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Guam Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes steps down for medical reasons
Posted on 03/28/2023 12:55 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 28, 2023 / 04:55 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Tuesday accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes of Agaña, Guam.
Byrnes, 64, has led the Catholic Church on the U.S. island territory since the 2019 conviction of its former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron for the sexual abuse of minors.
Pacific Daily News, a Guam-based news site, reported in December 2022 that Byrnes was on extended leave from his duties as archbishop for unspecified medical reasons.
Father Romeo Convocar, who has been overseeing the archdiocese in Byrnes’ absence, in December asked for continued prayers for the archbishop who “has always appreciated the kindness of the people.”
On March 28, Pope Francis appointed Convocar apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Agaña until the nomination of a new archbishop.
According to Pacific Daily News, Byrnes left Guam in late June 2022.
Byrnes, who is from Detroit, was appointed co-adjutor archbishop of Agaña in October 2016, after Archbishop Apuron was accused of the sexual abuse of minors.
Though he was still formally archbishop, Apuron had been relieved of his pastoral and administrative authority in June 2016. Byrnes succeeded Apuron in April 2019.
Apuron was found guilty of several abuse-related charges by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March 2018. The conviction was upheld on appeal in February 2019, and the final sentencing was announced April 4, 2019.
Apuron was deprived of his office as archbishop of Agaña; forbidden from using its insignia, including the bishop’s miter and ring; and banned from living within the jurisdiction of the archdiocese. He was not removed from ministry and remains a priest under Church law.
In January 2019, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in federal court in the wake of numerous sex abuse allegations. The move, decided upon in November 2018, allowed the archdiocese to avoid trial and to begin to reach settlements in the abuse lawsuits, which amounted to over $115 million.
Following Apuron’s sentencing, Archbishop Byrnes offered his “deepest apologies” to the victims, whom he listed by name.
“I am truly sorry for the betrayal and severe anguish that you suffered and continue to suffer,” Byrnes said in the 2019 statement.
Byrnes called the abuse of minors “a deep and sorrowful shame,” adding that the Church on Guam must “ensure that the horrible harm inflicted to the innocent is never repeated.”
“Our focus shall remain on making penance and reparation in our Church on Guam, attending to justice for the numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse on Guam and continuing our mission to proclaim the love of God to the people of Guam and the Marianas,” he said, according to the Pacific Daily News.
Byrnes was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit from 2011–2016.
As a priest, he served as a parish pastor and as vice rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
Jesus renews life, hope even when all seems lost, pope says
Posted on 03/28/2023 08:30 AM (USCCB News Releases)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus can offer everyone hope and new life, Pope Francis said.
"Let yourself be pulled out" by Jesus during "these bad moments that happen to us all," the pope said before praying the Angelus with some 35,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square March 26.
In his talk, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus weeps and prays at Lazarus' tomb then calls to him to "Come out," bringing him back to life.
"The message is clear: Jesus gives life even when it seems that all hope has gone," the pope said.
Like the stone sealing shut Lazarus' tomb, he said, there are "moments when life seems to be a sealed tomb: everything is dark and around us we see only sorrow and despair."
But Jesus' miracle at the tomb teaches "this is not the end, that in these moments we are not alone; on the contrary, it is precisely in these moments that he comes closer than ever to restore life to us," the pope said.
Even though Jesus wept for his friend's death, the pope said, he also asked that the tomb be opened and that Lazarus, "Come out!" showing that Jesus "invites us not to stop believing and hoping, not to let ourselves be crushed by negative feelings."
"Jesus says this to us, too. Take away the stone: the pain, the mistakes, even the failures, do not hide them inside you, in a dark, lonely, closed room. Take away the stone: draw out everything that is inside" without fear, the pope said.
Jesus "will not be outraged," he said, because he always says, "I am with you, I care about you, and I want you to start living again" by getting back on the right path with renewed confidence.
PHOTOS: Pro-life marchers in NYC dodge garbage, weather, and counter-protesters
Posted on 03/28/2023 01:05 AM (CNA Daily News)
St. Louis, Mo., Mar 27, 2023 / 17:05 pm (CNA).
Pro-abortion protesters attempted to disrupt a prayerful pro-life walk in New York City on Saturday, in part by throwing garbage in their path. Despite the suboptimal conditions — which included pouring rain — the pro-life walk attracted several hundred participants.
The seventh annual International Gift of Life Walk-NYC on March 25 attracted more than 250 people who processed about a mile through New York City in an attempt to bear witness to the pro-life cause. Speakers at the rally included former abortion doctor Haywood Robinson, who now works with 40 Days for Life; and Ed Mechmann, policy director for the Archdiocese of New York.
Images captured at the rally by photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno show individuals and pro-life groups marching in dismal rain and wind, many with rosaries, amid a heavy police presence. Approximately 30 counter-protesters shouted and rang cowbells from the roadsides in an attempt to disrupt the march.
Bernadette Patel, a Catholic pro-life activist from New York, said the purpose of the walk was to hold a “prayer vigil and witness, to show that there are pro-lifers in New York.” Patel said last year’s walk was “so peaceful,” in contrast to this latest one, which saw pro-abortion protesters pile trash in the streets in an attempt to slow down the pro-life walkers.
She said pro-abortion groups have ramped up their counter-protests of pro-life events in New York following the June 2022 Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. The number of pro-life people who showed up despite the weather and despite the threat of counter-protesters was “awesome,” she said.
Despite the threats and bad weather, the turnout for the walk appeared to be similar to previous years, said Father Lawerence Schroedel, CFR. The Franciscan Friar of the Renewal celebrated Mass for the walkers ahead of the rally in New York’s St. Peter’s Parish. He told CNA that the Gift of Life Walk is a relatively new, local pro-life initiative that takes place every year on March 25, and confirmed that last year they didn’t see “any opposition" to their peaceful rally.
Despite this, Schroedel described the counter-protesters this year as almost a “nonissue,” given how few there were in comparison to the marchers.
“There were actually so much more of us than them, it really made us seem all the bigger,” Schroedel said.
Dawn Eskew is president and founder of Personhood Education New York, the group that organized the pro-life walk. She told CNA that pro-abortion groups had posted on Twitter and Instagram in the days leading up to the walk that they would be attempting to disrupt it.
Another factor complicating the 2023 walk, Eskew said, was the fact that there were permitting issues because Warner Brothers wanted to use part of their preferred route in the filming of a movie, leading to the walk being shifted by two blocks at the last minute.
Given these and other challenges, Eskew said she believes the rally was a success. She told CNA that she thinks more than 300 people turned out.
“We did what we were called to do. That in itself is a success — the whole point was to make awareness” for the pro-life cause, Eskew said.
More than 10,000 expected for New York Eucharistic Congress in October
Posted on 03/28/2023 00:23 AM (CNA Daily News)
Denver, Colo., Mar 27, 2023 / 16:23 pm (CNA).
A statewide New York Eucharistic Congress will take place Oct. 20-22 at the shrine that marks the martyrdom site of three North American martyrs and the birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American saint known for her devotion to eucharistic adoration.
“We look forward to welcoming upwards of 10,000 people to the Eucharistic Congress, who want to draw closer to Jesus and share in this historic three-day event,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany said in a March 21 statement. “It will be a wonderful time to renew our faith in Jesus and share that faith with others,” he said.
The event, Scharfenberger said, will have several Masses as well as “great speakers, opportunities for prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and time to socialize.”
The venue for the Eucharistic Congress is Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville, New York, about a half-hour’s drive north of Albany. Though located in the Albany Diocese, the shrine is financially independent and operated by a nonprofit. Its facilities include a 10,000-seat stadium.
The shrine, which overlooks the Mohawk River, is “one of the most sacred spots not just in the state of New York but in the United States,” the New York Eucharistic Congress website says.
It is the site of the 1649 martyrdom of the Jesuit missionaries Sts. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and Jean Lalande. Just years later, in 1656, St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born at the same place. She was an Algonquin-Mohawk convert to Catholic Christianity and the first Native American saint of what is now the United States.
The Eucharistic Congress’ website, https://nyseucharisticcongress.org, described the shrine as “one of the foremost eucharistic sites in the country,” given that three martyrs died there “trying to bring the Gospel and the eucharistic Lord” to the Mohawks of the region. It also cited Kateri Tekakwitha’s birth there, calling her “one of the greatest witnesses to eucharistic adoration.”
The Eucharistic Congress is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20. On Saturday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will celebrate the principal Mass at 11 a.m. with a eucharistic procession to follow. The congress will end with an 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday.
There will be eucharistic adoration from 10 p.m. through 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
The congress is part of New York Catholics’ response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Eucharistic Revival, a nationwide effort to foster and reinvigorate devotion to the Eucharist. The eight Roman Catholic dioceses of New York and the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn are backing the event.
The New York Eucharistic Congress website will provide regular updates. A complete schedule of events, speakers, and musicians is not yet finalized, though the website provides event registration and hotel information.
Individuals, families, groups, and parishes can register to attend and volunteer. They may also commit to a eucharistic adoration time slot. Registration is necessary to ensure enough room and provisions. Early registration is encouraged, as registrations will be cut off when event capacity is reached.
There is no cost to attend the event, but donations to defray the cost will be “gratefully accepted,” the website says. It also seeks financial sponsors.
On-site vendors will sell food and beverages, while attendees may also bring their own food.
Organizers are pursuing an internet livestream option for those who cannot attend in person.
The first National Eucharistic Congress in more than 80 years will take place in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024. Organizers hope to draw more than 80,000 Catholics.
Imprisoned Nicaraguan Bishop Álvarez appears in video posted by dictatorship
Posted on 03/27/2023 21:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 27, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).
El 19 Digital, a news media outlet supportive of the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, posted a video of Bishop Rolando Álvarez in which he shares a few comments about how he is doing. The video shows him sharing a meal with his brother and sister during their visit to the prison.
The prelate was sentenced Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison, on charges of being a “traitor to the homeland.” Despite the efforts of relatives to determine where he was being held since his conviction, his whereabouts were unknown until March 25.
When asked about how he is doing by an off-camera interviewer, the bishop of Matagalpa replied: “Thanks be to God I’m well, with a lot of inner strength, with a lot of peace in the Lord and the Most Holy Virgin."
Commenting on the visit he had with his siblings, Álvarez said that they “talked, had very tasty food here with a little meal that our friends from the penitentiary system graciously and kindly provided us.”
The news media also posted photos on its website of the visit in a story titled “Bishop Rolando Álvarez receives a visit from his siblings.”
The brief text only says: “Images of the visit and family meeting that Bishop Rolando Álvarez held with his siblings, Vilma and Manuel Antonio Álvarez Lagos, this afternoon in the Jorge Navarro de Tipitapa National Penitentiary System.” The prison is known as La Modelo.
A number of human rights violations are known to be committed in that prison such as overcrowding, lack of medical attention, prison staff assaulting the inmates, detention of family members who come to visit, and serving food mixed with detergent.
After thanking the competent authorities and the prison for having received good treatment, Álvarez joked about his current state. “Do I look good, healthy, and how does my face look?”
Wearing his prisoner’s uniform and visibly thinner, the Nicaraguan bishop also thanked “the Most Holy Virgin because today, the Annunciation of the angel to the Mother so that with her yes the Word would become flesh and dwell among us for our salvation and redemption, because on her day my siblings have been able to come to see me.”
“The Mother protects us and always covers us all with the same maternal love,” Álvarez concluded in the video, his first recorded words since his conviction.
The prelate had refused to be deported to the United States Feb. 9 along with 222 other political prisoners, including priests and seminarians, preferring to stay with the 37 other political prisoners who remain in Nicaraguan jails.
In a recent congressional hearing, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured that he is following Álvarez’s case and said that he must be released.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Nashville police fatally shoot woman who killed 3 students, 3 staff at Christian school
Posted on 03/27/2023 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Nashville police fatally shot a school shooter on Monday after the suspect killed three students and three adult staff members at The Covenant School, a private Christian school for students in preschool through sixth grade.
According to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD), the shooter was a 28-year-old woman. The police believe the woman was a former student, the Associated Press reported, and said she was from the Nashville area. The police department has not yet released more information about a possible motive.
“Two MNPD officers who entered the building and went to the sounds of gunfire engaged the shooter on the second floor and fatally shot her,” MNPD announced in a tweet.
Police received calls about the shooter Monday shortly after 10 a.m. The six patients were taken to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead on arrival, according to the Associated Press.
Students who survived the attack were bused to Woodmont Baptist Church, where they could reunite with their parents.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted his condolences to the families affected by the school shooting.
“In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting,” Cooper said. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Our entire city stands with you. As facts continue to emerge, I thank our first responders and medical professionals.”
This story was updated at 3:51 p.m. ET.
Courageous grandmother who led fight to stop removal of cross from plaza in Spain dies
Posted on 03/27/2023 20:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 27, 2023 / 12:30 pm (CNA).
Teresa Agulló Cayuelas, a woman who was fined for her efforts to prevent the removal of an emblematic cross in Callosa de Segura, a small town in southeastern Spain, died March 23 at the age of 87.
In 1941 the cross was erected on a large pedestal and stood close to the wall in the plaza of St. Martin’s Church.
When the leftist city government ordered the cross to be taken down, Agulló led the neighborhood in protests against its removal.
At one point when the city decided not to wait for an impending court decision and sent a crew to take down the cross, people chained themselves around the monument, preventing the crew from removing it.
The cross was eventually removed. With the cross gone, Agulló projected from her balcony across the street an image of the cross on the church wall and was fined on several occasions for it.
The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that he he planned to go to the funeral chapel located in the “La luz” funeral home in Albatera, a neighboring town of Callosa, and will pray a “responsum,” part of the funeral rites for the deceased, for Agulló.
Providentially, Munilla had already planned to go to Callosa de Segura to attend the Sorrowful Virgin pilgrimage on March 24.
The bishop commented on Agulló’s death the morning of March 24 with a post on Twitter citing St. Matthew’s Gospel: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”
The president of the platform in Defense of the Cross of Callosa de Segura, Toni Illán, expressed his trust in God at this time of mourning: “For us it is a glorious day, because today she has reached her goal.”
Speaking with ACI Prensa, Illán expressed his conviction that Agulló “will be remembered as a holy woman and not only for her defense of the cross. Her faith translated into works.”
Agulló led for many years a diocesan ministry that takes the sick on pilgrimage to Lourdes. She was well known for her work with the parish’s Caritas and promoted an association to help the disabled in her town.
Agulló was married to Francisco Pina, who served from 1979 to 1983 as the first mayor of Callosa de Segura. The couple had four children, one of whom had Down syndrome. She had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The cross of Callosa de Segura
In March 2016, the socialist mayor of Callosa de Segura pushed a motion to remove the cross adjacent to St. Martin Church, invoking the Historical Memory Law.
Passed in 2007, the law has the declared objective of compensating those who suffered persecution or violence during the Civil War by the Nationalist side in the conflict and later during the 40 years of General Franco’s government.
Another provision of the law calls for “the appropriate measures for the removal of shields, insignia, plaques, and other objects or commemorative mentions of exaltation, personal or collective, of the [Nationalist] military uprising, of the Civil War [which the Nationalists won] and of the repression of the [Franco Nationalist] dictatorship.”
Monuments belonging to the Catholic Church were expressly exempt.
The Cross of Callosa de Segura was erected in 1941 in memory of the 81 residents who were killed by the Republican side during the Civil War, including two priests, ages 29 and 40.
When the intention to remove the cross was announced, the Guardians Platform to preserve the monument was organized in the town, which prevented its removal for months until January 2018, when it was taken down.
The neighbors didn’t stop preserving the memory of their cross and on occasion set up wooden crosses where the original cross had stood, which the city government ordered the local police to remove.
Then came the idea to project an image of the monument in bright light on the façade of the church from the balcony of Agulló’s house. The city government fined her numerous times, alleging that she was not complying with municipal ordinances.
Since then, always on designated dates, the image of the cross has shone on the church façade. It was also to be projected March 24 in honor and memory of Agulló and will be whenever there is a great occasion, Illán told ACI Prensa.
‘A good, sincere, brave, and generous woman’
The Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers has provided counsel in the legal battle by the town residents in defense of the cross.
Polonia Castellanos, president of the foundation, said Agulló “was a good, sincere, courageous, and generous-hearted woman. People like her are an inspiration to care for our families and for what matters in Spain.”
“I promised her that I would not rest until the cross is replaced, and I will do that,” Castellanos said.
Agulló’s determination was recognized by the HazteOir.org (CitizenGo) platform, which gave her one of its annual awards in 2018.
On that occasion, she stated: “Despite whoever it may be, with your belligerent attitude you have achieved one thing: That with each passing day we remain more firm in our faith and in the fight for Christian values and our great universal symbol, the cross of Christ.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Pope Francis to bless satellite set to launch his words into space
Posted on 03/27/2023 18:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 27, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Wednesday will bless a satellite that will launch his words into space on June 10.
The “Spes Satelles,” Latin for “Satellites of Hope,” will be launched on a rocket taking off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
According to the Vatican, the miniaturized satellite will hold a copy of a book documenting the pope’s urbi et orbi blessing of March 27, 2020, when, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he blessed the world from St. Peter’s Square with the words “Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies, and comfort our hearts.”
“You ask us not to be afraid,” the pope prayed. “Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.”
The book, “Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith? The World Facing the Pandemic,” has been converted into a nanobook, a 2-millimeter by 2-millimeter by 0.2-millimeter silicon plate, for transport to space.
Pope Francis will bless the satellite and the nanobook after his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square on March 29.
The Vatican said March 27 the CubeSat, the name for miniature satellites, will travel aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage launch platform. It will be hosted on the ION SCV-011ION platform, a satellite carrier developed and built by the Italian company D-Orbit.
The Italian Space Agency will operate the satellite, which was built by the Polytechnic University of Turin.
“The satellite is equipped with a radio transmitter as well as onboard instruments to be maneuvered from the ground,” a press release stated.
While in orbit, the satellite will broadcast decipherable statements from Pope Francis on the theme of hope and peace in English, Italian, and Spanish.
The president of the Italian Space Agency, Giorgio Saccoccia, said the Holy See asked the agency to identify a way for Pope Francis’ words of hope “to cross the earth’s borders and reach from space the greatest possible number of women and men on our troubled planet.”
“For those of us who are used to seeing space as the privileged place from which to observe the world and communicate with it without borders, it was easy to imagine a quick, humble and effective solution to offer wings to the Holy Father’s message,” he added.
The secretary of the Dicastery for Communication, Father Lucio Adrian Ruiz, said “space has a fascination for everyone, especially for young people. Space has that mystery of the universal, the deep, the magnificent, and it makes us all dream.”
By launching Pope Francis’ words of the March 27, 2020, blessing into space, the Vatican hopes to signify that the pope’s prayer, blessing, and universal call to hope continue to be relevant for men and women of goodwill today, he said.
You can follow the launch and learn more at the Spei Satelles website.
Pope Francis: An ethical AI respects human dignity
Posted on 03/27/2023 18:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 27, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning could be beneficial to society as long as they respect human dignity.
“The fundamental value that we must recognize and promote is that of the dignity of the human person,” the pope said during a March 27 audience at the Vatican with participants in the Minerva Dialogues.
Organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, the Minerva Dialogues is a meeting of scientists, engineers, business leaders, lawyers, philosophers, Catholic theologians, ethicists, and members of the Roman Curia to discuss digital technologies.
“I encourage you, in your deliberations, to make the intrinsic dignity of every man and every woman the key criterion in evaluating emerging technologies,” Francis told participants. “These will prove ethically sound to the extent that they help respect that dignity and increase its expression at every level of human life.”
Pope Francis was recently the subject of a fake photo created through artificial intelligence. An image of the pope wearing a white puffer coat went viral on the social media sites Reddit and Twitter over the weekend, with many people appearing to mistake the false photo for an authentic snapshot.
Both Francis and the Vatican have intervened on the subject of AI and modern technologies through speeches and conferences over the past several years. In his monthly prayer intention for November 2020, Pope Francis invited Catholics to pray that robotics and artificial intelligence would remain always at the service of human beings.
Technology has been immensely beneficial to humans, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering, and communications, Pope Francis observed on Monday.
Science and technology, he said, have practical benefits and are evidence of man’s ability “to participate responsibly in God’s creative action.”
“From this perspective,” the pope said, “I am convinced that the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has the potential to contribute in a positive way to the future of humanity; we cannot dismiss it.”
“At the same time, I am certain that this potential will be realized only if there is a constant and consistent commitment on the part of those developing these technologies to act ethically and responsibly.”
Pope Francis said he welcomes the regulation of artificial intelligence so that it might contribute to a better world. He also said he is reassured to know many people working on new technologies put ethics, the common good, and the human person at the center.
He emphasized that he is concerned, instead, about evidence that digital technologies are increasing world inequality.
“The concept of human dignity — and this is central — requires us to recognize and respect the fact that a person’s fundamental value cannot be measured by data alone,” he said. “In social and economic decision-making, we should be cautious about delegating judgments to algorithms that process data, often collected surreptitiously, on an individual’s makeup and prior behavior.”
“Such data can be contaminated by societal prejudices and preconceptions,” the pope said. “A person’s past behavior should not be used to deny him or her the opportunity to change, grow, and contribute to society. We cannot allow algorithms to limit or condition respect for human dignity or to exclude compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and above all, the hope that people are able to change.”
Social media apostolate brings the beauty of Rome’s historic churches to Instagram
Posted on 03/27/2023 15:53 PM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Mar 27, 2023 / 07:53 am (CNA).
While many people choose to give up social media for Lent, one Catholic man is uploading new videos online every day to share the stories of the early Christian martyrs and Rome’s most ancient churches.
Jacob Stein is visiting a church in Rome each day of Lent this year, retracing the pilgrimage routes Catholics have walked for centuries as part of the Roman station church liturgical tradition.
Stein is sharing his experience on Crux Stationalis, a “social media apostolate” that seeks to bring the beauty and history of Rome’s Lenten station church tradition to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and his blog RomanStationChurch.com.
The American, who lives in Rome and started the Crux Stationlis YouTube and Instagram channels in Lent 2021, said he wanted “people to see Rome with its beauty and to understand the depths of Rome’s devotion to the martyrs.”
The Lenten station church pilgrimage in Rome dates back to the early fourth century and originally included daily papal processions in which people prayed the Litany of the Saints on the way to offer Mass at the burial site of the early Christian martyr assigned to that day.
St. Gregory the Great fixed the order of the original 25 church stations in the sixth century, which were later expanded, before the practice waned in the 14th century.
The videos bring social media users from the Ash Wednesday station church, the Basilica of Santa Sabina — first built in the year 432 A.D. and once home to St. Thomas Aquinas — to the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, which contains the long-venerated relics of Christ’s cross brought to Rome by Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine.
Stein studied philosophy and theology in Rome at the Angelicum before starting the social media apostolate.
What sets him apart from many social media influencers who share videos, reels, and photos of the beauty of the Eternal City is that he carefully researches the history and spiritual significance behind each church, sharing information about relics, liturgical prayers, art, and papal history.
“Crux Stationalis comes from the ancient tradition where each neighborhood in Rome would gather behind a cross which was called a ‘Crux Stationalis,’ a station cross, and they would process from one church to the next,” Stein explained.
The Roman station church tradition has experienced something of an Anglophonic revival in the last three decades, spearheaded by the Pontifical North American College, which in recent years has offered a 7 a.m. Mass in English at the station churches each day of Lent.
Stein, however, has been attending the Italian Masses in the evening organized by the Pontifical Academy of Martyrs for the Diocese of Rome. He said that he likes to be connected with the local church.
And as an added bonus, the Italian Masses often begin with a procession with a relic of the true cross as the congregation sings the Litany of the Saints.
“With this Roman Station Church tour, you see the devotion of Rome,” he told CNA. “It’s going from the tomb of a martyr to another tomb of a martyr, and that really allows the communion of saints to be felt in a way that is just so tangible.”
“Tertullian said that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,’ and you feel that with the Romans, they know that.”
In its modern form, the station church itinerary brings pilgrims to just over 40 churches between Ash Wednesday and the end of the Easter Octave, with repeated visits to some of the major and minor basilicas.
By participating in the pilgrimage, Stein has learned many things about the history of the Church in Rome, including the strong devotion to St. Lawrence in the Eternal City.
“We go to his churches everywhere during Lent. And [St. Lawrence] has more churches than Sts. Peter and Paul in his devotion here in Rome. In fact, the only one who has more churches devoted to her is Our Lady,” he said.
One of Stein’s favorite churches that he has come to know through the pilgrimage is the Basilica of Santa Pudenziana, which was built upon the second-century house of Roman senator St. Pudens, who allowed St. Peter to live in his house for at least six years.
According to tradition, the house was the site of the first Eucharist offered by St. Peter in Rome.
Stein pointed out that the basilica contains a fifth-century apse mosaic, “one of the oldest apse mosaics in Christendom.”
“St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the mosaic is an analogy for the Mystical Body of Christ, that each tessera [tile] is necessary,” he added.
Stein often goes live on Instagram and YouTube when he arrives at each church to give viewers an idea of the history of that day’s station church before the procession and Mass begins.
“Some of the comments that I get most often are ‘I feel like I’m walking through the churches,’” he said.
Stein joked that it has turned out to be “a penance” to keep up the daily filming and social media posts for the apostolate every day of Lent, but he knows that it is a worthwhile effort.
“The history of Rome is underneath us; paleochristian basilicas are there. And there’s a reason they were built and we should know that, or at least it’s our right to know it because it’s our patrimony,” he said.