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Pope Francis names Chinese bishop who attended Synod to Archdiocese of Hangzhou

Bishop Yao Shun of Jining and Bishop Yang Yongqiang of Zhouchun (right) of the People's Republic of China at the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican in October 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2024 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has named Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang to lead the Archdiocese of Hangzhou in China, transferring him from the Diocese of Zhoucun, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The June 12 nomination took place “within the framework of dialogue concerning the implementation of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China,” the Vatican’s June 22 press release said.

The new archbishop was one of two bishops from mainland China to participate in the October 2023 session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

He has led the Zhoucun Diocese in Shandong Province since 2013.

Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín, undersecretary of the synod, told journalists last year that Yang and Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, were nominated to attend the synod by Pope Francis from a list approved by the Chinese government.

Yang was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995. He was named a bishop by papal mandate in November 2010, and his consecration as bishop took place a little over two years later, in February 2013. 

He was elected vice president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in December 2016.

The Archdiocese of Hangzhou is located in the province of Zhejiang on the eastern coast of China. The province’s capital city of Hangzhou has an estimated population of nearly 12 million people, according to a 2020 census.

The archdiocese did not have a bishop with a papal mandate from 1956 to 2008. It was previously led by Archbishop Matthew Cao Xiangde, who was appointed by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and ordained without Vatican permission in 2000. In 2008, at his request, the Holy See recognized the bishop’s episcopal consecration but not his jurisdiction over the archdiocese.

Matthew Cao Xiangde died in July 2021 at the age of 93.

Statistics from the 1950s estimated the number of Catholics in the archdiocese to be only .4% of the total population.

March for Life president Mancini urges advocates for unborn to continue fight

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, attends the 50th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2023. / Credit: Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini opened the Celebrate Life Conference on Friday with an impassioned speech calling for pro-life advocates to embrace a new season of fighting for the unborn.

At the event held at the Westin Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., Mancini shared her recollection of the moment she first discovered that Roe v. Wade had been overturned.

“I was interviewing on CBS the moment the decision came down, and I’ll never forget how my interviewer was not pro-life,” she shared as the crowd laughed. “She was shocked as I was bustling and so happy, thinking of all of the marchers over the years, the collective millions that have made this moment possible.”

Mancini then became choked up as she recalled the second the news truly sunk in later that same day, stating: “I don’t think in my lifetime I thought Roe would be overturned, and to consider that it was overturned in our lifetime is just unbelievable. It is so easy to forget what a massive victory that was.”

Mancini acknowledged on the eve of the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade that the pro-life movement has since faced some setbacks amid a climate of “cultural confusion.”

Calling the enshrinement of abortion “rights” in Michigan and Ohio “tragic,” Mancini urged those attending to keep up the fight for the unborn.

“While we have had some losses, it is not an option for us to abandon this fight. It is absolutely essential for pro-life leaders, for lawmakers and citizens, to educate their neighbors on the harms of these ballot initiatives and what they do,” Mancini continued. “We are in the single-most significant human rights battle of our time, and we’ve got to dig in.”

The March for Life organization has implemented state capital marches in 17 different states since 2019.

Sharing her experience of attending a Mass at the 2023 Michigan March for Life, Mancini repeated the words that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, shared in his homily: “On a day like today, you want to fight like hell. But you have to fight like heaven… we are called to fight with love at the heart of [the movement].”

She called on audience members to “pray and ask God for what he wants from you in this new season” and to “embrace your given pro-life mission.”

Additionally, Mancini cited a 2023 Charlotte Lozier study that found among women who had had abortions, 60% would have preferred to give birth if they had received either more emotional or financial support.

“I feel like this season is about addressing that 60%,” Mancini shared before emphasizing the importance of promoting pregnancy care centers and maternity homes throughout the country.

In closing, Mancini called on pro-life advocates to “persevere, persevere, persevere.” 

“Dig your heels in as change takes time. We are in this for the long game, so persevere. You were made for such a time as this; now get out there and keep doing it,” she urged.

The Celebrate Life Conference is sponsored by the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, the National Sidewalk Advocacy Center, and Students for Life among other organizations. The event will continue through the weekend with various other keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and the Celebrate Life Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 22.

Mother Angelica’s shrine fills to capacity as National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passes through

Hundreds of faithful filled the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, site of Mother Angelica's tomb, beyond capacity as the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage St. Juan Diego Route passed through on June 20, 2024. / Credit: EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 22, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

“I live because of the Eucharist,” Mother Angelica once said.

The foundress of EWTN and member of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, Mother Angelica made no secret of her love and devotion to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

On Thursday, more than eight years after her death, the legacy of Mother Angelica’s Eucharistic love was on full display as pilgrims along the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage stopped at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, which she founded and where she is buried.

The shrine was filled beyond capacity by hundreds of religious and lay faithful of all ages, including many families.

Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
Members of the St. Juan Diego Route of National Eucharistic Pilgrimage team smile for a photo during a stop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

Those attending participated in a Eucharistic procession despite temperatures in the 90s. The procession began at the shrine’s Marian grotto and ended at the main church, where there was a healing service that included a reflection by Father John Eckert of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the role of shame in the Christian life.

Eckert said that shame serves as a guardrail helping Christians to differentiate good from evil and stay on the right path. This guardrail, however, can become distorted when Christians fall short and the devil twists shame, telling us: “How dare you miss this guardrail!” in attempts to further separate them from God.

But God comes to remind us not to believe the devil’s lies but to release us from those lies, Eckert said.

Built in 1999 and on 400 acres of land, the shrine serves as the chapel for the cloistered Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, which houses the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.

The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN
The faithful adore Christ in the Eucharist at the Marian grotto at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, at a stop on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage on June 20, 2024. Credit: EWTN

The shrine, renowned for its tranquil beauty and as the resting place of Mother Angelica, attracts pilgrims from around the globe. Located in northern Alabama, the shrine marked the halfway point for the Juan Diego Route and served as a place of much-needed respite, with the pilgrims spending several days in private prayer and retreat before Thursday’s event.

The eight Juan Diego “Perpetual Pilgrims” — five young men and women, two seminarians, and a religious brother — began their journey at the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, on May 19. Since then, they have trekked over 1,000 miles, passing through four states and 12 dioceses.

The Juan Diego pilgrims will finish their journey on July 16 in Indianapolis, where they will join pilgrims from the three other routes and thousands of faithful for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

The Catholic Church in France will have 105 new priests in 2024

Priests concelebrate a Mass in Rome. / Credit: Martha Calderón/ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 22, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) reported that, in 2024, 105 new priests will be ordained, 17 more priests than in 2023, when 88 new priests were ordained in the European country.

An article published on the CEF website said the vast majority of priestly ordinations are celebrated during the month of June, particularly on the Sunday before the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, which the Catholic Church celebrates every year on June 29.

Of the 105 new priests, 73 are diocesan, 16 belong to religious orders, 10 are members of communities, two belong to societies of apostolic life, while the remaining four “were ordained in the institutes under the former Ecclesia Dei commission, celebrating according to the Roman Missal of 1962 [before the reform of Vatican II].”

At a press conference, Bertrand Lacombe, the archbishop of Auch and a member of the council for ordained ministers and laypeople in ecclesial mission, highlighted two aspects to be considered regarding the new priests: “the essential mission of the priest in the Church and the meaning of this mission today within an increasingly secularized French society” and “the ongoing reflections of the bishops as well as the initiatives launched in the dioceses to raise up vocations.”

The French prelate wished a “beautiful ministry to the priests who are responding to the spiritual expectations of our time: The adventure is worth the effort and gives light to the world!”

The CEF article also noted that according to its 2024 Catéchuménat survey, every year there are more young people and not so young people who want to receive baptism, the Eucharist, and confirmation. 

The archbishop told the new priests that this new generation of young people drawn to the Church is also their generation that “they grew up with and matured” in and that in administering the sacraments to them they both will be nourished.

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

Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More: following God’s law above all else

Details from St John Fisher by Jacobus Houbraken (c. 1760), and St Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527). / Credit: Public domain

London, England, Jun 22, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More is observed as an optional memorial June 22. So that readers don’t have to fish for more information (pun intended), CNA has compiled a question-and-answer lowdown on their lives and legacies:

Who was St. Thomas More?

St. Thomas More (1478–1535) was a humanist and intellectual — he worked as a lawyer and explored theology through his written works, many of which were defenses of the Catholic faith against heresy. He studied at Oxford and briefly considered religious life, but he eventually followed a vocation to marriage and fatherhood.

More was appointed by King Henry VIII to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.

What does “lord chancellor” mean?

The “lord chancellor” was the highest-ranking member of the king’s cabinet. This role was commonly filled by a clergyman. Historically, the role entailed great judicial responsibility — its influence has evolved to scale back on this particular front.

How did he manage to get on Henry VIII’s bad side?

St. Thomas More stood firmly in his Catholic faith when Henry VIII began to pull away from the Church.

The king wanted a declaration of nullity for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, but the Church, upon examination, could not find his marriage to Catherine invalid. More refused in 1530 to sign a letter asking the pope to declare the marriage null, and he would not sign an oath acknowledging the monarch as the supreme head of the Church in England.

In May 1532, Henry pressured the English synod, the Convocation of Canterbury, to submit the clergy’s authority to his own. The day after the convocation agreed to Henry’s terms, More resigned as lord chancellor.

More wished to retire from public life, but when he refused to assent to the Act of Supremacy 1534, which repudiated the pope’s authority over the Church in England, he was imprisoned on charges of treason.

He was sentenced to execution, which took place July 6, 1535.

Why is he a saint?

More’s persistence to remain with the Church rather than the king, ending in martyrdom, was a testament to his tireless devotion to God’s law. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and was named patron of statesmen and politicians by Pope John Paul II.

I’ve heard something about his beard…?

Yes. You’re not imagining things, don’t worry.

The story with St. Thomas More’s beard is that he laid his beard outside of the execution blade’s path in one final, humorous gesture.

His last words were, “This hath not offended the king,” implying that while his head had angered Henry VIII, his beard was innocent and did not deserve to be severed.

Who was St. John Fisher?

St. John Fisher (1469–1535) was ordained a priest when he was about 22 and was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1504. He lived an intentionally simple lifestyle and was an intellectual. He studied theology at Cambridge, where he became chancellor. Among his writings is a commentary on the seven penitential psalms.

His mission as a bishop was to perfect how the Church’s teachings were conveyed by his diocese. Fisher spent much of his time traveling to parishes with the mission of theologically correcting and realigning clergy. He also wrote various apologetic defenses in response to Martin Luther.

What did he have to do with the whole Henry VIII situation?

St. John Fisher studied Henry’s request for a declaration of nullity but could not find grounds for such a declaration.

He refused to assent to the Succession to the Crown Act 1533, which recognized the king’s supremacy over the Church in England, and declared the daughter of Catherine of Aragon illegitimate and was imprisoned for treason in April 1534.

Fisher was jailed, starved, and deprived of all sacraments, but he didn’t budge on his position.

Fisher was made a cardinal in May 1535 in the hopes that Henry would not dare execute a prince of the Church.

Please don’t tell me it ended like More’s story…

It didn’t. There was no beard on the line.

However, Fisher was executed, head on the chopping block and all. He removed his hair shirt and said the Te Deum and Psalm 31 right before giving his life for the kingdom of God and the honor of the Church, June 22, 1535. He is the only cardinal to have been martyred.

Why is Fisher a saint?

Same deal as More — he stuck to what he knew to be the truth and died for it. He was canonized with More in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

But he’s not nearly as well known as St. Thomas More.

No, he’s not. St. John Fisher’s grave, which also contains the bones of More, doesn’t even bear his name. But he did it for the glory of God.

This article was first published on June 22, 2018, and has been updated.

UPDATE: Tennessee priest indicted on additional sex crime charges

Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin. / Credit: Courtesy of the Franklin Police Department

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

A priest in Tennessee already facing multiple sexual abuse charges has been served with two additional battery charges this month, police have revealed. 

A grand jury earlier this month returned a superseding indictment against Father Juan Carlos Garcia-Mendoza, charging him with two additional counts of sexual battery, according to a press release from the Franklin, Tennessee, Police Department. 

In February, Garcia was indicted on eight other charges, including continuous abuse of a child, aggravated sexual battery, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and two counts of sexual battery.

The priest is being held in jail in Williamson County, Tennessee, on $2 million bond, the police said. He had previously served at St. Philip Catholic Church in the town of Franklin.

The Diocese of Nashville had said in a press release in January that it first learned of accusations against Garcia in November 2023 when “a teen in the parish had made a report of improper touching” involving the priest. 

The diocese made a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; it also contracted with a former FBI agent to oversee the diocesan investigation into the claims.

A spokesman for the diocese told CNA on Friday that Garcia had been removed from active ministry in November after the first report was made regarding the priest. 

Earlier reports had suggested the diocese delayed for several weeks in removing the priest from active ministry; the spokesman denied those reports. 

“The diocese has kept the Holy See informed throughout this matter and the canonical process is ongoing separate from the criminal proceedings,” the spokesman told CNA.

Garcia was ordained in 2020 and served at several parishes in the Nashville Diocese before his indictment. 

This story was updated on Friday, June 21, at 4:30 p.m. with additional comments from the Nashville diocesan spokesman.

Vatican’s secretary of state rues Russia’s absence at Ukraine peace conference

The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin attends a plenary session at the summit on peace in Ukraine at the luxury Burgenstock resort near Lucerne, Switzerland, on June 16, 2024. / Credit: ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 15:25 pm (CNA).

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin this week appealed for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine amid their ongoing war while noting the absence of Russia at the Swiss conference on peace in Ukraine. 

“Peace is always made together,” he said June 19 as reported by Vatican News. 

Parolin led an observer delegation from the Vatican to the Conference for Peace in Ukraine, held in Switzerland June 15–16. About 100 delegations, mostly from Western countries, attended the conference, AP News reported. Russia was not invited.

Parolin in a statement following the conference reaffirmed the Holy See’s commitment to maintain “regular communication with the Ukrainian and Russian authorities” and assist in potential mediation initiatives, Vatican News said.

Parolin also said the Holy See is greatly concerned about the tragic humanitarian consequences of the war “and is especially committed to facilitating the repatriation of children and encouraging the release of prisoners, especially seriously wounded soldiers and civilians.”

“On behalf of Pope Francis,” Parolin concluded, “I wish to confirm his personal closeness to the tormented Ukrainian people and his unwavering commitment to peace.“

Pope Francis, and Parolin, have repeatedly called for dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as a means of brokering peace in the now two-year-long Russian war of aggression. However, the pope faced criticism when on March 20 he suggested that “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said. At the time, Parolin issued clarifying remarks in an interview with Corriere della Sera, saying that it is incumbent upon Russia “as the aggressor” to “put an end to the aggression.”

In his more recent remarks, Parolin said that in the face of war, it is crucial to continue to seek ways to end the conflict “with good intentions, trust, and creativity.”

Parolin has in the past reiterated that Ukraine has a “legitimate” right to defend itself from Russian aggression, but he also has warned that weapons being sent there by other countries could lead to a “terrible” escalation of the war.

In mid-2023, Pope Francis asked Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi to serve as a papal envoy to “initiate paths of peace” between Russia and Ukraine. However, Parolin has since clarified that Zuppi’s mission does not have mediation as its immediate goal.

EWTN earns multiple accolades at 2024 Gabriel Awards

The first season of the EWTN series “James the Less” received the Best Video award at the 2024 Gabriel Awards presentation on June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. / Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Atlanta, Ga., Jun 21, 2024 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

The 58th annual Gabriel Awards saw EWTN, the world’s largest Catholic media organization, win five awards in multiple categories in recognition of “outstanding artistic achievement in a television or radio program or series that entertains and enriches with a true vision of humanity and true vision of life.”

Sponsored by the Catholic Media Association, this year’s awards took place on June 20 within the context of the association’s annual conference in Atlanta. EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado and National Catholic Register Editor-in-Chief Shannon Mullen accepted the awards for Best Feature Film, Best Video, Best Television Special Event Coverage, Best Single News Story, and Best Short Documentary on behalf of their colleagues.

Winning first place for Best Single News Story, “EWTN News in Depth” anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, whose body was exhumed in May 2023 in an unexpected state of preservation.

EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA
EWTN News in Depth anchor Catherine Hadro took the top spot for her story on the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Credit: Ken Oliver-Méndez/CNA

Winning along with Hadro for the report were EWTN News editor Andrew Spangenberg and videographer Craig Campbell.

Taking top honors for Best Television Special Event Coverage was EWTN’s 2023 World Youth Day coverage, led by EWTN News correspondent Colm Flynn along with Eleonora Vescovini and Father Mark Mary, MFVA. EWTN Vice President of Programming and Production Peter Gagnon was also among the network’s award winners for his role as executive producer of the network’s coverage of the event.

Meanwhile, Season 1 of EWTN’s innovative series “James the Less” received the prestigious Best Video award. EWTN Director of Studio Operations Stephen Beaumont worked with EWTN producers Michael Masny and Greg Hendrick to develop the scripts for the five-part romantic comedy.

Speaking of the series, whose second season is currently in production, Beaumont told CNA: “The narratives provide an opportunity to attract people who might not otherwise watch Catholic programs. Our hope is that Catholics and non-Catholics alike will find the show entertaining and that atheists will gain insight into what Catholics believe.”

The global Catholic network, the parent company of CNA, also took first place in the feature film category for “Faith of Our Fathers,” a riveting original film about a Catholic priest defending the faith against the 19th-century English penal laws and the determination of the Irish community to protect him in the face of unrelenting persecution. EWTN President Doug Keck in his capacity as executive producer of the film received the award, along with fellow executive producer Aidan Gallagher, director Campbell Miller, and producer John Elson.

Finally, the network’s short documentary “Alive in Christ — The Eucharistic Martyrs” also took top spot in its category. The documentary brings to life the account of the first Christians and their courageous struggle to live their faith in the midst of persecution. Once again, Keck received the award in his capacity as the documentary’s executive producer, along with fellow executive producers Elson and David Sipoš, who was also the director.

In addition, EWTN News anchor Hadro also won the Best Podcast — Single Episode award for her role as co-host and producer of the “Purposeful Lab” podcast “Is Extraterrestrial Life Compatible with Christianity?” produced by the Magis Center and co-host Dr. Daniel Kuebler.

The Catholic Media Association notes that “the Gabriel Awards have been a beacon of inspiration since their inception in 1965, encouraging media professionals to create works that serve, enrich, challenge, and uplift audiences.”

Commenting on the wins for the network, EWTN Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board Michael Warsaw said “this year’s Gabriel Awards are particularly meaningful to EWTN as our submissions reflected the broad range of productions the team is committed to bringing our audience— from an online digital series aimed at young audiences to the deeply meaningful story of determination of our Irish forefathers, to our wall-to-wall coverage of World Youth Day.”

Warsaw added: “We’re grateful to the Catholic Media Association board and the award selection committee for their recognition and support of the team’s hard work and are honored to stand alongside the other nominees and winners that seek to share the truth of our faith with the world through media.” 

For her part, EWTN News President and COO Alvarado observed that “the recognition of the ‘EWTN News In Depth’ team’s coverage of the life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster is especially significant as Catherine Hadro takes on the role of host of the program this week. We’re all grateful for the recognition from our peers in the Catholic media space and applaud the other nominees and winners for their submissions.”

Diocese of Rome closes first step toward sainthood for young wife and mother

An attendee holds a photo of Chiara Corbella Petrillo at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jun 21, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Rome on Friday officially closed the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo, a joyful 28-year-old wife and mother who died from cancer in 2012 in Rome.

“We strongly trust that the Church, after a careful and accurate discernment of her life and virtues, will want to soon celebrate also on Earth this daughter of our Church of Rome and propose her as an example of Christian life to contemporary Christian generations,” Bishop Baldassare Reina said at the closing ceremony June 21.

Reina, vice regent of the Diocese of Rome, presided over the session in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the inquiry was opened nearly six years ago on Sept. 21, 2018.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella, Reina said, shows us that “holiness is possible and it is the only path that makes us happy. Let us enjoy, or rather I would say, let us savor this moment, with all the processes that will be explained to us.”

Hundreds of people attended the session despite temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the city of Rome. More than 3,000 people also watched a video livestream of the event on the YouTube page of the diocese.

The servant of God’s family sat in the first row of the basilica for the ceremony and included Corbella’s husband, Enrico Petrillo; their 13-year-old son, Francesco Petrillo; her parents Roberto Corbella and Maria Anselma Ruzziconi; and her sister Elisa Corbella.

In an interview before the session, Enrico Petrillo told CNA the closing of the diocesan phase for beatification “brings me so much peace.”

“The most beautiful testimony, he said, is this one made by the Church herself, because it is necessary for the Church to say, ‘Yes, what you have experienced is really something great.’” 

During the closing session on Friday, diocesan officials tied up the documents and sealed them with wax. The beatitudes were also read and everyone sang hymns and prayed together the Our Father and the Glory Be in thanksgiving for the life of Corbella.

Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Diocese of Rome officials seal documents at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Corbella’s cause for beatification was opened exactly five years after her death, following the requirements of canon law.

With the closing of the diocesan investigation into her life, virtues, and sanctity, documented testimonies and other materials will now be sent to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints for further scrutiny.

The next step in the process will be for the pope to recognize her as someone who lived a life of heroic virtue and declare her venerable. Corbella will then need two miracles attributed to her intercession to be declared a saint. 

Corbella’s life and message

Corbella met her husband at the age of 18 while on a pilgrimage to Međugorje. They married six years later in Assisi on Sept. 21, 2008. Within the first two years of their marriage, they suffered the death of two children, Maria Grazia Letizia and Davide Giovanni, both of whom died less than an hour after birth from incurable disabilities.

Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Friends and family of Chiara Corbella Petrillo attend the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into her life and virtues in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Despite receiving the terminal diagnoses in pregnancy, Corbella chose to carry her babies to term.

Enrico Petrillo told CNA on June 21 that the couple made the decision to let their babies die a natural death in their parents’ arms because “for us they were lives, they existed and they were not problems to be eliminated. ... This, in my opinion, is a core part of our experience: the fact of safeguarding life.”

Sometimes Catholics use the language to “defend life,” he continued. “Life is not even to be defended, it is to be guarded, which is perhaps a nuance, but it is a nuance that Chiara helps us to grasp, because those who ‘defend’ have enemies. We don’t have any enemies and we embraced [the story] the Lord was writing.”

Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Vice Regent Baldassare Reina presides at the closing of the diocesan phase of the investigation into the life and virtues of Chiara Corbella Petrillo in Rome on Friday, June 21, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“That is why it did not feel right,” he said, “to substitute ourselves for what the King of History was thinking of for us, because we knew, because we sensed, that it could be the most beautiful thing.”

Corbella became pregnant for a third time with their son Francesco in 2010 and ultrasounds showed that he was in perfect health. The joyful news was short-lived as Corbella was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors removed a tumor on her tongue that turned out to be cancerous.

As the cancer metastasized, it became difficult for Corbella to speak and see clearly. A photo of her wearing an eye patch with a big smile was taken in April 2012, less than two weeks after she learned that her condition was terminal. She prepared for death by receiving the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Corbella died on June 13, 2012, at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends, one year after her son was born. Hundreds of people packed into the filled church at her funeral three days later.

“The most beautiful message” Corbella reveals to the world “is that we are all children like her,” Enrico Petrillo told CNA.

“And so, these years and all that we experienced help to make people understand that Chiara is not a holy card to put on an altar,” he continued. “She is like us, she is a daughter like us, she is not ... a heroine or a superhero, but she is simply a girl who knows that she is loved by God and because of that she can do anything.”

In a speech at the closing session, Reina, who is also an auxiliary bishop of Rome, recalled an important moment in the young life of Corbella. During a difficult period before her marriage to Enrico, a spiritual adviser told Corbella: “When God opens a door, no one closes it, and when God closes it, no one opens it.”

It was a reference, Reina said, to Revelation 3:7: “‘The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open.’”

Corbella wrote that “this word changed my life,” Reina said. “From that moment on, Chiara understood God as the king of history, but above all as the king of her own personal story.”

“That which God thought good, beautiful, or holy for her life, he would realize, and because of this, she should not be discouraged, nor have fear, because despite sin, trials and tribulations, sickness, and death, God is faithful!” the bishop continued.

“That verse of Revelation,” he said, “would be the hermeneutic key to understanding everything that would happen: The Lord would give to her the husband, children, time, and health in the measure that he always thought of for her.”

“Her desire to be a wife and mom, to grow old together with her husband and to raise their children, would not be realized according to her human aspirations, but in the measure and way that God had planned and without depriving her of his happiness,” the bishop said.

Corbella’s father, Roberto Corbella, told CNA on June 21: “I always say that we are lucky parents, because every day, in the news, we hear about young kids who have died in violent situations ... meanwhile [Chiara] left with a smile, meanwhile she left after telling us all, ‘I love you.’”

“Then, the fact that we see that so many people in the world rely on her helps us to accept [her death] better, in the sense that it’s clear that I would rather ... still have her sitting on my lap,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But seeing so many people ask for help certainly makes us accept everything much better.”

Pope Francis advances martyred Albanian priests along path to sainthood

Father Luigi Paliq (left) and Father Gjon Gazulli were declared martyrs by Pope Francis on June 20, 2024. / Credit: Screen capture from aciprensa.com of photo courtesy of The Order of Friars Minor, Episcopal Conference of Albania

CNA Staff, Jun 21, 2024 / 13:51 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday advanced the cause for sainthood for two martyred Catholic priests who were killed “in hatred of the faith” in Albania in the first decades of the 20th century.

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints made the announcement of the priests’ martyrdom and subsequent beatification in a press release on Thursday. When the pope declares that a person was martyred for the faith, that individual is beatified, and the title “Blessed” is granted.

Father Luigj Paliq was murdered in Albania in 1913, and Father Gjon Gazulli was killed in 1927. In 2016, Pope Francis beatified 38 Albanian clerics and lay Catholics who were martyred under the country’s communist regime between 1945 and 1974.

Paliq, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor in Cortemaggiore, was the rector of the Franciscan Convent of Gjakova. He defended local populations, including Muslims, from the persecutions of the Montenegrin forces that took control of the region after the First Balkan War. 

He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Montenegrins on March 7, 1913. Before his death, he “confirmed his full willingness to die for Christ and for the Church,” with his last words to that effect “heard and reported by those who had witnessed his shooting.”

Gazulli was born in Dajc, Albania, in 1893. He entered the Pontifical Seminary of Skorka at age 12, being ordained a priest in 1919 after overcoming several health problems. 

He established a parochial school in the Koman region of Albania; eventually, he drew the ire of local authorities due to the religious influence he held over priests and other locals.

Arrested by the government, he was “subjected to a farce trial” and convicted on false charges. He was hanged in the square in Skorko on March 5, 1927. 

The priest died “by forgiving his killers and professing his loyalty to Christ and the Church,” the dicastery said. 

The dicastery on Thursday also put several other faithful on the path to being declared saints, including recognizing the heroic virtues of Servant of God Isaiah Columbro, an Italian priest who during his life was “much sought after for his prayers and blessings.” 

Columbro was “above all esteemed and well-liked for the indefatigable exercise of the sacrament of penance.” He died in 2004.

The Vatican also recognized the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Vicenta Guilarte Alonso, a member of the Spanish Daughters of Jesus who joined the order in 1909 and subsequently traveled to the Brazilian town of Pirenopolis to found a community there. 

She was later transferred to the municipality of Leopoldina, where she was made doorman and sacristan. Though she had earlier been deputy superior, she “humbly accepted this situation, which astonished many sisters, without protesting and expressing regret,” the dicastery said. 

She served in that role until her death in 1960.