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Holy Spirit inspires creativity, simplicity in evangelization, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must rely more on the Holy Spirit than on their own plans and strategies if they hope to fulfill their mission to share the good news of God's love and of salvation in Christ, Pope Francis said.

The pope began his weekly general audience Dec. 6 explaining to the crowd that he once again asked an aide to read his catechesis "because I'm still struggling -- I'm much better, but I struggle if I speak too much."

Since late November, Pope Francis has had respiratory difficulties related to a bronchial infection.

Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, read the pope's text, which was part of a yearlong series of talks about zeal for evangelization. But Pope Francis took the microphone back at the end of the audience to ask people to continue praying for peace in Ukraine and in Israel and Palestine.

Aide reads pope's text at audience
Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, reads Pope Francis’ general audience talk to visitors gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Dec. 6, 2023, as the pope continues to recover from bronchitis. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope's main text focused on the need to pray for and rely on the Holy Spirit's assistance in evangelization. Without the Holy Spirit, the pope wrote, "all zeal is vain and falsely apostolic: it would only be our own and would not bear fruit."

"The Spirit is the protagonist; he always precedes the missionaries and makes the fruit grow," the pope said, and that is a comforting thought because then Christians know that while they have an obligation to share the Gospel, the results are always the work of the Holy Spirit.

"The Lord has not left us theological dispensations or a pastoral manual to apply, but the Holy Spirit who inspires the mission," he said.

Mission outreach inspired by the Spirit "always has two characteristics: creativity and simplicity," the pope's text said, and those traits are especially necessary "in this age of ours, which does not help us have a religious outlook on life."

At "the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at church renewal," he said, is the simple Gospel truth: "Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you."

Pope Francis greets sisters
Pope Francis greets religious women at the end of his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Dec. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

When sharing that Gospel message seems "difficult, arduous (and) apparently fruitless," he said, people may be tempted to stop trying.

"Perhaps one takes refuge in safety zones, like the habitual repetition of things one always does, or in the alluring calls of an intimist spirituality or even in a misunderstood sense of the centrality of the liturgy," he said. "They are temptations that disguise themselves as fidelity to tradition, but often, rather than responses to the Spirit, they are reactions to personal dissatisfactions."

But Christians can be certain that relying on the Holy Spirit and focusing on the key truths of the Gospel, they will find "new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today's world."

Pope Francis urged Christians to pray for the Holy Spirit's help and guidance each day and not be afraid "because he, who is harmony, always keeps creativity and simplicity together, inspires communion and sends out on mission, opens to diversity and leads back to unity."


Pope renews prayers for war-torn countries

Pope renews prayers for war-torn countries

Pope Francis opened his weekly general audience Dec. 6 by explaining that an aide would read his prepared remarks, as he was still recovering from illness.

Answer Advent call for vigilance with charity, confession, pope suggests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Advent call for "vigilance" does not mean staying awake and watchful out of fear, but rather out of a longing for the coming of the Lord, Pope Francis wrote.

Sometimes people think of vigilance "as an attitude motivated by fear of impending doom, as if a meteorite were about to plunge from the sky," he said in the text of his commentary on the Gospel reading for Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent.

Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer from his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, but explained that his bronchitis, while improving, was still making it difficult to speak so the text of his commentary and of his appeals for peace were read by Msgr. Paolo Braida, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

In the Gospel reading, Mk 13:33-37, Jesus tells the parable of the servants awaiting their master's return.

"The servants' vigilance is not one of fear, but of longing, of waiting to go forth to meet their Lord who is coming," the pope's text said. "They remain in readiness for his return because they care for him, because they have in mind that when he returns, they will make sure he finds a welcoming and orderly home."

That kind of vigilance and expectation should mark the watchfulness of Christians as they prepare to welcome Jesus at Christmas, to welcome him at the end of time and, he said, to welcome him "as he comes to meet us in the Eucharist, in his word (and) in our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need."

Pope Francis recites Angelus
Pope Francis listens as Msgr. Paolo Braida, an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, reads his Angelus reflection, Dec. 3, 2023. As Pope Francis is currently recovering from bronchitis, he led the Angelus from his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis encouraged people to carefully prepare their hearts with prayer and with charity.

"A good program for Advent," he suggested, would be "to encounter Jesus coming in every brother and sister who needs us and to share with them what we can: listening, time, concrete assistance."

Advent, he said, also is a good time to "approach his forgiveness" through the sacrament of reconciliation and make more time for prayer and Bible reading.

Remaining vigilant may take practice, he said, and starts by not letting oneself be distracted by "pointless things" and by trying not to complain so much.


Programs of Pastoral Support and Solidarity Possible Through Parishioner Generosity

WASHINGTON - During their recently-concluded committee and subcommittee meetings in Baltimore, programs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) awarded over $10 million given by supporters to its national collections to support pastoral and social ministries in the United States and in three regions overseas where the Church is desperately poor, persecuted or too small to support its own work.

“The generous contributions that Catholics put into the basket for these collections change lives and bring people closer to Jesus,” said Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on National Collections. “On behalf of each person and parish community that will benefit from these grants, I thank the Catholics of the United States for their generosity. Millions of people here in the United States as well as in Latin America, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe will experience God’s love through these gifts.”

Grants were made in these program areas:

  • Catholic Home Missions: The Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions awarded a total of 15 grants in the amount of over $1.2 million. Among the diocesan grants, more than $100,000 from will help to build a strong vocations outreach in the Diocese of Las Cruces, one of the poorest in the nation, which has just 54 active priests for its 86 parishes and missions. Additionally, special grants totaling $995,825 will help mission dioceses participate in national efforts such as the U.S. bishops’ Eucharistic Revival and National Eucharistic Congress, the Synodal journey, as well as support their ministries to migrants and ethnic minorities, such as Asian and Pacific Islanders. These special grants also include $126,000 in sponsorships for professional development programs for church staff such as financial managers, diocesan vocations and pro-life directors, and leaders in safe environment and disaster preparedness. These grants supplement the $7.2 million in funding to 72 dioceses that were awarded by the subcommittee at its annual allocations meeting, which took place in October in New Ulm, Minnesota.
  • Church in Africa: The Subcommittee on the Church in Africa voted to approve 32 grants totaling $916,400 to 18 different episcopal conferences and regional associations of episcopal conferences across the continent. Among them, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi will receive $30,000 for a national project across all eight of its dioceses to educate and train young people to recognize the dignity of the elderly and to end the increasingly common problem of elder abuse.
  • Church in Central and Eastern Europe: Among the 133 grants totaling nearly $3.6 million awarded by the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe was one to the Diocese of Timisoara in Romania for $35,520 to send youth choir members on retreats that will help them grow in faith, to offer Catholic summer camps for children and young teens, and to provide pastoral care for families. Faced with the ongoing need of war victims in Ukraine, the Subcommittee granted $35,000 to Caritas Ukraine to provide psychological and spiritual support to its employees, who are themselves suffering trauma and distress as they work to serve and comfort their neighbors.
  • Church in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America awarded 125 grants totaling nearly $3.2 million to support ministries throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean islands, including a $50,000 grant to help the Archdiocese of Quito with next year’s International Eucharistic Congress, at which 1 million people are expected to participate in a Mass that Pope Francis will celebrate in honor of the 150th anniversary of Ecuador’s consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • Emergency Disaster Relief: The Committee on National Collections granted more than $1 million from the Bishops Emergency Disaster Fund – with an additional $453,000 from the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions – to help churches in Puerto Rico with continuing recovery from hurricanes and earthquakes. The disaster fund provides pastoral support for people affected by regional calamities and will also support hundreds of churches for the costs of repair and rebuilding that are not covered by federal programs.

For more information on these programs and the collections that support them, visit


Humanity must build alliances supporting peace, creation, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world needs people to build alliances that are not against others, but are in favor of everyone, Pope Francis told faith leaders at the U.N. Climate Change Conference being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"It is important that religions, without falling into the trap of syncretism, set a good example by working together: not for their own interests or those of one party, but for the interests of our world. Among these, the most important nowadays are peace and the climate," he said in a video message.

"As religious representatives, let us set an example to show that change is possible and bear witness to respectful and sustainable lifestyles," he said, speaking in Spanish at the Vatican.

The pope's message was broadcast Dec. 3 during the inauguration of the first Faith Pavilion at a U.N. climate conference. The pope was to have been present at the COP28 conference Dec. 1-3, but canceled his trip Nov. 28 due to severe bronchitis.

"I offer you cordial greetings, and I am very sorry that I cannot be with you," he said in the video message. 

pope video
Pope Francis smiles after delivering his speech by video from the Vatican to religious leaders attending the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

He thanked the organizers for establishing a religious pavilion as part of a COP "because this testifies to the willingness to work together."

"At the present time the world needs alliances that are not against someone, but in favor of everyone," he said.

"With a loud voice, let us implore leaders of nations that our common home be preserved," he said. "Let us safeguard creation and protect our common home; let us live in peace and promote peace!" 

parolin cop28
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is seen in this screen grab reading Pope Francis' speech for the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at COP28, the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Dec. 3, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/screen grab, YouTube, COP28 UAE Official)

The pope also had a longer speech prepared for the inauguration and that was read in Dubai by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and president of the Vatican's delegation at the climate conference.

The pope wrote in his talk, "the problem of climate change is also a religious problem: its roots lie in the creature's presumption of self-sufficiency."

"That insatiable desire for power wells up whenever we consider ourselves lords of the world, whenever we live as though God did not exist and, as a result, end up prey to passing things," he wrote.

"Instead of mastering technology, we let technology master us," the pope wrote. "We become mere commodities, desensitized, incapable of sorrow and compassion, self-absorbed and, turning our backs on morality and prudence, we destroy the very sources of life."

Religions are "voices of conscience for humanity," he wrote, and remind people that "we are finite creatures" with a need for the infinite and the duty to care for creation.

"We need, urgently, to act for the sake of the environment. It is not enough merely to increase spending: we need to change our way of life and thus educate everyone to sober and fraternal lifestyles," he wrote.

"A world poor in contemplation will be a world polluted in soul, a world that will continue to discard people and produce waste," he wrote. "A world that lacks prayer will speak many words but, bereft of compassion and tears, will only live off a materialism made of money and weapons."

Peace and the stewardship of creation are interdependent, the pope wrote, and "peacekeeping is also a task for the religions."

"May our actions not contradict the words we speak; may we not merely speak about peace but take a stand against those who claim to be believers yet fuel hatred and do not oppose violence," he added. 

cop28 faith
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, poses for a group photo next to Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the president-designate of COP28, left, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, center, and Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, along with other representatives at the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion during the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/courtesy of U.N. Climate Change COP28, Christopher Pike)

The Faith Pavilion was hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 presidency, the U.N. Environment Program and more than 50 faith organizations. It was hosting events that bring together representatives from religions, civil society, Indigenous peoples, scientists, young people and political leaders.

The inauguration event Dec. 3 opened with a video message from Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, who greeted Pope Francis and wished him "a speedy and thorough recovery, health and well-being."

Both Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb were shown on video signing the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change for COP28 that had been drafted and signed by more than two dozen other religious representatives at a global faith leaders' summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 6-7.

The statement called for "inclusive dialogue, during and beyond COPs, with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women's organizations and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development," and it "demands transformative action to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities."

Despite his being in Rome, the pope said was closely following the work being done at the COP28 in Dubai.

After praying the Angelus from the Vatican Dec. 3, the pope reiterated his appeal "for a response to climate change with concrete political changes" and asked leaders to leave behind "particularism and nationalism, mindsets of the past, and embrace a common vision, all making every effort now, without delay, for a necessary global conversion."

From his @Pontifiex accounts, the pope was tweeting daily calls for real progress to be made at COP28.

"Time is short. Now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose," his Dec. 2 tweet said.

Pope calls world leaders to end divisions to fight climate change

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The future of humanity depends on what people choose now, Pope Francis said in his message to global leaders at the World Climate Action Summit of the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

"Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?" he asked in his message. "To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future!"

"The purpose of power is to serve. It is useless to cling to an authority that will one day be remembered for its inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so. History will be grateful to you," the pope wrote.

parolin cop28
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is seen in this screen grab reading Pope Francis' speech to COP28, the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Dec. 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/screen grab, YouTube, COP28 UAE Official)

Excerpts from Pope Francis' full written message were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Dec. 2 during the high-level segment with heads of state and government at the climate conference, COP28, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 30-Dec. 12.

Pope Francis was to have been the first pope to attend the U.N. climate conference Dec. 1-3, but canceled his trip Nov. 28 after coming down with a serious bronchial infection.

The Vatican published the pope's full speech Dec. 2, although Cardinal Parolin read only excerpts at the summit to respect the three-minute limit on national statements. The text was submitted in full to the conference.

"Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired," the pope's text said.

The destruction of the environment is "a sin" that not only "greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable," he wrote, but it also "threatens to unleash a conflict between generations."

"The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation," the pope wrote. People must recognize their limits, with humility and courage, and seek authentic fulfillment. 

indigenous cop28
An indigenous community member attends the formal opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/ courtesy of UN Climate Change COP28, Christopher Pike)

"What stands in the way of this? The divisions that presently exist among us," he wrote.

The world "should not be un-connected by those who govern it, with international negotiations that 'cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good,'" he wrote, quoting from his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home."

The poor and high birth rates are not to blame for today's climate crisis, he wrote. "Almost half of our world that is more needy is responsible for scarcely 10% of toxic emissions, while the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal. The poor are the real victims of what is happening."

As for population growth, births are a resource, he wrote, "whereas certain ideological and utilitarian models now being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples constitute real forms of colonization."

"The development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt, should not be penalized," it said. "It would only be fair to find suitable means of remitting the financial debts that burden different peoples, not least in light of the ecological debt that they are owed" by the few nations responsible for the bulk of emissions.

"We have a grave responsibility," he wrote, which is to ensure the earth, the poor and the young not be denied a future.

The solution requires coming together as brothers and sisters living in a common home, rebuilding trust and pursuing multilateralism, he added. 

dome cop28
A view of Al Wasl Dome and an array of flags can be seen during the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/courtesy of UN Climate Change COP28, Neville Hopwood)

The care for creation and world peace are closely linked, the pope wrote.

"How much energy is humanity wasting on the numerous wars" being waged, he wrote, and "how many resources are being squandered on weaponry that destroys lives and devastates our common home!"

The pope again urged governments to divert money away from arms and other military expenditures toward a global fund to end hunger, to promote sustainable development of poorer countries and to combat climate change.

"Climate change signals the need for political change" away from narrow self-interest and nationalism, he wrote.

There must be "a breakthrough that is not a partial change of course, but rather a new way of making progress together," he wrote. There must be "a decisive acceleration of ecological transition" regarding energy efficiency, renewable sources, the elimination of fossil fuels and "education in lifestyles that are less dependent on the latter."

He promised the "commitment and support of the Catholic Church, which is deeply engaged in the work of education and of encouraging participation by all, as well as in promoting sound lifestyles."

"Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces," Pope Francis wrote. "And with God's help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day."

Holy ink: Tattoo culture shows faith is not skin deep, sociologist says

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (CNS) -- The Catholic Church cannot measure people's engagement with religion only by looking at church attendance, but also must observe how they express religious sentiments outside of church -- even on their own bodies, a Jesuit priest said.

"It's important to understand tattoos in order to understand one of the many ways in which people practice religion," Jesuit Father Gustavo Morello, a professor of sociology of religion at Boston College, told Catholic News Service Nov. 28 during a theology conference in Bogotá.

"A lot of people have been expressing their faith through tattoos," he said, not always in a strictly religious sense, but as a "connection between the person and something beyond."

Jesuit Father Gustavo Morello
Jesuit Father Gustavo Morello, a professor of sociology of religion at Boston College, poses for a photo during a theology conference in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 28, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

According to the Pew Research Center, 32% of Americans have tattoos, and 41% of religiously unaffiliated adults have at least one tattoo compared to 29% of people affiliated with a religion.

For Father Morello, that data shows that "there is something going on there that is beyond one's personal identity," particularly for people who are religiously unaffiliated. He noted the common practice of tattooing the face, name or years of life for a deceased loved one, in addition to other "foundational" tattoos which depict the dates of weddings, children's birthdays or markers of major life milestones to retain a sense of their memory.

"Tattoos are a communication device," he said. "So as a minister of the church, as someone who deals with religion, you have to read the message."

He noted that since Gallup started measuring church attendance for Christians in the United States in 1947, "the world has changed." Yet despite immense economic and cultural changes, "we keep thinking that religion should be the same."

"I don't think there is less religion than before, but religion is in other places, not necessarily where the churches want it to be, and the tattoo is one of the places," he said.

Father Morello spoke with CNS during a three-day conference organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America on religious expressions in popular culture. Other sociologists, theologians, historians, journalists and artists gathered in Bogotá to discuss how they see and respond to society's shifting views on religion represented in cultural trends.

Tattoos, and the painful practice of getting them, are also often a way for religiously non-affiliated people to externally demonstrate their interior life, Father Morello said.

He noted that while Christians can wear crosses in public and Jews and Muslims may wear different attire that communicates their faith, "for the non-affiliated, the options are very limited."

"There are not many things that show some kind of inner life that is not associated to a church. A tattoo is one of those few things," Father Morello said, recalling an interview he conducted with a woman who said her tattoo of a tree represented how her life was "rooted" in God.

Additionally, the process of meditating on a tattoo design, discussing it with an artist and undergoing pain to get it adds a religious weight to tattoos, he said.

"You have someone on your skin, so it's very intimate," he said. "In some cases, some people will go with a friend or someone else for support. Sometimes they start to talk with the artist and then the artist talks with them, so there is a kind of spiritual conversation."

Many tattoo artists, Father Morello added, have a "conviction that (tattooing) is a serious moment that needs some kind of ritualization," citing examples of artists he has met lighting incense when they tattoo someone or playing a particular type of music.

Father Morello noted that a growing tattoo culture also reflects the increased "personalization" of tattoos that has become possible with new technologies, making more individualized expressions of religious sentiment possible.

Jesuit Father Gustavo Morello's tattoo
Jesuit Father Gustavo Morello, a professor of sociology of religion at Boston College, shows an arm tattoo during a theology conference in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 28, 2023. He told CNS the design is from 1600 and that he received it on pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Tattoos were hand poked or applied using "flashes" with pre-prepared designs before the electric-powered tattoo machine started being used in the early 20th century. It wasn't until the 1960s that colored tattoos became commercially available.

Before the 1960's, "even if you wanted a religious tattoo, you would have to go and point" to the design available in each tattoo parlor, Father Morell said. "There was no creativity."

Tattoo technology has allowed more and more people not only to get tattoos, but also to personalize them, he noted, to visually express their spirituality however they like, even using explicitly religious imagery.

"You want Jesus, but you want Jesus hugging your mother because she passed away, and we have the technology to do that," Father Morello said.

Tattoos personalized like that, he said, present an opportunity to "have a different conversation about what religion is for people."


Pope asks theologians to help 'de-masculinize' the church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Asking pardon for speaking plainly, Pope Francis told members of the International Theological Commission that "one of the great sins we have had is 'masculinizing' the church," which also can be seen by the fact that only five of the commission members are women.

The pope, who appoints the 28 members of the commission, said the church needs to make more progress in balancing such bodies because "women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different from what we men have."

Pope Francis met members of the commission at the Vatican Nov. 30. He handed them a prepared text, which he described as a "beautiful speech with theological things," but said that because of his ongoing respiratory problems due to bronchitis, "it's better that I don't read it."

But greeting members of the group, the pope said that perhaps his conviction about the importance of women theologians comes from the fact that "I've studied a lot the theology of a woman," Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, and her work on Father Romano Guardini, a German priest, philosopher and theologian, who died in 1968.

Coincidently, Gerl-Falkovitz is one of four German women who wrote to Pope Francis about their concerns regarding the German Catholic Church's Synodal Path. In a letter published by a German newspaper Nov. 21, Pope Francis responded to the women saying, "I, too, share this concern about the numerous concrete steps that are now being taken by large parts of this local church that threaten to move further and further away from the common path of the universal church."

Pope Francis told members of the commission that at the next meeting of his international Council of Cardinals, "we will have a reflection on the feminine dimension of the church."

Pope Francis and Sister Josée Ngalula
Pope Francis greets Congolese Sister Josée Ngalula, a Sister of St. Andrew and one of five women theologians on the International Theological Commission, a body that studies theological questions for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the Vatican Nov. 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Providing no other details, he repeated what he has said in the past: "The church is woman. And if we do not understand who women are, what the theology of a woman is, we will never understand what the church is."

The problem "is not solved in a ministerial way, that's another thing," he said, repeating his belief in the concept that in the church there is a "Petrine principle" and a "Marian principle" that describe the important but different roles women and men play in the Catholic Church.

"You can debate this, but the two principles are there," the pope said. "It is more important to have the Marian (dimension) than the Petrine," because the church is the bride of Christ.

Pope Francis said having more women on the commission would help, but the theologians also need to dedicate more energy to studying the issue and to "de-masculinizing" the church.

"I talked too much, and it hurt," the pope told them before joining them in reciting the Lord's prayer.

In his prepared text, Pope Francis encouraged commission members to continue work on "an evangelizing theology that promotes dialogue with the world of culture," and decides what questions and challenges to focus on by listening to concerns that come from the grassroots.

The pope also focused on the commission's work helping the Catholic Church prepare to celebrate the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea.

A rediscovery of the council and its teachings, he said, can help the church in evangelization, in growing in synodality and in the search for Christian unity.

"At Nicaea, faith was professed in Jesus the only-begotten Son of the Father; he became man for us and for our salvation and is 'God from God, light from light,'" the pope said. His is "the light that illuminates existence with the love of the Father."

Theologians, the pope said, need to help "spread new and surprising glimmers of the eternal light of Christ" in the church and "in the darkness of the world."


COP 28: U.S. Bishops Call for International Climate Policies that Promote Justice

WASHINGTON – The United Nations will convene their annual meeting on climate, COP28, on November 30. In advance of the meeting, Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, released the following statement:

“We pray for all leaders and participants of COP28 as they work to care for our climate. As Pope Francis emphasized in Laudate Deum, the climate crisis is an opportunity to reconfigure international relations toward the common good, ‘demonstrat[ing] the nobility of politics,’ where, as brothers and sisters all, we can achieve ‘a decisive acceleration of energy transition’ (nos. 60, 54).

“Despite the tremendous growth of renewable energy worldwide, the global economic system remains largely powered by fossil fuels. Decarbonization of the economy—through the replacement of fossil fuels with secure, reliable, affordable, and clean energy—is the preeminent environmental challenge faced by all nations. While we are encouraged by recent decarbonization efforts in the United States, supported by the USCCB, to direct historic investment towards climate infrastructure and technological development, this tremendous challenge cannot be achieved alone through the efforts of individual persons or even nations and will require long-term cooperation by all.

“No government will be successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long run if it requires a significant increase of the energy costs of middle- and low-income citizens. In other words, climate goals must represent both the ‘cry of the earth’ and the ‘cry of the poor,’ and include the financial support by developed nations for adaptation, resilience, and recovery of the most vulnerable. Justice for the poor, including the 3.3 billion people worldwide with limited energy and 700 million without any electricity, constitutes an essential test of ethical climate policy.”

Previous USCCB advocacy related to the Paris Agreement can be found at the following links:


Conference puts pope's call for 'outgoing theology' into action

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (CNS) -- Theologians, social scientists, historians and artists, including an Indigenous Mexican rapper, met in Bogotá to discuss how religion is represented in popular culture today. 

Pope Francis "says that new theology cannot be a dialogue between theologians because that is self-referential, rather it must be an interdisciplinary dialogue," Emilce Cuda, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America told Catholic News Service Nov. 27 during a three-day conference in Bogotá on religious expressions in popular culture at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM. 

Theologians, she said, "must be among the people and listen to the language they use to express the faith today, to express their needs and dreams," and to engage with popular expressions of faith conveyed through tattoos and rap music, for instance. 

The conference, titled "Theology on the Peripheries: The Symbolic Language of Popular Culture," featured panels on the use of religion in forming ideologies, media narratives surrounding religion, the appropriation of religious symbols and their representation in art.

Cuda said the conference was motivated by the need for an "outgoing theology" that aligns with a vision of an "outgoing church" as Pope Francis requested in a letter Nov. 1 approving new statutes for the Pontifical Theological Academy. 

A journalist speaks at a conference.
Aníbal Pastor, a Chilean journalist, speaks during a theology conference on religious expressions in popular culture at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Felipe Legarreta, a biblical scholar at Loyola University of Chicago and conference participant, told CNS that studying the modern-day use of religious symbols follows the example of the early church fathers, who "appropriate symbols, appropriate languages to translate and interpret the Gospel message in new contexts."

Legarreta said he hoped the conference would support a "new epistemology and methodology for theology that is in dialogue with the other sciences and with the peoples of the earth, above all those who are on the peripheries."

Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, known by his stage name "Sebsor," said that his participation in the CELAM conference as an artist and as an Indigenous person was important "so that academics look at us, so they see that we exist, that we have a spirituality and to dialogue about it."

Pérez's songs incorporate both Spanish and his native Tzeltal, a Mayan language spoken by some 590,000 people. He told CNS that his music blends Mayan culture, Catholic spirituality and the message of resistance found in American hip-hop.

"If you're at a desk, you cannot understand the spirituality of a group of original peoples that was never conquered and continues to exist," he said. "Why hip-hop? Why has art saved us? Because it has been a means of social transformation in the peripheries."

Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, poses for a photo.
Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, and participant in a theology conference on religious expressions in popular culture, poses for a photo at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Theology today can be overly concerned with "certain ways of preserving doctrine that place more attention on preservation than on proclamation" of the Gospel, Argentine Father José Carlos Caamaño told CNS. 

A systmatic theologian at the Catholic University of Argentina, Father Caamaño said that preserving the faith through theology "cannot be motivated by tending to a body of work so that I can take decisions about others from a position of power."

"Knowing the challenges of our times is fundamental to be able to articulate a language that communicates the Gospel, otherwise what we communicate is a hollow doctrine, a dehumanizing doctrine," he said. "If you are worried about the salvation of people, you have to gain knowledge about them by using disciplines that know how to capture a concrete, historical reality," such as through collaboration with historians and sociologists.

Cuda said such an approach "is the way of understanding theology in part of Latin America, particularly in Río de la Plata," the region which encompasses Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

"In Latin America, theology of the peripheries is not a theology of philosophical categories, it is a theology mediated by culture," she said.

Pope, still suffering from the flu, urges prayers for peace at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a soft and raspy voice, Pope Francis began his weekly general audience by making the sign of the cross and explaining that "I'm still not well with this flu, and my voice isn't great," so he would have an aide read his catechesis and greetings.

The gathering, in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, was held the morning after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted his doctors' advice and canceled plans to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to join world leaders in addressing COP28, the U.N. climate conference.

Before the general audience, the pope met briefly with members of the Scottish soccer team Celtic F.C. There, too, he apologized for having an aide read his prepared text. "With this cold," he said, "I can't speak much, but I'm better than yesterday."

Pope Francis with Celtic F.C. soccer team
Pope Francis poses for a photo with players and staff from the soccer team Celtic F.C., from Scotland, in a meeting room in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope's main general audience talk, part of a yearlong series about evangelization, was read by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

But at the end of the audience, the pope took the microphone back to urge people to pray for peace.

"Let's continue to pray for the serious situation in Israel and Palestine. Peace, please, peace," the pope said. "I hope that the cease-fire in Gaza continues so that all the hostages (taken by Hamas) are released, and access is allowed for the necessary humanitarian aid" in Gaza.

Pope Francis, who speaks regularly by telephone with priests at Holy Family parish in Gaza City, told people at the audience, "I've heard from the parish there. There is a lack of water, a lack of bread. The people are suffering. The simple people. The people are suffering, not those who are making the war. We ask for peace."

"And speaking of peace, let's not forget the dear Ukrainian people who still are suffering so much because of the war," he said. "Brothers and sisters, war is always a defeat. Everyone loses. Well, not everyone; there is one group that earns a lot -- those who manufacture weapons. They make a lot off the death of others."

Pope Francis also used the opportunity to thank a group of circus performers -- acrobats, skaters, clowns and jugglers -- who had entertained the pope and the crowd for a few minutes. They train hard and bring joy to people, the pope said.

Pope Francis watches circus performers
Pope Francis watches circus performers entertain him and the crowd at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

In his main talk, read by Msgr. Ciampanelli, Pope Francis focused on how salvation in Jesus is as necessary as ever and that people today need to hear the Gospel proclaimed even if society tries to convince them that "God is insignificant and useless."

Simply repeating formulaic expressions of faith will convince no one, the pope said. And neither will shouting.

"A truth does not become more credible because one raises one's voice in speaking it, but because it is witnessed with one's life," the pope's text said.


Pope, struggling with illness, prays for wars to end

Pope, struggling with illness, prays for wars to end

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience Nov. 29, but told the crowd he was still suffering from the flu so an aide read his prepared text.