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U.S. Bishops Approve New Guidelines for Pastoral Ministry with Native Peoples

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At their annual June Plenary Assembly, the Catholic bishops of the United States approved a national pastoral framework to guide dioceses and those engaged in ministry with Native and Indigenous peoples. The document, Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry, intended for use by dioceses, Catholic Native organizations, schools, missions, and parishes, was approved by the full body of bishops in a vote of 181 to 2 with 3 abstentions.

The document was presented to the body of bishops for the vote by Bishop Chad Zielinski of New Ulm, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. “The framework encourages bishops, dioceses and local Catholic Indigenous communities to work together, using the framework as a reference while developing their own local pastoral plans that are sensitive to the vast cultural differences among the various Native and Indigenous Tribes,” said Bishop Zielinski. “It covers a broad range of issues and concerns such as missionary discipleship, evangelization, the role of catechesis, sacramental and liturgical questions, youth and young adult ministries, and social justice issues. And it also addresses difficult topics such as reconciliation for any mistreatment and wrongs done during the boarding school period,” he continued.

After a dialogue with Native Catholic leaders in 2019, the subcommittee responded to the needs raised by developing a framework to guide Native and Indigenous communities in revitalizing pastoral ministry. The pastoral framework is the result of extensive consultation and dialogue over the last several years by the subcommittee with the leadership of Catholic Native groups.

The full text of Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry is currently posted here, and the formatted version will be posted to the USCCB’s website on the page of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs shortly:


U.S. Bishops Affirm Advancement of a Cause of Beatification and Canonization for Adele Brise, Lay Woman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At their annual June Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on a possible cause of beatification and canonization for Adele Brise. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. By a voice vote, the bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

The following brief biography of Adele Brise was drawn from information provided by the Diocese of Green Bay:

Adele Brise was born on January 30, 1831, in Dion-le-Val, Belgium, to Lambert and Catherine Brise. Despite losing sight in one eye from a childhood accident, she was known for her cheerful demeanor. Adele pledged to the Blessed Virgin Mary to become a religious sister after her first Holy Communion, a goal that continued even after her family immigrated to the United States in 1855. Settling in Wisconsin, Adele remained committed to her religious calling.

In 1859, Adele experienced several apparitions of a woman dressed in white whom she later identified as Mary, the Queen of Heaven. She instructed Adele to become a teacher of religion. Adele began a door-to-door ministry, eventually founding a community of laywomen known as the Sisters of Good Help. They chose to live following the Franciscan way of life, without taking formal vows and focusing on religious education. The community faced many challenges, including the Peshtigo fire of 1871, which threatened their chapel and school. Historically considered one of the deadliest forest fires, these buildings were spared and considered by many to be a miraculous and divine response to prayers.

Adele continued her mission tirelessly, teaching and catechizing children, and creating a lasting impact on her community until her death on July 5, 1896. Her legacy of devout service is summarized by the inscription on her headstone: “Sacred Cross, Under thy Shadow I Rest and Hope.”

The Marian apparitions experienced by Adele in 1859 were given formal and official approval by Bishop Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay in December 2010, and the site of the apparitions was designated as a national shrine by the U.S. bishops in 2015, today known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion.


World needs urgent political action to guide AI, pope tells G7

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Political leaders have a responsibility to create the conditions necessary for artificial intelligence to be at the service of humanity and to help mitigate its risks, Pope Francis told world leaders.

"We cannot allow a tool as powerful and indispensable as artificial intelligence to reinforce such a (technocratic) paradigm, but rather, we must make artificial intelligence a bulwark" against the threat, he said in his address June 14 at the Group of Seven summit being held in southern Italy.

"This is precisely where political action is urgently needed," he said.

Many people believe politics is "a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians -- not all of them, some. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another," he said.

But the world cannot function without healthy politics, the pope said, and effective progress toward "universal fraternity and social peace" requires a sound political life. 

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Pope Francis gives a speech on the benefits and dangers of artifical intelligence to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope addressed leaders at the G7's special "outreach" session dedicated to artificial intelligence. In addition to the G7 members -- the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain -- the forum included specially invited heads of state, including the leaders of Argentina, India and Brazil.

The G7 summit was being held in Borgo Egnazia in Puglia June 13-15 to discuss a series of global issues, such as migration, climate change and development in Africa, and the situation in the Middle East and Ukraine. The pope was scheduled to meet privately with 10 heads of state and global leaders in bilateral meetings before and after his talk, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Because of time limits set for speakers during the outreach session, the pope read only a portion of his five-page speech, although the full text was made part of the official record. The Vatican provided a copy of the full text.

In his speech, the pope called artificial intelligence "an exciting and fearsome tool." It could be used to expand access to knowledge to everyone, to advance scientific research rapidly and to give "demanding and arduous work to machines."

"Yet at the same time, it could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations or between dominant and oppressed social classes, raising the dangerous possibility that a 'throwaway culture' be preferred to a 'culture of encounter,'" he said.

Like every tool and technology, he said, "the benefits or harm it will bring will depend on its use." 

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Pope Francis gives a speech on the benefits and dangers of artifical intelligence to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While he called for the global community to find shared principles for a more ethical use of AI, Pope Francis also called for an outright ban of certain applications.

For example, he repeated his insistence that so-called "lethal autonomous weapons" be banned, saying "no machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being."

Decision-making "must always be left to the human person," he said. Human dignity itself depends on there being proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs.

Humanity would be condemned to a future without hope "if we took away people's ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines," he said. In his text, he specifically criticized judges using AI with prisoner's personal data, such as their ethnicity, background, education, psychological assessments and credit rating, to determine whether the prisoner is likely to re-offend upon release and therefore require home-confinement.

The pope also cautioned, students especially, against "generative artificial intelligence," which are "magnificent tools" and easily make available online "applications for composing a text or producing an image on any theme or subject."

However, he said, these tools are not "generative," in that they do not develop new analyses or concepts; they are merely "reinforcing" as they can only repeat what they find, giving it "an appealing form" and "without checking whether it contains errors or preconceptions."

Generative AI "not only runs the risk of legitimizing fake news and strengthening a dominant culture's advantage, but, in short, it also undermines the educational process itself," his text said. 

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Pope Francis listens to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni before giving his speech to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy of G7 Italia 2024)

"It is precisely the ethos concerning the understanding of the value and dignity of the human person that is most at risk in the implementation and development of these systems," he told the leaders. "Indeed, we must remember that no innovation is neutral."

Technology impacts social relations in some way and represents some kind of "arrangement of power, thus enabling certain people to perform specific actions while preventing others from performing different ones," he said. "In a more or less explicit way, this constitutive power dimension of technology always includes the worldview of those who invented and developed it."

In order for artificial intelligence programs to be tools that build up the good and create a better tomorrow, he said, "they must always be aimed at the good of every human being," and they must have an ethical inspiration, underlining his support of the "Rome Call for AI Ethics" launched in 2020.

It is up to everyone to "make good use" of artificial intelligence, he said, "but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful."

Pope swaps jokes with comedy stars at Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As they waited for Pope Francis to arrive at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican Apostolic Palace for an early morning audience, late night comedy stars looked at each other and thought, "something's wrong." 

"We're in this beautiful, beautiful space in the Vatican and for some reason they've let comedians in, which is always a mistake," comedian Conan O'Brien told reporters after meeting the pope June 14. 

He was just one of 105 comedians from around the world who traveled to the Vatican for a papal audience and to "establish a link between the Catholic Church and comic artists," according to the Dicastery for Culture and Education, which organized the meeting.

Conan O'Brien speaks to journalists.
U.S. television host and comedian Conan O'Brien speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Comedians from the United States included Stephen Colbert, Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia among others. 

Before Pope Francis entered the room, Fallon stood in front of the pope's chair and was cracking jokes to the entertainment of his peers. But once Pope Francis entered, they all took to their feet to applaud. Several stars, accustomed to being in front of the cameras, held out their phones to record the pope walking steadily to his seat. 

And immediately Pope Francis cracked a joke, saying that since smiling is good for one's health, it would be better for him to just make a funny face for the crowd rather than to read his lengthy speech.

Pope Francis greets Jimmy Fallon.
Pope Francis shakes hands with Jimmy Fallon during a meeting with comedians at the Vatican June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Yet he told the comedians that "in the midst of so much gloomy news, immersed as we are in many social and even personal emergencies, you have the power to spread peace and smiles." 

"You are among the few who have the ability to speak to all types of people, from different generations and cultural backgrounds," he said.

The pope highlighted the unique role of laughter in bringing people together in the face of conflict, stressing that humor "is never against anyone, but is always inclusive, purposeful, eliciting openness, sympathy, empathy."

He also encouraged them to remember a prayer often attributed to St. Thomas More, which he said he prays every day: "Grant me, O Lord, a good sense of humor."

Louis-Dreyfus, the star of hit shows "Seinfeld" and "Veep," said after the meeting that Pope Francis' words were "gorgeous," and praised the pope's message for highlighting that comedy "has a sacredness to it."

Stephen Colbert speaks to reporters.
U.S. comedian and writer Stephen Colbert speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Each comedian was able to greet the pope individually at the end of the audience. 

Colbert, a Catholic, said he told the pope in Italian that he gave his voice to produce the audiobook version of the pope's recently published autobiography. He later told reporters that after reading the book, he thought he would love to interview the pope on his late-night TV program, "but I really want to do a cooking segment with him, because he talked a lot about cooking: evidently he makes a great 'tortellini in brodo.'"

Jim Gaffigan, another Catholic comedian who speaks often about his faith life, brought his family with him to the Vatican to meet the pope. His son Michael got rosary beads blessed by the pope that he proudly touted around the Vatican hallway leading out of the meeting. 

Gaffigan told reporters after the meeting that being Catholic and a comedian is "the most punk rock thing you can do," since believing in God in the comedy business is just "asking for trouble."

Jim Gaffigan speaks with reporters.
U.S. comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Although the group of comedians who came to the Vatican and met the pope was not composed solely of Catholics, the experience "was universal," Gaffigan said. "There is this warmth, this openness, even with the exceeding amounts of problems that have existed and will exist." 

The pope typically sits in front of the groups he meets with for a group photo before leaving his audiences, and participants often sit politely and clap as he walks away. 

This time, Chris Rock, seated near the front row, jumped up behind Pope Francis to put his face right by the pope's for the photo. Other comedians couldn't resist following suit and soon enough a group swarmed around the pope for the picture. 

Pope Francis encouraged the fun, chuckled and gave a wave as he walked out. 

Pope champions laughter with comedians

Pope champions laughter with comedians

Pope Francis met with comedians, including famous U.S. late night comics, at the Vatican June 14.

Statement of USCCB on Supreme Court’s Decision on Abortion Pill

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In response to the decision by the Supreme Court of the United States today on FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offered the following statement from its spokesperson, Chieko Noguchi, executive director of public affairs.

“Today’s Court ruling on procedural grounds will continue to put the health of women and girls at risk. As the USCCB’s pro-life chairman has said, abortion is not health care. The Church will continue to advocate for women’s health and safety, and to lovingly serve mothers in need.”


Ecumenism and papal primacy: Vatican releases status report on dialogues

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The reason why the 2024 edition of the Vatican yearbook has re-inserted "Patriarch of the West" as one of the historical titles of the pope appears to be a response to concerns expressed by Orthodox leaders and theologians.

For months after the yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, was released, the Vatican press office said it had no explanation for the reappearance of the title, which Pope Benedict XVI had dropped in 2006.

But new documents from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity place the change squarely in the middle of a broad discussion among all mainline Christian churches on the papacy and the potential role of the bishop of Rome in a more united Christian community.

Members of the dicastery proposed that "a clearer distinction be made between the different responsibilities of the Pope, especially between his ministry as head of the Catholic Church and his ministry of unity among all Christians, or more specifically between his patriarchal ministry in the Latin Church and his primatial ministry in the communion of Churches."

For the Orthodox, the papal title of "Patriarch of the West" is an acknowledgement that his direct jurisdiction does not extend to their traditional territories in the East.

Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church to the Holy See, told reporters June 13, "The recent reinstatement of the title of 'Patriarch of the West' among the pope's historical titles is important, since this title, inherited from the first millennium, evidences his brotherhood with the other patriarchs."

Cardinal Kurt Koch
Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, lead the a press presentation of the text, "The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical 'Ut unum Sint,'" at the Vatican June 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, said that "when Pope Benedict XVI canceled this title and when Pope Francis introduced it again, they did comment" on why they made the decision. "But I am convinced they did not want to do something against anyone, but both wanted to do something ecumenically respectful."

Twenty-nine years ago, St. John Paul II called for an ecumenical reflection on how the pope as bishop of Rome could exercise his ministry "as a service of love recognized by all concerned."

Already in 1967 St. Paul VI had recognized that the papacy was "undoubtedly the gravest obstacle on the path of ecumenism."

Following St. John Paul's ecumenical invitation in 1995, studies were conducted, meetings were held and reports were made.

The pace picked up with the pontificate of Pope Francis and his frequent references to being the bishop of Rome, his reliance on an international Council of Cardinals to advise him on issues of governance and his continuing efforts to reform and expand the Synod of Bishops and the practice of "synodality."

Over the past three decades, the Catholic Church's ecumenical partners responded to St. John Paul's request by questioning things like papal infallibility and claims of universal jurisdiction, yet many also expressed support for trying to find an acceptable way for the bishop of Rome to serve as a point of unity for all Christians.

According to members of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, there has been "a significant and growing theological convergence" both on the need for a universal figure at the service of Christian unity as well as for Christian churches and communities, including the Catholic Church, to learn from each other's styles and structures for consultation, governance and leadership.

Staff of the dicastery have spent years summarizing the reflections and released their work June 13 as a "study document" titled, "The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical 'Ut unum sint.'" The publication also included a series of proposals titled, "Towards an Exercise of Primacy in the 21st Century," which was approved in 2021 by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the dicastery.

Cardinal Koch wrote in the preface to the study document that Pope Francis approved its publication.

The role a pope could play in a re-united Christian church obviously involves practical considerations about power and authority and how they are exercised. But for the ecumenical dialogues, the first considerations are tradition -- what was the role of the bishop of Rome in the early centuries before Christianity split -- and theological, including what is the church and how is it different from other kinds of organizations.

The document approved by dicastery members said the dialogues have "enabled a deeper analysis of some essential ecclesiological themes such as: the existence and interdependence of primacy and synodality at each level of the Church; the understanding of synodality as a fundamental quality of the whole Church, including the active participation of all the faithful; and the distinction between and interrelatedness of collegiality and synodality," that is, between the shared responsibility of bishops and the shared responsibility of all the baptized.

Cardinal Mario Grech
Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, speaks during the press presentation of "The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical 'Ut unum Sint'" at the Vatican June 13, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

One crucial issue for many Christians is papal infallibility; in fact, "infallibility" is cited 56 times in the documents released June 13.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals."

Catholic and other theologians and bishops, the new documents said, have called for "a Catholic 're-reception,' 're-interpretation,' 'official interpretation,' 'updated commentary' or even 'rewording' of the teachings of Vatican I," the council held in 1869-70 that solemnly proclaimed papal infallibility under some circumstances.

Emphasizing those limited circumstances does not seem to suffice. For example, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission in 1981 said, "The ascription to the bishop of Rome of infallibility under certain conditions has tended to lend exaggerated importance to all his statements."

One thing everyone involved in ecumenical dialogue agrees on, though, is that the unity of the early Christian communities was expressed by their leaders and members visiting one another, praying together and working together. The new documents called for those efforts to continue and to grow.


Spirit and Scripture combined cast light on life's problems, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians should read Scripture often, every day if possible, and look to the Spirit if reading the Gospel ever feels dry, Pope Francis said.

Even when one has repeatedly read a Scripture passage "without particular emotion," at the right time and in an atmosphere of faith and prayer ,"that text suddenly becomes illuminated, speaks to us, casts light on a problem we are experiencing, makes clear God's will for us in a certain situation," the pope said during his June 12 general audience.

"To what is this change due, if not an illumination of the Holy Spirit?" he asked. "The words of Scripture, under the action of the Spirit, become luminous."

To begin his audience, the pope rode into St. Peter's Square on the popemobile to the sound of bagpipes and drums played by the 38th (Irish) Brigade and the Royal Irish Regiment of the British army. The brigade visited the Vatican to mark the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Rome from Nazi occupation and its June 12, 1944, audience with Pope Pius XII.

A man plays a bagpipe.
A member of a delegation from the British Army's Royal Irish Regiment and 38 (Irish) Brigade plays a bagpipe before Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience at the Vatican June 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Continuing his catechesis series on the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis reflected on the role of the Spirit in revelation, which he said not only inspired Scripture but "explains it and makes it eternally alive and active."

He said that the church "is nourished by reading Sacred Scripture, that is, reading done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who inspired it."

At the center of the Gospel is the event of Christ's death and resurrection, the pope said, which "unveils all the hidden mysteries and offers the true key to the Bible."

"The death and resurrection of Christ is the light that illuminates the whole Bible and illuminates our life," he said.

Pope Francis encouraged Christians to dedicate time each day to the practice of "lectio divina," reading and meditating on the Gospel, and recommended they carry a pocket-sized copy of the Gospel with them to read in moments throughout the day.

Yet the best way to engage with the Gospel is through the liturgy, he said, in which "we see how an event or teaching given in the Old Testament finds its full realization in the Gospel of Christ."

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience.
Pope Francis speaks to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his general audience at the Vatican June 12, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Homilies are then meant to transfer the Gospel reading "from the book to life," the pope said, telling priests to keep their homilies under eight minutes.

"After that time, people lose attention, people fall asleep and they're right" to do so, he said. Pope Francis noted that priests often "talk so much and no one understands what they're talking about," and he encouraged them to communicate to their congregants a thought, a feeling and a proposal for concrete action in their homilies.

In Gospel passages read during Mass or in the Liturgy of the Hours there is always a word or message "intended especially for us," the pope said. "Embraced in our hearts, it can illuminate our day and animate our prayer. It is a matter of not letting it fall away."

In his greetings to visitors, Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar and the "many countries that are at war."

"War is always, from day one, a defeat," he said. "Let us pray for peace, that the Lord may give us strength to always fight for peace."

Pope to priests: Keep homilies short!

Pope to priests: Keep homilies short!


A look at Pope Francis' advice to priests about homilies June 12.

Pope encourages priests to reach out to those who are 'invisible'

ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis encouraged priests to seek out those who are "invisible" in society and he warned against "ideologies" in the church.

According to Italian news reports, one of the ideologies he specified was a gay culture, referring to it, however, by using the same derogatory slang term in Italian that he reportedly used in a closed-door meeting with members of the Italian bishops' conference in May when describing some seminaries as being marked by a gay culture. 

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Pope Francis meets with a group of priests ministering in the Diocese of Rome for a dialogue at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome June 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

During a closed-door meeting June 11 with about 160 priests from the Diocese of Rome at the Pontifical Salesian University, the pope said it would not be prudent to admit young men with homosexual tendencies to seminaries as candidates for the priesthood, according to the Italian news agencies, ANSA and Adnkronos, citing unnamed individuals who attended the meeting with the pope.

These young men are "good kids," but they will encounter difficulties that will then show up in the exercise of their ministry, the pope said, sources told the two agencies.

The pope was not condemning gay people, and he reiterated that the church is open to everyone, ANSA reported.

What he was warning against was a kind of "lobby" that turns a homosexual lifestyle into an ideology, sources told Adnkronos. ANSA reported sources said the pope used the derogatory term when talking about the Vatican, saying that "in the Vatican there is an air of" a gay culture, and that it is not easy to guard against this trend.

The meeting at the Salesian University included priests ordained 11-39 years ago, and it was the third and last of a series of meetings with clergy from the Diocese of Rome. The pope met May 14 with some 70 priests who have been ordained 40 years or more, and he met May 29 with priests ordained 10 years or less. 

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Pope Francis speaks with a group of priests ministering in the Diocese of Rome during a meeting at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome June 11, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Vatican press office said the pope "spoke about the danger of ideologies in the church and returned to the issue of the admission into seminaries of people with homosexual tendencies, reiterating the need to welcome and accompany them in the church and the prudential recommendation of the Dicastery for the Clergy regarding their admission to a seminary."

Among the many issues discussed during the question-and-answer dialogue with priests, the press office said, was the need for parishes to expand their welcome "to everyone, everyone, everyone!"

In response to comments about addressing people's suffering, the pope said people should be accompanied with closeness, compassion and tenderness, which are three qualities of God.

The importance of pastoral care in hospitals and the difficulties of life in the city of Rome, such as the housing crisis, the spread of drugs and loneliness, were also discussed, the press office said.

"Our job as priests is to go and look for these people" who are "invisible" in society because "the church is either prophetic or it is clerical: it is up to us to choose," he said.

Responding to the housing crisis, the pope invited religious congregations that own buildings and facilities to be generous, the press hall said. According to ANSA, the pope had been criticizing religious who, despite their vow of poverty, are focused on making money and are speculating on rent prices with the upcoming Jubilee. 

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Pope Francis listens to a question during a meeting with priests ministering in the Diocese of Rome at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome June 11, 2024. Seated next to the pope is Rome Auxiliary Bishop Baldo Reina. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Assets are for the community and not for speculation, the pope reportedly said, according to ANSA.

According to the Vatican press office, the dialogue between the pope and priests also touched on the tragedy of the wars underway and the huge amounts of money nations spend on weapons and birth control and that individuals spend on veterinary care and cosmetic surgery.

For this reason, more should be done to promote the church's social teachings, the common good and peace, the pope said.

The pope thanked the priests for their work and urged them to continue to listen to all those who turn to them and to engage in community discernment.

Rome Auxiliary Bishop Michele Di Tolve, who was present at the meeting, told Vatican News that the pope invited priests "to be strong and meek at the same time, to let the parish feel close to people, like a home among homes and where they can relive an experience of being a family."

Under olive tree planted as sign of peace, pope begs God to help Holy Land

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sitting in the Vatican Gardens with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica as a backdrop, Pope Francis told cardinals and diplomats, including the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine, "Every day I pray that this war will finally end."

With a representative of Rome's Jewish community and a representative of the city's Muslim community in attendance June 7, the pope repeated his call for a cease-fire, his appeal to Hamas to release all the hostages it kidnapped Oct. 7 and his plea that Israel protect civilians in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid to reach them.

The prayer service marked the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople praying for peace in the Holy Land with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the same spot in the Vatican Gardens.

In 2014 they had planted an olive tree; now it towered over the pope.

"We wish to ask the Lord to give continued growth to the olive tree we planted on that day, which has already become strong and flourishing because it has been sheltered from the wind and watered with care," the pope said. "Likewise, we must ask God that peace may spring forth in the heart of every person, in every people and nation, in every corner of the earth, protected from the winds of war and nourished by those who daily strive to live in fraternity."

Pope with ambassadors in the Vatican Gardens
Pope Francis stands with Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Issa Kassissieh, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See, and representatives of Rome's Jewish and Muslim communities near an olive tree planted 10 years ago during a similar prayer service for peace in the Vatican Gardens June 7, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Holding a green watering can, the pope was joined at the tree by: Raphael Schutz, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See; Issa Kassissieh, Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See; Rabbi Alberto Funaro of Rome's Jewish community; and Abdellah Redouane, secretary-general of the Islamic Cultural Center in Rome.

Rabbi Funaro told reporters that events like the pope's prayer service "somehow help us to go on. If there were one of these initiatives every day, who knows what could happen. We are all here in hope."

In his brief address, Pope Francis said he was thinking of all the people suffering in the Holy Land today.

"I think of how urgent it is that from the rubble of Gaza a decision to stop the weapons will finally arise, and therefore I ask that there be a ceasefire," he said. "I think of the families and of the Israeli hostages and ask that they be released as soon as possible."

"I think of the Palestinian population and ask that they be protected and receive all necessary humanitarian aid," he continued. "I think of the many who are displaced due to the fighting and ask that their homes be rebuilt soon so that they can return to them in peace."

The pope said he also was thinking of "those Palestinians and Israelis of good will who, amid tears and suffering, continue to hope for the coming of a new day and strive to bring forth the dawn of a peaceful world where all peoples 'shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'"

Repeating the Vatican's longstanding position on the region, he encouraged everyone to work for "a lasting peace, where the State of Palestine and the State of Israel can live side by side, breaking down the walls of enmity and hatred."

And, he added, "we must all cherish Jerusalem so that it will become the city of fraternal encounter among Christians, Jews and Muslims, protected by a special internationally guaranteed status."

Pope Francis leads prayer in Vatican Gardens
Pope Francis speaks to cardinals and diplomats before praying for peace in the Holy Land during a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens June 7, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

At the same time, Pope Francis said, "peace is not made only by written agreements or by human and political compromises. It is born from transformed hearts and arises when each of us has encountered and been touched by God's love, which dissolves our selfishness, shatters our prejudices and grants us the taste and joy of friendship, fraternity and mutual solidarity."

"There can be no peace if we do not let God himself first disarm our hearts, making them hospitable, compassionate and merciful -- God is hospitable, compassionate and merciful," he said.

Pope Francis then read the same prayer for peace he had read 10 years ago in the presence of the Orthodox patriarch and the presidents of Israel and Palestine.

"Lord God of peace, hear our prayer," he said. "We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our weapons. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried. But our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, come to our aid!"


Rome's true nature is to be welcoming, caring for all, pope says

ROME (CNS) -- Rome is unique and has a vocation as a universal city, Pope Francis said.

Rome has "a universal spirit" that aims to be at the service of charity, hospitality and welcome, he told the city's mayor and government officials in Rome's City Hall. 

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Pope Francis delivers his speech in the Julius Caesar Hall during his visit to Rome's City Hall June 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

"Pilgrims, tourists, migrants, those in serious difficulty, the poorest, the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned and the excluded are the most authentic witnesses of this spirit," which is why the pope will be opening a holy door in a prison for the Holy Year 2025, he said in his speech in the city's Julius Caesar Hall June 10.

Authority is only fully realized "when it serves everyone, when it uses its legitimate power to meet the needs of the citizens, particularly the weakest and the least," he said. This applies not only to political figures, but also to priests and bishops, who must be "close to the people of God in order to serve them, to accompany them." 

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Pope Francis and Rome's Mayor Roberto Gualtieri overlook the Roman Forum from the Campidoglio balcony during the pope's visit to Rome's City Hall June 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Making his second official visit to Rome's City Hall five years after his first, Pope Francis was accompanied by Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri from his vehicle to look out over the Roman Forum from an archway at the city government's headquarters.

Ancient Roman culture undoubtedly exhibited a number of "good values," the pope told city officials. But it was also seeking something more and "Mount Olympus was no longer enough," referring to where the Greeks and Romans believed their pagan gods lived.

"A larger and deeper message of fraternity, love, hope and liberation" was found in Christ and his Gospel, he said. And the Christian faith "would in time permeate and transform the lives of people and institutions themselves."

Institutions and customs evolved "to a higher level, abandoning little by little, for example, … slavery," which even educated and empathetic people had seen as natural and as a given.

Slavery is a very significant example of how "even refined civilizations can present cultural elements that are so ingrained in the mentality of people and society as a whole that they are no longer perceived as contrary to the dignity of the human being," the pope said.

This also happens today, he said, "when, almost unconsciously, we sometimes risk being selective and partial in the defense of human dignity, marginalizing or discarding certain categories of people, who end up finding themselves without adequate protection."

The pope expressed his hope that "Rome continue to manifest its true nature, a welcoming, hospitable, generous and noble face."

"The enormous influx of pilgrims, tourists and migrants into the city, with all that it entails in terms of organization, could be seen as a burden, an obstacle that hinders the normal flow of things. In reality, all of this is Rome, its uniqueness in the world, its honor, its great attraction and its responsibility toward Italy, the church and the human family," he said. 

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Visitors gather in Campidoglio Square as Pope Francis and Rome's Mayor Roberto Gualtieri greet them from the loggia of the senatorial building during the pope's visit to Rome's City Hall June 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"The immense treasure of culture and history lying in the hills of Rome is the honor and obligation of its citizenry and leaders, and it expects to be properly valued and respected," he said.

As the city prepares to host the Holy Year 2025, it will attract even more people of faith for "a prayerful and penitential pilgrimage" and tourists "who come to admire its immense treasure of works of art and the grandiose traces of past centuries," he said.

In fact, "the upcoming Jubilee can also have a positive impact on the very face of the city, improving its decorum and making public services more efficient, not only in the center but fostering a connection between the center and the outskirts," he said.

"That is why I like to go and visit the outlying parishes, so that they feel that their bishop is close to them," he said. 

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Pope Francis signs the guest book during his visit to Rome's City Hall June 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope also signed the guest book quoting from the Aeneid by the Roman poet, Virgil, with "et sublato patre montem petivi" (carrying my father, I took to the hills). The verse, which the pope refers to often, describes Troy's hero, Aeneas, leaving his sacked city with his father and son -- representing his past and future -- to eventually settle in Italy, south of Rome.

With this decision to leave Troy, the pope wrote, referring to the Roman legend, "Rome was born, born from afar, born on a journey."

Pope champions Rome's universal spirit at Campidoglio

Pope champions Rome's universal spirit at Campidoglio

Pope Francis visited the Campidoglio, the historic center of Rome's government, where he was welcomed by Rome's mayor and other city officials.