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  • People use hand sanitizer before entering St. Peter's Basilica. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    Vatican City, Sep 20, 2021 / 08:15 am (CNA).

    The Vatican will require all visitors and personnel to show a COVID-19 pass proving they have been vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus, or have tested negative for the disease in order to enter the city state beginning Oct. 1.

    To enter Vatican territory, tourists and other visitors, employees, and officials will be required to show a digital or paper Covid Certificate issued by the Vatican or another country, according to an ordinance published Sept. 20.

    A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
    A Swiss Guard watches over an entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

    The president of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, issued the ordinance at the request of Pope Francis, who asked “to take all appropriate measures to prevent, control and combat the ongoing public health emergency in the Vatican City State.”

    Under the new order, Catholics attending liturgical celebrations at the Vatican will be an exception to the vaccine rule. People will be allowed to access a liturgy “for the time strictly necessary for the conduct of the rite,” while also following distancing and masking rules.

    Italy’s vaccine passport, called the “Green Pass,” requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19, proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous six months, or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

    Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
    Religious sisters outside the St. Anne's Gate entrance to the Vatican. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    On Sept. 17, the Italian government approved an expansion to the Green Pass, making it a requirement for all private and public workplaces beginning Oct. 15.

    Employees who do not have the pass could be suspended without pay or be forced to pay a fine of up to roughly $1,800.

    Since Aug. 1, Italy has required the vaccine pass to enter certain indoor venues, such as restaurants and museums, and in September the pass also became necessary for travel within the country. The vaccine pass was already required for certain workplaces, such as hospitals and schools.

    The ordinance mandating COVID-19 vaccination for visitors and employees of Vatican City State was signed Sept. 18, the day after Italy’s government expanded its vaccination mandate to the public and private sectors.

    Vatican gendarmes will be responsible for checking vaccine passes at entrances to Vatican territory, according to the ordinance.

    The order says Pope Francis, in a Sept. 7 meeting with Vatican City President Bertello, “affirmed that it is necessary to ensure the health and wellness of the work Community in respect of the dignity, rights, and fundamental liberty of every member.”

    Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
    Rules for entering St. Peter's Basilica include using a COVID-19 mask, keeping physical distance from others, and wearing appropriate clothing. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    From Oct. 1, it will be required to have the Green Pass to enter St. Peter’s Basilica as a tourist.

    In Italy, many historic Catholic churches which charge tourists ticket fares to enter had already required the Green Pass.

    Since August, proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test has been required for tourists who wish to visit the Duomo in Florence, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and many of Italy’s most famous Catholic cathedrals.

    Among the hundreds of churches in Rome, only the Pantheon has required the Green Pass for tourists. And the Pantheon, which was transformed into the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres in the 7th century, does not require the pass for entrance to its Masses.

  • Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Sept. 19, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

    Vatican City, Sep 19, 2021 / 05:15 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said on Sunday that in God’s eyes, success is measured “not on what someone has, but on what someone gives.”

    In his Angelus address on Sept. 19, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 9:30-37, in which Jesus declares that “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

    The pope said: “Through this shocking phrase, the Lord inaugurates a reversal: he overturns the criteria about what truly matters. The value of a person does not depend anymore on the role they have, the work they do, the money they have in the bank.”

    “No, no, no, it does not depend on this. Greatness and success in God’s eyes are measured differently: they are measured by service. Not on what someone has, but on what someone gives. Do you want to be first? Serve. This is the way.”

    Giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said that those who wish to follow Jesus must take “the path of service.”

    “Our fidelity to the Lord depends on our willingness to serve. And we know this often costs, because ‘it tastes like a cross.’ But, as our care and availability toward others grow, we become freer inside, more like Jesus. The more we serve, the more we are aware of God’s presence,” he explained.

    “Above all, when we serve those who cannot give anything in return, the poor, embracing their difficulties and needs with tender compassion: and we in turn discover God’s love and embrace there.”

    He noted that after making his declaration about service, Jesus brought a child before his disciples, saying: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

    The pope said: “In the Gospel, the child does not symbolize innocence so much as littleness. For the little ones, like children, depend on others, on adults, they need to receive. Jesus embraces those children and says that those who welcome a little one, welcome him.”

    “The ones who are to be served above all are those in need of receiving who cannot give anything in return. In welcoming those on the margins, the neglected, we welcome Jesus because He is there. And in the little one, in the poor person we serve, we also receive God’s tender embrace.”

    Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
    Pilgrims listen to the Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 19, 2021. Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

    The pope urged pilgrims gathered in the square below to ask themselves whether they were truly committed to serving the neglected or simply sought “personal gratification” like Jesus’ disciples on that occasion.

    “Do I understand life in terms of competing to make room for myself at others’ expense, or do I believe that being first means serving?” he asked.

    “And, concretely: do I dedicate time to a ‘little one,’ to a person who has no means to pay me back? Am I concerned about someone who cannot give me anything in return, or only with my relatives and friends? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.”

    After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to victims of flooding in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

    He highlighted the deaths of at least 17 patients after a river burst its banks and water inundated a hospital in the town of Tula.

    He also referred -- without mentioning any countries by name -- to those held unjustly in detention outside their homelands.

    “I want to assure my prayer for the people who have been unjustly detained in foreign countries: unfortunately, there are several cases, for different, and sometimes, complex causes. I hope that, in the due fulfillment of justice, these people might return as soon as possible to their homeland,” he said.

    He then greeted pilgrims gathered for his address, singling out those from Poland, Slovakia, and Honduras.

    Finally, he acknowledged the 175th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, southeastern France.

    He noted that Mary appeared in tears to two children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat, in 1846.

    “Mary’s tears make us think of Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem and of his anguish in Gethsemane: they are a reflection of Christ’s suffering for our sins and an appeal that is always contemporary, to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy,” he said.

  • Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace Jan. 27, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis invoked Abraham Lincoln in a video message released on Saturday to a safeguarding summit organized by the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

    Addressing participants in the meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the pope referred to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered 41 days before the president’s assassination in 1865.

    “‘With malice toward none, with charity for all,’ I urge you to be humble instruments of the Lord, at the service of the victims of abuse, considering them as companions and protagonists of a common future, learning from each other to become more faithful and resilient so that, together, we might face the challenges of the future,” the pope said in a video message issued on Sept. 18.

    Pope Francis has referred to the 16th president of the United States before. In his historic speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015, the pope singled out Lincoln alongside four other notable Americans, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.

    “This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that ‘this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom,’” he said, quoting from the 1863 Gettysburg Address.

    “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

    During his 2015 U.S. visit, Francis spoke at the lectern that Lincoln used in Gettysburg as he gave an address outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

    The meeting in Warsaw, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children,” is taking place on Sept. 19-22 with the support of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Bishops’ Conferences of Central and Eastern Europe.

    Participants from an estimated 20 countries will reflect on the Church’s response to clerical abuse in the region.

    The pope urged leaders to put the welfare of victims ahead of seeking to defend the Church’s reputation.

    “Our expressions of sorrow must be converted into concrete pathways of reform to both prevent further abuse and to give confidence to others that our efforts will bring about real and reliable change,” he said.

    “I encourage you to listen to the cry of the victims and to dedicate yourselves, with each other and with society in a broader sense, in these important discussions because they truly touch the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe -- not only the Church’s future, but the hearts of Christians as well. This is our responsibility.”

    Speakers at the meeting include Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.

    O’Malley said: “I want to begin by acknowledging and thanking survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who continue to come forward and share their experience. It is because of their courage that others can be spared from experiencing this horror.”

    “There is no place or group of people that is immune to being impacted by this crime and sin. It has tragically infiltrated the Church in all countries and all cultures. As leaders, we must be recognized as people committed and accountable, always and everywhere, to the safety of the children entrusted to our pastoral care.”

    “The journey of learning will be ongoing throughout our lives. Conversion to a culture of safeguarding is an urgent priority.”

    Also speaking is the Chilean abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who was appointed to the Pontifical Commission in March.

    He told Vatican News that it was important to recognize that “dealing with abuse cases right now is an emergency.”

    “If we don’t deal with these issues, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg,” he said, crediting Pope Francis with developing the Church’s response to abuse.

    In his video message, the pope said: “The recognition of our errors and our failings can certainly make us feel vulnerable and fragile. But it can also present a moment of splendid grace, a moment of self-emptying, that opens new horizons of love and reciprocal service.”

    “If we recognize our mistakes, we have nothing to fear, because it will be the Lord himself who will have led us to that point.”

  • Pope Francis greets Catholics from Rome diocese in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Sept. 18, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Sep 18, 2021 / 07:25 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said on Saturday that the two-year process leading to the 2023 synod on synodality is not about “gathering opinions,” but “listening to the Holy Spirit.”

    Addressing Catholics from the Diocese of Rome on Sept. 18, the pope noted that preparations for the synod would take place in three phases between October 2021 and October 2023.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    He said that the process sought to create “a dynamism of mutual listening” at all levels of the Church.

    “This is not about gathering opinions, no. This is not an inquiry; but it is about listening to the Holy Spirit,” he said.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The Vatican announced in May that the synod on synodality would open with a diocesan phase lasting from October 2021 to April 2022.

    A second, continental phase will take place from September 2022 to March 2023.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The third, universal phase will begin at the Vatican in October 2023 with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

    The 84-year-old pope read his live-streamed address seated in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, frequently adding off-the-cuff remarks.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The speech was one of his most extensive reflections on the theme of “synodality,” a concept at the heart of his pontificate.

    At one point, he apologized for the length of his speech, but said it was necessary as “the synod is a serious thing.” The audience responded with applause.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The pope outlined his vision and hopes for the synod, which some Vatican commentators have described as the most significant Catholic event since the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

    He said that, as Bishop of Rome, he considered it vital that the Diocese of Rome committed itself “with conviction” to the synodal process.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    Smiling, he said it would be an “embarrassment” if his own diocese did not embrace the initiative.

    “The theme of synodality is not a chapter in a treatise on ecclesiology, much less a fad, a slogan, or a new term to use or instrumentalize in our meetings. No! Synodality expresses the nature of the Church, its form, its style, its mission,” he explained.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    “And so we speak of a Synodal Church, avoiding, however, to consider that it is just one title among others, a way of thinking about it that foresees alternatives.”

    The pope said that this wasn’t simply a “theological opinion” or merely a “personal thought,” but rather the blueprint for the Church contained in the Acts of the Apostles, which shows the early Christian community “walking together.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    He reflected on episodes from the New Testament book, which showed how the first Christians resolved their seemingly irreconcilable differences by gathering together to make decisions.

    He repeatedly emphasized the Holy Spirit’s leading role in decision-making.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    He said: “There will always be discussions, thank God, but solutions are to be sought by giving the word to God and his voices in our midst; by praying and opening our eyes to all that surrounds us; by practicing a life faithful to the Gospel; examining Revelation according to a pilgrim hermeneutic that knows how to preserve the path begun in the Acts of the Apostles.”

    “And this is important: the way of understanding, of interpreting. A pilgrim hermeneutic, that is, one that is on the move. The journey that began after the Council? No. It began with the first Apostles and continues.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    Describing how the faith is passed on from one generation to the next, the pope quoted the composer Gustav Mahler as saying that fidelity to tradition does not consist of “the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.”

    He said: “You see how our Tradition is a leavened dough, a reality in ferment where we can recognize growth, and in the dough, a communion that is implemented in movement: walking together realizes true communion.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The pope stressed the importance of the diocesan phase of the synodal process. Earlier this month, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook to help dioceses worldwide to take part.

    The pope said the initial phase was critical because it sought to involve “the totality of the baptized.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    “There are many resistances to overcome the image of a Church rigidly distinguished between leaders and subordinates, between those who teach and those who must learn, forgetting that God likes to overturn positions,” he commented.

    He continued: “The exercise of the sensus fidei [sense of the faith] cannot be reduced to the communication and comparison of opinions that we may have regarding this or that theme, that single aspect of doctrine, or that rule of discipline.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    “No, those are instruments, they are verbalizations, they are dogmatic or disciplinary expressions. But the idea of distinguishing majorities and minorities must not prevail: a parliament does that.”

    The pope then meditated on the meaning of the phrase “people of God,” a major theme of Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    He said that belonging to the people of God was not a matter of “exclusivity” but of receiving a gift that comes with the responsibility to witness to God.

    “Why do I tell you these things?” he asked. “Because in the synodal journey, listening must take into account the sensus fidei, but it must not overlook all those ‘presentiments’ embodied where we would not expect them.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The Holy Spirit, he said, knows no boundaries and parishes should therefore be open to all and not limit themselves “to considering only those who attend or think like you.”

    “Allow everyone to enter... Allow yourselves to go out to meet them and allow yourselves to be questioned, let their questions be your questions, allow yourselves to walk together: the Spirit will lead you, trust the Spirit. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue and allow yourselves to be disturbed by the dialogue: it is the dialogue of salvation,” he said.

    Concluding his address, Pope Francis urged members of Rome diocese to play an active role in the synod’s preparations.

    “I have come here to encourage you to take this synodal process seriously and to tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. And this is true: the Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to him by listening to each other. Don’t leave anyone out or behind,” he said.

    “It will be good for the Diocese of Rome and for the whole Church, which is strengthened not just by reforming structures -- that is the great deception! -- by giving instructions, offering retreats and conferences, or through directives and programs -- this is good, but as part of something else -- but if it rediscovers that it is a people that wants to walk together, among ourselves and with humanity.”

    He added: “But it is necessary to get out of the 3-4% that represents those closest to us, and go beyond that to listen to the others, who will sometimes insult you, they will chase you away, but it is necessary to hear what they think, without wanting to impose our things: let the Spirit speak to us.”

  • Pope Francis greets Archbishop Rino Fisichella in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, Sept. 17, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Sep 17, 2021 / 07:30 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said on Friday that he instituted the new ministry of catechist with the hope that it would help to “awaken this vocation.”

    Addressing participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization on Sept. 17, the pope referred to his decision to formally institute the new lay ministry in May.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    He said: “We must insist on indicating the heart of catechesis: the risen Jesus Christ loves you and never abandons you! We can never tire or feel we are being repetitive about this first proclamation in the various stages of the catechetical process.”

    “This is why I instituted the ministry of catechist. They are preparing the rite for the, I quote, ‘creation’ of catechists. So that the Christian community may feel the need to awaken this vocation and to experience the service of some men and women who, living the celebration of the Eucharist, may feel more vividly the passion to transmit the faith as evangelizers.”

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The pope established the new ministry through the apostolic letter Antiquum ministerium (“Ancient ministry”) on May 11.

    While catechists have served the Church since New Testament times, an instituted ministry is a type of formal, vocational service within the Catholic Church.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    The newly instituted ministry of catechist is for lay people who have a particular call to serve the Catholic Church as a teacher of the faith.

    In the apostolic letter, the pope said that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments would “soon publish” the Rite of Institution of the new ministry.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    In his address, the pope noted that last Sunday he celebrated the closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary.

    He said that catechesis “can be effective in the work of evangelization if it keeps its gaze fixed on the Eucharistic mystery.”

    “We cannot forget that the privileged place of catechesis is precisely the Eucharistic celebration, where brothers and sisters come together to discover ever more the different forms of God's presence in their lives,” he said.

    Vatican Media.
    Vatican Media.

    Speaking in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall to Catholics responsible for catechesis in Europe, the pope fondly recalled the two catechists who prepared him for First Communion.

    “I felt a great respect, even a feeling of thanksgiving, without making it explicit, but it felt like veneration,” he said.

    “Why? Because they were the women who had prepared me for my First Communion, together with a nun. I want to tell you about this experience because it was a beautiful thing for me to accompany them to the end of their lives, both of them. And also the nun who prepared me for the liturgical part of Communion: she died, and I was there, with her, accompanying her. There is a closeness, a very important bond with catechists…”

    Referring to the Directory for Catechesis, released in June 2020, he said that catechesis should not be understood as “an abstract communication of theoretical knowledge to be memorized as like mathematical or chemical formulas.”

    “It is rather the mystagogical experience of those who learn to encounter their brothers and sisters where they live and work, because they themselves have met Christ, who has called them to become missionary disciples,” he said.

    He then referred to his address on Monday in St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava, in which he encouraged Slovakian Catholics to draw inspiration from Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who translated the Bible into the Slavonic language.

    He told catechists in Rome: “They beat new paths, invented new languages, new ‘alphabets,’ to transmit the Gospel, for the inculturation of the faith.”

    “This requires knowing how to listen to the people, to listen to the peoples to whom one is proclaiming: listening to their culture, their history; listening not superficially, already thinking of the pre-packaged answers we carry in our briefcase, no! To truly listen, and to compare those cultures, those languages, even and above all the unspoken, the unexpressed, with the Word of God, with Jesus Christ, the living Gospel.”

    “And I repeat the question: is this not the most urgent task of the Church among the peoples of Europe? The great Christian tradition of the continent must not become a historical relic, otherwise, it is no longer ‘tradition.’”

    He continued: “Tradition is either alive or it is not. And catechesis is tradition, it is trador [in Latin], to hand down, but as living tradition, from heart to heart, from mind to mind, from life to life. Therefore: passionate and creative, with the impetus of the Holy Spirit.”

    “I used the word ‘pre-packaged’ for language, but I fear catechists whose heart, attitude, and face are ‘pre-packaged.’ No. Either the catechist is free, or he or she is not a catechist. The catechist lets herself or himself be struck by the reality he or she finds, and transmits the Gospel with great creativity, or is not a catechist. Think about this well.”

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