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Posted on 09/18/2023 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).
Prospective college students in Florida who want an alternative to the long-used SAT exams can now submit to a test that offers what its publishers call “foundational critical thinking skills” from a battery of classical subjects.
The State University System of Florida announced earlier this month that it had “voted to accept the Classic Learning Test (CLT) as a path to admission” in the schools that comprise its system.
“The system is pleased to add the CLT to reach a wider variety of students from different educational backgrounds,” the announcement said. “Not intimidated by controversy or critics, our focus is on the success of our students and the State of Florida.”
The CLT was launched in 2015 by Classic Learning Initiatives. The organization says on the test’s website that its exams “evaluate reading, grammar, and mathematics and provide a comprehensive measure of achievement and aptitude.”
The tests “emphasize foundational critical thinking skills and are accessible to students from a variety of educational backgrounds,” offering students what it calls “a more edifying testing experience” that “reflect a holistic education.”
Jeremy Tate, the founder of the test, told CNA in a phone interview that prior to launching the new testing initiative he worked extensively with standardized testing materials, including the SAT, which is published by the nonprofit College Board.
“My background was running an SAT/ACT prep company and working at a Catholic school,” said Tate, who is Catholic himself. “I really saw the influence of the College Board on this school in not-good ways, in some pretty negative ways.”
“Most of what we did at the school for marketing — to get new students — almost all of it was connected to the College Board,” he said. “We were marketing on average SAT scores, AP (Advanced Placement) scores, on and on.”
The pervasive influence of standardized course material had a profound effect on student choices, Tate said. “So much so that when the Dominican sisters introduced an introductory course to philosophy, so many kids did not want to take it,” he said.
“The No. 1 explanation why: ‘Because it’s not any AP points.’”
The ‘A-ha!’ moment
Tate described that experience as revelatory. “It was this kind of ‘A-ha!’ moment,” he said. “Catholic kids in a Catholic school aren’t going to take philosophy because of the power and influence of the College Board?”
That dispiriting realization spurred Tate to found the CLT. The company offers a variety of testing levels for students incorporating a wide variety of subjects. Tests for third through sixth graders review “classic children’s literature, fables, poetry, historical nonfiction,” while the higher tests for middle schoolers through upper-level high schoolers focus on “verbal reasoning, grammar and writing, and quantitative reasoning.”
Tate said that, far from merely measuring what students have learned, tests can play a major role in forming what students do learn.
“We typically think of the SAT/PSAT as evaluative tools,” he said. “We argue that that’s true, but they’re also pedagogical tools. They teach.”
“If every kid knew that on the SAT or PSAT that they were going to see Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas, it would have a dramatic effect on the attention those thinkers get in the classroom as well,” he said. “Testing inevitably drives curriculum. What gets tested inevitably gets taught.”
A practice test on the initiative’s website includes material from Plato, Cicero, Thomas Jefferson, the German-Dutch Catholic priest Thomas à Kempis, and onetime U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, among other thinkers and writers.
After developing the test, the initiative distributed it at select schools in order to start quantifying the material.
“You can’t have an actual standardized test until you have a ton of data,” Tate said. “We had an initial blueprint of the test and we went to colleges that we thought were missionally aligned and sympathetic. We submitted it to them to add as an additional option.”
Tate was unclear as to the exact details of the test’s acceptance by the Florida university system. “What I’ve been told is that it came directly from Ron DeSantis himself,” he said. “They wanted this to happen.”
For the test’s future, Tate said his team is five years into a 25-year goal “to be more important than the SAT/ACT.”
“We believe we have better material and better technology,” he said. “I really think this is kind of the beginning of getting there.”
Posted on 09/18/2023 18:55 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:55 pm (CNA).
For the first time in the history of the German March for Life, pro-life advocates in Germany simultaneously took to the streets of both Cologne and Berlin this past Saturday.
The dual marches, organized by the German pro-life group Bundesverband Lebensrecht, drew thousands and were met with both enthusiasm and confrontation as counterdemonstrators attempted to disrupt the events in one city.
In Cologne, the march on Sept. 16 drew more than 2,800 participants but faced significant disruptions from feminist and Antifa groups, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.
In neighboring Switzerland, approximately 1,000 pro-life activists also took part in the March for Life in Zurich on Saturday. Swiss police were on site with a large contingent to protect the peaceful event against left-wing counterdemonstrators, Tagesanzeiger reported.
In Cologne, counterdemonstrators temporarily halted the march, leading to a two-hour standstill. Eventually, the organizers withdrew, escorted by police to the final rally point. The situation escalated when counterprotesters began dismantling pro-life event stands, with one incident resulting in an advocate being assaulted.
Meanwhile, the Berlin march proceeded with fewer interruptions, attracting nearly 4,000 participants. Both events were linked via a live feed, amplifying their collective impact.
Catholic television station EWTN Germany provided streaming coverage of the dual marches, which were attended and supported by prominent German bishops.
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg was among those present in Berlin, signaling the Church’s commitment to the cause.
Earlier in the week, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and participants for their “persistent commitment” to protecting life. Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg echoed these sentiments, stating: “The gift of life is the highest good; we are convinced of that as Christians.”
Paul Cullen, chairman of the Doctors for Life association and a board member of Bundesverband Lebensrecht, criticized the counterdemonstrators for their “intolerance and narrow-mindedness towards the weakest.” He emphasized the need to “resist and defend medical freedom of conscience.”
Susanne Wenzel, the national chair of Christian Democrats for Life, warned of deteriorating legal conditions and urged attendees to engage with politicians. Sandra Sinder of Aktion Lebensrecht für Alle spoke about the emotional and financial insecurities that often lead women to consider abortion.
The events also featured international pro-life activists from the Netherlands and Canada. Alex Schadenberg, founder and director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, highlighted that people usually opt for assisted suicide or euthanasia due to social isolation, poverty, and hopelessness rather than physical pain.
Despite the disruptions by radicals in Cologne, the twin marches marked a significant moment for the pro-life movement in Germany, demonstrating resilience and unity in the face of opposition.
As the German Doctors for Life chairman Cullen said: “In Cologne, we want to send a signal for the fundamental human right to life, which precedes all other human rights and is therefore the most important of all.”
Posted on 09/18/2023 18:23 PM (CNA Daily News)
Jerusalem, Sep 18, 2023 / 14:23 pm (CNA).
A new chapter has begun in the history of the Catholic Church in Syria. For the first time, one of its own sons has become bishop of the Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, in a country where “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).
On Sunday, Sept. 17, Father Hanna Jallouf, OFM, was ordained a bishop and took on the role of apostolic vicar of Aleppo for the Latins. The apostolic vicar performs the same functions as a diocesan bishop but governs in a territory that, for specific reasons, has not yet been established as a diocese.
“I was not expecting this appointment,” the new bishop told CNA. “I was totally absorbed by all the commitments and difficulties we were facing after the earthquake. But the Lord decided to call me for another mission. I was hesitant to accept; it was hard for me to leave my people. I prayed, and I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘This people is my people, this flock is my flock, it is not yours. And I want you for another mission.’ So, after praying, I accepted my appointment.”
Jallouf was born 71 years ago in Knayeh, a Christian village in the northwest part of Syria, in the province of Idlib, the last stronghold of anti-government Islamist rebels who have controlled the area since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. This land, already scarred by conflict, was one of the areas hardest hit by the violent earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey in February. It was here that Jallouf’s vocation was born.
“In Syria, almost all the parishes are entrusted to the Franciscans. I grew up with them,” Jallouf told CNA. “In the third grade, I met Father Ibrahim Younes. I went with him to visit the sick, and I saw with how much love, courage, and tenderness he attended to their needs. So I said to myself: Why don’t I become a Franciscan as well?”
Jallouf joined the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, holding various positions before returning to Knayeh in 2001 as a parish priest. Since then, he has stayed put, becoming a point of reference for his people — not only for their immediate problems but also for keeping alive a faith and hope that war has sorely put to the test. He witnessed the outbreak of the conflict and the arrival of various groups of anti-government militants.
“At the beginning, it was a very bloody uprising. Many Christians were killed,” he said. “But our testimony as Christians changed everything. The Lord said, ‘Love your enemies.’ When the rebels saw that we didn‘t confront them with weapons, that we loved them despite everything they had done, then their behavior changed. In 2014, I was kidnapped and imprisoned. Today, they send a delegation to congratulate me on my appointment.”
The holy Mass for Jallouf’s episcopal ordination was celebrated at the Latin Church of San Francesco in Aleppo and was presided over by Cardinal-elect Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Vatican‘s Dicastery for the Eastern Churches. Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, as well as the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who will be made a cardinal in the upcoming consistory, concelebrated the Mass, both laying their hands on the new bishop for his consecration. Jallouf has a special relationship with Pizzaballa, who was his direct superior during his long tenure as custodian of the Holy Land (2004–2016).
The current custos of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, and the vicar, Father Ibrahim Faltas, as well as Bishop César Essayan, the apostolic vicar of Beirut, Lebanon, were also at the Mass.
“Dear Father Hanna,” Gugerotti said in his homily, “it is for these people, for these concrete faces, that you are ordained a bishop today. You have shown yourself to be a good shepherd. You have not left your flock alone, even when it meant to put your life in danger. God has made you a symbol for the entire Syrian people. It is really possible to spend our lives for the men and women whom the Lord places beside us.”
Jallouf was ordained on an important day for the Franciscans — the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. On Sept. 17, 1224, while praying on Mount La Verna in Italy, St. Francis saw a seraphim and received the same wounds as Jesus crucified in his body. “I chose this date for my ordination because it is the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis,” Jallouf told CNA. “I pray that the blood of Christ heals war-torn Syria, giving it a holy and just peace and salvation.”
The new bishop’s words convey his love for his land, a love he wanted to express in the motto and coat of arms he chose, as every bishop does. These two elements of heraldic tradition identify the spirit with which the bishop undertakes his mission and visually recall the origins and territory from which he comes.
“As my motto, I chose ‘Sicut qui ministrat’: ‘As one who serves’ (Lk 22:27). These are the words the Lord spoke to his disciples during the Last Supper.” The coat of arms is surmounted by the cross “because the cross is our glory.”
The shield is divided into four fields. In the upper part, there are symbols indicating Jallouf’s belonging to the Franciscan order and the Custody of the Holy Land. In the lower part are references to his homeland: on the right, a map of Syria in red, the color of blood, with a dove in the center, a symbol of peace; on the left, an olive tree, a symbol of the province of Idlib. In the center, at the intersection of the four fields, is the emblem of Mary (the M in a blue field) “to place everything under her protection.”
“Perhaps the Lord chose me because I am one of the few respected by both sides still fighting in Syria today: on one side, the official government, on the other, the rebels,” he said. “Perhaps I can help with the process of reconciliation. But it is not just my personal mission; it is also my mission as a Franciscan.” He recalled the meeting between St. Francis and Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt, more than 800 years ago. “Since then, the Franciscans have safeguarded both the holy places and the people who visit them and those who live there. This is the first challenge: to give courage to our ‘children.’”
The second challenge, he said, is to refocus on priestly and religious vocations after years of living each day “in emergency mode.”
“I want our religious and priests not to forget that their responsibility is not just social but above all spiritual,” he said. “The first thing I will do is visit all the parishes and congregations working in the area, to learn about their needs and see how we can move forward.”
Work and prayer are two dimensions that Jallouf draws from Franciscan spirituality. “St. Francis always had in mind the unity between the dimension of work and that of prayer. These are two things that must go hand in hand. This is the way to save Syria and bear witness to our faith in the world,” Jallouf told CNA.
The war has radically transformed the face of the Church in Syria. Before 2011, “Christians made up almost 17% of the Syrian population. Today, perhaps, they constitute only 3%-4%.” It is a wounded Church, but still alive, with no shortage of surprises.
“Always, in the mud, there is a little gold,” the new bishop said. “Even in war, the Lord sends vocations. From Knayeh alone, there are five young people preparing for the priesthood in the Franciscan community. We thank the Lord that in the midst of war, with all its evil, he has brought forth vocations.”
These new vocations are small seeds of hope for Syria. They’re also an answer to a prayer that Jallouf loves and prayed in the weeks before his ordination: “O Lord of mercy, who are with us in our tribulations, we pray to you to save us.”
Posted on 09/18/2023 17:45 PM (CNA Daily News)
St. Louis, Mo., Sep 18, 2023 / 13:45 pm (CNA).
The meeting, during which Soltanovsky presented his credential letters to the pontiff, comes days after papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi visited Beijing to discuss efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.
The “atmosphere of the meeting was friendly” and the two men “discussed, in particular, the mission of the papal special envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at solving a number of humanitarian issues,” Soltanovsky told Russia’s official Tass News Agency.
“We agreed to continue an honest and open dialogue with the Holy See, traditionally based on mutual respect,” Soltanovsky told Tass.
While serving as Pope Francis’ peace envoy, Zuppi has made several diplomatic visits across the world to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine, including stops in Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. Zuppi has strong ties to Sant’Egidio, a Catholic lay association that has been involved in peace negotiations in many countries. Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal, however, the Vatican has said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sept. 15 that “the Vatican envoy [Zuppi] is going to come again” and Moscow will “welcome him.” The Vatican has not yet confirmed Zuppi’s trip.
Pope Francis met with outgoing Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev when the pontiff paid an unusual visit to the Russian embassy on Feb. 25, 2022, the day after Russia’s full-scale invasion began. The Vatican said the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war.”
Later, in September 2022, Pope Francis said he was involved in a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which involved calling Avdeyev “to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be speeded up.”
Pope Francis has condemned the war and called for peace in Ukraine on numerous occasions, but has also occasionally received criticism from Ukrainians for the way he has expressed himself. Most recently, in August, the Vatican clarified that the pope did not intend to exalt Russian imperialism while speaking off the cuff during a live video conference with Russian youth on Aug. 25.
In the speech, Francis referenced “Mother Russia” and praised “the Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that great enlightened empire.” President Vladimir Putin had previously compared himself to the 18th-century czar Peter the Great in justifying the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church responded with alarm, saying: “We hope that these words of the Holy Father were spoken spontaneously, without any attempt at historical evaluations, let alone support of Russia’s imperialist ambitions.”
The Vatican nunciature in Kyiv clarified that the words of the Roman pontiff are to be understood in the context of Pope Francis being “a staunch opponent and critic of any form of imperialism or colonialism across all peoples and situations.”
Russia and the Holy See restored full diplomatic relations in 2010 after maintaining limited diplomatic relations since 1990.
Posted on 09/18/2023 16:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Sep 18, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).
After former ESPN “SportsCenter” co-host Sage Steele settled a lawsuit with the network over comments she made regarding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, she announced her departure in August after 16 years at the network.
“Having successfully settled my case with ESPN/Disney, I have decided to leave so I can exercise my First Amendment rights more freely,” the former sports anchor wrote on her X account.
Steele sued the network and its parent company in 2022 for violating her free speech rights after she was taken off the air and several high-profile assignments for criticizing ESPN’s and Disney’s vaccine mandate, the Associated Press reported.
Although Steele complied with the mandate in order to keep her job, according to her lawsuit, she told former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler on his podcast that “while she ‘respect[ed] everyone’s decision’ to get vaccinated, she believed that a corporate mandate was ‘sick’ and ‘scary to me in many ways.’ She also indicated that she ‘didn’t want to’ get the vaccine but still complied in order to keep her job and support her family.”
Following these and other comments on Cutler’s September 2021 podcast, Steele was suspended from ESPN in October 2021 and forced to apologize for her remarks.
Steele recently opened up about the ordeal and about how her Catholic faith got her through it on “EWTN News Nightly,” hosted by Tracy Sabol.
“I’ve said this a lot recently — I wouldn’t be standing today without my faith, which has become stronger than ever before,” Steele, 50, began.
“This was a huge low point in my life when all of this happened,” she continued. “[The] last couple years I had just gotten divorced after marrying my college sweetheart — only boyfriend I ever had, married for 20 years, together for 27 years. … COVID hit like a couple months right after that was final.”
To add to the problems, many things were shut down due to the pandemic, and it was a difficult time for Steele and her three children.
“It was brutal,” Steele recalled. “And then I happened to speak up [about the vaccine mandate] and got crushed for it. [I] thought my career was over.”
To top it off, despite having received the vaccine, the single mother came down with severe COVID. “I was in trouble health-wise with it,” she told Sabol. “At that moment, I just prayed.”
One night during the illness her heart was racing so fast it woke her up. She was all alone — her kids were at their father’s house so they wouldn’t get sick. Her parents couldn’t help because her father was undergoing cancer treatments. She tried to get ready to drive herself to the hospital but fell over. She realized if she fell again and hit her head, no one would find her.
“That was such a scary moment,” she said. “I just got back in bed and prayed and prayed that I would wake up the next morning.”
She did wake up, but she was still alone, and it took her more than a week to finally start feeling better.
“All I had was God,” she recalled. “Fortunately, I knew that he had brought me through so much … what am I going to do, not trust him now? So I literally felt him pull me up and say, ‘You got this, girl.’”
When she was finally well enough to return to work, her father — a former football player — mother, and best friend were there with her.
“Right as I walk out the door to go to work for the first time after the apology and being suspended and embarrassed and vilified, my dad said, ‘We’re gonna say the St. Michael the Archangel [prayer] … you know, having God protect us from the wickedness and snares of the devil and rebuke them we humbly pray… that moment changed me and changed our family,” she said.
Now that Steele has left ESPN, Sabol asked what the future might hold for the broadcaster.
“I don’t know, but I’m having some really fun conversations right now with all kinds of different people that work in the industry in different ways,” she said. “I would love to interview some Hollywood celebrities, a lot of people who have been canceled and it’s like, ‘Oh wait we’re still here.’”
Steele said she hoped to announce more of her plans in the coming weeks.
“I’ve been so flattered by so many people reaching out, but it’s a blessing to be able to finally be me,” she said.
Watch the full “EWTN News Nightly” interview with Steele below. Watch part one of her interview with Sabol here.
Posted on 09/18/2023 15:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 18, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).
The press and communications office of the Archdiocese of Piura in northern Peru called for “respect for sacred places” after an unidentified individual stole donations from a poor box in the local cathedral.
“Last weekend this absolutely reprehensible act occurred. As an archdiocese we strongly condemn these types of acts, which demonstrate an absolute lack of respect for sacred places,” said a statement from the archdiocese sent to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.
The theft took place Sept. 9 at about 3:20 p.m. Security cameras installed inside the church captured the presence of a man who entered the church like any other parishioner, apparently to pray.
However, once inside, the criminal used tools to break into the collection box and then grabbed all the money and put it in his backpack before stealthily leaving the church.
The archdiocesan press office stressed that “the alms that the faithful deposit in this type of box are intended for charitable works of the cathedral, such as helping Venezuelan migrants, people who are hungry, or for those who need urgent medical attention.”
“This theft not only constitutes a serious offense to God, for having been carried out within a sacred place, but also constitutes an absolute lack of charity towards the most needy, who are ultimately the direct beneficiaries,” the archdiocese pointed out.
According to information obtained, this would not be the first incident in which someone posing as a parishioner entered the church for criminal purposes.
The authorities are investigating the incident and working to identify and capture the criminal. In the meantime, the religious community hopes that justice will be served and measures will be taken to prevent future acts of vandalism.
“We as an archdiocese urge that sacred places be respected, we request more charity for the poor, and we ask that the cathedral be notified if someone manages to recognize the individual in question,” the statement said.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 09/17/2023 17:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Sep 17, 2023 / 13:15 pm (CNA).
The Synod on Synodality is set to launch the first of two assemblies on Oct. 4.
The global meetings in Rome are the culmination of two years of preparation, and during that time, much has been said about synodality, including by the pope.
In some of his more recent comments on synodality, Pope Francis said, “speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public,” but it is “something truly important for the Church.”
“Precisely at this time, when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening, the Church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word together,” he said to media representatives on Aug. 26.
“Walk together. Question together. Take responsibility together for community discernment, which for us is prayer, as the first Apostles did: This is synodality, which we would like to make a daily habit in all its expressions,” he added.
Here are some of the other things Pope Francis has said about synodality during his papacy:
Oct. 17, 2015: Address marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Synod of Bishops
“The world in which we live, and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, demands that the Church strengthen cooperation in all areas of her mission. It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.
“Synodality, as a constitutive element of the Church, offers us the most appropriate interpretive framework for understanding the hierarchical ministry itself. If we understand, as St. John Chrysostom says, that ‘Church and Synod are synonymous,’ inasmuch as the Church is nothing other than the ‘journeying together’ of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord, then we understand too that, within the Church, no one can be ‘raised up’ higher than others. On the contrary, in the Church, it is necessary that each person ‘lower’ himself or herself, so as to serve our brothers and sisters along the way.
“In a synodal Church, the Synod of Bishops is only the most evident manifestation of a dynamism of communion which inspires all ecclesial decisions.”
Nov. 29, 2019: Address to the International Theological Commission
“In the last five years you have produced two relevant texts. The first offers a theological clarification on synodality in the life and mission of the Church.
“You have shown how the practice of synodality, traditional but always to be renewed, is the implementation, in the history of the People of God on their journey, of the Church as a mystery of communion, in the image of Trinitarian communion. As you know, this theme is very close to my heart ...
“And for this I thank you for your document, because today one thinks that synodality is taking each other by the hand and setting out on a journey, celebrating with the young, or carrying out an opinion poll: ‘What do you think about the priesthood for women?’ That is mostly what is done, isn’t it? Synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul, which is the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit there is no synodality.”
Sept. 18, 2021: Address to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome
“Synodality is not a chapter in an ecclesiology textbook, much less a fad or a slogan to be bandied about in our meetings. Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style, and mission. We can talk about the Church as being ‘synodal,’ without reducing that word to yet another description or definition of the Church. I say this not as a theological opinion or even my own thinking, but based on what can be considered the first and most important ‘manual’ of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.”
Oct. 9, 2021: Address for the opening of the Synod on Synodality
“The synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.
“The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside. If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means, and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.
“A second risk is intellectualism. Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction. This would turn the synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.
“Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression — ‘We have always done it that way’ — is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.”
Sept. 4, 2023: Aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from Mongolia
“There is no place for ideology in the synod. It’s another dynamic. The synod is dialogue between baptized people in the name of the Church, on the life of the Church, on dialogue with the world, on the problems that affect humanity today. But when you think along an ideological path, the synod ends.
“There is one thing we must safeguard: the synodal climate. This is not a TV program where everything is talked about. There is a religious moment, there is a moment of religious exchange. Consider that in the synod sessions they speak for 3-4 minutes each, three [people], and then there are 3-4 minutes of silence for prayer ... Without this spirit of prayer there is no synodality, there is politics, there is parliamentarianism.
“In the synod, religiosity must be safeguarded and the integrity of the people who speak must be safeguarded.”
Posted on 09/17/2023 11:41 AM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Sep 17, 2023 / 07:41 am (CNA).
Think of someone who has hurt you and ask God for the strength to forgive that person, Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.
Speaking from a window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Sept. 17, the pope underlined that forgiveness can heal “the poisons of resentment” and “restore peace to our hearts.”
In his Angelus message, the pope said that forgiving is “not a good deed that we can choose to do or not do” but “a fundamental condition for those who are Christians.”
“Every one of us, in fact, is ‘forgiven,’” he said. “God gave his life for us and in no way can we compensate for his mercy, which he never withdraws from his heart. However, by corresponding to his gratuitousness, that is, by forgiving one another, we can bear witness to him, sowing new life around us.”
“For outside of forgiveness, there is no hope; outside of forgiveness there is no peace.”
The pope compared forgiveness to “oxygen that purifies the air polluted by hatred” and heals the “many diseases of the heart that contaminate society.”
He reflected on Jesus’ response to Peter, who had asked: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
“Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Mt 18:21-22).’”
Pope Francis added: “Jesus’ message is clear: God forgives incalculably, exceeding all measure. This is how he is; he acts out of love, and gratuitously. … We cannot repay him but, when we forgive a brother or a sister, we imitate him.”
“May Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to receive the grace of God and to forgive each other,” he said.
After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd, Pope Francis noted that he will travel to Marseille, France, on Friday to attend a meeting of bishops from the Mediterranean region that will have a special focus on the issue of migration.
He said that migration is a “challenge” that must be faced together, adding that the future will only be prosperous if “it is built on fraternity, putting human dignity first … especially for those most in need.”
Pope Francis said that Marseille is called to be “a port of hope” and asked people to pray for his upcoming journey to the French city Sept. 22–23.
Posted on 09/17/2023 11:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Jerusalem, Sep 17, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).
Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the holiest places in the world for Christians and an important pilgrimage site since the fourth century, is revealing more of its secrets. Ongoing archaeological investigations related to the restoration of the basilica’s floor are at a turning point, with many surprises coming to light.
The latest — and one of the most significant — findings emerged during the investigations conducted during the second half of June in the area in front of the edicule — the small shrine/temple that encloses the tomb of Jesus located in the center of the rotunda, under the big dome of the basilica.
The excavations have exposed the marble steps leading to the edicule and a coin deposit, which were most recently minted during the reign of Emperor Valens (364–378). This allows archeologists to accurately date the early Christian edicule to that period.
Located in the northwest quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Constantine the Great built the first church there, dedicated in about 336 A.D. His mother, St. Helena, was believed to have found a relic of the cross of Christ’s crucifixion on the site. Almost 300 years later, the Persians burned the church down, after which it was restored, destroyed again, and restored once more. The Crusaders in the 12th century undertook a rebuild of the site, which included a chapel in St. Helena’s honor. Since that time, frequent restorations and repairs have taken place.
Other discoveries that emerged during the first year of work involve the remains of the early Christian liturgical basilica — a construction site of the Constantinian age — and the foundations of the northern perimeter wall of the complex and the water drainage system in the northwestern area of the rotunda, next to the edicule.
Archeologists also discovered that the quarry in the southern part of the rotunda, an area outside the city walls, was used as a cave. The cave was dismantled in the first century B.C. and transformed into an agricultural and burial area.
“We are gaining an in-depth understanding of the entire stratigraphic sequence [the order and position of layers of archeological remains]: from the use of the quarry in pre-Constantinian times to the restoration work during the British Mandate [for Palestine],” Francesca Romana Stasolla, the leader of the team from the Department of Ancient Sciences at the University of Rome Sapienza responsible for the archaeological research, told CNA in an interview. Stasolla said her team can now trace “the entire material history of the religious complex.”
The recent plan to restore the Holy Sepulcher’s floor, along with concurrent archaeological, structural, and waterworks investigations, was determined by the three Christian churches responsible for the basilica: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic (Custody of the Holy Land), and the Armenian Apostolic churches. Operations are coordinated by the Common Technical Bureau, an office of experts representing the three communities.
The University of Rome Sapienza is responsible for the excavations. In addition to archaeologists from the Department of Ancient Sciences, the team also includes engineers, historians, philologists, geologists, paleobotanists, and archaeobotanists from the same university. The interdisciplinary team addresses, analyses, and interprets everything that emerges during the excavations.
Specialists from the Venaria Reale Conservation and Restoration Center are handling the restoration of the floor. Two engineering companies from Italy — Manens, based in Padua, and IG Ingegneria Geotecnica, based in Turin — are also involved in the project overseeing infrastructure and utilities such as the electrical and water systems.
A new chapter
The recent work officially began on March 14, 2022, with the removal of the first paving stone; preparatory phases were initiated as early as 2019 but were slowed down by the pandemic.
What has been uncovered so far will make it possible to write — and rewrite — some pages of the basilica’s history. For instance, before it was a church property, the land was used as a quarry and for farming.
“We have identified the presence of at least two definite species — olive and grapevine. This confirms what it says in some passages of the Gospels,” Stasolla told CNA.
“The various discoveries emerging as the work progresses will enable us to describe architecturally something that was not known before. They will also help us understand the intermediate periods — such as between the early Christian and medieval phases, and between the medieval and modern phases, about which we know very little,” said Stasolla, who explained that this is due to a lack of sources (especially during periods of reduced pilgrimages) or when accounts are less descriptive.
The edicule continues to amaze
From June 19–27, the area in front of the edicule and the edicule itself (the structure raised over the place of Christ’s tomb) was closed to allow the removal of the floor and archaeological investigations.
Seven days and nights of uninterrupted work revealed the funerary area in the same area of the edicule and, in particular, the first “monumentalization” of the edicule in the early Christian period. (“Monumentalizing” is a term used to describe commemorating or immortalizing something with a monument.)
In fact, according to Stasolla, what the team of archaeologists discovered was a “double monumentalization,” which they didn’t expect because it occurred at a very close temporal distance.
“We were able to document an initial phase of monumentalization from the beginning of the fourth century and a second phase from the end of the fourth century,” Stasolla said, which she explained was confirmed by the discovery of a coin deposit, with the last emissions being those of Emperor Valens.
“In the first phase, there were three marble steps leading to the venerated tomb, which we found. In the second phase, there were only two steps because the floor was partially raised,” she added.
These discoveries align with the oldest iconography from the fifth century and the description by the famous pilgrim Egeria, whose diary is one of the most important early sources on early Christianity. Egeria is believed to have arrived in Jerusalem a few years after the conclusion of the second phase of monumentalization, sometime between 381 and 384 A.D.
A statement from the Custody of the Holy Land said the restoration of the floor inside the edicule revealed “part of the bottom of a burial chamber similar to those found in the northern portion of the rotunda, filled in and arranged to encourage pilgrims to visit since the early Christian period.”
“In the edicule,” Stasolla specified, “the medieval floor covers a burial chamber. The monumentalization, already from the early Christian period, serves to monumentalize a tomb.”
In the antechamber, called the Chapel of the Angel, traces of the initial arrangement of the monument for liturgical purposes and remains of the sixth-century arrangement of the edicule were found, including inscriptions by pilgrims in Latin, Greek, and Armenian (18th century).
According to Stasolla, outside there was a large polished floor made from local stone and other materials, traces of which were found in the preparation mortar.
During the first year of work, some interesting archaeological elements were discovered and reported in periodic updates signed by Stasolla and distributed by the Custody of the Holy Land. For instance, a recent update on July 7 focused on information related to excavation work in the area in front of the edicule of the Holy Sepulcher.
Strasolla highlighted other interesting discoveries. In the northern area of the ambulatory, remains of the early Christian liturgical basilica were found, already known from historical sources, which contributed to completing the plan of the early Christian complex.
A small portion of the apse had already been discovered under the Greeks’ Catholicon (the name given to cathedrals and monastery churches by the Greek-Orthodox), and in the chapel of St. Vartan.
“In the coming months, we will continue archaeological investigations in that area to complete the excavation of the apse,” Stazolla said.
Additionally, in the northern nave of the basilica, the excavations revealed the construction site of the Constantinian age, and the foundations of the northern perimeter wall of the complex commissioned by the first Christian emperor.
According to a Custody of the Holy Land press release, in the northwestern area of the Rotunda, next to the edicule, “a tunnel has been intercepted, partly already highlighted in previous investigations, which descends vertically next to the edicule for a depth of 2.80 meters [9.18 feet] and then continues horizontally to the north.” This is an important element in the study of architectural aspects of the basilica, especially in relation to excavation stratigraphy and its connection to the entire water drainage system.
The excavation continues to proceed in a way that allows for the regular conduct of liturgical ceremonies and the flow of pilgrims.
“We have managed to close the northern half of the north nave, complete the entire rotunda, and half of the ambulatory,” Stasolla told CNA. “In these weeks, we are finishing the southeast area of the rotunda. We are adhering to the project timeline and expect to deliver the work on schedule.”
They hope to finish the work by the end of 2024.
The excavation work is conducted continuously, day and night, and the processing of the materials uncovered is conducted in real time between Jerusalem and Rome. All the data processed during the excavation are entered into a database specifically created for the project and linked to various historical and archival sources.
Posted on 09/17/2023 08:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
Paris, France, Sep 17, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Twenty years ago, Claude and Marie-France Delpech launched a family business in France called “Les Jardins de Sainte-Hildegarde,” selling products inspired by the life of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179), an abbess and mystic proclaimed a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 7, 2012.
Since then, the Delpechs’ mission has grown steadily, contributing to the rediscovery of the 12th-century German nun, celebrated in the Church calendar on Sept. 17, and her health remedies — as well as her little-known or understood spirituality.
The Delpechs, who are in their 70s and have three daughters and 11 grandchildren, became acquainted with St. Hildegard during Christmas 1994, when their eldest daughter gave them a cookbook called “Les recettes de la joie” (“Recipes for joy”). Originally from the Périgord region of southwestern France, the Delpechs were lovers of good food, and they tried the recipes out of curiosity.
The beginnings were simple: Marie-France cooked mainly with spelt — the dominant grain in St. Hildegard’s diet — as well as with herbs such as pyrethrum (derived from plants in the aster family) and galanga (the citrusy cousin of ginger), also recommended by the nun. Marie-France obtained her supplies from a small company in the Pyrenees that specializes in products and ingredients Hildegard used.
In 1998, as Claude prepared to retire, the couple was looking for a meaningful activity. During a charismatic prayer service in the Emmanuel community, they asked God for “something useful to do.” Strangely enough, all they got when they opened up the Bible were words about... plants.
“I really couldn’t see what it was all about,” Marie-France said with a laugh as she shared her memories with CNA.
In the autumn of 1998, suffering from asthma, Marie-France went on a health retreat in the Pyrenees and took the opportunity to visit the business that sold products inspired by St. Hildegard. To her astonishment, the manager, who was about to close down the business, asked her to take over.
When she declined the offer because of her asthma, he advised her to try scolopendra wine (wine made from soaking a centipede in it) — in a preparation of St. Hildegard’s that included cinnamon, long pepper, and other spices. In the course of eight days, the asthma had stopped. The Delpechs asked themselves: “What if this is what the Lord wanted to show us?”
The more science progresses, the more we understand St. Hildegard
In December 1999, the couple set about researching the work of St. Hildegard, about whom they knew little. To do so, they traveled to the saint’s abbey in Ebingen, Germany. There they met a community of 60 nuns who were “extremely dynamic and full of ‘joie de vivre,’” they recalled.
“The road was opening up,” the couple said in an email. “We felt we’d discovered a treasure, and we wanted to share it.”
Claude and Marie-France now work with German naturopath Wighard Strehlow, the successor of German physician Gottfried Hertzka (1913–1997) — a Nazi resistance fighter who rediscovered St. Hildegard when he was in a concentration camp. Strehlow has devoted his life to transmitting Hildegard’s medieval remedies “in concrete, accessible terms” for today’s generations.
“The more science progresses, the more we understand what St. Hildegard meant,” the Delpechs said in an email. “One of the latest examples is violet balm. St. Hildegard recommends it against cysts and mastitis, saying that ‘if it’s cancer, it will die when it has tasted it.’ It’s a bold thing to say in the 12th century... but last year, an Australian study demonstrated that the leaves and flowers of violets are powerful anti-cancer agents.”
To date, only 400 of Hildegard’s 2,000 remedies have been tested.
Over the years, the Delpechs have collaborated with a group of French doctors and launched a summer university program. They combine dietary advice with a spiritual component, preached by theologian Father Pierre Dumoulin. At the request of the Catholic community Foyers de Charité, they also began offering a spiritual retreat with a fast based on spelt. The initiative has met with enormous success, with growing demand from people seeking deeper spiritual and physical well-being.
A message of personal unity
Today, the couple’s business, based in Coux and Bigaroque in the Périgord, employs about 15 people. They sell spelt-based products, plants and spices, essential oils, gemstones, flavored wines, cosmetics, and various books.
The community of disabled brothers of Notre Dame d’Espérance participates in the preparation of the elixirs.
Claude and Marie France remain as volunteers in their business, which they see as a mission of evangelization.
“We’re very concerned that the spiritual side should not be neglected, but rather brought to the fore,” they said. For them, St. Hildegard is “a way of getting people to go to retreats they would never otherwise have gone to, because not everyone is interested in the Lord, but everyone is interested in their health.”
During these retreats, people regain their shape and vigor, but something also happens “at the heart level,” they noted. “When you eat less, less fatty, less heavy things, something also happens on the mental level, and there’s a facilitation on the spiritual level, too.”
St. Hildegard’s work, argued the Delpechs, is “a message of personal unification. As the saint wrote: ‘When soul and body function in perfect harmony, they receive the supreme reward of health and joy.’ Joy is essential to Hildegarde.”
The Delpechs said their aim is to restore St. Hildegard to her rightful place within the Catholic Church.
“St. Hildegard was initially known in the New Age [movement], presented as a healer, as the first of the phytotherapists, as a magician, a miracle worker,” the couple said in an email. “But above all, she’s a Catholic saint with a unique charisma. The universe remains a great mystery, and for her, the Lord lifted the curtain. She was able to see the hidden subtleties of creation in the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds. What a gift!”
Benedict XVI proclaimed St. Hildegard of Bingen a doctor of the Church not only for her spiritual work but also for “her holy medicine.”
“For us, St. Hildegard could be the patron saint of integral ecology,” the Delpechs said.