Catholic News

USCCB News News from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  • Vatican, Lutheran officials call for joint study of Augsburg Confession
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on September 21, 2023 at 8:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During an ecumenical prayer service at the assembly of the Lutheran World Federation, the Vatican's chief ecumenist and the federation's general secretary formally called for a joint reflection on the Augsburg Confession, a fundamental statement of Lutheran faith. "A common reflection could lead to another 'milestone' on the way from conflict to communion," said Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Rev. Anne Burghardt, the federation's general secretary, as they read a "Common Word" declaration to the assembly Sept. 19. The assembly, held Sept. 13-19 in Krakow, Poland, is the main governing body of the Lutheran World Federation, which represents 150 Lutheran churches in 99 countries. The Augsburg Confession was drafted in 1530 in an attempt "to bear witness to the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church," the declaration said. "At the time of its writing, ecclesial unity was probably endangered, but ecclesial separation was not yet finally accomplished." Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks on an ecumenical panel during the assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Krakow, Poland, Sept. 19, 2023. The Rev. Anne Burghardt, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, is to the right of the cardinal. (CNS photo/Lutheran World Federation, Marie Renaux) Because the statement of faith was meant to witness to the unity of the church before the final ruptures of the Protestant Reformation, the declaration said, it is "not only of historical interest; rather, it holds an ecumenical potential of lasting relevance." The declaration acknowledged both theological and practical obstacles on the path to full unity. The Catholic Church's "excommunication of Martin Luther is still a stumbling block for some today," it said. "It maintains its place in confessional memory, even though the excommunication has long since lost its immediate effect with the death of the reformer and Lutherans are not enemies or strangers for Catholics, but brothers and sisters, with whom Catholics know themselves to be united through baptism." In a similar way, it said, "the fact that Martin Luther and the Lutheran confessional writings refer to the papacy as 'anti-Christ' is a stumbling block even though today the Lutheran World Federation does not support that view." The two issues, the declaration said, ultimately raise questions about the role and ministry of the pope and "the question of the mystery of the church, its unity and uniqueness," questions the official Catholic-Lutheran theological dialogue continues to study. That dialogue, the two leaders said, allows Lutherans and Catholics "to discern areas of consensus where our predecessors only saw insurmountable oppositions. We are able to recognize that the journey toward full communion is far greater than the contingencies of a particular epoch." The "Common Word" also noted how Pope Francis, meeting leaders of the federation in 2021, expressed hope that a joint study of the Augsburg Confession in preparation for the document's 500th anniversary in 2030 could strengthen Catholics' and Lutherans' ability "to confess together what joins us in faith." "It will be important to examine with spiritual and theological humility the circumstances that led to the divisions, trusting that, although it is impossible to undo the sad events of the past, it is possible to reinterpret them as part of a reconciled history," the pope had said.  

  • Pope: Christians are called to fight 'every form of slavery'
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on September 20, 2023 at 8:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inspired by the dignity of each human being as revealed by Jesus, Christians are called to fight "every form of slavery," whether physical, social or spiritual, Pope Francis said. "Jesus, God made man, elevated the dignity of every human being and exposed the falsehood of slavery," the pope told people gathered in St. Peter's Square for his general audience Sept. 20. "As Christians, therefore, we are called to fight against every form of slavery." Continuing his weekly catechesis on zeal for evangelization, the pope discussed the life of St. Daniele Comboni, a 19th-century Italian bishop who dedicated his life to establishing and supporting missions in Africa, where Pope Francis said the saint witnessed the "horror of slavery." "Comboni, by the light of Christ, became aware of the evil of slavery; he also understood that social slavery is rooted in a deeper slavery, that of the heart, that of sin, from which the Lord delivers us," he said. Visitors greet Pope Francis as he rides the popemobile around St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before his weekly general audience Sept. 20, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez) Pope Francis stressed that "slavery, like colonialism, is not a thing of the past," and recalled his address to South Sudanese political leaders during his visit to the country in February in which he called for an end to the economic colonialism that followed the end of political colonialism in Africa. St. Comboni, the pope said, understood that those he evangelized in Africa were "not only 'objects' but 'subjects' of the mission" and praised the saint's philosophy about evangelization in Africa contained in his missionary slogan: "Save Africa through Africa." "How important it is, even today, to advance the faith and human development from within the contexts of mission instead of transplanting external models or limiting oneself to sterile welfarism," Pope Francis said. "Take up the way of evangelization from the culture of the people. Evangelizing the culture and enculturating the Gospel go together." The pope highlighted St. Comboni's efforts to involve laypeople, families and catechists -- "treasures of the church" -- in evangelization as a way of "making all Christians protagonists of evangelizing action" and preventing clericalism. Pope Francis leads a prayer as he begins his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 20, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez) After his catechesis, Pope Francis mentioned a meeting he had before his general audience with Brazilian lawmakers working on behalf of the poor. "They do not forget the poor; they work for the poor," he said. "To you I say, 'do not forget the poor,' because they will be the ones who open the door to heaven for you." The pope also noted the "worrying news" from the South Caucasus region "where the already critical humanitarian situation was aggravated by further armed conflict" after Azerbaijan attacked the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh Sept. 19. "I call on all involved parties and the international community to silence weapons and make every effort to find peaceful solutions for the good of people and respect for human dignity," he said. Pope: Evangelization and inculturation go together Pope Francis spoke about the evangelizing example of St. Daniele Comboni at his general audience Sept. 20.

  • Pope Francis Accepts Resignations of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Wypych
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on September 19, 2023 at 8:30 am

    WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation, having reached age 75, of the Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry, from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. Pope Francis has also accepted the resignation, for health reasons, of the Most Reverend Andrew P. Wypych, from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. The resignations were publicized in Washington on September 19, 2023, by Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. ###

  • Vatican astronomer helps NASA in historic mission to study asteroid
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on September 19, 2023 at 8:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesuit Brother Bob Macke, a Vatican astronomer and meteorite expert, has built a custom device for studying material from the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid. The unmanned spacecraft Osiris-Rex was launched in 2016 to collect samples on the near-Earth asteroid, Bennu. After collecting about a cup of material in 2020, the spacecraft is now approaching Earth and, before it continues its space voyage to orbit the Sun, it is due to release its cargo to send the sample back to Earth Sept. 24. Jesuit Brother Robert Macke presents a device to study the porosity and density of specimens retrieved from the asteroid Bennu by the Osiris-Rex space mission at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson as seen in a YouTube video he posted on his channel Aug 12, 2022. (CNS photo/YouTube video screenshot) Because of Brother Macke's known expertise in the field, Andrew Ryan, the lead of the mission's sample analysis working group, asked him if he could build the device needed to analyze the density and porosity of the samples to help identify the mysterious rocks on the asteroid's surface, according to Sept. 16. NASA had strict requirements for this device, called a pycnometer, and the companies Ryan contacted were only willing to sell what they had in stock, not do a custom build, he told Mashable. Brother Macke, however, was game and he posted his progress and success with a number of videos on his YouTube channel, Macke MakerSpace. He said he built it in five weeks with the help of students at the University of Arizona, which collaborates with the Vatican Observatory's advanced technology telescope in Tucson. He delivered the device to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in March for a trial run. Curators for the mission will handle the samples and the device, while Brother Macke will operate the software program he built to measure the samples' porosity and density, he said in his April 21 video. "Our job is to examine it and to find out what's in there. We're trying to answer some basic questions like, are there more than one type of rock inside? Or is everything the same kind of rock? From what we saw on the surface of the asteroid Bennu, we expect to find two and maybe more," he said. The results of the initial analysis, he said, "will help inform the selection of specimens for more detailed science to be done in laboratories around the world."  

  • Pope to confessors, faithful: Forgive always, like God
    by PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE on September 18, 2023 at 8:30 am

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Forgiveness, received freely and constantly from God, is a "fundamental value" for Christians that must be practiced and passed on to others, Pope Francis said. "Forgiveness is the oxygen that purifies the air of hatred; forgiveness is the antidote to the poisons of resentment; it is the way to defuse anger and heal so many maladies of the heart that contaminate society," the pope said before praying the Angelus with some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 17. Reflecting on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells St. Peter to forgive his brother not seven times but 77 times, Pope Francis said Jesus' response shows that "when one forgives, one does not calculate; that it is good to forgive everything, and always." People are called to act "just as God does with us, and as those who administer God's justice are required to do: Forgive always," he said. "I say this a lot to priests, to confessors: Always forgive, as God forgives." Pope Francis continued his reflection by looking at the Gospel parable in which a servant, cleared of debt by his master, sends a fellow servant to prison for failing to repay him a smaller sum. The servant is later punished by the master for his lack of mercy. A group of visitors from the Ramón Pané Foundation in Miami, Florida, greet Pope Francis after praying the Angelus in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 17, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) Like the master who canceled his servant's debt out of compassion, the pope said, God "acts out of love, and gratuitously." "God is not bought, God is free, he is all gratuitousness," the pope said. "We cannot repay him but, when we forgive a brother or a sister, we imitate him." "Forgiving is not, therefore, a good deed that we can choose to do or not do: forgiving is a fundamental condition for those who are Christians," he said. "By forgiving one another, we can bear witness (to God), sowing new life around us." Pope Francis then invited the crowd in St. Peter's Square to think of someone who has hurt them and to ask God for the strength to forgive that person. "Let us forgive them out of love for the Lord. Brothers and sisters, this will do us good; it will restore peace to our hearts," he said. After praying the Angelus, the pope mentioned his trip to Marseille, France, Sept. 22-24 for a meeting of bishops and government leaders from the Mediterranean region, a meeting that he said will give "special attention to the phenomenon of migration." At the end of a week in which some 7,000 migrants arrived on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, overwhelming reception centers and available humanitarian resources, Pope Francis said that migration "represents a challenge that is not easy, as we also see from the news in recent days, but which must be faced together, since it is essential for the future of all, which will be prosperous only if it is built on fraternity, putting human dignity and real people, especially those most in need, in first place." Pope: Migrant crises requires fraternal response A look at Pope Francis' Angelus address Sept. 17.