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Republicans seek to overturn Biden transgender rule they say would cut school lunches

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 11:05 am (CNA).

Republican lawmakers are working to overturn a federal rule they say would punish schools that don’t follow the White House’s guidance on transgender protections by cutting funding for school meals. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its anti-discrimination rules last year to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s transgender status. The new rule will apply to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services and provide an avenue for transgender students to file discrimination complaints with the agency.

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, and Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Florida, filed resolutions in their respective legislative chambers to overturn this rule. Per the Congressional Review Act, Congress has the authority to eliminate the new rule if both chambers pass a resolution asserting congressional disapproval.

Marshall, Franklin, and other Republican lawmakers co-sponsoring the resolutions have warned that the rule could cause schools to lose federal funding for lunch programs for impoverished students in schools that separate sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms based on biological sex, regardless of the student’s self-proclaimed transgender identity.

“In Joe Biden’s America, public schools must support Democrats’ radical transgender movement or they’re at risk of losing substantial funding,” Marshall said in a statement his office provided to CNA. “This president is relentless in forcing his misaligned values on the American people and children.”

“We must stop this policy dead in its tracks to protect access to school lunches for students across the country and send a clear message to this administration: stop weaponizing the federal government in your pursuit of indoctrinating children,” Marshall added. “The USDA has NO authority to require biological boys to be given access to girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms, nor do they have the power to allow biological boys to compete against biological girls in girls’ sports.”

In a statement provided by his office to CNA, Franklin accused President Joe Biden’s administration of using “school lunch as leverage in a political game to intimidate school systems into adopting their woke agenda.”

“We’ve worked hard in Florida to kick progressive culture wars out of the classroom and keep parents in charge,” Franklin said. “We don’t co-parent with the federal government. The USDA does not have the authority to impose LGBTQ ideology and dangerous social experiments like shared bathrooms and locker rooms on local schools. I thank my colleagues for joining me to hold the Biden administration accountable for this abuse of power.”

The USDA has consistently rejected the claim that the new rule would threaten school lunch funding based on these policies and has insisted that the rule simply ensures that students do not face discrimination based on their gender identity in their efforts to access lunch assistance.

“Some have incorrectly suggested that there is a link between this update and state laws unrelated to FNS programs, such as those dealing with gender identity and sports participation,” Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services at the USDA, said in a September 2022 statement

“That is not accurate — this update is specific to the federal nutrition assistance programs,” Dean added. “Others have suggested that this could result in loss of program funding. However, this action is about ensuring everyone has access to our programs, not reducing funding. When processing complaints, our goal is always to reach voluntary compliance. We strive to resolve issues by working directly with program operators and aim to ensure all program participants can continue to be fed.”

Could this affect Catholic schools?

Nonpublic schools that are affiliated with a particular religion, such as Catholic schools, are not subject to the USDA’s implementation of the anti-discrimination policies if the rule conflicts with the religious tenets of the school.

Catholic and other religious schools will not be required to submit a written request for an exemption but are allowed to request a formal USDA recognition if they choose to, according to guidance issued by the USDA. 

A Christmas message in September: How ‘Good King Wenceslas’ inspired his people to follow God

The statue of Saint Wenceslas (Pomník svatého Václava) in the eponymous square in Prague, depicts Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in Prague, Czech Republic, May 23, 2009. / Credit: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 10:18 am (CNA).

Wenceslaus I is known by many titles: king, warrior, saint. Yet he is by far most popularly known as “Good King Wenceslas” in one of the most beloved Christmas carols of the 20th century.

During his time, he was a beloved Bohemian prince and now he is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Despite being remembered most during the Christmas season, however, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Wenceslaus, who lived 903–935 A.D., on Sept. 28.

The carol, which has been sung by such beloved stars as Bing Crosby and continues to be performed by Christmas choirs around the world, is still a very popular Christmas tune today.

The song tells the story of how on the feast of St. Stephen (Dec. 26), Wenceslaus, though a mighty ruler, was moved by the sight of a poor, freezing peasant and braved a bitter winter night’s cold to go out and care for him.

In the carol, Wenceslaus does not disdain to dine with a lowly peasant, being concerned only with the welfare and safety of the poor man.

By some supernatural power, the holy king’s very footsteps warm his young page’s path as they trek through the snow to help the peasant. The ode concludes with the beautiful Christian message that by giving without regard for oneself, one receives so much more. 

In a way, the carol can be said to encapsulate the miraculous, even magical, spirit of Christmas itself. 

When Wenceslaus’ page finds he can no longer endure the cruelness of the bitter night, the saint tells him to follow in his footsteps:

“Sire, the night is darker now

 And the wind blows stronger

 Fails my heart, I know not how

 I can go no longer.”

 “Mark my footsteps, good my page

 Tread thou in them boldly

 Thou shall find the winter’s rage

 Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

By this, Wenceslaus both helps the poor peasant and teaches his page that by boldly doing God’s will, one will find the warmth and peace to go on. In other words, by walking in the path of God through self-sacrifice and abandonment to God’s will, one finds comfort and joy. 

Though the exact facts that led to the song’s creation are lost to history, Wenceslaus was indeed beloved by his people and renowned in his day as a pious and generous noble. 

He was actually a duke and was given the title of “king” posthumously by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I.

Wenceslaus was born less than a hundred years after Sts. Cyril and Methodius first brought Christianity to Bohemia and the Slavic lands. His father, Duke Wratislaw, was Catholic while his mother, Princess Dragomir, was a practicing pagan.

Educated in the faith by his grandmother, who also became a canonized saint, St. Ludmilla, Wenceslaus grew to become a defender and promoter of the Catholic faith.

After the death of his father, Wenceslaus, though still very young, was faced with a political and spiritual crisis. His mother turned on the Catholic Church, purging Catholics from public office, closing churches, and preventing all Christian preaching. 

While Wenceslaus could have chosen the path of less resistance and went along with his mother’s anti-Christian schemes, he chose to defy her and use his position to defend the Catholic faith. 

The end result of the struggle was that Wenceslaus ruled one half of the realm, while his mother and brother, Boleslaus, who also hated the Catholic faith, ruled the other half. 

Wenceslaus, who would have preferred to become a monk and not a duke, fortified himself in this struggle through fervent prayer, extreme asceticism, charitable service, and a vow of chastity. He is said to have built many churches throughout Bohemia and took extensive actions to care for the widowed, poor, and orphaned. 

Meanwhile, his mother carried out a plot to kill Ludmilla, having her strangled in her private chapel. St. Ludmilla’s feast day is Sept. 16.

The Bohemian duke also faced the threat of invasion from abroad. When Prince Radislaus of Gurima demanded that Bohemia submit to his rule, Wenceslaus, seeking to avoid a war, challenged him to single combat. It is said that two angels appeared during the duel, deflecting the javelin thrown at Wenceslaus and immediately inspiring Radislaus to drop to his knees in surrender.

Just as his strict morals and Christian piety inspired the love of his subjects, it also further incited the hatred of his brother and some nobles who sought to subvert Wenceslaus’ rule. 

Finally, on Sept. 28, 935, while Wenceslaus was praying in a chapel, he was attacked by Boleslaus and his henchmen. His brother dealt the final blow, running him through with a lance. 

Boleslaus was so hated by the Bohemian people that he became known to history as “Boleslaus the Cruel.” 

Wenceslaus was never forgotten by his adoring subjects who immortalized him in legends and folk songs, one of which would eventually become the carol we know today. 

During his 2009 visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI called Wenceslaus “a martyr for Christ” who “had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power.”

Wenceslaus’ life serves as proof of a deeper power than that of the world. 

While those nobles seeking their own gain and glory have long since been forgotten, Wenceslaus’ memory lives on. Though he did not seek glory and power for their own sake, his humble devotion to God and the Christian faith were the very attributes that have immortalized him in legend and history. 

His example reminds us, at any point of the year, that it is far better to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mt 6:33).  

The final words of the Christmas carol sung throughout the world in his memory can serve as an inspiring reflection on the value and power of a life lived for God. 

“In his masters step he trod

 Where the snow lay dinted

 Heat was in the very sod

 Which the Saint had printed

 Therefore, Christian men, be sure

 Wealth or rank possessing

 Ye, who now will bless the poor

 Shall yourselves find blessing.”

Pope Francis names Steubenville bishop as auxiliary bishop of Detroit

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio gives the homily during Mass with members of the USCCB Region VI at the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Dec. 10, 2019, during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2023 / 08:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis transferred Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, to the Archdiocese of Detroit on Thursday to serve as an auxiliary bishop.

Monforton, 60, is originally from Detroit and will assist 74-year-old Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit in the administration of the Michigan archdiocese.

“I offer a heartfelt ‘welcome home’ to Bishop Monforton,” Vigneron said after the appointment was announced. “This is the local Church in which his priestly vocation was nurtured, and we are blessed to have him be with us once again to help lead our efforts to unleash the Gospel.”

Monforton led the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville — home to the Franciscan University of Steubenville — for more than a decade.

The bishop described his transfer to Detroit as “bittersweet.” He said: “I have come to know and to love the good people of the Diocese of Steubenville, from Carrol County in the north to Lawrence County in the south.”

“It has been my distinct pleasure and profound joy to serve the faithful of this diocese for 11 years as their shepherd. The people of the Diocese of Steubenville will always remain in my prayers and have a special place in my heart.”

The retired bishop of Kalamazoo, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, will serve as the apostolic administrator of the Steubenville Diocese, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

As the bishop of Steubenville, Monforton proposed a merger between his diocese and the Diocese of Columbus, which drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within the Steubenville Diocese, causing him to put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

He also ordered an immediate end to the Latin Mass on Franciscan University’s campus earlier this year, saying that the diocese was “seeking to meet the pastoral needs of the faithful in accord with the norms, including the recent rescript, issued by the Holy See.”

Monforton has reportedly been the subject of investigation by the Vatican for his handling of sexual abuse cases, according to a 2022 report by The Pillar.

Auxiliary Bishops Arturo Cepeda, Gerard W. Battersby, and Robert J. Fisher currently serve the Archdiocese of Detroit, which has about 907,000 Catholics in its borders.

The Holy See is investigating an additional Detroit auxiliary who is not in public ministry — Archbishop Paul F. Russell, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor dating to his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, according to Detroit Catholic. Pope Francis appointed Russell as an auxiliary in Detroit in 2022.

Monforton will begin his ministry in Detroit on Nov. 7, where he will join three other active auxiliary bishops and three other retired auxiliary bishops.

He was born in Detroit in 1963 and attended Wayne State University before he entered the seminary. He studied at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the North American College in Rome before he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1994. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in sacred theology.

Monforton served as rector of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary from 2006 to 2012 and was named an apostolic visitor for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s visitation of U.S. seminaries in 2005. He also served as the personal priest secretary to Cardinal Adam Maida from 1998 to 2005.

18 U.S. seminarians ordained deacons in St. Peter's Basilica

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Near the tomb of St. Peter, 18 seminarians from across the United States promised to dedicate their lives to Christ and were ordained to the diaconate.

Yet for the church's next generation of ordained ministers, "it is not enough to be good churchmen, you must be disciples," Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City told the new deacons in his homily during the ordination Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica.

"If any of you seminarians were so naive to believe that priesthood would bring you a privileged existence, we're about 60 years too late," he said in his homily during the Mass Sept. 28. "That age of Christendom, that age where Christianity and society were so closely aligned as to sometimes be indistinguishable has passed."

Archbishop Coakley, who was the main celebrant at the ordination Mass, told the new deacons that in a divided church and in a society "hostile" to Christianity, Christians and their leaders must "prepare themselves not for privilege but for marginalization, for persecution and even martyrdom."

The archbishop of Oklahoma City urged the seminarians from 16 different dioceses, and one from the Personal Ordinate of the Chair of St. Peter, to look to the saints as examples who "offer a whole alternative to the conventional and planned aspirations of a faithless secular world."

New deacons from the Pontifical North American College in Rome lie prostrate during their ordination in St. Peter's Basilica.
New deacons from the Pontifical North American College in Rome lie prostrate during their ordination in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 28, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Three U.S. cardinals -- Cardinals Raymond L. Burke, retired patron of the Order of Malta; James Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls; and Edwin F. O'Brien, retired grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a former rector of the U.S. seminary in Rome -- concelebrated the Mass with four other bishops and several other priests.

After the Gospel reading from St. John, in which Jesus tells the apostle, "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you," each candidate for the diaconate presented himself to Archbishop Coakley, who confirmed the worthiness of the candidates to applause from their many family members, friends and seminary students gathered in the assembly.

Each seminarian promised "to discharge with humble charity the office of the diaconate," hold fast to the mystery of faith, embrace celibacy, be obedient to his bishop and conform his life to Christ.

In the most ancient part of the sacrament of holy orders, one by one each candidate knelt before Archbishop Coakley who laid his hands atop his head and called the Holy Spirit upon him.

The 18 seminarians then prostrated themselves below the more than 20-foot-tall sculpture of the chair of St. Peter, sculpted by the Baroque Italian master Gian Lorenzo Bernini, to receive the ordination prayer. "May every evangelical virtue abound in them: unfeigned love, concern for the sick and poor, unassuming authority, the purity of innocence and the observance of spiritual discipline," Archbishop Coakley prayed.

New deacon receives hug.
Newly ordained Deacon David Thomas Lee of the Diocese of Nashville receives congratulations from a fellow student at the Pontifical North American College during the diaconate ordination Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 28, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Deacon Joe Wappes of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis told Catholic News Service he had prayed during a spiritual retreat before his ordination in preparation for the "moving" moment of prostration, which he called a "concrete sign of giving back to the Lord everything he's given to me."

Exchanging smiles and embraces with their brother deacons, they were vested in stoles and dalmatics, the vestments of deacons, before processing to the altar for the presentation of gifts.

"It's beautiful to be ordained at the Altar of the Chair here, because it's a beautiful symbol of unity that we're all meant to be united in the one spirit, the one authority of the church, her one teaching," newly ordained Deacon Joe Brodeur of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, told CNS after the liturgy.

As a minister of the church, Deacon David Lee of the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, said, "it's important to bring both sides together, to be a person who leads people to Christ more than any particular faction."

Archbishop Coakley told CNS that although "the church is fractured in many ways," the new deacons and others following in their footsteps "will have the opportunity to help bridge those divides and bring people together with deeper faith, deeper hope and deeper charity."

Particularly at a time "more akin to the time after Pentecost, when the apostles were sent out into a world that was very hostile," the archbishop said that the church has "an opportunity to stand up in witness to Jesus Christ in faith and charity."

"This is a sign of hope for the church that the Lord continues to raise up generous-hearted young men who are willing to give their lives in service of the church," he said.

Deacons for a synodal church

Deacons for a synodal church

Eighteen seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in Rome were ordained to the diaconate Sept. 28. They said they hoped their ministry would heal divisions in the church.

Pope Francis Appoints Bishop Jeffrey Monforton as Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit; Appoints Bishop Paul Bradley as Apostolic Administrator of Steubenville

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has appointed Most Reverend Jeffrey M. Monforton as Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, transferring him from the Diocese of Steubenville and assigning him the Titular See of Centuria. The Holy See has also appointed Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley, bishop emeritus of Kalamazoo, as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville.

The appointments were publicized in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 2023, by Cardinal-designate Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is comprised of 3,901 square miles in the State of Michigan and has a total population of 4,323,432 of which 907,921, are Catholic.

The Diocese of Steubenville is comprised of 5,913 square miles in the State of Ohio and has a total population of 481,411 of which 28,339, are Catholic.



Hope must be restored in communities, young people, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hope and fraternity must be kept alive, organized and coordinated into concrete action so every crisis can be read as an opportunity and dealt with positively, Pope Francis said.

"Hope needs to be restored to our European societies, especially to the new generations," he told people gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience Sept. 27.

"In fact, how can we welcome others if we ourselves do not first have a horizon open to the future?" he said.

The pope followed his usual practice of speaking about his latest trip at the first general audience after his return. The pope went to Marseille -- an ancient port city on the Mediterranean Sea and France's second-largest city -- Sept. 22-23 to highlight the challenges and opportunities across the entire Mediterranean region and to focus on the plight of migrants crossing its waters.

"We know the Mediterranean is the cradle of civilization and a cradle is for life! It is not tolerable that it become a tomb, neither should it be a place of conflict," war and human trafficking, he said, referring to the thousands of men, women and children who fall into the hands of traffickers offering them passage into Europe and to those who die from unsafe conditions on the sea or in detention.

The Mediterranean bridges Africa, Asia and Europe and their people, cultures, philosophies and religions, he said. But a harmonious connection "does not happen magically, neither is it accomplished once and for all. It is the fruit of a journey in which each generation is called to travel."

Pope Francis blesses young man
Pope Francis blesses a visitor at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The pope explained he went to Marseille to take part in the conclusion of the "Mediterranean Meetings," which brought together bishops, mayors, young people and others from the Mediterranean area to look toward the future with hope.

"This is the dream, this is the challenge: that the Mediterranean might recover its vocation, that of being a laboratory of civilization and peace," the pope said.

Otherwise, he said, "how can young people, who are poor in hope, closed in on their private lives, worried about managing their own precariousness, open themselves to meeting others and to sharing?"

Communities, which are so often "sickened by individualism, by consumerism and by empty escapism, need to open themselves; their souls and spirits need to be oxygenated, and then they will be able to read the crisis as an opportunity and deal with it positively," he said.

What came out of the Marseille event, he said, was an outlook on the Mediterranean that was hopeful and "simply human, not ideological, not strategic, not politically correct nor instrumental."

"Europe needs to retrieve passion and enthusiasm. And I can say that I found passion and enthusiasm in Marseille," the pope said, thanking its archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, the priests, religious, lay faithful and the many people who "showed great warmth during the Mass in the Vélodrome Stadium."

He also thanked President Emmanuel Macron, "whose presence testified that all of France was paying attention to the event in Marseille."

The pope prayed that the Mediterranean region may become "what it has always been called to be -- a mosaic of civilization and hope."

At the end of his main audience talk, the pope gave special greetings to the diaconate class of the Pontifical North American College, together with their families and friends. "Upon all of you I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you!"

Some 18 seminarians in their fourth year of studies in Rome were to be ordained to the transitional diaconate in St. Peter's Basilica Sept. 28.


Pope: The Mediterranean must be a message of hope

Pope: The Mediterranean must be a message of hope

A look at Pope Francis' general audience Sept. 27.

Inside, outside: Synod to focus on the church and its role in the world

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis was introduced to the world from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he spoke to the crowd about taking up a journey, "bishop and people," a "journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us."

He did not mention the Synod of Bishops in that greeting March 13, 2013, nor did he issue one of his now-frequent appeals to ensure a more "synodal church."

But the inspiration behind the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which opens Oct. 4, can be seen in his very first words as pope and in his course-setting exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which emphasized the responsibility of all the baptized for the life of the church and, especially, its evangelizing mission.

Unlike earlier meetings of the Synod of Bishops, which focused on a specific issue or a specific region of the world, the "synod on synodality" is focused on the church itself: Who belongs? How are leadership and authority exercised? How does the church discern God's call? How can it fulfill its mandate to share the Gospel with a changing world?

Members of the synod assembly are being asked to reflect on the characteristics they believe are essential for building a "synodal church" by starting from what they heard from people who participated in the local, diocesan, national and continental listening sessions.

It's not a synod on whether and how Catholic parishes can be more welcoming of LGBT Catholics, how it can recognize and encourage the leadership of women or how it can foster the involvement of young people -- but those questions are part of the discussion about how to increase a sense of unity or communion, promote participation and strengthen the missionary outreach of the church.

2018 synod assembly
Pope Francis attends a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people in the Vatican synod hall in this file photo from 2018. The October assembly of the "synod on synodality" has been moved to the larger Vatican audience hall where members will sit at round tables, rather than in rows. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The questions, and dozens more, have come up repeatedly in the synod process, which began in October 2021 with parish and other local listening sessions and is scheduled to go through October 2024 with a second assembly at the Vatican.

Almost every time someone mentions the synod within earshot of the pope, Pope Francis insists "it's not a parliament."

And the pope, the synod secretariat and the synod preparatory commission have spent months working on ways to ensure the 378 full members of the synod, the eight special guests and 75 experts, facilitators and staff have an experience of "spiritual conversation," which the synod office describes as intense, prayerful listening that pays attention at the same time to spiritual movements in oneself and in the other person.

Creating and protecting an environment where such conversations can take place -- and where people truly are open to changing their minds -- has been a matter of strategizing, planning and intense debate as advisers to the pope and the synod office also try to help the entire Catholic Church understand how the process is working and whether the hopes and concerns they shared early in the synod process were heard.

A regular rhythm of shared prayer -- both publicly and among synod members only -- is planned throughout the Oct. 4-Oct. 29 synod assembly.

After an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square Sept. 30, all the members of the synod -- which include lay women and men for the first time -- will spend three days together on retreat outside Rome. They will return to the Vatican for the opening Mass of the synod Oct. 4 and will celebrate Mass together before beginning work on each main synod theme: synodality, communion, mission and participation.

Pope Francis told reporters in early September the synod would be "very open" with regular updates from the synod's communication commission, but " it is necessary to safeguard the religiosity and safeguard the freedom of those who speak," so apparently synod members will be asked not to share with reporters the contents of their own or other members' remarks to the synod.

The notoriously stuffy atmosphere characterized by hours of speeches in the Vatican Synod Hall will disappear. The synod assembly will be held in the much larger Vatican audience hall with its rows of seats removed to make way for round tables to promote constant interactions.

More of the work will be conducted in small groups, organized by language and by the themes of interest to participants. The plenary sessions are designed for a general introduction of the various themes and for reporting the results of the small group discussions. Members will not stay in the same small groups throughout the assembly but change when the themes they are working on change.

According to the working document, "the last segment of the work of the assembly will be dedicated to gathering the fruits of the process, that is, discerning the paths we will continue to walk together. The assembly will consider ways to continue reading the experience of the people of God, including through promoting the necessary in-depth theological and canonical studies in preparation for the second session of the synodal assembly in October 2024."


God has the same love for all, pope says at Angelus

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People often are tempted to think their relationship with God is some kind of commercial transaction where they buy God's grace with their hard work, Pope Francis said.

Another temptation is to judge others and presume that they have not worked as hard to deserve God's love, the pope said Sept. 24 as he commented on the day's Gospel reading before reciting the Angelus prayer with some 18,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

St. Matthew's account of the parable of the vineyard workers, who worked different hours but received the same pay, is not about the workers, but about God, the pope said.

The workers who were in the field all day are annoyed that those who worked only an hour receive the same pay, which the pope said reveals how "sometimes we risk having a 'mercantile' relationship with God, focusing more on our prowess than on the generosity of his grace."

And, he said, sometimes "the church, instead of going out at all hours of the day and extending our arms to all, we can feel like we are the first in the class, judging others as being far behind, without remembering that God loves them, too, with the same love he has for us."

Sisters and other pilgrims in St Peter's Square
Visitors gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to pray the Angelus with Pope Francis Sept. 24, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Gospel also has implications for Christians' relationships with other people, the pope said. It urges them to "break out of the cage of calculation," in which people give others only what they receive or only what they think they deserve, "without daring to go the extra mile, without counting on the effectiveness of good done freely and love offered with a broad heart."

Pope Francis also urged his listeners to notice that it is the vineyard owner who keeps going out to look for workers; they are not coming to him.

"This is how God is," the pope said. "He does not wait for our efforts to come to us, he does not make an examination to assess our merits before seeking us out, he does not give up if we are late in responding to him," but he takes the initiative.

"He is always looking for us and waiting for us," Pope Francis said. "Let us not forget this: the Lord always seeks us and awaits us, always!"


Pope: God's grace is free

Pope: God's grace is free

A look at Pope Francis' Angelus address Sept. 24.

Take leap of faith and dare to love your family, those in need, pope says

MARSEILLE, France (CNS) -- The world and the Catholic Church today need to take a leap forward "in faith, charity and hope," Pope Francis said in his homily at a late afternoon Mass in Marseille's open-air stadium.

"We need to rekindle our passion and enthusiasm, to reawaken our desire to commit ourselves to fraternity. We need to once again risk loving our families and dare to love the weakest, and to rediscover in the Gospel the transforming grace that makes life beautiful," he said at the final event of a two-day trip to the old port city of Marseille.

Passion and enthusiasm were not lacking at the Vélodrome Stadium, which erupted into cheers the minute images hit the screens of Pope Francis making his way through the city in the popemobile. Officials estimated 100,000 people lined the route to the stadium while some 50,000 people nearly filled the stadium. French President Emmanuel Macron, Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan and other dignitaries were present.

Pope in popemobile in Marseille
Pope Francis greets the crowd from the popemobile as he arrives for Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

People chanted "Papa Francesco" and repeatedly executed "the wave" to immense cheers. One section, filled with people wearing blue sports bibs, added to the ocean effect. Then in a well-coordinated pull, volunteers hoisted an immense veil-like cut-out image of a waving pope and the belltower of the city's Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. They also held up gold cards to spell out "Merci" (Thank you) against the blue background.

While the pope's Sept. 22-23 trip focused on the plight of migrants and the world's responsibility to rescue those in danger, to create more equitable legal channels for migration, to amend gross economic disparities and promote peace, he also reminded Catholics of their mission to share Christ's compassion and hope.

In his homily Sept. 23, he asked the faithful to reflect "honestly, from the heart: Do we believe that God is at work in our lives? Do we believe that the Lord, in hidden and often unpredictable ways, acts in history, performs wonders and is working even in our societies that are marked by worldly secularism and a certain religious indifference?"

In a world with so many challenges, he said, people of faith must have trust in the Lord.

The pope based his reflection on events in sacred Scripture in which God makes possible what seems impossible, generating life even amidst sterility.

The Virgin Mary and her older cousin Elizabeth are both pregnant "in an impossible way," with Elizabeth feeling her child "leap" in her womb, recognizing the arrival of the Messiah, he said.

This is how to discern "whether or not we have this trust in the Lord," he said, by feeling this sign, this "leap for joy" within.

"Whoever believes, whoever prays, whoever welcomes the Lord leaps in the Spirit and feels that something is moving within, and 'dances' with joy," the pope said.

Bishops and cardinals at Mass in Marseille
Cardinals and bishops arrive in procession for Mass with Pope Francis at Vélodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, Sept. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

This experience is "the opposite of a flat, cold heart, accustomed to the quiet life, which is encased in indifference and becomes impermeable," he said. "Such a heart becomes hardened and insensitive to everything and everyone, even to the tragic discarding of human life, which is seen today in the rejection of many immigrants, of countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people."

"Those who are born to faith, on the other hand, recognize the presence of the Lord," he said.

"Even in the midst of toil, problems and suffering, each day they discern God's visitation among us and feel accompanied and sustained by him," the pope said.

"The experience of faith also compels us to leap toward our neighbor," he said, and to experience the joy of sharing.

Pope Francis asked Christians pray for the "fire of the Holy Spirit" and let themselves "be set afire by the questions of our day, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor -- and by the 'holy utopias' of fraternity and peace that wait to be realized."

"Today, too, our life and the life of the church, France and Europe need this: the grace of a leap forward, a new leap in faith, charity and hope," he said.

At the end of the Mass, the pope thanked those who traveled from different parts of France. A group from Nice, accompanied by their bishop and mayor, was made up of survivors of a 2016 terrorist attack when a 19-ton truck drove into people promenading on a holiday evening, leaving 86 people dead and 434 other injured.

"I recall the terrible attack," the pope said, asking people to "prayerfully remember all those who lost their lives in that tragedy, as well as in all the terrorist acts that have been perpetrated in France and in every part of the world."

"Terrorism is cowardly," he added.

Pope Francis also asked the crowd never to tire of "praying for peace in war-torn regions, and especially for the war-torn people of Ukraine."


People have a duty to save migrants in danger of drowning, pope says

MARSEILLE, France (CNS) -- At a moving ceremony at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Pope Francis led a moment of silence for the countless lives lost in its blue but treacherous waters.

And he warned the world it was now at a crossroads: people must choose either to take the path of compassion, encounter and fraternity or veer off toward a track of indifference and conflict.

Calling it "a duty of civilization," he said that "people who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity."

Dozens of guests, including the mayor of Marseille, Benoit Payan, who sat at the pope's side, representatives of the city's religious communities, church officials and organizations involved in the rescue, care and assistance of migrants joined Pope Francis for the moment of reflection.

The pope prayed and led a moment of silence with the others before going to a monument dedicated to those who have perished at sea. The monument, topped with a cross, also features a heart and an anchor. As the pope and religious leaders prayed, the sun was slowly setting toward the water below.

Wreath left by pope
A wreath, bearing Pope Francis' name, lies at a memorial dedicated to migrants and those lost at sea in Marseille, France, Sept. 22, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

"Let us not get used to considering shipwrecks as news stories" where the people who died are faceless and nameless numbers, he said. They are brothers and sisters who "drowned in fear, along with the hopes they carried in their hearts."

"We need deeds not words," he said, and then led those gathered in a moment of silence in memory of those who died.

"Let us be moved by their tragedies," he said.

At this time in history, he said, following the path of fraternity will allow the human community to flourish, while the road of indifference "bloodies the Mediterranean."

"We cannot be resigned to seeing human beings treated as bargaining chips, imprisoned and tortured in atrocious ways," he said, blaming the countless shipwrecks on "cruel trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference."

The pope said religious leaders must show people the way and be exemplary in their offer of "mutual and fraternal welcome," shunning the "woodworm of extremism and the ideological plague of fundamentalism that corrodes the authentic life of communities."

He urged the people of Marseille, marked by religious pluralism, to choose well what path it will take, whether that of encounter or confrontation.

He praised those gathered with him who are dedicated to rescuing and assisting migrants at sea and in danger. He said he was well aware of efforts that try to block rescuers, and he called such actions "gestures of hatred against one's brother," calling for "balance." Some governments have blocked non-governmental organizations from carrying out rescues because they claim they encourage people to attempt illegal crossings.

"Let us not cause hope to shipwreck; let us together make a mosaic of hope," he said, before listening to several prayer intentions read aloud by those representing different facets dedicated to the care of sailors and migrants.

Earlier, the pope joined bishops, clergy, seminarians and consecrated men and women for a Marian prayer service in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Gard situated on top of the hill overlooking the sea and the memorial.

The pope encouraged Catholics to be like Mary, "the Bonne Mère" depicted in the basilica's statues, with her tender and loving gaze on Jesus, who, in turn, compassionately looks upon all of humanity.

Jesus looks at people, not to judge, but to lift them up, especially those who are "lowly" or lost and to help bring them back to the fold, he said.

"May people wounded by life find a safe harbor in your gaze, encouragement in your embrace and a caress in your hands," he said.

"Do not detract from the warmth of God's paternal and maternal gaze," he said, urging priests to "always, always loosen the chains of sin through grace and free people from those obstacles, regrets, grudges, and fears against which they cannot prevail alone."

Pope prays for migrants who died at sea

Pope prays for migrants who died at sea

In Marseille, France, Sept. 22, Pope Francis prayed for migrants who died at sea.