At his General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square last week, Pope Francis called for this Friday, October 27, 2023, to be a Day of Fasting, Penance and Prayer for the intention of peace in the world, especially in Israel and Palestine.
In making his announcement, the Holy Father said that “war does not solve any problems, it only sows death and destruction. It increases hatred, multiples revenge. War erases the future.”
All clergy and lay faithful throughout the Diocese of Scranton are being encouraged to observe this Day of Fasting, Penance and Prayer for Peace.
Parishioners in the Diocese are always encouraged to join in person, or via our televised and livestream Daily Mass celebration from the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton on Friday at 12:10 p.m.
Let us ask Our Lady, Queen of Peace, to intercede for us as we pray for peace in our world.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church must continue discerning its future by listening to everyone, starting with the poorest and excluded, after the assembly of the Synod of Bishops closes its first session, participants said in a letter addressed to the “People of God.”

The two-and-a-half-page letter published Oct. 25 recounted the spirit and activities of the assembly’s first session, held at the Vatican Oct. 4-29, and looked ahead to the assembly’s second session, expressing hope that the months leading up to October 2024 “will allow everyone to concretely participate in the dynamism of missionary communion indicated by the word ‘synod.'”

Participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops meeting in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Oct. 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“This is not about ideology, but about an experience rooted in the apostolic tradition,” the synod assembly wrote.

While the letter does not raise specific topics or questions to be addressed in the assembly’s next session — a synthesis report reflecting the work of the first session and next steps is expected to be published Oct. 28 — it did say that to “progress in its discernment, the church absolutely needs to listen to everyone, starting with the poorest.”

“It means listening to those who have been denied the right to speak in society or who feel excluded, even by the Church,” the letter said, specifying the need to listen to victims of racism, particularly Indigenous populations. “Above all, the Church of our time has the duty to listen, in a spirit of conversion, to those who have been victims of abuse committed by members of the ecclesial body and to commit herself concretely and structurally to ensuring that this does not happen again.”

The letter made special reference to the need for listening to the laity, catechists, children, the elderly, families and those who want to be involved in lay ministries and “participate in discernment and decision-making structures” of the church.

It also specified that the church must gather more experiences and testimonies from priests, bishops and consecrated persons, while being “attentive to all those who do not share her faith but are seeking the truth.”

The drafting of the letter was approved by the synod assembly and was discussed both during small group working sessions and among the entire assembly Oct. 23, the synod general secretariat said.

It began by recounting the “unprecedented experience” of men and women participating in discussions and exercising voting rights in a synod assembly by virtue of their baptism and not based on ordination.

The assembly, it said, took place in a “world in crisis, whose wounds and scandalous inequalities resonated painfully in our hearts, infusing our work with a particular gravity, especially since some of us come from countries where war rages.”

The letter also highlighted the “significant room for silence” made at the Pope Francis’ invitation, meant to “foster mutual listening and a desire for communion in the Spirit among us.”

“Trust,” the synod assembly wrote, is what “gives us the audacity and inner freedom that we experienced, not hesitating to freely and humbly express our convergences, differences, desires and questions.”

“Day by day, we felt the pressing call to pastoral and missionary conversion,” the assembly said. “For the Church’s vocation is to proclaim the Gospel not by focusing on itself, but by placing itself at the service of the infinite love with which God loved the world.”

The letter also shared that homeless people near St. Peter’s Square were asked about their expectations of the church on the occasion of the synod and they replied: “Love!”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis again called for the release of hostages taken from Israel by Hamas militants and for allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“I am always thinking about the serious situation in Palestine and Israel,” the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 25.

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Oct. 25, 2023. (OSV News photo/Yasser Qudih, Reuters)

“I encourage the release of hostages and the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” he said, and “I continue to pray for those who suffer, to hope for avenues toward peace in the Middle East and martyred Ukraine and in other regions wounded by war.”

More than 200 people were believed to be held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza after their attacks on Israel Oct. 7. While some aid was coming in from Egypt, Israel has imposed a full blockade on Gaza.

The pope spoke the morning after Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations, told the Security Council that although dialogue seems impossible right now, it is the “only viable option for a lasting end to the cycle of violence” that has plagued the Holy Land.

“Amidst the escalating violence, it is imperative for the authorities of the state of Israel and the state of Palestine to demonstrate audacity to renew their commitment toward a peace based on justice and respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides,” said the archbishop.

“The Holy See remains convinced that the two-state solution still offers hope for such a peace,” he said during a Security Council open debate Oct. 24 on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”

“In the most absolute terms and unequivocally,” the archbishop said, the Holy See condemns “the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas and other armed groups” against Israel.

“Thousands were barbarically killed and wounded. Others were taken hostage,” he said. “These crimes demonstrate utter contempt for human life and are unjustifiable,” he said, repeating the pope’s call for the release of hostages.

The “distressing escalation of violence,” the archbishop said, has caused “deplorable levels of suffering” in a land that is “so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims.”

At the same time, Archbishop Caccia said that “the criminal responsibility for terrorist acts is always personal and can never be attributed to an entire nation or people,” for example, by blaming all Palestinians or even all the people of Gaza for the actions of Hamas and allied groups.

Israel’s right self-defense, like the right of every nation attacked, “must always comply with international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality,” he said.

The Vatican is seriously concerned about the “unfolding humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has claimed thousands of lives and has displaced hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. Israel’s “total siege” of the territory is causing “indiscriminate suffering among the population, including due to shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies.”

Archbishop Caccia repeated Pope Francis’ call for “the urgent facilitation and the continuation of humanitarian corridors so that aid can reach the entire population.”

(OSV News) – Amid wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, this year’s World Mission Sunday is “even more important” than ever, said an executive from the U.S. offices of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The universal Catholic Church marked the observance Oct. 22, and the collection taken up that day forms the primary financial support for the societies, which have a presence in some 1,100 dioceses in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific Islands and parts of Europe.

Lay missionary Josseline Montes Jiménez, right, teaches religious acclamations to members of Los Monckis, a street gang, during a May 18, 2023, visit to their hangout in Monterrey, Mexico. (OSV News photo/Nuri Vallbona, Global Sisters Report)

Pope Francis’ theme for the 2023 World Mission Sunday was “Hearts on fire, feet on the move,” which recalls the encounter between two disciples and the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35).

In an Oct. 18 message he recorded for the Pontifical Mission Societies and posted by the societies on X (formerly Twitter), Pope Francis said that World Mission Sunday was about “worship and mission.”

Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis urged the faithful to “recognize the Father and worship him in spirit and truth, and go out to announce that message. Not as one who proselytizes, but as one who shares a great grace.”

He described it as a mission “shared with brothers,” that says “this is what I feel, this is the grace I received, I pass it on to you, I give it to you.

“You can do this if you are capable of worshipping,” said Pope Francis.

With “the ongoing situation in the world,” World Mission Sunday “should actually open us to be even more generous,” Ines San Martin, vice president of marketing and communications for the societies’ U.S. office, told OSV News from Rome ahead of the observance. “Now more than ever, the church in the Holy Land needs us, the church in Ukraine needs us.”

“The oldest church has to help the youngest church currently suffering so much due to the devastation of war. We at TPMS strive to model peace by supporting all those suffering from conflicts around the world,” Msgr. Kieran Harrington, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said.

The societies’ worldwide network, which operates at the service of the pope, consists of four organizations designated as pontifical by Pope Pius XI in 1922.

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith supports the evangelization efforts of the local church; the Missionary Childhood Association educates children about their part in the church’s missionary outreach; the Society of St. Peter the Apostle trains the next generation of missionary clergy and consecrated religious; and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious focuses on forming clergy, religious and pastoral leaders more deeply in their role as evangelizers.

The collection taken up on World Mission Sunday forms the primary financial support for the Pontifical Mission Societies, with U.S. Catholics donating about $30 million in 2022.

The generosity of the nation’s Catholic faithful “cannot be underscored (enough),” said San Martin.

“World Mission Sunday is a concrete response to what is happening in the world,” she said.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the U.S., noted in a reflection for the autumn 2023 issue of Mission magazine, published by the societies, that the collection makes it possible “to provide annual subsidies to missionary dioceses, and to directly support mission seminaries and religious formation houses, the education of children in mission schools, the building of chapels and churches, as well as sustaining homes for orphaned children, the elderly and the sick.”

The support is far more than financial, said San Martin.

“When we say that (the societies) feed the poor, we do mean hunger, but we also mean the hunger of the soul,” said San Martin. “And World Mission Sunday is a great response to give peace — not just material peace, but also spiritual peace to those in need.”

Having a missionary spirit “means we truly are open to our brothers and sisters, and (we are) sharing with others the joy that comes from having met Christ,” she said.

That joy can help to build peace among communities and nations, San Martin said.

“Do you really hate your brother when you see Christ in him?” she said.

Yet “the problem is that we have in many ways given up our missionary animations,” San Martin admitted. “It should be a desperate need (for us) to go out and spread the Gospel, to really answer the great command (of Christ) to make disciples of all nations.”

World Mission Sunday is an opportunity for Catholics to recommit themselves to fulfilling that task, she said, adding “it truly does start with knowing that Jesus died for us to save us.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – St. Thérèse of Lisieux, long one of Pope Francis’ favorite saints, teaches Christians “the little way” of love, self-giving, concern for others and complete trust in the mercy of God, the pope said in a new document.

“At a time when human beings are obsessed with grandeur and new forms of power, she points out to us the little way,” he wrote. “In an age that casts aside so many of our brothers and sisters, she teaches us the beauty of concern and responsibility for one another.”

Pope Francis carries a white rose as he approaches a reliquary containing the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux before the start of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 7, 2023. He announced he was planning on issuing an apostolic letter dedicated to her for the 150th anniversary of her birth. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Published Oct. 15, the pope’s letter is titled, “C’est la Confiance,” the opening words of her phrase, “It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love.”

The papal letter is subtitled, “On confidence in the merciful love of God.”

“At a time of great complexity, she can help us rediscover the importance of simplicity, the absolute primacy of love, trust and abandonment, and thus move beyond a legalistic or moralistic mindset that would fill the Christian life with rules and regulations and cause the joy of the Gospel to grow cold,” the pope wrote.

In the letter, the pope explained that he chose not to release the document on her feast day, Oct. 1, or the 150th anniversary of her birth last Jan. 2 or the 100th anniversary of her beatification, which was celebrated in April, because he wanted to “transcend” those celebrations and emphasize how her life and writings are part of the “spiritual treasury” of the church.

Pope Francis has spoken often about his devotion to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who also is known by her religious name, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, or as St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, because she described herself as a little flower in God’s garden.

But there is another flower connection as well. While still archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis told journalist Sergio Rubin in 2010, “When I have a problem I ask the saint, not to solve it, but to take it in her hands and help me accept it, and, as a sign, I almost always receive a white rose.”

And the pope closed his new exhortation with a prayer: “Dear St. Thérèse, the church needs to radiate the brightness, the fragrance and the joy of the Gospel. Send us your roses! Help us to be, like yourself, ever confident in God’s immense love for us, so that we may imitate each day your ‘little way’ of holiness.”

Although she died at the age of 24 in a cloistered convent, her passion for sharing the Gospel through her prayers and example led Pope Pius XI to declare her patroness of the missions in 1927, and her writings led St. John Paul II to proclaim her a doctor of the church in 1997.

“In the heart of Thérèse,” Pope Francis wrote, “the grace of baptism became this impetuous torrent flowing into the ocean of Christ’s love and dragging in its wake a multitude of brothers and sisters. This is what happened, especially after her death. It was her promised ‘shower of roses.'”

The “little way” of St. Thérèse is a path to holiness anyone can follow, the pope said. It is about recognizing one’s own smallness and trusting completely in God’s mercy.

“This is the ‘sweet way of love’ that Jesus sets before the little and the poor, before everyone. It is the way of true happiness,” the pope said.

In place of a notion of holiness that is individualistic and elitist, one “more ascetic than mystical, that primarily emphasizes human effort,” he said, “Thérèse always stresses the primacy of God’s work, his gift of grace,” trusting that he would bring her to heaven one day.

Even in speaking about the Eucharist, her desire to receive Communion took second place to “the desire of Jesus to unite himself to us and to dwell in our hearts,” the pope said. “Her gaze remained fixed not on herself and her own needs, but on Christ, who loves, seeks, desires and dwells within.”

In his exhortation, Pope Francis focused on St. Thérèse’s reflection of St. Paul’s description of the church as the body of Christ with each part or member having a role to play in the functioning of the entire body.

But she did not see herself as the foot or the ear or the eye or the hand, as described in First Corinthians, the pope said. “In the heart of the church, my mother, I shall be love,” she wrote.

“This heart was not that of a triumphalistic church, but of a loving, humble and merciful church,” the pope wrote. “Thérèse never set herself above others but took the lowest place together with the Son of God, who for our sake became a slave and humbled himself, becoming obedient, even to death on a cross.”

Rediscovering love as the heart of the church can be “a great source of light” for Catholics today, Pope Francis said. “It preserves us from being scandalized by the limitations and weaknesses of the ecclesiastical institution with its shadows and sins, and enables us to enter into the church’s ‘heart burning with love,’ which burst into flame at Pentecost thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is that heart whose fire is rekindled with each of our acts of charity,” he wrote. “‘I shall be love.’ This was the radical option of Thérèse, her definitive synthesis and her deepest spiritual identity.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a visit of under 30 hours to Marseille, France, Pope Francis highlighted his key appeals and positions concerning migration and the mandate for people of faith to care for the “stranger” in one’s land.

With just four main events and accompanying speeches, “I hope I have the courage to say everything I have to say,” he told the journalists flying with him from Rome for the Sept. 22-23 trip.

Pope Francis presides over Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium for Mass in Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

What he said, in essence, has been the main thrust of his whole pontificate: The world must choose either the path of human fraternity and cooperation to have any kind of peaceful future or choose the downward spiral of indifference, division and confrontation. And, most importantly, the faithful must be exemplary models of the right path of sharing and caring for the outcast with joy and compassion.

The trip to the port city of Marseille was less about the city or nation and more about the Mediterranean Sea it touches.

The Mediterranean has been a constant concern of this pope. It is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the International Organization for Migration. The minimum estimated number of recorded deaths between 2014 and 2022 is more than 24,000 people.

No other place comes close: minimum estimates for the same period for the Sahara Desert are 5,323 fatalities, and the estimate for the U.S.-Mexico border crossing stands at 3,761 people dead.

“We need deeds, not words,” Pope Francis said during a powerful moment when he led a minute of silence with bishops from around the Mediterranean, local religious leaders and groups assisting migrants.

All migrants are people who have names, faces, hopes and dreams, he said at a memorial overlooking the sea, and those “who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity; it is a duty of civilization!”

The pope praised humanitarian groups that carry out rescue missions and condemned those who block them; opponents claim the groups encourage people to attempt illegal crossings. The pope said impeding these rescue efforts are “gestures of hatred against one’s brother” and he appealed for “balance.”

The cultural and religious diversity on display at the memorial ceremony and in Marseille underlined another important message of the pope: diversity can be an opportunity, not a threat. He praised the city’s long-standing active dedication to interreligious dialogue and mutual cooperation on concrete issues promoting fraternity and peaceful coexistence.

Like a handful of other trips, the prime purpose of the pope’s visit was to encourage a major event being held there; in this case, it was part of a church-led series of meetings that brings bishops from around the Mediterranean region together with a variety of other leaders and young people.

The meetings, which began in Bari, Italy, in 2020, recognize that the complex problems of migration, human trafficking, environmental degradation, conflict and economic disparities between North and South require strategies and solutions that involve multiple nations and sectors of society.

In a lengthy speech at the final session of the “Mediterranean Meetings” at the Pharo Palace Sept. 23, the pope covered all of that as well as some hot-button political issues.

The duty to protect the dignity and foster the well-being of every migrant is no different from the duty to protect the unborn, the elderly, young people who lack guidance, exploited workers, families and those who are escaping violence and persecution, he said, effectively condemning moves or current measures to support abortion, “assisted dying,” cutbacks to social or economic opportunities and to not recognize the rights of refugees or deny them full citizenship.

“Indeed, the real social evil is not so much the increase of problems, but the decrease of care,” especially for the most vulnerable, he said.

When it comes to migration, people have the right to not have to flee their homes, he said in that speech, and this calls for greater global justice.

“The Mediterranean mirrors the world,” he said, with the North exuding “affluence, consumerism and waste” while the South or developing countries are “plagued by instability, regimes, wars and desertification” and look to who are well-off.

The change needed for “peace to take root,” he said, is for communities to treat newcomers as brothers and sisters, “not as troublesome problems,” to integrate them and give them dignity through coordinated, equitable, legal and regular channels of entry.

His other message in Marseille was for the faithful. He asked bishops to be joyful and merciful helpers, eager to lift the burdens of “a weary and wounded humanity.”

He asked priests at the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde to be like Jesus, looking at people, not to judge, but to lift them up, and to help “free people from those obstacles, regrets, grudges and fears against which they cannot prevail alone.”

The pope’s final event, a huge joyful Mass in the city’s Vélodrome Stadium Sept. 23, gave him the chance to renew people’s hope and trust in God, who “makes possible even what seems impossible.”

Given so many challenges and needs in today’s world, Christians, more than ever, need to trust in the Lord, see his work in the world and be moved by his Spirit to help others.

With so much indifference, insensitivity “to everything and everyone,” selfishness, cynicism and sadness in the world, he said, “our life and the life of the church, France and Europe need this: the grace of a leap forward, a new leap in faith, charity and hope.”

The trip was a prelude to the Sept. 24 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which was celebrated in Marseille by Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Echoing the pope’s words, he said in his homily that the world must commit to ensuring migration pathways that are “orderly and safe, guaranteeing that everyone’s rights and dignity are respected. This requires knocking on doors, expanding regular migration channels and the chance to become ‘full citizens.'”

“Because all have in common the same hope: to be able to guarantee a dignified life for themselves and their families,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he knows people wonder why he traveled close to 6,000 miles to Mongolia to visit a Catholic community of only 1,450 people.

“Because it is precisely there, far from the spotlight, that we often find the signs of the presence of God, who does not look at appearances, but at the heart,” he told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience Sept. 6.

Pope Francis smiles at visitors at the end of his talk about his four-day trip to Mongolia during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Following his usual practice of speaking about a trip at the first audience after his return, the pope said that during his Sept. 1-4 stay the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, he encountered “a humble and joyful church, which is in the heart of God,” but one that was excited to find itself at the center of the universal church’s attention for a few days.

“I have been to the heart of Asia, and it has done me good,” the pope said.

The missionaries who arrived in Mongolia in 1992 “did not go there to proselytize,” the pope said. “They went to live like the Mongolian people, to speak their language, the language of the people, to learn the values of that people and to preach the Gospel in a Mongolian style, with Mongolian words.”

The universality of the Catholic Church, he said, is not something that “homogenizes” the faith.

“This is catholicity: an embodied universality, which embraces the good where it is found and serves the people with whom it lives,” the pope said. “This is how the church lives: bearing witness to the love of Jesus meekly, with life before words, happy with its true riches, which are service to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters.”

The Catholic Church recognizes God at work in the world and in other people, he said. Its vision, and its heart, is as expansive as the sky over the Mongolian steppe.

The international group of missionaries working in Mongolia have discovered “the beauty already there,” he said. “I, too, was able to discover something of this beauty” by meeting people, listening to their stories and “appreciating their religious quest.”

“Mongolia has a great Buddhist tradition, with many people who live their religiosity in a sincere and radical way, in silence, through altruism and mastery of their own passions,” the pope said. “Just think of how many hidden seeds of goodness make the garden of the world flourish, while we usually only hear about the sound of falling trees!”

People naturally notice the noisy and scandalous, the pope said, but Christians must try to discern and recognize what is good in others and in the world around them.

“Only in this way, starting from the recognition of what is good, can we build a common future,” he said. “Only by valuing others can we help them improve.”

Pope Francis said one thing that was very clear was how the Mongolian people “cherish their roots and traditions, respect the elderly and live in harmony with the environment.”

“Thinking of the boundless and silent expanses of Mongolia, let us be stirred by the need to extend the confines of our gaze — please, extend the confines, look wide and high, look and don’t fall prisoner to little things,” the pope said. That is the only way “to see the good in others and be able to broaden our horizons and also to broaden our hearts to understand and to be close to every people and every civilization.”



ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (CNS) – Greeted with “aaruul,” a dried yogurt cheese, which he tried, Pope Francis arrived in Ulaanbaatar for a four-day visit.

A boy gives Pope Francis scarves as he arrives at the headquarters of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sept. 1, 2023. Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, the prefect, will host the pope at the prefecture during his four-day visit to the country. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

After the nine-hour, overnight flight from Rome, the pope’s arrival Sept. 1 was low key. Battsetseg Batmunkh, Mongolia’s foreign minister, met him at Chinggis Khaan International Airport and had a brief meeting with him in the airport VIP lounge.

Afterward, the pope was driven into the city for a day of rest at the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Mongolia, the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar.

During his flight from Rome, the pope, who had said he was going to the “heart of Asia,” told reporters traveling with him that Mongolia is a vast country with a very small population and a great culture that needs to be understood more with the senses than with the intellect. He also suggested they listen to the music of 19th-century Russian composer Alexander Borodin, who wrote “In the Steppes of Central Asia.”

The ITA plane carrying the pope flew over northern China rather than over Russia, giving the pope an opportunity to send greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping, keeping with the custom of sending a telegram as he flies over a country.

“I send greetings of good wishes to your excellency and the people of China as I pass through your country’s airspace enroute to Mongolia,” the papal telegram said. “Assuring you of my prayers for the well-being of the nation, I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of unity and peace.”

The Vatican and China have had a rocky relationship for decades, and tensions have continued even since Pope Francis and Chinese leaders first signed an agreement in 2018 on the naming of bishops for Chinese dioceses.

In fact, in July Pope Francis regularized a bishop who had been appointed by the government in April without consulting the Vatican, an appointment that drew a Vatican protest. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the Vatican later recognized the appointment for the “greater good of the diocese.”

Researchers estimate China has about 12 million Catholics, who are split between those whose leaders have joined the patriotic association and those who refuse to do so. The U.S. State Department and a variety of human rights organizations continue to report excessive restrictions and even persecution of religious believers in China, including Catholics.

Cardinal-designate Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong was expected to lead a delegation of Hong Kong Catholics to Ulaanbaatar for the papal visit. Catholic missionaries in Mongolia also expected some Catholics from mainland China to arrive to see the pope, although America magazine reported Aug. 31 that a department of the Communist Party issued an order forbidding bishops and faithful from crossing the border for the papal visit.

Also during the flight to Mongolia, a Spanish journalist gave Pope Francis a canteen riddled with bullet holes. A priest in Lviv, Ukraine, had sent her the canteen, explaining that the soldier who was carrying it was hit by Russian machine-gun fire and survived. He donated the canteen to the parish. Pope Francis blessed the canteen, which will be returned to the church.

Pope Francis also was asked about his comment that there is a strong, reactionary element in the Catholic Church in the United States; the comments made to Jesuits in Portugal at the beginning of August were published later by the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica.

The pope said he knew some people were upset by the remarks, but the church must keep moving forward.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People must end the “senseless war against creation” and help victims of environmental and climate injustice, Pope Francis said.

“We must do this by resolving to transform our hearts, our lifestyles and the public policies ruling our societies,” the pope said in his message for the 2023 World Day of Prayer for Creation.

The Flathead River flows near Glacier National Park in Montana in this file photo from July 2016. In his message for the 2023 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis said that when the faithful keep “a right relationship with God, humanity and nature, then justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.” (CNS photo/Cindy Wooden)

Some injustices needing immediate responses are “economic policies that promote scandalous wealth for a privileged few and degrading conditions for many others,” the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures, and “predatory industries” depleting and polluting freshwater sources, he wrote in his message.

The World Day of Prayer for Creation, which will be celebrated Sept. 1, marks the start of the ecumenical Season of Creation. The season concludes Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology. The theme for 2023 is “Let justice and peace flow,” based on the verse from Book of Amos (5:24), “Let justice surge like waters and righteousness like an unfailing stream.”

The verse describes how God wants justice to reign and to “flow forth wherever it is needed,” the pope said in his message.

“God wants everyone to strive to be just in every situation, to live according to his laws and thus to enable life to flourish,” he wrote. When the faithful keep “a right relationship with God, humanity and nature, then justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.”

The pope recalled his visit to the shores of Lac Ste. Anne in Alberta, Canada, in July 2022, and how many generations of Indigenous peoples found consolation and strength there. It is imperative, he added, that people “harmonize our own rhythms of life with those of creation, which gives us life.”

Unfortunately, he wrote, the heartbeats of so many people do not beat in harmony with the heartbeat of creation and God; “they are not harmonized in justice and peace.”

Too many people “are prevented from drinking from that mighty river,” the pope wrote. “Let us heed our call to stand with the victims of environmental and climate injustice and to put an end to the senseless war against creation.”

Some effects of that war include polluted waterways and rivers drying up, he wrote.

“Consumerist greed, fueled by selfish hearts, is disrupting the planet’s water cycle,” he wrote. “The unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests are pushing temperatures higher and leading to massive droughts.”

“Moreover, predatory industries are depleting and polluting our freshwater sources through extreme practices such as fracking for oil and gas extraction, unchecked mega-mining projects and intensive animal farming,” he added.

Christians can “contribute to the mighty river of justice and peace in this season of creation” by transforming hearts, lifestyles and public policies, he wrote.

Individuals must rediscover creation as a gift of love from God and repent of their own personal “ecological sins,” he said in his message. “Let us adopt lifestyles marked by less waste and unnecessary consumption,” put an end to unjust economic policies and phase out fossil fuel development and dependency.

World leaders who will gather for the COP28 summit in Dubai Nov. 30-Dec. 12, he wrote, “must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel.”

Based on the commitments nations made with the Paris Agreement to restrain global warming, “it is absurd to permit the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures,” he added.

“We can and we must prevent the worst from happening,” Pope Francis said. People must come together “like so many streams, brooks and rivulets, merging finally in a mighty river to irrigate the life of our marvelous planet and our human family for generations to come.”

“Let us join hands and take bold steps to ‘let justice and peace flow’ throughout our world,” he wrote.

Presenting the pope’s message at a news conference at the Vatican May 25, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, provided a few examples of what people can do.

He said people can: organize community screenings of the film, “The Letter: A Message for Our Earth,” which is available free on YouTube Originals and; join the Laudato Si’ Action Platform at; and join networks such as Caritas and the Laudato Si’ Movement.

Tomás Insua, executive director of the Laudato Si’ Movement, said at the news conference that “while most other global leaders, particularly the most powerful ones, remain lukewarm and subservient in way too many cases to corporate interests, Pope Francis continues to be a beacon of moral leadership on this critical issue.”




SEPTEMBER 9-10, 2023

For the last several years, the Diocese of Scranton has been working proactively to address the realities of our local church while striving to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade. The Diocese created its Vision 2030 Pastoral Planning Process in order to create vibrant expressions of parish life rooted in the life of Jesus Christ.

The process addresses ongoing parish needs by examining four distinct priority drivers:
Vibrancy of Parish Life 

Condition of Facilities

Financial Viability of a Parish 

Distribution and Availability of Clergy

When a concern regarding one or more priority drivers are present in a parish, or deemed critical by the needs of the diocese overall, the Diocese of Scranton looks to make modifications to parishes in a proactive way so that the Gospel can be announced and the Church’s sacraments celebrated in vibrant parish communities.

Since July 2021, when Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish came together in a linkage under the leadership of one pastor, numerous meetings and town halls have provided information and resources to parishioners regarding the established priority drivers. Between the two parishes, the number of registered parishioners has dropped by more than 26 percent between 2014 and 2021. In addition, Our Lady of Fatima Parish maintains a significant outstanding parish assessment debt and the two campuses are projected to need more than $1.5 million in facility upgrades over the next decade. In the spirit of the Vision 2030 process, conversation and consultation has taken place within both parish communities in the following ways:

• On March 31, 2022, a Joint Meeting of the Saint Nicholas & Our Lady of Fatima Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils took place focused on the Vision 2030 priority drivers. Small group discussion and large group reporting took place.

• Between May 14/15 and June 11/12, 2022, a series of five weekly bulletin inserts regarding the Vision 2030 priority drivers was distributed to all parishioners in both parishes via the weekly bulletin and parish website.

• On June 14 and June 16, 2022, two Town Hall Meetings were held for parishioners of Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes to discuss the Vision 2030 priority drivers. One Town Hall meeting was held at each church.

• On September 27, 2022, more than 50 parishioners attended a Parish Meeting regarding a possible revenue-generating idea involving the possibility of renovating space at Our Lady of Fatima Parish for childcare programs.

• Between October 2022 and March 2023, an extensive study was performed to determined whether it was financially feasible and in the best interest of all parties to pursue childcare programs for Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

• On January 1, 2023, a bulletin insert was sent to all parishioners indicating that a Transition Team had been formed with representatives of both parishes to continue the process of moving both parishes closer toward consolidation.

• During a series of meetings in March 2023, it was agreed upon by parish and diocesan leadership that the childcare program proposal would not move forward. Discussions regarding next steps for parish consolidation took place.

• On May 11, 2023, a Joint Meeting of the Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima Pastoral and Finance Councils took place. Transition Team members announced the desire to formally bring both parishes together in a consolidation.

• On May 13/14, 2023, all parishioners were informed of the Transition Team’s recommendation to bring the two parishes together in a consolidation via bulletin insert and Mass announcements. A Frequently Asked Questions document was also prepared and distributed to help explain the parish consolidation process.

• On May 24, 2023, more than 100 parishioners attended a Joint Parish Meeting at Saint Nicholas Church regarding the proposed parish consolidation. More than 25 questions or comments were addressed by the Transition Team.

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• On May 27/28, 2023, and June 3/4, 2023, a bulletin insert was shared with all parishioners regarding a two-phase approach to consolidation. The first phase will involve bringing the two parishes together in a consolidation. The second phase will involve studying all aspects of the newly formed parish to determine if a building should be closed/sold.

• On June 27, 2023, at a Joint Meeting of the Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima Pastoral and Finance Councils, parish leaders discussed feedback they had received and began discussing the need for a revised Mass schedule and the prospect of a new name for the consolidated parish.

• On July 12, 2023, Rev. Joseph Verespy sent a letter requesting a consolidation of Saint Nicholas and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes to the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton.

• On August 1, 2023, Bishop Bambera consulted the Diocesan Presbyteral Council (a consultative body of priests from throughout the Diocese) regarding the possible consolidation (extinctive union) between the two parishes. Following a presentation of data, the Presbyteral Council voted in unanimous agreement to the proposal.


As a result of this conversation and consultation, on September 5, 2023, Bishop Bambera signed a formal decree (which is a document that formalizes a decision within the Church) to best address the spiritual needs of the faithful as well as the needs of the Diocese of Scranton. The information from the decree is:

1. The parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Wilkes-Barre, with its sole church of Saint Mary of the Immaculate
Conception, 134 South Washington Street, will be consolidated with the parish of Saint Nicholas in Wilkes-Barre,
with its sole church of Saint Nicholas, 226 South Washington Street, effective October 7, 2023.

2. The name of the newly consolidated parish will be Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish.

3. As a result of this consolidation, Saint Nicholas Church will be designated as the principal church of the newly
consolidated parish and Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church will be designated as the secondary
church of the newly-modified parish.


According to Church law, diocesan bishops alone have the power to “erect, suppress or alter parishes” but can only do so after speaking to the Presbyteral Council and consulting parishioners. In this case, Bishop Bambera has determined that the newly-modified Saint Nicholas-Saint Mary Parish has more than adequate resources to serve the liturgical and sacramental needs of parishioners.

Any parishioner who wishes to read the official decree regarding the consolidation (extinctive union) between Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish may do so by visiting the Vision 2030 section Diocese of Scranton website ( or by contacting Rev. Joseph Verespy, pastor, Saint Nicholas Parish and Our Lady of Fatima Parish.


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis asked a group of Italian journalists to shun fake news and a love of scandal, including when covering the Catholic Church and the upcoming assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

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)

“Help me to narrate this process for what it really is, leaving behind the logic of slogans and pre-packaged stories,” he asked the group Aug. 26 as he accepted the “È Giornalismo” prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to journalism.

Pope Francis told the group he realizes how “speaking of a ‘synod on synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public,” but the whole process, which began in 2021 with listening sessions on the local, national and regional levels “is something truly important for the church.”

At a moment in history “when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening,” he said, “the church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word ‘together.'”

All the baptized must “walk together, question together, take responsibility together for communal discernment, which for us is prayer, as it was for the first apostles: this is synodality,” the pope told the group.

The synod assembly Oct. 4-29 at the Vatican, he said, will bring together bishops, priests, religious and laypeople from around the world with the purpose of “listening together, discerning together, praying together.”

With so much of the world experiencing a “culture of exclusion,” the pope said, the church can model a better way, one in which everyone finds a welcome and no one echoes the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke’s Gospel who says, “I thank you, Lord, because I am not like this, I am not like that” rather than thanking God for his gifts.

Pope Francis explained to the group that St. Paul VI reinstituted the Synod of Bishops at the end of the Second Vatican Council “because he realized that in the Western church synodality had disappeared, whereas in the Eastern church they still have this dimension.”

“Please, let us get used to listening to each other, to talking, not cutting someone’s head off over a word,” but rather learning “to listen, to discuss in a mature way.”

“This is a grace we all need in order to move forward. And it is something the church today offers the world, a world so often so incapable of making decisions, even when our very survival is at stake,” Pope Francis said.

The Catholic Church, he said, is “trying to learn a new way of living relationships, listening to one another in order to hear and follow the voice of the Spirit.”

“We have opened our doors, we have offered everyone the opportunity to participate, we have taken into account everyone’s needs and suggestions,” he said. “We want to contribute together to building a church where everyone feels at home, where no one is excluded.”

The church is for everyone, he said. “There are no first-, second- or third-class Catholics, no. All together. Everyone. It is the Lord’s invitation.”