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  • Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

    Vatican City, Jun 24, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

    Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago will conduct an apostolic visitation at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the Vatican said Thursday.

    The inspection will begin in a few days, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists June 24.

    He said that the visit was taking place “in the context of a normal examination of the activity of the dicasteries, aimed at acquiring an updated representation of the conditions in which they operate.”

    Cupich has been a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops since 2016.

    The visitation will be the third to take place at offices of the Roman Curia in recent months.

    In March, a visitation was conducted at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments before Pope Francis appointed its new prefect, Archbishop Arthur Roche.

    The pope is said to have also ordered an inspection of the Congregation for the Clergy ahead of the transition to its new leadership, Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik.

    The 69-year-old bishop was appointed earlier this month and is the first Korean to lead a Vatican congregation.

    Several other curial departments could see new leaders appointed this year as their prefects reach retirement age.

    Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will both turn 78 this year.

    Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently turned 77.

    Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the president of the Vatican City State administration, turned 78 last October.

    The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is led by the 72-year-old Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson.

    Another shake-up in the Roman Curia could include the long-awaited publication of a new apostolic constitution, expected for later this year.

    Praedicate evangeliumwill replace the 1988 constitution Pastor bonus.

  • Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jun 24, 2021 / 06:50 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis encouraged the German Catholic Church to continue on its controversial “Synodal Way,” Bishop Georg Bätzing said Thursday after a private audience at the Vatican.

    Bätzing, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, said June 24 that he assured the pope that “rumors” that the German Church was seeking to diverge from the worldwide Church were untrue, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

    “I informed the pope in detail about the status of the Synodal Way and made it clear that the rumors that the Church in Germany wants to go its own way are not true,” he said in a statement on the German bishops’ conference website.

    “Pope Francis encouraged us to continue on the Synodal Way, to discuss the questions at hand openly and honestly, and to come up with recommendations for a change in the way the Church acts.”

    “At the same time, he called for the Church in Germany to help shape the path of synodality he proclaimed toward the Synod of Bishops in 2023.”

    According to the Holy See press office, Bätzing saw the pope after Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which recently intervened in Germany over a proposal for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.

    The German bishops’ conference posted a photograph of Bätzing, the bishop of Limburg, walking up a flight of stairs to his audience with the pope.

    A photograph of the audience showed Bätzing greeting the pope with his head bowed and his zucchetto, or skullcap, in his hand.

    The meeting came at a time of considerable upheaval in the German Church, after the influential Cardinal Reinhard Marx tendered his resignation to the pope, saying that the Church had reached a “dead end.”

    The pope declined the offer, but acknowledged that the abuse scandal had plunged the Church into crisis.

    In his statement on Thursday, Bätzing recalled his first private audience with the pope after his election as chairman of the German bishops’ conference, which took place in June 2020.

    He said: “After my inaugural visit to Pope Francis as president of the German bishops’ conference a year ago, I was able to meet the Holy Father again today -- after the long pandemic.”

    “Our conversation focused first on the situation of the Church in Germany in view of the processing of the sexual abuse cases and the difficult situation in several dioceses. Pope Francis is well aware of the situation of the Church in Germany. He hopes that tensions can be overcome.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    German Church leaders and Vatican officials have clashed repeatedly over the Synodal Way, a process bringing together German bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

    The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

    The Vatican sent a letter to the German bishops declaring that the plans were “not ecclesiologically valid.”

    After a back and forth between the bishops’ conference and Vatican officials, the Synodal Way began on Dec. 1, 2019. It is expected to end in February 2022.

    A number of senior Church figures outside Germany have voiced fears that the Synodal Way will lead to a breach between German Catholics in Rome.

    Three Catholics from the German Diocese of Essen have submitted a “dubium” to the Vatican asking if the Church in Germany is in schism.

    Bätzing has insisted that the country’s Catholics are not “schismatics.”

    CNA Deutsch reported that the theologian Katharina Westerhorstmann, a Synodal Way participant, recently suggested that the process should be suspended in light of plans to involve the worldwide Church in preparations for the 2023 synod on synodality in Rome.

    In his statement, Bätzing said that he had informed the pope about the recent Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt.

    The Vatican had expressed concern in the run-up to the event that it would promote intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants despite significant theological obstacles.

    The event culminated with the Catholic and Protestant leaders of the initiative publicly receiving communion in each others’ churches.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Concluding his statement, Bätzing said: “As I did a year ago, I feel strengthened by Pope Francis in my office as bishop of Limburg and in my task as chairman of the German bishops’ conference.”

    “I am impressed by the balanced knowledge with which he perceives the situation of the Church in Germany and puts the problems into words. Pope Francis will accompany the Church in our country on the way out of the crisis.”

  • Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. / Sidney de Almeida/Shutterstock

    Vatican City, Jun 24, 2021 / 06:17 am (CNA).

    The Vatican’s new liturgy chief has recommended the practice of adoration to help increase awareness of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

    In an interview with EWTN News, Archbishop Arthur Roche, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said that he was not pessimistic about the prospect of people returning to Mass after pandemic lockdown restrictions.

    “People’s longing, people’s thirst, [and] absolute hunger for God has increased in this desert experience, which we’ve all experienced,” Roche said June 22.

    The archbishop said that it was “important to recognize the presence of the Lord in the Eucharistic presence of the Lord and to develop that within your own life.”

    One way he recommended to “develop a sense of the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament” is the practice of Eucharistic adoration.

    He said: “One of the great theologians of the modern world used to say: when I’m sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, it’s almost as if I’m sitting in front of a presence that’s somehow, rather like radiotherapy. Somehow it radiates my life in such a way that my sinfulness becomes less. That my capacity to sin becomes less, that my will not to sin becomes less.”

    “And I think it’s a wonderful image of the presence of Christ irradiating our lives, even when we sit there perhaps with no words, with little to say to Our Lord,” Roche commented.

    “We’re there with Him because in one sense, the only thing we can give God is our time and the way that we use our time, and to be there voluntarily in front of the Lord … letting Him come into our lives and change us.”

    Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
    Archbishop Arthur Roche at the Vatican press office on Feb. 10, 2015. / Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

    Roche recently succeeded Cardinal Robert Sarah as the head of the Vatican’s liturgy office. Pope Francis appointed him prefect on May 27. Roche had worked in the congregation since 2012.

    The new prefect said that even the name of his congregation has something to teach Catholics.

    “When we come to Mass, when we come to any liturgy of the Church, the focus is always God. We come there to worship Him,” he said.

    “That’s why the Church would be very wise in retaining in the title of this congregation, Divine Worship -- not just simply liturgy -- Divine Worship. Making it very clear that the focus is God. And we come to God to worship Him.”

    The 71-year-old archbishop said that each pope since the Second Vatican Council had “brought to life, as it were, a characteristic that already exists within the Roman Rite.”

    “Pope Benedict, whose reign was very short, was concerned with the beauty of the liturgy and presenting that in a way that also appreciated the culture of the day and brought into effect within the liturgy the culture of the day,” he said.

    “Pope Francis, as we know, is a very pastoral man. And I think you will see him celebrate the Mass with immense attentiveness. Many say, and I think this is true, that he has a mystical character in the way that he celebrates Mass. He’s very, very focused. He’s very, very attentive to the words. He’s very, very attentive to his preaching also.”

    The archbishop also said that it was necessary to keep in mind that liturgical prayer is a communal experience.

    “It’s never simply the prayer of the individual. And if you don’t have an appreciation for what the Church is, the pilgrim people on a journey to the Lord, then you don’t quite sort of get the implications that are there within the liturgy that this isn’t just a private act,” he said.

    “This is the prayer of the Church. And what is the Church? The Church is the Body of Christ. It is the Son of God in those who are baptized giving praise and worship to our heavenly Father.”

  • Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jun 23, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

    At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis warned against preachers who sow division and mistrust online.

    “There is no shortage of preachers who, especially through the new means of communication, can disturb communities. They present themselves not primarily to announce the Gospel of God who loves man in Jesus, Crucified and Risen, but to insist, as true ‘keepers of the truth,’... what is the best way to be Christians,” the pope said June 23.

    / Pablo Esparza/CNA.
    / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

    “And they strongly affirm that the true Christianity is the one they adhere to, often identified with certain forms of the past, and that the solution to the crises of today is to go back so as not to lose the genuineness of the faith. Today too, as then, there is a temptation to close oneself up in some of the certainties acquired in past traditions.”

    Pope Francis said that these “new preachers” can be recognized by their “rigidity,” which contrasts with “preaching the Gospel that makes us free, makes us joyful.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “The new preachers know neither meekness nor obedience,” he said.

    The pope began a new cycle of catechesis this week on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which, he suggested, “seems written for our times.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “It is a very important letter, I would say decisive, not only to get to know the Apostle better, but above all to consider some topics that he deals with in depth, showing the beauty of the Gospel,” the pope said.

    Paul “addresses some very important themes for the faith, such as those of freedom, grace, and the Christian way of life, which are extremely current because they touch many aspects of the life of the Church of our day. This is a very current letter,” he added.

    / Pablo Esparza/CNA.
    / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

    In particular, the pope highlighted how St. Paul responds to a pastoral concern in his Letter to the Galatians: Opponents of Paul had argued that he was not a true Apostle and therefore had no authority to preach the Gospel.

    “Indeed, some Christians who had come from Judaism had infiltrated these churches, and began to sow theories contrary to the Apostle’s teaching, even going so far as to denigrate him. They began with doctrine -- ‘No to this, yes to that,’ and then they denigrated the Apostle,” he said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “It is the usual method: undermining the authority of the Apostle. As we can see, it is an ancient practice to present oneself at times as the sole possessor of the truth, the pure, and to aim at belittling the work of others, even with slander.”

    Pope Francis said that this is exactly the way that “the evil one” seeks to divide Christian communities today.

    “Let us think about how some Christian communities or dioceses first begin with stories, and then they end by discrediting the priest or the bishop. It is precisely the way of the evil one, of these people who divide, who do not know how to build. And in this Letter to the Galatians, we see this process,” he said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Paul’s Letter to the Galatians also provides a model of missionary evangelization, the pope said.

    “In his indefatigable work of evangelization, the Apostle succeeded in founding several small communities scattered throughout the region of Galatia. Paul, when he arrived in a city, in a region, did not construct a great cathedral immediately, no. He created small communities that are the leaven of our Christian culture today,” he said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Pope Francis added: “Today, too, this pastoral method is used in every missionary region. I received a letter last week, from a missionary in Papua New Guinea, telling me that he is preaching the Gospel in the forest, to people who do not even know who Jesus Christ was. It is beautiful! One begins by forming small communities.”

    At the beginning of the general audience in San Damaso Courtyard, the pope spent nearly 40 minutes greeting pilgrims. He gave blessings, signed prayer cards, greeted infants, and playfully switched his white zucchetto with one held up from the crowd by a young man.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Among the pilgrims gathered in the San Damaso Courtyard, was a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

    Mattia Villardita volunteers in his free time by dressing up as Spider-Man to visit sick children in hospitals. After meeting the pope in full costume, he told CNA that Pope Francis told him to “take a lot of selfies with the kids in the square.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “The path indicated by the Apostle is the liberating and ever-new path of Jesus, Crucified and Risen; it is the path of proclamation, which is achieved through humility and fraternity,” the pope said.

    “It is the path of meek and obedient trust... And this meek and obedient way leads forward in the certainty that the Holy Spirit works in the Church in every age. Ultimately, faith in the Holy Spirit present in the Church carries us forward and will save us,” he said.

  • Mattia Villardita, a 28-year-old Italian who dresses up as Spider-Man, attends the general audience at the Vatican, June 23, 2021. / Pablo Esparza/CNA.

    Vatican City, Jun 23, 2021 / 05:35 am (CNA).

    People attending Pope Francis’ weekly audience on Wednesday, and those following via livestream, were surprised to see sitting among the crowd a man dressed head-to-toe in tight red and blue garb decorated with a silver web.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Why was Spider-Man at the Vatican?

    The man inside the costume is Mattia Villardita, a 28-year-old Italian who dresses up as the comic-book character to visit sick children in hospitals across the country.

    “I try to alleviate some of the suffering of hospital patients,” he told CNA.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Villardita was at the June 23 general audience, held inside San Damaso Courtyard, to meet Pope Francis and to give him his very own Spider-Man mask.

    “I’m Catholic and I’m very happy about this experience,” Villardita said afterward, noting that Pope Francis already knew who he was and about his “mission.”

    “He told me to take a lot of selfies with the kids in the square,” he said.

    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

    Last year, Villardita was made a Cavalier of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, an honor conferred on him by the Italian president for his actions as an “everyday hero.”

    The real-life Peter Parker told CNA that he has a day job, but he uses his free time to dress up and visit hospitals.

    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

    And why Spider-Man?

    “It’s my favorite character from when I was a kid,” he explained.

    “This all came about from a personal story,” he said. “I was a patient for 19 years at the Gaslini Pediatric Hospital in Genoa, because I was born with a congenital malformation.”

    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

    As a child, Villardita underwent multiple surgeries and spent months recovering in hospital rooms.

    “And that experience has helped me to help these patients and their families,” he explained.

    Villardita launched his project, “Superheroes in the Ward,” two years ago. Some of his friends volunteer with him, also dressed up as popular characters.

    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
    / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

    And the Spider-Man fan did not let last year’s COVID-19 outbreak slow him down. When Italy went into a strict lockdown, he created a video call service to let children still meet and talk to their favorite superhero.

    He made more than 1,400 video calls before returning to the hospitals in person in December.

    When he shook hands with Pope Francis, the part-time Spider-Man told him about the suffering of the kids and their families that he sees every day.

    The moment “was really, really moving,” he said.

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