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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.”

Vatican official meets Vietnam’s prime minister during historic diplomatic trip

Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher (center) meets with Vietnamc’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son (unseen) and other officials at the Foreign Ministry in Hanoi on April 9, 2024. / Credit: NHAC NGUYEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Apr 11, 2024 / 09:40 am (CNA).

The Vatican’s foreign minister met with Vietnam’s prime minister in Hanoi on Wednesday during the first high-level diplomatic visit by a Church official to the country since the Vietnam War.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states, spoke with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh about the possibility of Pope Francis becoming the first pope to visit the Southeast Asian country.

The Vietnamese state-run news agency reported on April 10 that both Gallagher and the prime minister agreed “on the need to push ahead with high-level contacts, including Pope Francis’ visit to Vietnam.”

During his six-day trip to Vietnam, Gallagher will visit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue. He will offer public Masses at the cathedrals in all three cities, according to the schedule released by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Gallagher met with his counterpart, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son, on his first day in the country on April 9. He is also scheduled to meet with seminarians in Hue and members of Vietnam’s bishops’ conference in Ho Chi Minh City before he leaves the country on April 14.

The high-level diplomatic visit comes amid a warming in Vatican-Vietnam relations. Within the last year, Vietnam has agreed to allow the Vatican to send an official papal representative to live in the country and open an office in Hanoi. 

Pope Francis also received a delegation from Vietnam’s Communist Party government at the Vatican in January, and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin could make a trip to Vietnam later this year.

Gallagher’s visit has fueled speculations of a possible papal trip. The foreign minister said earlier this year that he thinks a papal trip to Vietnam will take place but added that “there are a few further steps to be taken before that would be appropriate.”

“But I think the Holy Father is keen to go and certainly the Catholic community in Vietnam is very happy to want the Holy Father to go. I think it [a papal trip] would send a very good message to the region,” he said.

Vietnam has one of the largest Catholic populations among countries never visited by a pope. The country is home to an estimated 7 million Catholics. An additional 700,000 Vietnamese Catholics live in the United States today, many of whom are refugees or descendants of refugees who fled by boat during the Vietnam War.

Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Marek Zalewski, a Polish Vatican diplomat, as the resident papal representative to Vietnam in December 2023.

Zalewski’s appointment was a historic step toward the possibility of someday establishing full diplomatic relations. Vietnam severed ties with the Holy See after the communist takeover of Saigon in 1975. 

With the new appointment, Vietnam is the only Asian communist country to have a resident papal envoy live in the country.

The Catholic Church in Vietnam has seen a rising number of religious vocations in recent years. The country has 8,000 priests and 41 bishops, according to government data. More than 2,800 seminarians were studying for the priesthood across Vietnam in 2020, 100 times more than in Ireland.

Kimviet Ngo, a Vietnamese American Catholic, told CNA last fall that she hopes that a potential papal visit to Vietnam would help improve religious freedom in the country. 

The Vietnamese Constitution guarantees individual freedom of belief and individual religious freedom. However, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises branches of the U.S. government, recommended that Vietnam be designated a “country of particular concern” in its 2024 report.

Ngo’s hope has been backed by a 2024 academic study, which found that papal trips can have a significant effect on the host country’s human rights protections.

Pope Francis is expected to travel to Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries in early September if his health allows.

Report: Society of St. Pius X priest admits to years of sexual misconduct with minors

null / Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Apr 11, 2024 / 06:45 am (CNA).

At a hearing for a criminal trial in France, a priest of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who spent six years in the U.S. has admitted to sexual misconduct with French minors over a period of 15 years, local media reported Sunday. 

Speaking at the criminal court in the city of Gap in southeastern France, Father Arnaud Rostand on April 4 admitted to the accusations, according to La Provence newspaper, saying: “I ask for forgiveness from the victims and deeply regret everything I have done.”

The 58-year-old is charged with misconduct against seven boys, often during church-related activities like scout camps in France, Spain, and Switzerland, the paper said, noting the abuse allegedly took place over a 15-year period between 2002 and 2018.

During that time, the priest held several roles, including that of a school principal in France, but also served as U.S. district superior from 2008 to 2014. In a “farewell letter” published in July 2014 but no longer linked on the current website, he announced his departure from that role, writing he had been assigned to manage communications for the society from its general house in Menzingen, Switzerland.

In a statement published April 5 on its website, the SSPX expressed deep regret over the abuse.

“The Society of St. Pius X cannot find strong enough words to condemn these acts, which have irreparable consequences. It wishes to express its profound compassion for the victims, whom it intends to support as much as possible.”

The accused priest, according to the SSPX, had “been the subject of appropriate disciplinary supervision within the fraternity.” 

Furthermore, the statement said, “when, in 2019, the fraternity’s superiors learned of the existence of facts relevant to the tribunal, they reported them to the judicial authorities and strengthened the disciplinary framework.”

In a critical response to the statement, the victim advocacy platform SSPX Victims Collective noted that Rostand held senior roles and positions of authority, and that at least two other priests had been accused.

“For the third time in nine months, a priest of the fraternity [of St. Pius X] finds himself before a French court for sexual assault or rape. Not to mention multiple proceedings abroad,” the group said in a statement.

The sentence in the Rostand case is expected to be passed in early June.

The SSPX is a traditionalist group founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 that has an irregular canonical status. The group is not overseen by the Catholic Church or any diocese within the Catholic Church.

In 2020, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation launched a multiyear investigation for alleged sex abuse by clergy, including SSPX members and four Catholic dioceses. The report, released in 2023, identified 188 suspects but did not result in charges.

Pope invites children at Roman parish to turn to God in prayer

Pope Francis inaugurates the "School of Prayer" with children preparing for their First Holy Communion, responding freely to numerous questions, as he encouraged them to embrace their faith, and turn to God in prayer, in the good times and the bad.

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COMECE: New EU Pact on migration presents several critical issues

Legal expert José Luis Bazan of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) says that the agreement reached on Wednesday over the major reform of the EU's migration presents several critical issues though it is still a step forward, considering the present polarized context.

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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.

COMECE 'saddened' by vote to add abortion access to EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Following European Parliament's vote in favor of including access to abortion in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Secretary General of COMECE, Fr. Manuel Enrique Barrios Prieto, appeals for forming and educating consciences to vote responsibly in upcoming elections, and recalls the EU Bishops' recently-presented grounds for opposing voting for the resolution.

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EU's new Asylum and Migration Pact disappoints rights groups

The European Parliament narrowly approves the wide-reaching reform of the European Union's migration and asylum policy. Aid agencies and human rights activists express disappointment saying it fails to protect those most in need.

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Cardinal Parolin in Aparecida: We must continue to pray for peace

Speaking to Vatican News on the sidelines the spiritual retreat which traditionally opens the General Assembly of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference (CNBB) gathered this week in Aparecida, the Vatican Secretary of State highlights the need to continue to pray for peace at this trying time for the world.

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Archdiocese of Accra to engage Ghana’s young people in dialogue

Ghana’s Catholic Archdiocese of Accra has lined-up several activities aimed at fostering dialogue and collaboration between the Church’s hierarchy and its vibrant youth community. The initiatives will culminate in a Youth Congress slated for June 2024.

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