Pope Francis greets people during an encounter with the elderly in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this Sept. 28, 2014, file photo. During his Jan. 31 Sunday Angelus, the pope announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations.

During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25.

“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people — taking strength from their grandparents — will go forward and prophesy,” he said.

Highlighting the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.”

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.

In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”

“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.

Cardinal Farrell added that “today, more than ever, we are committed to making every effort to dismantle the throwaway culture and to enhance the charisms of grandparents and the elderly.”

The dicastery said Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 25 with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the Mass will be “subject to sanitary regulations in place at the time.”

“Closer to the world day, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life will announce any further initiatives that will mark the event,” the statement said. “As of now, the dicastery is inviting parishes and dioceses around the world to celebrate this world day at the local level in ways that are suited to their pastoral context.”

 

The Vatican health service began vaccinating employees, residents and retirees with the COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 13, 2021, in a makeshift clinic set up in the atrium of the Vatican audience hall. Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI have both said they will be vaccinated. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Both Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI have received the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 after the Vatican started vaccinating its employees and residents Jan. 13.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office, confirmed the news Jan. 14.

While it was reported widely that Pope Francis received the vaccine Jan. 13, the retired pope’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, told Vatican News that Pope Benedict received his shot the morning of Jan. 14.

The archbishop had told the German Catholic news agency KNA Jan. 11 that the 93-year-old pope, who lives in a converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens, and his entire household staff wanted to be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine was available in Vatican City State.

He told Vatican News that the retired pope has been following the news “on television, and he shares our concerns about the pandemic, about what is happening in the world, about the many people who have lost their life because of the virus.”

“There have been people he knows who have died because of COVID-19,” he added.

Archbishop Ganswein said the retired pope is still very sharp mentally but that his voice and physical strength have weakened. “He is very frail and only can walk a little with a walker.”

He rests more, “but we still go out every afternoon, despite the cold, in the Vatican Gardens,” he added.

The Vatican’s vaccination program was voluntary. The Vatican health service was giving priority to its health care workers, security personnel, employees who deal with the public and older residents, employees and retirees.

In early December, Dr. Andrea Arcangeli, director of the Vatican health service, said they would begin with the Pfizer vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with BioNTech.

Pope Francis had said in a television interview broadcast Jan. 10 that he too would be vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as it was available.

He said that he believed that from an ethical point of view, everyone should take the vaccine because those who did not would not only put their own lives at risk, but also the lives of others.

In a press release Jan. 2, the Vatican’s health services department said it purchased an “ultra-low temperature refrigerator” for storing the vaccines and said it expected to receive enough doses to cover “the needs of the Holy See and Vatican City State.”

The Vatican reported its first known case of infection in early March, and since then there have been another 25 reported cases — including 11 Swiss guards in October.

Pope Francis’ personal doctor died Jan. 9 of complications caused by COVID-19. Fabrizio Soccorsi, 78, had been admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital Dec. 26 because of cancer, according to the Italian Catholic agency SIR, Jan. 9.

However, he died because of “pulmonary complications” caused by COVID-19, the agency said, without providing further details.

 

Pope Francis walks near a figurine of the baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In times of doubt and suffering, Christians must not focus on their problems, but instead lift up their eyes to God, who leads them toward the hopeful promise of great things to come, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Epiphany.

“This does not mean denying reality, or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. Rather, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed,” the pope said.

The pope celebrated Mass with a little over 100 people, all wearing masks and seated socially distanced from each other, at the Altar of the Chair St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6.

In accordance with an ancient tradition, after the proclamation of the Gospel on Epiphany, a singer from the Sistine Choir chanted the announcement of the date of Easter 2021 (April 4) and the dates of other feasts on the church calendar that are calculated according to the date of Easter.

After celebrating Mass, the pope prayed the Angelus in the library of the Apostolic Palace.

In his Angelus address, the pope said that Christ is “the star who appeared on the horizon, the awaited Messiah, the one through whom God would inaugurate his kingdom of love, of justice and of peace.

“He was born not only for some, but for all men and women, for all peoples,” the pope said.

Christians, he added, “must also be the star for our brothers and sisters” and shine bright “by drawing near to the other, encountering the other, assuming the reality of the other. This is the only way that the light of God, who is love, can shine in those who welcome it and attract others.”

“Woe to us if we think we possess it, that we only need to ‘manage’ it!” he exclaimed. “Like the Magi, we too are called to allow ourselves to be fascinated, attracted, guided, illuminated and converted by Christ.”

Earlier, in his homily at Mass, the pope focused on three phrases proclaimed in the day’s readings that offered “a few useful lessons from the Magi” on “what it means to be worshippers of the Lord.”

“Like them, we want to bow down and worship the Lord,” he said.

Reflecting on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the pope said the words of encouragement — “lift up your eyes” — spoken to the exiled people of Israel are a call to “lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into ourselves and our own concerns.”

Trusting in the Lord, despite problems, gives rise to gratitude, he said, and “our hearts become open to worship.”

On the other hand, he said, focusing exclusively on problems and not looking to God for hope causes “fear and confusion to creep into our hearts, giving rise to anger, bewilderment, anxiety and depression.”

“When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away, but we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them,” the pope said. “The first step toward an attitude of worship, then, is to ‘lift up our eyes.'”

The second phrase — “to set out on a journey” — recalls the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem to worship baby Jesus, he continued.

A journey, he said, always sparks a “transformation, a change” in which one learns new things and finds “inner strength amid the hardships and risks” he or she may encounter along the way.

“Like the Magi, we too must allow ourselves to learn from the journey of life, marked by the inevitable inconveniences of travel,” he said. “We cannot let our weariness, our falls and our failings discourage us.”

Even one’s sins, when one recognizes and repents of them, “will help you to grow,” the pope added.

Pope Francis said the final phrase — “to see” — invites Christians to look “beyond the veil of things visible, which often prove deceptive,” and instead follow the example of the Magi who observed the world with a “theological realism” that allowed them to perceive “the objective reality of things and leads to the realization that God shuns all ostentation.”

It is “a way of ‘seeing’ that transcends the visible and makes it possible for us to worship the Lord who is often hidden in everyday situations, in the poor and those on the fringes,” the pope said. It is “a way of seeing things that is not impressed by sound and fury, but seeks in every situation the things that truly matter.”

 

Pope Francis delivers his Christmas message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the Hall of Blessings at the Vatican Dec. 25, 2020. Also pictured are Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, and Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — On a Christmas like no other, Pope Francis prayed for people who could not be with their families because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he urged everyone to recognize and help those who are suffering even more.

From inside the Hall of Blessings — a long, gold-hued room above the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica lined on the east with enormous windows and balconies facing St. Peter’s Square — Pope Francis delivered his Christmas message and his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

As announced by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, the solemn blessing included a plenary indulgence for everyone watching on television, listening by radio or following by computer.

Because of Italy’s renewed lockdown to slow the spread of the virus, the pope read his message in the presence of a representative group of about 50 people. The tens of thousands of people who usually would throng the square for the midday appointment Dec. 25 were all ordered to be at home, and St. Peter’s Square was closed to the public.

“My thoughts at this moment turn to families: to those who cannot come together today and to those forced to remain at home,” the pope said. “May Christmas be an opportunity for all of us to rediscover the family as a cradle of life and faith, a place of acceptance and love, dialogue, forgiveness, fraternal solidarity and shared joy, a source of peace for all humanity.”

In a last-minute addition to his text, Pope Francis called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people.

“At Christmas, we celebrate the light of Christ that comes into the world, and he comes for all, not just for some,” the pope said. “Today, at this time of darkness and uncertainty because of the pandemic, there appear different lights of hope, such as the discovery of vaccines.”

“But so these lights may illuminate and bring light to the whole world, they must be available to all,” he said. “I cannot put myself before others, placing the laws of the market and of patents above the law of love and the health of humanity.”

Pope Francis pleaded with the leaders of governments, pharmaceutical companies and international agencies “to promote cooperation and not competition” in ensuring the widespread availability of the vaccines.

Peace and family — in the sense that all people are brothers and sisters — were the central themes of the pope’s message, echoing the teaching in his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

“A birth is always a source of hope; it is life that blossoms, a promise of the future,” he said. But Jesus’ birth is even more powerful since he was born “‘to us’ — an ‘us’ without any borders, privileges or exclusions. The child born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem was born for everyone: he is the ‘son’ that God has given to the entire human family.”

“Thanks to this child, we can all call one another brothers and sisters, for so we truly are,” the pope said. “We come from every continent, from every language and culture, with our own identities and differences, yet we are all brothers and sisters.”

Recognizing that connection, he said, is even more important “at this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.”

As children of God and brothers and sisters to one another, the pope said, the kinship existing between everyone is not sentimental, but is “grounded in genuine love, making it possible for me to encounter others different from myself, feeling compassion for their sufferings, drawing near to them and caring for them even though they do not belong to my family, my ethnic group or my religion.”

“For all their differences, they are still my brothers and sisters,” he said “The same thing is true of relationships between peoples and nations.”

Pope Francis prayed that the newborn Jesus would help everyone “be generous, supportive and helpful, especially toward those who are vulnerable — the sick, those unemployed or experiencing hardship due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown.”

Migrants, refugees and the innocent victims of wars around the world were also on the pope’s mind as he celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace.

The faces of the suffering children in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, he said, should touch people’s consciences and make them pray and work for peace.

“May the Babe of Bethlehem grant the gift of fraternity to the land that witnessed his birth,” the pope said. “May Israelis and Palestinians regain mutual trust and seek a just and lasting peace through a direct dialogue capable of ending violence and overcoming endemic grievances, and thus bear witness before the world to the beauty of fraternity.”

Pope Francis also made specific pleas for reconciliation and an end to conflicts in eastern Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh, Ethiopia, northern Mozambique, South Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon.

“May the Eternal Word of the Father be a source of hope for the American continent, particularly affected by the coronavirus, which has intensified its many sufferings, frequently aggravated by the effects of corruption and drug trafficking,” he prayed. “May he help to ease the recent social tensions in Chile and end the sufferings of the people of Venezuela.”

Praising those who “work to bring hope, comfort and help to those who suffer and those who are alone,” the pope insisted that Jesus’ birth “tells us that pain and evil are not the final word. To become resigned to violence and injustice would be to reject the joy and hope of Christmas.”

 

Forgiveness is love, as Pope Francis declared in his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” when he refers to “the Christian ideal” as “a love that never gives up.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” approaches, Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church will dedicate more than a year to focusing on the family and conjugal love.

During his Sunday Angelus address Dec. 27, the pope commemorated the feast of the Holy Family and said that it served as a reminder “of the example of evangelizing with the family” as highlighted in his exhortation.

Beginning March 19, he said, the year of reflection on “Amoris Laetitia” will be an opportunity “to focus more closely on the contents of the document.”

“I invite everyone to take part in the initiatives that will be promoted during the year and that will be coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life,” he added. “Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St. Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”

According to the dicastery’s website, the “Amoris Laetitia Family” year “aims to reach every family around the world through several spiritual, pastoral and cultural proposals that can be implemented within parishes, dioceses, universities, ecclesial movements and family associations.”

The dicastery said that the goals of the celebration include sharing the contents of the apostolic exhortation more widely, proclaiming the gift of the sacrament of marriage and enabling families to “become active agents of the family apostolate.”

The “Amoris Laetitia Family” year will include forums, symposiums, video projects and catechesis as well as providing resources for family spirituality, pastoral formation and marriage preparation.

The commemoration will conclude June 26, 2022, “on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families in Rome,” the dicastery said.

Pope Francis already had declared a year of St. Joseph, which began Dec. 8 and ends Dec. 8, 2021.

In his Angelus talk, the pope said that the Holy Family is a model in which “all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration.”

Through them, he said, “we are called to rediscover the educational value of the family unit; it must be founded on the love that always regenerates relationships, opening up horizons of hope.”

Families can experience sincere communion when they live in prayer, when forgiveness prevails over discord and “when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will,” he added.

“I would like to say something to you: If you quarrel within the family, do not end the day without making peace,” the pope said. “And do you know why? Because cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help.”

Pope Francis also reflected on the theme of forgiveness during his Angelus address on the feast of St. Stephen Dec. 26.

Recalling St. Stephen’s martyrdom, the pope said that although it may seem that his death was in vain, among those who witnessed and consented to his stoning was St. Paul, who eventually became “the greatest missionary in history.”

St. Stephen’s example “was the seed” of St. Paul’s conversion, he said. “This is the proof that loving actions change history: even the ones that are small, hidden, every day.”

Christians, he added, can become witnesses of Christ through their everyday actions, “even just by fleeing the shadow of gossip” or refusing to speak ill of others.

“When an argument starts at home, instead of trying to win it, let’s try to diffuse it,” and forgive one another, Pope Francis said. Small efforts and gestures, he said, “change history because they open the door, they open the window to Jesus’s light.”

 

 

 

A health care worker at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 17, 2020. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s doctrinal office said that when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses.

However, “the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses,” said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated,” it added in a note published Dec. 21.

The note “on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines” had been reviewed by Pope Francis Dec. 17 and he ordered its publication, the doctrinal office said.

As vaccines against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are being distributed in some parts of the world, the doctrinal office said it has been receiving requests for guidance regarding the use of vaccines which, “in the course of research and production, employed cell lines drawn from tissue obtained from two abortions that occurred in the last century.”

The “diverse and sometimes conflicting pronouncements in the mass media by bishops, Catholic associations, and experts have raised questions about the morality of the use of these vaccines,” the congregation said.

Even though there are already some notes and instructions by the doctrinal office and the Pontifical Academy for Life regarding vaccines prepared from such cell lines, it said, “this congregation desires to offer some indications for clarification of this matter.”

The Catholic Church teaches that there are differing degrees of responsibility of cooperation with evil. That means that the responsibility of those who make the decision to use cell lines of illicit origin is not the same as those “who have no voice in such a decision,” the doctrinal office said, quoting from its 2008 instruction, “Dignitas Personae.”

“When ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available — e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated — it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” the doctrinal congregation wrote in the new note.

Using these vaccines is morally licit when the “passive material cooperation” with the evil of an abortion “from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote.”

“The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent — in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19,” it said.

Therefore, in such a case, “all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion,” it said.

However, the doctrinal congregation emphasized that “the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.”

The congregation repeated the Vatican’s call on pharmaceutical companies and governmental agencies to produce, approve and distribute ethically acceptable vaccines, that is, without using morally compromised cell lines at all.

The doctrinal office also said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

From an ethical point of view, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good,” it added.

If there are no other means to stop or prevent an epidemic, the congregation said, “the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

Those who wish, for “reasons of conscience,” to refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, “must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission” of the virus.

They must avoid putting at risk the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and who are the most vulnerable, it said.

Lastly, the congregation said it is “a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them.”

Otherwise, this lack of access would become yet another sign of discrimination and injustice “that condemns poor countries to continue living in health, economic and social poverty.”

 

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The ministry of a Catholic bishop must reflect the Catholic Church’s commitment to Christian unity and must give ecumenical engagement the same kind of attention as work for justice and peace, said a new Vatican document.

“The bishop cannot consider the promotion of the ecumenical cause as one more task in his varied ministry, one that could and should be deferred in view of other, apparently more important priorities,” said the document, “The Bishop and Christian Unity: An Ecumenical Vademecum.”   “El Obispo Y La Unidad De Los Cristianos: Vademécum Ecuménico”

Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the 52-page document was released Dec. 4 after its publication was approved by Pope Francis.

The text reminds each Catholic bishop of his personal responsibility as a minister of unity, not only among the Catholics of his diocese, but also with other Christians.

As a “vademecum,” or guidebook, it provides lists of practical steps the bishop can and should take to fulfill that responsibility in every aspect of his ministry, from inviting other Christian leaders to important diocesan celebrations to highlighting ecumenical activities on the diocesan website.

And, as the chief teacher in his diocese, he must ensure that the content of conferences, religious education programs and homilies at the diocesan and parish level promote Christian unity and accurately reflect the teachings of the church’s partners in dialogue.

Demonstrating the importance of the document, the online news conference to present it featured not one, but four top Vatican officials: Cardinals Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

With its explanations and its concrete suggestions, Cardinal Ouellet said, the booklet provides the tools for realizing “the ecumenical conversion of bishops and every disciple of Christ who wishes to better incarnate the joy of the Gospel in our time.”

Cardinal Tagle said the vademecum reminds bishops in missionary lands that they must not import Christian divisions to new parts of the world and asks Catholics to understand just how much the divisions within Christianity turn off people who “are looking for meaning in life, for salvation.”

“The non-Christians are scandalized, really scandalized, when we Christians claim to be followers of Christ and then they see how we are fighting one another,” he said.

But ecumenism is not seeking a truce or “compromise as if unity should be achieved at the expense of truth,” the document explained.

Catholic doctrine insists there is a “hierarchy of truths,” a prioritizing of essential beliefs based “on their relation to the saving mysteries of the Trinity and salvation in Christ, the source of all Christian doctrines.”

In conversations with other Christians, the document said, “by weighing truths rather than simply enumerating them, Catholics gain a more accurate understanding of the unity that exists among Christians.”

That unity, based first on baptism into Christ and his church, is the foundation on which Christian unity is built step by step, the document said. The steps include: common prayer; joint action to alleviate suffering and promote justice; theological dialogue to clarify commonalities and differences; and a willingness to recognize the way God has worked in another community and to learn from it.

The document also treated the question of sharing the Eucharist, an issue that has long been a thorny one in ecumenical dialogue as well as within the Catholic Church itself, as demonstrated by recent Vatican efforts to caution the bishops of Germany about issuing broad invitations for Lutherans married to Catholics to receive Communion.

Catholics cannot share the Eucharist with other Christians just to be “polite,” but there are pastoral situations in which individual bishops may decide when “exceptional sacramental sharing is appropriate,” the document said.

When discerning possibilities for sharing the sacraments, it said, bishops must keep two principles in mind at all times, even when those principles create tension: a sacrament, especially the Eucharist, is a “witness to the unity of the church,” and a sacrament is a “sharing of the means of grace.”

So, it said, “in general, participation in the sacraments of the Eucharist, reconciliation and anointing is limited to those in full communion.”

However, the document noted, the Vatican’s 1993 “Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms of Ecumenism” also stated that “by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other churches and ecclesial communities.”

“‘Communicatio in sacris’ (sharing in sacramental life) is therefore permitted for the care of souls within certain circumstances,” the text said, “and when this is the case it is to be recognized as both desirable and commendable.”

Cardinal Koch, responding to a question, said the relationship between the sacraments and the full unity of the churches is the “basic” principle, meaning that in most cases eucharistic sharing will not be possible until the churches are fully united.

The Catholic Church, he said, does not see the sharing of the sacraments as “a step on the way,” as some Christian communities do. However, “for one person, a single person, there can be an opportunity for sharing this grace in different cases” as long as the person meets the requirement of canon law, which says a non-Catholic must request the Eucharist of his or her own accord, “manifest Catholic faith” in the sacrament and be “properly disposed.”

The Catholic Church recognizes the full validity of the Eucharist celebrated by the Orthodox Church and, with many fewer restrictions, allows Orthodox Christians to request and receive the sacraments from a Catholic minister.

Cardinal Sandri, speaking at the news conference, said the document “is a further affirmation that it is no longer legitimate for us to be ignorant of the Christian East, nor can we pretend to have forgotten the brothers and sisters of those venerable churches that, together with us, constitute the family of believers in the God of Jesus Christ.”

 

A social media campaign by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life aims to encourage young people to reach out to their grandparents and older people. You can participate in the campaign by using the hashtag #aGiftOfWisdom. (CNS photo/Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — One present young people should ask for this Christmas is words of wisdom from older people they know, a Vatican dicastery said.

“Today, in the difficult circumstances of a Christmas still overshadowed by the pandemic, we are proposing that young people post on social media a memory, a piece of advice or a ‘gift of wisdom’ they have received from one of the elderly people with whom they have formed a bond in recent months,” said the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.

The invitation was part of a new campaign launched Nov. 27 aimed at encouraging young people to reach out to their grandparents and other older people, not only to help alleviate the isolation and loneliness caused by pandemic restrictions, but also to create new and creative bonds.

The unusual circumstances caused by the pandemic means “there is an opportunity for young people to receive a special gift” for Christmas this year, the dicastery said in a news release.

“Because of the pandemic, there are more elderly people who live alone. We can create bonds with each of them — this is a treasure waiting to be discovered!”

The Vatican office asked that people reach out to older people and ask for “the gift of their wisdom.” People can then take the advice, memories and nuggets of wisdom they collect and post them on social media using the hashtag #aGiftOfWisdom.

“Some of the best posts will be shared” on the dicastery’s social media accounts @laityfamilylife, it said.

“Unfortunately, in many cases, because of the health regulations in force, visiting can only take place remotely, via telephone, video calls and messaging. But it is possible to participate in this campaign” by sharing “the wise words of grandparents and the elderly on social media,” it added.

The latest campaign follows a similar effort the dicastery launched in July in which it “collected virtual hugs sent by many young people to both their own grandparents and to ‘adopted grandparents,'” it said. The effort was meant to encourage young people to show kindness and affection to older people who may be feeling lonely.

For other ideas and guidance, the dicastery has posted on its website, laityfamilylife.va, a free e-book, “The Richness of Many Years of Life,” which offers a toolkit in multiple languages “for the development of a true pastoral ministry that reaches out” and involves the elderly as active participants in the church.

The e-book includes the proceedings of the first international conference on the pastoral care of the elderly the dicastery held in January 2020 to promote a “renewed concern for the pastoral care of the elderly in every ecclesial community.”

 

Pope Francis places the red biretta on new Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington during a consistory for the creation of 13 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 28, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — One by one 11 senior churchmen, including two U.S. citizens — Cardinals Wilton D. Gregory of Washington and Silvano M. Tomasi, a former Vatican diplomat — knelt before Pope Francis to receive their red hats, a cardinal’s ring and a scroll formally declaring their new status and assigning them a “titular” church in Rome.

But with the consistory Nov. 28 occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis actually created 13 new cardinals.

Cardinals Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, Philippines, and Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, did not attend the consistory because of COVID-19 travel restrictions; however, they are officially cardinals and will receive their birettas and rings at a later date, the Vatican said.

In his homily at the prayer service, Pope Francis told the new cardinals that “the scarlet of a cardinal’s robes, which is the color of blood, can, for a worldly spirit, become the color of a secular ’eminence,'” the traditional title of respect for a cardinal.

If that happens, he said, “you will no longer be a pastor close to your people. You will think of yourself only as ‘His Eminence.’ If you feel that, you are off the path.”

For the cardinals, the pope said, the red must symbolize a wholehearted following of Jesus, who willingly gave his life on the cross to save humanity.

The Gospel reading at the service, Mark 10:32-45, included the account of James and John asking Jesus for special honors. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left,” they said. But Jesus reproaches them.

“We, too, pope and cardinals, must always see ourselves reflected in this word of truth,” Pope Francis said. “It is a sharpened sword; it cuts, it proves painful, but it also heals, liberates and converts us.”

According to canon law, cardinals are created when their names are made public “in the presence of the College of Cardinals.” While many Rome-based cardinals attended the consistory, more members of the college were “present” online.

The pandemic also meant the gathering was unusually small; each cardinal was accompanied by a priest-secretary and could invite a handful of guests, so there were only about 100 people in the congregation at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Also missing were the “courtesy visits,” a reception lasting several hours in the early evening when the general public was invited into the Vatican to greet the new cardinals.

In addition to some Rome-based cardinals, the congregation at the consistory included the pastors or rectors of the 13 Rome churches to which the new cardinals were associated. Cardinals are given a “titular” church in Rome, formally making them members of the Rome diocesan clergy, which is what the church’s first cardinals were.

In fact, the formula for the creation of cardinals, recited in Latin by Pope Francis, says, “It chiefly concerns the church of Rome, but it also affects the entire ecclesial community: We will call certain of our brethren to enter the College of Cardinals, so that they may be united to the Chair of Peter by a closer bond to our apostolic ministry.”

Cardinal Gregory’s titular church is Immaculate Conception parish on the ancient Via Flaminia in the Grottarossa neighborhood of northern Rome. The church was built in 1935 and became a titular church for cardinals in 1985.

Cardinal Tomasi’s titular church is the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Prison, a 12th-century church with a 16th-century facade built on the site of an earlier church that was constructed over the ruins of an ancient temple.

Mexican Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, retired bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico, told Vatican News Nov. 27 that the new cardinals are called to reconfirm their commitment to making Christ the center of their lives and “to collaborate with the pope in his ministry as bishop of Rome, and so we are assigned a parish in this city, as a sign of communion between that community and the one who presides over this local church, which is the pope.”

Maltese Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, was the first mentioned by the pope Oct. 25 when he announced he was creating new cardinals. As such, it fell to Cardinal Grech to address the pope on behalf of the new cardinals.

“Convoked in consistory at such a serious time for all humanity because of the pandemic, we want to turn our thoughts to all our brothers and sisters enduring hardship,” the cardinal said. He prayed that people would react to the pandemic as an “opportunity to rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, especially, the meaning of our lives.”

Cardinal Grech also led the others in the recitation of the Creed and of an oath of fidelity and obedience to Christ and his church and to Pope Francis and his successors.

The new cardinals came from eight countries: Italy, Malta, the United States, Brunei, the Philippines, Mexico, Rwanda and Chile.

Cardinal Gregory, like the other new cardinals coming from outside Europe, was tested for COVID-19 before flying to Rome and again upon arrival. Even after testing negative, he and the others were required to quarantine for 10 days and were tested again immediately before the consistory. Cardinal Gregory stayed at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, and his meals were left outside his door.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, the cardinal said he hopes Pope Francis will find him to be “supportive, encouraging and trustworthy” in his role as a cardinal, but his primary ministry is still to be the archbishop of Washington.

Of course, he said, he regrets that “my two sisters are not here, and the many people I know and love from Chicago and Belleville (Illinois) and Atlanta and Washington,” who were watching the livestream instead.

One of Cardinal Tomasi’s guests was the pastor of his boyhood parish, San Rocco in Casoni di Mussolente, a town of fewer than 8,000 people in northern Italy. In the past 80 years, the cardinal told CNS, the parish has produced more than 100 priests and religious sisters, “and now also a cardinal. I hope it will help to continue the flourishing of vocations from the parish.”

With the consistory the College of Cardinals now has 229 members, 128 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to enter a conclave to elect a new pope. Pope Francis has given the red hat to 57% of electors.

With Cardinals Gregory and Tomasi, who was born in Italy but is a U.S. citizen, the number of U.S. cardinals rose to 16; nine of them are cardinal electors.

Entering the college Nov. 28 were Cardinals:

— Grech, 63.

— Marcello Semeraro, an Italian who is prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, 72.

— Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda, 62.

— Gregory, 72.

— Advincula, 68.

— Celestino Aos Braco of Santiago, Chile, 75.

— Sim, 69.

— Paolo Lojudice of Siena, Italy, 56.

— Mauro Gambetti, custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi in Assisi, 55.

— Arizmendi, 80.

— Tomasi, 80.

— Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, 86.

— Enrico Feroci, 80, former director of Rome’s Caritas.

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Pope Francis again insisted that all Catholics with disabilities have a right to receive the sacraments, and he suggested that Catholic parishes make real efforts to welcome and train persons with disabilities to serve as catechists.

“Creating a fully accessible parish requires not only the removal of architectural barriers, but above all, helping parishioners to develop attitudes and acts of solidarity and service toward persons with disabilities and their families,” the pope said in his message, published Dec. 3.

For the church, he said, “our aim should be to speak no longer about ‘them,’ but rather about ‘us.'”

The U.N. theme for the 2020 celebration of the international day was “Building Back Better: Toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world.”

Pope Francis said he was struck by “the expression ‘building back better,'” which made him think of the Gospel story about a house built on rock or on sand.

When used in reference to the way society, and sometimes even the church, treats persons with disabilities, he said, the rain, rivers and winds that threaten the house in the Bible story “can be identified with the throwaway culture widespread in our time.”

In a throwaway culture, he said, “some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others” or simply pushed aside and ignored.

Such an attitude “ignores the inevitable fact that frailty is part of everyone’s life,” he said. And, in fact, some people “with even severe disabilities, despite great challenges, have found the way to a beautiful and meaningful life, whereas many ‘able-bodied’ people feel dissatisfied or even desperate.”

To “build back better,” he said, inclusion is key because “the strength of a chain depends upon the attention paid to its weakest links.”

For the church, he said, religious education programs must be available to those with disabilities, and every seminarian, priest and catechist should be educated about disabilities and familiar with “the use of inclusive pastoral tools.”

“Before all else,” he said, “I strongly reaffirm the right of persons with disabilities to receive the sacraments, like all other members of the church. All liturgical celebrations in the parish should be accessible to them, so that, together with their brothers and sisters, each of them can deepen, celebrate and live their faith.”

And, like all members of the church, they should know they are called to be “missionary disciples,” sharing the faith with others, he said. “Indeed, the active participation of people with disabilities in the work of catechesis can greatly enrich the life of the whole parish” by their witness.