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Grants from National Collections Reveal Global Impact of the Generosity of U.S. Catholics

WASHINGTON - In June, the bishops on the subcommittees that oversee the various national collections met to review and award grants that support pastoral care, evangelization, and social ministry. The bishops awarded 453 grants totaling over $10.5 million that will be put to use here in the United States and in three global regions, all made possible through the generosity of U.S. Catholics.

The grants are supported through the following collections:

  • The Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe
  • The Collection for the Church in Latin America
  • The Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund
  • The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa
  • The Catholic Home Missions Appeal

“These collections are a powerful way of following Jesus’ commands to seek the lost sheep and to care for ‘the least of these,’” said Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on National Collections. “They are one way in which Catholics in dioceses across the United States can show solidarity and act together to provide tangible love and assistance to our neighbors in need, in this nation and around the world.”

Participating dioceses take these collections on designated dates, and #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the individual programs. Three of the collections mentioned underwrite international ministry, while the other two have both domestic and international reach. The Catholic Home Missions Appeal assists dioceses and eparchies of the United States and its territories that are too poor or too small to provide ministry without outside help. The Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund allows dioceses to take special collections after major crises such as hurricanes and tornadoes and directs those gifts to the designated responses of Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and to repair and rebuild Church properties in dioceses struck by disasters.

The national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe helps to rebuild the Church and restore the faith in this region after decades under communist rule. Grants from the collection will assist children and teens impacted by war in Ukraine through a day camp and a weeklong summer camp in the Diocese of Lutsk. Open to youths of all faiths, the camps are a ministry of St. John Paul II Parish in Rivne. With the support of a $15,000 grant from the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, these camps help young people build spiritual and emotional resilience through prayer, worship, sports, music, art and cultural activities. At camp they can relax for a time and experience joy, freed from the immediate threat of bombs. This program is just one of 241 grants totaling more than $5.8 million approved by the subcommittee for ministries in over 25 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The national collection for the Church in Latin America awarded 163 grants totaling more than $3.2 million, which includes assistance to two dioceses with long term recovery from disasters. One of the dioceses has also received assistance through the Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund, which provided nearly $233,000 to complete the reconstruction of two churches in Havana, Cuba, that were heavily damaged by a devastating tornado in 2019. More than $28,000 was provided to finish rebuilding a Catholic radio station and related buildings of the Dominican Priests and Brothers in the Dominican Republic that were destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The bulk of the grants for the Church in Latin America, more than $2.9 million, financed pastoral projects, such as training leaders for culturally sensitive evangelization of the Indigenous Garifuna people of Honduras. This outreach focuses on communicating the Gospel within the Garifuna worldview, connecting with their ancestral values and emphasizing dialogue, listening, environmental stewardship and conflict resolution.

The national collection for the Church in Africa awarded 48 grants from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa totaling $1,399,100 to bishops’ conferences in Africa to support pastoral activities of the conferences, member dioceses, and religious communities across the continent. With a grant of $21,100, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, an order of women religious, will be able to launch a far-reaching re-evangelization campaign among 12,500 Christian families and their children in the Archdiocese of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. The sisters are training 20 lay evangelists, equipping them with bicycles to reach beyond their immediate communities, and preparing them to teach others to also become evangelists. Their campaign includes many creative kinds of outreach, including a Christian band and street theater.

Through a special grant of $146,000, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal is enabling 19 home mission dioceses and Eastern Catholic eparchies to host the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage as it traverses four paths across the nation on its way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress. To accommodate the pilgrims, many parishes are hosting picnics and fiestas for hundreds of people, as well as feeding and housing the perpetual pilgrims who are making the journey to Indianapolis. These perpetual pilgrims are a small group of young adults who are traveling one of the four routes in its entirety, from May through July through countless communities across the nation. This grant helps ease the financial burden on mission dioceses and eparchies, and their parishes, so they can provide hospitality, as well as extra security, rental equipment, gasoline for diocesan vehicles, insurance riders, and other pilgrimage-related expenses.

“The value of all of these grants is far more than financial,” Bishop Wall said. “Each of them represents the love that followers of Jesus have for one another – especially those who are poor or marginalized. Lives and hearts are transformed forever as the Holy Spirit works through the ministry that these grants provide.”

For more information on the work of USCCB National Collections, please visit: https://www.usccb.org/committees/national-collections.

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Respectful dialogue despite political differences is needed, says USCCB president

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Political discourse in the United States has devolved into people shouting at and not listening to each other, showing a need to promote respectful dialogue despite political differences, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said, "One thing that all of us can do is to remember and to promote the dignity of the human person."

"Even if someone disagrees with me, he or she is still created in the image and likeness of God. And therefore, has a dignity that I have to recognize and that I have to respect," he said in the interview posted online July 16.

If people were more aware of their common-held dignity, he said, "then we might be able to discuss as rational human beings, the problems and the disagreements that we have, and perhaps come to some solutions."

"But it's tragic that political discourse in this country has reached a point where people just shout at each other, and there's no space to listen to the other. And I think that's something that Pope Francis has urged us constantly to recognize, this basic human dignity and to respect it in every way that we can," he said.

"This tragic event is really a call to action to all of us to measure our discourse and to move forward in pathways of peace and reconciliation and (for) an honest assessment of whatever political differences there are and however we can work together to find solutions," he said. 

rally
A supporter of Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after Trump was grazed by a bullet during his campaign rally at the Butler Farm Show in Pennsylvania July 13, 2024. (USCCB photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

The archbishop was asked to comment on the recent assassination attempt of former U.S. President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, July 13. Gunfire killed one attendee, Corey Comperatore, and injured three others including Trump, whose right ear was grazed by a bullet. The suspected gunman was killed and his possible motives were still under investigation.

In his interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Broglio expressed his sympathy and condolences to the Comperatore family and his "promise of a prayer" for the repose of the deceased man's soul. "And also to those who were wounded, including former President Trump, a message of consolation and the assurance of my prayers, and (I) assure the prayers of all of the faithful of the United States."

He said his initial reaction to the event was "one of horror that violence would take place in what is supposed to be a democratic society, that we're not able to talk to one another." That someone was able to make an attempt on Trump's life, he added, is "certainly very, very tragic."

When asked, as president of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, what bishops could do to foster peaceful dialogue or coexistence, he said, "I think all of us in our dioceses can certainly promote the importance of dialogue, the importance of respect for the other."

The commitment to protect human life, he said, "is based on this notion that the human person is worthy of our respect from the moment of conception until the moment of death. And I think we have to be constant in that."

Archbishop Broglio noted the importance of the National Eucharistic Congress being held July 17-21 in Indianapolis, Indiana, saying, "I think that will be a great opportunity for us to promote dialogue and reconciliation."

"In Jesus Christ, we find our salvation, and we also find a way forward. Obviously in the person of Christ, we find a code of conduct and I think the more we do to promote that, the better off our society will be," he said. "We can't do it all by ourselves, but we can certainly lay a foundation and urge those that we're responsible for to promote this dignity and this dialogue."

Catholic News Service in Rome wins 12 awards for its work in Catholic media

ROME (CNS) -- The Catholic News Service team in Rome won 12 awards from the Catholic Media Association, which were announced during the 2024 Catholic Media Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Incorporated in 1911, the Catholic Media Association is an organization of publishers and media professionals for a total of about 355 member organizations, which include 890 media professionals.

Catholic News Service has been providing complete, in-depth coverage of the popes and the Vatican for more than 70 years. Its six-person team is made up of three full-time reporters, one photographer, one multimedia journalist and one administrative assistant.

CNS took home four first-place awards with the following comments from the judges:

-- Cindy Wooden, Carol Glatz, Robert Duncan, Paul Haring and Justin McLellan: Best In-Depth News/Special Reporting by a National Newspaper or Wire Service for "Pope Francis' 10th anniversary."  

"This extraordinary team effort exploring various aspects of Pope Francis’ 10th  anniversary combines thought-provoking interviews, memorable writing and significant context to provide a comprehensive picture of what the pope has accomplished and what lies ahead."

Click through to see the stories and photos in this winning series:

10 years as pope: Pushing the church to bring the Gospel to the world

Pope from 'ends of the earth' brings new style to Rome

Pope brings Latin American Catholic experience to the universal church

Pastoral and practical: Francis seeks healing, hardline against abuse

Pope's anniversary sees Curia reform complete, financial reform ongoing

Around the world in 10 years: Pope's 40 trips reflect his priorities

Pope Francis' 10-year legacy

Pope Francis' 10-year legacy

An overview of the 10 years of the pontificate of Pope Francis. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

-- Carol Glatz: First place for Best Coverage, Ecumenical and Interfaith Issues for the following series of stories on the Vatican archives and Catholic-Jewish relations.

"Excellent analysis and writing about an important issue."

wreaths
Two wreaths are placed under a plaque outside an Italian military residence in Rome, Oct. 16, 2023. More than 1000 Jews were rounded up by German forces on Oct. 16, 1943, and held at this military compound for deportation to extermination camps in Poland. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Click through to see the stories and photos in this series:

Silent no more: Vatican archives give voice to wartime tragedy

Despite prejudices, many Catholics helped rescue Jews in Nazi-occupied Italy

Study, not blame or shame, needed with pope's wartime record, scholar says

-- Lola Gomez: First place for Best Photograph, Immigration/Migration for "Pope Francis prays at migrants monument." 

pope statue
Pope Francis shares a moment of silence with members of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops as they pray for migrants and refugees in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19, 2023. Behind the pope is "Angels Unawares," a sculpture by Canadian Timothy Schmalz, depicting a boat with 140 figures of migrants from various historical periods and various nations. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"A stunning image of contrasts. The Pope and his light-colored vestments stand out against the dark statue. Seemingly deep in prayer, the image captures the Pope with a look of concern among the sullen faces of those that make up the statue."

 

-- Lola Gomez: First place for Best Photograph, Scenic, Still-life or Weather Photo for "Sunrise at Fatima, Portugal."

fatima sunset
The sun rises behind the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal, before Pope Francis arrives Aug. 5, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"Astonishing image with the shrine perfectly framed by the columns and using the colorful sky as the contrasting backdrop. Top-notch photo."
 

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CNS took home a second-place award with the following comment from the judges:

-- Lola Gomez, Justin McLellan and Robert Duncan: Best Multimedia Package for Seasonal for "Pope celebrates feast of the Immaculate Conception."

"Nice work taking audience to a place they may not be able to travel."

Pope asks Mary's aid to end violence against women

Pope asks Mary's aid to end violence against women

Visiting a monument dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in central Rome Dec. 8, the pope emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant regarding violence against women, particularly in light of the tragic murder of a 22-year-old woman by her ex...

* * * *

CNS took home two third-place awards:

-- Robert Duncan: Best Video, Catechesis for "WYD pilgrims experience God’s mercy."

WYD pilgrims experience God’s mercy

WYD pilgrims experience God’s mercy

A large field of wooden confessionals sprung up in Lisbon for World Youth Day pilgrims and became the site for penitents and priests from around the world to experience God’s mercy. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

-- Cindy Wooden, Lola Gomez and Robert Duncan: Third place for Best Coverage, Papal Trips for "Pope Francis visits Mongolia." With the following comment from the judges:

"This is a great set of articles that allows the reader to experience the full papal visit, day to day. The detail in the stories helps to give the reader a feel for the impact of the papal visit and the hope for the future for a still-nascent mission in an exotic part of the world with diverse and numerous religious challenges. These articles help the reader to understand the importance of ecumenicism."

ger
Pope Francis and a woman named Tsetsege leave a ger on the grounds of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sept. 2, 2023. The Mongolian woman, who uses only one name, found a statue of Mary in a garbage landfill and gave it to missionaries; it is now venerated in the cathedral as Our Lady of Heaven. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Click through to see the stories and more photos in this winning series on Mongolia:

Message from 'heart of Asia': Pope's words go beyond Mongolian borders

Pope, Mongolian religious leaders vow to promote harmony, shun violence

Pope encourages little Mongolian flock in faith, unity, witness

In Mongolia, Pope Francis sends greeting to Chinese Catholics

In Mongolia, Pope Francis sends greeting to Chinese Catholics

Pope Francis met with religious elders and celebrated Mass in Mongolia Sept. 3, 2023. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

* * * *

CNS also won five honorable mention awards:

-- Lola Gomez: Best Photograph, Holy Days/Liturgical Seasons for "Children bring flowers to baby Jesus at papal Mass."

baby Jesus
Children place flowers around a figurine of the baby Jesus in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica during Christmas Mass with Pope Francis at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

 

-- Carol Glatz, Lola Gomez and Robert Duncan: Honorable mention for Best Coverage, Papal Trips for "Pope Francis' trip to Marseille."

pope macron
Pope Francis is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives at the Pharo Palace for the closing session of the Mediterranean Meetings with bishops, civil leaders and young people in Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Click through to see the stories and more photos in this series on Marseille and migration:

Message in Marseille: Welcoming the 'stranger' is a global mandate

People have a duty to save migrants in danger of drowning, pope says

Pope laments closing ports to migrants, fueling fears with false alarm

Pope prays for migrants who died at sea

Pope prays for migrants who died at sea

In Marseille, France, Pope Francis prayed for migrants who died at sea. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

-- Justin McLellan, Lola Gomez and Robert Duncan: Honorable mention for Best Coverage, Papal Trips for "Papal trip to World Youth Day in Lisbon."

wyd
Pope Francis signals that hundreds of thousands of young people are not loud enough after he asks them to repeat that there is space for "everyone, everyone, everyone" in the church. The pope's remarks came at the World Youth Day welcome ceremony at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Click through to see the stories, videos and more photos in this series on World Youth Day in Lisbon:

Pope to young people at WYD: God calls your authentic, not virtual, self

Awaken the 'weary' church by becoming 'restless,' pope says in Portugal

Don't be afraid to change the world, pope tells youths at WYD closing Mass

 

-- Robert Duncan: Honorable mention for Best Video, Feature for "Vatican Nativity scene highlights St. Francis, Holy Land."

Vatican Nativity scene highlights St. Francis, Holy Land

Vatican Nativity scene highlights St. Francis, Holy Land

Pope Francis meets donors responsible for the Nativity scene and tree in St. Peter's Square; the creche will be unveiled this evening and the tree lighted. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

-- Carol Glatz, Lola Gomez and Robert Duncan: Honorable mention for Best Multimedia Packages, News for "Pope encourages children to work for peace."

Pope teaches children how to make peace

Pope teaches children how to make peace

Pope Francis met with children from different parts of the world for "Let Us Learn from Boys and Girls" in the Vatican Paul VI hall Nov. 6, 2023. (CNS video/Robert Duncan)

Vatican condemns violence at Trump rally, offers prayers for victims, peace

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican expressed its concern about the violence waged at a political rally in the United States and it offered its prayers for the nation, the victims and peace.

In response to queries about the shootings at a rally involving former U.S. President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, the Vatican press office released a statement July 14 expressing its "concern about last night's episode of violence, which wounds people and democracy, causing suffering and death."

The Holy See is "united in the prayer of the U.S. bishops for America, for the victims, and for peace in the country, so that the motives of the violent may never prevail," the statement said in Italian.

Gunshots were fired at a Trump rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, July 13, injuring Trump who said on social media that a bullet "pierced" his right ear. One person attending the rally was killed and two others were critically injured, The Associated Press reported July 14.

The U.S. Secret Service said it killed the suspected shooter who had attacked from an elevated position outside the rally venue.

Law enforcement was investigating the shooting as an attempted assassination of the former president and presumptive Republican presidential candidate, AP reported. 

Archbishop Broglio
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, left, and other U.S. bishops concelebrate Mass in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 2, 2019, during their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a written statement July 13, "Together with my brother bishops, we condemn political violence, and we offer our prayers for President Trump, and those who were killed or injured."

"We also pray for our country and for an end to political violence, which is never a solution to political disagreements. We ask all people of goodwill to join us in praying for peace in our country. Mary, Mother of God and Patroness of the Americas, pray for us," the archbishop said.

Vatican calls for prayers, attention to rights, dignity of seafarers

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ministering to seafarers and advocating for their rights and dignity can help bring these often invisible workers to the fore, said Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

"'Out of sight, out of mind' is an adage that can apply to the invisibility of seafarers," he wrote in the dicastery's message for Sea Sunday, celebrated July 14 this year. Catholic communities around the world are called to pray for and recognize all those who work at sea, their families and those who support them. 

czerny
Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, speaks during a news conference at the Vatican June 3, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"In all of humanity, seafarers are among the least visible members. Yet, it is through their hidden efforts that many of our necessities reach us," he wrote in the message, which the Vatican released June 24. "They experience the boundless beauty of nature in the seas, yet they also encounter physical, spiritual and social darkness."

Working at sea can mean being absent from home and land, for months and even years, the cardinal wrote. "The pay may make these sacrifices worthwhile, but that benefit may be threatened by injustices, exploitation and inequality."

The cardinal praised those who advocate for the dignity and rights of seafarers, such as the volunteers, chaplains and members of local churches at the ports who engage in seafarer ministry. 

fish
Fishermen weigh out different fish from a fresh batch at a fishery in Leland, Mich., July 14, 2021. (USCCB photo/Emily Elconin, Reuters)

"The ministry of the sea can help to bring the peripheral into the center in many ways, for example: by encountering the people of the sea in person and in prayer, improving the material and spiritual conditions of laborers, advocating for the dignity and rights of workers and championing strengthened international relations and policies to safeguard the human rights of those who travel and work far from their families and homelands," he wrote.

"May we acknowledge the essential contribution of those whose work might otherwise remain invisible. May we support the ministry of welcoming those who need a listening ear and a place to belong, a safe harbor, a community that welcomes all who wish to return home," he wrote.

"May we be inspired by the example of the mutual exchanges in the life of seafarers. May the people of the sea feel part of the church wherever they go," Cardinal Czerny wrote.

U.S. Bishops’ President Condemns Political Violence and Calls for Prayers for Peace

WASHINGTON – Following the news of the shooting at a political rally involving former President Donald Trump today, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops (USCCB) offered the following statement:

“Together with my brother bishops, we condemn political violence, and we offer our prayers for President Trump, and those who were killed or injured. We also pray for our country and for an end to political violence, which is never a solution to political disagreements. We ask all people of goodwill to join us in praying for peace in our country. Mary, Mother of God and Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.”

Earlier this summer, the USCCB issued a statement on political violence, urging all Christians and people of good will to abstain from political violence, and instead, ‘pursue what leads to peace and building up one another’ through dialogue, seeking justice.

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Faith in democracy: Participation in government long a papal priority

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 2 billion people in over 50 countries were set to go to the polls in 2024, according to the Center for American Progress, but Pope Francis has said he is worried that people are more disconnected than ever from the governments that are meant to provide for their well-being.

Participating in a conference in Trieste, Italy, July 7, the pope discussed democracy at length. In preparation for that visit, the Vatican publishing house produced a booklet compiling papal speeches on democracy and featuring a new introduction to the text written by Pope Francis.

The booklet was published in Italian July 7 as an insert in Trieste's local newspaper, Il Piccolo.

In it, the pope wrote that while democracy has spread globally in recent decades, today it "seems to be suffering the consequences of a dangerous disease," that of "democratic skepticism."

People's distrust in democracy, which "sometimes seems to yield to the allure of populism," he wrote, ultimately stems from its perceived difficulty in addressing current challenges, such as, "issues related to unemployment or the overwhelming technocratic paradigm."

In his speech at the event July 7 during Italian Catholic Social Week, the pope underlined the need to train people in democratic participation from a young age and instill them with "a critical sense regarding ideological and populist temptations."

The four-day conference, organized every three to four years by the Italian bishops' conference to engage Catholics in social issues, chose as the theme for its 50th edition "At the Heart of Democracy."

True democracy, he added, does not entail merely voting, but creating the conditions and space for "everyone to express themselves and participate" in society.

That sentiment echoes a distinction made by Pope Pius XII in his radio message to the world Dec. 24, 1944. Still in the midst of World War II, the pope discussed the key difference that exists in a democratic system between "the people" and "the masses."

File photo of Pope Pius XII.
Pope Pius XII sits in front of a microphone prepared to give a radio address in this 1943 file photo. During World War II, the pontiff made many pleas for peace through Vatican Radio. (CNS photo)

A people, the pope said, "lives and moves by its own life energy" and is composed of individuals "conscious of (their) own responsibility and (their) own views."

"The masses, on the contrary, wait for the impulse from outside, an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits their instincts and impressions; ready to follow in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another," he noted.

Whereas a people actively involved in democracy instills into a population "the consciousness of their own responsibility" and "the true instinct for the common good," Pope Pius issued a stark prediction for the fate of the disengaged masses: "in the ambitious hands of one or of several who have been artificially brought together for selfish aims, the state itself, with the support of the masses, reduced to the minimum status of a mere machine, can impose its whims on the better part of the real people."

As a result, "the common interest remains seriously, and for a long time, injured by this process, and the injury is very often hard to heal," Pope Pius said.

For Pope Francis, to counter the tendency to drift toward merely becoming "the masses" entails developing a sense of solidarity and togetherness, from which grows a will to participate in public life.

In authoritarian regimes, "no one participates; everyone watches passively," he wrote in his introduction to the booklet. "Democracy, on the other hand, demands participation, demands putting in one's own effort, risking confrontation, bringing one's own ideals, one's own reasons, into the question."

He added that "standing at the window, watching idly what is happening around us, is not only ethically unacceptable but also, even from a selfish perspective, neither wise nor convenient."

Or, put more succinctly, "indifference is a cancer of democracy," Pope Francis said during his July 7 speech.

Yet in his text the pope wrote that it is by leveraging democracy's greatest asset that society can overcome its sense of passivity.

"Democracy has in it a great and unquestionable value: that of being 'together,'" he wrote, praising the model for exercising government power "within the framework of a community that freely and secularly confronts each other in the art of the common good."

Togetherness, the pope added, fosters a "positive and almost concrete sense of solidarity, which comes from sharing and advancing, for example in the public arena, issues on which to find convergence."

The pope highlighted several pressing issues in society which require joint action and which people are called "to engage democratically": receiving migrants, falling fertility rates and the pursuit of peace through negotiation rather than increased firepower.

Particularly "in these times overshadowed by war," the pope prayed for a "more convinced commitment to a fully participatory democratic life aimed at the true common good."

In synod process, church is listening to God, not 'polls,' cardinal says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church can only teach the faithful if it is an institution that listens, but that does not mean it should take to heart every opinion uttered, according to the head of the church’s synod.

The church "is not interested in surveyed polls,” said Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops. "The church is always and only listening to the voice of God."

The cardinal presented the working document for the second assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality at a Vatican news conference July 9.

He explained that God speaks in many ways: through Sacred Scripture, for example, "but also through the sense of faith of the people of God, the voice of pastors and the charism of theologians," through which God's truth continues to be revealed.

The time between the two synodal assemblies, in which the Secretariat of the Synod again sought input from local churches in light of the findings from last year's synodal assembly, "has been always and only in order to seek, with the certainly perfectible tools we have at our disposal, what God wants to say to the Church in this hour of its journey," he said.

Cardinal Grech noted that 108 of 114 bishops' conferences submitted responses to questions from the synod secretariat to form the working document.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the synod, told the news conference that reports from the bishops' conferences "unanimously testify, without hiding the struggles and difficulties of synodal conversion, also a feeling of joy and gratitude" for the synodal process.

The official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
The official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)

He said that local churches carried out the second consultation after the synod's first universal phase "with greater freedom and creativity in the way they took ownership of the process."

Yet the cardinal noted that the reports do contain a sense of "weariness and fatigue of a path of conversion" which is "not immediate."

The demand for more immediate action was reflected in questions put to the cardinals at the news conference, several of which focused on the issue of expanding the diaconate to include women.

In March, Cardinal Grech announced that Pope Francis had decided to establish 10 study groups dedicated to hot-button topics raised during the 2021-24 synod process and they are expected to explore the question of the women deacons.

The working document said that the question of admitting women to diaconal ministry "will not be the subject of the work of the Second (synod) Session" but affirmed that "theological reflection should continue" on the matter, noting that the body studying the question, study group five, will take into consideration that results of two theological study commissions created by Pope Francis in 2016 and 2020.

However, the document added that "theological and canonical questions concerning specific forms of ecclesial ministry -- in particular, the question of the necessary participation of women in the life and leadership of the Church -- have been entrusted to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith" which will be in dialogue with the synod secretariat. A list of study group members published by the Vatican did not list individual members of study group five but said that the doctrinal dicastery will publish a document on questions surrounding ministerial forms, which includes the question of women deacons.

Asked whether the topic of women deacons was still being considered after Pope Francis rejected the possibility of their ordination in a CBS interview aired May 20, Cardinal Grech said "according to the information that we have today, it is a no, but at the same time the Holy Father has said that reflection, deeper theological study, should continue."

"To me this is not a contradiction," he added.

Father Riccardo Battocchio, a theologian and special secretary to the synodal assembly, said that the document's language on the role of women "is not about changing the structure of the Catholic Church" but to ensure women may participate in decision-making by reconsidering "how a bishop or bishops come to make decisions."

Pope asks world's religions to push for ethical AI development

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called on representatives from the world's religions to unite behind the defense of human dignity in an age that will be defined by artificial intelligence.

"I ask you to show the world that we are united in asking for a proactive commitment to protect human dignity in this new era of machines," the pope wrote in a message to participants of a conference on AI ethics which hosted representatives from 11 world religions.

Religious leaders representing Eastern faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Bahá'í, among others, as well as leaders of the three Abrahamic religions gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, for the conference, titled "AI Ethics for Peace." They also signed the Rome Call for AI Ethics -- a document developed by the Pontifical Academy for Life which asks signatories to promote an ethical approach to AI development.

Participants at an AI conference post for a photo.
Participants of a conference on AI ethics, including several representatives of world religions, pose for a photo in Hiroshima, Japan, July 10, 2024. Standing front and center is Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. (CNS photo/Courtesy Holy See Press Office)

Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization and the innovation ministry of the Italian government have signed the document. A July 10 press release from the academy said Franciscan Father Paolo Benanti, an ethics professor at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, presented an addendum to the document in Hiroshima specifically focused on the ethical governance of generative AI -- which can process, interpret and produce human language. The addendum said generative AI requires sustained commitment to ensuring its use for humanity's good.

In his message to the conference published by the Vatican July 10, Pope Francis noted the "great symbolic importance" of the religious leaders' meeting in Hiroshima and noted the increasingly central role which artificially intelligent technology plays in society.

"As we look at the complexity of the issues before us, recognizing the contribution of the cultural riches of peoples and religions in the regulation of artificial intelligence is key to the success of your commitment to the wise management of technological innovation," he wrote.

Echoing his address on artificial intelligence to the G7 summit in June, the pope asked the participants to jointly push for the ban of lethal autonomous weapons, which "starts from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control."

"No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being," he wrote.

Opening the conference July 9, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, academy president, said that artificial intelligence "must be guided so that its potential serves the good from the moment of its design."

"At Hiroshima, a place of the highest symbolic value, we strongly invoke peace, and we ask that technology be a driver of peace and reconciliation among peoples," he said. "We stand here, together, to say loudly that standing together and acting together is the only possible solution."

Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa Helps the Church Thrive Amidst Change

WASHINGTON - Across the continent of Africa, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa is supporting Catholic ministries in countries where the people are strong in faith and devotion, but lacking in resources due to poverty, political instability, and civil conflict.

The Fund was established by the bishops of the United States in the spirit of their 2001 statement, “A Call to Solidarity with Africa,” as a way to help the growing African Church thrive and adapt to the pastoral needs and challenges it faces. Catholics across the United States can answer this call to “Stand with Africa” by participating in their diocese’s annual collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

“Globalization, climate change, and poverty deeply affect the lives of African men and women every day. But amidst rapid societal change, the Catholic Church remains constant, proclaiming the timeless and hopeful message of the Gospel,” said auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith of Portland in Oregon, and chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa enables the Church to support those who are in dire need of pastoral care and to inspire those whose faith and hope may be flagging.”

Catholics wishing to participate in this annual collection are invited to give through their parish collection or e-offertory program on the date scheduled by their diocese.  #iGiveCatholicTogether also accepts funds for the Church in Africa program year-round.

The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa awarded more than $2.1 million for 75 projects that were proposed by the bishops of Africa in 2023.

  • Grants are helping Kenyans and Ugandans recover spiritually from the COVID pandemic, which led to the disintegration of marriages and family violence.
  • In Cameroon, cited by human rights groups for appalling prison conditions, Catholic prison chaplains learned to document abuses and advocate for reform.
  • The sisters of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa received theological and practical training to apply Catholic social teaching to a broad range of threats to human life, from human trafficking to environmental degradation.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the public sector is plagued by rampant financial corruption, diocesan and parish staff studied proper church administration and financial stewardship.
  • In South Africa and Namibia, ethnic groups received hymnals in the Xhosa and Rumanyo languages and a Bible in the language of the Rukwangali people.

“The Church helps people to praise God in their own language because God came to us speaking our languages,” said Bishop Smith. “He wants to walk with everyone through whatever hardships or heartaches we suffer. That is the purpose of the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. Gifts to this fund make God’s love tangible.”

For more information see https://www.usccb.org/committees/church-africa.

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