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Pope Francis decries how ‘the unborn with disabilities are aborted’ in throwaway culture

Pope Francis addresses members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on April 11, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 11, 2024 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis decried how “the unborn with disabilities are aborted” in a speech on Thursday to a Vatican conference on disability inclusion.

The pope warned that “the throwaway culture” turns into “a culture of death” when people “presume to be able to establish, on the basis of utilitarian and functional criteria, when a life has value and is worth being lived.”

He pointed out that we see this today especially on the two extremes of the spectrum of life — “the unborn with disabilities are aborted and the elderly close to the end are administered an ‘easy death’ by euthanasia.”

According to the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life, it’s estimated that there are as many as 27,000 abortions annually due to a poor prenatal diagnosis in the United States.

“Every human being has the right to live with dignity and to develop integrally. Even if they are unproductive, or were born with or develop limitations, this does not detract from their great dignity as human persons, a dignity based not on circumstances but on the intrinsic worth of their being,” Pope Francis said in the Apostolic Palace’s Clementine Hall on April 11.

The pope addressed this message to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is made up of academics and professionals in the fields of law, political science, economics, and sociology.

The academy is meeting at the Vatican this week for its plenary session on disability inclusion

“The plenary intends to take up the challenge and make its own contribution by identifying what … represent the barriers that increase the disability of a society and prevent persons with disability from fully participating in social life,” the plenary session’s program says.

The three-day conference includes discussions on the rights of persons with disabilities, policies for greater economic inclusion, and philosophical perspectives on disability and the human condition. 

In his speech to the pontifical academy, Pope Francis underlined that “vulnerability and frailty are part of the human condition and not something proper only to persons with disabilities.”

He said that “combating the throwaway culture calls for promoting the culture of inclusion” by “forging and consolidating the bonds of belonging within society.”

The pope added that “the bonds of belonging become even stronger when persons with disabilities are not simply passive receivers but take an active part in the life of society as agents of change.”

According to the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, there is no exact number for the amount of people with disabilities worldwide, but international organizations estimate that 16% of the world’s population experience significant disabling conditions.

The “First World Report on Disability” found that people with some form of physical, sensory, or intellectual impairment experience multiple disadvantages compared with the rest of the population, which include barriers in accessing services, lower levels of education, poverty, and less participation in political and cultural life.

“Sadly, in various parts of the world, many persons and families continue to be isolated and forced to the margins of social life because of disabilities,” Pope Francis said.

“And this not only in poorer countries, where the majority of disabled persons live and where their condition often condemns them to extreme poverty, but also in situations of greater prosperity, where, at times, handicaps are considered a ‘personal tragedy’ and the disabled ‘hidden exiles,’ treated as foreigners in society.”

In the pontifical academy’s concept note for the plenary session, the academy recognized the strong solidarity found in family associations that support and accompany families who care for disabled individuals, noting that this solidarity takes on a social significance.

Pope Francis highlighted that “the Church’s care and concern for those with one or more disabilities concretely reflects the many encounters of Jesus with such persons, as described in the Gospels.”

“Jesus not only relates to disabled persons; he also changes the meaning of their experience,” he said. “In fact, he showed a new approach to the condition of persons with disabilities, both in society and before God.” 

“In Jesus’ eyes, every human condition, including those marked by grave limitations, is an invitation to a unique relationship with God that enables people to flourish.”

Pastoral genius of St. John Paul II: 40 years ago, he laid foundation for World Youth Day

Pope John Paul II's helicopter flies over the huge crowd in Manila's Luneta Park prior to celebrating an open-air mass for an estimated two-million people gathered for the 10th World Youth Day on Jan. 15, 1995. / Credit: JUN DAGMANG/AFP via Getty Images

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 11, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Nearly 40 years ago, an event was held in Rome that laid the foundations for what today is World Youth Day (WYD). On April 14, 1984, Pope John Paul II met in Rome with 300,000 young people from all over the world who were hosted by some 6,000 Roman families.

WYD is an encounter of young people from all over the world with the pope that takes place every two or three years in different cities around the world. The first one took place in Rome in 1986. Since then, the fruits of each WYD have flowed: conversions, vocations discovered, and even alleged miracles.

The seminal event was part of the 1984 Holy Year of Redemption, held near Palm Sunday. On that occasion, the pope told the assembled young people that “the real problem of life is, in fact, that of verifying, first of all, what is the place of youth in the present world.”

St. John Paul II then addressed each of those present personally, explaining that young people are called to make the love and message of Jesus Christ present in each of their own lives.

“If you know how to look at the world with the new eyes that faith gives you, then you will know how to face it with your hands outstretched in a gesture of love. You will be able to discover in it, in the midst of so much misery and injustice, unsuspected presences of goodness, fascinating perspectives of beauty, well-founded reasons for hope in a better tomorrow,” he told them.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II met in Rome with 300,000 young people from all over the world in a meeting that laid the foundations for today’s World Youth Day. Credit: Gregorini Demetrio, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
In 1984, Pope John Paul II met in Rome with 300,000 young people from all over the world in a meeting that laid the foundations for today’s World Youth Day. Credit: Gregorini Demetrio, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Holy Father stressed that that this can only be achieved through a deeply rooted faith in Jesus.

“True strength lies in Christ, the redeemer of the world! This is the central point of the whole discourse. And this is the moment to ask the crucial question: This Jesus who was young like you, who lived in an exemplary family and knew the world of men in depth, who is he for you?” the pope asked.

At that time, St. John Paul II presented the famous “Youth Cross” to the organizers of the event, with the mission of taking it throughout the world “as a sign and reminder that only in the dead and risen Jesus is there salvation and redemption.” 

This wooden cross has become a symbol of WYD, traveling throughout the dioceses of the world and in all the places where the event takes place.

The cross is kept today by the San Lorenzo International Youth Center (CSL), which together with the sponsorship of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life and the John Paul II Foundation for Youth, have organized a series of events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this first encounter of the Polish pope with young people.

On April 13, the “Youth Cross” will go on a pilgrimage from St. Peter’s Square to the CSL and a Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça. The day will conclude with a prayer vigil and adoration of the cross, known as “Rise Up.”

On Sunday, April 14, Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, will offer the Mass and later there will be a time for young people to give their testimonies.

The San Lorenzo International Youth Center is a reception and information center for young pilgrims in Rome as well as a place of prayer. It also serves as headquarters for making preparations for World Youth Days.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Parish priests are lifeline to church's mission, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- The success of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will much depend on also including parish priests in the process, said Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington.

Of the more than 360 bishops, religious and laypeople who participated in the first assembly at the Vatican last October, the small number who were ordained priests "were scholars, missionaries (or) they were engaged in leadership in religious communities," he said.

"Not that those other participants weren't generous and insightful," he said, but in his 40 years as a bishop, his experience has been that "a number of people may know who the bishop is, they all know who the pastor is."

The parish priest is the church's "point of contact and if we lose contact with our people through their priests, it disables the mission of the church," he told Catholic News Service April 10 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he was to receive the annual Rector's Award April 11. 

Cardinal Gregory
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington poses for a photo at the Pontifical North American College in Rome April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Cardinal Gregory had served as an auxiliary bishop of Chicago before leading the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, and then the Archdiocese of Atlanta; he was named archbishop of Washington in 2019 and then elevated to the College of Cardinals the next year.

Pope Francis personally invited the 76-year-old native of Chicago to attend the synod on synodality in Rome.

"There was a lack of parish priests present" at the first assembly, Cardinal Gregory said, noting the importance of the upcoming gathering of 300 parish priests from all over the world to make their contribution to the ongoing synod process by sharing their experiences of parish life.

Parish priests are the ones who "serve the folks in pew, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday," he said. The gathering of parish priests, which will be held April 28-May 2 outside of Rome, was needed "because if the synod is going to be a success, it really needs to keep its roots in the Sunday pew."

The priests, selected by bishops' conferences and Eastern Catholic churches, also will have the chance to dialogue with Pope Francis as part of responding to the first assembly's report requesting more active involvement of deacons, priests and bishops in the synodal process.

Because there will only be one to four priests representing each bishops' conference and Eastern-rite Catholic church, Cardinal Gregory said it would be important for the priest delegates to "use media to pass on what they did, what they heard, what they said."

"After all, 300 priests is a good delegation, but it's a small representation of the total number of priests who are engaged directly in pastoral ministry," he said.

Just as priests are being asked to "follow up more effectively with their parishioners and learn how to listen to and to learn from criticism and also support" as part of the synodal process, he said, bishops, too, should be showing their support of their priests, even in the simplest of ways. 

Cardinal Gregory
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington speaks during an interview with Catholic News Service at the Pontifical North American College in Rome April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

"Long before the synod and in every diocese that I've served in," he said, he has always shared messages and comments he receives complimenting one of his priests for something they did.

"I always send that complimentary letter to the priest himself, along with my letter of thanks to the individual who thought enough of a pastor to say something nice," he said.

"That builds a relationship with the priest and the bishop that says, 'you know, he contacts me not necessarily because I've done something wrong, but because I've done something right.' And that's very important. Our guys need to know that the bishop is grateful," he said.

The success of the synod, Cardinal Gregory said, will be seen with "an increase in the contact that people, ordinary people, the faithful of God, have with their priests," their bishop and with the pope. Success will be recognizing that the pope "is not an individual who governs the church simply from the desk of the papal apartment" and that the bishop and pastor are not leaders who simply manage or direct activities from afar.

"To have a successful synod outcome, it has to tighten the bonds that unite us, even going into those areas where most people had not been before. And unfortunately, sometimes where bishops haven't been before, that is, in the midst of their flock," he said.

"Isn't that one of Pope Francis' favorite early terms, the smell of the sheep?" the cardinal asked. "You've got to have the smell of the sheep."

Pope Francis: ‘A Christian without courage’ is ‘a useless Christian’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 10, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday dedicated his general audience catechesis to the virtue of fortitude, observing that it consists of the ability to live with courage and to confront the inner — and outer — turmoils of life.

“A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian,” the pope declared during the general audience held on a windy, overcast morning in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis receives a baby for a blessing as pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis receives a baby for a blessing as pilgrims gather in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope opened his reflection by chronicling the development of fortitude, pointing to its philosophical roots in antiquity as well as its development in the Christian tradition.

“Ancient thought did not imagine a man without passions; he would be a stone,” the pope said. The pope linked this idea to Christ, noting that he is not a “diaphanous” or “ascetic” God but instead expressed the full range of human emotions. 

Yet the pope cautioned that passions, while “not necessarily the residue of a sin,” need to be tempered, or “educated, channeled, purified with the water of baptism, or better with the fire of the Holy Spirit.” 

The pope noted that fortitude develops in a twofold manner, being composed of both an inner, or passive, dimension as well as an active, or outer, orientation that allows humans to respond to adversity. 

“Fortitude is first and foremost a victory against ourselves,” the pope said. “Most of the fears that arise within us are unrealistic and do not come true at all.”

Pope Francis blesses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis blesses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“It is better, then, to invoke the Holy Spirit and face everything with patient fortitude: one problem at a time, as we are able, but not alone!” the Holy Father said. “The Lord is with us, if we trust in him and sincerely seek the good. Then in every situation we can count on God’s providence to shield and armor us.”

Reflecting on the second, or passive, characteristic of fortitude, the pope noted that there are also external tribulations to overcome, such as “persecutions” and “external enemies.” 

“Fortitude is a fundamental virtue because it takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously. Some pretend it does not exist, that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history.” 

Highlighting the myriad social problems present in the world today, from war and famine to slavery and the oppression of the poor, the pope said that it is the gift of fortitude that enables human beings to “cry out an emphatic ‘no’ to all of this.” 

At the end of the catechesis, the pope repeated his appeal for peace amid the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land. 

“Let us ask the Lord for peace, and may we not forget these brothers and sisters of ours who suffer greatly in these war-torn places,” he said. 

Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the people of Kazakhstan, where more than 100,000 people have been evacuated near the Ural Mountains due to the worst flooding seen in the region in decades.

Take evil seriously, pope says at general audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While intense feelings or drive -- passions -- are natural, Christians know they must be tamed and channeled toward what is good, Pope Francis said.

The virtue of fortitude, "the most 'combative' of the virtues," helps a person control their passions but also gives them the strength to overcome fear and anxiety when faced with the difficulties of life, the pope told visitors and pilgrims at his weekly general audience April 10.

Pope Francis at his weekly general audience
A gust of wind lifts Pope Francis' zucchetto during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Continuing his series of talks about virtues, the pope quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions."

Fortitude "takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously," he said, and that is increasingly rare "in our comfortable Western world."

Some people pretend evil does not exist, "that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history," the pope said. But reading a history book or even the newspaper shows "the atrocities of which we are partly victims and partly perpetrators: wars, violence, slavery, oppression of the poor, wounds that have never healed and continue to bleed."

"The virtue of fortitude makes us react and cry out an emphatic 'no' to evil to all of this," he said.

Fortitude, he said, helps Christians say "'no' to evil and to indifference; 'yes' to the journey that helps us make progress in life, and for this one must struggle."

"A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian," he said.

Pope Francis kisses Ukrainian flag
Pope Francis kisses a Ukrainian flag carried by a group of Ukrainian children attending his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 10, 2024. The pope prayed during the audience for peace in Ukraine, in the Holy Land and in Myanmar. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked people to pray for Ukraine and Palestine and Israel. "May the Lord grant us peace. War is everywhere," he said. "Do not forget Myanmar," where the military staged a coup in 2021 and fighting has continued since then. "Let us ask the Lord for peace and not forget these brothers and sisters who are suffering in these places of war."

 

Pope: Have courage to say 'no' to atrocities

Pope: Have courage to say 'no' to atrocities

Pope Francis continued his catechesis series on virtues and vices by reflecting on the virtue of fortitude.

New complaints of abuse by Father Rupnik presented to Vatican

Father Marko Rupnik. / Credit: Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Rome

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 9, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Five new complaints of alleged abuse committed by Father Marko Rupnik have been presented to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, where an investigation into the case is being carried out after Pope Francis decided to lift the statute of limitations.

The new cases mark the latest development in the case of Rupnik, a Jesuit accused of having committed serious sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse against at least 20 women over a period of decades.

As reported by the Italian news agency Ansa, the testimonies of five alleged victims were presented at the Vatican dicastery by Italian lawyer Laura Sgrò on April 3.

The complainants include two women who shared their testimony at a press conference in February, while the other three are heretofore unknown cases.

On Feb. 21, Mirjam Kovac (who said she suffered spiritual and psychological abuse but not sexual) and Gloria Branciani recounted during a press conference in Rome what they experienced in the Loyola Community, an institution co-founded by Rupnik in Slovenia in the early 1990s.

During the unusual press conference, the former women religious shared their testimony and were accompanied by Sgró, known for also being the lawyer of Pietro Orlandi, brother of Emanuela, the young woman who disappeared from the Vatican in the 1980s, as well as by her participation in the Vatileaks case.

What is known about the investigation into the case?

No update on the investigation into Rupnik had come to light since Pope Francis lifted the statute of limitations on the case last October.

As reported by the Holy See, the pontiff asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the complaints to begin a new process.

However, the unexpected public appearance of two alleged victims marked a turn of events.

Hours after the end of the extensive and heavily attended press conference held in Rome, the Holy See’s press office issued a statement through a brief email addressed to journalists accredited to the Vatican.

The email noted that “the case is currently being examined by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith” and that “in recent months, following the order received from the pope at the end of October, the dicastery has contacted the institutions involved in various capacities in the matter to receive all the information available about the case.”

The Vatican communications department added that it is now a matter of “studying the documentation acquired to determine what procedures will be possible and useful to apply” after having expanded the scope of the search “to realities not previously contacted” and after having received their responses. 

As of yet, Rupnik has not made any statement. While his case is being examined, he has remained in Rome and has continued to exercise his priestly ministry after being incardinated into a Slovenian diocese.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholics Participating in National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the National Eucharistic Congress Have Opportunities to Receive Plenary Indulgences

WASHINGTON – “It is with gratitude to the Holy Father that we receive his Apostolic Blessing upon the participants in the National Eucharistic Congress, and for the opportunity for Catholics in our country to obtain a plenary indulgence by participating in the events of the Eucharistic Revival,” said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fostering encounter, sparking personal conversion, and forming disciples will be opportunities for a personal revival in the faith and the fruits of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress to be held this summer.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and National Eucharistic Congress are milestone moments in the U.S. bishops’ three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative. Archbishop Broglio requested the Apostolic Penitentiary (the office within the Roman Curia that is charged with the granting and use of indulgences as expressions of divine mercy) that a plenary indulgence be granted to Catholics who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. It was also requested that he or another prelate be designated to impart the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence to the Christian faithful present at the National Eucharistic Congress.

“Through the efforts of the revival over the last two years, we have been building up to the pilgrimage and congress that will offer Catholics a chance to experience a profound, personal revival of faith in the Eucharist. Pope Francis continues to encourage and support us as we seek to share Christ’s love with a world that is desperately in need of Him,” said Archbishop Broglio, upon receiving the news that Pope Francis had recently granted the requests.

Plenary Indulgence for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage

A decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary and approved by Pope Francis indicates that the plenary indulgence will be granted to the Christian faithful who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage at any point between May 17 and July 16, 2024. It will also be granted to the elderly, infirm, and all those who cannot leave their homes for a serious reason and who participate in spirit with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, uniting their prayers, pains, or inconveniences with Christ and the pilgrimage. This indulgence is granted under the usual conditions of sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father. The faithful may also apply this indulgence through suffrage for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory. In recognition of this extraordinary event, the Apostolic Penitentiary also requests that all priests who have been endowed with the appropriate faculties for hearing Confessions present themselves willingly and generously in administering the Sacrament of Penance to all who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

Papal Blessing with Plenary Indulgence for National Eucharistic Congress

The second decree issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary and approved by Pope Francis, says that Archbishop Broglio or another prelate of episcopal rank assigned by him, following the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, may impart the Papal Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence to the Christian Faithful who participate in the National Eucharistic Congress, who are truly repentant, and who are motivated by charity, if the usual conditions for indulgences—sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father—have been met. Faithful individuals who, due to reasonable circumstances and with pious intention, have participated in the sacred rites and received the Papal Blessing through media communications, may also obtain a Plenary Indulgence.

The National Eucharistic Revival began on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) in 2022 and continues through 2025. Following the congress will be a “Year of Missionary Sending,” in which Catholics from all stages and walks of life will be sent out to share Christ’s love that they have received in encounter with him through the Eucharist. For more information on the revival, pilgrimage, and congress, please visit https://www.eucharisticrevival.org.

Vatican calls for proactive defense of human dignity in digital realm

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The protection and preservation of human dignity must extend into the digital realm, the Vatican said in a new document on human dignity.

While the advancement of digital technologies "may offer many possibilities for promoting human dignity, it also increasingly tends toward the creation of a world in which exploitation, exclusion, and violence grow, extending even to the point of harming the dignity of the human person," read a declaration approved by Pope Francis and published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith April 8.

"If technology is to serve human dignity and not harm it, and if it is to promote peace rather than violence, then the human community must be proactive in addressing these trends," it read.

The document, a declaration on human dignity titled "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity"), reflects on Catholic teaching about human dignity and addresses "some grave violations of human dignity" today, among them "digital violence."

Discussing digital communications, the declaration encouraged readers to consider "how easy it is through these means to endanger a person's good name with fake news and slander."

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, holds up a copy of the dicastery's declaration,
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, holds up a copy of the dicastery's declaration, "Dignitas Infinita" ("Infinite Dignity") on human dignity during a news conference at the Vatican press office April 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

It also quoted Pope Francis' 2019 post-synodal apostolic exhortation to young people, warning of the "new forms of violence" spreading through the internet and social media such as cyberbullying, the diffusion of pornography and a rise in sexual exploitation. 

The dicastery's declaration stated that, "paradoxically, the more that opportunities for making connections grow in this realm, the more people find themselves isolated and impoverished in interpersonal relationships."

Threats to the accessibility of real-world connection and the propagation of digital violence "represent a dark side of digital progress," it said.

But citing Pope Francis' encyclical "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," it added that the opportunities for encounter provided by communications media are "a gift from God" so long as they pursue the truth and promote the common good.

In his introduction to the declaration, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the doctrinal dicastery, wrote that "although not comprehensive," the contemporary issues touched upon in the document were selected to "illuminate different facets of human dignity that might be obscured in many people's consciousness."

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Peter Jugis of Diocese of Charlotte; Appoints Rev. Michael Martin, OFM Conv., as Successor

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Peter J. Jugis, 67, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Charlotte for health reasons, and has appointed Reverend Michael T. Martin, OFM Conv., as Bishop-elect of Charlotte. Bishop-elect Martin is a member of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of the Angels, a religious order, and currently serves as pastor at Saint Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2024, by Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The following biographical information for Bishop-elect Martin was drawn from preliminary materials provided to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Father Martin was born December 2, 1961, in Baltimore, Maryland. He entered the novitiate of the Order of Conventual Franciscan Friars in Ellicott City, Maryland in 1979; he professed simple vows in 1980, and solemn vows in 1985. Bishop-elect Martin pursued studies at Saint Hyacinth College-Seminary in Granby, Massachusetts where he received a bachelor of arts degree (1984). He also studied at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Saint Bonaventure in Rome, Italy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology (1988), and a master’s degree in Catholic education administration from Boston College in Massachusetts (1993). He was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1989.

Bishop-elect Martin’s assignments after ordination include: director of admissions, religious studies teacher, moderator and coach at St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, New York (1989-1996); principal (1996-2001) and president (2001-2010) at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, Maryland; and director of the Duke University Catholic Center in Durham, North Carolina (2010-2022). Since 2022, he has served as pastor of Saint Philip Benizi parish in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Bishop-elect Martin’s additional responsibilities have included: member of the adjunct faculty for the School of Education at Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio); definitor (provincial councilor) of the Conventual Franciscan Friars of the Saint Anthony Province; president of the pastoral council for the Archdiocese of Baltimore; regional associate for the National Catholic Educational Association; member of the Notre Dame Preparatory School Board; member of the Saint Thomas Aquinas School Board; member of the Cardinal Gibbons High School Board; associate of the Advancement Counsel; elected member of the Priests’ Council of the Diocese of Raleigh; member of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association; member of the Finance Council for the Diocese of Raleigh; and chair of the financial commission for Our Lady of Angels Province of the Franciscan Conventual Friars.

The Diocese of Charlotte is comprised of 20,470 square miles in the state of North Carolina and has a total population of 5,505,666, of which 546,370 are Catholic.

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The Catholic Church by the numbers: more Catholics but fewer vocations 

The crowd in St. Peter's Square for the pope's Angelus address on Jan. 14, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2024 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

The number of Catholics worldwide increased by 14 million in 2022, according to the Vatican’s 2022 Statistical Yearbook of the Church released earlier this month and highlighted in a report by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The figures from 2021 to 2022 — the most recent years where numbers are available — marked a decrease in the number of priests and seminarians.

While vocations to the priesthood and religious life have decreased overall, the Church shows signs of growth in some parts of the world — most notably Africa and Asia.

More Catholics 

The number of baptized Catholics has increased by about 1% — 14 million — rising from 1.376 billion in 2021 to 1.390 billion in 2022.

As in previous years, the Catholic Church in Africa continues to grow. Africa had the highest increase in Catholics at 3%, while the Americas recorded a 0.9% increase and Asia a 0.6% increase. 

The number of Catholics in Europe remained steady at about 286 million from 2021 to 2022.

The Church has fewer priests and seminarians 

The number of priests continued the downward trend that began in 2012.

Globally, the number of priests decreased by 142 from 2021 to 2022, going from 407,872 to 407,730.

But the number of priests continues to grow in Africa and Asia, while vocations in other continents plateau or decline.

The number of priests in Africa and Asia increased by 3.2% and 1.6%, respectively, while the number remained steady in the Americas. Oceania saw a 1.5% decrease in priests, while Europe had a 1.7% decrease.  

There are also fewer seminarians worldwide. According to the Vatican numbers, there were 1.3% fewer men preparing for priesthood in 2022 than in 2021. 

This decrease is most marked in Europe, where there has been a noted vocations crisis since 2008. The number of seminarians decreased by 6% from 2021 to 2022. The number of seminarians also decreased in the Americas by 3.2% and in Asia by 1.2%. 

But Africa saw a 2.1% increase in the number of seminarians, while Oceania had a notable 1.3% increase.

Africa had the highest number of seminarians in 2022, at almost 35,000 men, while Oceania (which makes up only 0.6% of the world’s population) had the least, at almost 1,000. 

Asia and the Americas had roughly 30,000 and 27,000 seminarians, respectively, while Europe, which makes up almost 10% of the world’s population, had only 14,461 seminarians. 

But not all is lost for parochial Church leadership. The numbers show a marked increase in permanent deacons, increasing by 2% from 2021 to 2022. 

While the global Catholic Church saw 142 fewer priests from 2021-2022, there are 974 more permanent deacons worldwide. 

The number of bishops from 2021 to 2022 increased by a quarter, from 5,340 to 5,353 bishops, with most of the growth centered in Africa and Asia. 

In the Americas, the number of bishops remained steady at about 2,000, while in Europe the number of bishops declined slightly at less than 1%.

Vocations are on the decline for both men and women

The number of professed religious men — not including priests — decreased by 360, from 49,774 in 2021 to 49,414 in 2022. 

Asia and the Americas were the only regions where religious vocations for men increased, with the most substantial increase in Asia. 

While there are more religious women than priests by almost 50%, the number of religious women is also declining. According to the most recent data from 2021 to 2022, their numbers have declined by 1.6% — meaning almost 10,000 fewer religious sisters worldwide.

This decline is most prevalent in Oceania, Europe, and North America, where the number of women religious decreased by 3.6%, 3.5%, and 3% respectively. South and Central America also saw a slight decrease of more than 2,000 religious women.

But Africa had the largest increase in religious women at 1.7%, increasing by more than 1,000 vocations. Southeast Asia’s numbers also reflected a small increase of 0.1% — almost 200 more religious women.