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Pope Francis encourages reconciliation in Colombia at Truth Commission presentation

Pope Francis called on Colombians to “to continue along paths of reconciliation" in his June 28, 2022, message read at the Truth Commission final report in Bogotá. / Polifoto via Shutterstock. Colombia flag. Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis called on Colombia to follow the path of reconciliation in a message read June 28 during the presentation of the final report of the Truth Commission, created in 2016 following the Peace Accord signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Colombia’s civil war. Pope Francis has voiced his support for an end to the violence in the country on several occasions.

The presentation of the report took place at the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Theater in Bogotá and was attended by the president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro; his vice president-elect, Francia Márquez; and Minister of the Interior Daniel Palacios, who represented Colombian President Iván Duque, who excused himself because of an international trip.

Pope Francis’ message was read at the start of the event followed by a video address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The pope encouraged the members of the commission and the national and international authorities who received the report “to continue along paths of reconciliation that help strengthen fraternity, to be artisans of peace, to create processes of re-encounter, and to work together, with boldness, in the search for the good of all.”

“May Jesus bless you and Our Lady of Chiquinquirá accompany you,” the pope said. “And please, I ask you to pray for me.”

The Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition came out of the Havana Peace Accord, signed between the Colombian government and FARC in 2016, in order to determine what took place during 50 years of armed conflict.

The commission has 11 members and is chaired by Jesuit Father Francisco de Roux. It began its work in 2018 and over a four-year period interviewed 27,000 people, including victims, former members of FARC, military personnel, and former Colombian presidents. Twenty-nine centers were also set up throughout the country to collect and disseminate information.

The 2016 Peace Agreement stated that the Truth Commission is “a temporary and extrajudicial body, which seeks to know the truth of what happened and contribute to the clarification of violations and infractions and offer a wide-ranging explanation to the entire society of the complexity of the conflict; promote recognition of the victims and of the responsibilities of those who participated directly and indirectly in the armed conflict; and promote coexistence in the territories to guarantee non-repetition.”

The results of the commission’s work were presented June 28, but only the first of the 10 chapters, which deals with the findings and recommendations, has been published. Over the next two months the rest of the 24 volumes, which contain approximately 8,000 pages, will be made available.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

VIDEO: Watch violent vandalism attack on Catholic church in Washington state

Windows were smashed at St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington, on June 28, 2022. / Courtesy of Bellevue Police

Mansfield, Mass., Jun 29, 2022 / 18:53 pm (CNA).

A woman was praying alone in the perpetual adoration chapel early Tuesday morning when the wave of anti-Catholic vandalism and violence sweeping the U.S. struck St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, Washington.

Hearing a commotion outside, the woman ventured into the hallway. There, she confronted a masked intruder standing outside the parish center, smashing the glass front door.

The person screamed profanities at the woman, who ran back into the chapel. Terrified, she locked the door behind her and called the pastor, Father Gary Zender, while hiding behind a piano.

“She called me on my office number just pleading for help to come and get her and rescue her,” Zender told CNA. “She was scared to death.”

A surveillance camera captured the frightening incident on video.

The footage shows a masked person with long hair striding up to the door carrying a large rock and pink backpack. The person hurls the rock at the front door, three times, then kicks the door four times, shattering the glass.

The person then removes a can of black spray paint from the backpack and begins to write graffiti on the building’s exterior. Next, the assailant makes obscene gestures toward the door, smashes the glass again with the can of spray paint and pushes the door. Then the person appears to scream at someone inside the building before continuing to spray-paint the building’s exterior and sidewalk.

Graffiti legible in photos provided by the police reads “woman haters,” “groomers rapists,” and “the church is child abuse,” among other words. You can watch the surveillance footage in the video below.

The attacker, who entered the church property around 9:30 a.m., also smashed a different glass door at the parish hall and defaced a statue of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Zender said. He estimated the damage at $10,000.

Zender said that the assailant spray-painted the parish administrator, Jonathan Taasan, on his right cheek and “quite a bit” into his ear. He is not injured, Zender said. 

The Bellevue Police Department tweeted Tuesday that they had arrested a 31-year-old Bellevue resident on suspicion of a hate crime and assault. Police said the suspect was arrested “without incident.” Police called the graffiti “anti-Catholic.”

A police spokesperson declined to provide the suspect’s name, referring a CNA reporter to the Kings County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office did not respond to CNA’s request for information about the incident before publication time.

Zender led a procession to the vandalized places and blessed them as part of the Tuesday night Mass. The parish also prayed for the person responsible for the vandalism. While the parish was attacked with a rock “Christ is a rock for us," Zender noted.

“I think it comes up as a bit of a shock that it would happen here. I think there's the reality that, you know, things have changed,” he said. “We're not quite as safe as we once thought we were and we have to take more precautions."

English courts to reconsider life support for Archie Battersbee, severely brain-injured boy

The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. / Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

England’s High Court must hold another hearing to determine whether ending the life support of a severely injured 12-year-old boy, Archie Battersbee, is indeed in the boy’s best interest, an appeals court has said.

“The ruling shows the critical importance of never giving up,” Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said June 29. “In these difficult moments, nerves and principles are important. This judgment upholds life and will protect many more people from a slippery slope in which the legal definition of death is expanded.”

"Where there's life, there's hope. We keep praying that Archie will be able to recover, given more time," Williams said June 29, according to the London-based public engagement group Christian Concern.

The Christian Legal Centre, a specialist ministry of Christian Concern, has been supporting the Battersbee family.

Archie has not been conscious since he was injured in April at his Essex home in what is believed to have been an accident. The boy’s parents found him unconscious with a ligature around his neck. His mother has said the boy might have been imitating an online social media “challenge,” BBC News reports. 

His parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, have asked hospital leaders and the courts for more time and more medical tests to assess whether their son’s condition improves. They note that Archie’s heart continues to beat.

However, doctors at the Royal London Hospital have argued that it is “highly likely” he is medically brain dead. They asked the Family Division of the High Court to rule it is in Archie’s best interests to die by the removal of life support.

The High Court ruled that on the balance of probabilities, the boy had already died and his life support should be removed. 

The parents’ attorneys argued that the High Court judge had made errors and had not given enough weight to the family and to Archie’s beliefs.

Lawyers for Barts Health Trust, which owns the hospital, had argued that previous hearings and the judge’s ruling had addressed whether removing life support is in Archie’s best interest.

Alan Shewmon, a pediatric neurologist, spoke against this argument. He told a court hearing that there is “absolutely not” enough evidence to diagnose death in the case of Archie. Shewmon cited many cases where people diagnosed as brain dead went on to recover, Christian Concern reports. 

The three judges on the appeals court sided with the family. They set the next hearing for July 11, and said they would give reasons for their decisions at a later date, BBC News reports. 

Edward Devereux, who is leading the parents’ legal team, told appellate court judges it would be “unconscionable” not to use a standard of certainty beyond a reasonable doubt in “matters of life and death.”

“Medical practitioners, when certifying death, do not do so on the balance of probabilities,” he said, according to the U.K. newspaper The Independent. He also argued that the High Court judge had not made a “comprehensive” analysis of evidence concerning whether life support should continue.

Bruno Quintavalle, who had filed a submission while acting on behalf of the boy’s parents, said the circumstances of the case had never been considered by an English court. 

Quintavalle said it is “extremely serious” that the court “should declare, in the absence of any certainty, that death has occurred.”

"If he is declared dead but actually isn't dead, the consequences couldn't be more grave,” he said, according to Christian Concern.

To declare death without a brain stem test to confirm the claim would expand the legal definition of death and trespass on the authority of Parliament, he said. Quintavalle said the criminal standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a better standard for such cases.

Archie’s sister Lauren has created an Instagram page under the name “SpreadThePurpleWave” to follow his situation. Over 89,000 people have signed a petition in support of giving him more time in medical care, and supporters have given over $24,000 in donations which could be used to help fund any treatment abroad.  

Before his injury, Archie was a boxer and gymnast. Celebrity boxers and gymnast gold medalists have sent him videos of support.

Ortega government orders dissolution of Missionaries of Charity in Nicaragua

Missionaries of Charity / Credit: Willuconquer (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior has ordered the closure of 101 nongovernmental organizations, including the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta that is dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.

The order to shut down the 101 NGOs was requested by Sandinista legislator Filiberto Rodríguez in a June 22 letter presented to the National Assembly, the country’s legislature.

The document submitted by Rodríguez and released by the Nicaraguan media outlet Confidencial is titled “The Legislative Decree Initiative for the Cancellation of the Legal Personality of Various Associations/Foundations, requested by the National Directorate of Registration and Control of Non-Profit Organizations following due process of law.”

The text, which could be debated by the National Assembly in the coming days, states that the Missionaries of Charity “has failed to comply with its obligations” according to the law that regulates nonprofit organizations, the money-laundering law, the financing of terrorism, and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

According to the government of Daniel Ortega, the missionaries are not accredited “by the Ministry for the Family to function as a nursery-center for childhood development, home for girls, and home for the elderly,” nor “do they have an operating permit from the Ministry of Education to provide remedial education for students” and their “financial statements reported to the Ministry of the Interior don’t agree” with other documents presented for review.

The list of organizations the government has ordered to shut down also includes the Catholic Foundation for Human Development Assistance for Nicaraguans, the Spirituality Foundation for Children of Nicaragua, the My Childhood Mothers Foundation, and the Diriomito Children’s Care Home Association, among others.

According to the EFE news agency, the Missionaries of Charity Association was created Aug. 16, 1988, and opened following the visit Mother Teresa made to Nicaragua during the first term of Daniel Ortega (1985–1990). The Sandinista regime had already been in power since 1979 when President Anastasio Somoza was overthrown.

The Missionaries of Charity run the Immaculate Heart of Mary Home in the city of Granada, where they take in abandoned adolescents or victims of abuse.

In addition to spiritual and psychological help, minors receive regular classes in music, theater, sewing, beauty, and other trades.

In the capital, Managua, the nuns run a nursing home, which provides the elderly with food, clothing, and other care.

The Missionaries of Charity also provide remedial education for minors at risk and run a nursery for poor children, mostly children of single mothers and street vendors.

The National Assembly still has to approve the order. However, President Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front political party holds 75 out of the 90 seats, so it is expected to be approved.

Managua Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez, who has been living in exile at the request of Pope Francis since April 2019 due to numerous death threats, deplored the decision of the Ortega government to expel the Missionaries of Charity from the country.

Bishop Báez wrote on Twitter from Miami: “It makes me very sad that the dictatorship has forced the Missionaries of Charity of Teresa of Calcutta to leave the country. Nothing justifies depriving the poor of charitable care.”

In fewer than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests under the Ortega government.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Check the status of abortion trigger laws across the U.S.

The scene outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the court released its decision in the Dobbs abortion case on June 24, 2022. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 16:25 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, returning the regulation of abortion to the states.

More than a dozen states had passed "trigger laws" intended to outlaw abortion as soon as the federal right to abortion that Roe established was struck down.

Some of those laws took effect immediately after the ruling, with no further action needed. In several states, however, the trigger law required certification by the state attorney general, governor, or legislature. 

A few trigger laws — so far in Louisiana, Texas, and Utah — have been temporarily blocked in court and will now be subject to judicial review. 

Take a look at the interactive map below to see how this process is unfolding.

San Antonio archbishop to preside at memorial Mass after Texas migrant deaths

In this aerial view, members of law enforcement investigate a tractor trailer on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. According to reports, at least 46 people, who are believed migrant workers from Mexico, were found dead in an abandoned tractor trailer. Over a dozen victims were found alive, suffering from heat stroke and taken to local hospitals. / Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Following the discovery of dozens of migrants who died in an abandoned tractor-trailer in Texas — thought to be the largest en masse death of migrants from the southern border in modern history — the Archbishop of San Antonio is set to hold a memorial Mass on Thursday. 

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, and Auxiliary Bishops Michael Boulette and Gary Janak will preside at a memorial Mass for the migrants June 30, the archdiocese told CNA, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of San Fernando. The liturgy will include a procession from the cathedral’s Main Plaza, a special cross, and candles and flags representing the countries of the deceased as well as the survivors, spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. 

García-Siller said in a tweet that he had met with a young girl named Serenidad who was in the trailer and had survived. He urged prayers for the survivors and urged leaders to take action on immigration reform. 

“Our people inside the truck are innocent. They were the result of corruption in their place of origin as well as in the Unites States. May we take [steps] to change and experience conversion for the better of the human person. Pray about it!” he wrote June 28. 

The migrants were found dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer baking in extreme heat in San Antonio, Texas on the evening of June 27. The official death toll has risen to 53, NPR reported, and the dead include 22 Mexicans, 7 Guatemalans, and 2 Hondurans, with the others not yet having been identified.

San Antonio, about 150 miles from the national border at Laredo, is a regional hub for transportation, as well as for human trafficking and smuggling. San Antonio was also the site of a similar incident in 2017 in which 10 migrants died in a tractor trailer. 

According to experts cited by NPR, it is likely that the people who were in the trailer had crossed the border on foot, before gathering in Laredo to be loaded into a truck. The truck driver is reportedly detained. 

Marie Kenyon, who leads the Justice and Peace commission at the Archdiocese of St. Louis, told CNA that she was in Laredo last week with a volunteer group assisting at a Catholic Charities migrant shelter. She said as a mission diocese, Laredo’s migrant shelter does not receive as much attention or donations as some others along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as Brownsville and El Paso. 

She shuddered at the thought that her volunteer group may have unwittingly passed the truck full of migrants going the opposite way on the highway from San Antonio to Laredo. 

“On Saturday in Laredo it was 107 degrees,” she noted. “So even if you’re in that trailer for 3-4 hours, that’s the end of you.” 

Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, lamented the deaths in a June 29 statement and called the incident a “harrowing depiction of the extreme risks assumed by migrants out of sheer desperation.”

“Unfortunately, this disregard for the sanctity of human life is all too common in the context of migration,” Dorsonville wrote. 

“As a Church called to build a culture of life, we cannot tolerate this injustice. Instead, we must recognize that we are brothers and sisters, each imbued with God-given dignity. To prevent further loss of life, we urge governments and civil society to promote access to protection, including asylum, develop new pathways for those compelled to migrate, and combat human trafficking in all its forms.”

Pope Francis has also urged prayers for the migrants. 

“I sorrowfully heard the news of the tragedy of the #migrants in Texas and #Melilla,” the pope said in a social media post on June 28.

“Let us #PrayTogether for these brothers and sisters who died following their hope of a better life; and for ourselves, may the Lord might open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.”

Amid Burma conflict, diocese bans two priests from political involvement

A protest of the coup d'etat in Hpa-An, the capital of Karen State, Burma, on Feb. 9, 2021. Credit: Ninjastrikers (CC BY-SA 4.0). / null

Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 11:26 am (CNA).

A Catholic diocese in Burma has ordered two priests to stop participating in politics and posting on social media against the country’s power structure and Church officials. The priests are staunch critics of the junta whose 2021 coup launched an insurgency that the Catholic bishops hope to end. 

Father Dominic Wun Kyaw Htwe and Father Clement Angelo Ate both faced rebukes from the Diocese of Kengtung for openly opposing the junta. The two priests are living in exiled communities across the border with Thailand.

“Your active involvement in politics and your posts on social media not only cause great perplexity,” said a June 22 letter to Htwe, charging that his actions divide “public opinion and our Christian community itself.”

The June 22 letter to Htwe from Father Peter Anwe, administrator of the Diocese of Kengtung, cited his active participation in politics through being present at protest movements and through social media posts against political authorities and Church leaders “despite several warnings.”

The Kengtung diocese is in the Shan state of Burma, also known as Myanmar, and is heavily affected by the ongoing civil war, Asia News reports.  A junta overthrew the country’s government on Feb. 1, 2021. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's elected civilian leader, was detained along with the country’s President, Win Myint. Many supporters of the government took to the streets in protest, and some took up arms and formed rebel groups.

Htwe responded to the diocese’s letter, saying, “This situation has been thought of since the beginning of the revolution. You can kick me out at once.” He said he is “proud of being far… from a society that is dominated by fear and enjoys the pursuit of financial riches rather than justice and truth.”

“I have a very strong love of my mother religion,” the priest said, saying the present is a time “when there is a clear distinction between right and wrong.” The warning to him has strengthened his resolve to “fight harder” 

Ate, the other priest rebuked by his diocese, said he would continue “fighting and standing with our suffering people” and “do as much as I can for them.”

Some Church leaders have been outspoken. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has strongly objected to the military’s death sentences for some activists.

“As cardinal of Myanmar I plead — from the very depths of my heart — with the junta, not to hang these men, and I appeal to the world to act,” he said at an international conference last Monday. “If the regime goes through with this, it marks a new low for this already brutal, barbaric, inhumane and criminal junta.”

In January, Bo told Vatican Radio his country suffers from “spiraling chaos, confusion, conflict, and human agony.” The country’s bishops are trying to accompany the people, advocate for humanitarian access, and urge all parties in the conflict to make peace.

Catholics make up only 1% of the country’s population, which is majority Buddhist.

Some 1,900 people have died and another 1 million have been displaced under the junta's repressive control of the country, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this month. Thousands more have been arrested, she said, and an estimated 14 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

In the Diocese of Loikaw in eastern Burma, almost half of the parishes have been abandoned because of intense fighting. At least nine churches in the diocese have been hit by government military shelling and airstrikes, according to the report.

Htwe, 34, joined the protests immediately after the coup. After receiving warnings from backers of the coup, he was warned he would be arrested. He fled his parish of St. Anthony of Padua in February 2021 and hid in a border town for six months before crossing into Thailand, disguised as a plantation coffee worker, according to Asia News.

He began to help a Thai priest at a parish in the Diocese of Chiang Rai that mainly serves Akha people, the same ethnicity as Htwe. He ministered the sacraments and gave catechism lessons, but also collected donations of money, food, and clothing for refugees from Burma.

“Our dreams, our hopes and our future have been taken away from us. Our lives were destroyed by terrorist and murderous soldiers,” he told AsiaNews in April. 

He denounced the Burmese army and said people in Burma are “tortured, raped and burned alive.” 

“We want to see at least the right to life as human beings recognized. Myanmar's should not only be an internal problem, it should be an international issue because these are crimes against humanity,” he said.

The priest accused the Chinese government of backing the junta in Burma over the democratically elected government.

In an April letter on Holy Thursday 2022, Htwe called for “concrete actions” from the international community.

Pope Francis on the feast of Peter and Paul: Care for the vulnerable

Pope Francis at a Mass for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica, June 29, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2022 / 10:17 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called Wednesday for Catholics not to retreat into their own groups, but to open the church doors and work together to care for the vulnerable in the world.

“What can we do together, as Church, to make the world in which we live more humane, just and solidarity, more open to God and to fraternity among men? Surely we must not retreat into our ecclesial circles and remain pinned to some of our fruitless debates,” he said at Mass on June 29 for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

“Together we can and must continue to care for human life, the protection of creation, the dignity of work, the problems of families, the treatment of the elderly and all those who are abandoned, rejected or treated with contempt,” he said. “In a word, we are called to be a Church that promotes the culture of care, tenderness and compassion towards the vulnerable.”

During the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis also blessed the pallia for the metropolitan archbishops appointed in the last year. 

Pallia are white woolen vestments adorned with six black silk crosses given to metropolitan archbishops. They symbolize the metropolitan’s authority and unity with the Holy See.

The title of “metropolitan archbishop” refers to the archbishop of a metropolis, which is the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or region.

There were 32 metropolitan archbishops from 24 countries present in Rome to receive their blessed pallium from Pope Francis on June 29.

“In communion with Peter, [the metropolitan archbishops] are called to ‘get up quickly,’ not to sleep, and to serve as vigilant sentinels over the flock,” Francis said. “To get up and ‘fight the good fight,’ never alone, but together with all the holy and faithful people of God.”

Formerly, the new metropolitans would be invested with the pallia by the pope at the same June 29 Mass in which they were blessed, but in 2015 Francis changed this policy to have the bishops be invested with the pallia in their diocese by the local apostolic nuncio.

At the end of Mass on Wednesday, Pope Francis handed each archbishop his pallium in a small box tied with a brown ribbon.

Pope Francis presided over the opening rites of the Mass, with the blessing of the pallia and the Liturgy of the Word. He also delivered the homily and received the offertory gifts. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated the second half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the Catholic Church’s ongoing synodal path, which is leading up to the Synod on Synodality, which will take place in October 2023.

“The Synod that we are now celebrating calls us to become a Church that gets up, one that is not turned in on itself, but capable of pressing forward, leaving behind its own prisons and setting out to meet the world, with the courage to open doors,” he said. “Let us open the door. The Lord calls.”

The pope said sometimes the Church has open doors, but only to condemn people and send them away. 

“A Church that does not linger in its sacred precincts, but is driven by enthusiasm for the preaching of the Gospel and the desire to encounter and accept everyone. Let us not forget that word: everyone,” he said.

“Go to crossroads and bring everyone, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the sick, the righteous and the sinner: everyone,” he continued. “This word of the Lord should continue to echo in our hearts and minds: in the Church there is a place for everyone.”

Pope Francis condemned an attitude of laziness in the Church.

“Often we are like Peter in chains, imprisoned by our habits, fearful of change and bound to the chains of our routine. This leads quietly to spiritual mediocrity: we run the risk of ‘taking it easy’ and ‘getting by,’ also in our pastoral work,” he said.

“Our enthusiasm for mission wanes,” Francis added, “and instead of being a sign of vitality and creativity, ends up appearing tepid and listless.”

The pope referenced The Drama of Atheist Humanism by 20th century theologian Henri de Lubac.

“Then, the great current of newness and life that is the Gospel becomes in our hands — to use the words of Father de Lubac — a faith that ‘falls into formalism and habit…, a religion of ceremonies and devotions, of ornaments and vulgar consolations… a Christianity that is clerical, formalistic, anemic and callous,’” he said.

At the end of Mass, the Patriarchal Holy Trinity Cathedral Choir of Tbilisi, an Orthodox choir from the country of Georgia, chanted “Ave Maria” by Ilia II. 

The Tbilisi choir also gave a two-hour performance in the Sistine Chapel on June 26.

A delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the Mass for Saints Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis and the delegation prayed together before the tomb of St. Peter after Mass.

Faith ‘is never a walk in the park,’ Pope Francis says on Peter and Paul feast

Pope Francis during his appearance for the Angelus in St. Peter's Square on June 29, 2022, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2022 / 08:40 am (CNA).

The journey of faith is never easy for anyone, not even for the Apostles Peter and Paul, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Wednesday.

“The journey of faith is not a walk in the park, but is instead demanding, sometimes arduous,” he said on June 29.

The pope prayed a mid-week Angelus to mark the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the city of Rome.

In his message before the Marian prayer, he reflected on a passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, when Peter says to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“It is a profession of faith, which Peter pronounces not on the basis of his human understanding, but because God the Father inspired it in him,” he said.

When Jesus then reveals to his disciples that he will suffer, die, and on the third day be raised, Peter rebukes him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

Pope Francis recalled that Jesus’ response to Peter was: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a scandal to me, because you do not think according to God, but according to men!” 

“Does not the same thing happen to us?” the pope said. “We repeat the Creed, we say it with faith, but when faced with the harsh trials of life, everything seems to falter.”

“We are inclined to protest to the Lord,” Francis added, “telling him that it is not right, that there must be other, more direct, less strenuous ways.”

St. Peter needed time to mature, moving from first horror at the cross to a courageous embrace of his own death, he said, noting that “the Apostle Paul also had his own path, and he too passed through a slow maturation of faith, experiencing moments of uncertainty and doubt.”

“The journey of faith is never a walk in the park, for anyone, not for Peter nor for Paul, not for any Christian,” he said. 

The pope concluded his message with two questions for reflection.

“In the light of this experience of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, each of us can ask ourselves: When I profess my faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, do I do so with the awareness that I must always be learning, or do I assume that I ‘already have it all figured out’?” he said.

“And again,” he continued, “in difficulties and trials do I become discouraged, do I complain, or do I learn to make them an opportunity to grow in trust in the Lord? For he, in fact — as Paul writes to Timothy — delivers us from all evil and brings us safely to heaven.”

The pope addressed an estimated 15,000 people from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, according to the Vatican. During the Angelus and his remarks afterward, he sometimes placed his right hand on the windowsill and leaned his weight on his right arm.

The 85-year-old pope, who has an injury in his right knee, has used a wheelchair for many of his public audiences for almost two months. He has recently walked short distances with the support of a cane.

Pope Francis condemns ‘barbaric attack’ on Ukraine mall

A photograph taken on June 28, 2022 shows charred goods in a grocery store of the destroyed Amstor mall in Kremenchuk, one day after it was hit by a Russian missile strike according to Ukrainian authorities. / Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2022 / 08:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned an attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, as “barbaric,” during a public address on Wednesday.

“I carry in my heart every day the dear and tormented Ukraine, which continues to be plagued by barbaric attacks, such as the one that struck the Kremenchuk shopping center,” the pope said on June 29.

A Russian missile strike hit a shopping mall in Kremenchuk on June 27. Ukrainian authorities said the next day that at least 18 people were killed in the attack and another 36 were missing.

“I pray that this foolish war may soon see an end, and I renew the invitation to persevere, without tiring, in the prayer for peace: may the Lord open those paths of dialogue that men are unwilling or unable to find,” he said. “And let us not neglect to come to the aid of the Ukrainian people, who are suffering so much.”

Francis spoke about Ukraine after praying the Angelus in honor of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.  

Pope Francis during his appearance for the Angelus in Rome on June 29, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis during his appearance for the Angelus in Rome on June 29, 2022. Vatican Media

The pope addressed an estimated 15,000 people from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, according to the Vatican. During the Angelus and his remarks afterward, he sometimes placed his right hand on the windowsill and leaned his weight on his right arm.

The 85-year-old pope, who has an injury in his right knee, has used a wheelchair for many of his public audiences for almost two months. He has recently walked short distances with the support of a cane.

Pope Francis extended his best wishes to Romans and those staying in Rome on the feast of Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the capital city of Italy. He said he hopes “that all may find in [Rome] a decent welcome worthy of its beauty.”

He also lamented the recent outbreak of fires in Rome, affected by record-high temperatures and drought across Italy.

“All this should make us reflect on the protection of creation, which is our responsibility,” he said. “It is not a fad, it is a responsibility: the future of the earth is in our hands and with our decisions.”

Temperatures reached over 104 degrees Fahrenheit across most of Italy on June 28, and Rome tied its highest heat on record.