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Vatican launches social media campaign to rediscover ‘Christus vivit’

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life is promoting a social media campaign aimed at helping people rediscover the relevance of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation for Young People and keeping the experience of World Youth Day alive.

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New telescope is changing ideas about how universe began, speakers say

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Orbiting the sun nearly 1 million miles from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope is reshaping the way scientists understand the universe and its origins, a number of astronomers said at a Vatican-sponsored meeting.

"The telescope is able to see things that prior telescopes just could not see," Jonathan Lunine, a professor of astronomy and department chair at Cornell University, told Catholic News Service Feb. 28.

It has such unprecedented power in terms of its sensitivity, wavelength range and image sharpness that it is "doing revolutionary things" and leading to exciting new discoveries in multiple fields, he said.

Lunine, who is a planetary scientist and physicist, was one of nearly 50 experts in the field of astronomy attending a Feb. 27-29 workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss the newest results from the Webb telescope.

Launched Dec. 25, 2021, NASA's latest space science observatory is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. It began sending full-color images and data back to Earth after it became fully operational in July 2022.

"The JWST data are revolutionizing many areas in astronomy, from the first galaxies to new worlds," the academy said in its workshop program.

NASA said on its Webb.nasa.gov page, "Telescopes show us how things were -- not how they are right now," which helps humanity "understand the origins of the universe."

"Webb is so sensitive it could theoretically detect the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the Moon," it said. 

The telescope can see points in the history of the cosmos that were never observed before -- over 13.5 billion years ago, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang -- to search for the first galaxies in the universe, NASA said.

Anna de Graaff, an independent research fellow in the field of galaxy evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, told CNS she is working to understand "how galaxies, like our own Milky Way, came to be, how they grew into the structure that we see today in the sky."

The Milky Way, for example, is a flattened rotating disk, she said, but, like all galaxies, it started out "really messy and kind of clumpy."

The Webb data "doesn't really tell you about the Big Bang, because we cannot look that far back in time," she said, but it should help scientists find out "how you go from basically a very homogeneous gas in the universe, so basically almost nothing, to all these amazing structures that we see in the sky." 

ring nebula
An image taken with the near-infrared camera from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope shows the Ring Nebula Aug. 21, 2023. (CNS photo/courtesy ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, M. Barlow, N. Cox, R. Wesson)

Being able to see these younger galaxies, Lunine said, is changing ideas about how the universe began.

For one thing, there seem to be many young galaxies that are brighter and more developed than it was thought they should be, he said.

"They seem to be growing up too fast. It's like going into a nursery school and discovering that all of the three-year-olds look like teenagers already. So what is going on?" he said. "Cosmologists have to revise how it is that structures form and grow in the earliest epoch of the universe."

Karin Öberg, an astrochemist and professor of astronomy at Harvard University, told CNS the Webb telescope "is amazing at observing water and organics around young stars," which can help them figure out "how planets are forming and how likely planets are to form with ingredients that make them hospitable to life."

Right now, she said, the Webb telescope has been able to give information about the composition of larger planets and not Earth-like planets. But they are hoping next-generation telescopes will provide details about the atmospheres and, therefore, the composition of other Earth-like or rocky planets.

De Graaff said, "I think it's really important to be aware that there is only one Earth and it is a special place. Maybe it's not unique, but it's a very special place."

Lunine said, "The amazing structures and beauty of the universe are an expression of God's creation and of this tremendous sense of order that comes from the creator. We're able to see that now in greater detail and greater depth with this wonderful telescope."

Human beings are a "strange species that span the chasm between the material order and the spiritual, and actually understanding our material origins is really important for understanding who we are," Öberg said.

Science helps explain "what kind of universe we live in and how, in a sense, the universe is put together -- whether it's one that's full of life, or whether we are, in some sense, the sole ark carrying all life through space and time," she said.

If life is discovered elsewhere in the universe, she said, "whether it's bacteria or rational animals, (this) will have some different theological consequences."

"I don't think it's a threat to any dogmatic teaching, but I think it would push us to think maybe a little bit differently about why God became incarnate as one of us and how that salvation is worked out both for us and potentially for other creatures," she said.

IMBISA Bishops and representatives attend formation on safeguarding.

Southern African Catholic Bishops under IMBISA, a regional association of Bishops, have met in Pretoria, South Africa, for a week of safeguarding formation conducted by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

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Epilogue: Made in God’s image and called to proclaim Christ

Religious life as we know it today, both contemplative and active, has evolved over two millennia. In this final of four articles, Christine Schenk provides an analysis regarding what may have led early Christian women to be active contributors to the building of the church.

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Pope: Embrace your vulnerabilities!

Pope Francis addresses a conference on vulnerability and community and invites all the participants to embrace their vulnerabilities and accept those who are vulnerable, just as Jesus did.

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Call for probe into Gaza aid truck incident

International pressure is growing for a full and independent investigation into the circumstances that led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians seeking aid from a convoy in northern Gaza.

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Pope Francis: Gender ideology is the ugliest danger of our time

Addressing participants in the international Symposium "Man-Woman: Image of God.” Pope Francis describes so-called gender ideology as the "ugliest danger" of our time, because it cancels out all differences that make humanity.

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Cardinal Cantalamessa gives second Lenten sermon

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Papal Household, delivers his second sermon for Lent 2024 to Roman Curia, reflecting on Jesus as the light of the world.

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In mourning, actor Gary Sinise extols his son’s musical legacy, love of the Catholic faith

Mac Sinise, son of actor Gary Sinise, performs with the Lt. Dan Band. / Credit: The Gary Sinise Foundation

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 29, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Gary Sinise, the Catholic actor who played Lt. Dan in the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” announced the death of his 33-year-old son Mac, the victim of a rare form of cancer.

Sinise, also known for his starring role in the television series “CSI: New York,” shared the sad news this week, more than five years after Mac was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare type of bone cancer that, according to the Mayo Clinic, “usually forms in the bones of the spine or in the skull.”

Since 2017, Mac, also a Catholic, worked alongside his father at the Gary Sinise Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting U.S. military veterans, first responders, and their families.

On Feb. 28, Sinise shared on the foundation’s website that his family was “heartbroken” and “managing as best we can.”

The actor noted that “Mac was a man who loved his Catholic faith, and there is no doubt that his strong faith sustained him through the awful five-and-a-half-year battle with this crippling chordoma cancer.”

Mac was a gifted musician, having graduated from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. He collaborated with his dad’s Lt. Dan Band shows and before his death recorded a soon-to-be released album, “Mac Sinise: Resurrection and Revival.”

​​”As parents, it is so difficult losing a child. My heart goes out to all who have suffered a similar loss, and to anyone who has lost a loved one,” Sinise continued. “While our hearts ache at missing him, we are comforted in knowing that Mac is no longer struggling, and inspired and moved by how he managed it.”

Sinise also shared his son’s favorite quote, taken from St. Augustine: “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

In 2016, the actor openly shared the story of his family’s spiritual journey on EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo” as well as his commitment from an early age to supporting members of the military and veterans, inspired by both his and his wife’s veteran family members.

Sinise’s journey to the Catholic faith began in the 1990s when his wife, Irish actress Moira Harris, rediscovered her Catholic roots and began regularly attending Mass. The family followed her and attended Harris’ confirmation on Easter Sunday in 2000.

In December 2010, the actor received the sacrament of confirmation. “I see now that my work with veterans over the past 30 years and my journey being confirmed in the Catholic Church are very much a part of the same story,” he told CNA at the time.

Shortly after his confirmation, Sinise felt he could do still more to serve veterans.

“I felt called by God and compelled to use all the tools and notoriety that I had been blessed with and all the work I had done with the military over the years to serve in a more substantial way to create something that could be here for the long haul,” Sinise said, and in 2011, he started the Gary Sinise Foundation.

In addition to building custom smart homes for numerous veterans, the foundation offers multiple programs and resources that honor and help veterans and their families successfully adjust to life after combat.

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

Polish nunciature: Archbishop’s resignation linked to negligence in addressing abuse claims

The Apostolic Nunciature of Poland has revealed further information regarding the resignation of Polish Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga, indicating that he stepped down due to alleged negligence in overseeing sexual abuse claims. / Credit: Redaktor01|Wikimedia|GFDL

CNA Staff, Feb 29, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

The Apostolic Nunciature of Poland has revealed further information regarding the resignation of Polish Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga, indicating that he stepped down due to alleged negligence in overseeing sexual abuse claims.

The Holy Father accepted Dzięga’s resignation last week. Neither the nunciature nor the Vatican had immediately given a reason for his departure. The prelate, meanwhile, had published a two-page resignation letter on Feb. 24 in which he cited a “radical weakening of my condition.” 

In the letter, he apologized to his “brother priests,” saying: “If my weaknesses, including incomplete understanding of specific circumstances, and sometimes even my ordinary human fatigue, became the cause of your anxiety, I am sorry.” The prelate has faced allegations that he ignored abuse cases in Poland.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Poland subsequently released a statement addressing the controversy, saying that the release was in “response to emerging questions” regarding the archbishop’s departure. 

The “decisions related to the departure of Archbishop Andrzej Dziega from the office of the metropolitan archbishop of Szczecin-Kamień were undertaken as a result of an investigation conducted on behalf of the Holy See regarding the management of the diocese,” the announcement said. 

The decision was related “in particular [to] the negligence referred to in the papal document Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” the statement said. 

Pope Francis first promulgated Vos Estis Lux Mundi in May 2019. The directive, first established on an experimental basis for a period of three years, established norms to counter sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. 

The document established “concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church,” Pope Francis wrote in the decree, “so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission.” It was expanded and made permanent in 2023. 

According to a 2021 report by the Polish Catholic outlet Więź, the Polish nunciature had received four reports from three separate individuals alleging that Dzięga covered up cases of sexual abuse. 

The report noted that the complaints were submitted following the publication of Vos Estis Lux Mundi.

In 2021 the Polish television network TVN24 aired a documentary alleging that Dzięga knew about abuse allegations against Father Andrzej Dymer as early as 1995 but took no action. 

According to Polish media, Dymer was convicted by a Church tribunal in 2008 of sexually abusing minors. Dymer appealed but died in 2021 before the appeal was adjudicated.