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5 things to know about the debate on euthanasia in Ecuador

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ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The discussion about the decriminalization of euthanasia in Ecuador started Nov. 20 when the country’s constitutional court began to evaluate the arguments for and against the request of a woman with an incurable disease who seeks to end her life.

Here are the key points to understand in the debate:

1. In Ecuador, euthanasia is illegal.

Euthanasia is illegal in Ecuador. The country’s constitution establishes in Article 66 “the right to the inviolability of life” and “to personal (physical) integrity.” In addition, there is no specific legislation that allows euthanasia or that considers there to be a “right to death.”

In a recent interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Pablo Proaño, a lawyer at the law firm Dignidad y Derecho (Dignity and Law) of Ecuador, explained that euthanasia is considered a “crime of homicide” and that the penal code “does not admit of exceptions.”

He also clarified that patients have the right to decide to undergo or continue with treatment or to decide not to do so. “If, as a consequence of this informed and free decision, the person dies, there is no penalty.”

In Latin America, only Colombia allows euthanasia. In 1997 that country’s constitutional court decriminalized the practice and in 2015 it issued a ruling that regulates it under certain specific conditions.

2. An ALS patient initiated the debate for the decriminalization of euthanasia.

On Aug. 8, Paola Roldán, a 42-year-old woman who has been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for three years, filed a lawsuit with the constitutional court to declare Article 144 of the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code unconstitutional. The article punishes causing a person to die under various circumstances (i.e., not first degree murder) with sentences of 10-13 years in prison.

ALS is a neurodegenerative and muscular condition that paralyzes all the muscles in the body including those used for eating, speaking, and breathing.

After a period of three months, the Supreme Court of Ecuador determined that her case should have a public hearing, which began Nov. 20 and could last several weeks. There is no set time for the ruling to be issued, and the decision will be made by a majority vote of the nine justices.

The first hearing was chaired by constitutional judge Enrique Herrería, who listened to Roldán’s arguments and her lawyers as well as representatives of the government, the National Assembly, and experts with different positions.

3. Roldán’s legal team advocates for a supposed right to “death with dignity.”

One of her three lawyers, Ramiro Ávila, told the Spanish news agency EFE on Nov. 19 that “Paola needs legal authorization to have a mercy killing, because if someone assists her in the death, he could face a sentence of up to 13 years.”

During the Nov. 20 hearing, Ávila asked the court to recognize the supposed “death with dignity” for those who experience intense physical or emotional suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or injury and who freely choose to undergo a euthanasia procedure.

The law firm Dignity and Law pointed out Nov. 15 that the constitution does not consider there to be a “right to death” and that an effort is being made to “oblige the state to recognize, guarantee, and promote the supposed right to ‘death with dignity’ well beyond establishing an exception to the punishment of the crime of homicide.”

“Instead of recognizing the ‘right to die,’ both the constitution of Ecuador and international treaties reject this notion and establish the duty to accompany and protect the incurably sick, disabled, elderly, and dying, precisely out of respect for human dignity,” he noted.

4. The decision of the constitutional court will create a precedent.

Farith Simón, one of Roldán’s lawyers, told the Associated Press that the ruling could create “a set of situations similar to those to which the norm would apply.”

“Paola filed this appeal thinking about herself and other people who could suffer similar circumstances so that they can, if they want, exercise this right,” he added.

Dignity and Law attorney Proaño explained to ACI Prensa that, indeed, the ruling of the constitutional court would open the door for all people in similar situations to “access euthanasia without legal consequences for doctors and family members.”

The lawyer also pointed out that in other countries in the region, such as Peru and Colombia, the decriminalization of euthanasia has advanced through the higher courts with similar cases.

5. Experts advocate access to palliative care instead of euthanasia.

Dignity and Law said in a Nov. 21 statement that the Ecuadorian legal system is not only opposed to euthanasia “since it involves forcing the death of a human being” but also to therapeutic cruelty.

Therapeutic cruelty refers to the medical practice of continuing aggressive or invasive treatments without obvious benefits for the patient, despite suffering from serious or terminal illnesses. “It unjustifiably prolongs life and lengthens the patient’s suffering,” the law firm explained.

Dr. Pilar Calva Mercado, a surgeon with a specialty in human genetics and bioethics, said in a Nov. 21 statement that “avoiding cruelty involves accepting a consequential death and the natural end, unlike euthanasia that seeks to cause it directly.”

Dignity and Law demands that terminally ill patients not be forced through unnecessary medical treatments to prolong their agony “but that, at the same time, they do not stop receiving the necessary ordinary care: food, hydration, cleaning, and a patent airway in addition to palliative care that, currently, reduces pain by up to 95%.”

The law firm highlighted the need to “reinforce the mechanisms that allow a dignified life for these people” and that they be “guaranteed the minimum care necessary so that death comes naturally with due support for the patient and their loved ones.”

The firm also noted that instead of allowing euthanasia in Ecuador, the National Health System must be improved as well as financial and medical support for the families of incurable patients. Dignity and Law also demanded respect for international human rights treaties.

“What international law seeks is to protect those who suffer from terminal illnesses, so that they can die with dignity, that is, by receiving adequate medical, emotional, and legal support that does not force them to endure unnecessary suffering or prolong life unjustifiably,” Dignity and Law argued.

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

Here are Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 at the Vatican

Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 24, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 09:03 am (CNA).

As the preparatory season of Advent draws near, the Vatican has published the schedule of Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 through the Jan. 7 feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Most of the liturgies will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following his custom in recent years, Pope Francis will preside over a Christmas Eve “Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m. in the basilica.

On Christmas Day, he will deliver the traditional “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing from the central balcony on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This blessing is given only on Christmas and Easter or on other exceptional occasions and includes the pope’s wishes for peace in the world.

For the vigil of the Jan. 1 solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the pope will preside over first vespers, also known as evening prayer. The prayer service will also include the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.

This year, Dec. 31 will also mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 95.

On Jan. 1, 2024, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is also commemorated as the World Day of Peace.

For the solemnity of Epiphany, which is observed in Italy and the Vatican on Jan. 6, Francis will again preside at a Mass at 10 a.m. 

And on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 7, Pope Francis will preside at a Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where he will also baptize the babies of several Vatican employees.

Among other pre-Christmas festivities, the Vatican will also unveil its Nativity scene and light its Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 9, one day after the Dec. 8 solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when Pope Francis will mark the feast day by honoring the Virgin Mary with a prayer near the Spanish Steps.

Here are 14 Catholic organizations to support this GivingTuesday

Outside a homeless shelter. / Credit: Adrian Fallace via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

GivingTuesday, annually held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity.” First created in 2012, GivingTuesday is a day that encourages people around the world to do something good for others — whether donating to a worthy cause or simply helping your neighbors take out their garbage.

In honor of GivingTuesday, we’ve compiled a list of Catholic organizations that are making a difference globally or in their local communities.

Pro-life support

St. Gianna’s Place in Londonderry, New Hampshire, is a transitional home for women facing unplanned pregnancies and their children. In addition to providing women with shelter, St. Gianna’s place offers women job and life skills training, parenting skills, and spiritual, emotional, and social support.

Gabriel’s Retreat Ministries helps women “find love and support when expecting the unexpected.” Retreats offered by this ministry are available for pregnant or new moms, up to one year postpartum, at no cost and are designed to nurture their faith as daughters of God and find joy in motherhood. The retreats, which take place across the state of Missouri, are also open to women facing an unexpected maternal or fetal diagnosis.

Vocational support

The formation of priests is an essential part of the life and growth of the Church, as well as ensuring Catholics around the world can have access to the sacraments. The St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C., works to prepare young men for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination into the priesthood. Similarly, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminaries bring men from all over the world, inspired by the Neocatechumenal Way, to prepare for life as a missionary priest. There are 101 Redemptoris Mater seminaries throughout the world and six in the U.S.: Newark, New Jersey; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Dallas; and Miami.

You may also consider visiting your archdiocesan website to see if there are any special collections for your local seminary. 

Support the elderly

St. Agnes Home is a senior care facility run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in Kirkwood, Missouri. The assisted living facility offers 24-hour nursing oversight, care from certified nurse aides, access to physical therapy, and group outings, among several others. However, what sets St. Agnes Home apart from the rest is the spiritual aspect. Daily Mass is celebrated along with weekly Eucharistic adoration, rosaries, and other spiritual activities. 

Housing support

For men suffering from addiction, the Assisi Bridge House in Houma, Louisiana, is a residential halfway house that gives these men the opportunity to live in a community setting in which they make a commitment to change their lives. Each individual is given a care plan tailored to their personal needs, and family participation is highly encouraged. The rehabilitation program also includes aspects of spirituality and church attendance. 

Support for the disabled

Camp I Am Special in Fruit Cove, Florida, fosters and celebrates the lives of children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities by hosting in-person camps that give these individuals the opportunity to grow in independence. The programming at the camp allows them to take risks, stretch their abilities, and enjoy the company of others.

Several dioceses also have their own foundations individuals can donate to supporting those with disabilities. For example, in the Diocese of Wichita, the Holy Family Special Needs Foundation works to foster the human, intellectual, and spiritual growth of people with disabilities through education, activities, and services.

International aid

If you are looking to help those suffering in the Middle East, there are several organizations accepting donations in order to help with critical relief. Catholic Relief Services is working to provide families with assistance in the Holy Land and Palestine. In addition to bringing aid to those in the Holy Land, Aid to the Church in Need and Caritas International are working to help those suffering in other parts of the world such as Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, Africa, and Morocco. 


Catholic media organizations such as Word on Fire and Ascension work to provide Catholic content to the faithful and help them encounter Christ through digital and print media.

EWTN is looking for 1,000 new monthly donors to proclaim the Eternal Word worldwide. Consider becoming a monthly donor to help provide programming that is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. (Editor’s note: EWTN is the parent company of Catholic News Agency.)

‘No fear’ among Spanish bishops over upcoming meeting with Pope Francis about seminaries

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ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

The spokesman for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE), Bishop Francisco César García Magán, stated at a Nov. 24 press conference that “there is no fear” among the bishops regarding the upcoming meeting of all the bishops with Pope Francis to address the state of the seminaries.

The conference spokesman acknowledged that “it is a singular event” for all the bishops of a nation to be called as a group to a meeting in Rome outside of their “ad limina apostolorum” visits.

“It doesn’t happen every day, obviously, that the pope convenes [a meeting] with an episcopate,” he added.

In addition, García said the archbishop of Barcelona and president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, “asked around” at the Vatican, and “they have confirmed that it was about the seminaries.”

He also told the media in an appearance at the end of the conference’s 123rd plenary assembly that the Spanish prelates are completely uninformed of the content of the report prepared by the apostolic visitors.

“I can't say anything about the report either because we haven’t received it,” he confirmed.

Apostolic visitation

On Jan. 13, the bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este-Minas in Uruguay,  Milton Luis Tróccoli, and the bishop of Salto in the same country, Arturo Eduardo Fajardo, began an apostolic visit ordered by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy.

The purpose of the visit was to learn about “the implementation of the formation plan for Spanish seminaries approved by the CEE in 2019 to conform with ‘The Gift of the Priestly Vocation: Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis [a document issued by the Congregation for the Clergy in 2016] and the promotion of seminarian formation.”

The Church in Spain has 85 diocesan seminaries, among them 15 Redemptoris Mater seminaries — which have a missionary orientation and are closely linked to the Neocatechumenal Way — one Jesuit seminary and one Opus Dei seminary.

​After the close of the extraordinary plenary assembly, the CEE announced Oct. 31 at a press conference the invitation issued by the Dicastery for the Clergy, explaining that the meeting “will address the conclusions of the work carried out by the bishops who made the visit to the seminaries in Spain at the beginning of this year.”

According to the CEE, Spanish seminaries have fewer than 1,000 candidates for the priesthood for the first time since records have been kept.

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

Pope Francis sends rosary to president-elect Milei of Argentina

Pope Francis and Javier Milei. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/ACI Prensa and U.S. Embassy in Argentina/OPlibertad/Wikipedia (Public Domain)

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Office of the President-Elect of Argentina confirmed on X that the country’s new president, Javier Milei, received a rosary from Pope Francis on Nov. 24.

The sacramental, blessed by the Holy Father, was sent to Milei and vice president-elect Victoria Villarruel.

Pope Francis’ gift follows a phone call he had last week with the president-elect of Argentina in which the pontiff congratulated Milei and advised him to have “courage and wisdom” in governing the nation.

Milei took advantage of the occasion to invite the pope to visit his homeland in 2024.

Both gestures mark the beginning of a new relationship between the two as Milei has apologized for the insults and criticism that he had previously publicly leveled against the Holy Father.

A libertarian economist, Milei won the Nov. 19 presidential election by defeating Sergio Massa, who represented the continuity of the current government with “kirchnerismo” policies similar to those of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, who each served as president between 2003 and 2015.

While Massa proposed a model based on the state’s presence and intervention in the country's economic growth, Milei secured the majority of votes with proposals such as eliminating most taxes, removing subsidies, and promoting the free market, reducing the presence of the state to a minimum.

The new president of the nation will take office Dec. 10.

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

Christian school sues Vermont after ban from sports league over transgender policy

Mid Vermont Christian School is suing the state over a ban from athletic competitions due to the school's transgender policy. / Credit: Mid Vermont Christian School

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

A Christian school based in Vermont filed a lawsuit against state officials after the school was banned from participating in the state’s sports leagues and a tuition program because of its policies related to transgender athletes.

The lawsuit, filed by Mid Vermont Christian School, a K–12 school in the town of Quechee, argues that the ban is a violation of the school’s First Amendment rights. It asks the court to readmit the school into the sports league and allow the school to participate in the tuition program.

Mid Vermont Christian School was banned from participating in the sports league earlier this year after its girls basketball team refused to participate in a playoff game against Long Trail School because the team’s roster included a biological male who identifies as a girl. Mid Vermont Christian chose to forfeit the game due to concerns about fairness and safety.

“The biological male on Long Trail’s team is taller than any girl on Mid Vermont Christian’s team,” the lawsuit states. “Available video of the biological male playing basketball, which showed the athlete repeatedly blocking girls’ shots, throwing elbows, and knocking girls down further underscored Mid Vermont Christian’s concerns.”

In response, the Vermont Principals’ Association expelled Mid Vermont Christian from sports participation, claiming that the school’s decision to forfeit the game violates the VPA’s policies related to gender identity, which bans “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”

“Mid Vermont Christian school is ineligible to participate in VPA activities going forward,” the expulsion letter read.

Vermont’s Agency of Education subsequently refused to recognize Mid Vermont Christian School as an approved independent school, which prevented the school from participating in the state’s Town Tuitioning Program. The lawsuit argues that the school meets all requirements to access the program except for its refusal to adhere to the state’s nondiscrimination policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which the school says violates its religious beliefs.

“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker, who is representing the school in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights,” added Tucker, who serves as the director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”

The lawsuit argues that the state agencies’ actions violate the First Amendment on several grounds, which include the school’s freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. It also claims that the actions constitute unconstitutional retaliation and violate the 14th Amendment’s implied right of parents to control the upbringing of their children, based on prior Supreme Court precedent.

Two families whose children are enrolled in the school also joined the lawsuit, claiming that they and their children have been negatively impacted by the state’s actions, which they say violate the Constitution.

“The students who choose to attend Mid Vermont Christian are currently losing out on valuable tuition reimbursement and being excluded from playing competitive sports and participating in academic competitions … whom we represent in this case,” ADF legal counsel Jake Reed said in a statement. “Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports.”

Neither the Agency of Education nor the Vermont Principals’ Association responded to a request for comment from CNA.

Jewish, Muslim groups call for religious liberty protections in Catholic school lawsuit

The Hall of Justice building in downtown Lansing is home to the Supreme Court of Michigan. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

A Jewish group and an Islamic advocacy team have weighed in on a Catholic school’s challenge of a Michigan anti-discrimination law, calling for religious liberty protections to be upheld by the appeals court hearing the case.

In July 2022 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected categories under a 1976 Michigan anti-discrimination statute, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and its school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Grand Rapids, filed a lawsuit last December arguing that the new interpretation of the law would require schools to impose strict policies and practices enforcing non-Catholic views of sexual orientation and gender identity. They also argued the law would ban catechesis about marriage and the sexes and force the school and parish to hire staff who “lead lives in direct opposition to the Catholic faith.”

A district court tossed out the lawsuit earlier this year, stating the school lacked standing to bring the challenge. The attorney general’s office has not yet issued any legal warnings or brought any complaints to the school under the court’s reinterpretation of state law. 

The parish and school filed an appealarguing that it was entitled to “pre-enforcement standing” even if the state had not yet moved to enforce the new interpretation.

Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a religious freedom legal advocacy group representing the Catholic plaintiffs in the case — revealed that a Jewish group and Muslim advocacy team had filed a brief urging the appeals court to preserve key protections for religious groups regardless of how it otherwise rules in the suit.

The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, with the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, filed the brief “in support of neither party,” with the groups stating that they “take no position on which party should prevail in this specific appeal.” 

Rather, the groups said, they wrote “to address one question and one alone: whether the First Amendment protects religious groups’ authority and autonomy to decide which roles and responsibilities should be limited to coreligionists.”

The petitioners sought to “aid the court’s understanding of the coreligionist exemption and to explain the deleterious effect that a limitation or revocation of that right would have on religious groups in general and on minority religious groups in particular.”

The “exemption” in question, the filing said, “[defers] to religious organizations’ own determination of which roles and responsibilities are so tied to the group’s religious mission that they may be filled only by fellow believers.” 

It is a “well-established” principle, they wrote, one that has “been consistently recognized by all three branches of the federal government.”

The brief argued that “regardless of which party prevails in this appeal,” the court should “make clear … the importance of the coreligionist exemption and its protection of the right of religious groups to make religiously-informed decisions” in directing their own institutions.

In a news release, ADF senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch said Michigan “is forcing Sacred Heart to make an unconstitutional and unconscionable choice between teaching and practicing the Catholic faith or closing their doors forever.”

“We and the groups that have filed briefs in support of our clients are urging the 6th Circuit to allow their lawsuit to continue so they can take steps toward serving their community without fear of government punishment,” Bursch said.

ADF noted that the Grand Rapids parish was founded more than a century ago by Polish immigrants. 

Pope Francis’ health: Here’s a timeline of his medical issues in recent years

A cannula for intravenous treatment on Pope Francis’ right hand is visible as he gives the Angelus blessing on Nov. 26, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis is being treated with antibiotics intravenously and has postponed some of his meetings this week as he recovers from a “mild flu,” according to the Vatican. 

A CT scan at a Rome hospital over the weekend “ruled out pneumonia, but it showed lung inflammation causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Nov. 27.

Francis, who turns 87 next month, spent much of the past decade as pope in relatively good health but has dealt with several painful medical conditions over the last few years.

Here is a timeline charting Pope Francis’ recent health concerns:

December 2020

A bout of sciatic pain in the final days of 2020 keeps Pope Francis from presiding at the Vatican’s liturgies on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Francis has suffered from sciatica for a number of years; he spoke about it during an in-flight press conference returning from a trip to Brazil in July 2013.

“Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone,” he said about the condition, which starts in the lower back and can cause pain running down the back of the thigh and leg to the foot.

January 2021

Pope Francis cancels three more public appearances at the end of the month due to sciatic nerve pain.

July 2021

A problem with his colon lands the pope in the hospital on July 4.

Pope Francis undergoes surgery to relieve stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery includes a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.

The pope spends 11 days in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital recovering from the surgery.

January 2022

Pope Francis shares that he was having problems with his knee.

“Excuse me if I stay seated, but I have a pain in my leg today ... It hurts me, it hurts if I’m standing,” the pope tells journalists from the Jerusalem-based Christian Media Center on Jan. 17.

Francis tells the crowd at his general audience that the reason he is unable to greet pilgrims as usual is because of a temporary “problem with my right leg,” an inflamed knee ligament.

February 2022

Pope Francis cancels two public events at the end of February due to knee pain and doctors’ orders to rest.

In the month that follows, he receives help going up and down stairs but continues to walk and stand without assistance.

April 2022

During a trip to Malta, Pope Francis uses a lift to disembark the papal plane. A special lift is also installed at Malta’s Basilica of St. Paul in Rabat so Francis can visit and pray in the crypt grotto without taking the stairs.

On the return flight on April 3, Francis tells journalists: “My health is a bit fickle, I have this knee problem that brings out problems with walking.”

At the Vatican’s Good Friday service, the pope does not lay prostrate before the altar as he has done in the past.

He also does not celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16 or participate in the paschal candle procession but sits in the front of the congregation in a white chair.

On April 22 and April 26, Francis’ agenda is cleared for medical checkups and rest for his knee. The following day, the pope tells pilgrims at his general audience that his knee prevents him from standing for very long.

Pope Francis also begins to remain seated in the popemobile while greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

On April 30, he says that his doctor has ordered him not to walk.

May 2022

The pope says at the beginning of the month that he will undergo a medical procedure on his knee, “an intervention with infiltrations,” by which he may have meant a therapeutic injection, sometimes used to relieve knee pain caused by ligament tears.

Two days later, he uses a wheelchair in public for the first time since his July 2021 colon surgery. Throughout May he continues to use the wheelchair and avoids most standing and walking.

Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square, May 18, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square, May 18, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Francis also undergoes more than two hours of rehabilitation for his knee every day, according to an Argentine archbishop close to the pontiff.

The treatment “is giving results,” then-Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández writes on Twitter on May 14 after he has a private meeting with Francis.

Other than his knee, “he’s better than ever,” Fernández adds.

Earlier, Lebanon’s tourism minister says that a reported papal visit to the country in June was postponed due to the pope’s health.

The pope does stand for long periods of time when celebrating a May 15 Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Afterward, a seminarian from Mexico catches a moment of lightheartedness between pilgrims and the pope as he greets them from the popemobile. Someone thanks the pope for being present at the Mass, despite his knee pain, to which Francis responds: “Do you know what I need for my knee? A bit of tequila.”

June 2022

In early June, the Vatican postpones Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for health reasons. The trip was planned for July 2–7 but is put off “at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee,” according to the Vatican.

Less than a week later, the Vatican announces that Pope Francis will not preside over the June 16 Corpus Christi Mass because of his knee problems and “the specific liturgical needs of the celebration.”

Pope Francis delivered his homily from a wheelchair on the Solemnity of Pentecost on June 5, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis delivered his homily from a wheelchair on the Solemnity of Pentecost on June 5, 2022. Vatican Media

Pope Francis comments on his health and speaks about the effects of old age in general terms during his June 15 general audience.

“When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do,” the pope says. “The vigor of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: Be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life. When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: The body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”

Toward the end of the month, on June 28, Pope Francis walks with a cane to meet bishops from Brazil and tells them: “I have been able to walk for three days.”

August 2022

On Aug. 4, the Vatican announces that Massimiliano Strappetti, a Vatican nurse, has been appointed as Pope Francis’ “personal health care assistant.”

November 2022

José María Villalón, the head doctor of the Atlético de Madrid soccer team, is recruited to assist Pope Francis with his knee problems. He says the pope is “a very nice and very stubborn patient in the sense that there are surgical procedures that he does not want” and that “we have to offer him more conservative treatments so that he will agree to them.”

January 2023

In an interview published by the Associated Press on Jan. 25, Pope Francis announces that his diverticulitis has returned. He emphasizes that he is in “good health” and that, for his age, he is “normal.”

February 2023

On Feb. 23 the Vatican announces that Pope Francis has a “strong cold.” The pope distributes copies of his speeches at two morning appointments rather than reading them aloud as usual.

March 2023

On March 29 the Vatican announces that Pope Francis is expected to remain in a hospital in Rome for “some days” due to a respiratory infection. It had announced earlier in the day that he was in the hospital for previously scheduled medical checkups.

June 2023

Pope Francis undergoes a three-hour abdominal surgery to repair an incisional hernia on June 7.

A team of surgeons removes scar tissue and operates on a hernia in the pope’s abdominal wall at the site of a previous surgical incision in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. 

The pope is discharged on June 16 after an eight-day stay in the hospital recovering from the operation.

Pope Francis greeted media with surgeon Dr. Sergio Alfieri before leaving Rome's Gemelli Hospital shortly before 9:00 a.m. on June 16, 2023. Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray in front of the historic Marian icon of Salus Populi Romani at St. Mary Major Basilica, and made a quick visit to a group of religious sisters close to St. Peter's Square. Vatican Media.
Pope Francis greeted media with surgeon Dr. Sergio Alfieri before leaving Rome's Gemelli Hospital shortly before 9:00 a.m. on June 16, 2023. Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray in front of the historic Marian icon of Salus Populi Romani at St. Mary Major Basilica, and made a quick visit to a group of religious sisters close to St. Peter's Square. Vatican Media.

November 2023

Pope Francis comes down with a “mild flu,” according to the Vatican. The pope cancels his scheduled meetings and goes to the hospital on Nov. 25 for precautionary testing.

The CT scan at the hospital rules out pneumonia but shows that the pope has lung inflammation that is “causing some breathing difficulties,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni tells journalists on Nov. 27.

The pope is treated with antibiotics intravenously as he recovers. A bandage holding in place a cannula for intravenous treatment can be seen on the pope’s right hand as he gives the Angelus blessing from his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, rather than from the usual window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square. 

“Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this problem of inflammation of the lungs,” the pope says in the Angelus broadcast on Nov. 26.

The pope indicates in his Angelus address that he still intends to travel to Dubai Dec. 1–3 to deliver a speech to the United Nations COP28 climate conference. 

Pope Francis feels well enough to keep his scheduled appointment with the president of Paraguay the following day. The Vatican releases photos of the pope’s meeting with the Paraguayan president showing the pope smiling and using a cane to walk.

This story was originally published May 21, 2022, and was last updated on Nov. 27, 2023.

UPDATE: Indiana Catholic women’s college now accepting men who identify as women

Le Mans Hall at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. / Credit: Stand Still Photo/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana — historically a school for undergraduate women — will now be accepting men who identify as women.

The school’s president confirmed the change to students and faculty in an email last week. The college also updated its nondiscrimination policy in June and referenced the new policy there.

The nondiscrimination policy, which was approved by its board of trustees, says that Saint Mary’s “considers admission for undergraduate applicants whose sex is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”

There are 32 individuals listed on the school’s board of trustees, along with one trustee emeritus. The list includes six religious sisters of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the order that founded the college in the 1840s. Additionally, two priests, one Jesuit and one Congregation of Holy Cross father, also serve on the board.

The policy says that graduate programs are “open to all” and that the school’s admission policies “are informed by Title IV of the Education Amendments of 1972, which allows for single sex admission policies in institutions that have historically served women.”

The school’s mission is to “empower women, through education, at all stages in life,” the school says. “Essential to this mission is fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus experience.”

In a Nov. 21 email, the college’s president, Katie Conboy, said to students and faculty that the school is “by no means the first Catholic women’s college to adopt a policy with this scope,” the Washington Examiner reported.

She added that admitting men who identify as women “encompasses our commitment to operate as a Catholic women’s college.”

The school is still determining the “practices that will follow from the policy,” the email reportedly said.

Conboy put together a “President’s Task Force for Gender Identity and Expression” earlier this year that will be making recommendations for housing policies, the school’s student paper, The Observer, reported last week.

In a statement on Monday, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades said he had learned of the policy change last week and that he found it "disappointing that I, as bishop of the diocese in which Saint Mary’s College is located, was not included or consulted on a matter of important Catholic teaching."

"To call itself a 'women’s college' and to admit male students who 'consistently live and identify as women' suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual," Rhoades said. "This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching."

"The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem," the bishop said in the statement. "The problem is a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic."

The prelate urged the school to "correct its admissions policy in fidelity to the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect."

When news broke last week of the policy change, meanwhile, the school received backlash online.

“Just found out my alma mater [Saint Mary’s], an all-women’s Catholic college, will be accepting BIOLOGICAL MEN starting next fall,” one online post on X said. “This decision is blasphemous & a complete rejection of the Church and its teachings on gender and sexuality.”

“[Catholics] we have an issue here!! Don’t allow your child to go to this school!! [Saint Mary’s] Shame on YOU!” another post said.

“My Alma Mater. I’m disgusted,” another post said.

Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to promoting faithful Catholic education, told CNA Monday that Saint Mary’s College “needs to reverse course” on its policy. 

“Catholics, and most especially Catholic educators, need to have the courage to speak the truth about gender and even to suffer for it,” he said. 

“The consequences of false gender identity and bodily mutilation are dire, and we need our bishops and laity to firmly oppose institutions embracing gender ideology, especially schools and colleges that claim to be Catholic,” he continued.

“Saint Mary’s needs to reverse course for the very same reason that presumably led to its misguided policy: compassion for confused students. Embracing false gender identities does students great harm, and a school or college that does so is no less confused and perhaps deliberately false about its Catholic identity.”

Reilly also said that the college is being “disingenuous” in its citing of federal law, “which has strong exemptions for religious education and is subject to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.”

“It is almost as if Saint Mary’s wants to publicly acknowledge it is not in fact religious, or at least it has no intention of upholding and teaching Catholic doctrine. Perhaps the college should be forthright in saying so to its bishop and Catholic families,” he said.

In a statement to CNA on Monday, Lisa Knox, a spokeswoman for the college, said that “in today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive.”

“When the college’s board of trustees approved an update to the school’s policy in June, it included a shift in our language about who we will consider for admission as well as about how we will support employees across the continuum of gender expression,” she said.

Knox said that the timing of the decision was “driven by changes” to the College Board’s Common Application, which is an online form that prospective college students can fill out to apply to many different institutions.

Some of those changes in the application include the ability for students to choose “F, M, or X” for one’s legal sex, Knox said. 

She added that the change has “created challenges” for single-sex colleges “that are trying to be inclusive while maintaining their status as women’s or men’s institutions.”

Knox said that the board of trustees “reflected carefully” on its role as a Catholic institution and “what it means to be an inclusive educator of women in society today,” adding that it sought guidance from other female-only Catholic colleges “that had already updated their own policies.”

“We are not on the leading edge for a change of this type,” she said.

Knox said that the board of trustees and college leadership foresaw disagreement that would come from some parents, alumnae, and current students, adding that “many have reached out to express their concerns and others who support the more-inclusive policy have written and called to let the college know.”

“Our leadership will always go back to our founding mission, to respond to the needs of the times. In today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive,” she said.

Saint Mary’s College isn’t the only single-sex Catholic college that has announced it will be accepting individuals of the opposite sex. 

The all-female College of Saint Benedict and the all-male Saint John’s University in Minnesota say on their joint website that they “support every student’s right to self-identification” and are dedicated to “creating spaces that allow women, men, and those who do not identify within the binary,” including “transgender, nonbinary, gender-fluid, and gender-nonconforming individuals.”

The College of Saint Benedict will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as female, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”

Saint John’s University, meanwhile, will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as male, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”

In March, Pope Francis called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”

“Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added.

“All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation,” he said.

This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 with a statement from Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades.

German missionary priest released a year after being abducted in Mali

Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, a German priest who was reportedly kidnapped in November 2022 in Mali, was freed Nov. 26, 2023. / Credit: ACN

ACI Africa, Nov 27, 2023 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Father Hans-Joachim Lohre, a member of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (also known as the White Fathers) who was reportedly kidnapped in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on Nov. 20, 2022, has been set free.

According to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the German priest was released on Sunday, Nov. 26.

A representative of the Malian government and two representatives of the Archdiocese of Bamako made public the announcement of the release and “wished to remain anonymous,” according to a Monday, Nov. 27, report by Agenzia Fides.

After being released and handed over to the Malian authorities following a negotiation that was reportedly done directly by the German government, Lohre was said to have been “flown to Germany overnight on a special flight.”

Contacted for comment on the day of the release, the Society of the Missionaries of Africa told ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, that “we shall have time” to provide an update on Lohre’s situation.

Asked to confirm the media reports about the release of Lohre, Father Didier Sawadogo, the provincial of the West Africa Province of the missionary congregation, added in a note shared with ACI Africa: “We are waiting for confirmation.”

Earlier, Father Pawel Hulecki, the assistant general of the White Fathers, had asked for prayers for their kidnapped confrere, saying that his whereabouts were still unknown.

“We still don't know how he is doing, and we pray for his liberation,” Hulecki said about Lohre in a Nov. 23 report.

Lohre was taken away as he was preparing to celebrate Mass in a church in the capital city of the West African nation.

His car was found abandoned and the cross he always carried with him was on the ground near the car.

According to the Catholic pontifical organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the 66-year-old priest “was an important reference person for interreligious dialogue, teaching at the Institute of Christian-Islamic Education.”

According to ACN, Lohre, also known among his friends as Ha-Jo, had for more than three decades been a keen champion of religious cohesion in Mali.

The foundation highlighted the priest’s deep commitment to interreligious dialogue in Mali, recalling how he had, for a long time, been the foundation’s contact person in the West African nation and had taken part in several events hosted by the pontifical charity foundation.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.