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What the same-sex marriage vote means for Catholics

null / Gutzemberg / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

With Congress now poised to enshrine same-sex marriage into federal law — largely thanks to Senate Republicans — opponents of the measure warn that Catholics and other people of faith should brace for incoming attacks on their faith. 

The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and did not force states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The Democrat-led RFMA goes further than the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage — Obergefell v. Hodges — by mandating that all states must recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. 

The bill also elevates married same-sex couples to receive Medicare and Social Security benefits. 

The Senate’s passage of RFMA — successful due to the support of 12 Republican senators — has provoked widespread outcry from religious groups and conservatives, with some calling it the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage bills. 

Will the act threaten Catholics and religious organizations?

The text of RFMA claims the bill will have “no impact on religious liberty and conscience.” 

But policy experts and Church leaders say the opposite is true: The bill will empower the government to come after those who believe in the sanctity of marriage.

Jon Schweppe, policy director for American Principles Project (APP), explained that the religious protections that did make it in the RFMA are “really limited.”

“My biggest concern with this is that now we’re pretty much relying on the courts to uphold the First Amendment,” Schweppe said. “You can’t rely on the court system to save you. They’re going to find ways to persecute you.”

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s amendment to include explicit religious liberty protections for those who hold to the sanctity of marriage failed by a vote of 48-49. 

Lee argued the RFMA will lead to litigation attacks against those who believe in traditional marriage unless the bill provides viable protections for them instead of solely the possibility of a court defense.

“Instead of subjecting churches, religious nonprofits, and persons of conscience to undue scrutiny or punishment by the federal government because of their views on marriage, we should make explicitly clear that this legislation does not constitute a national policy endorsing a particular view of marriage that threatens the tax-exempt status of faith-based nonprofits,” Lee wrote in a November letter to his fellow senators. 

Schweppe told CNA that the RFMA “also doesn’t protect conscience for individuals.”

“Ultimately there are going to be religious believers who will have their lives destroyed because of this bill,” he said. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is alarmed about what the bill’s passage will mean for people of faith. 

“Senators promoting the Act have claimed that their amended bill ‘respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties,’ but the provisions of the Act that relate to religious liberty are insufficient,” the USCCB wrote in a Nov. 17 statement opposing the bill. 

“The Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages,” the letter said, citing bakers, adoption providers, and other faith-based organizations at risk of discrimination. 

How many Republicans voted for the bill? 

Earlier in November, 12 Republican senators — Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana — joined 50 Democrats to vote for advancing the bill past a filibuster so it could reach a final vote.

The same Republican senators voted for final passage of the bill Tuesday, for a 61-36 vote total. 

The critical role Republicans played in passing the RFMA is viewed by many conservatives and people of faith as an egregious breach of trust.

“It's a stunning betrayal from the party that’s supposed to be fighting against wokeness; fighting against this evil movement on the left,” Schweppe said. 

Paige Agostin, policy director of the conservative think tank Center for Renewing America, called the passage “the Roe v. Wade of marriage bills.”

“[It] will weaponize the entire Left to go after people of faith,” she told CNA.

Wasn’t same-sex marriage already legalized? 

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage rights in the 2013 and 2015 Supreme Court decisions United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, obliterating the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Under Obergefell, all states are required to allow same-sex marriages.

However, Democrats have pushed for the RFMA bill to further embed same-sex marriage protections into law after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. In that decision, Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggested the court should reconsider all “substantive due process” cases, including Obergefell. 

What’s next? 

The RFMA faces another round of voting in the House, where it is nearly certain to pass by the end of the year. It will then go to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has already promised to sign it into law. 

German Synodal Way: The devil will not defeat the Resurrection, Spanish cardinal says

The Risen Christ / Credit: Flick Lawrence OP (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

CNA Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Spanish Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela criticized the controversial Synodal Way of the German Catholic Church, noting that the devil will not defeat the resurrection of Christ.

Rouco, who is the archbishop emeritus of Madrid, made his remarks during a course on canon law at the University of Navarra focused on Praedicate Evangelium, the apostolic constitution issued by Pope Francis reforming the Roman Curia.

The cardinal said that the controversial Synodal Way in Germany “has a defect in form” and “is more of a superstructure than a reality that arises from the heart of the Church.”

The Spanish cardinal noted that the Synodal Way “has been very well received in the world by the prevailing social trends of thought. It has been strengthened from the outside, influencing and having effects within.”

“This makes manifest that faith is light and that we have to make an examination of conscience and take holiness more seriously, because we have allowed ourselves to be won over to a great extent by materialistic trends,” he added.

The devil cannot defeat the Resurrection

The archbishop emeritus of Madrid referred to a passage from the Book of Revelation and said that “the great battle for the salvation of the world has been settled from the beginning, because the triumph of the Risen One is definitive and no one can overcome it.”

“The power of the devil is not going to defeat the Resurrection, but the battle must be fought, the Passion of Christ must be completed, as St. Paul says,” the cardinal explained.

The German Synodal Way

The Synodal Way is a controversial multiyear process that began in December 2019 and involves German bishops and laity in addressing issues such as the exercise of “power” in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church, issues on which they have expressed, publicly and on various occasions, positions contrary to Catholic doctrine.

These positions have given rise to various accusations of heresy and fears of schism.

On Nov. 18, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery of Bishops, warned that the proposals of the Synodal Way “hurt the communion of the Church,” sowing “doubt and confusion among the people of God.”

Ouellet asked the German bishops for “a moratorium” on their proposals until after the conclusion of the Synod of Synodality, the final phase of which will take place in the Vatican in 2023 and 2024.

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

The Vatican says it’s been hacked — again

null / dade72 / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 30, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A Vatican spokesman said Wednesday that the Holy See has taken down its main vatican.va website amid an apparent attempt to hack the site. 

“Technical investigations are ongoing due to abnormal attempts to access the site,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told Reuters Nov. 30, without elaboration. 

Numerous users online noted that the site was unavailable as of Tuesday morning. Among other things, vatican.va is the official online repository for papal encyclicals. 

As of Wednesday afternoon in the United States, attempts by CNA to access the vatican.va website from several different web browsers produced “404” error messages. Ancillary websites, such as press.vatican.va, were still online as of Wednesday. 

The perpetrator and motives of the alleged hacker or hackers in this case remain unclear, though there is precedent for hacking groups targeting the Vatican because of public statements made by Pope Francis. For example, in 2015, a Turkish hacker took credit for hacking the Vatican’s website because Pope Francis referred in a homily to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by Turks as a “genocide.” 

In the present case, the apparent attack comes a day after Russian leaders criticized Pope Francis for comments he made about Russia’s war in Ukraine in a recent interview. In the interview, the pope described Ukraine as a “martyred people” and singled out two Russian ethnic minorities — Chechens and Buryati — as “generally the cruelest” in the conflict. 

The Vatican’s aging main website has attracted other hackers, too. In 2012, the Italian branch of the activist hacking group Anonymous took down the Vatican’s website using a simple “denial of service” hacking method, whereby the site was artificially flooded with traffic in an attempt to overload it.

More recently, in 2020, Chinese state-sponsored hackers reportedly targeted Vatican computer networks and other Catholic targets in an attempt to give China an advantage in negotiations at that time to renew a provisional deal with the Holy See.  

Experts have accused Russia of using hacking, cyberwarfare, and disinformation in its present conflict with Ukraine, and in addition, Russia has a history of targeting Catholic entities with its hacks. In 2018, reports emerged that Russian hackers had infiltrated the email inboxes of Orthodox, Catholic, and other religious leaders connected to Ukraine. 

Courtney Mares contributed to this story.

Louisiana priest confirmed as victim in double homicide, archbishop offers prayers

Father Otis Young, the former pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana, was killed in a double homicide less than a year after his retirement. / Screenshot 2020 YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2022 / 13:35 pm (CNA).

Authorities have positively identified Father Otis Young, a local Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, as one of the victims of a double homicide.

The St. Tammany Coroner’s office said Tuesday that the cause of death was “sharp- and blunt-force trauma.” The homicide occurred either Sunday night or Monday morning, the office said. 

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement Wednesday offering prayers for both Young and Ruth Prats, who worked closely with Young as a church staff member until Young’s retirement earlier this year. Aymond said that she is listed as a missing person. 

CNA contacted the local police to confirm that Prats is still listed as missing but did not hear back by time of publication.

“The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us, but particularly those who are most directly affected, for a very long time,” Aymond said in the statement.

Aymond said that “as we await confirmation of the second victim, I offer my prayers for both victims of this heinous crime. In a particular way we prayerfully remember Father Otis, a beloved pastor who touched the lives of so many with his faith, warmth, and pastoral heart. This is a loss for our Church and for the entire community.”

Young, 71, who retired in July, was pastor for approximately 10 years at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana. His body, along with another victim’s body, was found “burned beyond recognition” less than a mile away from the church, according to police. Fox8live.com reported that the bodies were found behind a glass store in downtown Covington.

Fox8live.com reported that the bodies of Young and the other victim were found hours after Young and Prats were reported missing.

The coroner’s office says it expects to have an identification of the second victim by the end of the week.

“Let us continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Father Otis and for Ruth Prats who remains missing, and for both their families and all who are suffering. Let us pray that we may all know God’s love, mercy, and hope,” Aymond said. 

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

Fox8live.com reported that Tyson was released from prison in August after serving part of a sentence he received in 1993. The outlet reported that he was serving time for charges of forcible rape and home invasion. 

Nola.com reported that Tyson was working as a landscaper with his brother since his release a few months ago. Tyson’s sister, Leslie Tyson, said that she was “numb,” according to nola.com. 

“He was always with his family. He went to church every Sunday. I’m in disbelief,” the sister said, according to the outlet.  

“The St. Peter Parish community is devastated at the announcement that one of the victims in yesterday’s double homicide in downtown Covington is confirmed to be that of Father Otis Young, Jr. We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” Aymond said in his statement. 

“I extend my prayerful support and that of the clergy, religious, and laity of the archdiocese to the Covington community and in particular for the parishioners of St. Peter Parish. I also want to extend my gratitude and prayers to the law enforcement personnel, the coroner, and all authorities who have worked so carefully and thoroughly through these very difficult circumstances,” Aymond said.

“For all those who are hurting and asking how this could happen, may I humbly offer that we turn to Our Lord Jesus in this time of mourning,” he added. 

St. Peter Catholic Church said in an online post Tuesday that the parish is “devastated” at the news of Young’s death. 

“We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Father Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” the post said. 

On Monday night, an hour of eucharistic adoration was held at St. Peter Catholic Church to offer prayers for the victims. 

Father Daniel Brouillette, pastor of the church, said at the Holy Hour that “we are in a state of shock, horror, and disbelief.”

“Even as we grieve we must forgive. That is hard tonight,” he said.

Imploring the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brouillette said: “May she wrap them in her heavenly mantle, may she do the same for us.”

Cardinal Becciu and the twists and turns of the Vatican finance trial

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu attends the Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals at the St. Peter's Basilica on Aug. 27, 2022, at the Vatican. / Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

As the Vatican trial against Cardinal Angelo Becciu and nine others rounds the corner in its 16th month, recent court hearings have introduced a few revelations about the case as well as possible new accusations against the Secretariat of State’s former No. 2.

Here are some of the latest twists and turns in the trial to prosecute people in and around the Vatican for financial crimes.

A secret papal recording

During a Nov. 24 hearing, a Vatican prosecutor played a recording of a phone call between Pope Francis and Cardinal Becciu — secretly recorded on the cellphone of Becciu’s family friend.

Though media and observers had to leave the courtroom while the recording, which had not yet been admitted into evidence, was played, Italian news agency Adnkronos later published a full transcript.

The recording revealed, Vatican prosecutor Alessandro Diddi said in court, that Becciu had called Pope Francis on July 24, 2021 — 20 days after the pope had surgery on his colon and three days before the start of the trial — to ask him to confirm that he had authorized payments to free a kidnapped nun in Mali.

During the phone call, Becciu lamented that a letter from the pope repeated the same accusations of prosecutors. “I almost should not go to trial anymore because, I’m sorry, but the letter you sent me is a condemnation,” he said, according to the transcript published by Adnkronos.

The cardinal also reportedly said he would not be able to call Pope Francis as a witness in the trial, which is why he was calling him to have his statement that he had authorized the financial operations. 

Francis said he wanted to stay above the fray of the trial and asked Becciu to put his questions to him in writing.

Possible criminal conspiracy

In the same hearing, Diddi said he also was investigating a new possible charge against Becciu and others: criminal conspiracy.

The accusation concerns the charge that Becciu misused Vatican funds to support the cooperative SPES — which works with the local Caritas in Becciu’s home Diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia. SPES is mostly managed by the cardinal’s family members.

Diddi said financial police in Sardinia have found falsified documents apparently used to justify a transfer of money from Caritas to SPES in 2018.

Police found that 927 transport documents for bread had actually been created in the summer of 2021, a few weeks before the start of the Vatican trial, and back-dated to 2018.

Becciu sues — and loses

An Italian court last week rejected a defamation lawsuit filed by Cardinal Becciu against three journalists at the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.

Becciu was ordered to pay 40,000 euros in court costs to the GEDI Publishing Group, which owned L’Espresso when the complaint was filed.

The cardinal’s lawyer had argued that L’Espresso’s reporting in 2020 had cost Becciu the chance to be pope. His lawsuit asked judges to award him 10 million euros in compensation.

This was Becciu’s second lost lawsuit this month. Earlier in November, a judge in northern Italy ordered the cardinal to pay over 20,000 euros each in court costs to his former collaborator Monsignor Alberto Perlasca and Perlasca’s friend after suing them for “persecutory acts.”

In his sentence, the judge called Becciu’s lawsuit an “abuse of the procedural instrument” and also directed the cardinal to pay 9,000 euros in damages to Perlasca.

Becciu could choose to appeal the decisions. 

Perlasca’s day in court

Monsignor Perlasca, the former head of administration at the Secretariat of State, testified two days last week, his first time taking the stand during the Vatican’s finance trial. His questioning continued on Nov. 30.

Perlasca was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations, but he was never charged after volunteering information to investigators during extensive questioning in 2020 and 2021. He is now the prosecution’s star witness.

Perlasca had sought to have most of his pretrial interrogations excluded from evidence at trial. He argued that due process was not followed since he did not have a lawyer with him while questioned.

But the president of the Vatican court, Giuseppe Pignatone, denied the plea on the eve of Perlasca’s testimony, only excluding a part of one interrogation from Aug. 31, 2020.

Perlasca, who contradicted his prior statements throughout questioning Nov. 24 and 25, was warned by Pignatone to be careful of his answers — or risk being charged with perjury.

When asked about the Secretariat of State’s decisions around the purchase of the London building, the investment at the heart of the trial, Perlasca claimed to have so little power that he could not even sign his name to anything.

But the prosecutor pointed out that Perlasca’s name was signed to the “framework agreement” that transferred the management of the London property from Raffaele Mincione to Gianluigi Torzi, both defendants in the trial.

Perlasca said the “current sostituto,” or No. 2, at the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, told him to sign it.

The former right-hand man of Becciu said he did not know much about financial affairs, unlike his predecessor in the position, and distanced himself from all responsibility, despite having been the head of administration.

He said Becciu is guilty of all the charges against him and insinuated the cardinal put pressure on him, while he himself is “neither accomplice, nor conniver, nor abettor.”

Perlasca also downplayed threats of suicide he made to Becciu over messages, calling them “provocations” now being exaggerated for dramatic effect.

According to Perlasca, Becciu suggested multiple times he should visit his brother, Mario Becciu, a psychologist and licensed therapist in Rome.

A statement from Becciu’s lawyers welcomed the opportunity to examine Perlasca’s claims in court and said the priest’s testimony did not correspond to the accusations against their client.

Earlier this year, Perlasca entered the Vatican trial as a civil plaintiff, joining the Secretariat of State; the Vatican’s two financial bodies, APSA and the IOR; and internal financial watchdog authority ASIF in requesting damages.


An earlier version of this story misidentified the person who recorded Becciu's phone call with Pope Francis as Becciu's niece. It has been corrected.

Spanish government wants to undo the concept of family and redefine it, critics charge

null / Credit: Pexels

CNA Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pro-family associations in Spain are mobilizing against a new family law, warning that what the executive branch of the government wants is to “undo the concept of family and redefine it from its foundation.”

This law was expected to be approved Tuesday as a royal decree-law by the Council of Ministers for its subsequent ratification in Congress. However, a few hours before the council was to meet, it was announced that the decision had been postponed.

According to the 1978 Spanish Constitution, “in cases of extraordinary and urgent need, the government may issue temporary legislative provisions” called decree-laws.

The Federation of Associations of Large Families of Madrid released a manifesto demanding that “the concept of family that should be promoted and advanced by the state is that of the natural family.”

Thus, a family “is born from the marital union of one man and one woman, which is the union that most fosters the necessary stability for the good of the children,” the manifesto says.

The declaration also maintains that this institution “exists prior to the State and the State can only protect, improve, promote, and defend it.”

Another criticism is that the new law aims to establish up to 16 classes of families. According to the manifesto, “these 16 types of family or those that are added are family circumstances that in no case define what the family is.”

With this concept, “what the government is doing is to undo the concept of family and redefine it from its foundation,” the organizations signing the manifesto pointed out.

Adding their names to the manifesto are the Family Network, Family Policy Institute, Family Take Action, Canary Islands for Life, and Educators Against Indoctrination.

María Menéndez, president of the Association of Large Families and a mother of nine, charged that “for three years Podemos has been weaving this plan to deconstruct the family, dividing it up according to its different circumstances, mixing in ideological and sectarian traps, adding some welfare policy proposal and putting it all together.”

Podemos is the leftist political party that together with the Spanish Socialist Workers Party form the current ruling coalition.

The government seeks to “invent a grotesque and false representation of the family; a legislative trap to redefine the family,” Menéndez explained.

The pro-family leader said that “we must move to action. And this is the first move of this game. A game that must be played because for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good people to stand still and do nothing.”

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

Pope Francis: Restoration of Christian unity is ‘an urgent priority in today’s world’

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 07:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that the full restoration of communion among all Christians is “an urgent priority in today’s world.”

In a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the pope expressed gratitude that Catholic and Orthodox Christians are seeking “to achieve full communion that will enable us one day, in God’s time, to gather together at the same eucharistic table.”

“The full restoration of communion among all the believers in Jesus Christ is an irrevocable commitment for every Christian, for the ‘unity of all’ (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) is not only God’s will but an urgent priority in today’s world,” Pope Francis said on Nov. 30.

The pope’s letter marked the feast of St. Andrew. Pope Francis sends a message each year on the feast to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is regarded as the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle and “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In this year’s letter, Pope Francis wrote that Christians are called to work toward the restoration of unity “not merely through signed agreements but through fidelity to the Father’s will and discernment of the promptings of the Spirit.”

“Much attention has rightly been placed on the historical and theological reasons at the origin of our divisions. This shared study must continue and develop in a spirit that is neither polemical nor apologetic but marked instead by authentic dialogue and mutual openness,” Pope Francis said.

“We must likewise acknowledge that divisions are the result of sinful actions and attitudes which impede the work of the Holy Spirit, who guides the faithful into unity in legitimate diversity. It follows that only growth in holiness of life can lead to genuine and lasting unity.”

Patriarch Bartholomew expressed support earlier this month for finding a common date for Easter, a move that would lead to Catholics and Orthodox celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at the same time.

The patriarch said that conversations are underway between Church representatives to come to an agreement. According to an earlier report by Vatican News, the patriarch supports such a common date to be set for the year 2025, which will mark the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea.

The Holy See press office reported on Nov. 30 that a Vatican delegation traveled to Istanbul for a customary visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the feast of St. Andrew.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, led the delegation, which included the undersecretary for the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Msgr. Andrea Palmieri. They were joined by Archbishop Marek Solczynski, the apostolic nuncio to Turkey.

The delegation took part in a solemn Divine Liturgy presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew in St. George’s Cathedral in Istanbul, where Sandri read the pope’s letter aloud.

“Invoking upon you Almighty God’s gifts of serenity and joy, I renew my expression of good wishes for the feast of St. Andrew, and exchange with Your All Holiness a fraternal embrace of peace in the Lord,” Pope Francis said.

Norwegian bishop: Catholic life leads ‘to persecution to some degree in this fallen world’

Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Marking 500 years of his country’s history, a convert to Catholicism, Trappist monk, and Scandinavian bishop spoke about persecution in Rome this week.

Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, said a “life in Christ will lead to persecution to some degree in this fallen world at all times. That’s just the way it is.”

The prelate of Trondheim — Norway’s former Viking capital — spoke during a special requiem that marked half a millennium of Catholic history in his country, as CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The occasion — streamed by EWTN Norge — was a special commemoration of Archbishop Erik Valkendorf, who died in Rome 500 years ago on Nov. 28, 1522.

Valkendorf was the penultimate archbishop of Nidaros — now Trondheim — in Norway before the Protestant Reformation all but wiped out Catholic life in the country.

Bishop Varden, who had also celebrated vespers at Rome’s Santa Maria dell’Anima Church the previous evening, described the conflict between King Christian II and Valkendorf. The two, he said, had been “good comrades at first.” But then Christian prevailed upon Valkendorf to become archbishop of Nidaros in 1510 — and thus “metropolitan of all Norway, plus Greenland, Iceland, the Orkney Islands, and the Isle of Man.”

“Valkendorf took a promise from the king that the latter would not touch the rights of the Church, but Christian probably counted on some room for interpretation between old friends,” Varden explained.

“He was mistaken. Valkendorf became a sincere bishop who loved his diocese. He governed wisely and in turn was a popular shepherd.”

Varden noted that Norway owed Valkendorf “the first printed books in the country,” namely “a breviary and missal of the rite of Nidaros, published in 1519.”

“It aroused the archbishop’s displeasure that Christian constantly harassed him with financial problems and lacked respect for the rights of the Church,” Varden said, noting the tensions between the king and the archbishop.

“The king, in turn, wanted the former friend out of the way: He was no longer of any use to him.”

Vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Valkendorf finally decided to “take the matter to the pope. At Candlemas 1522, he reached Rome. [The Bavarian theologian] Jakob Ziegler described him as a ‘venerable old man whose honest soul found expression in a pure countenance.’ Valkendorf was just 57 years old, but hardship and strife left their mark. Norway he never saw again. He died in the city on Nov. 28 of that year.”

Pope Hadrian VI praised him “for his commitment, reminiscent of Thomas Becket, ‘to the preservation of the freedom of the Church.’” Unlike Becket, however, Valkendorf was “not a martyr in the strict sense.”

“But his fidelity cost him everything: health, fortune, and reputation.”

Varden said: “The courage he displayed is more than mere natural fortitude. In freedom, he allowed the cross of the Christ to seal his life. A distinctive feature of the Rite of Nidaros is that after the consecration, the priest holds his arms ‘in the shape of a cross, pointing upward.’ One cannot stand in this posture day after day, year after year, without it leaving traces in the soul: We sense in Valkendorf a conformity to Christ.”

Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, blesses Bishop Valkendorf's tombstone, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, blesses Bishop Valkendorf's tombstone, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The 48-year-old Varden is the first Norwegian-born bishop of Trondheim in modern times. His five predecessors were German.

Pope Francis names new economy prefect as Father Guerrero resigns ‘for personal reasons’

Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves / Office of Communication Society of Jesus

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed a Spanish layman to lead the Secretariat for the Economy following the resignation of Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, “for personal reasons.”

Guerrero is undergoing medical treatment after having surgery in 2022, Vatican News reported Nov. 30.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 62, has been secretary general, the second-ranking position, in the economy office since August 2020.

Before coming to the Vatican, Caballero was vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company. From Merida, Spain, he lived and worked in the United States from 2007–2020.

Guerrero is also from Merida, Spain, and a childhood friend of Caballero. The 63-year-old Jesuit priest began his term as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in January 2020.

The Vatican said Nov. 30 that Pope Francis had accepted Guerrero’s resignation “for personal reasons.” The resignation takes effect Dec. 1.

According to Vatican News, Guerrero wrote a letter to employees of the Secretariat for the Economy, which said after an operation in 2022, “I am undergoing medical treatment that has side effects that make it particularly difficult for me to carry out a task as demanding as the one I am entrusted with, and that requires a greater physical efficiency and mental concentration than what I have at this time.”

Guerrero’s letter also looked back at the accomplishments of the economy office over his three years as prefect and what might be coming next.

“There are still many things in the pipeline,” he said, “the centralization of investments, the further regulation and simplification of procurement processes in order to make them more transparent and streamlined; the implementation of a Directorate for Human Resources, which is a new challenge to improve the working conditions and atmosphere within the Holy See; and the planning of greater use of computerized procedures.”

The priest noted that reform includes both steps forward and steps backward, but “we are not now at the same point at which we started.”

“In any case,” he said, “we know that being a controlling body always involves being in an uncomfortable position for those who are controlled.”

The pope “warmly thanks Father Guerrero for the dedication shown in his service to the Holy See,” a Nov. 30 statement from the Vatican said. “Father Guerrero managed to sort out the economy for the better, it was a strong and challenging work that bore much fruit. The Holy Father assures him of his prayers.”

Guerrero and Caballero were childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News after his appointment in August 2020 that the two were close friends through university and had remained in contact.

Caballero has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

He has been married for 33 years to Immaculada, and they have two adult children.

When appointed to work in the Vatican’s economy office in 2020, Caballero described it as “God’s call,” saying that for he and his wife, “there was only one response: ‘fiat.’”

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Economy in 2014 as part of his financial reform of the Vatican. It oversees the financial aspects of both the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State administration, including a review of financial reports.

Guerrero, who has been a Jesuit since 1979, has a degree in economics from the Autonomous University of Madrid and degrees in theology, philosophy, and letters.

Before becoming prefect, the priest had been living in Rome since 2017, serving as general counselor and delegate of the superior general for the interprovincial houses and works of the Jesuits.

Guerrero had filled a position left vacant since February 2019, when the Vatican confirmed Cardinal George Pell’s five-year term as prefect to have expired.

Pell had taken a leave of absence beginning in June 2017, when he returned to his country of Australia to defend himself at trial against charges of historic sex abuse.

The cardinal was initially convicted and imprisoned, but later had his conviction overturned on appeal. He was released and moved back to Rome, where he lives in retirement.

This story was updated at 7 a.m. MST with information from Vatican News about Guerrero's letter.

Pope Francis’ spiritual life tip: A daily examination of conscience helps to avoid repeating mistakes

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recommended a daily examination of conscience as an “indispensable” practice in spiritual life.

An examination of conscience is a prayerful reflection on one’s thoughts, words, and deeds that helps to identify moments of sin and ask for God’s mercy.

This daily examination can be “an invitation to learn from our experiences” and “not to continue to repeat the same mistakes,” the pope said.

Speaking at his general audience on Nov. 30, Pope Francis said that the devil’s temptation “starts from what is most dear to us and then, little by little, reels us in.”

He said: “This is why a daily examination of conscience is so important. Before finishing the day, stop for a while. What happened? Not in the newspapers, not in life — what happened in my heart?”

“Noticing what happens is important, it is a sign that God’s grace is working in us, helping us to grow in freedom and awareness. … Learn to read in the book of your heart what happened during the day.”

Pope Francis arriving at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis arriving at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis’ advice was part of his 10th catechesis in a weekly series on spiritual discernment, which he began at the end of August.

The pope noted that prayer during the day should not be viewed as a way to avoid a job or task that needs to be done, as in “every time I have to wash the dishes or clean the house, I have a strong urge to pray!”

“Prayer is not an escape from one’s responsibilities,” he said. “On the contrary, it is an aid in realizing the good we are required to do, here and now.”

In celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, the pope announced that a delegation of the Holy See had traveled to Constantinople.

“I wish to express my special affection to my dear brother Patriarch Bartholomew I and the entire Church of Constantinople,” Francis said.

“May the intercession of the Holy Brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, grant soon to the Church the full joy of her unity and peace to the whole world, especially at this time to the dear and tormented Ukraine, always in our hearts and prayers.”

Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Five Kenyan acrobats performed stunts in St. Peter’s Square toward the end of the audience to the movie soundtrack of the Blues Brothers. The pope smiled and clapped as the group — called The Black Blues Brothers — put on an acrobatic show to the musical soundtrack from the beloved 1980 comedy film.

Looking out at the Vatican’s recently decorated and nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, the pope wished a blessed Advent season in his greetings to visiting pilgrims from abroad. In his message to Polish-speaking pilgrims, the pope offered a reminder of the unique role of the Virgin Mary in the Advent season.

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

“May Our Lady, who accompanies us on the Advent journey, obtain for you and for all present the gift of a heart open to God and to others. I bless you from the bottom of my heart,” Pope Francis said.