VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus says to have no fear of ridicule, persecution or criticism for being faithful to the Gospel, but to be afraid of wasting one’s life chasing after trivial things, Pope Francis said.

“There is a cost to remaining faithful to what counts. The cost is going against the tide, the cost is freeing oneself from being conditioned by popular opinion, the cost is being separated from those who ‘follow the current,'” he said.

“What matters is not to throw away the greatest good: life. This is the only thing that should frighten us,” the pope said before praying the Angelus with some 20,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square June 25.

Pope Francis greets visitors in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus June 25, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In his talk, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt 10:26-33) in which Jesus tells his disciples to “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

The pope said the valley of Gehenna was used by the inhabitants of Jerusalem as a large garbage dump. Jesus used this image, the pope said, “in order to say that the true fear we should have is that of throwing away one’s own life.”

Jesus was telling the disciples that they do not need to be afraid of “suffering misunderstanding and criticism, of losing prestige and economic advantages to remain faithful to the Gospel, no, but of wasting your existence in the pursuit of trivial things that do not fill life with meaning,” the pope said.

Jesus had already spoken about the persecutions the disciples would undergo for being faithful to the Gospel, “a fact that is still a reality,” he said.

“It seems paradoxical: the proclamation of the kingdom of God is a message of peace and justice, founded on fraternal charity and on forgiveness, and yet it meets with opposition, violence, persecution,” he said.

“Jesus, however, says not to fear, not because everything will be alright in the world, no, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost,” he said.

This requires renouncing “the idols of efficiency and consumerism,” he said, “so as not to get lost in things that end up getting thrown out, as they threw things out in Gehenna back then.”

It also means renouncing chasing after things and achievements instead of dedicating oneself to people and relationships, the pope said.

Some examples, he said, include: parents who know they “cannot live for work alone,” but also “need enough time to be with their children”; priests and religious who dedicate themselves to service without “forgetting to dedicate time to be with Jesus”; and young people who are busy with “school, sports, various interests, cell phones and social networks, but who need to meet people and achieve great dreams, without losing time on passing things that do not leave their mark.”

Pope Francis said the faithful should reflect on what they fear and consider the danger of “not pleasing the Lord and not putting his Gospel in first place” and pray to be “wise and courageous in the choices we make.”

After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for the families and victims of violence in a women’s penitentiary in Támara, Honduras.

Reports said gang violence in the prison left 46 women dead June 20. One group of female prisoners, armed with guns and machetes, gained access to the cell blocks of their rivals, news reports said.

Some of the women, who were locked in their cells, were burned to death and attacked with gunfire and the machetes, reports said.

The pope said he was “very saddened” by the “terrible violence between rival gangs,” which caused death and suffering.

“I pray for the deceased; I pray for their families. May the Virgin of Suyapa, mother of Honduras, help hearts to open to reconciliation and to creating space for fraternal co-existence, even within prisons.”

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican after a nine-day hospital stay and intends to go ahead with his planned trips abroad in August and September, according to his chief surgeon.

“The pope is fine. He’s better than before,” said Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon who operated on the pope June 7 to repair a hernia; he also operated on the pope in 2021.

Pope Francis smiles and waves to people as he leaves Rome’s Gemelli hospital early June 16, 2023, nine days after undergoing abdominal surgery. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“The pope has confirmed all his trips,” the doctor told reporters outside Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 16, right after the pope was released. The pope was scheduled to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2-6, and to go to Mongolia Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

“As a matter of fact,” Alfieri said, according to Vatican News, “he will be able to embark on them better than before because now he will no longer have the discomfort of his previous ailments. He will be a stronger pope.”

When asked about the pope’s “convalescence” to fully heal from abdominal surgery, Alfieri said, “he doesn’t convalesce; he has already started working.”

“We asked him to do some convalescence (and) this time I’m sure he will listen to us a little bit more because he has important events ahead of him and he has already said personally that he will go through with all of them, including his trips,” Alfieri said.

When the pope emerged from the hospital in a wheelchair the morning of June 16, he greeted well-wishers and journalists who asked him how he was. “I’m still alive,” he said, smiling.

He also expressed his sorrow for the recent deaths of migrants who drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea near Greece.

He was accompanied to an awaiting white Fiat car by his aides and Alfieri, and then, with the front passenger-side window open, waved to others lining the road as he left.

Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the icon of Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a stop he makes before and after every trip abroad and a stop he also made in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery at the Gemelli.

Then the pope “stopped for a brief private visit to the sisters of the Institute of the Most Holy Child Mary, gathered for their general chapter,” the Vatican press office said. The pope also greeted police outside one of the side entrances into the Vatican to “thank them for their service.”

The Vatican press office said the pope’s Angelus address and prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square June 18 was confirmed as well as individual audiences in the coming days.

His general audience June 21 was canceled, however, “to safeguard the Holy Father’s postoperative recovery,” it said in a communique June 16.

Pope Francis underwent a three-hour surgery to repair a hernia June 7. The procedure, under general anesthesia, was performed using a surgical mesh to strengthen the repair and prevent the recurrence of a hernia. Surgeons also removed several adhesions or bands of scar tissue that had formed after previous surgeries decades ago, Alfieri told reporters after the operation.

Alfieri had explained that the pope’s immediate recovery required avoiding undue stress or strain so as not to tear the prosthetic mesh used to reinforce the abdominal wall.

The pope had spent seven days in the hospital in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery to treat diverticulitis, inflammation of bulges in the intestine. He was also hospitalized for three nights for a respiratory infection in late March.

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis was scheduled to be released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 16 after having abdominal surgery June 7, the Vatican press office said.

His blood tests have been normal, and his recovery has continued smoothly, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters June 15. “The health care team that is following Pope Francis confirmed the Holy Father’s discharge” from the hospital was planned for the morning of June 16, he said in a written communique.

Pope Francis visits children, their parents and staff members of the pediatric oncology and neurosurgery ward located on the same floor as his room in Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 15, 2023. The Vatican said the pope was expected to be released from the hospital the next day. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope spent part of June 15 visiting children in the pediatric oncology and neurosurgery ward located on the same floor as the private suite of rooms set aside for the pope.

He greeted the young patients, who were among those who had sent him letters, drawings and gifts wishing him a speedy recovery, and he gave each of them a rosary and book, Bruni wrote.

Pope Francis witnessed first-hand “the pain of these children, who carry, together with their mothers and fathers, the suffering of the cross on their shoulders every day,” Bruni wrote.

The pope thanked the staff “for their professionalism and efforts to alleviate others’ suffering with tenderness and humanity as well as medication.”

Earlier in the day, he met with and thanked the medical staff and personnel involved with his surgery June 7 and met with hospital administrators, Bruni said.

The evening before, he added, the pope had dinner with “those who have been assisting him since the day of his hospitalization.”

Pope Francis underwent a three-hour surgery to repair a hernia June 7. The procedure, under general anesthesia, was performed using a surgical mesh to strengthen the repair and prevent the recurrence of a hernia. Surgeons also removed several adhesions or bands of scar tissue that had formed after previous surgeries decades ago, according to Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope.

Vatican News reported that the pope’s audiences have been canceled until June 18 as a “precaution.”

ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis had a restful, peaceful first night at Rome’s Gemelli hospital after a successful three-hour operation June 7 for a hernia.

He has been informed of the many messages of “closeness and affection” from well-wishers and he “expresses his gratitude, while asking for continued prayers,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, in a written statement June 8.

A statue of St. John Paul II is seen outside of Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 8, 2023, where Pope Francis is staying in the papal suite on the top floor after undergoing surgery to treat a hernia June 7, 2023. Because of his frequent visits over his three-decade pontificate, the Polish pope affectionately called the hospital “the third Vatican” after his second “home” at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

The medical staff in charge of monitoring the 86-year-old pope’s post-operative recovery said that “Pope Francis had a peaceful night, managing to rest extensively,” Bruni said.

The pope “is in good general condition, alert and breathing on his own. Routine follow-up examinations are good. He will observe the necessary post-operative rest for the entire day,” June 8, Bruni added.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, asked that Catholics “keep Pope Francis and all those in the hospital in your prayers.”

“As Pope Francis recovers from surgery, he is strengthened by faith in the healing power of our merciful God,” he said in a written statement released June 7. “Jesus always walks with us and is even closer whenever we need healing and comfort.”

Pope Francis underwent a three-hour abdominal surgery “without complications” June 7 to treat a hernia, according to the Vatican press office.

The 86-year-old pope was taken to Rome’s Gemelli hospital shortly after his general audience June 7. He was put under general anesthesia and underwent abdominal surgery to treat a hernia that developed at the site of abdominal incisions from previous operations, Dr. Sergio Alfieri, the chief surgeon operating on the pope, said at a news conference at the hospital following the operation.

Speaking to journalists after the surgery, Alfieri said Pope Francis had a number of internal scars and adhesions from two operations many years ago, possibly in Argentina; one was to treat peritonitis — inflammation of abdominal tissue — caused by an infected gallbladder and another to treat hydatid disease caused by cysts containing a parasite. It was this last operation that had left behind scars in the pope’s abdominal tissue where another hernia had developed.

Alfieri said that during the three-hour operation adhesions were found between the intestine and the membrane that lines the abdomen, that for months caused an “aggravating, painful” intestinal blockage.

The adhesions were freed during the surgery and the opening in the abdomen’s wall that led to the hernia was repaired with prosthetic mesh.

Alfieri, who also operated on the pope in 2021, said the pope had no complications and responded well to the general anesthesia he was administered during this surgery and the one in 2021 that removed part of his colon.

The chief surgeon underscored that, in both operations, all affected tissue had been benign.

“The pope does not have other illnesses,” he said.

Alfieri explained that while the medical team that follows the pope had been discussing the scheduled operation for several days, the final decision to operate was not taken until June 6, when Pope Francis briefly visited the hospital for a medical checkup and tests.

“It was not urgent,” he said, “or else we would have operated on him then.”

Before going to the hospital the pope seemed well and in good spirits, holding his general audience as usual, riding in the popemobile, blessing babies, walking with a cane and meeting special guests afterward. He had held two private meetings before the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Vatican News reported he arrived at the Gemelli hospital around 11:30 a.m. local time in the compact Fiat 500 he often rides in. The windows of the papal suite on the 10th floor of the hospital were opened just after 6 p.m.

Alfieri noted that shortly after the surgery Pope Francis was already working and making jokes, and had asked the surgeon in jest: “When are we doing the third (surgery)?”

While Alfieri said recovery for this operation typically lasts about seven days. Vatican News reported that the pope’s audiences have been canceled until June 18 as a “precaution.”

Bruni said June 7 that, for now, all events the pope was scheduled to attend after June 18 were still on his calendar and had not been canceled.

Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with 29 Nobel Peace Prize winners at the Vatican June 10 for an event to celebrate human fraternity. Before going to the hospital, the pope encouraged its organizers to continue with the event as planned without him, a statement from the foundation organizing the event said.

This was Pope Francis’ third hospitalization at the Gemelli hospital, the most recent was from March 29 to April 1 when he was admitted for an acute respiratory infection.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A faster change of course away from today’s throwaway culture and toward greater care for the common good is necessary to ensure the planet’s livability for future generations, Pope Francis said on World Environment Day.

The pope called on people “to move away from the throwaway culture toward ways of living marked by a culture of respect and care; care of creation and care of our neighbors, whether they be near or far from us either geographically or through time.

Pope Francis speaks to the organizers of the Green & Blue Festival during an audience at the Vatican June 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Meeting at the Vatican June 5 with the organizers of a festival supporting sustainability and bringing together activists, researchers, artists and scientific experts in Rome and Milan, Pope Francis noted how science increasingly demonstrates that actions taken today will have an effect on the environment for thousands of years.

“This has also increased our sense of responsibility to God, who has entrusted us with the care of creation, to our neighbors and to future generations,” he told the group of organizers of the “Green & Blue Festival: Earth For All.”

World Environment Day was established in 1972 and is celebrated every June 5 to promote awareness about protecting the environment.

Combating climate change, Pope Francis said, requires recognizing one’s responsibility to those “who have contributed least to its occurrence” – the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – and developing a sense of “responsible cooperation” among everyone.

“Our world is now thoroughly interdependent and cannot allow itself to be divided into blocs of countries that promote their own interests in an isolated or unsustainable way,” the pope said. “The real enemy is an irresponsible behavior that has profound consequences for every aspect of the lives of the men and women of today and tomorrow.”

The pope said that changing the current model of consumption and production is “an immense and demanding challenge” that is possible to face.

He gave the example of efforts at the Vatican where the tiny city-state is trying to eliminate the sale of single-use plastic items on its territory. “These are steps, real steps that we have to continue,” the pope said.

After the meeting, Pope Francis helped the organizers hold up a banner that read “Loss and Damage. Finance Now,” a reference to a fund that was agreed upon at the COP27 U.N. climate conference in 2022 after decades of pressure from vulnerable developing countries. The fund would seek to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The pontifical mission societies are called to inspire all Catholics to share the Gospel, a work that requires funding but can never be about money, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis receives a gift as he greets national directors of the pontifical mission societies in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Please do not reduce the societies to money,” the pope told the Vatican-based officers and national directors of the societies June 3 during their annual meeting.

The four societies, which operate under and cooperate with the Dicastery for Evangelization, are the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Society of St. Peter Apostle, Holy Childhood Association and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.

The societies rely on donations to fund their work in places where the Gospel has yet to be proclaimed or where the church is still being established — areas traditionally called “mission territories.”

“They certainly need money, which is a means, but do not reduce them to that, for they are bigger than money,” Pope Francis told the officers and directors. “Money is what we need to move forward. Yet if spirituality is missing and they become merely a business, then immediately corruption arises.”

“Indeed, even in these days, we have seen newspaper reports of alleged corruption having occurred in the name of the church’s missionary work,” the pope said without providing more details.

Earlier in the week, the Associated Press ran a story claiming the Vatican was investigating transfers made between funds related to the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, although the story said the transfers “appear to be fully legal.”

The societies promote missionary awareness and offer direct aid to dioceses and religious orders and help fund the education of priests, religious and lay workers for the church in mission lands.

Pope Francis insisted the societies “are not merely an agency for the distribution of funds for those in need of help, but a reality called to support the mission of evangelization in the church, both universal and local and to foster the missionary spirit among the people of God.”

The directors and staff of the societies, he said, must be bold and creative, relying on the help of the Holy Spirit to educate all Catholics about their role in evangelization.

“I invite you to promote the missionary responsibility of the baptized, supporting the capillary network of national offices, both in newly evangelized countries and those of ancient Christian tradition, who perhaps need another first evangelization,” the pope said, adding that some traditionally Christian countries are experiencing “a serious crisis of faith and are in need of renewed evangelization and pastoral conversion.”

Reminding his audience that June is a month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the pope asked them to remember why sharing the Gospel is so important.

“As we contemplate the heart of Christ, we discover the greatness of God’s plan for humanity,” he said. “Indeed, the Father ‘so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.'”

“In the pierced heart of the Crucified we can discover the infinite measure of the Father’s love: he loves us with eternal love; he calls us to be his sons and daughters and to share in the joy that comes from him,” the pope said.

In Jesus’ “compassion for those who are wounded, in his concern when faced with suffering, in the mercy with which he anoints sinners, in his sacrifice for the sins of the world,” Pope Francis said, Jesus “has shown us the heart of God.”

And, like him, the pope said, Christians must reach out to share the good news that God is “a father who always awaits us, sees us from afar, comes toward us with open arms; a father who turns no one away, but welcomes all; who excludes no one, but calls everyone.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis was scheduled to undergo surgery at Rome’s Gemelli hospital June 7 to treat a hernia that had developed at an incision of a previous operation, the Vatican said.

Pope Francis greets visitors from the popemobile as he rides around St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican before his weekly general audience June 7, 2023. The Vatican announced the pope would be going to Rome’s Gemelli hospital that afternoon for surgery for an “incisional laparocele” or hernia. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope was to be put under general anesthesia and undergo abdominal surgery involving “plastic surgery on the abdominal wall with prosthesis,” Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said in a brief statement released shortly after the pope’s morning general audience June 7.

He was expected to remain in the hospital for several days.

The operation, “agreed upon in recent days by the medical team assisting the Holy Father, has become necessary due to an incisional hernia” causing “recurring, painful and worsening” intestinal blockage, the statement said. An incisional hernia might occur at the site of an incision in the abdominal wall.

The pope briefly visited the Gemelli hospital’s geriatric medical center for a medical checkup and tests June 6. According to the Italian news agency ANSA, he was there for some 40 minutes before returning to the Vatican.

Pope Francis was previously hospitalized for 10 days in July 2021 to treat diverticulitis, a condition marked by the inflammation of bulges lining the intestine, and underwent a surgery that removed part of his colon. In January 2023, the pope told the Associated Press that the bulges in his intestinal wall had returned.

The pope has said that he did not respond well to the general anesthetic used during his colon operation and said that reaction was part of the reason he declined having torn ligaments in his knee operated on. For more than a year Pope Francis has been using a wheelchair in many of his public events.

WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Pope Francis has created the ecclesiastical province of Las Vegas, comprised of the Archdiocese of Las Vegas and the suffragan dioceses of Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City.

He also named Las Vegas Bishop George Leo Thomas to be the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. Archbishop Thomas, who turned 73 May 19, was appointed the third bishop of Las Vegas Feb. 28, 2018.

The establishment of the new province and the appointment of the metropolitan archbishop was publicized in Washington May 30 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Then-Bishop George Leo Thomas of Las Vegas returns to his seat after receiving Communion at the Basilica of St. Mary Major during his “ad limina” visit in Rome Jan. 30, 2020. Pope Francis created the ecclesiastical province of Las Vegas May 30, 2023, which is comprised of the Archdiocese of Las Vegas and the suffragan dioceses of Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City. The same day he named Bishop Thomas the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A metropolitan archbishop is the head of his archdiocese, and while he has no direct power of governance over the suffragan dioceses in his province, “through canon law, he supports them in matters of faith and discipline and provides fraternal pastoral care to his brother bishops,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Las Vegas has been for me one of the most beautiful encounters, beautiful treasures I could have ever experienced,” Archbishop Thomas told reporters at a news briefing in Las Vegas about the creation of the ecclesiastical province, the elevation of the five-county diocese in southern Nevada to an archdiocese and his being named an archbishop.

He was joined at the briefing by Auxiliary Bishop Gregory W. Gordon of Las Vegas; Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg of Reno, Nevada; Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City; and retired Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

When Archbishop Thomas was named the third bishop of Las Vegas by Pope Francis in 2018, he had been the bishop of Helena, Montana, for 14 years. Before that, the Montana native was an auxiliary bishop of Seattle for four years.

He said that when he was named to Las Vegas, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the U.S., informed him of the appointment and also told him the Las Vegas Diocese had “grown too complex” to send a new bishop to be its shepherd.

By “complex,” he meant it had “a pronounced shortage of priests and seminarians, exponential growth of laity, and needed to build new parishes and establish new schools,” Archbishop Thomas recalled, adding that he told the nuncio: “The one thing I can do is bring wise and gifted people around a common table and we can solve anything.”

The creation of the ecclesiastical province of Las Vegas and elevation of the diocese to an archdiocese illustrate that “the dynamism of this local church, the vitality of the parishes and communities” has come “to the attention of the Holy See,” Archbishop Thomas said.

“I feel very grateful to the Holy See and certainly to Pope Francis, whom I love very deeply, but the honor and the glory belongs to the priests and to the lay faithful,” the archbishop said. “It is the people laboring out in the fields and in the communities who are really responsible for the dynamism of this archdiocese.”

“We are having exponential growth to be sure, and people receiving excellent pastoral care,” he said. “The fact we have now become an archdiocese is certainly a mark of approbation and approval of the Holy Father” and “most especially is a credit” to the laity, priests and religious.

Archbishop Thomas said he planned to go to Rome June 28 with pilgrims from the archdiocese and fellow clergy and that on June 29 he will receive the pallium from the pope.

The pallium is the woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments. It symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.

“I’m told I’m the only American receiving it this year,” Archbishop Thompson said, adding that Archbishop Pierre will place it over his shoulders in Las Vegas Oct. 2, the feast of the Guardian Angela, during a major celebration at the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer that will formally establish Las Vegas as an archdiocese.

In his remarks at the briefing, Bishop Gordon said that the pope’s creation of the new province and elevation of the diocese to archdiocese is “a reflection at this moment of the tremendous growth” of the church and Nevada itself in terms of population, hotels and sports arenas but also in terms “of the spiritual, as evidenced by the increase in the number of baptisms, parishes, schools and other apostolates.

But “this moment” also is certainly a reflection of the pope’s confidence in the spiritual leadership of Archbishop Thomas, who “is always thanking us for all the work we (do) but we know the truth, that work would not be done if it weren’t for the fact the shepherd is so active and so engaged,” Bishop Gordon said. “We thank you for all you’ve done these past five years in our new archdiocese. … We look forward to working with you in your pastoral ministry in this archdiocese for many, many years to come.”

Bishop Gordon said the first inquiries into the possibility of Las Vegas becoming an archdiocese and an ecclesiastical province being created for Nevada and Utah go back to the creation of the Las Vegas Diocese in 1995.

“(There are) decades of growth, decades of censuses showing how Nevada and Utah lead the nation as among the fastest growing states,” Bishop Gordon said, noting that Nevada’s five southern counties making up the new archdiocese alone have over 750,000 Catholics.

In 1995, St. John Paul II divided what was the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas into the Diocese of Reno and the Diocese of Las Vegas. The Diocese of Reno was first established March 27, 1931, and then redesignated as the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas Oct. 13, 1976.

The statewide Diocese of Salt Lake was formed in 1891 from the Vicariate of Utah and Eastern Nevada. In 1951, the Vatican renamed it the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Before May 30, the dioceses of Reno, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City were suffragan dioceses of the metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Bishop Mueggenborg, who has headed the Reno Diocese since 2021, said at the briefing that he met the May 30 announcement about Las Vegas “with great joy and profound gratitude.”

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to you, Archbishop Thomas, and the archdiocese. This is a significant milestone and it marks a new chapter in the life of the church especially here in Nevada but in the entire Great Basin of the United States. It reflects not only the spiritual growth but also the dedication that has taken root here the last 28 years.”

Bishop Solis, who has been Salt Lake City’s bishop since 2017, called it “a great honor and privilege to join you in this milestone in celebration of God’s blessing to this local church here in Nevada.”

He extended his diocese’s and state’s “warmest congratulations for this wonderful moment in the history of the local church of Las Vegas.”

“Nothing happens by accident,” Bishop Solis said. “It is always the movement of the Holy Spirit that inspires priests, religious men and women, as well as the laity, to build a vibrant church in joy and gratitude.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s current Synod of Bishops should not be a “parliament for demanding rights,” but a “journey in accordance with the Spirit,” Pope Francis said.

The synod, which seeks to gather input from all baptized Catholics on building a listening church, is not “an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to submit to the breath of the Spirit,” he said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during his Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 28, 2023. Pope Francis called on Catholics to invoke daily the Spirit who gives “harmony to the world” and “directs the course of time and renews the face of the earth.” (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

In his homily for Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica May 28, the pope said that the Holy Spirit is “the heart of synodality and the driving force of evangelization.”

“Without him, the church is lifeless, faith is mere doctrine, morality only a duty” and “pastoral work mere toil,” he said. “We often hear so many so-called thinkers and theologians who give us cold doctrines that seem mathematical because they lack the Spirit.”

Pope Francis, seated to the side of the basilica’s main altar, spoke without difficulty just two days after he had cleared his day’s schedule due to a fever.

Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was the main celebrant at the altar alongside Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Leonardo Sandri, vice dean.

Reflecting on St. John’s account of Jesus breathing on the apostles to impart the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis urged Christians to seek harmony in the church without doing away with the differences that enrich its character.

“The Spirit does not inaugurate the church by providing the community with rules and regulations, but by descending upon each of the apostles, every one of them receives particular graces and charisms,” he explained. The Spirit “does not eliminate differences of cultures but harmonizes everything without reducing them to bland uniformity.”

Embracing difference, the pope said, is key to resisting the temptation to look back in time with nostalgia or become “caught up in our plans and projects.”

At Pentecost, however, “the life of the church began not from a precise and detailed plan, but from the shared experience of God’s love,” he said.

Pope Francis asked Christians to invoke the Holy Spirit daily to create harmony where there is division in the church and beyond.

“Let us think of the wars, so many conflicts, it seems incredible the evil of which we are capable. Yet fueling our hostilities is the spirit of division, the devil, whose very name means ‘divider,'” he said.

Conversely, the Holy Spirit “opposes the spirit of division because he is harmony, the Spirit of unity, the bringer of peace.”

“If the world is divided, if the church is polarized, if hearts are broken, let us not waste time in criticizing others and growing angry with one another,” Pope Francis said, “instead, let us invoke the Holy Spirit.”

The pope encouraged Christians to reflect on their relationship with the Holy Spirit and asked them to develop a faith that is “docile in the Spirit,” and not “stubbornly attached” to “so-called doctrines that are only cold expressions of life.”

“If we want harmony let us seek (the Spirit), not worldly substitutes,” he said.

At the end of Mass, Pope Francis he smiled and waved to onlookers as he was taken down the basilica’s central nave while seated in a wheelchair.

Reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with an estimated 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square after the Mass, Pope Francis again spoke of the synod, asking people to join special prayers planned for May 31, the end of the month traditionally dedicated to Mary.

“At the conclusion of the month of May,” he said, “Marian shrines around the world are planning moments of prayer to support preparations for the upcoming ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” which is scheduled to meet in October at the Vatican. “We ask the Virgin Mary to accompany this important stage of the synod with her maternal protection.”

“And to her we also entrust the desire for peace of so many peoples throughout the world, especially of the tormented Ukraine,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called the migration crisis between Mexico and the United States a “serious problem” and praised a U.S. bishop working along the border during an interview with Telemundo journalist Julio Vaqueiro.

In the interview, broadcast May 25, the pope was shown photos of a baby wrapped in a blanket and placed inside a suitcase to be taken across the Rio Grande into the United States.

Pope Francis waves at a participant during a meeting of Scholas Occurentes, an educational initiative, held at the Augustinianum Institute for Patristic Studies in Rome May 25, 2023. Julian Vaqueiro, a Telemundo journalist seen in front holding a microphone, was the event’s master of ceremonies, and spoke with Pope Francis in an interview released May 25. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“It’s a serious problem there,” the pope said in response. “On the other side (of the border) there is a great man, Bishop Seitz” of El Paso, Texas.

“This bishop feels (the problem),” Pope Francis said. “The problem of migrants is serious, it’s serious there and it’s serious here,” he said about Europe, particularly “along the Libyan coast.”

Speaking about his own experience as a child of immigrants, and now as an immigrant in Rome, the pope said that every person who leaves his or her homeland “misses the air of their birthplace.”

“The mate you make in a thermos yourself is not the same as the mate your mom or your aunt makes for you,” he said, referring to the caffeinated herbal drink popular in Argentina.

Vaqueiro asked Pope Francis about his meeting May 13 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The pope said Zelenskyy asked for his help in returning Ukrainian children who have been taken into Russia and told the pope to “not dream much about mediations.”

Since the outbreak of the war, the Vatican has avoided openly condemning the Russian government and has offered itself as a mediator for peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

“Really, Ukraine’s bloc is very strong, it’s all of Europe, the United States, so it has a lot of strength,” Pope Francis said to explain why a Vatican mediation did not appear immediately feasible. “But what really pained (Zelenskyy) and what he asked for collaboration on was trying to get the children back into Ukraine.”

More than 19,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported into Russia or Russian-held territories according to a Ukrainian government website. The U.N. Human Rights Office has classified Russia’s illegal transfer of children into its territories as a war crime.

In response to a question on abortion, Pope Francis said that a fetus is a “living being, I’m not saying a person, but a living being.”

“Is it licit to eliminate a living being to resolve a problem?” he asked. “Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?”

On abuse, the pope said that priestly celibacy “has nothing to do” with the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, since, he said, abuse is committed at high rates within families and schools by married persons too.

Vaqueiro, who served earlier in the evening as master of ceremonies at Pope Francis’ meeting with members of Scholas Occurentes, a Vatican-related educational initiative, asked the pope what still needed to be done to realize the reforms discussed by the cardinals in the lead up to the conclave that elected him pope just over 10 years ago.

“Everything,” Pope Francis said. “It’s curious, as you do things, you realize everything that still needs to be done; it’s something insatiable.”