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After protest from Catholics, blasphemous potato chip ad ordered pulled in Italy

null / Credit: Pixabay

CNA Staff, Apr 10, 2024 / 10:50 am (CNA).

An Italian Catholic watchdog group says a blasphemous ad featuring a priest consecrating potato chips in place of Eucharistic hosts has been ordered pulled from the airwaves.

The Italian Association of Radio and Television Listeners (Associazione Italiana Ascoltatori Radio e Televisione, AIART) on Monday had called for the immediate suspension of an advertisement by the Italian company Amica Chips, one that the group said “offends the religious sensitivity of millions of practicing Catholics.” AIART says on its website that its mission is “inspired by Catholic principles.”

In the advertisement, an abbess fills a ciborium with potato chips instead of Eucharistic hosts prior to Mass, after which a priest distributes one of the potato chips to a nun during holy Communion. 

As the communicants are visibly surprised to discover the chips in place of hosts, the abbess looks on unconcernedly as she eats from the bag of crisps. 

The commercial evinced a “lack of respect and creativity,” AIART said this week, arguing that the ad was a “telltale sign of disrespect for users, their cultural and moral identity, and their dignity as persons.”

On Tuesday AIART said on its website that the Institute of Advertising Self-Discipline, Italy’s private advertising standards authority, had “upheld our appeal for the immediate suspension of the commercial.”

The Institute’s Control Committee “has enjoined the parties involved to desist from the broadcast of such a campaign,” AIART reported, with the committee citing regulations that commercials “must not offend moral, civil, and religious convictions.”

Giovanni Baggio, the president of AIART, said in the Tuesday release that the group “​​urge[s] creatives to be more respectful of cultural and religious identities and to work for commercials that are inclusive and that appeal to all users in a way that is careful not to create discomfort and disapproval.”

“Let us work together for a civilization that needs to grow in respect for cultural and religious identities," Baggio said.

Amica Chips did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNA on Wednesday morning.

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.

Foundation releases never-before-seen images of Padre Pio

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States on April 29, 2024, will release 10 never-before-seen photographs of Padre Pio. The foundation’s director, Luciano Lamonarca, discovered the photos when visiting photographer Elia Saleto’s studio. / Credit: Courtesy of the St. Pio Foundation

CNA Staff, Apr 10, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States is releasing 10 never-before-seen photographs of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio, on April 29. 

The candid images show the Italian priest celebrating Mass and deep in prayer but also in lighter moments of laughter, rarely captured of the friar. The foundation’s director, Luciano Lamonarca, discovered the photos when visiting photographer Elia Stelluto’s studio.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States on April 29, 2024, will release 10 never-before-seen photographs of Padre Pio. The candid images show the Italian priest celebrating Mass and deep in prayer but also in lighter moments of laughter. Credit: Courtesy of the Saint Pio Foundation
To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States on April 29, 2024, will release 10 never-before-seen photographs of Padre Pio. The candid images show the Italian priest celebrating Mass and deep in prayer but also in lighter moments of laughter. Credit: Courtesy of the Saint Pio Foundation

EWTN News Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn sat down with Lamonarca in a recent interview for “EWTN News Nightly” to discuss the images. One of the most surprising photos was of Padre Pio smiling. 

“One is nice because [it shows everybody] hey, Padre Pio is smiling. Yes, he was smiling because he was a man. So we always think that Padre Pio was a serious man. We know that faith is also about laughing … sometimes,” Lamonarca said.

The professional opera singer grew up in Italy aware of the giant figure that Padre Pio was in the Catholic Church but didn’t have a particular devotion to the saint until he and his wife faced the great suffering of having a stillborn baby and receiving the news that they would probably not be able to have more children. 

It was then that the couple turned to St. Pio’s intercession and, in the process, began to learn more about his life. 

Lamonarca said he learned about St. Pio’s “simplicity and humility.” 

“He was the grandfather I never had,” he told Flynn.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States on April 29, 2024, will release 10 never-before-seen photographs of Padre Pio. The candid images include scenes of the Italian priest celebrating Mass and deep in prayer. Credit: Courtesy of the Saint Pio Foundation
To mark its 10th anniversary, the Saint Pio Foundation in the United States on April 29, 2024, will release 10 never-before-seen photographs of Padre Pio. The candid images include scenes of the Italian priest celebrating Mass and deep in prayer. Credit: Courtesy of the Saint Pio Foundation

Lamonarca said he felt such a connection to the saintly friar that he wanted to help bring his story and message to as many people as possible — especially in the United States — so he founded the Saint Pio Foundation.

Today Lamonarca and his wife live in the United States with their son, Sebastian, who was born the year after Lamonarca founded the foundation. As an Italian living in the U.S., he is passionate about strengthening the ties between the two countries in the name of St. Pio.

In addition to the release of all the photos to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the foundation has also produced a documentary drama about Padre Pio, which will air on EWTN later this year.

A flyer advertising the upcoming docudrama "Saint Pio of Pietrelcina" about the life of Padre Pio, which will be released in September 2024 by the St. Pio Foundation. Courtesy of the St. Pio Foundation
A flyer advertising the upcoming docudrama "Saint Pio of Pietrelcina" about the life of Padre Pio, which will be released in September 2024 by the St. Pio Foundation. Courtesy of the St. Pio Foundation


The full interview with Lamonarca on “EWTN News Nightly” can be viewed below.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

US setting up temporary port for Gaza humanitarian aid

In the six months since Israel mounted its military operation in the Gaza Strip to counter a Hamas attack mounted from Gaza, the Palestinian territory’s infrastructure has been dealt a crippling blow. Beyond the more than thirty thousand dead, Palestinians of all ages are at risk of starvation, and famine looms in the region.

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India: Religious superiors explore ‘heartbeat of the Church’

Over 100 superiors of Catholic religious institutions gather in Kerala to explore ways to lead their congregations and better serve the Church in India.

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Fr. Faltas: Christians enduring war in Holy Land in faith and hope

Father Ibrahim Faltas, Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, reflects on the realities faced by Christian communities in the Holy Land, underscoring the importance of solidarity, prayer, and unwavering faith in times of turmoil.

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Pope asks for prayers for those affected by flooding in Kazakhstan

During his General Audience, Pope Francis requests prayers for those affected by massive flooding in Kazakhstan, which has impacted many regions of the Central Asian country and forced thousands of people to evacuate. He also asks for prayers for those suffering from conflicts in the Holy Land, Ukraine and Myanmar.

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Pope at Audience: Grace-sustained fortitude helps us daily

During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis continues his catechetical series on virtues and vices, focusing on the cardinal virtue of fortitude, saying that sustained by grace, it can fuel our efforts daily and bring us closer to God.

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Catholic bishops say abortion can ‘never be a fundamental right’ ahead of EU charter vote

A plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. / Credit: MichalPL via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops in the European Union on Tuesday reiterated that a right to abortion can never be a “fundamental” right ahead of a Thursday vote related to the insertion of a “right to abortion” in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

A draft resolution set to be voted on April 11 would amend the EU’s charter, which first came into force in 2009, to include the assertion that “everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to free, informed, full, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to all related health care services without discrimination, including access to safe and legal abortion.”

The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), based in Brussels and made up of bishops delegated by the bishops’ conferences of the more than two dozen member states of the European Union, speaks frequently in support of Catholic values in Europe, particularly against abortion and for the protection of persecuted Christians in other countries.

“The promotion of women and their rights is not related to the promotion of abortion,” COMECE said in an April 9 statement.

“We work for a Europe where women can live their maternity freely and as a gift for them and for society and where being a mother is in no way a limitation for personal, social, and professional life. Promoting and facilitating abortion goes in the opposite direction to the real promotion of women and their rights.”

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights cannot include rights that are not recognized by all and are “divisive,” the bishops noted. 

“The right to life is the fundamental pillar of all other human rights, especially the right to life of the most vulnerable, fragile, and defenseless, like the unborn child in the womb of the mother, the migrant, the old, the person with disabilities, and the sick. The Church has always taught this,” the bishops continued. 

The European Parliament is a directly-elected body made up of over 700 legislators from EU member states and tasked with adopting EU legislation. Changing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include abortion would require unanimous agreement from all member states, the body says. 

The enshrining of abortion rights in the EU’s rights charter has long been debated. Abortion activists have for years pushed for the modification to union law, with initiatives such as the Simone Veil Pact calling for broad abortion rights throughout the continent. 

In contrast to the highly permissive legal framework found in many U.S. states before and after Roe v. Wade, many European countries restrict abortion after 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy; some European Union member countries also impose waiting periods and other regulations. 

In January 2022, French President Emmanual Macron called upon the European Union to enshrine abortion in law, which Macron said would “give new life to our set of rights” there. In a statement at the time, COMECE expressed “deep concern and opposition” to the idea. COMECE noted at the time that that there is no “right” to abortion enshrined in European or international law.

Earlier this year, France became the first country in Europe to enshrine a “right to abortion” in its constitution.

College sports association bans biological men from women’s sports

Penn University transgender swimmer Lia Thomas celebrates taking first place in the 500-yard freestyle race with a time of 4.37.32 during the championship final race in heat three during the Women's Ivy League Swimming & Diving Championships at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Feb. 17, 2022. / Credit: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) approved a policy on Monday that stated that biological men cannot compete in women’s sports in NAIA-sponsored college sports. 

The NAIA includes 249 schools across the U.S. and Canada, most of which are small, private colleges. 

Catholic colleges such as Benedictine College in Kansas, Ave Maria University in Florida, Loyola University in New Orleans, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana are members of the league. Texas A&M University-San Antonio is also a member. 

The decision, in a 20-0 vote, followed a December survey that found widespread support for the proposed rule among the association’s members. Of the 68 schools that responded to the survey, 58 were in favor of the policy change, according to a CBS report.

“We believed our first responsibility was to create fairness and competition in the NAIA,” NAIA president Jim Carr told CBS Sports. “We also think it aligns with the reasons Title IX was created.” 

The new policy requires that students who participate in NAIA-sponsored women’s sports must be biologically female and not under the influence of any masculinizing hormone therapy. 

Female athletes who take masculinizing hormones cannot compete in NAIA-sponsored women’s sports but may participate in internal activities such as workouts, practices, and teams, according to the individual college’s discretion, the policy stated.

The NAIA’s policy does not specify sex for NAIA-sponsored male sports, meaning that women taking masculinizing hormones may participate in male sports if they wish.

The policy will go into effect Aug. 1.

The decision follows recent controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, winning an NCAA Division I Championship. 

Riley Gaines, who competed against Thomas, has been outspoken about her opposition to allowing male athletes to compete in women’s sports. 

Gaines and more than a dozen other female athletes filed a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) in March. The suit alleged that allowing men to compete in women’s competitions denies women protections promised under Title IX and that the decision “subject[ed] women to a loss of their constitutional right to bodily privacy.”

“Title IX was enacted by Congress to increase women’s opportunities; therefore, no policy which authorizes males to take the place of women on women’s college sports teams or in women’s college sports locker rooms is permissible under Title IX,” the complaint read.

Gaines applauded the NAIA’s move in a post on X, noting that the NAIA “becomes the first national college governing body to mandate athletes compete with their sex.”

A recent Vatican document released Monday affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on human dignity and addressed a variety of modern issues including transgenderism.

The Vatican declaration noted that “all attempts to obscure reference to the ineliminable sexual difference between man and woman are to be rejected” while also condemning any violence or aggression toward individuals based on sexual orientation.