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Pope Francis sends condolences after death of UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed

Pope Francis became the first pope to visit the Arabian peninsula when he landed in Abu Dhabi on Feb 4, 2019. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, May 20, 2022 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has sent condolences following the death of the United Arab Emirates’ president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“I offer Your Highness my heartfelt recognition and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest. I likewise join the people of the Emirates in mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership in the service of the nation,” Pope Francis wrote in the message sent on May 17.

“I am particularly grateful for the solicitude shown by His Highness to the Holy See and to the Catholic communities of the Emirates, and for his commitment to the values ​​of dialogue, understanding, and solidarity between peoples and religious traditions solemnly proclaimed by the historic Abu Dhabi Document and embodied in the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.”

Sheikh Khalifa died on May 13 at the age of 73. He had been in ailing health after suffering a stroke and undergoing surgery in 2014.

The pope addressed the message to Khalifa’s successor, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who had been the de-facto ruler of the country since Khalifa’s health worsened.

He has led the country’s foreign policy, which has included deploying warplanes in Libya in 2017 and joining the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen before withdrawing its forces in 2020.

Sheikh Mohammed, the Abu Dhabi crown prince often also referred to as MBZ, officially became the president of the UAE on May 14.

Pope Francis is welcomed to the United Arab Emirates by Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the presidential palace, Feb. 4, 2019. .  Vatican Media.
Pope Francis is welcomed to the United Arab Emirates by Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, at the presidential palace, Feb. 4, 2019. . Vatican Media.

In the message, Pope Francis offered his prayers for Sheikh Mohammed in his new official role as ruler.

Pope Francis wrote: “In commending His Highness prayers to the eternal mercies of the Most High God, I assure you also of my prayers as you enter upon the responsibilities of your lofty office.”

“Upon you, the members of your Family, and upon all the beloved people of the United Arab Emirates, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”

The Vatican has maintained close ties with the UAE since the pope’s trip to Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Cardinals and Roman Curia officials, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, and Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, have made trips to the peninsula in the past year as the Vatican and the UAE collaborated on several events and initiatives, including the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

Vatican officials traveled to the UAE last July to honor Sheikh Mohammed with the “Man of Humanity” award from the Vatican Congregation for Education at a ceremony held in the Emirates Palace.

This week, a press conference at the Vatican was canceled in light of the president’s death. The press conference, scheduled for May 17, was due to present the “Interfaith Meeting in Abu Dhabi on Religion, Ethics and Artificial Intelligence.”

The UAE has announced a 40-day mourning period following Sheikh Khalifa’s death.

“May his legacy continue to inspire the efforts of men and women of good will everywhere to persevere in weaving bonds of unity and peace between the members of our one human family,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican hosts synod listening session with disabled Catholics

People from more than 20 countries take part in a video call hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life on May 19, 2022. / Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life Flickr photostream.

Vatican City, May 20, 2022 / 05:15 am (CNA).

The Vatican hosted a virtual listening session with Catholics with disabilities on Thursday as part of the Synod on Synodality process.

People from more than 20 countries participated in the video call hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life on May 19, with some expressing concerns about experiences of discrimination and exclusion.

A participant from France with Down syndrome shared on the call: “At birth, I could have been aborted. I am happy to live.”

“I love everyone and I thank God for creating me,” she added, according to the dicastery.

Other participants from Mexico, Liberia, Ukraine, and other countries also took part in the discussion of some of the synod’s preparatory questions, including: “How are we walking with Jesus and our brothers and sisters to proclaim Him? For the future, what is the Spirit asking our Church to grow in our journey with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters to proclaim Him?”

Accommodations were made so that people with sensory, physical, or cognitive disabilities could express themselves in their own languages, including sign language.

Father Alexandre Awi Mello, the secretary of the dicastery, said that one of the challenges posed by the global synodal process is to “overcome any prejudice of those who believe that those who have difficulties in expressing themselves do not have a thought of their own, nor anything interesting to communicate.”

Participants in a video call hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life on May 19, 2022. Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life Flickr photostream.
Participants in a video call hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life on May 19, 2022. Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life Flickr photostream.

According to the Vatican dicastery, the 30 participants in the video call were invited to offer further contributions to a document in the coming months that will be delivered to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops as part of the synodal process.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, spoke to the participants at the beginning of the call.

“I’m in debt to people with disabilities. One of them led me on the path of a priestly vocation,” Grech said.

“If the face of the disabled brother or sister is discarded, it is the Church that becomes disabled,” he said.

Oklahoma Catholic high school sued for $75M over alleged sex abuse 

Photo illustration. / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 19:28 pm (CNA).

Ten current and former students, along with six parents or guardians, are suing a Catholic high school in Oklahoma — a school that they allege “fostered and allowed a rape culture” and “tolerated sexual harrassment and assault” by male students, teachers, and coaches for more than 10 years, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, filed May 16 in Oklahoma County District Court, lists Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City as a defendant. It also lists those who have authority over the school: the board of trustees, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and the Sisters of Mercy.

The suit accuses three school leaders, who have since resigned, of playing a central role in the “commission of the assault and harassment” and covering it up: former principal Talita DeNegri, assistant principal Wendy Faires, and guidance counselor Mallory Tecmire.

“Despite being on actual and constructive notice of hundreds of incidents of sexual assault and harrassment … MSM [Mount St. Mary’s] did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse that lay just beneath the surface,” the lawsuit reads. “Rather, MSM shamed women and girls who reported, including the Student Plaintiffs and other victims, and allowed men and boys to continue harassing and assaulting women and girls, including the Student Plaintiffs.”

The lawsuit alleges a breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination on the basis of sex and hostile educational environment harassment, public nuisance, and slander. Plaintiffs are seeking more than $75 million in damages.

One male student who attended the high school from 2017 to 2022 — identified as “X.R.” — is accused in the complaint of raping or assaulting numerous women, including three of the plaintiffs. One woman accused him of groping and kissing her while she was driving, the complaint states, while another said he assaulted her in a dark classroom.

Mount St. Mary leaders learned of these incidents, the lawsuit alleges, but did nothing about X.R. until news media reported on sexual abuse allegations at the school. X.R. has been or will be criminally charged, the lawsuit claims.

In response to the lawsuit, Mount St. Mary’s shared a statement with CNA from the school’s incoming principal, Laura Cain. 

“I have been made aware of the lawsuit but am unable to comment on pending legal situations,” Cain, who will serve as principal beginning on July 1, said. “What I can speak to is the confidence I have in the direction of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School. As an alumna and former parent, I know the pain our school's community has faced over the last six months. We must ensure that we maintain a compassionate environment where students can grow and excel. Our future provides an opportunity to not only educate, but to improve.”

In a statement, the Sisters of Mercy responded that they “have not received a complaint at this time and so we cannot comment on the lawsuit.”

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City did not respond with comment by time of publication.

When the archdiocese learned of the allegations last year, the staff contacted police, said Page Hauser, the archdiocese’s safe environment coordinator, the Associated Press reported. 

“They also worked with the governing board at the school to hire an independent investigator to look into the allegations, resulting in the resignation of three staff members,” Hauser said in a statement Wednesday.

'Br. Martin,' self-described monk with large Twitter following, says he won't heed bishop's warning

Martin Navarro, a layman and founder of the group the Oblates of St. Augustine, is refusing to obey his bishop's demands that he no longer fundraise, identify himself as "brother," dress in a habit, and construct a chapel in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. / Screenshot from YouTube video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

A social media-savvy layman, who uses the title “Brother” and wears a habit, will not obey his bishop’s orders to cease presenting himself as a religious brother or member of a religious community. 

Nor will Martin Navarro  — whose “Br. Martin” Twitter account has more than 11,000 followers — acquiesce to Bishop James Johnston’s demands to stop fundraising in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and cease building an unauthorized chapel. 

“We're following the rules, we're following the guidelines, as well as being honest as who we are and what our intentions are,” Navarro said in a YouTube video posted May 17.

As to his practice of wearing a habit, he said, “it’s a free country, so to speak; you can wear whatever you want.”

Navarro, 31, has asked Johnston to formally recognize a Traditional Latin Mass religious group Navarro started called the Oblates of St. Augustine. 

Johnston denied the request. He also ordered the group to cease operating in the diocese.

The bishop issued the demands in a letter dated May 6 addressed to Navarro. Navarro made the letter public in the same YouTube video from May 17.

“I have not given nor will give approval or permission to explore, found, or establish the community about which you have previously inquired,” Johnston stated in the letter.

“I further direct that you do not use the religious title of ‘Brother Martin’ at any time nor dress in a religious habit, since in justice and truth, your canonical status is not one of membership within a religious community, such continued usage is both disingenuous and dishonest,” he added.

Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph. CNA
Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph. CNA

Johnston reiterated his demands “in order to emphasize the seriousness of my warning and prohibitions” at the end of the letter.

“I reiterate what I have made eminently clear above: do not call yourself ‘Brother,’ do not continue to present yourself within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in any manner or means, including by wearing a religious habit, as a Brother or as a member of a religious community, do not ask for any funds or alms within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph whether in person or on the Internet or other social media formats, and do not utilize an unapproved chapel within the Diocese of Kansas City St. Joseph,” he stated.

“Your request of me regarding your proposed formation of Oblates of Saint Augustine is, therefore, denied.”

Church law at issue

Navarro told CNA on May 18 that he will not comply with Johnston's orders.

The Oblates of St. Augustine community he leads is based in Weston, Missouri, a small town about a 40-minute drive north of Kansas City. It’s unclear how many men are in the group. Speaking to CNA, Navarro would only say that since founding the Oblates in 2020, “I’ve never been alone.”

The Oblates’ website describes the group as a “community of Traditional Roman Catholic men, faithful to the Traditional Roman Rite, the Holy Rule of St. Augustine, and the traditional formulations of the Catholic religion.” The group says it is devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass and breviary.

Navarro said the group is currently living on property leased to them by Mike Parrott, the host of a YouTube channel called Restoring the Faith Media. The group’s chapel in a converted garage already is under construction on the property, and nearing completion. Navarro told CNA the group has raised more than $161,000 for the monastery project. A separate funding drive accepts donations for the group members' living expenses.

Navarro’s “Br. Martin” Twitter account often tweets comments concerning an ongoing dispute between Parrott and the Church Militant media outlet which began over Parrott’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Father James Jackson, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who is facing federal child pornography charges in Rhode Island.

In his letter, Johnston cited several canons, as well as Pope Francis’ 2020 motu proprio Authenticum charismatis, to support his authority over the group’s activities in his diocese.

Johnston warned that “failure to observe these provisions … could result in further disciplinary actions. Accordingly, this letter itself stands as due canonical warning of the same.”

Navarro, for his part, says Johnston is misinterpreting church law, and using it “to intimidate us from praying.”

Asked to respond to Navarro’s intention to defy Johnston, Ashlie Hand, communications director for the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, issued a statement to CNA Thursday night.

“Bishop Johnston has communicated appropriate guidance and next steps with Mr. Navarro regarding his request to establish the Oblates of St. Augustine in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph," Hand said. "Bishop Johnston intends any further communication to be private."

Final Australian state allows euthanasia and assisted suicide, rejecting religious exemptions

Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock. / null

Denver Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 16:58 pm (CNA).

New South Wales has become the sixth and final Australian state to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Its legislation forces health care and elder care organizations with religious objections to allow the practice on their premises.

“If a civilization is to be judged by how it treats its weakest members, the New South Wales parliament has failed miserably, and has set a dark and dangerous path for all posterity, determining a new and disturbing definition of what it means to be human.” Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said May 19.

“Despite our disappointment, our fight for life does not end with this vote,” he added. He then invoked a phrase of Pope Francis: “We must redouble our efforts to care for those who are victims of the ‘throwaway culture’ and instead rebuild a culture of life and love in this state.”

The Upper House of the New South Wales Parliament voted to approve the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 by a vote of 23 to 15 on Thursday. It will take effect in about 18 months, according to The Catholic Weekly, a publication of the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The bill allows euthanasia or assisted suicide to Australian citizens who are at least 18 years old. They must have a terminal illness and be expected to die within six months. Those expected to die in twelve months may seek euthanasia or assisted suicide if they have a neurodegenerative condition and experience unbearable suffering. Their application for euthanasia or assisted suicide must be assessed by two medical practitioners and they must be found to be making their decision voluntarily, without duress, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.

“The disturbing nature of this legislation is compounded by the way the debate over amendments was conducted,” said Archbishop Fisher. “All amendments put forward by those who would seek to make this deadly regime even a little bit safer were rejected.”

“That no meaningful amendments were accepted speaks to a ‘winner takes all’ approach by the proponents of this bill and reveals an ugliness that has invaded our politics. This does not bode well for the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Objecting religious health care providers had sought the ability to ban euthanasia and assisted suicide from their premises, but the relevant amendments were rejected.

“Catholic health and aged care providers in New South Wales have served their communities with compassion and professionalism for more than a century and will continue to offer high-quality hospital and end of life care despite this poorly designed law,” Brigid Meney, director of strategy and mission at Catholic Health Australia, said May 19.

“However Catholic health and aged care providers are disappointed and saddened by the passing of a law that violates their ethic of care,” she continued. 

“This law will force organizations that do not agree with assisted suicide to allow doctors onto their premises to prescribe and even administer restricted drugs with the intention of terminating a resident’s life – without even informing the facility,” Meney continued. “These laws ignore the rights of staff and residents who may choose to work and live in a particular residential facility because of their opposition to assisted suicide.”

Catholic Health Care Australia, the Anglican health care provider Anglicare, and the Christian aged care provider HammondCare had all strongly campaigned for their faith-based elder care facilities to be exempted from the law, citing freedom of conscience. Conscience protections, however, were defeated in the Upper House by a vote of 23-13.

Greg Donnelly, a Labor Member of the Legislative Council, was among other pro-life lawmakers who had sought to limit the New South Wales legislation through amendments, including conscience protections.

He said it was “utterly repugnant and draconian” to force facilities with moral objections to assisted suicide or euthanasia to allow the practices. Such provisions are “essentially an authoritarian imposition on what are, in our civil society, associations of people coming together for a purpose.”

Other defeated amendments sought to clarify whether a person seeking euthanasia or assisted suicide has decision-making capacity or is “significantly impacted by a mental health impairment.” Failed amendments aimed to provide palliative care or to bar healthcare workers or third parties from initiating discussions about euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Alex Greenwich, an independent MP who had introduced the bill, praised its passage and said “compassion has won.” He called for euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates to focus on the federal parliament to pass laws that would allow Australia’s territories to legislate for euthanasia and assisted suicide, Australia’s ABC News reports.

Australia has six states and ten territories, though the lawmaking abilities of the latter are dependent upon the federal parliament.

Liberal Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected any move to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide legalization in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, by far the two most populated Australian territories, though the Labor party has pledged to make debate on the issue a priority if it wins control of the federal government in the elections set for Saturday.

Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay lamented the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in New South Wales, calling it “a completely unacceptable solution to the problem of suffering.”

“A genuinely human society is not how we decide to eliminate those who suffer, but how we care for them,” he said. “We should be considering and caring for the rights of all citizens to be well, to have the care they need, and not lost to the margins.”

“Now more than ever we must ensure members of our family, friends, those who are alone, the vulnerable in our community know and understand that they are loved, that we will be with them in their journey, and that they are not a burden,” said Randazzo.

Archbishop Fisher thanked members of parliament who opposed the bill, “often in the face of disdain and disparagement from their parliamentary colleagues, from pro-euthanasia lobby groups and from the media.”

When the New South Wales bill was introduced in late 2021, Fisher vocally criticized it and asked Catholics to speak out. He warned of the prevalence of elder abuse and the “alarming rates of suicide among the vulnerable.”

“As someone who has experienced the pain and humiliation of serious illness, I need you to speak up for life,” he had said. He recounted his severe case of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which paralyzed him from the neck down and put him in terrible pain and total dependency on others for five months.

Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.

In February 2021, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally-ill patients.

Priest killed near US-Mexico border

null / Archdiocese of Tijuana

Mexico City Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 15:14 pm (CNA).

The body of Father José Guadalupe Rivas Saldaña, 57, has been found with signs of violence on the outskirts of Tecate, a city located on the border with the United States in the Mexican state of Baja California. There are no suspects in the killing.

Rivas Saldaña was the pastor of Saint Jude Thaddeus parish in Tecate, about 30 miles east of Tijuana, directed Our Lady of Guadalupe Migrant House, and was advisor to the local charismatic renewal movement. 

According to the local press, the body of the priest was found with multiple blows earlier this week on the outskirts of Tecate, along with the body  of another unidentified man beaten beyond recognition.

The priest was last seen alive May 15. He was reported missing and the state attorney general began an investigation

In a May 18 statement, the Archdiocese of Tijuana and Archbishop Francisco Moreno Barrón prayed for the deceased priest’s "return to the Father’s House.”

Rivas Saldaña served in the Tijuana archdiocese for more than 25 years. The archdiocese prayed “that the Risen Christ be strength and comfort for his Family.”

“Let us pray to our Heavenly Father to have mercy on him and that he may soon enjoy the Heavenly Homeland. Give him, Lord, eternal rest and may perpetual light shine upon him. Rest in peace,” the archdiocese concluded.

Rivas Saldaña was born Dec. 10, 1964, in Torreón, and was the fourth of 10 siblings. He was ordained a priest Oct. 29, 1994 by Bishop Luis Morales Reyes of Torreón.

Animalpolitico reported that “Baja California is one of the states with the highest levels of violence in the country. During the first three months of the year, it has recorded 593 first degree murders, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.”

In addition, it is estimated that the first three and a half years of the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been the most violent period on record in the history of Mexico, with more than 120,000 homicides.

In October 2018, another priest of the Tijuana archdiocese was murdered. The body of Father Ímar Arturo Orta, who was pastor of St. Louis parish in Tijuana, was found in an abandoned car with several bullet wounds, after he had been missing several days.

US bishops welcome Biden administration's easing of Cuba sanctions

Demonstrations in Havana against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021. / Domitille P/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 13:10 pm (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ chairman on international justice and peace on Thursday lauded the government’s decision to ease sanctions on Cuba. 

“We commend the Administration’s renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba’s punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect,” Bishop David Malloy of Rockford said May 19.

The Biden administration announced earlier this week that caps on family remittances sent to Cuba will be lifted, gifts to non-family members will be allowed, family reunification programs will be restarted, and travel to the island will be be more readily available.               

“The expansion of travel opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as the lifting of onerous remittance limitations, will strengthen familial, economic, and social ties between our countries. Cuba’s developing civil society and private sector depend on the leadership provided by active U.S. civil society engagement in Cuba,” Malloy commented.

“The U.S. bishops, including the Cuban-American bishops, in conjunction with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, continue to stress the vital importance of bilateral engagement and mutually beneficial trade relations between the United States and Cuba as the key to transformative change on the island,” he said.

Official relations between the U.S. and Cuba were severed shortly after communist rule on the island was established in 1959, and the U.S. imposed an an embargo on travel and trade.

The Obama administration began making small changes to these policies in 2009, and restored diplomatic relations, but many of the changes were reversed under the administration of Donald Trump.

Protests took place across Cuba in July 2021 over concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten, and thousands were arrested. Many demonstrators remain imprisoned.

Several U.S. lawmakers have opposed the easing of sanctions announced by the Biden administration.

“The Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest ruling communist dictatorship with high level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions,” read a May 16 joint statement from Senator Marco Rubio and four other senators, who were joined by five House members. “Appeasing Cuba’s murderous regime … undercuts America’s support for Cuba’s democratic opposition.”

PHOTOS: Madrid launches holy year in honor of St Isidore the Farmer

Opening Mass for Archdiocese of Madrid’s Holy Year of St. Isidore on May 15, 2022. / Archdiocese of Madrid/Ignacio Arregui

Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2022 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Madrid has kicked off a holy year in honor of the 400th anniversary of the canonization of its patron saint, St. Isidore the Farmer.

During the jubilee year, which will last until May 15, 2023, pilgrims can receive a plenary indulgence by praying at the tomb of the 12th-century saint in the Spanish capital.

Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, the archbishop of Madrid, launched the holy year with a Mass at the saint’s tomb on May 15.

“I thank Pope Francis for having granted us this year of grace for Madrid,” he wrote in his letter announcing the jubilee.

“I am sure that it will bring us many blessings and at the same time have effects on all continents, since we have a universal saint, with chapels, shrines, and fraternities all over the world.”

St. Isidore is buried together with his wife, Blessed Maria de la Cabeza, in the Collegiate Church of San Isidro in central Madrid.

Spaniards celebrated the feast of the patron saint of Madrid during a three-day holiday weekend in the capital city with a procession, music, and dancing in the Plaza Mayor.

Many dressed up in Madrid’s traditional clothing, known as “traje de chulapo(a)” in Spanish, which includes wearing a red carnation.

The Archdiocese of Madrid has many plans for the jubilee and has set up a resource webpage to keep pilgrims informed of special events being held in the saint’s honor throughout the year.

On May 21, St. Isidore’s tomb will be opened and his body exposed for veneration until May 29. There will also be processions with his body through the streets of Madrid on May 27 and May 28.

St. Isidore was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, together with St. Francis Xavier, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, and St. Teresa of Avila.

Originally the canonization had been planned for St. Isidore alone, until the Vatican decided to add in the other four blesseds.

Isidore was a poor, humble farmer born in Madrid around 1070. Together with his wife, he pursued holiness through prayer, laboring in the fields, and sharing his possessions with the poor.

Despite the demands of working as a peasant farmer, Isidore prioritized prayer and daily Mass.

Today he is the patron saint of laborers and farmers, in addition to Madrid. Because of his canonization in the 17th century, devotion to St. Isidore quickly spread to many of Spain’s colonies in Latin America.

In his homily for the opening Mass for the holy year, Osoro described St. Isidore as “a husband and father … who knew how to imbue dignity in human work and who knew how to contemplate the face of the Lord.”

According to a decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary, pilgrims can obtain a plenary indulgence only during the holy year by praying at the tomb of St. Isidore in Madrid under the usual conditions of making a sacramental confession, receiving Holy Communion, and praying for the intentions of the pope.

The elderly and the sick who are unable to leave their homes can also obtain the indulgence by uniting themselves spiritually to the jubilee celebration, praying before a sacred image, and offering up their sufferings to God.

The Vatican has also granted the parish Church of St. Isidore the Farmer in Mexico City’s Reforma neighborhood the opportunity for pilgrims to obtain a plenary indulgence during the holy year until May 2023, according to ACI Prensa.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop emeritus of Mexico, opened a Holy Door at the parish on May 15.

“We hope for a renewal of faith and a conversion to the Lord, in the practice of a simple and daily life as St. Isidore teaches us to live faith and Christian charity,” Father Hugo Valdemar, the parish priest said.

Pope Francis joined by Bono for launch of international educational movement

Pope Francis meets Bono at the launch of the Scholas Occurrentes International Educational Movement at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, May 19, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 09:54 am (CNA).

Pope Francis formally launched an international educational movement on Thursday in the presence of U2 singer Bono.

The pope inaugurated the Scholas Occurrentes International Educational Movement on May 19 during a meeting with young people at Rome’s Pontifical Urban University.

The 85-year-old pope sat in a wheelchair as he watched student presentations, before engaging in a question-and-answer session.

Bono asked Pope Francis about the role of women and girls in tackling the climate crisis. The pope replied by pointing out that people speak of “Mother Earth,” not “Father Earth,” and indicating that women played a leading role.

Scholas Occurrentes grew out of the Escuela de Vecinos (“Neighborhood School”) and Escuelas Hermanas (“Sister Schools”) programs, developed by the future Pope Francis when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The organization was established as a pontifical foundation in 2015, charged with supporting poor and underserved communities around the world through education.

The pope signed a decree known as a chirograph on March 19 establishing the pontifical foundation as a private association of the faithful of an international character.

“Taking into account that the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes today continues to expand its beneficial action and to structure itself as a community of communities and an educational movement of international character, it requires a new juridical form in keeping with this new reality,” said the decree, released by the Vatican on May 17.

‘I felt I completely lost my soul’: Ex-military nurse battling addiction finds solace at Lourdes

Richard Johnson, left, and his brother Djay attend the 8th annual Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage on May 10-16, 2022. / Solène Tadié.

Lourdes, France, May 19, 2022 / 09:10 am (CNA).

In 2001, Richard Johnson suffered a major knee injury during an operation in Kosovo. The military nurse was given strong painkillers, which led him into an addiction that gradually dragged him into the abyss.

He spent the next 14 years in growing isolation and despair. When his family — practicing Catholics with a proud tradition of military service — lost all influence over him, they resolved to support him by prayer, from a distance.

“My family grieved me as I was basically gone,” Richard, 47, told CNA during the May 10-16 Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage. “I spent years in darkness, with no thought, no emotion. I felt I completely lost my soul, while my mom was praying the rosary continuously.”

He is aware, with hindsight, that it is thanks to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that he emerged into the light.

In 2014, he experienced a psychotic break in which he lost all contact with reality. It took four years for him to come through it.

“One night, in 2018, in a totally sudden way, I heard the first thought in my mind in four years,” he recalled. “And I know now that all was connected. At that point, I felt what I would describe as a flood of grace. I felt at peace, started to feel emotions again, my soul was coming back.”

That night, Richard felt compelled to pray, even though he had cut himself off from his childhood faith as a teenager after his parents’ divorce, some 20 years earlier. A week later, a strong will to pray the rosary arose in him.

“I asked a Catholic friend I had in the Army to help me pray as I had forgotten everything,” he said. “Then I started reconnecting with people, with my faith and Scripture, and I became a completely new person. I felt a special draw to Our Lady and to Lourdes.”

This new path of faith led him back to his older brother, Djay, to whom he was close in his youth, before his addiction put an end to their relationship.

Solène Tadié.
Solène Tadié.

Djay, 51, a retired Army staff sergeant, accompanied Richard on the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Each year, around a hundred soldiers “in need” are selected from across the country by the leadership of Warriors to Lourdes, which covers the trip’s expenses. More than 175 active-duty personnel and veterans took part in this year’s pilgrimage, led by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio.

Participants in the Warriors to Lourdes program are offered a daily English-speaking Mass and “faith and fellowship” sessions. They can also join in activities related to the International Military Pilgrimage, which took place this year on May 13-15 and brought together around 10,300 pilgrims from 42 countries.

Djay told CNA: “During the high of Richard’s drug addiction, I couldn’t help him as when one is addicted, one doesn’t listen to anyone. So I spent a lot of time with God, preparing for his arrival to come back home.”

Djay decided to write spiritual stories to encourage all those who, like his brother, are struggling with addiction and depression. His unshakeable faith allowed him to accompany his brother on his spiritual journey as he began to recover.

Although they lived far away from each other, their relationship was strengthened through long, regular phone conversations about God and their interior lives.

“We had spent over 20 years away from each other, but our conversations picked up as if we never parted ways, we were so excited to talk,” Richard remembered.

He noted that their bond had reached new heights during their pilgrimage to Lourdes, which, he said, marked the culmination of a three-year spiritual journey.

For Richard, the Knights of Columbus’ decision to select him and his brother — who also suffers from significant health problems — for the pilgrimage to Lourdes is also a matter of providence.

Solène Tadié.
Solène Tadié.

In 2021, a month after he consecrated himself to the Virgin Mary, Richard experienced serious health issues that confined him to a hospital for several weeks.

“Although I was very ill, I knew Our Lady would intercede again,” he said. “One day, a priest counseling me at the hospital told me about the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage. He encouraged me to apply, and everything fell into place.”

Richard now approaches life with unprecedented serenity and gratitude. He came to Lourdes, the city where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, with the desire to discover how best to use his past experience to serve God. He is now convinced that sharing his testimony, especially through writing, will help many people, especially as the opioid crisis continues to take its toll in the United States.

“Me and my brother want to share what we’ve been through and tell people that no matter how far down one is, how dark it is, there is hope, because God still cares,” Richard said.

“I was there, I experienced that and God took me from where I was.”

He added: “This trip to Lourdes brought me a profound healing and my heart is in a state of complete thanksgiving.”

“I’m being emotional just being here. Every time I receive Holy Communion here, I want to weep. Same with the anointing of the sick.”

“It’s been such an awakening for my soul, and I’ve become a truly new person in Christ.”