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Pope Francis says he has ‘very acute infectious bronchitis’

Pope Francis meets participants in the Ethics of Healthcare Management seminar on Nov. 30, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2023 / 08:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told health care professionals on Thursday that he has “very acute infectious bronchitis” and was advised not to travel to Dubai to avoid the extreme change in temperature.

The pope, who will turn 87 on Dec. 17, quipped, “As you can see, I am alive,” as he met participants in a health care ethics seminar in a morning audience at the Vatican.

“Thank God it wasn’t pneumonia. It is a very acute, infectious bronchitis. I do not have a fever anymore, but am still on antibiotics and such,” Pope Francis said on Nov. 30.

Despite feeling under the weather, the pope maintained a very full schedule on Thursday with nine official meetings scheduled for the morning, including an audience with the International Theological Commission, bishops from Canada, and German Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim.

The Vatican has described the pope’s health condition as “influenza” with “lung inflammation” that has caused him some “breathing difficulties.”

Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways leading into the lungs (called bronchi) that can be caused by the same viruses as the flu but may also be caused by a bacterial infection.

Bronchitis is a different, but common complication of influenza that can cause a nagging cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. Acute bronchitis can be contagious, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A CT scan at a Rome hospital on Nov. 25 “ruled out pneumonia,” according to the Vatican.

On Nov. 28, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope’s doctors had advised him not to travel to Dubai this week for the United Nations COP28 climate conference because the pope had “the flu and inflammation of the respiratory tract.”

Pope Francis himself explained the decision on Thursday in his off-the-cuff remarks in Spanish to the health care seminar.

“The doctor did not let me go to Dubai. The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from heat to air conditioning,” he said, noting that this temperature change would not be good for his “bronchial condition.”

Pope Francis was hospitalized in March due to a respiratory infection and complained that he was not feeling well on Nov. 6, following which the Vatican said that the pope had “a bit of a cold.”

In his brief speech to the Ethics of Healthcare Management seminar, Pope Francis said that he was a fan of “preventive medicine.”

“Health is like a contrary thing; it is strong and fragile ... Poorly cared for health gives way to fragility. I like preventive medicine very much because it prevents before events occur,” Pope Francis said.

“I thank you for coming and forgive me for not being able to talk anymore, but I don’t have the energy,” he added.

MAP: Are Holy Land pilgrimage sites threatened by the Israel-Hamas war?  

null / Alexandra Lande / Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Israel’s war against Hamas, which began when the terrorist group launched a surprise attack on Israel Oct. 7, continued to rage throughout October and November before an extended truce began this week, though fighting is expected to resume.

The human toll of the war has been catastrophic. The day of Hamas’ attack was the deadliest day for Israel since it became a state, with over 700 killed, according to government officials. Meanwhile, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry has decried what it tallies to be some 12,000 deaths in Gaza amid Israel’s retaliation. 

In addition, the fighting has caused immense physical damage, especially in Gaza. A recent New York Times analysis of satellite imagery found that about half of all buildings in the northern Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war.

Christians around the world have visited the Holy Land for hundreds of years, seeking God’s favor as they walk in the holy places where Christ and other biblical figures stood. Many Christians are understandably worried that the holy sites that have been guarded for centuries as places of pilgrimage might be damaged or even destroyed amid the chaos of war. 

According to Reuters, Hamas possesses rockets that are capable of a 150-mile range, though with limited accuracy. Although these rockets could theoretically make reach holy sites in Jerusalem and beyond, Israel’s vaunted “Iron Dome” missile defense system has historically intercepted most rocket attacks from Gaza. Rocket attacks have also been reported coming from the north, launched by the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, a Hamas ally. 

In the face of this uncertainty, what is the outlook for the Holy Land’s many precious sites?

To find out, CNA contacted the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which has maintained the holy places of Christianity in the region for more than 800 years. In 1342, Pope Clement VI gave the Franciscans the official mandate to be guardians of the holy places for the Catholic Church. 

Today, the Franciscans care for 65 of the most significant Holy Land sites, including Bethlehem’s Basilica of the Nativity, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The bulk of the sites span across Israel and the Palestinian Territories, while a few are located in present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. 

Father David Grenier, OFM, is commissary of the Holy Land for the United States, meaning he is responsible for promoting the Holy Land’s sites to the people of the U.S. He said this week that none of the sites under the Franciscans’ care are currently under threat from the war — at least directly from hazards like bombs or rockets.

“So far, we are blessed because there’s no direct threat from the war,” Grenier told CNA in an interview. 

“[T]here’s no direct threat from the bombing or the rockets that are being thrown. We must say that we’re lucky we haven’t had any of our shrines damaged, or at risk to be damaged.”

Instead, he said, the threat facing holy sites in the region is more intangible — a lack of financial support from international pilgrims. The normally steady supply of tour groups from the U.S. and elsewhere has largely dried up as pilgrimage organizations anxiously wait to see how the war will play out.  

In a place like Bethlehem, which is located in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, Grenier said some 90% of the Christians living there are doing work that is directly tied to catering to pilgrimage groups — working in restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, as guides, or in the shrines themselves. 

The lockdowns and restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic hit these workers hard for several years, he noted, and now the normally bustling streets of Jerusalem are empty once more. The ongoing war has even forced the cancellation of public Christmas celebrations in the town of Jesus’ birth. 

“It was planned to be a record year for the number of pilgrims, and with Christmas coming … the people, they feel discouraged. They cannot work,” Grenier said. 

“A lot of people at the moment are thinking about leaving,” he continued.

“Many, many Christians, especially the young generations, are saying, ‘What’s the point? What’s the point to stay here? Better go and live somewhere else.’ That would be very sad, because this is still the place where the Church was born. And to have that place without a local community of Christians would be very saddening.”

The Franciscans are a beneficiary of the Vatican’s annual Good Friday collection, which will be collected this year on March 29. Traditionally, 65% of the collection goes to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and the remaining 35% given to the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches to support seminarians and priests as well as educational and cultural activities. In 2022 the collection brought in more than $9 million. 

In the meantime, the Franciscans have launched an emergency campaign to raise funds to support Christians in the Holy Land and the priceless sites they guard. 

“There’s a very tense climate right now that is hard on everyone,” Grenier said.

Pending decision by human rights court threatens to legalize abortion throughout Latin America

null / Unsplash.

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 05:50 am (CNA).

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) is deliberating a case that has the potential to legalize abortion throughout Latin America. The abortion lobby has seized on the case of Beatriz, a Salvadoran woman who was seriously ill and pregnant with a fatally disabled child who died shortly after birth.

The lobby is exploiting the case to force the issue of abortion as a solution to hard cases and thus open the door to abortion on demand.

In an effort to prevent such a decision by the court, more than 40 organizations demonstrated this week in front of the IACHR’s building in Costa Rica to demand that the judges not issue a verdict in favor of the “abortion industry.”

The demonstration, called by the National Front for Life, was held in the town of San Pedro de Montes de Oca, where the judges are in session.

The participating organizations are demanding that the judges recognize the right to life of Leilani, the baby girl in the case of Beatriz v. El Salvador.

The court’s deliberations could end in a ruling that legalizes the practice of abortion throughout the continent, endangering the right to life of unborn children.

The Beatriz case

Beatriz, a vulnerable woman who suffered from lupus, was pregnant with her second daughter, who was diagnosed with anencephaly. It was an at-risk pregnancy, but it did not endanger the life of Beatriz, as long as she was given appropriate prenatal care.

However, Salvadoran abortion groups reportedly convinced Beatriz that she was going to die if she didn’t have an abortion and that her baby was not really alive. Fearing that her first child would become an orphan, she requested the Salvadoran state to authorize an abortion.

After a medical examination that determined that the pregnancy did not put the mother’s life at risk, the state rejected the request, and on June 3, 2013, Beatriz gave birth to her daughter, an anencephalic baby.

The little girl, named Leilani, died five hours later due to her condition. Contrary to what abortion groups maintained, Leilani breathed, cried, received the love of her mother, and had a birth certificate.

Beatriz recovered well from the cesarean section, and months later, under pressure from the abortion lobby, she filed her case with the Inter-American Court, requesting that abortion be legalized so that no other woman would have to suffer what she experienced.

However, Beatriz visited her daughter’s grave in the cemetery and brought her flowers. In 2017, Beatriz died as a result of a motorcycle accident, and there is no evidence that her death was related to the birth of Leilani.

The court’s decision

If the Inter-American Court gives in to pressure from abortion groups, the practice could be required throughout the continent, since, although the sentences issued by the court are mandatory for the Organization of American States (OAS) member states directly involved in the case, it is debated whether the court’s rulings are also binding on all the states that belong to the organization.

With this ruling, the right to be born throughout Latin America would be put at risk, especially for people with disabilities and in vulnerable situations.

In countries where abortion is legal, a large percentage of children with Down syndrome are killed before birth and the practice is extended to different types of disabilities, even in situations of extreme poverty.

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

Catholics work to improve precarious state of public education in Venezuela

Coromoto 2020 seeks to empower teachers from the most needy communities in Venezuela. / Credit: Coromoto 2020

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

The Venezuelan organization of Catholic faithful “Coromoto 2020” held a fundraiser Tuesday to provide scholarships to 60 teachers from public and parochial schools in Carayaca, a city in La Guaira state.

The initiative was part of the GivingTuesday campaign of the GlobalGiving fundraising platform, one of the most important in the world. The scholarships will be used for participating teachers to earn certification in “Pedagogical Mediation for Learning,” which has been endorsed by the International Center for Professional Development of the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas.

“The Venezuelan educational system faces a serious human capital crisis. Insufficient salaries, untrained teachers, and lack of support have led to a teacher shortage. Growing poverty aggravates exclusion, poor academic performance, with students dropping out and irregular attendance,” explained Jessica Parra, the organization’s fundraising manager.

Additionally, she pointed out that Venezuelan families have been forced to “maximize their workforce,” making children go out to work in order to pay the bills and cover their basic needs. “This makes it a huge challenge to retain existing students and reintegrate them into the education system,” she explained.

The 60 teachers who will receive scholarships belong to 14 educational institutions in Carayaca and, according to Coromoto 2020, the program will “open doors to technological mastery and will help them collaboratively resolve problems and interact with students,” which they consider a crucial step to breaking the cycle of poverty.

The organization hopes to directly benefit 1,800 young people who depend on their teachers. “Our goal is to empower our young people to be agents of change by improving their skills through the professional development of their teachers, benefiting students, schools, and their community,” Parra said.

The certification program will begin in January 2024 and will last 100 academic hours (six months). It was created from a pilot project carried out from January to July in schools in the Carayaca community, where it was determined that there were pedagogical, technological, and socio-emotional needs.

In addition to this new educational initiative, Coromoto 2020 has served thousands of Venezuelan families with difficulty putting food on the table and has strengthened their values, bringing hope and forming a deep social commitment.

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

Pope reportedly confirms he is taking away Burke’s apartment, denies calling him his ‘enemy’

The facade of Cardinal Raymond Burke's Vatican apartment. / Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 17:31 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis reportedly has confirmed that he plans to take away Cardinal Raymond Burke’s Vatican apartment and salary but denied that he referred to the American prelate as his “enemy,” according to a web post by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The pope reportedly announced at a meeting of Vatican heads on Nov. 20 that he intended to take action against Burke, who has publicly criticized some papal initiatives, according to the Italian Catholic news blog La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, which first reported the news on Nov. 27.

The Associated Press later confirmed the report based on conversations with two anonymous sources.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Burke said he has not been informed of the pope’s intention to take away his apartment and salary.

“People can draw their own conclusions about why the Holy Father told this to Austen Ivereigh and not the person concerned,” Burke said. He told the outlet that he intends to stay in Rome even if he is forced to find somewhere else to live.

“It’s my duty as a cardinal to remain in Rome,” he said.

Pope Francis removed Burke from the post of prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Church) in 2014 and instead appointed him cardinal patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a mostly ceremonial role dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the members of the order. He remained patron until this year but had held only the title, having been reportedly restricted from active involvement since 2016 and thus sidelined during the extensive institutional reforms of the order over the last years.

In an article that was highly critical of Burke published on the website Where Peter Is, Ivereigh wrote that Pope Francis confirmed to him that he plans to take away Burke’s apartment and salary.

“I met with Pope Francis on the afternoon of November 27th. It was a short meeting because of his lung inflammation, which meant it took him some effort to speak. (The following evening his trip to Dubai was canceled because it had not improved enough.) In the course of our conversation, Francis told me he had decided to remove Cardinal Burke’s cardinal privileges — his apartment and salary — because he had been using those privileges against the Church,” Ivereigh wrote.

“He told me that while the decision wasn’t a secret, he didn’t intend a public announcement but earlier that day (Monday) it had been leaked,” he wrote.

Ivereigh is the author of two hagiographic biographies of Pope Francis and co-authored the 2020 book “Let Us Dream: A Path to a Better Future” with the Holy Father. He also holds a key advisory position in the current Synod on Synodality.

Ivereigh wrote that the pope said, contrary to some media reports, that he did not refer to Burke as his “enemy.”

According to the La Nuova Bussola Quotidian’s unnamed Vatican source, Pope Francis told the meeting of Vatican department heads on Nov. 20: “Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I take away his apartment and his salary.”

In his web post, Ivereigh wrote that he doubted the veracity of that report, saying: “I knew this quote was pure fiction. Pope Francis would never conduct a personal vendetta. It was conveniently in line with the traditionalist narrative of a merciless, vindictive pope who recklessly and unreasonably ‘punishes’ those who disagree with him.”

Ivereigh said he “wrote Pope Francis a note alerting him to this quote and offering to correct it with the truth as he had put it to me” and received a clear denial from the Holy Father.

“On Tuesday evening I had a note back from the pope. ‘I never used the word “enemy” nor the pronoun “my.” I simply announced the fact at the meeting of the dicastery heads, without giving specific explanations,’” Ivereigh wrote.

CNA reached out to the Vatican press office to confirm Ivereigh’s report but did not receive a response by time of publication.

The papal biographer has been a frequent critic of Burke, who had publicly voiced his concerns about the Synod on Synodality’s threat to Church doctrine.

In a recent post on the social media platform X, Ivereigh compared the cardinal to Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre, who founded the Priestly Society of St. Pius X and was excommunicated for ordaining priests without Vatican approval.

Ivereigh wrote: “Burke’s claim to be on the true branch while the tree goes its own way was the justification of Abp. Lefebvre, who led a schism following Vatican II. Just as Lefebvre rejected collegiality then, Burke rejects synodality now, despite both being authentic Church developments.”

Activist group pushes to enshrine abortion rights in Arkansas constitution

null / roibu / Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

An activist group in Arkansas this week announced an effort to pass a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion, with the southern state becoming the latest abortion battleground in the post-Roe v. Wade U.S. 

The group For AR People, which bills itself as working to “build a stronger state that works for everyone,” announced on Monday the formation of the group Arkansans for Limited Government in support of the Arkansas Reproductive Healthcare Amendment.

The amendment as currently written would forbid the state from restricting “access to abortion within 18 weeks of conception, or in cases of rape, incest, [and] in the event of a fatal fetal anomaly.” 

Abortion would also be permitted “to protect the pregnant female’s life or health,” the amendment says.

The amendment had been submitted to state Attorney General Tim Griffin for review earlier this month. On Tuesday the attorney general rejected the submission, saying in a decision that “ambiguities in the text of [the] proposed measure” could be misleading to voters.

The group will have to revise the proposal, Griffin said. Upon its acceptance by the attorney general’s office, activists will have to gather nearly 100,000 signatures by next July to ensure its placement on the 2024 ballot. 

In a statement shared with CNA, Arkansans for Limited Government said it “appreciate[d] the attorney general’s thorough review of and impartial response to the amendment’s language.” The group said it would “begin work immediately with the amendment drafter to craft a revised amendment.”

Pro-life groups, meanwhile, were speaking out against the measure this week. Arkansas Right to Life said in a statement shared with CNA on Tuesday that “the broadly written language [of the proposal] is so extreme that even pro-choice voters will see it goes too far.” 

“It clearly allows abortions up to the moment of birth and mandates that even the most basic limits on the profit-driven abortion industry are removed,” Executive Director Rose Mimms said. “The proposed constitutional amendment is not about limited government, it’s about forcing no-limit abortion on the people of Arkansas.”

David Cox, the assistant director of the Little Rock-based Family Council, told CNA via email that “if passed, the amendment’s language would effectively erase decades of good, pro-life laws.”

“For example, it would prevent Arkansas from requiring abortionists to have parental consent before performing an abortion on an underage girl,” he argued. “The amendment also could permit abortion in Arkansas through all nine months of pregnancy — including late-term abortion and partial-birth abortion.”

The amendment would allow the state General Assembly to “prohibit or restrict access to abortion only when it establishes a compelling government interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” 

The interest would be “compelling,” the language states, “only if it is for the purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking access, does not infringe on the individual’s decision making, and is consistent with widely accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine.”

Arkansas is one of several states in which abortion rights battles are playing out in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s repeal last year. 

Earlier in November, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum that added a new right to “reproductive freedom,” including abortion and contraception, to the state constitution.

Activists in numerous other states including Arizona, Florida, and Nebraska are likewise pushing to amend their respective constitutions to protect abortion rights.

Catholic cathedral complex bombed, bishop flees with refugees in worsening Myanmar civil war

This photo taken on October 12, 2014, shows the exterior of a church in Loikaw, Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. / Credit: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies.

Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News.

Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27.

“As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”

The cathedral complex had been sheltering about 82 refugees from throughout Myanmar’s Kayah state, a region that has become a major battleground between the Burmese military junta and several rebel militias.

According to LiCAS news, an Asian Catholic news source, the bishop also reported that “50 soldiers came and occupied [the cathedral] to make use of it as a shield.” 

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that many elderly, disabled, sick, women, and children were among those taking refuge in the cathedral complex. Ten priests and 16 religious were also among those taking shelter in the cathedral. Now, the refugees and bishop have fled the cathedral to seek refuge in other churches or the nearby wilderness.

Myanmar, which is bordered by India to the west and China to the east, is a majority Buddhist country that has large Catholic and Protestant minorities in some states. The country has been caught in a bloody civil war since 2021 after local militias united to oppose the military junta that had seized control of the government earlier that year.

This is not the first time that Catholic churches and holy sites have been caught in the crossfire in the ongoing war. Catholic sites in Kayah state and in the Loikaw Diocese have been especially hard hit by military strikes.

On Aug. 12 Mary Mother of Mercy Church in the village of Htee Thaw Ku in the Loikaw Diocese was hit by air strikes that destroyed the church’s ceiling and windows, according to UCA News.

In March 2022, CNA reported that Myanmar military airstrikes hit Our Lady of Fatima Church in Saun Du La village and the Sisters of Reparation convent, a home for retired nuns in Kayah state.

In total, according to Agenzia Fides, 21 of the diocese’s 41 parishes have been affected. The Diocese of Loikaw has about 93,000 faithful.

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that “due to the intensification of armed conflict in November, more than 80% of the urban and rural population in Kayah State have been displaced and the number of internally displaced people continues to rise.”

Shwe said that the cathedral had become a popular refuge site but that “unfortunately, we were not safe there either.”

A report published in March by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the conflict has resulted in a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” in which over 1.3 million people have been displaced and more than 3,000 civilians killed.

According to the U.N. report, as the conflict has escalated the Myanmar military junta has in recent months “stepped up aerial attacks, bombing villages, schools, medical facilities, and encampments for internally displaced persons.”

Pope Francis renewed his previous calls for peace in Myanmar in a Nov. 19 Angelus statement in St. Peter’s Square. The pope’s statement was published by Vatican News.

“War always, always, always is a defeat,” Francis said.

“I renew my closeness to the dear people of Myanmar who unfortunately continue to suffer from violence and suppression,” the pope went on. “I pray that they will not be discouraged and always trust in the Lord’s help.”

Vatican: Pope’s health ‘stable’; treatment continues as lung inflammation remains

Pope Francis greets pilgrims and poses for photos at the end of his general audience on Nov. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 15:58 pm (CNA).

The Vatican on Wednesday said Pope Francis’ health was stable as the Holy Father continues to receive treatment for ongoing lung inflammation stemming from a flu infection.

“The Holy Father’s condition is stable; he has no fever, but lung inflammation associated with respiratory distress remains,” the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“He continues antibiotic therapy,” the statement added.

Pope Francis has been struggling for several days with persistent symptoms following what the Vatican called a mild flu infection that developed last week.

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it had canceled the pope’s planned trip to Dubai this week due to his continuing struggles with lung inflammation. Francis had been scheduled to travel to Dubai to deliver a speech at the COP28 climate conference.

The Vatican said on Monday that the Holy Father’s condition was “clearly improving,” with the pontiff in “good and stable” condition and without a fever.

The pope last week visited the Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome after his flu diagnosis. During that visit, Francis underwent a CT scan to rule out the risk of “pulmonary complications,” the Holy See said at the time.

Francis, who turns 87 next month, has experienced a number of medical setbacks in recent years. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion, most recently in June for abdominal surgery.

Part of the pope’s right lung was removed in a surgery in 1957 in Argentina before he began his novitiate with the Jesuits. Earlier this year, the pope was treated for bronchitis for several days, quipping on his April 1 release: “I’m still alive, you know.”

Though he continues to struggle with the symptoms from the flu, the pope has kept up a somewhat regular schedule at the Vatican this week, hosting a soccer team on Wednesday and appearing for his Wednesday audience (his prepared remarks, however, were read by a Vatican official), while the Holy Father also met with French abuse victims on Tuesday.

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer team founded by a Catholic religious

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met Wednesday with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother.

The pope, who is known to be an avid soccer fan, met with the team on Nov. 29 while still recovering from the flu and lung inflammation, according to the Vatican.

Francis told the team: “Excuse me, but with this cold, I cannot speak much, but I am better than yesterday.” The pope asked a priest to read his message to the athletes and then greeted them one by one.

Celtic F.C. is a Scottish soccer team based in Glasgow. The team was founded in 1887 by Brother Walfrid, a consecrated Marist brother, to help raise funds to feed the poor. 

Brother Walfrid was born as Andrew Kerins in Ireland’s County Sligo in 1840 and grew up in poverty amid the Irish potato famine. He emigrated to Scotland at the age of 15 where he discerned a vocation to religious life with the Marist Brothers, a Catholic religious institute of consecrated brothers dedicated to the education of the poor.

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Walfrid started Celtic with the mission of supplying “funds for the maintenance of the dinner tables of our needy children,” particularly in the impoverished Irish immigrant neighborhoods of Glasgow’s East End.

“He envisaged harnessing the potential of the Irish Catholic diaspora through the vehicle of a football club. … He believed his endeavor could in turn provide monies which could be used to charitably ameliorate the situation of the neediest members of the community,” said Michael Connolly, author of “Walfrid: A Life of Faith, Community, and Football” published in 2022.

In its long history, the team has been known for its rivalry with another Scottish club called the Rangers, who drew support largely from the Protestant Unionist community in Glasgow, and at some points the bitter rivalry has devolved into violence.

The Scottish soccer team was in Rome for a Champions League match on Nov. 28 against the local S.S. Lazio club and lost to the Italians 2-0. 

Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to the players the day after their loss. 

“Everyone struggles to win, but victory is not the goal, that can be defeat,” the pope said in brief off-the-cuff remarks. 

“Victory is the entire process of playing together, playing as a team,” he added.

More than 130 Masses celebrated in 5 countries to promote Queen Isabella’s canonization

Queen Isabella I of Castile, Spain. / Credit: New World Encyclopedia, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

On Nov. 26, 1504, Queen Isabella of Spain — known as “the Catholic” monarch — died, and more than 500 years later, 133 Masses were celebrated in her memory in thanksgiving for her life and legacy as well as to promote the cause for her canonization.

For several years, the Enraizados en Cristo y en la Sociedad Association (Rooted in Christ and in Society) has kept up an ongoing campaign to promote devotion to the queen of Castile, who has been named a Servant of God by the Catholic Church.

This year, 133 Masses were celebrated with this intention, most of them in Spain but also in Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, and the United States.

The campaign joins the relaunch of the diocesan commission to promote the cause of canonization of the queen. The diocesan phase, which began in 1958 in the Archdiocese of Valladolid, was concluded in 1972.

Transferred to Rome, the historical “positio” (a formal brief arguing for canonization) was approved in 1990 as “authentic, complete, and suitable for judging the virtues and reputation for sanctity” of the monarch, the wife of King Ferdinand of Aragon and “unanimously praised by the consultants of the historical section of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” as detailed on the website of the commission for the canonization of the queen.

In 1993, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference asked Pope John Paul II to expedite the procedures for the cause. The Vatican Secretariat of State responded that “a suitable time of study and reflection” was prudent due to unspecified circumstances. Subsequently, both in 1997 and in 2001, these requests were renewed.

The opinion of the Vatican Theological Commission is necessary for the queen to be declared Venerable, a prior step to her consideration as Blessed.

The archbishop of Valladolid, Luis Argüello, explained his pastoral decision to relaunch the cause of Queen Isabella both in Spain and in Latin America in an article posted on the archdiocesan website in January. Among other points, he noted the success of the publication of the proceedings of the international symposium “Elizabeth the Catholic and the Evangelization of America,” now in its second edition.

Luis Argüello, archbishop of Valladolid and general secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Photo credit: CEE
Luis Argüello, archbishop of Valladolid and general secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Photo credit: CEE

The archbishop of Valladolid stressed the opportunity to encourage the work of the commission at a time when phenomena such as historical revisionism by the cancel culture as well as indigenism among the peoples of the Americas seeking to recover their identity are clouding the reputation of the queen.

The archbishop of Granada, José María Gil Tamayo, has also advocated for the prompt official recognition of the sanctity of the Catholic queen, whose remains rest in his cathedral.

“The queen went out of her way for the poor,” he noted, “for the poor here, with her style and tenor of life, of sobriety. And, at the same time, with the Indians on the islands” and the continents. “She went out of her way to defend their rights. Charity was always present in this woman,” the prelate explained.

Gil, who referred to Isabella of Castile as “this holy woman,” predicted that “history will also value all the consequences of her government,” and from a Christian point of view, “the great evangelizing feat in the history of the Church” — announcing Christ to the native peoples of the Americas.

“Without this woman, it would not have been possible,” the archbishop of Granada stressed.

The Rooted in Christ and in Society Association also maintains a campaign for the faithful to declare their devotion to Isabella of Castile, whom they consider an example of a woman, wife, and mother who was also involved in the affairs of state. 

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