Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bishop Robert Barron


In today’s Gospel, the Jews ask Jesus for a sign, and he blithely comments, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Bishop Robert Barron


Trying to turn the divine gift into the ego’s possession necessarily results in nothing, nonbeing, the void.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard V. Reeves and Jocko Willink Take on Male Malaise

Maggie Phillips

Male silhouette

Author Richard V. Reeves and retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink are combatants against the elusive enemies in the war on male malaise and masculinity.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Bishop Robert Barron


God turns the sign of defeat into the sign of victory. The very one whom we reject is the one whom he gives back to us as a source of life.

Pastoral precedent: Vatican traces blessing distinction to Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' language surrounding pastoral blessings -- which the Vatican said can be spontaneously given to people in same-sex relationships -- is not entirely new for a pope, a Vatican editorial said, and can even be traced back to his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

In an editorial for Vatican News published Feb. 27, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, cited a distinction drawn between "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" blessings in a document released in 2000 on prayers for people who are sick signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, and approved by St. John Paul II.

The distinction constitutes the basis for the Vatican's guidelines on the blessing of couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples which was laid out in the December 2023 declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Fiducia Supplicans" ("Supplicating Trust"). "When considered outside of a liturgical framework, these expressions of faith are found in a realm of greater spontaneity and freedom," the declaration stated about blessings, which allows " the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex."

The document referenced by Tornielli, an "Instruction on Prayers for Healing" published by the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Ratzinger was its prefect, established "an important precedent regarding the distinction between what is liturgical and what is not," Tornielli wrote.

The headquarters of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The main door at the headquarters of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is seen at the Vatican in this Feb. 15, 2022, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He pointed to the various prayers for healing referenced in the instruction and which are specified in the liturgical books of the Catholic Church. The Book of Blessings, approved by the Vatican, provides prayer formulas for various situations including for the blessing of the sick -- a blessing that is separate from the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The order of blessing includes recommendations for Gospel readings while tending to the sick and provides a text for a "prayer of blessing" to be said for a sick person by an ordained minister.

The 2000 instruction stated, "Prayers for healing are considered to be liturgical if they are part of the liturgical books approved by the Church's competent authority; otherwise, they are non-liturgical."

That specification, Tornielli wrote in the editorial, "established that there are prayers for healing that are liturgical or ritual and others that are not but are still legitimately admitted."

Liturgical prayers, the older instruction continued, are celebrated with the rites prescribed in the "Rituale Romanum" -- a liturgical book containing the services a priest or deacon may perform, including blessings -- and "with the proper sacred vestments indicated therein."

The congregation's instruction specified that "non-liturgical prayers for healing are distinct from liturgical celebrations," but specified that such prayers "also fall under the vigilance of the local ordinary."

"Confusion between such free, non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided," it continued.

Tornielli wrote that such a distinction shows that the use of the term "liturgical" as used in "Fiducia Supplicans" to define ritual blessings, which are different than pastoral blessings, "is certainly a new development but inserted within the framework of the Magisterium of the last decades."

"Fiducia Supplicans" echoed the 2000 instruction by stating that non-ritualized blessings "should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament," and that to do so would be an "impoverishment" of blessings that deprives ministers "of freedom and spontaneity in their pastoral accompaniment of people's lives."

It added that "the pastoral sensibility of ordained ministers should also be formed to perform blessings spontaneously that are not found in the Book of Blessings."

Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI during an encounter for the elderly in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 28, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A press release published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith almost three weeks after the release of "Fiducia Supplicans" clarified that the real novelty of the declaration "is the invitation to distinguish between two different forms of blessings: 'liturgical or ritualized' and 'spontaneous or pastoral,'" a distinction which Tornielli argued has its roots in blessings administered in other contexts, such as those indicated by Cardinal Ratzinger in presenting various forms of blessings for the sick.

Tornielli's claim counters an essay circulated online shortly after the release of "Fiducia Supplicans" written by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who wrote that the idea of pastoral blessings is a "new category of blessing" without precedent or basis in Catholic magisterium. The cardinal argued that the concept of pastoral blessings developed in "Fiducia Supplicans" was "created ad hoc to bless situations that are contrary to the law or spirit of the Gospel."

Cardinal Müller said that there was no need to develop a teaching on pastoral blessings since blessings of a spontaneous nature were already possible within the framework of the "Rituale Romanum."

Yet the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote that "Fiducia Supplicans" could address the confusion that followed its 2021 negative pronouncement on the possibility of blessing of same-sex couples and "offer a vision that draws together the doctrinal aspects with the pastoral ones in a coherent manner."

The dicastery said the declaration offers "a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings, permitting a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings," one that Tornielli and official Vatican media outlets said was already in motion in the era of St. John Paul II.

Is it Impossible to Know Anything About God?

Dr. Christopher Kaczor

Jesus preaching

Alvin Plantinga shows us that while our finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite God, it doesn't mean we cannot know anything at all about God.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Bishop Robert Barron


How much do we care for those who are poor? Are we committed to helping these people by performing the corporal works of mercy?

Bishops Representing Latin America, Canada, and United States Gather to Pray and Discuss Their Shared Ministry


TAMPA, Fla. - Concluding a three-day summit, officers and members of the Episcopal Conferences of the Americas met from February 26 - 28 at a retreat center to pray and discuss their shared ministry as pastors. The twelve bishops attending included bishops from El Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano y Caribeño (CELAM), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The bishops issued the following joint statement:

“Following a tradition of meeting that began in 1959, we came to spend time together in prayer, fraternity, listening, and sharing. We talked about our mutual concerns and approaches to pastoral ministry and moral issues including euthanasia, migration, ecological threats to our common home, and the Synod.

“Pope Saint John Paul II said there was one American continent. In our time together, we see the wisdom in that statement. We share much in common and have similar pastoral and social concerns. Our time together has strengthened our bonds of fraternity in Christ and has allowed us to discern ways we can promote a more synodal and missionary Church and work together even more effectively in the vineyard of the Lord.”


Pope has full day of appointments after going to hospital for tests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The day after Pope Francis paid a brief visit to Rome's Gemelli Isola Hospital for "diagnostic tests," he had a full morning of audiences, including a meeting with bishops from Italy's Emilia Romagna region making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican.

The bishops, including Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, had been scheduled to meet the pope Feb. 26, but the meeting was postponed to Feb. 29 because of what the Vatican press office described as "mild flu-symptoms."

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience Feb. 28, but began the gathering by telling visitors, "I'm still a bit sick," and having aides read most of his prepared remarks.

Pope Francis meets with Cardinal Zuppi, other Italian bishops
Pope Francis meets with the bishops of Italy's Emilia Romagna region as they made their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican Feb. 29, 2024. Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops' conference, is seen listening as Pope Francis addresses the group. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Immediately after the audience, "Pope Francis went to the Gemelli Isola Tiberina Hospital for some diagnostic tests. Afterward, he returned to the Vatican," said a statement Feb. 28 from the Vatican press office.

The Reuters news agency reported that the pope underwent a CT scan at the hospital on Rome's Tiber Island; the Vatican press office did not respond to a request for confirmation.

The 87-year-old pope had canceled his appointments Feb. 24 and Feb. 26, but he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Feb. 25 without obvious difficulty. The Vatican provided no health update Feb. 27 since Tuesdays are his usual day off and he did not have to cancel any appointments.

In addition to meeting the group of Italian bishops, Pope Francis had separate audiences Feb. 29 with: Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life; with Father Andrzej Komorowski, superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter; and with Archbishop Rui Manuel Sousa Valério of Lisbon, Portugal, and a group of people accompanying him. None of the audiences involved the pope making a speech or having someone read his text.

Arriving for his general audience Feb. 28, Pope Francis used a wheelchair instead of walking with his cane. His voice was hoarse and softer than usual.

Pope Francis arrives for audience
Pope Francis arrives in a wheelchair for his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican Feb. 28, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis also went to the Gemelli Isola Hospital in late November for a CT scan of his lungs. At the time, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office had said, "The CT scan ruled out pneumonia, but showed pulmonary inflammation that was causing some respiratory difficulties."

The problems forced him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 for the U.N. climate change summit. On several occasions in the first weeks of December, he had aides read his speeches for him. In mid-January, saying he had "a bit of bronchitis," he skipped several speeches although kept meeting different groups.

Pope Francis had undergone surgery in 1957 to remove part of one of his lungs after suffering a severe respiratory infection. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

But last year, he was hospitalized at the main Gemelli hospital March 29-April 1 for what doctors said was a "respiratory infection." He tested negative for COVID-19.

In 2022 the hospital on Rome's Tiber Island, founded and run by the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, became affiliated with the Gemelli hospital where St. John Paul II and Pope Francis himself have undergone surgery.