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Female athletes advocate for women’s sports ahead of Title IX transgender changes

Cynthia Monteleone, shown at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. The mother of three is a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

Women athletes who are opposed to biological males identifying as transgender females competing in women’s sports rallied in Washington, D.C., on Thursday ahead of new proposed regulations coming from the Biden administration regarding transgender athletes.

The event, “Our Bodies, Our Sports,” sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum, among other groups, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a federal law that ensures that no person at schools and colleges receiving federal funds is discriminated against based on sex. The Biden administration plans to broaden the scope of the law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to gender.

Several athletes spoke to CNA, including a Catholic track star from Hawaii and a swimmer from Kentucky who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, said they attended the rally, which drew a counterprotest by trans-rights activists, to preserve women's sports.

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA
Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, has won many championships and awards for swimming throughout her college career. Earlier this year, she tied for 5th place with Lia Thomas in the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Barker said Thomas, competing for the University of Pennsylvania, received the 5th place trophy, while she was told that one would be sent to her at a later date.

“Women have fought the past 50 years today for equal rights in terms of sports and equal opportunities,” Barker told CNA.

“Just when you think you're almost there, it's a complete 180. My goal is to be here, and to use my voice to help bring light to the situation, and to help get back what Title IX is supposed to stand for,” she said.

For Barker, this issue comes down to a matter of fairness.

“It's not that I'm transphobic. I don't think that. I think that you can do what you want in your free time, but when you're infringing on women's sport and it's involving lots of female athletes, that's when I'm going to get involved and that's when I'm going to speak up about it,” she said.

Cynthia Monteleone, who lives in Hawaii, is a mother of three, a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports.

“It means more to me to champion this fight for women's sports than anything else, and that's because I'm being true to myself and allowing my faith to guide me,” Monteleone, who is Catholic, told CNA.

Monteleone said she decided to skip the world track championships in Finland to attend Thursday’s rally. Had she competed, she would have had to go against a biological male, she said.

“I began to ask questions about the fairness of this issue, and I was told to keep my mouth shut for my own safety,” Monteleone said. “I did not do that. I'm still speaking up louder than ever.”

Monteleone said the stand she’s taking stems from the moral values she derives from her Catholic faith.

“God will lead the way to the path you're supposed to be on, so I am not supposed to get that medal at that world championship this week,” she said. “It means nothing to me if there's not a fair playing field.”

Monteleone said her daughter, Margaret, had a similar experience at her first high school track meet, where she lost to a biological male.

Monteleone said she does not place any value on the words of those who call her position on the issue “transphobic” or “discriminatory.” Instead, she noted, “I just say ‘stay strong’ and don't put value in those words.”

Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Another outspoken woman at the event was Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University.

“This is something that is so important to me because I have personally been affected by this issue at hand,” DeBos said, recalling a time when her relay team lost out to a team with a transgender athlete.

“Being here today and being alongside all of these athletes, I think our voices together are what's going to help make change,” DeBos said.

DeBos spoke on the biological differences between men and women and how women have the right to fight for fairness in their sports.

“This is within the sports world, and that really is a different world,” she told CNA. The physical advantages that come with being a biological male have “nothing to do with the outside world” when it comes to fair treatment.

Itinerary released for Pope Francis' trip to Canada in late July

An Inuit delegation from Canada meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 28, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has released the itinerary for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, during which he will meet with representatives of indigenous peoples, and with indigenous Catholics. 

The visit to Canada will take place July 24-29, with a return flight to Rome landing on the 30th, the Vatican said Thursday. 

While in Canada, Francis is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for abuses committed against indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

In addition to a visit to Edmonton, Alberta, the pope will meet with dignitaries in Quebec City before visiting Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, to meet with residential school survivors, among others. Despite the ambitious nature of the trip, the pope is expected to participate in events in Canada for about an hour at a time, owing to the health problems the 85-year-old has experienced of late. 

Francis had been scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan July 2-7, but the trip was postponed June 10 "at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee," a Vatican spokesman said.

As Canada is the second-largest country in the world by area, the distances involved for the whirlwind visit are vast. The map below illustrates the air routes. 

After departing Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. local time on July 24, Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Edmonton, Alberta at 11:20 a.m. local time, and to receive an official welcome before taking the remainder of the day to rest. 

The next day, July 25, the pope will meet at 10 a.m. with members of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in the unincorporated community of Maskwacis, near Edmonton. This will not be the first time the pope has met with Canadian indigeous people; in March, Pope Francis met with representatives of the Métis and Inuit indigenous peoples, and with the Canadian Catholic bishops, both at the Vatican. 

Then, at 4:45 pm that same day, he will meet with indigenous Catholics at Sacred Heart parish in Edmonton

On Tuesday, July 26, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Later that day, he will participate in a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne, a site which plays host annually to thousands of pilgrims, billing itself as the largest annual Catholic gathering in Western Canada. July 26 is celebrated in the Catholic Church as the feast of St. Anne, the grandmother of Christ. The pope will also celebrate a Liturgy of the Word at the site. 

On Wednesday, Pope Francis will depart Edmonton and fly to Quebec City, the capital of Quebec. He is set to be welcomed by the Governor General of Canada, and will meet with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister. Later he will meet with civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples, and members of the diplomatic corps.

The next day, July 28, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. at the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré. That evening, at 5:15 am, the pope will pray Vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

On the final day of his visit, Friday, July 29, the pope is set to have a meeting at 9 a.m. with fellow members of the Jesuit order at the archbishop’s residence. Then at 10:45, another meeting with a delegation of indigeous peoples, also at the archbishop’s residence. 

Then, at 12:45, the pope will depart Quebec and fly some five hours north to Iqaluit. Home to only 7,500 people, Iqaluit is the capital — and only city — of the province of Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost and most sparsely populated territory. The area has been used as an Inuit fishing hub for thousands of years.

In Iqaluit, Pope Francis will meet at 4:45 p.m. local time with students of the former residential schools of Canada. Some 150,000 children attended residential schools in the years they operated, ending in the late 1990s. The schools were a government-led program, begun in the 1870s, to suppress the native language and cultural practices of indigenous peoples. 

Many of the schools were run by Catholic institutions, and in the 1980s, former students began to reveal some of the abuses they faced in the schools, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Following the meeting with the former students, the pope will meet with young people and elders in the primary school square in Iqaluit, before a 6:15 p.m. farewell ceremony sees the pope off on his return journey to Rome, where he will arrive the following day. 

Eyewitness details brutal 'blasphemy murder' of Nigerian Christian student

A photo of Deborah Emmanuel's photo on her Facebook page. Emmanuel, a Christian student in Nigeria, was killed by an Islamic mob on her college campus on May 12, 2022. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Deborah Emmanuel, the Nigerian Christian student who was murdered by a Muslim mob last month, spent her final hours with a close friend who has shared exclusive details of the brutal killing with CNA.

CNA is using the pseudonym “Mary” for the woman’s protection. A Christian herself, she nearly was killed by the same mob.

Significantly, Mary’s account contradicts the claim of authorities that they attempted to rescue Emmanuel from the mob but were “overwhelmed.”

On the contrary, the police “could have stopped the murder if they had really tried,” Mary told CNA. 

Emmanuel’s so-called “blasphemy murder” took place on May 12 on the campus of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Sokoto State, a major city located in the northwest corner of Nigeria. The city is home to the Muslim Sultan who serves as the top religious authority for Nigeria’s 100 million Muslim believers.

Prior to the attack, Emmanuel, a home economics major who attended Evangelical Church Winning All, was bullied by fanatical Muslim students at the teacher’s college for audio statements she made on WhatsApp, a messaging platform. She credited Jesus Christ for her success on a recent exam, and when threatened and told to apologize she refused, invoking the Holy Spirit, saying “Holy Ghost fire! Nothing will happen to me,” according to WhatsApp messages reviewed by CNA.

In the aftermath of these heated exchanges, a Muslim mob attacked Emmanuel on the college’s campus. After an hours' long siege, the mob beat and stoned her to death, then set her body on fire with burning tires, according to graphic video footage posted online. Rioters later that week rampaged in a Catholic Church compound in Sokoto and attacked other Christian-owned properties.

A relative of Emmanuel’s, who said he was standing approximately 60 feet from the mob, also told CNA he believes the police could have saved her. He, too, asked that his identity be withheld for his safety.

Unarmed campus security personnel made a futile attempt to rescue Emmanuel, according to a campus security report shared with CNA. But Emmanuel’s relative said there were dozens of armed police officers on the scene who didn’t fire their weapons.

The commissioner of police in the state also said officers did not fire their weapons. However, he maintained that only 15 of his officers were at the scene, according to a report in The Epoch Times.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto has strongly condemned the attack and called on Emmanuel's killers to be brought to justice.

"This matter must be treated as a criminal act," he said. You can read his full statement here.

A plea for help

On the day of Emmanuel’s death, Mary received a frantic phone call from her around 9 a.m, asking for help. By that time, women who lived in her dormitory had begun slapping Emmanuel, Mary told CNA.

Mary arrived at the campus to see her friend surrounded by a mob and being led by a campus staffer to a gatehouse building for her protection. The Muslim students had bloodied her face and head with blows from rods and were joined by male students who believed their duty was to execute a blasphemer on the spot, Mary said.

“Allahu Akbar!” meaning “God is Great” was bellowed for hours, she said.

Mary initially stayed outside the building and tried to intercede for her friend, but she said it wasn’t long before the mob turned on her, too. Within moments Mary was trying to ward off punches and blows from sticks as she backed away from the gatehouse and toward the gate of the college 40 feet away. 

Mary said a college lecturer rescued her and brought her to join Emmanuel inside the gatehouse by 10 a.m.

At 10:25 a.m., the relative said, six officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) — the equivalent to the FBI in the U.S. — arrived, firing their rifles in the air but with no effect. Five minutes later, he said, a group of Sokoto police came on the scene and fired tear gas, temporarily scattering the mob. 

The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter
The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter

For about 10 minutes police had an opportunity to disperse the mob and force their way to the gatehouse to extract Mary and Emmanuel, Emmanuel’s relative believes. But that did not happen.

By 11 a.m., the mob had returned to the building, holding cloths against their faces to ward off the tear gas. The mob tried hurling stones at Mary through the windows of the locked gatehouse, but Mary barricaded herself behind a table.

The mob then threw gasoline on the women through the front windows and attempted to burn them alive, Mary said.

“Deborah was soaked with gasoline, but when lighted plastic was pitched in through the windows, I quickly stamped the flames out,” Mary said.

No escape

All of this transpired as police and DSS officers watched from a safe distance, according to Emmanuel’s relative.

The traumatized women said little to each other, but Emmanuel was still hoping to do her examination that day, Mary said. At one point, she recalled, Emmanuel asked, “What time is it? I have an examination at noon.” Mary said she looked at her cell phone and told her it was 1 p.m.

After another excruciating hour of siege, the mob pushed down a single Sokoto policeman guarding the door, broke the padlock on the door, and rushed in to find Mary and Emmanuel hiding behind furniture, Mary and the relative related. Two rioters placed a chain around Mary’s neck and pulled it hard, trying to strangle her, she recounted.

“Let this girl go! She is not an offender,” Mary recalled one of the rioters shouting. But as they released her, a young man in the mob grabbed Emmanuel and took her to the front steps of the gatehouse. There she was bludgeoned with steel pipes and wooden rods and stoned, the relative said.

Two DSS officers attempted to rescue Emmanuel but were hit by stones and pushed aside, the relative said. The police officers remained in position and did not come to her aid, he alleged.

Mary collapsed inside the gatehouse gasping from the strangulation. Approximately 40 minutes later, she said, she was roused by one of the mob to leave the building, which was on fire.

As she walked through the smoke, Mary saw the gatehouse burning and Emmanuel’s lifeless body in flames.

The face of Christian persecution

In the aftermath of Emmanuel's murder, human rights advocates and others have leveled sharp criticism at Nigeria's government leaders for not doing enough to stem the rising tide of violence directed at Christians and other non-Muslims.

Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family
Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family

Anti-Christian hatred was evident in days of rioting in Sokoto following the arrest of two suspects in Emmanuel’s murder. The rioters reportedly were incensed that there were any arrests at all.

"Deborah Emmanuel, like kidnapping victim Leah Sharibu (who was enslaved by Boko Haram insurgents in 2019), has become the face of Christian persecution in Nigeria,” said Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON). “There has not been an official report from the security forces on the lynching of Ms. Emmanuel. Her killing and subsequent riots show clear government complicity and coverup.” 

Tina Ramirez, founder of the international nonprofit Hardwired Global, also believes the Nigerian government has been unwilling to take a strong stand against blasphemy killings.

“The recent attacks on students are reminiscent of the attacks at Nigerian colleges two decades ago that were the precursor to the growth of extremist groups across Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt,” Ramirez wrote in a text to CNA.

Ukrainian family prays for peace at World Meeting of Families

Wolodymyr, Tatiana, Franciszek, Magdalena, and Teresa Korczyński on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:42 am (CNA).

A Ukrainian family of 10 is participating in the World Meeting of Families this week.

Wolodymyr and Tatiana Korczyński arrived in Rome on June 21 with a Ukrainian flag and a desire to pray at St. John Paul II’s tomb for peace in their home country.

As Catholics from 120 countries are gathered at the Vatican to discuss the joys and challenges of family life, the Ukrainian family, currently based in Poland, has shared how war can weigh heavily on children.

“I see that the current situation in Ukraine requires more responsibility from children. They grow up faster,” Tatiana told CNA on June 22.

The mother of eight has seen this especially in her 13-year-old son Franciszek, who often accompanies his father on trips across the Polish border to provide aid and support for the Ukrainian cause.

“Franciszek often goes to Ukraine, but he also stays at home as an older man to support and help me a lot. This is because more responsibilities fall on his shoulders,” she said.

While the war has forced her kids to grow up faster, Tatiana has also observed that her children have also grown in compassion, knowing that many of their peers have lost parents in the war.

“I have more than once sensed that my children would want to adopt those children who stay in Ukraine, who have lost their families,” she said.

A pilgrimage of prayer

Amid the upheaval and uncertainty that their home country has faced, the Korczyński family sees their participation in the World Meeting of Families as an opportunity to pray for Ukraine.

“We feel very honored to represent Ukraine at this congress and to participate. For us, it is a great gift and at the same time a task to be done,” Tatiana said.

“All our prayers and the prayers of the people in Ukraine, who are now praying for peace, we can bring to God here in Rome and implore in an extraordinary way for a miracle, for God's lavishing his grace on our nation.”

Wolodymyr pointed out that the timing of the World Meeting of Families coincides with the anniversary of John Paul II’s apostolic journey to Ukraine in June 2001.

“It is no coincidence to be here now, to ask John Paul II for his mediation, for peace in Ukraine. I think God runs all this,” he said.

Faith passes through the family

“I can honestly say that Wolodymyr and I grew up at a time when the Catholic faith was being persecuted in Ukraine,” Tatiana recalled.

“Our grandmothers taught us the catechism … I think family is the bedrock and the very beginning of the Church,” she said.

Tatiana sees the World Meeting of Families as a celebration of how “we come to know God through love for our neighbor, first of all in the family.”

The Korczyńskis’ daughters, 12-year-old Teresa and 9-year-old Magdalena, added that they like being a part of a big family because of all the time spent together. 

The girls dressed up in matching blue dresses, white hats, and pigtail braids for their Vatican visit, alongside their elder brother, Franciszek. The Korczyńskis’ four youngest kids stayed in Poland in the care of their oldest daughter.

The Korczyński family are Latin rite Catholics originally from the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi in western Ukraine. The family relocated to Poland five years ago in an effort to keep the family together after their eldest daughter was accepted to a school in Szymanów.

“We decided to move and stay together because we think that the greatest gifts of a family are unity, collective prayer and being together in everyday life,” Tatiana said.

Tatiana remembered how the family all prayed the rosary together for peace in the days leading up to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“We took part in the consecration. We prepared ourselves by confession, participated in the service, and prayed together at home,” Tatiana said.

“At this moment, when Ukraine is suffering, when a lot of people are experiencing great suffering, more people are asking and turning to God. I think it was very timely at that moment to talk about reparation, prayer, repentance, and forgiveness,” she said.

Justyna Galant provided the translation for this interview from Polish to English.

World Meeting of Families 2022: Full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families

Rome - June 22, 2022: Day one of the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis during the Festival of Families. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis' address at the Festival of Families during the World Meeting of Families 2022, which was held in the Paul VI Audience Hall on June 22, 2022.

Dear families,

I am happy to be here with you, following the disturbing events that you have all recently experienced: first the pandemic and now the war in Europe, to say nothing of the other wars afflicting our human family.

I thank Cardinal Farrell, Cardinal De Donatis, the personnel of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, as well as those of the Diocese of Rome, whose dedication has made this meeting possible.

I would also like to thank the families present, who have come from many parts of the world, especially those who have shared their testimonies with us. Thank you so much! It is not easy to speak before so large an audience about your lives, your troubles and those gifts, wonderful but profoundly personal, that you have received from the Lord. Your testimonies have served as “amplifiers”: you have given voice to the experiences of other families in the world that, like yourselves, are sharing in the same joys and concerns, the same hardships and hopes.

For this reason, I would like to say something to those of you here present and to all the married couples and families listening to us throughout the world. I want you to feel my closeness to you, wherever you are, and to your concrete life situation. My word of encouragement is precisely this: start from where you are, and, from there, try to journey together: together as couples, together in your families, together with other families, together with the Church. I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan who meets someone wounded and in need. He draws near to him, cares for him and helps him to resume his journey. That is what I want the Church to be for all of you! A Good Samaritan that draws near to you and helps you to continue your journey and to take a step forward, however small. Never forget that closeness is the “style” of God, closeness and tender love. I will now try to indicate a few “steps forward” that need to be taken together, by reflecting on the testimonies we have heard.

1. “A step forward” towards marriage. Thank you, Luigi and Serena, for having told us with great honesty about your own experience, with its hardships and hopes. I think it was painful for all of us to hear you say, “We did not find a community that would support us with open arms for what we are”. That is painful! It should make us all think. We need to be converted and to journey as a welcoming Church, so that our dioceses and parishes can increasingly become “communities that support with open arms”. How much we need this, in our present-day culture of indifference! Providentially, you found support in other families, which are in fact “little churches”.

I was greatly consoled when you explained the reason that led you to baptize your children. You said something very beautiful: “Despite our noblest human efforts, we are not sufficient unto ourselves”. It is true, we can have the loveliest dreams, the loftiest ideals, but in the end, we also discover – and this is wisdom – our own limitations, which we cannot overcome by ourselves but by opening ourselves to the Father, to his love and to his grace. That is the meaning of the sacraments of baptism and of matrimony: they are the concrete helps that God gives us in order not to leave us alone, precisely because “we are not sufficient unto ourselves”. It was good to hear those words: “we are not sufficient unto ourselves”.

We can say that whenever a man and a woman fall in love, God offers them a gift; that gift is marriage. It is a marvelous gift, which contains the power of God’s own love: strong, enduring, faithful, ready to start over after every failure or moment of weakness. Marriage is not a formality you go through. You don’t get married in order to be “card-carrying” Catholics, to obey a rule, or because the Church tells you to, or to have a party… No, you get married because you want to build your marriage on the love of Christ, which is solid as rock. In marriage, Christ gives himself to you, so that you can find the strength to give yourselves to one another. So take heart: family life is not “mission impossible”! By the grace of the sacrament, God makes it a wonderful journey, to be undertaken together with him and never alone. The family is not a lofty ideal that is unattainable in reality. God solemnly promises his presence in your marriage and family, not only on the day of your wedding, but for the rest of your lives. And he keeps supporting you, every day of your journey.

2. “A step forward” to embrace the cross. I thank you, Roberto and Maria Anselma, because you told us the moving story of your own family, and in particular about Chiara. You spoke to us of the cross, which is part of the life of every individual and of every family. You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara’s sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith. You told us how “Chiara’s serenity opened for us a window onto eternity”. To see how she experienced the trial of her illness helped you to lift up your gaze, not to remain imprisoned in grief, but to be open to something greater: the mysterious plans of God, to eternity, to heaven. I thank you for this witness of faith! You also quoted something that Chiara had said: “God puts a truth in each of us and it is not possible to misunderstand it”. God put into Chiara’s heart the truth of a holy life, and so she wished to preserve the life of her child at the cost of her own life. As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously. Chiara’s heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as gift of self: hers was a life given to her family, to the Church and to the whole world. We always need great examples to look to. May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear.

3. “A step forward” towards forgiveness. Paul and Germaine, you found the courage to tell us about the crisis that you went through in your marriage, and we thank you for that, because every marriage has its moments of crisis. We need to say this, not to hide it, and to take steps to overcome those crises. You didn’t try to sweeten matters with a bit of sugar! You called every cause of the crisis by its name: insincerity, infidelity, the misuse of money, the idols of power and career, growing resentment and hardness of heart. As you were speaking, I believe that all of us relived our own experiences of pain before similar situations of broken families. To see a family break up is a tragedy that cannot leave us indifferent. The laughter of married couples disappears, children are troubled, serenity is lost. And most of the time, nobody knows exactly what to do.

That is why your story transmits hope. Paul said that at the bleakest moment of the crisis, the Lord answered his heart’s deepest desire and saved his marriage. That is what happens. Deep within the heart of each person is the desire for love not to end, for the story of a love experienced together not to be cut short, for the fruits of love not to be dispersed. Everyone has this desire. No one wants a love that is short-term or is marked with an expiration date. So we suffer greatly whenever failings, negligence and human sins make a shipwreck of marriage. But even amid the tempest, God sees what is in our hearts. By his providence, you met a group of laypersons specifically committed to assisting families. That was the start of a journey of rapprochement and healing in your relationship. You began to talk to one another, to be open and sincere with each other, to acknowledge your faults, to pray together with other couples, and all those things brought you to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, forgiveness heals every wound. Forgiveness is a gift welling up from the grace that Christ showers on couples and whole families whenever we let him act, whenever we turn to him. It was wonderful that you celebrated your own “feast of forgiveness” with your children, and renewed your marriage promises at the celebration of Mass. It made me think of the feast that, in Jesus’ parable, the father organized for his prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:20-24). Only this time, the ones who went astray were the parents, not the child! “Prodigal parents”. Yet this too is wonderful and can be a great witness for children. Young people, as they emerge from infancy, begin to realize that their parents are not “superheroes”; they are not all-powerful, much less perfect. In you, your children saw something much more important: they saw the humility to beg forgiveness and the God-given strength to pick yourselves up after the fall. This is something that children really need! For they too will make mistakes in life and realize that they too are not perfect, but they will also remember that the Lord raises us up, that all of us are forgiven sinners, that we have to beg forgiveness from others but also be able to forgive ourselves. The lesson that they learned from you will remain in their hearts forever. It was good for us too, to hear this. Thank you for your witness of forgiveness!

4. “A step forward” towards welcome. Thank you, Iryna and Sofia, for your witness. You gave a voice to all those persons whose lives have been devastated by the war in Ukraine. In you, we see the faces and the stories of so many men and women forced to leave their homeland. We thank you, for you have not lost your trust in providence and you have seen how God is at work in your lives, not least through the flesh and blood people he led you to encounter: host families, the doctors who helped you, and other kind-hearted men and women. The war brought you face to face with cynicism and human brutality, yet you also encountered people of great humanity. People at their worst and people at their best! It is important for all of us not to keep dwelling on the worst, but to maximize the best, the great goodness of which every man and woman is capable, and from there to start over again.

I thank you also, Pietro and Erika, for telling your own story, and for the generosity with which you welcomed Iryna and Sofia into your already large family. You shared with us that you did so out of gratitude to God and with a spirit of faith, as a call from the Lord. Erika told us that welcoming them was a “blessing from heaven”. Indeed, welcoming is a genuine “charism” of families, and especially of large families! We may think that, in a large home, it is harder to welcome other people; yet that is not the case, for families with numerous children are “trained” to make room for others. They always have room for others.

In the end, this is what family is all about. In the family, we experience what it is to be welcomed. Husbands and wives are the first to “welcome” and accept one another, as they said they would do on the day of their marriage: “I take you…” Later, as they bring a child into the world, they welcome that new life. Whereas in cold and anonymous situations, the weak are often rejected, in families it is natural to welcome them: to accept a child with a disability, an elderly person in need of care, a family member in difficulty who has no one else… This gives hope. Families are places of welcome, and woe if they were to disappear! Society would become cold and unbearable without welcoming families. Welcome and generous families give “warmth” to society.

5. “A step forward” towards fraternity. I thank you, Zakia, for having shared your story with us. It is amazing and consoling that what you and Luca built together remains alive. Your story was born and built on the sharing of very high ideals that you described when you said: “We based our family on authentic love, with respect, solidarity and dialogue between our cultures”. Nothing of that was lost, not even after the tragedy of Luca’s death. Not only do the example and the spiritual legacy of Luca continue to live on and to speak to the consciences of many people, but also the organization that Zakia founded in some way carries on his mission. Indeed, we can say that Luca’s diplomatic mission has now become “a mission of peace” on the part of your entire family. In your story, we see clearly how what is human and what is religious can become intertwined and bring forth precious fruit. In Zakia and Luca, we find the beauty of human love, passion for life, altruism and fidelity to one’s own beliefs and religious tradition, as a source of inspiration and interior strength.

Your family expresses the ideal of fraternity. In addition to being husband and wife, you lived as brother and sister in your humanity, in your differing religious experiences, and in your commitment to society. This too is a lesson that is learned in the family. Living in the family together with others different from ourselves, we learn to be brothers and sisters. We learn to overcome divisions, prejudices and narrow-mindedness, and to build together something grand, something beautiful, on the basis of what we have in common. Lived examples of fraternity, like that of Luca and Zakia, give us hope; they help us to look with greater confidence at our world, so torn by division and hostility. Thank you for this example of fraternity!

I don’t not want to move on from Luca and you without mentioning your mother. She is here, and she has always been at your side. This is the goodness that mothers-in-law bring to families, good mothers-in-law and good mothers! I thank her for coming with you today.

Dear friends, each of your families has a mission to carry out in our world, a testimony to give. We the baptized are especially called to be “a message that the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 21). For this reason, I would like you to ask yourselves this question: What is the word that the Lord wants to speak through our life to all those whom we meet? What “step forward” is he asking of our family, my family, today? Everyone should ask this. Stop and listen. Let yourselves be changed by him, so that you too can change the world and make it “home” for all those who need to feel welcomed and accepted, for all those who need to encounter Christ and to know that they are loved. We need to live with our eyes raised to heaven: as Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi used to say to their children, confronting the efforts and joys of life, “always looking from the roof upwards”.

I thank you for coming here. I thank you for the efforts you make in raising your families. Keep moving forward, with courage and with joy. And please, don’t forget to pray for me.

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Cardinal Farrell: St. John the Baptist is a ‘witness to the sacredness of life’

Cardinal Kevin Farrell celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Meeting of Families 2022 / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 02:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Kevin Farrell said on Thursday that Saint John the Baptist is a witness to the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.

The Irish-American cardinal celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 23.

The Mass in English was part of the World Meeting of Families 2022, taking place in Rome from June 22-26 with families from around the world. Families are also encouraged to participate in the event from home via livestream.

Even before Saint John the Baptist was born, “at the moment of Mary’s greeting, [he] recognized the Lord Jesus and leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb,” Farrell said.

“A call from God reached him while he was still in the womb,” he noted. “It invested him with the great task of preparing the hearts of humankind to receive the Savior of the world.”

The cardinal, who leads the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which organized the World Meeting of Families, said Saint John’s reaction to encountering the unborn Jesus points to an important aspect of family life.

“All of this helps us to understand another key dimension of the family vocation,” he said, “to be guardians of the sacredness of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death.”

Saint John the Baptist’s birth is ordinarily celebrated on June 24, but is moved to June 23 when it coincides with the Feast of Corpus Christi or the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as happened this year.

In his homily, Cardinal Farrell, who is camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, reflected on the liturgy’s first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah.

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name,” Farrell said, quoting Isaiah 49:1.

“The life of each child must be protected and defended precisely because God has great plans for that child's goodness and holiness right from the beginning,” he said.

“God’s call has reached your children too,” he continued, “right from the beginning, so that all of them may be saints of tomorrow and will make our world a brighter place for all.”

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