision of “Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church,” one of seven books that make up the code for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, was promulgated June 1 and will go into effect Dec. 8, Pope Francis wrote.

Rewriting 63 of the book’s 89 canons, the revision addresses a host of issues that have come up in the life of the church since St. John Paul II promulgated the code in 1983. The descriptions of crimes of sexual abuse, including child pornography, are more explicit, and the required actions of a bishop or superior of a religious order in handling allegations are more stringent.

The revised canons also include new references to the attempted ordination of a woman and to a variety of financial crimes; like with the new canons dealing with sexual abuse, they rely on language from laws promulgated separately over the past 20 years.

“In the past, much damage has been caused by a failure to perceive the intimate relationship existing in the church between the exercise of charity and recourse — when circumstances and justice require it — to the discipline of sanctions. This way of thinking, as experience has taught us, risks leading to a life of behavior contrary to the discipline of morals, for the remedy of which exhortations or suggestions alone are not sufficient,” Pope Francis wrote in “Pascite Gregem Dei” (Shepherd God’s Flock), the apostolic constitution promulgating the changes.

While church law applies to all Catholics, the pope said, for bishops, the observance of canon law “can in no way be separated from the pastoral ‘munus’ (service) entrusted to them, and which must be carried out as a concrete and inalienable requirement of charity not only toward the church, the Christian community and possible victims, but also toward those who have committed a crime, who need both mercy and correction on the part of the church.”

Over the years, he said, it became clear that the code’s description of crimes and penalties needed to be “modified in such a way as to allow pastors to use it as a more agile salvific and corrective instrument, to be employed promptly and with pastoral charity to avoid more serious evils and to soothe the wounds caused by human weakness.”

The revised book was presented to the press June 1 by Archbishop Filippo Iannone and Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. In 2009, Pope Benedict had asked the council to begin the revision project.

The revision moves the canons about the sexual abuse of children — on the part of a priest, religious or layperson working for the church — out of the section on violations of the obligation of celibacy and into a newly titled section of “Offenses Against Human Life, Dignity and Liberty.”

It adds to canon law the crime of “grooming,” calling for penalties, including dismissal from the priesthood for a cleric who “grooms or induces a minor or a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason or one to whom the law recognizes equal protection to expose himself or herself pornographically or to take part in pornographic exhibitions, whether real or simulated.”

However, the revised language still refers to rape and other forms of sexual abuse as “an offence against the Sixth Commandment” — You shall not commit adultery.

The continued use of the Sixth Commandment to refer to any improper, immoral or even criminal sexual activity “is traditional” in church law, Bishop Arrieta said, and for Catholics its meaning “is clear,” which is necessary when drafting a law that will be valid on every continent and in every culture.

In incorporating recent church law regarding abuse, the new code does not refer to abuse of “vulnerable” adults or “vulnerable persons” as Pope Francis did in his May 2019 motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi.”

Bishop Arrieta said the term “vulnerable person,” while understood and recognized in the law of many countries, is not universally accepted as a legal category of persons deserving special protection. Instead, the new law refers to people whom the law recognizes as deserving of the same protection extended to minors and those with “an imperfect use of reason.”

The revised law also foresees penalties for “a person who neglects to report an offence, when required to do so by a canonical law.”

Bishop Arrieta said that provision refers to the obligation to report serious crimes, such as sexual abuse, to church authorities, not civil authorities. If criminal reporting to the state is obligatory, the state will enforce that, he said.

The revised code also says, “Both a person who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive the sacred order, incur a ‘latae sententiae’ (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by dismissal from the clerical state.”

Given that Pope Francis in April 2020 formed a second “Study Commission on the Female Diaconate,” Bishop Arrieta was asked why the revised canon did not specify priestly ordination, leaving open the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate.

Canon law, he said, relies on the current state of the teaching of the church. “If we come to a different theological conclusion, we will modify the norm,” he said, just as was done in January when Pope Francis ordered a change in the wording of canon law so that women, as well as men, could be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.