January 2, 2024 // National

News Briefs: January 7, 2023

Papal Calendar for 2024

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the new year begins, Pope Francis will be the oldest reigning pope since the early 1900s and the third oldest in history. Having celebrated his 87th birthday in mid-December, Pope Francis’ initial calendar for 2024 had just the essentials. A full slate of the usual papal liturgies and meetings are scheduled; bishops will continue making “ad limina” visits; Argentina will have its first female saint; the Synod of Bishops on synodality will conclude in October; and the jubilee year opens at the year’s end. Pope Francis has continued to speak confidently about at least three countries he has on his wish-list for papal trips in 2024. The pope told the Mexican news outlet N+ that a trip to Belgium is already “certain” and that two others, to Polynesia and Argentina, are being looked into. He did add that any long-distance trips would have to be “rethought” because of his age.

Exiled Nicaraguan Bishop Asks Other Bishops ‘Not to Abandon Us’

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – Since Christmas, Nicaraguan police and paramilitaries have detained more than a dozen priests, including an archdiocesan vicar, as the Sandinista regime escalates a campaign of terror against the Catholic Church. Pope Francis voiced his concern about the worsening situation of the persecuted Nicaraguan Church in his New Year’s Angelus prayer, expressing his “closeness in prayer to them (the detained priests), their families, and the entire Church in the country,” urging that Catholics “pray insistently” to find “a path of dialogue to overcome difficulties.” Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez – currently exiled in Miami – issued an urgent plea for solidarity, saying in a December 30 post on X (formerly Twitter), “I beg bishops and the world’s bishops’ conferences not to abandon us at this time; may they pray for the Church of Nicaragua, stand in solidarity, and raise their voices to denounce this persecution by the dictatorship against our Church!”

Pope Benedict Remembered on Anniversary of His Death

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As an expression of ongoing affection and gratitude for the late Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis led tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square in a round of applause for his predecessor on the first anniversary of his death. “A year ago, Pope Benedict XVI concluded his earthly journey after having served the Church with love and wisdom,” Pope Francis told an estimated 20,000 people gathered in the square for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, December 31. Pope Benedict, who led the Church from 2005 to 2013, died on December 31, 2022, at the age of 95. “We feel so much affection, gratitude, and admiration for him,” the pope said. “From heaven, he blesses and accompanies us.” Before the Angelus, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict’s former personal secretary, presided over a memorial Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Says Vatican Is Not Moving Toward Accepting Gay Marriage

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican’s affirmation that a priest can give an informal blessing to a gay couple who asks for one is not a first step toward the Catholic Church recognizing same-sex marriages, said Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. “Those who say so either have not read the text or have ‘bad blood,’ if you will pardon the expression. The statement clearly and ad nauseam states that these blessings are non-ritualized so that they are not interpreted as a marriage,” the cardinal told the Spanish newspaper ABC in an interview published on Monday, December 25. The doctrinal dicastery’s document, Fiducia Supplicans (“Supplicating Trust”), which was approved by Pope Francis, said that while the Church “remains firm” in teaching that marriage is only a life-long union between a man and a woman, in certain circumstances priests can give non-sacramental, non-liturgical blessings to “couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”

Church, World Must ‘Respect, Defend, Esteem’ Women, Pope Says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The world and the Catholic Church must respect and defend women and foster a motherly care for others to end dehumanizing cycles of violence, Pope Francis said during Mass on Monday, January 1, in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, which is also the World Day of Peace. “The Church needs Mary in order to recover her own feminine face, to resemble more fully the woman, virgin, and mother, who is her model and perfect image, to make space for women and to be ‘generative’ through a pastoral ministry marked by concern and care,” the pope said. The world too, he said, “needs to look to mothers and to women in order to find peace, to emerge from the spiral of violence and hatred, and once more see things with genuinely human eyes and hearts.” In his homily, Pope Francis called on all societies to “accept the gift that is woman, every woman” and to “respect, defend, and esteem woman in the knowledge that whoever harms a single woman profanes God, who was born of a woman.” The Mass marked the 57th World Day of Peace celebrated by the Church.

Ukrainian Clergy Renew Calls to Support Country

KYIV (OSV News) – Sorrow, anger, and renewed calls to support Ukraine have been issued by Ukrainian Catholic and other Ukrainian clergy following a massive attack on Ukraine by Russia on Friday, December 29. More than 40 people were killed and 160 wounded after Russia unleashed a wave of close to 160 drones and missiles on civilian targets across Ukraine, targeting several cities, including Kyiv and Lviv. With at least 23 slain, Kyiv suffered its deadliest attack of the full-scale invasion, which launched in February of 2022 and continued attacks begun in 2014 by Russia. The invasion has been declared a genocide in multiple reports by two major human rights agencies. In a December 29 statement, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv–Galicia, Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, extended his “heartfelt condolences to all those who are burying their relatives who were killed by the Russian criminal hand.” He added that “we send our love and deep concern to all the wounded, all those who have lost their homes, and who are grieving and crying,” and asked God to “wipe away the tears of Ukraine.”

Pope Francis greets a group of children during a meeting with the International Foundation of Pueri Cantores in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Dec. 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.