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Archbishop Gänswein and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. / EWTN/Paul Badde, Mazur/

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2021 / 04:40 am (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that Benedict XVI is “full of zest for life” after the pope emeritus expressed the hope that he would join his friends in heaven in a condolence message.

Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, spoke to Germany’s Bild newspaper on Oct. 20 after media reports suggested that the 94-year-old retired pope had a “longing for death,” said CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“The art of dying well, that is, ars moriendi, is part of the Christian life. Pope Benedict has been doing that for many years,” Gänswein said.

“Yet he is absolutely full of zest for life. He is stable in his physical weakness, crystal clear in his head, and blessed with his typical Bavarian humor.”

In a letter dated Oct. 2 and released by Wilhering Abbey in Austria, the retired German pope said that the death of the Austrian Cistercian priest Fr. Gerhard Winkler had touched him profoundly.

“The news of the passing of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Winkler O.Cist., which you have conveyed to me, has affected me deeply. Among all colleagues and friends, he was the closest to me. His cheerfulness and deep faith always attracted me,” wrote Benedict XVI, who was pope from 2005 to 2013.

“Now he has arrived in the next world, where I am sure many friends are already waiting for him. I hope that I can join them soon.”

Gänswein said that the letter was “lovingly intended” and came from the heart, but did not mean that Benedict XVI “no longer has any desire to live.”

“On the contrary,” the German archbishop said.

Benedict XVI’s older brother, Georg, died in July 2020 at the age of 96. The pope emeritus made a four-day visit to Germany to say goodbye to his brother shortly before his death.

Thursday, October 21, 2021
Pope Francis at the opening Mass for the Amazon synod Oct. 6, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has approved the establishment of an ecclesial conference for the Amazon region, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon was created by bishops in Latin America in 2020 at the recommendation of the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region.

The new body, which has the task of expressing “the Amazonian face” of the Church, goes by the acronym CEAMA, based on its Spanish title, Conferencia Eclesial de la Amazonía.

“Well disposed to favor such an initiative … Pope Francis instructed the Congregation for Bishops to follow and accompany the process closely, lending whatever help was needed to give the body an adequate form,” the Holy See press office said on Oct. 20.

The pope canonically erected the ecclesial conference as a “public ecclesiastical juridical person” during a meeting on Oct. 9 with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

In giving it official recognition, Pope Francis established its purpose as “promoting common pastoral action by the dioceses of the Amazon and encouraging greater inculturation of the faith in this territory.”

The creation of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon followed a proposal in the final document of the Amazon synod for “a permanent and representative bishops’ organism that promotes synodality in the Amazon region.”

The synod members said in the October 2019 document that having this organism would help “to express the Amazonian face of this Church and continues the task of finding new paths for the evangelizing mission, especially incorporating the proposal of integral ecology, thus strengthening the physiognomy of the Church in the Amazon.”

The document described the conference as “a nexus for developing Church and socio-environmental networks and initiatives at the continental and international levels.”

Pope Francis responded to the proposal in his own comments at the end of the Amazon synod in 2019, suggesting that the idea of a smaller regional conference could be applied in the Amazon.

The new ecclesial conference will be a functionally autonomous group connected with the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

At a virtual meeting in June 2020, the 87-year-old Cardinal Cláudio Hummes was elected president of the ecclesial conference.

Hummes serves as the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), which describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon.

Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea, 51, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was elected vice president.

The executive committee will likely include the presidents of bishops’ conferences, as well as representatives of CELAM, REPAM, Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR), and indigenous peoples.

The official statutes of the new ecclesial conference are still under study and will be sent to Pope Francis for approval at a later date.

Thursday, October 21, 2021
null / alphaspirit via

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has shared a letter written by a clerical sexual abuse survivor with candidates preparing for the Catholic priesthood.

“For years I was mistreated by a priest who I should have called ‘little brother,’ and I was his ‘little sister,’” the letter writer said. “If we want to live the truth, we cannot close our eyes!”

Addressing priests, the abuse survivor wrote: “Please realize that you have received a huge gift. The gift of being an ‘alter Christus,’ of being the incarnation of Christ here in the world. People, and especially children, do not see a person in you, but Christ Jesus, in whom they trust without limits.”

“It is something HUGE and STRONG, but also very FRAGILE and VULNERABLE. PLEASE BE A GOOD PRIEST!” she said.

The letter, with the survivor's name removed, was published on the website of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) on Oct. 18.

In a brief introduction to the letter, PCPM president Cardinal Seán O’Malley said that “in this time of renewal and pastoral conversion, when the Church faces the scandal and wounds of sexual abuse inflicted on so many of God’s children everywhere, our Holy Father has received a courageous witness offered to all priests by a survivor.”

By sharing this testimony from a victim of abuse, he continued, Pope Francis “wants to welcome the voice of all wounded people and show all priests who announce the Gospel the way that leads to authentic service of God for the benefit of all the vulnerable.”

The abuse victim wrote that she was sharing her story because she would like to see “loving truth” win out.

She said that she spoke in the name of victims, “of children who have been deeply hurt, who have had their childhood, purity, and respect stolen from them... who were betrayed and had their boundless trust taken advantage of... the children whose hearts beat, who breathe, live, but were killed once (twice, more times)... their souls made into little bloody pieces.”

“I am here because the Church is my Mother and it hurts me so much when she is hurt, when she is dirty,” the survivor said.

She wrote that adults who experienced this kind of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church as children can never erase it. They may try to forget and live a full life, but the scars remain.

The author of the letter described some of her experiences after being sexually abused by a priest. She said that she has dissociative identity disorder, severe complex post-traumatic disorder, depression, and anxiety. She added that she has difficulty sleeping and when she does, she has nightmares.

She also said that she has out-of-body experiences in which she loses awareness of the reality around her, that her body remembers experiencing the abuse, and that she is afraid to be near priests.

“I haven’t been able to go to Holy Mass lately. It hurts me a lot... Church, that sacred space, was my second home... and he took it away from me. I have a great desire to feel safe in church, to be able to not be afraid, but my body, emotions react in a completely different way,” she wrote.

She asked priests and seminarians “to protect the Church, the body of Christ.”

“God has called you to be his instrument among men. You have a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY! A responsibility that is not a burden, but a GIFT! Please treat it according to the example of Jesus... with HUMILITY and LOVE!” she urged.

The woman said that problems cannot be swept under the carpet and left to smell and rot. Hiding these facts makes one a cooperator, she underlined.

“Living in the truth is living according to Jesus, seeing things through his eyes,” she said. “And he did not close his eyes before sin, before sin and the sinner, but lived the TRUTH with LOVE... With the loving truth, he revealed the sin and the sinner.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
A website and smartphone app to help Catholics pray for the synod on synodality was launched Oct. 19, 2021. / Click to Pray 2.0.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 05:03 am (CNA).

The Vatican on Tuesday launched a website and smartphone app to help Catholics pray for the success of the two-year process culminating in the 2023 synod on synodality.

At, Catholics can find information in English, Spanish, and other languages about how to support the synod through prayer.

“This website, together with the app Click To Pray, aims to accompany the synodal way for prayer,” the website says on its “About us” page.

“In order to ‘walk together’ and listen to the Holy Spirit we need to pray. There can be no synodal way without personal and community prayer. Prayer prepares our hearts to listen carefully to others and helps us to discern the action of the Holy Spirit throughout the world.”

One way the Vatican has suggested that Catholics and their communities can pray for the synod is by reciting a prayer to the Holy Spirit, a simplified version of the “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus.”

The “Adsumus, Sancte Spiritus,” according to the “Pray for the Synod” website, was prayed at the beginning of every session during the Second Vatican Council.

The prayer was revised “so that any group or liturgical assembly can pray more easily,” the website states.

The synodal process, launched by Pope Francis earlier this month, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics will be encouraged to submit feedback to their local dioceses.

A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

The Vatican has also unveiled version 2.0 of the Click To Pray app, first launched in 2019.

The app connects Catholics to a global network to share prayer intentions via their smartphones — and will be another way to pray with others during the synodal process.

Speaking at a presentation on Oct. 19, Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz, an official of the Vatican communications dicastery, said: “The novelties of the new platform propose a greater interaction with various networks and ecclesial communities, a new possibility for accompanying each other in a personalized way in our spiritual life.”

The Click To Pray network also has a website and is present on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Using media and technology to live stream Masses and other prayers during the coronavirus pandemic showed us it can be a tool for unity, Ruiz added. “It’s a good and opportune instrument for this communion, because it offers a space of community and support in and for prayer.”

“It’s a great joy to be able to present on this day not only the new version of Click To Pray, but its dynamic opening to the process that the Church has begun to follow with the synod,” he said.

Bettina Raed, the international coordinator of Click To Pray, said on Oct. 19 that “Click To Pray is a community of prayer which helps us pray for the challenges of the world.”

“Click To Pray accompanies users in their personal and community prayer proposing a daily rhythm of prayer in three moments of the day: morning, afternoon, and evening,” she said.

Raed is also the regional director in Argentina and Uruguay of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which is a sponsor of the app and prayer website for the synod, together with the International Union of Superiors General.

“The proposals are simple, concrete, and well adapted to daily life, in a way that people can pray for the necessities of the world in the middle of their everyday activities,” she said.

She added: “To help pray for the intentions of the Holy Father does not mean to only pray for his monthly intentions, but for all of the requests for which the Holy Father asks us to pray, and which are presented in his profile of prayer.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Oct. 20, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2021 / 03:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis thanked a child on Wednesday for giving an impromptu “lesson” at his general audience.

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Oct. 20, the pope paid tribute to the boy who walked up to him at the beginning of the audience.

“In these days we are talking about the freedom of faith, listening to the Letter to the Galatians,” he said. “But I was reminded of what Jesus was saying about the spontaneity and freedom of children, when this child had the freedom to approach and move as if he were at home... And Jesus tells us: ‘You too, if you do not behave like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’”

“The courage to approach the Lord, to be open to the Lord, not to be afraid of the Lord: I thank this child for the lesson he has given us all. And may the Lord help him in his limitation, in his growth because he has given this testimony that came from his heart. Children do not have an automatic translator from the heart to life: the heart takes the lead.”

The unexpected encounter took place early in the audience as clergy read out Galatians 5:13-14 in various languages, a passage in which the Apostle urges Christians not to abuse their freedom but instead to “become slaves to one another” through love.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

As the verses were read in German, the boy, who was wearing a black tracksuit, spectacles, and a face mask, approached Pope Francis, who smiled and clasped his hand.

Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, the regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, who sits to the pope’s right at general audiences, rose and gave his seat to the boy.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The child sat briefly, then stood and pointed at the pope’s zucchetto. He led the priest giving the Portuguese reading over to the pope to show him the white papal skullcap. Eventually, the boy walked back down from the platform proudly wearing his own zucchetto.

The pope’s live-streamed address, dedicated to the theme “Freedom is realized in love,” was the 12th in his cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

In his catechesis, Pope Francis explained that in his letter, St. Paul revealed “the great novelty of faith.”

“It is truly a great novelty, because it does not merely renew a few aspects of life, but rather it leads us into that ‘new life’ that we have received with baptism,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“There the greatest gift, that of being children of God, has been poured out upon us. Reborn in Christ, we have passed from a religiosity made up of precepts — we have moved on from a religiosity made up of precepts — to a living faith, which has its center in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters, that is, in love. We have passed from the slavery of fear and sin to the freedom of God’s children.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He noted that Paul defined freedom as an opportunity to serve others, rather than to follow selfish impulses.

“Yet again, we find ourselves faced with the paradox of the Gospel: we are freed by serving, not in doing whatever we want. We are free in serving, and freedom comes from there; we find ourselves fully to the extent to which we give ourselves,” he said, describing this insight as “pure Gospel.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He contrasted Paul’s vision with the idea of liberty as “doing what you want and what you like.”

“This type of freedom, without a goal and without points of reference, would be an empty freedom, a freedom of the circus: it is not good,” he said.

“And indeed, it leaves emptiness within: how often, after following instinct alone, do we realize that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom, the beauty of being able to choose true goodness for ourselves and for others?”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He observed that St. Paul always connected freedom with seeking the good of our neighbor, describing this as a “rule for unmasking any type of selfish freedom.”

“Freedom guided by love is the only one that sets others and ourselves free, that knows how to listen without imposing, that knows how to love without coercing, that builds and does not destroy, that does not exploit others for its own convenience and does good without seeking its own benefit,” he said.

“In short, if freedom is not at the service — this is the test — if freedom is not in the service of good, it runs the risk of being barren and not bearing fruit. If freedom is not in the service of good, it does not bear fruit.”

“On the other hand, freedom inspired by love leads towards the poor, recognizing the face of Christ in their faces.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Concluding his address, the pope said: “We know ... that one of the most widespread modern conceptions of freedom is this: ‘My freedom ends where yours begins.’ But here the relationship is missing! It is an individualistic vision.”

“On the other hand, those who have received the gift of freedom brought about by Jesus cannot think that freedom consists in keeping away from others, as if they were a nuisance; the human being cannot be regarded as cooped up alone, but always part of a community. The social dimension is fundamental for Christians, and it enables them to look to the common good and not to private interest.”

He went on: “Especially in this historic moment, we need to rediscover the communitarian, not individualistic, dimension of freedom. The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this; we need to choose it in a tangible way, to decide on that path, every day.”

“Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather they are the possibility to fully realize it. Because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of the respective language group.

Addressing Polish speakers, he noted that Oct. 22 is the feast day of St. John Paul II, who led the Church from 1978 to 2005. He quoted from a homily given by the Polish pope during a 1997 visit to his homeland.

Pope Francis said: “To his protection, I entrust you, your families, and the entire Polish nation. Always remember what he said to you: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … Be vigilant, so that nothing may separate you from this love: no false slogan, no mistaken ideology, no yielding to the temptation of compromise with what is not from God or with the quest of self-advantage. Reject everything that destroys and weakens communion with Christ. Be faithful to God’s commandments and to the commitments of your baptism.’ I bless you from my heart!”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his remarks to English-speaking pilgrims, the pope made special mention of visitors from the United States.

He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the groups from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!”

The audience concluded with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


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