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God is close, assures archbishop after fire destroys Spanish apartment complex

This photograph shows flowers and candles laid out on the sidewalk after a huge fire killed ten people in a multi-story residential block, in Valencia on February 26, 2024. Ten people have died in a vast fire that ripped through a 14-story apartment block in Valencia in eastern Spain. / Credit: Photo by MAO/AFP via Getty Images)

Valencia, Spain, Feb 28, 2024 / 14:37 pm (CNA).

“The fire spread super quickly, but people’s response has been even quicker.” That’s how Manuel, a resident of a 14-story apartment building demolished by fire, described the reaction of neighbors, businesses, the local government, and “the whole world” after a blaze on February 22 destroyed an entire residential complex in Valencia, Spain, within minutes.

Manuel was speaking with local RTVE news, recounting his perilous escape from the 12th floor with his 80-year-old mother. He took the stairs down after ringing the doorbells of every neighbor possible. The double towers of the complex included 138 apartments.

“We want to thank the whole world,” he said, explaining how the clothes on his back had been donated by a local store, and how surrounding businesses had come forward with donations of food, clothes, and every imaginable necessity.

It was shortly after 5:30 pm, Thursday, Feb. 22, when the fire broke out in a northwestern residential neighborhood of Spain’s fourth largest city, located on the Mediterranean coast. Ten people died in what commentators called the biggest blaze the city had ever seen.

How fragile we are

Though the city was set to kick off almost a month of annual celebrations leading up to St. Joseph’s feast day, on Feb. 23, Valencians entered into three days of mourning.

“In certain moments of life, we experience how fragile we are, our weakness — at a personal level and also at a collective level,” reflected Archbishop Enrique Benavent at the feet of Our Lady of the Forsaken, the city’s much beloved patroness.

Leading a vigil in the Marian basilica just over 24 hours after the fire broke out, the archbishop insisted that the sensation of fragility and sorrow “doesn’t destroy our hope in the Lord. And because we do hope in God, we come here to the Virgin to ask her help, that she reveal to us the consolation of the Lord.”

The archbishop quickly announced that the Masses of the city would be offered for the victims and for all those who had been affected.

From Rome, Pope Francis sent his condolences the day after the blaze.

'I set about helping …'

Among those who perished was a whole family: the mother, father, a toddler, and a newborn.

Six firemen were among the couple dozen people taken to the hospital in the minutes and hours after the blaze started. And of these, one had nearly lost his life trying to save the young family. 

He was the only one of his team who was even able to make it to the 8th floor, where the family was sheltering in the bathroom. But the numbers marking the apartment doors had melted, and flames were everywhere, making it impossible for him to find where the family was located amidst the dense smoke. 

Right before fainting, he was able to get out of the hallway. Three days later, the fireman was still in the hospital receiving treatment from smoke inhalation and burns.

More stories of heroism quickly came to light, particularly that of the doorman, Julián. 

Although he lamented, “I couldn’t get everyone,” countless neighbors spoke of him going floor by floor, particularly aiming for the apartments with elderly residents.

“Julián is the hero of Valencia, the hero of Spain, the one who everyone is greeting and embracing with tears, because of everything he did while the building burned,” said one report.

Julián himself gave a less dramatic account. “I went up because there was a lot of smoke … The fire took over the whole building so quickly.

"I set about helping the people get down… The fire went so fast. … First, I went for the elderly. … I’m here to help them. I’ve always been here to help them.”

“There came a point where the firemen didn’t let me go up anymore,” he said. And the people who call him a hero? “Boy. I’ve done this from my heart. I wanted to help them.”

Flammable cladding

The city of Valencia maintains a deep Catholic culture and tradition, with several thriving ecclesial movements. The celebration of St. Joseph is the highlight of the year, as each neighborhood collaborates in an artistic offering, and a multi-story statue of Our Lady is created with flowers in the city’s main plaza. Sunday would have been the start of the fireworks that mark each day of that annual celebration, with an early-morning pyrotechnic event getting the festivities rolling.

All of this has been postponed for a week, as the city observes the three-day mourning period. Food that had been prepared for those festivities and couldn’t be preserved was donated to local nuns who run a care home for the elderly.

Meanwhile, talk continues about how and why the complex was consumed so quickly.

“It was worse than the unimaginable,” reported one off-duty firefighter who showed up to help, and fought against the fire from 6:30 p.m. until 5 the next morning. “It was hell on earth.”

Early reports suggest that the aluminum and polyurethane cladding of the complex — lightweight and effective in insulating against heat and cold — was flammable and led to the rapid spread of the fire, which crawled up the exterior walls of the building. It was also an uncommonly windy day in Valencia, which added to the speed of the flames. Construction of the complex was completed in 2009.

On the evening of Feb.  24, Archbishop Benavent celebrated the 8 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Mercy parish, very near to where the fire occurred.

God is not far from human suffering, he said. “We don’t believe in a far-off God, in an unfeeling God. We believe in a God in solidarity with the suffering of humanity, and who has made his own in his Son Jesus Christ all the sufferings of society. We believe in a God who has experienced all of the sorrow of humanity and is not oblivious to this suffering, but in fact, has made it his own.”

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of March

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus on Feb. 18, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Feb 28, 2024 / 13:37 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of March is for the martyrs of our day and witnesses to Christ.

“This month, I want to tell you a story that is a reflection of the Church today. It is the story of a little-known witness of faith,” Pope Francis stated in a video released Feb. 27.

“Visiting a refugee camp in Lesbos, a man told me, ‘Father, I am Muslim. My wife was Christian. Terrorists came to our place, looked at us and asked what our religion was. They approached my wife with a crucifix and told her to throw it on the ground. She didn’t do it, and they slit her throat in front of me.’ That’s what happened.”

The Holy Father added, “I know he held no grudges. He was focused on his wife’s example of love, a love for Christ that led her to accept, and to be faithful to the point of death.”

He reminded the faithful that “there will always be martyrs among us” and that it is a “sign that we’re on the right path.”

“A person who knows told me there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity,” he explained. 

“The courage of the martyrs, the witness of the martyrs, is a blessing for everyone.”

Pope Francis concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world might imbue the Church with their courage and missionary drive. And to be open to the grace of martyrdom.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

Republicans embrace IVF despite the destruction of human embryos

null / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 28, 2024 / 13:32 pm (CNA).

Numerous Republican lawmakers are announcing their support for in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures and distancing themselves from an Alabama Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of some legal protections for human embryos.

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse sperm and eggs to create human embryos and implant them in the mother’s womb without a sexual act. Embryos that are intended to be implanted at a later date are frozen. Undesired embryos are routinely destroyed or used for scientific research, which kills those preborn children. 

The Alabama Supreme Court recently found in an 8-1 decision that human embryos are covered under the state’s "Wrongful Death of a Minor Act." The ruling stems from a lawsuit in which three families argued an IVF clinic should be held accountable for the accidental death of their preborn children, which were frozen embryos under the clinic’s care. Some Alabama clinics suspended IVF procedures after the ruling. 

Even though the destruction of human embryos remains an integral part of the IVF industry, a growing number of Republicans who say they are pro-life have come out in support of the procedure. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund (which is the main House Republican political action committee), and former President Donald Trump all released statements that encouraged Republicans to support IVF. 

House resolution would protect IVF

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace from South Carolina introduced a resolution that would affirm the House’s support for IVF procedures.

The current draft, provided to CNA by a congressional staffer, would express the chamber’s support for “continued access to fertility care … such as in vitro fertilization.” It would further urge lawmakers at all levels of government to pass bills that protect IVF.

Although the resolution would not impose any new regulations, Mace told Axios she is “looking at legislative options." It’s unclear whether such legislation would prevent states from legally protecting preborn children created through IVF.

Mace’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNA about how IVF procedures could be compatible with pro-life policies.

Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican from Florida, told CNA that “IVF has helped thousands of American couples become parents” and asserted that restrictions on IVF procedures are “nonsensical.” 

“If we’re going to support life, we should protect these important treatments, improve maternal health outcomes, and support new moms during their pregnancies and after birth,” Cammack said. “To be pro-life is to be pro-woman and pro-family, and to argue that restricting IVF access is any of the above is nonsensical."

A spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (SBA) criticized the proposed resolution, noting that it would condemn laws that exist in Louisiana, which prohibit the intentional destruction of preborn children developed through IVF. However, it does not prevent doctors from transporting them to another state for destruction. 

“This resolution takes an ‘anything goes’ approach and completely ignores that the families who filed the Alabama lawsuit did so because they saw their embryos as their children who were recklessly destroyed,” the spokesperson told CNA. “The Mace resolution leaves no room for reasonable laws like the one in Louisiana that for decades has protected embryos while also allowing IVF. In fact, there are more babies born through IVF in Louisiana than in Alabama.”

SBA’s scorecard, which grades a lawmaker’s fidelity to pro-life causes, gives Mace a “D,” but Cammack has an “A+.”

A top-down push to get Republicans on board

Following the Alabama ruling, some Republican Party leaders are pushing Republican lawmakers and candidates to embrace IVF.

Jason Thielman, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, sent a memo to Republican Senate candidates late last week, claiming “there are zero Republican Senate candidates who support efforts to restrict access to fertility treatments” such as IVF and urging them to embrace pro-IVF messaging. 

“Clearly state your support for IVF and fertility-related services as blessings for those seeking to have children,” Theilman recommended. 

The memo further suggested that candidates “publicly oppose any efforts to restrict IVF” and “campaign on increased access.” It added: “It is imperative that our candidates align with the public’s overwhelming support for IVF and fertility treatments.”

Several Republican Senate candidates followed suit and have come out in favor of IVF procedures, including Tim Sheehy in Montana, Kari Lake in Arizona, and Bernie Moreno in Ohio. Current Republican senators, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, have similarly voiced their support for IVF. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the largest political action committee supporting Republican House candidates, similarly pushed lawmakers to support IVF. 

"It's useful and important for swing district Republicans to show empathy, sympathy and clearly voice support for consensus positions like IVF," Congressional Leadership Fund President Dan Conston said, according to Reuters

The former president and leading candidate to be the 2024 Republican nominee, Donald Trump, also backed IVF and encouraged Republican lawmakers to do the same.

“We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder,” Trump said in a post on Truth Social. “That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every state in America.”

There has not been much pushback to this messaging from within the Republican Party.

Some lawmakers who are backing IVF are also cosponsors of the Life at Conception Act. The legislation, which has 125 cosponsors in the House, would recognize the personhood of every human from the moment of fertilization. The House version of the bill introduced last year does not include an exemption for preborn children created through IVF, which highlights an apparent contradiction between the two positions.

Pope Francis appoints new archbishop of historic French archdiocese following resignations

A statue of Charles de Foucauld in front of the Church of Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune in Strasbourg, France. / Maykova Galina via Shutterstock.

Rome Newsroom, Feb 28, 2024 / 12:46 pm (CNA).

After a nearly yearlong vacancy, Pope Francis has appointed a new head of the French Archdiocese of Strasbourg, which has been subject to an apostolic visitation and two high-profile episcopal resignations in the past several years. 

The Holy See Press Office announced on Wednesday the appointment of 66-year-old Pascal Delannoy as the archdiocese’s new archbishop. The see had been vacant since the resignation of former Archbishop Luc Ravel in April 2023.

“I am happy to greet each of you as our Pope Francis has just named me archbishop of Strasbourg,” Delannoy wrote in a Feb. 28 statement. 

“I welcome this appointment with confidence and serenity, and I warmly thank Philippe Ballot, [arch]bishop of Metz, for having administered the diocese during the vacancy of the see following the resignation of Luc Ravel.”

In June 2022, Pope Francis ordered an apostolic visitation to the diocese amid concerns over the pastoral health of the diocese regarding Ravel’s management style. One local Catholic journalist described that style as “very authoritarian” and “very managerial,” akin to “certain HR managers in the lucrative private sector.” 

In April 2023, Ravel, 65 at the time, submitted his resignation, which was accepted by both Pope Francis and President Emmanuel Macron. 

The ancient Archdiocese of Strasbourg dates back to the fourth century and is located in the historically contested mixed Franco-German region of Alsace. 

The archbishop is selected in a power-sharing agreement by both the pope and the president of France, a process resulting from the 1801 concordat between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII. While abrogated in the rest of France in 1905, it remained in force in the region of Alsace as it was annexed by the Germans in 1871. Alsace was returned to France at the end of the First World War. 

After Ravel’s resignation in 2023, Pope Francis appointed Ballot as apostolic administrator. 

The archdiocese faced another high-level episcopal departure earlier this year when on Feb. 14 Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 51-year-old Auxiliary Bishop Gilles Reithinger. 

The Holy See Press Office did not provide any details on the nature of the resignation. However, a communiqué by the Archdiocese of Strasbourg, signed by Ballot, suggested that Reithinger resigned due to “health reasons,” which “prevented him from fully exercising his episcopal ministry.”

“In these circumstances, he decided to present his resignation to the Holy Father, who accepted it. Within the concordat framework, the public authorities were duly notified,” the communiqué continued. 

Reithinger, who was made superior general of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) in 2017 and appointed as auxiliary bishop of Strasbourg in June 2021, was accused of failing to report abuse cases that came to his desk, which included one accusation against Father Aymeric de Salvert, his former collaborator within the general house of MEP. 

He was later accused of failing to report accusations made against Bishop Georges Colomb, former superior general of MEP, which allegedly transpired in 2013. 

According to a press release by the Archdiocese of Strasbourg, Delannoy’s installation Mass will take place on Sunday, April 21, at 3 p.m. local time at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. 

Born on April 2, 1957, Delannoy studied economics at the Catholic University of Lille. After working as an accountant for several years, he discerned a vocation and was ordained a priest for the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lille on June 4, 1989.

Delannoy served as auxiliary bishop of Lille from 2004 to 2009 and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 as bishop of Saint-Denis, a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Paris.

The French prelate served as the vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of France from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the president of the conference’s Episcopal Commissions on Finances and on Economic, Social, and Legal Affairs. 

Pope Francis calls for prayers, sends condolences to Muslims, Christians killed in Burkina Faso

Pope Francis appears in a wheelchair at his general audience on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 28, 2024 / 12:01 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis this week called for prayers for and expressed his closeness to the victims of twin terrorist attacks on Catholic and Muslim communities in the West African country of Burkina Faso.

“We pray for the victims of the recent attacks on places of worship in Burkina Faso,” a papal aide read on behalf of the Holy Father during his Wednesday general audience. 

The pope’s comments come after an official telegram signed by the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was sent to Bishop Laurent Dabiré, president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and of Niger, on Monday. That message expressed pain on the pontiff’s behalf for the families of those murdered. 

The Monday telegram denounced the killings and reiterated the pope’s appeal for peace, noting that “hatred is not the solution to conflicts.” The pope further expressed his hope that sacred spaces — which have been frequently targeted in the country — be respected, a call which is underscored by a broader “fight against violence in order to promote the values of peace.” 

The world reacted in shock this week after 15 Catholics were killed in a Sunday prayer service led by a lay catechist in the village of Essakane, located in the country’s northern region, which borders Mali and Niger.

Father Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, vicar general of the Diocese of Dori, deplored the killings as a terrorist attack, though he did not assign culpability to a specific organization. In the same statement, Sawadogo prayed for the conversion of those who “continue to wreak death and desolation in the country.”

The Diocese of Dori confirmed to Vatican News on Monday evening that 12 were killed in the initial attack, while three others died later in the hospital. 

Al Jazeera, meanwhile, reported that a mosque in Natiaboani was attacked on Sunday by armed rebels around 5 a.m., leaving dozens dead. 

“The terrorists entered the town early morning. They surrounded the mosque and shot at the faithful, who were gathered there for the first prayer of the day. Several of them were shot, including an important religious leader,” a local source told AFP, as reported in the French newspaper Le Monde.   

The two attacks are the latest examples of a dramatic escalation of violence directed toward religious groups in the country, which has experienced a broad destabilization brought about by the 2014 Libyan Civil War. 

The violence in the aftermath of the Libyan war has been compounded by the emergence and proliferation of terrorist organizations in the country as well as a political vacuum following two military coups in January and September 2022. 

In 2023, Dabiré noted that many Catholics there skip Mass out of fear of being caught in a firefight, and as a result, several parishes have been abandoned. The fear of violence has also affected missionary work and the distribution of much-needed aid in the country. 

Members of a Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, held between Feb. 12–18, noted that the situation facing Catholics in the country has only deteriorated in the last year. 

“Overall, some 30 parishes and their associated structures (presbyteries, religious communities, health, and education facilities, etc.) remain closed or inaccessible,” a Feb. 18 statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger observed.

Pope Francis urges Armenian Catholic bishops to ‘take up the cry for peace’

Pope Francis meets at the Vatican with bishops from the Armenian Catholic Church o Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Feb 28, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday urged the bishops of the Armenian Catholic Church to “take up the cry for peace” amid ongoing threats of conflict and religious persecution in the region. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in peace talks following Azerbaijan's violent takeover of the Nagorno-Karabakh region late last year. The region has been a point of contention for years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

All but a few ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region fled their ancestral homeland following Azerbaijan’s takeover. Human rights leaders last year warned of a possible “religious cleansing” of Armenian Christians during the conflict. 

In his address on Wednesday, Pope Francis urged the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians to pray for peace amid the conflict. 

“[H]ow can we not finally turn our thoughts to Armenia,” the Holy Father said, “not only in words but above all in our prayers, particularly for all those fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh and for the many displaced families seeking refuge.”

“So many wars, and so much suffering!” the pope said. “The First World War was supposed to be the last; it led to the formation of the League of Nations, the ‘precursor’ of the United Nations, in the belief that this would be sufficient to preserve the gift of peace.” 

“Yet since then, how many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless,” Francis noted.  

Declaring, “Enough!” the Holy Father urged the bishops to “take up the cry for peace, so that it may touch hearts, even hearts untouched by the sufferings of the poor and lowly.” 

“And above all, let us pray. I pray for you and for Armenia; and I ask you, please, to pray for me!” the pope said.

Pope urges synod to elect ‘the Bishops of tomorrow’

In his speech to the bishops, the pope also urged the leaders to “give your Church the Bishops of tomorrow.” 

“I urge you to choose them carefully, so that they will be devoted to the flock, faithful to pastoral care, and not driven by personal ambition,” the Holy Father said.

He urged that bishops “not be selected on the basis of our own ideas or preferences,” and that “great caution should be used with regard to those with ‘a nose for business’ or those ‘always with a suitcase in hand,’ leaving their people orphaned.”

“Bishops are not bought in the marketplace,” the pope said, stating that “it is Christ who chooses them as successors of his apostles and shepherds of his flock.”

Francis also urged the bishops to attend to “the pastoral care of vocations” in the region. 

Priests, “especially young priests, need to feel close to their Bishops, who will foster their fraternal communion, so that they will not grow discouraged by hardships but rather grow daily in docility to the creativity of the Holy Spirit, serving the people of God with the joy born of charity, not with the unbending and insensitive attitude of bureaucrats,” the pope said. 

Ex-priest sentenced to 15 months in prison for molestation of minor with cancer

null / Billion Photos / Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Feb 28, 2024 / 10:18 am (CNA).

A former priest was sentenced to 15 months in prison this week for molesting an Ohio minor suffering from cancer. 

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced the indictment of Luis Barajas in November of last year. 

Barajas had been “acting in the capacity of a retired priest” when he “went to the victim’s residence” in order to “give her a blessing before her chemotherapy treatment.” During the blessing, Barajas “inappropriately touched the victim under a blanket,” the office said. The girl was 15 years old at the time of the assault. 

Barajas subsequently pleaded guilty to the felony of gross sexual imposition. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Santoli announced the 15-month sentence on Tuesday. Barajas received time served and will be in prison for just under a year. 

“You admitted to sexually assaulting a child, which in and of itself is an absolutely horrendous crime,” Santoli said during the sentencing, according to media reports

But Barajas further “took advantage” of the family’s need for a priest during a difficult time, Santoli said, “and that warrants a serious consequence.”

The Diocese of Harrisburg in a statement last year identified Barajas as a “laicized priest.” 

This is not the first time Barajas has been linked to inappropriate conduct toward minors. 

Pennsylvania’s 2018 grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church claimed that a priest in Harrisburg in the late 1980s had relayed “allegations” regarding Barajas’ “associations with the youth of the parish.” He had been employed with the Office of the Vicar for the Spanish-Speaking People, according to the grand jury report.

Some parishioners had also allegedly relayed “accusations of child molestation” to the priest regarding Barajas, though the priest said he “questioned their credibility.”

Barajas subsequently returned to Colombia in 1989. The grand jury report said Harrisburg’s Monsignor Damian McGovern wrote to a Church official in Rome that “for many serious reasons, the life and ministry of Father Barajas proved to be most unsatisfactory and, accordingly, he was asked to terminate his association with the Diocese of Harrisburg.”

The report said the Archdiocese of New York subsequently reached out to the Harrisburg diocese with an allegation of sexual misconduct regarding Barajas. The Diocese of Brooklyn subsequently “denied Barajas faculties,” the report said.

Pope Francis, weakened by ‘a bit of a cold,’ has aide read reflection before hospital visit

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 28, 2024 / 07:44 am (CNA).

Pope Francis, still visibly suffering from a “cold,” visited a Rome hospital for diagnostic tests on Wednesday following his weekly general audience, at which an aide read the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.

The Holy See Press Office later confirmed the hospital visit, adding that the pope already had returned to the Vatican.

“I still have a bit of a cold, which is why I asked Monsignor [Filippo] Ciampanelli to read today’s catechesis,” Pope Francis said at the start of the morning general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall. He arrived at the hall in his wheelchair shortly before 9 a.m. and did not walk to his chair with a cane as he typically does.

The pope also had an aide read his prepared remarks at an earlier morning meeting Wednesday with members of the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the 87-year-old pontiff canceled his audiences for the day due to what the Vatican described as a “mild flu-like condition.” He delivered the Angelus address the following day from the window of the Apostolic Palace without any obvious signs of illness. He cleared his schedule on Monday again as a “precautionary measure” due to “mild flu symptoms,” the Holy See Press Office said.

On Monday Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, spoke to journalists at an event in Rome, noting that the pope “had this flu episode but he recovered.” 

“I was supposed to go to him this evening, but I’m here, the hearing had not been suspended. So it means that he has recovered and resumed his normal activity,” Parolin said at the time.

Focus on envy, vainglory

During the Wednesday general audience, the pope continued his ongoing catechetical series on vice and virtue, focusing this time on envy and vainglory. 

Reflecting on the universal fascination of these closely associated vices, Pope Francis observed that envy is an “evil” that has been studied both under a Christian theological lens as well as by “philosophers and wise men of every culture.”

The pope’s reflection noted that envy sits at the matrix between “hate and love,” where “one desires evil for the other, but secretly desires to be like him.” The pope observed that this vice is predicated upon a “false idea of God,” noting that it arises when “we do not accept that God has his own ‘math,’ different from ours.” 

The pope’s reflection then turned to vainglory, which is tied to “the demon of envy.” When taken together they are “characteristic of a person who aspires to be the center of the world, free to exploit everything and everyone, the object of all praise and love,” he noted.

“Vainglory,” the pope’s reflection continued, “is an inflated and baseless self-esteem. The vainglorious person possesses an unwieldy ‘I.’ He has no empathy and takes no notice of the fact that there are other people in the world besides him.” For the pope, those who display this vice see human relations through a transactional lens and struggle with a mistaken sense of self-aggrandizement. 

“His person, his accomplishments, his achievements must be shown to everyone: He is a perpetual beggar for attention. And if at times his qualities are not recognized, he becomes fiercely angry,” the pope observed. 

The pope’s reflection closed by noting that the antidote to overcoming the internal weakness brought on by these twin vices is accepting the grace of God. 

“And his conclusion should also become ours: ‘I will therefore gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me,’” Pope Francis concluded, quoting from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. 

Pope Francis visits hospital for diagnostic tests after Wednesday audience

Pope Francis appears in a wheelchair at his general audience on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2024 / 07:43 am (CNA).

Pope Francis went to the hospital on Rome’s Tiber Island on Wednesday morning after meeting with the public at his general audience.

The Vatican confirmed on Feb. 28 that the pope underwent “diagnostic tests” at the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital before returning to his Vatican residence shortly after noon.

According to the Holy See Press Office, the pope has had “a mild flu-like condition” since at least Saturday when he canceled his scheduled public appearances.

The 87-year-old pope appeared in a wheelchair at his Wednesday audience in Paul VI Hall where he had an aide read his speech for him after telling the crowd that he was still not well.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I still have a bit of a cold,” Pope Francis said in a soft-spoken voice as he explained that Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli would read the text of his catechesis for him.

Despite feeling unwell, the pope greeted the crowd at the end of the audience, shaking hands with visiting pilgrims, blessing newlywed couples, and speaking with bishops before visiting the hospital.

Italian media spotted the pope leaving the Vatican in the backseat of a white Fiat 500 one hour before the Vatican officially confirmed the hospital visit.

“After the general audience, Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests. At the end he returned to the Vatican,” the brief statement from the Holy See Press Office said.

The Vatican has yet to release details as to the results of the hospital’s diagnostic tests.

Bishop who participated in Freemasonry event affirms its incompatibility with Catholicism

The president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, Bishop Antonio Staglianò, affirms that Freemasonry is incompatible with Catholicism. / Credit: Public Domain

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 27, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, Bishop Antonio Staglianò, has reiterated the incompatibility of Catholics belonging to the Masons days after participating in an event organized by the Italian Grand Orient lodge in Milan.

Staglianò told Vatican News that “Freemasonry is a heresy that is fundamentally aligned with the Arian heresy” since it was Arius “who imagined that Jesus was a great architect of the universe” — the way Freemasons refer to God — “denying the divinity of Christ.”

This idea of the “Architect of the Universe” is incompatible with the Catholic faith because “it is the fruit of human reasoning that tries to imagine a god, while the God of Catholics is the fruit of the very revelation of God in Christ Jesus!”

“In essence,” the prelate continued, the Catholic faith “is the result of a historical event in which God became flesh, drew near to men, spoke to all human beings, and destined them for his salvation.”

In explaining the total incompatibility between being a Catholic and a Mason, Staglianò pointed out that “within Freemasonry, plots involving secret powers develop that are in contradiction with Christian action.”

“In short,” he added, “when we talk about incompatibility we are referring to profound contradictions.”

Freemasonry vs. the Catholic Church

Staglianò noted some of the most obvious differences between Masonic and Catholic doctrine. For example, in reference to the concept of fraternity, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology stated that “our fraternity is established on the sacrament of the love of God in Jesus; it is founded on the Eucharist, not only on the generic idea of being brothers.”

The Italian bishop pointed out that Christian charity “has nothing to do with Masonic philanthropy” because “Christian charity is based on the historical event of a God who died and rose again for us and asks his children not to be merely philanthropic but to be, finally, crucified for love.”

In addition, Freemasonry and Catholicism differ regarding the concept of mystery. While esotericism permeates Masonic teachings (such that they are only given to the initiated), in Catholic doctrine the mystery “hidden throughout the centuries does not cease to be a mystery but rather ceases to be hidden, because the mystery hidden throughout the centuries has been revealed,” Staglianò explained.

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