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US, Europe, Russia urge restraint after Iran attack on Israel

Following the recent weekend attack on Israel by Iran, European countries are joining the United States in urging restraint.

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Sudan: One year of conflict

The war in Sudan broke out exactly one year ago. 12 months of fierce fighting and violence have caused a huge loss of life, the displacement of millions of people, acute hunger, and a tragic ongoing humanitarian crisis.

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Congo-Brazzaville: Bishops evaluate and offer guidance to episcopal commissions

Bishops in the Republic of Congo, over the weekend, concluded their first Plenary Assembly for 2024. The Plenary was held in the capital, Brazzaville. During the report sessions, they evaluated various pastoral projects and received reports on the activities of the Episcopal Commisions and Church institutions.

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Council of Cardinals commences April meetings in the Vatican

April 15 marks the start of the April working session of the C9 - Council of Cardinals, in the presence of Pope Francis.

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The invisible and indelible wounds of war

Dr. Richard Mollica, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares with Vatican Media his decades of experience in assisting trauma survivors as they and their families seek healing from the hidden wounds of war.

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Poland: Thousands join National March for Life in Warsaw

Thousands of people express their support for the lives of unborn children and their opposition to expanding access to abortion, as they took part in Poland’s National March for Life on Sunday.

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Pope Francis: Sharing our encounter with Christ makes our encounters ‘even more beautiful’

Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer on April 14, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Apr 14, 2024 / 10:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his concern over escalating tensions in the Middle East following Iran’s missile attack Saturday against Israel, a concern he raised after imploring Christians to share their stories of encountering Christ, which he said would create a richer and more beautiful environment for all.

“I follow in prayer and with concern, even pain, the news that has arrived in the last few hours on the worsening of the situation in Israel due to the intervention by Iran,” the pope said to all those gathered before him in St. Peter’s Square on April 14.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to stop any action that could fuel a spiral of violence with the risk of dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict of war. No one should threaten the existence of others,” he added.

On Saturday evening Iran launched over 300 drones and missiles on military targets in Israel in retaliation for an Israeli attack on the Iranian Embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus on April 1, which killed seven.  

Pope Francis also renewed his exhortation for peace as the Israel-Hamas war continues unabated, calling for “the Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side, in security, it is their deep and legitimate desire, and it is their right.”

Before the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the pope also exhorted Christians to share their personal encounters with Christ, noting that it is “the most beautiful thing we have to tell.”

The pope made this reflection against the backdrop of today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, where two disciples, returning from Emmaus, meet with the apostles in the upper room and recount their encounter with Christ.

“Jesus arrives precisely while they are sharing the story of the encounter with him,” a message, the pope observed, that for us today underscores “the importance of sharing the faith.”

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican hold banners during the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer and address by Pope Francis on April 14, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican hold banners during the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer and address by Pope Francis on April 14, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope observed that today, this message is often drowned out by the frenzy of messages, which are often “superficial” and “useless,” and which often reveal “an indiscreet curiosity or, worse still, arise from gossip and malice.”

“They are news that have no purpose, on the contrary, they do harm,” the pope continued.

Amid the deluge of counterproductive messages, Pope Francis called on Christians to share their personal testimonies of encountering Christ, “not by being a lecturer to others, but by sharing the unique moments in which we perceived the Lord alive and close.”

While acknowledging that it can often be a “struggle” to discuss these encounters with family, friends, and the broader community, the pope advocated persistence in doing so as it will make our personal “encounters” and social environments “even more beautiful.”

In closing his address, the pope called upon all Christians to conduct a series of interior examinations, asking ourselves: “Have I ever spoken about it with someone? Have I ever simply made a gift of it to family members, colleagues, loved ones, and those I associate with? And finally: Am I, in turn, interested in listening to what others have to tell me about their encounter with Christ?”

Cardinal Parolin tells university students their commitment counts

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, encourages university students of the Università Cattolica in Milan, to make the most of their time now, in order to create a better future.

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First-year seminarians will unplug from technology starting in fall at Detroit seminary

Seminarians chat as they walk along the promenade in front of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Starting in the fall semester of 2024, first-year seminarians at Sacred Heart and seminaries across the country will undertake a "propaedeutic" year focused on personal, spiritual, and relationship growth, limiting the use of technology while spending more time in prayer and communion with others. / Credit: Photos by Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., Apr 14, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Starting in the fall, seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit are going to have more prayer time and less screen time.

The sixth edition of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation, or PPF, which began to be implemented last year in seminaries across the country, mandates a “propaedeutic” (pro-pih-DOO-tic) year for all men first entering into seminary.

Following this guidance, Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit will implement a year of preparation for first-year seminarians starting in the fall of 2024, when men discerning the priesthood will focus on personal and spiritual growth, and less on academic work.

A key feature of the propaedeutic year — “propaedeutic” meaning preparatory or preliminary — will be limited screen and device time and more time dedicated to forming a sense of collegiality among seminarians, helping them to develop a spiritual life rooted in prayer as they discern the vocation to which God is calling them, said Father Stephen Pullis, director of graduate pastoral formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, who will lead the propaedeutic year program at the seminary. 

“We started it in a small phase this year for those who came out of high school, but for next year, it will go into effect for all new seminarians,” Pullis told Detroit Catholic. “It’s a new year at the beginning that focuses more on human and spiritual formation. It has fewer classes, a different rhythm of life to help them adjust to growing in their human formation and growing spiritually as well.”

The first year of seminary formation will be about becoming accustomed to seminary life, forming good prayer habits and growing in virtue and friendship with fellow seminarians and with God, Pullis said. To achieve this, seminarians will be asked to limit the time they spend with technology, including smartphone usage, to be more present in their surroundings. 

The propaedeutic year has been installed in other seminaries around the country and has yielded positive results for seminarians who appreciate the time to unplug from the outside world and reconnect with the people and community in front of them, Father Stephen Pullis said. Credit: Photos by Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic
The propaedeutic year has been installed in other seminaries around the country and has yielded positive results for seminarians who appreciate the time to unplug from the outside world and reconnect with the people and community in front of them, Father Stephen Pullis said. Credit: Photos by Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic

The change of schedule comes after recommendations from the Holy See on what seminarian formation needs to encompass to form priests centered in prayer, Pullis said.

“One of the challenges men coming into the seminary often have is they used to be very busy,” Pullis said. “We are used to a life on devices, social media, email, lots of noise, and that can be a difficult adjustment to listening to the Lord’s voice.”

The propaedeutic year doesn’t replace anything in seminary formation, meaning overall priestly formation will take an extra year, but it shouldn’t cause extra burdens. The goal isn’t to shun technology, Pullis said, but to place technology and worldly needs in their rightful place.

“It’s about forming the habits of a man whom the people of God can turn to as a priest,” Pullis explained. “These include habits around the use of technology, the use of free time and relating to each other in good, healthy ways, especially in a world with such an emphasis on technology where it has gone from being a tool to something that dominates us.”

Exact rules and technology limitations for first-year seminarians in the propaedeutic year are still being worked out, but the overall goal is to help men better hear God’s voice as they get used to life in the seminary.

“We look at seminary as someone would look at dating or engagement before marriage,” Pullis said. “It’s a time to say, ‘Is this where God is calling me to be?’ Of course, any man who has decided to enter the seminary has already prayed, but our relationship with the Lord will still need to continue and grow.”

Pope Benedict XVI declared priests need to become experts in the spiritual life, Pullis pointed out. But to do that, a man first needs to make his life quieter to more easily hear the Lord’s voice. 

“The challenges for a man who enters seminary this year are different than when I entered seminary,” Pullis said. “A lot of it is technology and anxiety and the speed of things in the world. Some of that is good — it puts us in contact with people we wouldn’t know otherwise. But so much of that can be a distraction or a temptation to trust in ourselves over the Lord. The propaedeutic year, while a mouthful of a word to say, is especially needed for men entering seminary out of the world now.”

The propaedeutic year has been installed in other seminaries around the country and has yielded positive results for seminarians who appreciate the time to unplug from the outside world and reconnect with the people and community in front of them, Pullis said.

A seminarian spends time in prayer in the chapel of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Withdrawing from the world to focus on prayer and relationship with God and others isn't a new concept, Father Stephen Pullis said, but in a world dominated by technology, building healthy habits will contribute to forming better priests. Credit: Photos by Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic
A seminarian spends time in prayer in the chapel of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Withdrawing from the world to focus on prayer and relationship with God and others isn't a new concept, Father Stephen Pullis said, but in a world dominated by technology, building healthy habits will contribute to forming better priests. Credit: Photos by Marek Dziekonski | Special to Detroit Catholic

Withdrawing from the public to go and pray in private is a practice that’s been around since the Old Testament. The Church has always seen a wisdom in decompressing in order to better discern the word of God.

Still, seminarians going through the propaedeutic year aren’t going to become monks or hermits; they’ll still live in community, visit family and their home parish, but it will allow them to break from the constant stream of tagging, sharing, retweeting, and reposting, Pullis said.

“I’ve seen both in potential seminarians and young people in general and in my own life, the way social media can lead to tremendous unrest and a sense of measuring myself against what other people are doing; it can lead to an idea that my life has to be perfect. It’s an ‘Instagram-ification’ of my life that shows the coolest vacation, the most exotic food, that I’m having the best time of my life, and of course that doesn’t correspond to reality,” Pullis said. “But it also becomes a real distraction from where God has put me.”

Unlike a book or a movie, with a beginning, middle, and end, one can always refresh social media, creating a generation that is constantly checking one’s notifications.

“It creates an appetite that doesn’t have a finite end and doesn’t fulfill us,” Pullis explained. “You see that on the scientific side, how it can change our brains, it makes us less attentive to the people who are in front of us.”

Pullis added that first-year seminarians will find plenty of opportunities to fill that social media void: pursuing hobbies such as movies and sports, having conversations, or even scheduling the increasingly rare downtime people crave in the 21st century: just being for the sake of being.

For the faithful in the pews, having priests more attuned to the present can only be a good thing, Pullis said.

“The Church asks, ‘How can we help the people of God have the best priests possible?’ Because we live in the world, that’s going to depend on the gifts and challenges of the world. What are the potential pitfalls?” he said. “The Church wants you and your family to have the best priests possible.”

This article was first published in Detroit Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

A drone’s-eye view of 7 glorious Catholic churches

New technologies can both enable and enhance the contemplation of beauty in church architecture. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 14, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

There are many beautiful churches in the world that combine impressive construction with splendid works of art. While some are on the more austere side, others contain so many details that it’s a challenge for the human eye to take it all in.

However, new technologies today allow us to contemplate from different angles, inside and outside, these stellar churches dedicated to the worship of God. 

Below are seven videos that in addition to giving you extraordinary views will enhance the way you see these churches.

1. Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (France)

According to the Lourdes Shrine website, the complex covers over 130 acres and includes 22 places of worship, including three basilicas. The first is a chapel that has the title of Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, built over the grotto where Our Lady of Lourdes appeared in 1858.

The second is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, where you can see mosaics depicting the mysteries of the rosary. Finally, there is the underground basilica in honor of St. Pius X, which was inaugurated in 1958 on the occasion of the centennial of the apparitions.

2. Basilica of the Holy Family (Spain)

Located in Barcelona, Spain, construction began in 1882 and was designed by architect Antonio Gaudí. Still not totally completed, construction continues to this day, financed by donations only. The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) basilica website announced on its construction timeline that in November 2023 “the group of four towers of the evangelists was inaugurated.”

In 2026, the central tower of Jesus is scheduled to be completed. The interior beauty and attention to detail of the artistic representations of the exterior of the basilica were designed to lift up the spirits of visitors.

3. Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico)

This church is dedicated to the Mother of God and is located on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the Virgin appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531. 

The current structure, completed in 1976, has a circular design so that the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe can be seen from any point in the church. Each year, tens of millions of people visit the site. Pilgrimages spike around the annual feast day on Dec. 12.

4. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

In Spain and throughout Europe, the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) pilgrimage route is well known. It ends at the cathedral of the same name. The cathedral’s website chronicles that it was built over the tomb of St. James the Apostle.

Since the ninth century when construction began, the church has undergone various changes, remodeling, and restorations. Visitors marvel at its striking baroque façade and its impressive details. The cathedral has been visited by both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

5. Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Cecilia (Argentina)

The cathedral and basilica located in the Diocese of Mar del Plata in Argentina was declared a National Historical Heritage Site in 1995. The church has neo-Gothic architecture and its interior has great artistic and religious value.

Construction began in February 1893 and the church was dedicated Feb. 12, 1905. The colossal church can seat 7,000 people. In January 2022, a 360-degree virtual tour of the structure’s three levels was released.

6. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (France)

Located in Lyon, France, the church was built between 1872 and 1917 on a hill and can be seen from any point in the city. It has four main towers and a bell tower crowned with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

The basilica is situated in the oldest section of Lyon, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this video, you can see the statue of the Mother of God from above, protecting her children as dusk falls.

7. Cologne Cathedral (Germany)

The cathedral, located in Cologne, Germany, is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic art in medieval Europe. It was built over a fourth-century Roman temple. Construction began in 1248 and took more than 600 years to complete.

In 1996 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among its historic vaults it houses precious reliquaries, liturgical items, manuscripts, robes, and insignia of archbishops and cathedral clerics that have been used over the centuries.

Bonus track (Brazil)

The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Río de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the best-known images of our risen Lord in the entire world. A chapel is located within the statue’s massive pedestal.

Located at the top of Corcovado Hill and considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, this statue symbolizes that Christ reigns and will always reign.

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