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Full text: Pope Francis’ address at an interreligious meeting in the Plain of Ur

Ur, Iraq, Mar 6, 2021 / 03:25 am (CNA).- Here is the full prepared text of Pope Francis’ address at an interreligious meeting, delivered March 6, 2021, in the Plain of Ur, Iraq.

Dear brothers and sisters, This blessed place brings us back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions. Here, where Abraham our father lived, we seem to have returned home. It was here that Abraham heard God’s call; it was from here that he set out on a journey that would change history. We are the fruits of that call and that journey. God asked Abraham to raise his eyes to heaven and to count its stars (cf. Gen 15:5). In those stars, he saw the promise of his descendants; he saw us. Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth.

1. We look up to heaven. Thousands of years later, as we look up to the same sky, those same stars appear. They illumine the darkest nights because they shine together. Heaven thus imparts a message of unity: the Almighty above invites us never to separate ourselves from our neighbors. The otherness of God points us towards others, towards our brothers and sisters. Yet if we want to preserve fraternity, we must not lose sight of heaven. May we -- the descendants of Abraham and the representatives of different religions -- sense that, above all, we have this role: to help our brothers and sisters to raise their eyes and prayers to heaven. We all need this because we are not self-sufficient. Man is not omnipotent; we cannot make it on our own. If we exclude God, we end up worshiping the things of this earth. Worldly goods, which lead so many people to be unconcerned with God and others, are not the reason why we journey on earth. We raise our eyes to heaven in order to raise ourselves from the depths of our vanity; we serve God in order to be set free from enslavement to our egos, because God urges us to love. This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbor. In today’s world, which often forgets or presents distorted images of the Most High, believers are called to bear witness to his goodness, to show his paternity through our fraternity.

From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters. Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion. We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings. Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred! Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country. All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered. In particular, I would like to mention the Yazidi community, which has mourned the deaths of many men and witnessed thousands of women, girls and children kidnapped, sold as slaves, subjected to physical violence and forced conversions. Today, let us pray for those who have endured these sufferings, for those who are still dispersed and abducted, that they may soon return home. And let us pray that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion will everywhere be recognized and  respected; these are fundamental rights, because they make us free to contemplate the heaven for which we were created.

When terrorism invaded the north of this beloved country, it wantonly destroyed part of its magnificent religious heritage, including the churches, monasteries and places of worship of various communities. Yet, even at that dark time, some stars kept shining. I think of the young Muslim volunteers of Mosul, who helped to repair churches and monasteries, building fraternal friendships on the rubble of hatred, and those Christians and Muslims who today are restoring mosques and churches together. Professor Ali Thajeel spoke too of the return of pilgrims to this city. It is important to make pilgrimages to holy places, for it is the most beautiful sign on earth of our yearning for heaven. To love and protect holy places, therefore, is an existential necessity, in memory of our father Abraham, who in various places raised to heaven altars of the Lord (cf. Gen 12:7.8; 13:18; 22:9). May the great Patriarch help us to make our respective sacred places oases of peace and encounter for all! By his fidelity to God, Abraham became a blessing for all peoples (cf. Gen 12:3); may our presence here today, in his footsteps, be a sign of blessing and hope for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the whole world. Heaven has not grown weary of the earth: God loves every people, every one of his daughters and sons! Let us never tire of looking up to heaven, of looking up to those same stars that, in his day, our father Abraham contemplated.



2. We journey on earth. For Abraham, looking up to heaven, rather than being a distraction, was an incentive to journey on earth, to set out on a path that, through his descendants, would lead to every time and place. It all started from here, with the Lord who brought him forth from Ur (cf. Gen 15:7). His was a journey outwards, one that involved sacrifices. Abraham had to leave his land, home and family. Yet by giving up his own family, he became the father of a family of peoples. Something similar also happens to us: on our own journey, we are called to leave behind those ties and attachments that, by keeping us enclosed in our own groups, prevent us from welcoming God’s boundless love and from seeing others as our brothers and sisters. We need to move beyond ourselves, because we need one another. The pandemic has made us realize that “no one is saved alone” (Fratelli tutti, 54). Still, the temptation to withdraw from others is never-ending, yet at the same time we know that “the notion of ‘every man for himself’ will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic” (ibid., 36). Amid the tempests we are currently experiencing, such isolation will not save us. Nor will an arms race or the erection of walls that will only make us all the more distant and aggressive. Nor the idolatry of money, for it closes us in on ourselves and creates chasms of inequality that engulf humanity. Nor can we be saved by consumerism, which numbs the mind and deadens the heart.

The way that heaven points out for our journey is another: the way of peace. It demands, especially amid the tempest, that we row together on the same side. It is shameful that, while all of us have suffered from the crisis of the pandemic, especially here, where conflicts have caused so much suffering, anyone should be concerned simply for his own affairs. There will be no peace without sharing and acceptance, without a justice that ensures equity and advancement for all, beginning with those most vulnerable. There will be no peace unless peoples extend a hand to other peoples. There will be no peace as long as we see others as them and not us. There will be no peace as long as our alliances are against others, for alliances of some against others only increase divisions. Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity. Let us ask for this in praying for the whole Middle East. Here I think especially of neighboring war-torn Syria.

The Patriarch Abraham, who today brings us together in unity, was a prophet of the Most High. An ancient prophecy says that the peoples “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Is 2:4). This prophecy has not been fulfilled; on the contrary, swords and spears have turned into missiles and bombs. From where, then, can the journey of peace begin? From the decision not to have enemies. Anyone with the courage to look at the stars, anyone who believes in God, has no enemies to fight. He or she has only one enemy to face, an enemy that stands at the door of the heart and knocks to enter. That enemy is hatred. While some try to have enemies more than to be friends, while many seek their own profit at the expense of others, those who look at the stars of the promise, those who follow the ways of God, cannot be against someone, but for everyone. They cannot justify any form of imposition, oppression and abuse of power; they cannot adopt an attitude of belligerence.

Dear friends, is all this possible? Father Abraham, who was able to hope against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18), encourages us. Throughout history, we have frequently pursued goals that are overly worldly and journeyed on our own, but with the help of God, we can change for the better. It is up to us, today’s humanity, especially those of us, believers of all religions, to turn instruments of hatred into instruments of peace. It is up to us to appeal firmly to the leaders of nations to make the increasing proliferation of arms give way to the distribution of food for all. It is up to us to silence mutual accusations in order to make heard the cry of the oppressed and discarded in our world: all too many people lack food, medicine, education, rights and dignity! It is up to us to shed light on the shady maneuvers that revolve around money and to demand that money not end up always and only reinforcing the unbridled luxury of a few. It is up to us preserve our common home from our predatory aims. It is up to us to remind the world that human life has value for what it is and not for what it has. That the lives of the unborn, the elderly, migrants and men and women, whatever the colour of their skin or their nationality, are always sacred and count as much as the lives of everyone else! It is up to us to have the courage to lift up our eyes and look at the stars, the stars that our father Abraham saw, the stars of the promise.



The journey of Abraham was a blessing of peace. Yet it was not easy: he had to face struggles and unforeseen events. We too have a rough journey ahead, but like the great Patriarch, we need to take concrete steps, to set out and seek the face of others, to share memories, gazes and silences, stories and experiences. I was struck by the testimony of Dawood and Hasan, a Christian and a Muslim who, undaunted by the differences between them, studied and worked together. Together they built the future and realized that they are brothers. In order to move forward, we too need to achieve something good and something concrete together. This is the way, especially for young people, who must not see their dreams cut short by the conflicts of the past! It is urgent to teach them fraternity, to teach them to look at the stars. This is a real emergency; it will be the most effective vaccine for a future of peace. For you, dear young people, are our present and our future!

Only with others can the wounds of the past be healed. Rafah told us of the heroic example of Najy, from the Sabean Mandean community, who lost his life in an attempt to save the family of his Muslim neighbor. How many people here, amid the silence and indifference of the world, have embarked upon journeys of fraternity! Rafah also told us of the unspeakable sufferings of the war that forced many to abandon home and country in search of a future for their children. Thank you, Rafah, for having shared with us your firm determination to stay here, in the land of your fathers. May those who were unable to do so, and had to flee, find a kindly welcome, befitting those who are vulnerable and suffering.

It was precisely through hospitality, a distinctive feature of these lands, that Abraham was visited by God and given the gift of a son, when it seemed that all hope was past (cf. Gen 18:1-10). Brothers and sisters of different religions, here we find ourselves at home, and from here, together, we wish to commit ourselves to fulfilling God’s dream that the human family may become hospitable and welcoming to all his children; that looking up to the same heaven, it will journey in peace on the same earth. 

Photographs in text courtesy of Vatican Media.

Pope Francis’ appeals for interreligious harmony at birthplace of Abraham

CNA Staff, Mar 6, 2021 / 03:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Saturday appealed for harmony among the followers of the world’s major monotheistic religions at an interreligious meeting in the Plain of Ur, southern Iraq.

Speaking at the ancient site, believed to be the birthplace of Abraham, the pope emphasized the shared heritage of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“From this place, where faith was born, from the land of our father Abraham, let us affirm that God is merciful and that the greatest blasphemy is to profane his name by hating our brothers and sisters,” he said March 6.

“Hostility, extremism and violence are not born of a religious heart: they are betrayals of religion. We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion; indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings.”



The Bible names Abraham’s birthplace as Ur Kaśdim (translated as Ur of the Chaldeans), leading scholars to identify the southern Iraqi city as the location of his birth. 

“This blessed place brings us back to our origins, to the sources of God’s work, to the birth of our religions. Here, where Abraham our father lived, we seem to have returned home,” the pope said, seated in a white chair on a windswept stage.

“It was here that Abraham heard God’s call; it was from here that he set out on a journey that would change history. We are the fruits of that call and that journey. God asked Abraham to raise his eyes to heaven and to count its stars. In those stars, he saw the promise of his descendants; he saw us.”

“Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham by doing as he did: we look up to heaven and we journey on earth.”

Ur was once a thriving Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia. The partially restored Ziggurat of Ur, visible during the pope’s live-streamed address, testifies to its storied history. The temple was built in the 21st century BC in honor of the Sumerian moon god and its ruins were excavated from the 1920s onwards.

The interreligious meeting began at 11:10 a.m. local time with an opening song. Readings from the Book of Genesis and the Koran were then sung. 

Four people offered their testimonies: two young people, a female adherent of Mandaeism, a monotheistic Gnostic religion native to southern Mesopotamia, and a Shiite Muslim professor.

The two youths -- Dawood Ara, a Christian, and Hasan Salim, a Muslim -- work together part-time at a clothing store in Basra to fund their studies.

“Although Dawood and me are not of the same religion, our story shows that we can work together and that we can be friends,” Salim said.

Rafah Husein Baher, an Iraqi Sabean Mandean, told the story of her co-religionist Najy, who lost his life trying to save his Muslim neighbor’s family.



Ali Zghair Thajeel, a professor at the University of Nassiriya, spoke of his efforts to promote pilgrimages to Ur, a city “mentioned in the Holy Bible, the Holy Koran and most of the Divine books.” 

Pope Francis then spoke, focusing on the importance of fraternity among “the descendants of Abraham.”

He said: “May we -- the descendants of Abraham and the representatives of different religions -- sense that, above all, we have this role: to help our brothers and sisters to raise their eyes and prayers to heaven.”

He continued: “We raise our eyes to heaven in order to raise ourselves from the depths of our vanity; we serve God in order to be set free from enslavement to our egos, because God urges us to love. This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbor.”

In visiting Ur, Pope Francis fulfilled a dream of Pope John Paul II, who hoped to mark the turn of the millennium with a journey “in the footsteps of Abraham.” But the Polish pope was unable to travel to Ur.

In his address, Francis highlighted examples of interreligious cooperation amid the turbulence of 21st-century Iraq. 



He said: “When terrorism invaded the north of this beloved country, it wantonly destroyed part of its magnificent religious heritage, including the churches, monasteries and places of worship of various communities.” 

“Yet, even at that dark time, some stars kept shining. I think of the young Muslim volunteers of Mosul, who helped to repair churches and monasteries, building fraternal friendships on the rubble of hatred, and those Christians and Muslims who today are restoring mosques and churches together.” 

The pope described Abraham’s life story as a “journey outwards.” He said that all believers were required to take a similar path.

Quoting from his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, he said: “Still, the temptation to withdraw from others is never-ending, yet at the same time we know that ‘the notion of “every man for himself” will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic.’”  

“Amid the tempests we are currently experiencing, such isolation will not save us. Nor will an arms race or the erection of walls that will only make us all the more distant and aggressive. Nor the idolatry of money, for it closes us in on ourselves and creates chasms of inequality that engulf humanity. Nor can we be saved by consumerism, which numbs the mind and deadens the heart.”



The pope continued: “There will be no peace unless peoples extend a hand to other peoples. There will be no peace as long as we see others as them and not us. There will be no peace as long as our alliances are against others, for alliances of some against others only increase divisions.” 

“Peace does not demand winners or losers, but rather brothers and sisters who, for all the misunderstandings and hurts of the past, are journeying from conflict to unity. Let us ask for this in praying for the whole Middle East. Here I think especially of neighboring war-torn Syria.”

Pope Francis said that people who believe in God have “no enemies to fight” apart from the “enemy that stands at the door of the heart and knocks to enter.” 

“That enemy is hatred,” he said.

He added: “It is up to us, today’s humanity, especially those of us, believers of all religions, to turn instruments of hatred into instruments of peace. It is up to us to appeal firmly to the leaders of nations to make the increasing proliferation of arms give way to the distribution of food for all.” 

“It is up to us to silence mutual accusations in order to make heard the cry of the oppressed and discarded in our world: all too many people lack food, medicine, education, rights and dignity!” 

“It is up to us to shed light on the shady maneuvers that revolve around money and to demand that money not end up always and only reinforcing the unbridled luxury of a few.”

Referring to the speeches that preceded his, Pope Francis said: “I was struck by the testimony of Dawood and Hasan, a Christian and a Muslim who, undaunted by the differences between them, studied and worked together. Together they built the future and realized that they are brothers.”

“In order to move forward, we too need to achieve something good and something concrete together. This is the way, especially for young people, who must not see their dreams cut short by the conflicts of the past!”

The pope continued: “Only with others can the wounds of the past be healed. Rafah told us of the heroic example of Najy, from the Sabean Mandean community, who lost his life in an attempt to save the family of his Muslim neighbor. How many people here, amid the silence and indifference of the world, have embarked upon journeys of fraternity!”



At the end of the interreligious meeting, those present recited a “Prayer of the Children of Abraham.” 

It read: “Almighty God, our Creator, you love our human family and every work of your hands: As children of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with other believers and all persons of good will, we thank you for having given us Abraham, a distinguished son of this noble and beloved country, to be our common father in faith.”

“We thank you for his example as a man of faith, who obeyed you completely, left behind his family, his tribe and his native land, and set out for a land that he knew not. We thank you too, for the example of courage, resilience, strength of spirit, generosity and hospitality set for us by our common father in faith.”

“We thank you in a special way for his heroic faith, shown by his readiness even to sacrifice his son in obedience to your command. We know that this was an extreme test, yet one from which he emerged victorious, since he trusted unreservedly in you, who are merciful and always offer the possibility of beginning anew.”

“We thank you because, in blessing our father Abraham, you made him a blessing for all peoples. We ask you, the God of our father Abraham and our God, to grant us a strong faith, a faith that abounds in good works, a faith that opens our hearts to you and to all our brothers and sisters; and a boundless hope capable of discerning in every situation your fidelity to your promises.”

“Make each of us a witness of your loving care for all, particularly refugees and the displaced, widows and orphans, the poor and the infirm. Open our hearts to mutual forgiveness and in this way make us instruments of reconciliation, builders of a more just and fraternal society.”

“Welcome into your abode of peace and light all those who have died, particularly the victims of violence and war. Assist the authorities in the effort to seek and find the victims of kidnapping and in a special way to protect women and children.”

“Help us to care for the earth, our common home, which in your goodness and generosity you have given to all of us. Guide our hands in the work of rebuilding this country, and grant us the strength needed to help those forced to leave behind their homes and lands, enabling them to return in security and dignity, and to embark upon a new, serene and prosperous life. Amen.”

After a final song and group photo with religious leaders, the pope returned to Nassiriya Airport for a flight back to Baghdad, which was expected to land at 13.20 local time.

Pope Francis makes landmark visit to Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

CNA Staff, Mar 6, 2021 / 01:40 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Saturday made a landmark visit to the home of Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See press office, said March 6 that the two men spoke for almost an hour during a private meeting at al-Sistani’s residence in Najaf, central Iraq.

“During the courtesy visit, which lasted about 45 minutes, the Holy Father stressed the importance of cooperation and friendship between religious communities for contributing -- through the cultivation of mutual respect and dialogue -- to the good of Iraq, the region and the entire human family,” Bruni said.

The meeting -- a milestone in relations between the Catholic Church and Shiite Islam -- came on the second day of the pope’s historic visit to Iraq.

Francis stayed overnight at the apostolic nunciature in Baghdad. He left the residence early on Saturday morning, traveling by car to Baghdad International Airport.

He took an Iraqi Airways flight to Najaf, the third holiest city of Shiite Islam after Mecca and Medina. He was welcomed by Najaf province governor Louay al-Yasiri at Najaf Airport.



He then traveled by car to the 90-year-old al-Sistani’s modest residence. He was greeted at the entrance by the Grand Ayatollah’s son, Mohammed Rida, who led him to the room where his father holds private conversations with visitors.



The Shiite leader is believed to have played a critical role in the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq. As Iraqi forces faced Islamic State fighters in 2017, al-Sistani urged all Iraqi citizens to take arms to defend the country, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. Thousands of volunteers responded to the call and formed the Popular Mobilization Forces, playing a critical role in stopping the Islamic State.

Bruni said: “The meeting was an occasion for the Pope to thank Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani for speaking up -- together with the Shiite community -- in defense of those most vulnerable and persecuted amid the violence and great hardships of recent years, and for affirming the sacredness of human life and the importance of the unity of the Iraqi people.”



After the private meeting and an official photo, the pope returned to Najaf Airport. He boarded a plane to Nassiriya, a city along the banks of the Euphrates River. He was welcomed by Chaldean Archbishop Habib Jajou of Basra and Bishop Firas Dardar, leader of the Syriac Patriarchal Exarchate of Basra and the Gulf. Civil and religious authorities were also present.

He then traveled by car to the Plain of Ur for an interreligious meeting.

“In taking leave of the Grand Ayatollah, the Holy Father stated that he continues to pray that God, the Creator of all, will grant a future of peace and fraternity for the beloved land of Iraq, for the Middle East and for the whole world,” Bruni said.

Medal of Honor chaplain Fr Emil Kapaun's body identified, as sainthood inquiry continues

Denver Newsroom, Mar 5, 2021 / 05:27 pm (CNA).- Department of Defense investigators have identified the remains of U.S. Army chaplain and Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun among the unknown Korean War soldiers buried in a Hawaiian cemetery, much to the surprise and joy of the priest’s relatives and devotees in his home state of Kansas.
 
“I just hope everybody is as elated as we are. It’s awesome to know that Fr. Kapaun will be coming home after 70 years,” Fr. John Hotze of the Diocese of Wichita told CNA March 5. 
 
Ray Kapaun, the priest’s nephew, reflected on the news.
 
“There’s no words that can explain what the feelings are right now,” he said, according to KWCH News.
 
“I know there’s been a lot of miracles that have been attributed to him, or are in the investigation of being attributed to him, but I think everyone sees this as a miracle,” Ray said. “Because this is so unexpected. I mean, my family, we never thought we’d see this in our lifetime.”
 
The priest had been a chaplain during the Second World War and became known for his service in the Korean War with the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment. After he was taken prisoner, he served and ministered to other soldiers in a prison camp, where he died May 23, 1951.
 
The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has determined that the priest’s remains were among unidentified soldiers buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, the Wichita diocese said March 4. Many soldiers’ remains had been moved there from North Korea in the 1950s and again in the 1990s.
 
Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita welcomed the discovery.
 
“It was a joyful and exciting surprise for the Diocese of Wichita that Fr. Kapaun’s mortal remains were recovered after so many years and we continue to look forward to his process of canonization in the future,” said the bishop.
 
Kapaun’s surviving family is helping to plan the transport of his remains and his final resting place.
 
Father Hotze, who serves as the episcopal delegate for Kapaun’s beatification cause, said the news of the identification of the priest’s remains was “easily one of the last things I expected.”
 
“We’ve always hoped that his remains would be found. It is something that has been on the back burner for everybody for so long. It is great news,” he said.

He reported that the chaplain’s cause for Catholic sainthood is in “a waiting phase” due to delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
In 1993, Kapaun was named a “Servant of God,” the first step on the way to being declared a saint. To be declared “venerable” is the second step in the canonization process. A key meeting regarding his case had been scheduled at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in March 2020, but that meeting was postponed due to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy.
 
Hotze had high praise for the army chaplain, describing him as “an ordinary person who was able to do extraordinary things in service to his fellow men and women and ultimately that meant in service to God.”
 
“And that’s how he gave his life,” he said. “He truly followed the example of Christ. You can see Christ’s life, passion and death all rolled up into Fr. Kapaun.”
 
Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas in 1916. He came of age during the Great Depression. He was ordained a priest in 1940 and began ministry as a parish priest in his hometown.
 
During World War II Kapaun would offer the sacraments at the nearby Harrington Army Air Field until he became a full-time army chaplain in 1944. He was stationed in India and Burma for the duration of the war. There, he ministered to soldiers and served his unit with a selfless attitude.
 
He also gained a reputation for courage. After Kapaun’s jeep had been damaged, he would often ride his bicycle to meet soldiers even at the front lines. He would follow the sound of gunshots to find them.
 
After World War II ended, Kapaun studied history and education at the Catholic University of America. He returned home for a brief time as pastor of his boyhood parish and served at several other parishes. In 1948, the United States issued a call for military chaplains to return to service. Kapaun responded. He was then sent to Texas, Washington, and Japan before deployment to Korea.
 
During the Battle of Unsan in November 1950, Kapaun worked tirelessly to comfort the suffering and retrieve the wounded from the battlefield. One of the soldiers he retrieved was a wounded Chinese soldier, who helped him negotiate a surrender after he was surrounded by enemy troops. Kapaun was taken captive as a prisoner of war.
 
Even then, he helped others. Kapaun carried a wounded American prisoner who could not walk some 30 miles to a prison camp, though the soldier weighed 20 pounds more than the priest. The man could have been killed by enemy soldiers if he could not keep up with the march.
 
The priest was taken to prison camp number five in Pyoktong, a bombed-out village that served as a detainment center. The soldiers at the camp were severely mistreated and suffered from malnourishment, dysentery, and a lack of warm clothing to counter an extremely cold winter. Kapaun would do all he could for the soldiers. He would wash their soiled clothes, retrieve fresh water, and attend to their wounds.
 
The priest helped his fellow prisoners solve problems and keep up morale. He would stay up at night to write letters home on behalf of wounded soldiers. Many returned prisoners of war said his efforts helped them to survive in a harsh winter. For those who did not survive, the priest helped to bury their corpses.
 
Fr. Kapaun would celebrate the sacraments for his fellow prisoners, hear their confessions, and say Mass. On Easter Sunday 1951, about two months before his death, he held a sunrise service for prisoners.
 
When he developed pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, the chaplain was denied medical treatment, which led to his death.
 
For his bravery at Unsan, Kapaun was posthumously bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor in a 2013 ceremony under President Barack Obama. The medal is the United States’ highest military award for bravery.
 
While the priest’s body was believed to have been buried in a mass grave on the Yalu River near the North Korea-China border, this was not the case. Instead, his remains had been returned to the U.S. in the 1950s along with hundreds of other unidentified soldiers, Hotze told CNA. He believes inquiry into his possible canonization led to information that Hotze helped lead to the identification of the chaplain’s remains.
 
“He was buried elsewhere in the prison camp,” said Hotze. “His remains were actually returned to the U.S. right after the Korean War, around 1954.”
 
A set of remains had initially been mislabeled as Fr. Kapaun’s, but investigators determined they instead belonged to a younger man in his late teens or early 20s, rather than to a 35-year-old priest. Further identification was difficult, in part to a lack of technology.
 
“He was interred at the national cemetery, as were many others, as an unknown soldier,” Hotze said. “Fortunately, the Department of Defense still actively tries to identify the remains of these unknown soldiers.”
 
Those involved in Kapaun’s canonization cause were told it could be a matter of time to identify his remains if they were indeed at the cemetery.
 
“And that’s exactly what happened,” said Hotze. “We’re thrilled.”
 
Every June pilgrims march from Wichita to Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen. They make the 60-mile walk in commemoration of the priest and his march to the prison camps.
 
“People are inspired by what he was able to do,” Hotze said. “He was born shortly before the depression. He grew up during the depression as a poor Kansas farmer. The family had nothing. And he was able to make great things happen with nothing.”
 
“He used what he had, and put it in service to God and in service to others. I think he’s a perfect example for each and every one of us who strives to be a saint,” he said. “We can look at his example and realize even if we are poor, even if we are destitute, even if we have nothing in our own lives, we can still be a saintly person.”
 
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who had introduced legislation to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor, also commented on the identification of the priest’s remains.
 
“I am glad that his family has finally been granted closure after Father Kapaun’s selfless service to our nation,” said Moran, according to the Wichita Eagle newspaper.

States consider restrictions on gender transitioning, transgender participation in girls’ sports

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2021 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Lawmakers in Mississippi and Alabama have been debating bills concerning children who identify as transgender.

The governor of Mississippi pledges to sign a bill that would prohibit males who identify as females from participating on girls’ sports teams.

“I will sign our bill to protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities,” said Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Twitter on March 4. 

“It’s crazy we have to address it, but the Biden (executive order) forced the issue,” he added. “Adults? That’s on them. But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong.” President Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order stated that his administration will interpret federal civil rights law to protect sexual orientation and gender identity, a move critics warned would have broad implications in a number of areas including schools and sports.

The Mississippi legislature voted overwhelmingly--81 to 28 in the state House and 34-9 in the state Senate--to pass the “Mississippi Fairness Act.” Eight Democratic House representatives joined 73 Republicans to vote for the bill, while the Senate vote fell along party lines with all “yea” votes coming from Republicans.  

The Mississippi Fairness Act would “require any public school, public institution of higher learning or institution of higher learning that is a member of the NCAA, NAIA or NJCCA to designate its athletic teams or sports according to biological sex; to provide protection for any school or institution of higher education that maintains separate athletic teams or sport for students of the female sex; to create private causes of action; and for related purposes.” 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 25 states have considered bills restricting athletes who identify as transgender from competing on a sports team aligned with their gender identity. 

Only one state, Idaho, has so far signed a bill restricting athletes identifying as transgender from competing with cisgender female athletes. The law has yet to go into effect and has been stalled in the courts.

Meanwhile in the neighboring state of Alabama, the state senate voted to make it a felony to provide a minor with puberty-blocking drugs, hormone therapy, or surgery to better mimic their chosen gender. 

A child with a diagnosed disorder of sexual development, such as a chromosomal abnormality, is exempt from the law. 

The Alabama Senate voted 23-4 to move the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” to the state House of Representatives. The vote fell along party lines, with all Democrats voting against and all Republicans voting in favor of the bill. 

The bill also would make it illegal for school employees, including teachers, principals, nurses, and counselors, to “encourage or coerce a minor to withhold from the minor’s parent or legal guardian the fact that the minor’s perception of his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex,” or “withhold from a minor’s parent or guardian information related to a minor’s perception that his or her gender or sex is inconsistent with his or her sex.” 

Actors say they have not been paid for their work on 'Roe v. Wade' film

Denver Newsroom, Mar 5, 2021 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- Several actors who worked on the film “Roe v. Wade” claim they are still waiting to be paid for their work on the movie, despite shooting their scenes over two years ago.

The film’s co-director and co-producer told CNA that the payment issue is resolved on their end, and they are waiting for the actors union to pay the actors using a large deposit the filmmakers placed with the union.

“Roe v. Wade,” a film about the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court decision on abortion, premiered last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Susan LaBrecque, a Mississippi-based actor with a small speaking role in the movie, told CNA that she has yet to be paid for her work, despite her scenes being filmed over two days in New Orleans during July 2018.

Members of the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, normally can expect their payment to arrive within 30-45 days of filming, LaBrecque said.

Because the current payments are delayed, there will be late fees applied by the union, she noted. She said she knows of several other actors in the film— all with similarly small roles— who have not gotten their paychecks.

She said to her, it feels wrong that the film premiered before everyone involved was compensated for the work they put into it. 

"It feels wrong to tell [such] a moral story in a way, and have something in the background that's not morally correct," LaBrecque told CNA.

Cathy Allyn, co-director and producer of the movie, told CNA that they had placed a $200,000 deposit with SAG to cover any missed payments or other expenses, which is common practice in the film industry.

The missing payments were not caught until the filmmakers completed post-production accounting, at which point it was too late for them to hire a payroll company, Allyn asserted.

Allyn said she signed paperwork “a few weeks ago” to allow SAG to release their deposit to a payroll company, which will pay the actors.

She said the payment issues were likely due to "incomplete paperwork,” that she had apologized to the actors profusely, and that she and her co-producer Nick Loeb have no intention of leaving cast members “hanging.”

She said the filmmakers went through the “appropriate legal avenues” with SAG, and that COVID-19 likely contributed to the delay in the payments.

SAG did not respond by press time Friday to CNA’s request for comment, but released a statement to Los Angeles Magazine on the matter March 3.

“We were finally able to secure a release on the producer’s deposit [from] February 10. We are processing the funds with a payroll company so we can get payments out to performers as quickly as possible,” the statement reads.

“This does not cover all of the claims and we hope that the producer will fulfill its obligations and fully pay all talent,” it concluded.

LaBrecque pushed back on Allyn’s assertion that the actors know what they are owed, stating that she does not have “any idea how much the fees are, or when they will be paid.”

Actors Sherri Eakin and Brent Phillip Henry confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that they, too, have yet to be compensated. They told THR that they have also not yet been given a payment schedule.

CNA encouraged other actors with the same problem to reach out voluntarily, but did not receive any additional reports by press time.

“Roe v. Wade” is set to be available in April on Amazon Prime and iTunes. Among its executive producers is Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece.

Loeb, a businessman-turned-filmmaker and actor, co-directed, co-produced, and starred in “Roe v. Wade.” He plays the part of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a prolific abortion doctor who later converted to Christianity and became pro-life.

In a Feb. 23 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Loeb said despite the film’s subject matter, it is not a “conservative,” “religious,” or even a “pro-life” film.

Loeb said not all the actors in the film are pro-life, but at least one of the actors— whom he declined to name— converted from pro-choice views to pro-life over the course of filmmaking.

“What we tried to do is really just lay out the facts of how Roe v. Wade came to be and how it was decided. People can take one view or another. I've had a lot of people who think it's in the middle,” he commented to The Hollywood Reporter.

Still, Loeb himself is pro-life and the personal journey of Loeb’s character, Nathanson, is one of pro-life conversion.

“Why some folks may think it's a conservative film or why it aligns with those views is because the protagonist actually converts. He starts off pro-choice and becomes pro-life through his journey. It's a true story,” Loeb commented.

Nathanson personally performed an estimated 5,000 abortions and oversaw tens of thousands more, including one on his own pregnant girlfriend in the 1960s.

Nathanson was previously a strong proponent of legalized abortion, and has been accused of inflating statistics on illegal abortions in the U.S. In 1969, he helped to found the lobbying organization now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.

He left the practice of abortion in the early 1970s, and became a Christian and a pro-life activist until his death in 2011.

Catholic scholars: Covid vaccines can be received 'without fear of moral culpability' for abortion

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2021 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- A statement by pro-life, Catholic scholars published Friday says that the four major COVID-19 vaccines are not only acceptable to use, but also are themselves morally equivalent.

"While there is a technical causal linkage between each of the current vaccines and prior abortions of human persons, we are all agreed, that connection does not mean that vaccine use contributes to the evil of abortion or shows disrespect for the remains of unborn human beings. Accordingly, Catholics, and indeed, all persons of good will who embrace a culture of life for the whole human family, born and unborn, can use these vaccines without fear of moral culpability," reads a statement by several Catholic ethicists published March 5.

The statement adds: “There appears to us to be no real distinction between the vaccines in terms of their connection to an abortion many decades ago, and thus the moral starting point is one of equivalence.”
 
The eight signers of the statement are Father Thomas Joseph White, O.P., professor of systematic theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas; Father Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., professor of biology and theology at Providence College; Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame; Dr. Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University; Dr. Maureen Condic, associate professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah; Father Kevin Flannery, S.J., emeritus professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Christopher Tollefsen, professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina; and Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
 
The scholars spoke in reference to the four major COVID-19 vaccines: those produced by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Oxford University/AstraZeneca.
 
In the statement, they explored the most controversial ethical aspect of the major COVID-19 vaccines—their connection to cell lines derived from an aborted baby.
 
The HEK-293 cell line is derived from a baby aborted in the 1970s. It is widely used in vaccine production and testing, especially in common vaccines such as those for measles and rubella.
 
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had a remote connection to the HEK-293 cell line in the early phases of design—relying upon previous research that utilized the cell line—they were not produced with the cell line, as were the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines. However, some of the testing for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines used the HEK-293 cell line.
 
Thus, some pro-life advocates and the U.S. bishops’ conference have argued that while it may be morally licit for Catholics to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they should try to receive a vaccine with a less direct connection to abortion, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
 
Furthermore, the USCCB has said that it is acceptable for Catholics to refuse a COVID vaccine out of conscience, if they believe that doing so has an impermissible link to abortion.
 
Bishops themselves have differed in their statements on the vaccines, with some echoing the USCCB’s call preferring one vaccine to another. Others, such as Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, have said Catholics could receive any of the vaccines without hesitation. The Bishop of Bismarck, meanwhile, said that Catholics should refuse the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its connection to abortion.
 
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in December that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines connected to abortions, if no ethical alternative is available.
 
Meanwhile, on Friday, the Catholic scholars stated that “[t]hose who have special reasons to take the J&J [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine should not, we believe, be led to think that they are choosing something that in other ways is more morally tainted than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.”
 
Their statement could appear to diverge from that of the USCCB, which said that Catholics should prefer a vaccine with a more remote connection to abortion if possible. The USCCB’s doctrine chair, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of South Bend, has clarified that “What’s most important is that people get vaccinated,” in a March 4 video message.
 
The connection of all four vaccine candidates to abortions is extremely remote—“a technical causal linkage,” the scholars wrote—and Catholics receiving any of those vaccines is not “in any way endorsing or contributing to the practice of abortion.” On that particular matter, they affirmed their agreement with Bishop Rhoades.
 
Catholics “can use these vaccines without fear of moral culpability,” they stated, adding that there are “little if any moral reasons against accepting” one of the four COVID vaccines.
 
Furthermore, the HEK-293 cell line is connected to more public goods than many might realize, the scholars said. The cells are used to test processed foods, for testing in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, and “their use in biomedical research is ubiquitous,” they wrote.
 
The cell lines are not “body parts” of the aborted baby, but are rather “biological products that have been modified and reproduced many times over, and they do not retain the natural function of the tissue from which they were derived.”
 
The HEK-293 cell line does not rely upon continued abortions, but is continuously derived from the baby believed to have been aborted in the 1970s, they said. The baby was not aborted in order for its body to be used for medical research, they noted.
 
Pro-lifers might prefer one vaccine to another because of a perceived lack of connection to abortion, they said.
 
“Again, we agree with Bishop Rhoades that such a choice is a matter for their conscience. But we think it a mistake to say both that these vaccines are morally permissible to use and yet that some ought to be preferred to others,” they said.
 
Furthermore, one could make a prudential argument in favor of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine given that it is easier to store and transport and requires only one shot rather than two, as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require.
 
“Persons with access to these vaccines have strong moral reasons to take them: in doing so, they build up the herd immunity that will provide the greatest possible protection for the most vulnerable among us, including the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, some minority populations, and the many other seemingly random victims of severe COVD-19,” they stated.

“To be perfectly clear, we are not saying that people are justified in using and promoting these vaccines because the great goods they provide offset the evil of appropriating a prior wicked action. Rather, we believe that there is no such impermissible cooperation or appropriation here. The attenuated and remote connection to abortions performed decades ago and the absence of any incentive for future abortions offer little if any moral reasons against accepting this welcome advance of science.”

Tasmania poised to legalize euthanasia, assisted suicide

Hobart, Australia, Mar 5, 2021 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Australian island of Tasmania is expected to become the third Australian state to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, after a bill passed the lower house of the state’s parliament Thursday night.

The law would apply to people over 18 with an advanced, incurable, irreversible condition expected to cause death within six months, and patients can opt out of the decision at any time, the Australian Associated Press reported.

In a 16-6 vote March 4, the bill was passed by the House of Assembly. The governing Liberal Party members were given a conscience vote on the bill. All nine members of the opposition Australian Labor Party voted for the bill, as did both members of the Greens, who are crossbenchers.

Tasmanian lawmakers debated the bill, known as “End of Life Choices,” extensively this week. The state’s legislature has in the past rejected bills to legalize assisted suicide, most recently in 2013.

The bill will require approval from the parliament’s upper house before it can become law.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legal in Victoria since June 2019, and in December 2019 Western Australia passed a law allowing the practices, which is expected to take effect in mid-2021.

Australia is currently considering legalizing euthanasia nationwide.

One of the Tasmanian bill’s provisions states that medical practitioners who object to assisted suicide and euthanasia must provide the patient seeking it with the contact information for the state’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Commission. 

Anther provision would allow assisted suicide to be prescribed via telemedicine— a provision hotly debated in Tasmania’s parliament.

The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association told ABC News last year that they do not support the bill, or assisted suicide in general. "The bill as it stands is really physician-assisted suicide and we don't support that … we don't agree that a doctor should ever do any action with a primary purpose of ending a person's life," AMA Tasmania President Helen McArdle told the ABC.

Live and Die Well, a Tasmanian group that advocates for palliative care rather than assisted suicide, has argued against the bill on the grounds that it does not provide enough safeguards for the vulnerable.

New South Wales rejected such a bill in 2017, as did the national parliament in 2016.

The Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide in 1995, but the Australian parliament overturned the law two years later.

Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthaniasia.

The state of Victoria reported more than ten times the anticipated number of deaths from assisted suicide and euthanasia in its first legal year.

Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board reported 124 deaths by assisted suicide and euthanasia since June 19, 2019, when the legalization of the precedure took effect, The Catholic Weekly reported. There were a total of 231 permits issued for the procedure that year. The state’s premier had publicly predicted only “a dozen” deaths by assisted suicide in the first year.

Last month, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally-ill patients.

A study published by Australian Catholic University’s PM Glynn Institute revealed that the country only has 0.9 palliative care doctors per every 100,000 people. According to the ACU, health industry standards state there should be at least two doctors for this population.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.

Samaritanus bonus also addressed the pastoral care of Catholics who request euthanasia or assisted suicide, explaining that a priest and others should avoid any active or passive gesture which might signal approval for the action, including remaining until the act is performed.

Why Christians hope Pope Francis’ visit will bring a ‘reset’ for Iraq

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2021 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq is hoped to bring a “reset” for the country, said one U.S. religious freedom advocate who has visited the region multiple times in recent years.

“Iraq cannot continue the way that it is, and see good outcomes. So there has to be some adjustments,” said Nadine Maenza, a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in an interview with CNA on Friday.

“I’m hoping that the light being shown on Iraq, and on Christians in particular, by the pope coming—it’s such a beautiful moment of just saying these people have value, they belong in Iraq, we all need to figure out how we can build a better Iraq together—I just hope it does have a restart for the country,” she said.

Maenza has traveled to the region multiple times in the last two years, including a visit to Sinjar, home to the Yazidi religious minority, as well as Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where many Christians fled from ISIS in 2014.

She spoke to CNA at the outset of Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq, the first-ever visit of a pope to the country. From March 5-8, Pope Francis will meet with the country’s political and religious leaders, hoping to encourage the local church and foster interreligious dialogue.

On Friday, Pope Francis met with the country’s political and diplomatic leaders, as well as around 100 local Catholic leaders including Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph Younan and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako.

The pope addressed the Catholics at the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, where 48 people were martyred during a 2010 terrorist attack.

Christians in Iraq have been devastated by the U.S. invasion in 2003, the resulting sectarian violence, and the rise of ISIS in 2014. Their population has been steadily dwindling for decades, from around 1.5 million in 2003 to around 250,000 Christians in the country.

However, when ISIS swept across the region in 2014, many Christians fled into neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, taking refuge in and around the city of Erbil.

Maenza told CNA that Iraqi Christians are currently suffering from two chief problems: a lack of security and a lack of economic opportunity. She hoped Pope Francis’ visit would draw attention to these matters and help produce a solution.

Christians and Yazidis want to be involved in the decision-making about the future of the country, but they have not been given a seat at that table, she said.

“These people feel powerless,” Maenza said, noting their frustration that they don’t have a say in economic or security policy.

Iraq has resources, including the fifth largest oil reserves in the world, but the country is not able to even provide consistent electricity or water to its citizens, much less a sufficient number of jobs, she said.

After ISIS was defeated, many Christians in the country’s north have been unwilling or unable to return to their liberated towns on the Nineveh Plain or in Mosul. They still have serious security concerns, Maenza explained.

A number of militia units of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), as well as the country’s security forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Christian militias, are all active in the region, she said, yet many of their members do not hail from the local towns they occupy.

Maenza compared the situation to the “Wild West,” where any citizen traveling through the security checkpoints is subjected to a shakedown. Thus, many Christians who fled ISIS but who remain in Iraq have not yet returned to their homes because they don’t feel safe with the presence of the militias and security forces.

Christians need to be reminded that they are a part of Iraq’s future—which will hopefully be a fruit of Pope Francis’ trip, she said. “Diversity is a good thing,” Maenza said of the Sunni and Shia Muslims and the number of ethno-religious minorities that make up Iraq’s population.

Pope Francis on Friday used the metaphor of a complex carpet to describe the different Christian churches in the country.

“The different Churches present in Iraq, each with its age-old historical, liturgical and spiritual patrimony, are like so many individual coloured threads that, woven together, make up a single beautiful carpet, one that displays not only our fraternity but points also to its source,” the pope said.

“For God himself is the artist who imagined this carpet, patiently wove it and carefully mends it, desiring us ever to remain closely knit as his sons and daughters.”

Pope Francis will also meet with leading Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, during his trip.

The meeting is significant, Maenza explained, and hoped that the pope could successfully push for Shiite militias on the Nineveh plain to stand off so that local Christians can safely return to their homes and live peacefully.

“That kind of conversation is a good thing,” she said.

Pope Francis backs prior of ‘troubled’ ecumenical community amid clash with founder

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2021 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Friday underlined his support for the prior of a “troubled” ecumenical community amid a dispute with its founder.

A statement issued by the Holy See press office on March 5 noted that the pope met with Br. Luciano Manicardi, prior of the Bose Monastic Community, on the eve of his trip to Iraq. 

Fr. Amedeo Cencini, the pontifical delegate to the community founded in northern Italy in 1965, also attended the meeting.

“His Holiness thus wished to express to the prior and to the Community his closeness and his support, in this troubled phase of its life, confirming his appreciation for the Community and for its peculiarity of being formed by brothers and sisters from different Christian churches,” the press office said.

“Pope Francis, who from the beginning has followed the matter with particular attention, also wished to confirm the work of the pontifical delegate in recent months, thanking him for having acted in full harmony with the Holy See, with the sole intent of alleviating the suffering of both individuals and the Community.”

The statement comes amid a standoff between the Community and its founder, the prominent Italian layman Enzo Bianchi.

The Holy See had given Bianchi until Feb. 17 to leave the monastery after issuing a decree, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on May 13, 2020, following an apostolic visitation.

A Feb. 18 statement on the Community’s website announced “with deep bitterness” that Bianchi had not left the community in Piedmont to move to Tuscany as instructed by the pontifical delegate in January.

Bianchi founded the community in Biella in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. It is a mixed community, composed of both men and women, who pray the Liturgy of the Hours and follow a rule influenced by St. Benedict and St. Basil the Great. Members include Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians.  

A charismatic figure, Bianchi has maintained a high profile in the Italian Church. He took part in the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization and was named a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2014.  

Bianchi resigned as prior of the community in 2017 and Manicardi was chosen as his successor. 

The apostolic visitation, which took place between Dec. 6, 2019, and Jan. 6, 2020, was conducted by Fr. Guillermo León Arboleda Tamayo, Abbot President of the Benedictine Subiaco Cassinese Congregation, Cencini, a consultor for the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, and Mother Anne-Emmanuelle Devéche, Abbess of Blauvac, France.

In a 2020 statement, the Community said that Cencini had communicated the Vatican’s ruling privately to those concerned with “the greatest possible respect for the privacy of the interested parties.”

But after “several of the interested parties” rejected the measures, it said it was “opportune to specify that the above-mentioned provisions regard Br. Enzo Bianchi, two brothers and one sister, who are to separate themselves from the Monastic Community of Bose and to move to another place and who at the same time are relieved of all the offices they presently hold.”

The statement added that Parolin had sent a letter to the community that “has traced a path of the future and of hope, indicating the basic lines of a process of renewal, which, we trust, will give a fresh impetus to our monastic and ecumenical life.”

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported on March 4 that Pope Francis had also communicated with Bianchi as he sought to resolve the disagreement.

Bianchi has not commented directly on the latest developments, but he has appeared to address the situation indirectly via his Twitter account.

A few days before defying the order to leave, he wrote: “The exercise of silence is difficult and tiring for all of us, but the hour comes when the truth cries out precisely with silence: even Jesus, according to the Gospels, kept silent before Herod, and did not deign to give him an answer. So silence yes, assent to the lie no!”

The Holy See press office statement concluded: “Finally, the Holy Father manifested his solicitude in accompanying the path of conversion and recovery of the Community according to the orientations and modalities clearly defined in the decree of May 13, 2020, the contents of which the pope reiterates and whose implementation he asks for.”