Vatican News

Pope meets top leaders of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis meets March 9, 2019, at the Vatican with Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-MORMON-LEADERS March 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis welcomed top officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Vatican the day before the officials inaugurated their first temple in the city of Rome.

The Vatican included the pope's meeting with Russell M. Nelson, president of the Latter-day Saints church, in a list of Pope Francis' encounters March 9, but did not provide further information.

Catholic and Mormon leaders, especially in the United States, have increased their official contacts in recent years, working together on many social projects and joining forces to promote issues of common concern, particularly policies to support traditional families.

But the Catholic Church does not recognize the baptism conferred by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a valid Christian baptism.

The Catholic position was issued formally in 2001 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While the Mormon baptismal rite refers to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Mormon beliefs about the identity of the three persons is so different from Catholic and mainline Christian belief that "one cannot even consider this doctrine to be a heresy arising from a false understanding of Christian doctrine," said a Vatican explanation of the ruling.

Nelson, who Mormons consider a prophet, and other top officials of the Latter-day Saints church were in Rome for the March 10 inauguration of a new temple, where special marriage, baptism and other rites are performed.

While the Vatican issued no statement on the meeting with the pope, the Latter-day Saints' official website -- -- carried a long piece and a video interview with Nelson, along with ample coverage of the temple dedication.

The website reported that the meeting with the pope lasted 33 minutes.

"We talked about our mutual concern for the people who suffer throughout the world and want to relieve human suffering," Nelson said. "We talked about the importance of religious liberty, the importance of the family, our mutual concern for the youth (and) for the secularization of the world and the need for people to come to God and worship him, pray to him and have the stability that faith in Jesus Christ will bring in their lives."

Describing Pope Francis, Nelson said, "What a sweet, wonderful man he is, and how fortunate the Catholic people are to have such a gracious, concerned, loving and capable leader."

Diocese concludes inquiry of French priest's martyrdom

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Paroisse Saint-Etienne via EPA

Father Jacques Hamel is seen during a 2016 church service in this handout photo from his parish in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Vatican News reported March 9 that the Archdiocese of Rouen concluded its sainthood inquiry into the life and death of a French priest who was killed while celebrating Mass. (CNS photo/Paroisse Saint-Etienne via EPA) Editor's note: For editorial use only. Best quality available. HAMEL-DIOCESE-INQUIRY March 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Rouen concluded its sainthood inquiry into the life and death of a French priest who was killed while celebrating Mass.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen presided over the final session of the diocesan inquiry into the life and martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, Vatican News reported March 9.

Father Hamel was killed July 26, 2016, when two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while he celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father Hamel's throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation.

Traditionally, the formal sainthood process, which includes compiling the candidate's writings and gathering sworn testimonies about his or her life and holiness, can begin no sooner than five years after the person's death.

However, Pope Francis set aside the restriction and allowed for the French priest's sainthood cause to begin in 2017.

The inquiry gathered the testimony of 66 witnesses, including five people who witnessed Father Hamel's murder. The documentation from the diocesan inquiry will be sent to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, which reviews the gathered information.

Pope Francis has on several occasions recognized Father Hamel's holiness and cited him as an example of courage who gave his life for others throughout his life as priest until his brutal murder.

The pope celebrated a special requiem Mass for the slain priest several months after his death in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae. Among those present at the Mass were Archbishop Lebrun, Father Hamel's sister, Roselyne Hamel, as well as 80 pilgrims from the diocese.

Archbishop Lebrun said he had brought a photo of Father Hamel and asked Pope Francis to sign it with a note for three religious women who had been with Father Hamel at Mass that day.

Instead of signing the photo before Mass, the pope "immediately told me to put it on the altar," the archbishop told reporters later. "At the end of Mass, when he was greeting everyone, he signed it and said to me, 'You can put this photo in the church because he is "blessed" now, and if anyone says you aren't allowed, tell them the pope gave you permission.'"

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Answering God's call demands courage to take a risk, pope says

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Chaz Muth

World Youth Day pilgrims from the Dominican Republic pose for a photo Jan. 24, 2019, at a vocations festival in a Panama City park, where they learned what different religious communities have to offer. Answering the Lord's call demands the courage to take a risk, but it is an invitation to become part of an important mission, Pope Francis said March 9 in his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth) See POPE-VOCATIONS-MESSAGE March 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Answering the Lord's call demands the courage to take a risk, but it is an invitation to become part of an important mission, Pope Francis said.

God "wants us to discover that each of us is called -- in a variety of ways -- to something grand, and that our lives should not grow entangled in the nets of an ennui that dulls the heart," the pope said.

"Every vocation is a summons not to stand on the shore, nets in hand, but to follow Jesus on the path he has marked out for us, for our own happiness and for the good of those around us," he said in his message for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The Vatican released the pope's message March 9.

The day, which was to be celebrated May 12, was dedicated to the theme: "The courage to take a risk for God's promise."

That kind of risk-taking can be seen when Jesus was at Sea of Galilee and called his first disciples, who were fishermen going about their daily lives, dedicated to their demanding work, the pope said in his message.

"As with every call, the Gospel speaks of an encounter. Jesus walks by, sees those fishermen, and walks up to them," the pope said. "The same thing happened when we met the person we wanted to marry or when we first felt the attraction of a life of consecration: we were surprised by an encounter, and at that moment we glimpsed the promise of a joy capable of bringing fulfilment to our lives."

Jesus drew near the four fishermen and broke through the "paralysis of routine," making them the promise, "I will make you fishers of men," he said.

Pope Francis acknowledged in his message that totally consecrating one's life to service in the church could be difficult in the current climate. But, he said, "the church is our mother because she brings us to new life and leads us to Christ. So we must love her, even when we see her face marred by human frailty and sin, and we must help to make her ever more beautiful and radiant, so that she can bear witness to God's love in the world."

"The Lord's call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a 'cage' or a burden to be borne," the pope said.

On the contrary, it is God extending a loving invitation to be part of a great undertaking, opening "before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch."

"God in fact desires that our lives not become banal and predictable, imprisoned by daily routine, or unresponsive before decisions that could give it meaning," he said. "The Lord does not want us to live from day to day, thinking that nothing is worth fighting for, slowly losing our desire to set out on new and exciting paths."

But embracing God's invitation to be part of something greater demands the courage to risk making a decision, just as the first disciples did when they "immediately left their nets and followed him," he said.

"Responding to the Lord's call involves putting ourselves on the line and facing a great challenge. It means being ready to leave behind whatever would keep us tied to our little boat and prevent us from making a definitive choice."

People are called to be bold and decisive in seeking God's plan for their lives, looking out onto the vast "ocean" of vocations, he said.

In order to help people better discern their vocation, the pope asked the church to provide young people with special opportunities for listening and discernment, a renewed commitment to youth ministry and the promotion of vocations through prayer, reflecting on God's word, eucharistic adoration and spiritual accompaniment.  

Pope Francis urged everyone, especially young people, to not be "deaf to the Lord's call."

"If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyzes us before the great heights to which the Lord points us."

"Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boat behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey," he said.

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Contributing to this story was Liam McIntyre in Rome.

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's message in English can be found here:

The text of the pope's message in Spanish can be found here:


Benedictine abbot leads pope, curial officials in Lenten retreat

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media via Reuters

Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Gianni leads Pope Francis' Lenten retreat for the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy, March 10, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media via Reuters) See POPE-LENT-RETREAT-ABBOT March 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis asked 50-year-old Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Gianni to lead his Lenten retreat, the abbot said he told the pope he felt "very inadequate."

"The pope responded to me that that was a great precondition for doing it well," the abbot of Florence's Abbey of San Miniato al Monte told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis and 64 members of the Roman Curia left the Vatican March 10 and were driven out to the Pauline Fathers' retreat house in Ariccia, about 20 miles south of Rome, for the retreat, which was to run through March 15.

Before leaving the Vatican, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square and asked them to remember in prayer him and his collaborators from the Curia.

During the retreat, Abbot Gianni was scheduled to give 10 meditations. Most of the rest of the time, the pope and curial officials were to spend in silence. They would celebrate Mass together each morning and end the day with eucharistic adoration.

Pope Francis met Abbot Gianni in 2015 when the Benedictine helped organize the national pastoral convention of the Catholic Church in Italy, and Pope Francis gave several major talks there.

For the theme of the Lenten retreat, the abbot chose a verse,  "The city of ardent desires," from the late poet Mario Luzi, as well as ideas from Giorgio La Pira, a former mayor of Florence whose sainthood cause is underway.

Abbot Gianni told L'Osservatore that by combining Luzi and La Pira with the teaching of Pope Francis in "The Joy of the Gospel," he planned to focus on the Christian vocation to transform cities and other earthly realities into places where people would experience God and God's blessings.

It is not unlike what Benedictine monasteries are called to do, he said. The monks are dedicated to "witnessing love for time, the care of spaces, diligence in work, fraternal life and welcome."

Everyone in the church, "from the pope on down," is called to ignite "ardent desires" -- holy desires and a longing for virtue -- in cities, towns and communities, he said.

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