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Pope Francis: The effects of the war in Ukraine are being felt all over the world

Pope Francis with members of the group Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2022 / 05:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday that the war between Russia and Ukraine is an example of the “globalization of problems” with the far-felt effects of the energy and food crises.

In a message to heads of state and other civil authorities participating in a high-level conference on geopolitics in Rome on Dec. 2, the pope said that the food crisis in particular is affecting “a growing number of people all over the world, especially in the poorest countries.”

“The Ukrainian conflict is in fact producing enormous repercussions in North African countries, which depend for 80% on grain from Ukraine or Russia,” Pope Francis said.

“This crisis urges us to consider the totality of the real situation from a global perspective, just as its effects are global.”

The pope explained that “just as it is not possible to think of tackling the energy crisis apart from the political one, one cannot at the same time solve the food crisis apart from the persistence of conflicts.”

“Nor can the extent of human suffering be taken into consideration without taking into account the social crisis, in which, for economic or political gain, the value of the human person is diminished and human rights are trampled upon,” he added.

The pope’s message was delivered to the Rome Med - Mediterranean Dialogues conference in Rome this week. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosts the annual high-level meeting.

Pope Francis also received an audience on Dec. 2 with members of the organization Leaders Pour la Paix (Leaders for Peace).

“We cannot forget that the sacrifice of human lives, the suffering of the population, the indiscriminate destruction of civilian structures, the violation of the principle of humanity are not ‘side effects’ of war, no, they are international crimes. This we must say and repeat,” the pope told the group.

Pope Francis with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis with members of Leaders Pour la Paix at the Vatican, Dec. 2, 2022. Vatican Media

Leaders Pour la Paix is an organization founded by the former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin that brings together high-level government representatives from around the world.

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations, are among the its board of leaders, along with Kamal Kharazi, the former Iranian foreign minister, and Quan Kong, a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

The group of 36 world leaders aims to reduce conflicts through prevention by alerting public opinion and decision-makers on risky situations and their consequences, according to its website.

“Using weapons to resolve conflicts is a sign of weakness and fragility,” Pope Francis said.

“Negotiating, proceeding with mediation and starting conciliation requires courage.”

Ukrainian archbishop appeals for release of Catholic priests captured by Russian troops

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 8, 2022. /

Rome Newsroom, Dec 2, 2022 / 05:20 am (CNA).

Two Catholic priests captured by Russian troops are “being tortured without mercy,” the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said Thursday.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk issued an appeal to international authorities on Dec. 1 to help facilitate the release of Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Heleta, who have been held in captivity for more than two weeks.

“We have received the sad news that our priests are being tortured without mercy,” Shevchuk said.

“According to classic Stalinist methods of repression, confessions to crimes they did not commit are being extracted from them. In fact, our two heroic pastors are daily threatened under torture with death.”

The Ukrainian archbishop asked Catholics around the world to pray for the release of the priests.

“Our request is for the immediate release of the two priests, who have no fault other than that of loving their people, their Church, the community entrusted to them,” he said.

“I appeal to diplomatic representatives and to international human rights organizations, asking them to do everything possible to save the lives of these heroic pastors. And I ask all the faithful of our Church in Ukraine and abroad, all Christians, all people of good will, to pray for the salvation of these two priests.”

According to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the two Redemptorist priests had chosen to stay in territory under Russian occupation to serve the local Greek Catholic and Latin-rite Catholic communities.

“Subsequently, some military objects were placed in the church in order to accuse them of the illegal possession of weapons,” Shevchuk said.

Levytskyi and Heleta were taken from their parish, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the coastal city of Berdyansk on Nov. 16 and accused of having committed “subversive” and “guerrilla” activities by the Russian National Guard.

The Ukrainian Catholic Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Donetsk denied the accusations, calling the detention “unfounded and illegal,” and demanded the prompt release of the clerics.

“At the time of the search of the church and the adjacent rectory and premises of the parish, both priests were already under arrest; that is, they could not control these premises and the actions of the Russian National Guard in any way,” the statement from the local church said.

“They cannot bear any responsibility for the weapons and ammunition allegedly found in those places. This is clear slander and a false accusation.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. Vatican Media.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, meets Pope Francis, Nov. 11, 2021. Vatican Media.

In an interview published earlier this week, Pope Francis described Ukrainians as “a people who are martyred.”

“If you have a martyred people, you have someone who martyrs them,” the pope told America Magazine.

“When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in. Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryati and so on,” Francis added.

The pope’s comments elicited a strong response from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called Pope Francis “un-Christian” in a televised speech on Thursday.

“Pope Francis calls for talks but also recently made an incomprehensible statement, completely un-Christian, singling out two Russian nationalities into some category from which atrocities can be expected during hostilities,” Lavrov said, according to Politico.

The Russian foreign minister added: “Of course this doesn’t help the cause and the authority of the Holy See.”

Cuban priest: Dignity comes from God, not the government

null / Credit: Unsplash

CNA Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

Father Alberto Reyes, a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey, Cuba, recently shared a reflection on Facebook about human dignity as experienced in his homeland.

He noted that “dignity” is one of the most beloved words in the public discourse of this nation. “‘We are a dignified people,’ we repeat ad nauseam, although then when you ask: ‘What does dignity mean?’ people have no idea,” he wrote.

The Cuban priest explained that dignity is a gift given by God and not something that is received from a government authority, and therefore he called on his compatriots to “grow in the awareness of one’s own dignity” and to defend it.

In the Nov. 30 post, Reyes pointed out that although “dignity is never lost,” what “can be lost, or manipulated, is the awareness of dignity, the awareness of one’s own value.”

The priest explained that sometimes “a person’s dignity is tied to what he possesses, to his social status,” which is a view that is “false and manipulative, because our value lies in our being as persons.”

Reyes pointed out that the same thing happens when dignity is linked “to political discourse, which conveys the message that the person has worth if he joins a political or ideological program, if he defends a certain line of thought, if he participates socially in support of a partisan project.”

The priest said that this message conveyed by the government makes it clear that the person who doesn’t support its political discourse becomes a “second-class citizen” and falls in the category of “the opposition” if he expresses “his disagreement with the current political program,” risking “being denied the right to express himself” freely or to remain in his own country.

Reyes explained that this causes many to be in a state of panic over “‘not losing value’ before the evaluating and inquisitorial gaze of (those in) power” and so they seek to make it clear that “they are behaving well” by participating in all initiatives, demonstrations, and government meetings, including in “all elections, even if they’re a farce.”

The priest wrote that the terror of these people reaches such a point “that even at times when their opinion is asked through a personal and secret vote, they don’t dare to give expression what they truly think, because … ‘you never know.’”

“And when their children are growing up and start saying that they don’t want to live as slaves, they do the impossible to get them to leave the country, preferring distance and separation to facing a government that has set itself up as the source of value for individuals,” he pointed out.

The Cuban priest clarified that it’s possible to live in this way, without having problems with the system, “but at the price of not existing, of giving up your freedom of expression,” ceding “your value to a political system to which that person doesn’t matter, because he’s seen simply as a necessary piece to maintain a power structure.”

“Although dignity is something with which one is born, it’s necessary to grow in the awareness of one’s own dignity, it’s necessary to learn not only to recognize one’s own value but also to defend it, to protect it, and to accept the price of choosing to exist,” Reyes concluded.

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

Exorcist says porn addiction ‘an opening to the demonic,’ despite German priest’s controversial denials

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti has gained thousands of followers on social media after sharing the wisdom he has gained as an exorcist on online platforms. / Monsignor Stephen Rossetti

Boston, Mass., Dec 1, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington, said that a porn addiction puts one in grave spiritual danger, words that starkly contrast with those of a German priest who recently contradicted Pope Francis by saying that connecting porn to the demonic is a “spiritual exaggeration.”

“A pornography addiction, like any serious sin, is an opening to the demonic,” Rossetti told CNA in an email interview Wednesday. 

“It is never a good thing to exploit people as sexual objects, which the porn industry does,” he added. “A porn habit can be an open door to escalating sexual dysfunction."

Rossetti, 71, has spent 30 years working as a licensed psychologist. A priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, he has been an exorcist for the Archdiocese of Washington for over 15 years. He is the founder and president of the St. Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal, a ministry that specializes in healing for those in need of deliverance, which operates out of the archdiocese.

The exorcist’s clarity on the dangers of pornography echoes Pope Francis’ recent warning to seminarians studying in Rome. 

“Dear brothers, be careful of this. The pure heart, the heart that receives Jesus every day, cannot receive this pornographic information,” the Holy Father said to hundreds of seminarians Oct. 24.

“And if from your cell phone you can delete this, delete it, so you won’t have temptation at hand. And if you can’t delete it, protect yourself properly so you don’t have access to this. I tell you, it weakens the soul,” he said.

“The devil enters from there. It weakens the priestly heart,” the pope said repeatedly to the men.

Following Pope Francis’ comments, a German priest, Father Hermann Backhaus, in an interview with — the news outlet of the Catholic Church in Germany — said that connecting porn to the demonic is a “spiritual exaggeration.”

In the interview, Backhaus also warned against “the somewhat dirty connotation” that is attributed to the term “pornographic.”

Backhaus claimed that “there are positive effects of explicit sexuality in relation to the couple” such as “making their love life become more alive.”

He added that for celibate people, “the consumption of explicit sexual representations can have a relieving effect, it can’t be denied.”

He said that “the clergy, religious, and other people at the service of the Church generally have experience with pornography.”

He disagrees with the pope regarding his assessment that “the devil enters through there” and added that “associating the devil with pornography is a very strong statement.”

In contrast, Rossetti cautioned against the use of pornography for any reason.

“A pornography addiction can destroy marriages. A porn addiction can distort a person’s sexuality,” he told CNA.

“A pornography addiction not only seriously harms the user, it supports a billion-dollar industry that exploits people, especially women and children,” he added.

Former parish employee identified as second victim of Louisiana double homicide

Ruth Prats offers a reflection on her relationship with Father Otis Young before Mass in June 2022. / Screenshot of YouTube video

Boston, Mass., Dec 1, 2022 / 15:32 pm (CNA).

The second victim in a Louisiana double homicide that also claimed the life of a local Catholic priest, Father Otis Young, has been identified. 

Ruth Prats, a 73-year-old former staff member who worked for Young when he was pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, was identified as the second victim, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston announced Thursday in a press conference.

Young’s death, which was confirmed Tuesday, was caused by “sharp- and blunt-force trauma,” the coroner’s office said. 

The homicides both occurred either Sunday night or Monday morning, the coroner’s office said. It was reported that both Young and Prats were reported missing on Sunday. 

The two bodies were found together “burned beyond recognition” less than a mile away from the church, according to police. The bodies were found in a back alley behind a glass store in downtown Covington, according to Sergeant James Hartman, a spokesman for the Covington Police Department. 

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. reported that Tyson was released from prison in August after serving part of a sentence he received in 1993. The outlet reported that he was serving time for charges of forcible rape and home invasion. 

There is no evidence that suggests that the suspect and the victims knew each other, Hartman said.

The St. Tammany Parish district attorney’s office said law enforcement is still investigating the matter. 

The office offered this statement: “All capital cases submitted to our office undergo a thorough review process before a decision is made regarding the pursuit of the death penalty. That review process begins once law enforcement officially tenders the case to our office by submitting a complete report of its investigation of the alleged offense.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond released a statement Wednesday offering prayers for both Young and Ruth Prats. At the time of the statement, Prats was not revealed as the second victim of the double homicide. She was, however, still listed as a missing person.

“The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us, but particularly those who are most directly affected, for a very long time,” Aymond said in the statement. His full statement can be read here.

‘You taught us how to carry our crosses’

Young retired as a priest in July. Before his retirement, Prats offered a personal reflection on Young before a Mass for Young at St. Peter Catholic Church in June. The reflection can be watched in this YouTube video posted by the church. 

Addressing Young, Prats said: “It was an absolute gift to work with you as your pastoral associate for eight of the 10 years you were here at St. Peter parish.”

Prats reminisced over the wonderful renovations and improvements that Young brought to the church. She even reflected on Young’s joyful sense of humor. 

Prats said that “the greatest legacy” that Young would leave the parish is his example in showing the parishioners how to suffer. 

“You taught us how to carry our crosses,” Prats said. During her speech, she mentioned that she felt called to volunteer in a caretaking role for Young as his health declined, which led her to leave her role as a church staff member.

She described her time taking care of Young as “the most humble service” and said she was grateful.

In her speech, Prats mentioned a “sacred moment” when a glimpse of Young’s inner prayer life was revealed to the parish. The moment was when Young shared a prayer he prays before Mass to some young children making their first holy Communion. 

According to Prats, the prayer is: “Lord, grant me the grace to celebrate this Mass as if it was my first Mass, as if it was my last Mass, and as if it was my only Mass.”

“May Father Otis’ personal prayer become our prayer today at this Mass and from this day forward when we celebrate Mass,” she said.

“May we pass this prayer down to generations and to all who enter our doors here at St. Peter’s,” she said. “It will be in that prayer, his private prayer, that we will remember, Father Otis, that you walked in our midst as our pastor here at St. Peter’s and you touched our lives profoundly.”

Indiana AG files legal complaint against abortion doctor who performed a minor’s abortion

null / Unsplash.

St. Louis, Mo., Dec 1, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has asked the state’s medical licensing board to discipline an abortion doctor, Caitlin Bernard, who in June performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio to Indiana. 

“Based on the physician’s own testimony under oath, she violated federal and Indiana law related to patient privacy and the reporting of child abuse,” the Republican AG said in a Nov. 30 statement.

Bernard, who already was known for her pro-abortion activism in Indiana, drew worldwide media attention to herself when she disclosed to the Indianapolis Star details about the abortion she performed on the child in late June, whom she did not name. Ohio has a “heartbeat” abortion law in place, which took effect after the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade, whereas Indiana at the time allowed abortions until 22 weeks’ gestation. 

Rokita contended that “simply concealing the patient’s name falls far short of her legal and ethical duties here.”

“Dr. Bernard violated the law, her patient’s trust, and the standards for the medical profession when she disclosed her patient’s abuse, medical issues, and medical treatment to a reporter at an abortion rights rally to further her political agenda,” Rokita said. 

Rokita said Bernard also “failed to immediately report” the abuse and rape of a child to Indiana authorities, as required under Indiana law. Bernard, through her attorneys, has stated that she reported the minor’s abortion to the relevant state agencies before the legally mandated deadline to do so, which in Indiana’s case is three days. Rokita contends, though, that a child abuse report should have been made to Indiana authorities within four hours so that the state could ensure the child was not being returned to an unsafe situation in Ohio. 

“As the Office of the Attorney General, it is our duty to ensure that doctors meet the standard of care. In our opinion, Dr. Bernard fell short in this situation,” Rokita concluded. 

“Now, it is up to the Medical Licensing Board to determine whether there are consequences for violating a patient’s privacy rights and the obligation to immediately report child abuse to Indiana authorities.”

Bernard testified last week that she had confirmed that child abuse authorities in Ohio were actively investigating the case before the girl arrived in Indiana for the abortion, and her attorneys contend that that satisfies the requirements of Indiana law, Law&Crime reported. 

Since the abortion, a 27-year-old Ohio man has been charged with raping the girl. 

Arson at Colorado pregnancy center still unsolved; FBI offers major reward for leads

Spray-painted graffiti outside Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado. / Courtesy of Longmont Public Safety

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2022 / 14:40 pm (CNA).

The FBI is offering a $17,500 reward for credible leads in the arson of a a pro-life pregnancy center in northern Colorado that is still under investigation after five months.

Longmont Police Chief Jeff Satur told a Wednesday press conference that investigators have few leads, the Denver Gazette reported. Investigators are again asking for aid from anyone with local video from the time of the crime, this time from a wider area. They are also analyzing the handwriting of the vandals’ graffiti messages. One message was in cursive while the other was not.

“I believe there were probably two people there,” Satur said, noting that handwriting can be recognizable. “At some point we’re going to get the right lead.”

The fire took place early Saturday morning on June 25 and drew a response from Longmont Public Safety at 3:17 a.m.

The Life Choices pregnancy center in Longmont sustained fire and heavy smoke damage. The front of the building also was defaced with pro-abortion slogans, including “Bans Off Our Bodies.” The threatening phrase “If abortions aren’t safe neither are you,” was written in cursive with black spray paint.

The suspected arson took place in the wake of the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the pro-abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and returned the question of legal abortion to the states.

Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers has offered a reward of $2,500 for information related to the case. The FBI’s offered reward is an additional $17,500. The FBI will take tips through its website or its tip line 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

Life Choices on its website describes itself as “a Christ-centered ministry providing education, support, healing, and limited medical services for sexual life choices.” Its offerings include free pregnancy tests, clothes, and baby supplies.

Since the arson attack, the organization appears to be doing well.

Holly Hooten, director of client services at Life Choices, told the Denver Gazette “it’s only been great since the vandalism occurred.”

“In the end it was like God brought everyone out of the woodwork to pray for us and support the work here,” she said.

Satur said the FBI has done “heavy lifting” on the investigation through search warrants, subpoenas, and court orders.

Catholic churches, crisis pregnancy centers, and other pro-life groups have been on heightened alert about possible attacks by militant pro-abortion activists angered by the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.

Backlash began soon after the court’s draft decision was leaked in early May.

As of Sept. 22, CNA had recorded attacks on 33 churches, 55 pregnancy centers, three political organizations, and one maternity home since early May where the public evidence points to a pro-abortion motive. The crimes include vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and even arson.

Some of the reported vandalism incidents appear to be copycat attacks. Several of the graffiti incidents featured the threatening phrase “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” which reports indicate first appeared on a pro-life pregnancy center in Wisconsin in early May.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, in remarks to a Nov. 15 hearing of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, reaffirmed the bureau’s commitment to investigating crimes against pro-life groups and churches. Wray reported that since the Dobbs decision, pro-life organizations have faced about 70% of abortion-related threats. About 20 FBI field offices and joint terrorism task forces are investigating these crimes.

“My view — plainly expressed to all of our people, including in the context of abortion-related violence — is that I don’t care what side of the issue you’re on, you don’t get to engage in violence, and we are equal-opportunity when it comes to that,” Wray said.

‘Gravely disappointed’: U.S. bishops respond to passage of the same-sex marriage act

null / Ivan Galashchuk via

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Today the U.S. bishops responded to the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, saying society “has lost sight of the purpose of marriage.”

Bishop Robert Barron, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, strongly condemned the bill’s passage.

“We are gravely disappointed that the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate and continue to call for its rejection,” Barron wrote.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate Tuesday, redefining marriage to include unions between homosexual couples and mandating that all states must recognize homosexual marriages. The bill passed with bipartisan support, with 12 Republicans voting in favor. As passed by the Senate, the bill enshrines into law and expands the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized homosexual marriage across the nation.

Barron wrote that “decades of social and legal developments have torn sexuality, childbearing, and marriage from each other in the public consciousness.” In his statement, Barron called to mind Pope Francis’ 2016 address in which he said, “We can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities … We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

Barron stated that Christians must share the truth of marriage as “a lifelong and exclusive union, a complete and mutual gift of the husband and wife to each other for their good and for the procreation and education of children, [and] is essential to the common good.”

In addition to contributing to the “diminishment of the sacredness and integrity of marriage in our society,” the act’s passage threatens religious freedom in the U.S., the statement said.

“This bill fails to include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage,” Barron wrote.

Having passed the Senate, the Respect for Marriage Act will return to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote on the amendments added by the Senate.

The U.S. bishops stated in a November letter to Congress that the bill’s amendments do not sufficiently protect those with religious objections.

“The amended Act will put the ministries of the Catholic Church, people of faith, and other Americans who uphold a traditional meaning of marriage at greater risk of government discrimination,” the letter stated.

The November letter, penned jointly by Barron and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, posited that “the bill will be used to argue that the government has a compelling interest in forcing religious organizations and individuals to treat same-sex civil marriages as valid.”

While stating that “we affirm our respect for the dignity of all engaged in this debate,” Barron reaffirmed the U.S. bishops’ continued opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act.

This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2022 / 12:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December is for volunteer not-for-profit organizations.

“The world needs volunteers and organizations committed to seeking the common good,” the Holy Father said in a video appeal released Dec. 1. 

“This is a word that many today would like to erase: ‘commitment.’ And the world needs volunteers who commit to the common good,” he said. 

The pontiff called volunteers who work with not-for-profit organizations “artisans for mercy.”

“Being a volunteer who helps others is a choice that makes us free; it opens us to other people’s needs — to the demands of justice, to the defense of the poor, to the care of creation. It means being artisans of mercy: with our hands, with our eyes, with our attentive ears, with our closeness.”

He added: “The work of volunteer not-for-profit organizations is much more effective when they collaborate with each other and with governments.”

“By working together, however few resources they have, they do their best and make the miracle of the multiplication of hope a reality. We have a great need to multiply hope,” Pope Francis continued. 

The Holy Father concluded the video message with a prayer: “Let us pray that volunteer not-for-profit and human development organizations may find people willing to commit themselves to the common good and ceaselessly seek out new paths of international cooperation.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

England and Wales no longer Christian ‘by default,’ census shows

The Cathedral Church of St. Barnabas in Nottingham, England, U.K. / Kevin George/Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Christianity is no longer the “default religion” in England and Wales. The latest census shows Christians there are now a minority, while the number of people who have no religious affiliation continues to grow.

Only 46.2% of residents, or 27.5 million people, described themselves as “Christian,” according to a Nov. 29 bulletin from the Office for National Statistics. This is down from 2011, when 59.3%, or 33.3 million, said they were Christian. In 2001, 71.7% described themselves as Christian.

The figures come from the 2021 census, which seeks to give the most accurate estimates of individuals and households. The census did not seek further details about respondents’ particular religious denomination.

About 37.2% of people in England and Wales, numbering 22.2 million, told the census they had “no religion.” This is an increase from 25.2% of the population in 2011 and from 14.8% in 2001.

“These figures don’t come as any real surprise,” Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and sociology of religion at St. Mary's University, Twickenham, told CNA Dec. 1. “In fact, the census figures put the number of Christians significantly higher than do many other, high-quality social surveys done in Britain.”

Bullivant has studied religious affiliation and disaffiliation in the U.K. and the U.S. He is the author of the 2022 book “Non-Verts: The Making of Ex-Christian America,” from Oxford University Press.

One key driver of change, he said, is that older generations more likely to identify as Christian have died, and young adults more likely to identify with no religion have taken their place.

“As ever, a lot of complex factors contribute to these big, headline figures,” Bullivant continued. “But probably the biggest factor is the gradual, generational evaporation of Christianity over a period of decades. It used to be the case that Anglicanism was the default setting for English and Welsh people, unless you had a particular reason to be something else. But we've long ago now — certainly for anyone born in the last few decades — shifted to a position where having ‘no religion’ is now the default, unless you have a particular reason to be something else.”

This change from a broad culture of “default Christianity” also changes the culture within Christian communities.

“Of course, in the long run, it means that the only Christians left are those who have to ‘own’ it,” Bullivant said. “And that’s certainly something we’re starting to see with, say, Catholic or Evangelical young adults. If they’re at Church in their late teens or early 20s, they’re there for a reason — and of course, the other young adults they meet there are, too. Ultimately, they’re the kinds of countercultural groups — ‘creative minorities’ as Pope Benedict likes to call them — where you might hope to see some kind of counter-trends starting to appear.”

Among other religious adherents in England and Wales, Muslims are the most populous. They now make up 6.5% of the population. Muslims now number 3.9 million, an increase of 1.2 million from a decade ago. Hindus now number about one million, 1.7% of the population. Sikhs number 524,000, just under 1%, while Buddhists number 273,000, about 0.5% of the population. The collective Jewish population numbers 271,000, smaller than the collective Buddhist population.

About 40% of the London population is Christian, while 15% are Muslim and 5% are Hindu. Among Londoners overall, 25% profess a non-Christian religion.

The Church of England is the established religion of England, with the British monarch as its supreme head. It broke from the Catholic Church in the 16th century.

Anglican Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell responded to the survey Tuesday, saying “the Christian church exists to share the good news of Jesus Christ, serve our neighbor, and bring hope to a troubled world.”

“It’s not a great surprise that the census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known,” Cottrell said. “We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.”

Cottrell said that many people this winter still will turn to their local church for both spiritual and practical help.

“We will be there for them, in many cases, providing food and warmth. And at Christmas millions of people will still come to our services,” he said.

Previous studies have shown a decline in Christian adherence across the U.K.

The 2019 edition of the British Social Attitudes Survey, which includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, includes figures on religious adherence in 2018. In that year, 52% of British residents professed no religion while only 38% professed Christianity. Church of England or Anglican adherents made up 12% of respondents, while Catholics made up 7%.

The Social Attitudes Survey is based on a representative sample of about 3,000 respondents. It is conducted by the National Centre for Social Research, an independent social research center.