Learn From History Over Nuclear Threats, Says Pope

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Sunday urged the world to learn from history on the threat of nuclear war over Ukraine and choose the path of peace.

Looking back to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, “we cannot forget the danger of nuclear war that threatened the world at that time”, the pope said during a canonisation mass in St Peter’s Square.

“Why not learn from history? Even at that time there were conflicts and huge tensions, but the way of peace was chosen,” the 85-year-old said.

US President Joe Biden said Thursday the world is facing nuclear “Armageddon”, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use his atomic arsenal as Russian troops struggle against a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The Vatican said around 50,000 faithful attended the mass on Sunday celebrating the elevation to sainthood of religious figures Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and Artemide Zatti.

The pope used the opportunity to offer prayers for the victims of what he called a “mad act of violence” in Thailand.

A sacked police officer killed 36 people, 24 of them children, on Thursday in a gun and knife rampage at a nursery.

And in recalling the work of Scalabrini, a 19th-century Italian bishop who founded a community that serves migrants and refugees, Pope Francis returned to a recurring theme of his papacy.

“The exclusion of migrants is scandalous! Indeed, the exclusion of migrants is criminal, it makes them die in front of us,” the pontiff said.

“And so today, we have the Mediterranean which is the largest cemetery in the world. The exclusion of migrants is disgusting, it is sinful, it is criminal.”

He said that rather than opening the doors to migrants, “we exclude them, we send them away, to the concentration camps where they are exploited and sold as slaves”.

Tens of thousands of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean each year in an attempt to reach Europe, but almost 25,000 have either drowned or gone missing since 2014, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration.

Zatti was an Italian-born emigrant to Argentina who devoted his life to caring for the sick.

AFP

Pope To Visit Bahrain In November

Pope Francis arrives at the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Old Nicosia on his first stop following his arrival in Cyprus on December 2, 2021.  (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis will in November visit Bahrain, home to the biggest Catholic church in the Arabian peninsula, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Francis, 85, will be the first pope ever to visit the majority-Muslim Gulf country, according to Vatican News.

Pope Francis has been under doctor’s orders to slow down, after suffering from a painful knee that has forced him to use a wheelchair and cancel some events.

“Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities, Pope Francis will make the announced apostolic journey to Bahrain from November 3 to 6 this year,” the Vatican said in a short statement.

He will be “visiting the cities of Manama and Awali on the occasion of the ‘Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence’,” it said.

Further details of the visit — the 39th international trip of Francis’s papacy — will be released at a later date.

But the pontiff is likely to visit the cavernous Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia, in Awali, which opened its doors last year.

The modern-style church lies about a mile (1.6 kilometres) from a large mosque and a stone’s throw from an oil well, in the south of the state.

It was built to serve the country’s 80,000 or so Catholics, mainly workers from Asia, mostly India and the Philippines.

The pontiff received Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa at the Vatican in 2014.

The pair discussed “peace and stability in the Middle East” and the Christian community’s positive contribution to the country, the Holy See said at the time.

The trip comes on the back of another journey to a Muslim-majority country, following Francis’s visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month.

All Things Work For Good To Those Who Love God – Cardinal Okpaleke

A file photo of Bishop Peter Okpaleke
A file photo of Bishop Peter Okpaleke

 

The Bishop of Ekwulobia, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke, has recalled the circumstances leading to his coronation as the new prince of the Nigerian Catholic Church, saying all things work for the good of those who love God.

Before his elevation as Cardinal, controversy had trailed Okpaleke’s appointment as Bishop of Ahiara Diocese in Imo State. Some clergy and lay faithful had protested his appointment because he is not an indigene. The situation forced him to resign which later made Pope Francis carve out Ekwulobia Diocese in Anambra and installed him as Bishop.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Peter Okpaleke To Be Sworn-In As Catholic Cardinal

In an interview with Vatican City News, Okpaleke spoke about how he received the news of his appointment and how his pastoral experiences contribute to inspiring him in his new role.

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” Okapaleke said, stating that he considered his own unworthiness and shortcomings. “By the grace of God, it has pleased the Holy Spirit working in the Church.”

According to Okpaleke, in spite of the difficult moments and the antagonism that trailed his appointment as Bishop, God granted him peace as he had never experienced before.

He said, “Jesus talks of this type of peace in John 14:27. Now, I know what Jesus meant; that he gives us peace; not the kind of peace that the world gives.”

“Ours is a providential God who, in spite of seeming confusion and randomness, directs history to his purpose and invites all to open themselves up and contribute their own God-given energies, insights, and talents to the Divine project of making the face of the Earth to reflect more clearly the Kingdom of God.”

On Saturday, Okapaleke was one of the 20 new cardinals sworn in by Pope Francis at St. Peters Square in Rome.

The College of Cardinals is a body of senior priests who support the pope in overseeing the affairs of the church, and they also vote during papal elections. Bishop Okpaleke who is among the 20 new cardinals of the church is one of two African bishops and the only Nigerian sworn in.

With the new cardinals, the total number of College of Cardinals has now grown from 208 to 229.

Nigeria’s Peter Okpaleke To Be Sworn-In As Catholic Cardinal

A file photo of Bishop Peter Okpaleke
A file photo of Bishop Peter Okpaleke

 

The Bishop of Ekwulobia, Peter Okpaleke, is scheduled to be one of 20 new cardinals to be sworn in on Saturday by the Catholic church.

Pope Francis had earlier named Okpaleke as one of the new cardinals – many of whom could one day choose his successor.

It is the eighth consistory since the 85-year-old Pope was elected in 2013, but is being particularly closely watched for signs of the kind of Catholic Church he hopes to leave behind.

The new cardinals include men known for their progressive views and their pastoral work, and they hail from around the world: from Brazil to Nigeria, India, Singapore and East Timor.

After Saturday’s swearing-in at St Peter’s Basilica, they will join a two-day meeting of all cardinals starting Monday.

The gathering was called earlier this year to discuss the pope’s new constitution for the governance of the church — but has only fuelled speculation he is on his way out.

Francis, who has cancelled numerous events in recent months and been forced to use a wheelchair due to knee pain, said last month “the door is open” to stepping down.

If he did follow his predecessor Benedict XVI and resign, a conclave involving all cardinals aged under 80 would be called to choose a successor.

After this weekend, Francis will have chosen around 90 out of the 132 cardinals eligible to elect a new pope, around two-thirds of the total — precisely the percentage needed for any proposed name to pass.

Global choices

The naming of cardinals, normally an annual event, is always scrutinised as an indication of the future direction of the Catholic Church and its priorities for its 1.3 billion faithful.

But Francis’s choices for cardinals do not automatically guarantee that the next pope would be someone reflecting his own priorities, Vatican specialist Bernard Lecomte told AFP.

“We always have the impression there will be continuity, but in reality, history has shown the opposite,” said Lecomte, citing the “balancing” from one pope to the next throughout the 20th century.

Francis’ papacy has been defined by efforts to make the Church more inclusive, transparent and focused on the most vulnerable members of society.

This year the Argentine pontiff completed a major shake-up of the Vatican’s powerful governing body, the Roman Curia, which makes winning new converts a priority.

He has named cardinals who have rejected Church hierarchy and status quo and helped to counter the centuries-long hegemony of Europeans.

Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, the archbishop of Dili, will on Saturday become the first cardinal of tiny East Timor, an overwhelmingly Catholic nation in Southeast Asia.

Another new appointment is Robert McElroy, the 68-year-old bishop of San Diego, California, who has supported gay Catholics and criticised moves to deny Communion to US politicians — like President Joe Biden — who support abortion.

Two years ago, the pope made history by creating the first African-American cardinal — Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington.

And Saturday will also see the creation of the youngest cardinal in the world, 48-year-old Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, who works in Mongolia.

Curia insiders

The group also includes Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil.

Three future cardinals already hold positions in the Curia: Arthur Roche of Britain, Lazzaro You Heung-sik of South Korea, and Fernando Vergez Alzaga of Spain.

Lucas Van Looy, the 80-year-old bishop emeritus of Ghent, was nominated as a cardinal but asked to be exempted following criticism of his handling of child sexual abuse by priests in Belgium.

On Saturday, the future cardinals will kneel one by one at the feet of the pontiff, who will place on their heads the quadrangular scarlet cap, or biretta.

The ceremony will be followed by the Vatican’s traditional “courtesy visit,” in which the new cardinals greet the general public.

Pope Appeals For Peace To ‘Beloved’ Ukraine On Independence Day

Pope Francis looks down during a news conference aboard the papal plane on his flight back after visiting Canada, July 29, 2022. – Pope Francis ended his six-day trip to Canada on July 29, 2022 as he began with a historic apology for the harm done to the country’s indigenous people, again expressing his “outrage and shame” to Inuit in the Arctic. (Photo by GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis renewed calls for peace Wednesday “for the beloved Ukrainian people” on the war-torn country’s Independence Day and the six-month anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion.

Following his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Francis directed his address to “the beloved Ukrainian people who for six months today have been suffering the horror of war,” while warning of the risk of nuclear catastrophe in the region.

“I hope that concrete steps will be taken to put an end to the war and to avert the risk of a nuclear disaster in Zaporizhzhia,” he said, referring to the Russian-controlled nuclear plant in southern Ukraine — Europe’s largest – that has been the target of military strikes, blamed by each side on the other.

The 85-year-old pope cited “so many innocents who are paying for madness” — whether prisoners, refugees, children or orphans — as the war drags on.

“I think of that poor girl who died because of a bomb under the seat of her car in Moscow,” added Francis, referring to Daria Dugina, the daughter of a Russian ultranationalist intellectual allied with President Vladimir Putin, killed by a car bomb Saturday.

“Those who profit from war and the arms trade are criminals who kill humanity,” the pope said, while denouncing long-standing military conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Andriy Yurash, wrote on Twitter he was disappointed in Francis’ speech, saying the pontiff should not have put “aggressor and victim” in the same category.

Pope Francis Says Needs To Slow Down Global Travel, Or ‘Step Aside’

Pope Francis looks down during a news conference aboard the papal plane on his flight back after visiting Canada, July 29, 2022. – Pope Francis ended his six-day trip to Canada on July 29, 2022 as he began with a historic apology for the harm done to the country’s indigenous people, again expressing his “outrage and shame” to Inuit in the Arctic. (Photo by GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Ageing pope admits he must slow down, or quit

Pope Francis admitted Saturday he needs to slow down, telling reporters after a six-day trip to Canada that he cannot maintain his pace of international travel — and may have to think about retiring.”I don’t think I can go at the same pace as I used to travel,” said the 85-year-old pope, who suffers pain in his knee that has seen him increasingly reliant on a wheelchair.

“I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to save myself a little bit to be able to serve the Church. Or, alternatively, to think about the possibility of stepping aside.”

It is not the first time Francis has raised the possibility of following the example set by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who quit over his own failing health in 2013, and is now living quietly in Vatican City.

In 2014, a year into his papacy, Francis told reporters that if his health got in the way of his functions as pope, he would consider stepping down.

In May, as reported in the Italian media, Francis joked about his knee during a closed-door meeting with bishops, saying: “Rather than operate, I’ll resign.”

“The door is open, it’s one of the normal options, but up until now I haven’t knocked on this door,” he said Saturday.

“But that doesn’t mean the day after tomorrow I don’t start thinking, right? But right now I honestly don’t.

“Also this trip was a little bit the test. It is true that you cannot make trips in this state, you have to maybe change the style a little bit, decrease, pay off the debts of the trips you still have to make, rearrange.

“But the Lord will tell. The door is open, that is true.”

– Intense speculation –

The comments come after intense speculation about Francis’s future, after he was forced to cancel a string of events due to his knee pain including a trip to Africa planned for earlier this month.

Talk was also fuelled by his decision to call an extraordinary consistory for August 27, a slow summer month at the Vatican, to create 21 new cardinals — 16 of whom will be under the age of 80, thereby eligible to elect his successor in a future conclave.

Benedict’s decision to quit caused shockwaves through the Catholic Church. He was first pope to resign since the Middle Ages, but the precedent has now been set.

“In all honesty, it is not a catastrophe, it is possible to change pope, it is possible to change, no problem! But I think I have to limit myself a bit with these efforts,” Francis said on Saturday.

He mostly used a wheelchair during his trip to Canada, where he offered a historic apology for decades of abuse of Indigenous children at residential schools run by the Catholic Church.

But he did stand up in his “popemobile” to greet crowds.

Francis said surgery on his knee was not an option, adding that he was still feeling the effects of six hours spent under anaesthetic last summer, when he underwent an operation on his colon.

“You don’t play, you don’t mess around, with anaesthesia,” he said.

But he added: “I will try to continue to go on trips and be close to people, because I think it is a way of service, closeness.”

Francis still hopes to reschedule his postponed trip to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“But it will be next year, because of the rainy season — let’s see: I have all the good will, but let’s see what the leg says,” he quipped.

The Argentine pontiff repeated that he would like to visit war-torn Ukraine, but offered no details on the state of his plans.

He has another overseas trip planned for a religious congress in Kazakhstan in September.

“For the moment, I would like to go: it’s a quiet trip, without so much movement,” the pope said.

 

After The Apology, The ‘Healing’: Pope Visits Sacred Lake In Canada

Pope Francis participates in the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage and Liturgy of the Word at Lac Ste. Anne, northwest of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, July 26, 2022. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis called for “healing” Tuesday as he joined a pilgrimage to a sacred lake in Canada, one day after making a landmark apology for the abuse of Indigenous children at Catholic-run schools.

The 85-year-old pontiff prayed for the Church to choose “truth” over “defending the institution” as he visited Lac Ste Anne, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Edmonton, where some of Canada’s Indigenous people began their relationship with Catholicism generations ago.

The lake is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in North America. Every year since the end of the 19th century, thousands of pilgrims mainly from Canada and the United States have come to bathe and pray in the healing waters, according to Indigenous rites.

Hundreds of faithful, many of them Indigenous, fell silent as the pope, who has been suffering with knee pain, was wheeled carefully to the water’s edge and prayed in silence there for several minutes.

He was then wheeled to a shrine, sprinkling some of those assembled with water he had blessed from the lake on the way, as Indigenous people drummed and chanted.

Lamenting the “terrible effects of colonization, the indelible pain of so many families, grandparents and children,” Francis told those gathered for a liturgical celebration that their presence was “testimony of resilience and a fresh start.”

“All of us, as (a) Church, now need healing: healing from the temptation of closing in on ourselves, of defending the institution rather than seeking the truth,” the pope continued.

Tuesday marked the second day of what Francis has called a “penitential” journey, a major tour of Canada which he began Monday with the long-awaited apology to a gathering of Indigenous people in the community of Maskwacis, south of Edmonton.

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada’s government sent about 150,000 children into 139 residential schools run by the Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.

Many were physically and sexually abused, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

 

Pope Francis gives the Liturgy of the Word at the Shrine as he participates in Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage at Lac Ste. Anne, northwest of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, July 26, 2022. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

– ‘Part of a process’ –
For some, the healing had already begun.

Cindy Dearhead, a First Nations woman who was a student in one of the infamous schools, said she felt the pope’s apology was “important.”

“It was a long time coming, but finally a pope himself is finally acknowledging yes, I’m sorry,” she told AFP at Lac Ste Anne.

“For those of us that suffered into generations of trauma, maybe we can have healing and can understand what our parents came through and maybe feel better.”

But for many others that healing may well depend on what comes next.

“I think the apology has always been one thing, part of a process of reconciliation. To me, the actions that need to come behind it are very important,” said Chief Peter Powder of the Mikisew Cree First Nations.

At Lac Ste Anne, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics appeared tired and weakened by knee pain that has seen him use a wheelchair often in recent months.

His pilgrimage came hours after he delivered a mass to tens of thousands of people thronging a stadium in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, one of the largest open-air events of his visit.

There he prayed for a “future in which the history of violence and marginalization suffered by our Indigenous brothers and sisters is never repeated.”

At both events traditional music filled the air, while Indigenous people in the crowd were recognizable by their orange shirts — intended to symbolize what they endured in the country’s infamous residential schools.

Francis greeted the crowds both times — in his wheelchair at the lake, and in the popemobile at the stadium — kissing babies and blessing children.

 

LAC STE. ANNE, AB – JULY 26: Pope Francis reads along at the Ste. Anne Shrine after making the pilgrimage to the lake on July 26, 2022 in Lac Ste. Anne, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

– Generational trauma –
Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of the former schools, sending shockwaves through Canada — which has slowly begun to acknowledge this long, dark chapter in its history.

More than 4,000 children have been identified as dying in the schools, but the true toll is estimated to be at least 6,000.

The abuse created trauma for generations.

On Wednesday the pope will fly to Quebec City, before ending his trip on Friday in Iqaluit, capital of the northern territory of Nunavut and home to the largest Inuit population in Canada.

There he will meet again with former residential school students, before returning to Italy.

Pope To Hold Mass In Canada After Apology For Indigenous Abuse

This handout picture taken and released on July 25, 2022 by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis (L) wearing a headdress presented to him by Indigenous leaders at Muskwa Park in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, western Canada, on July 25, 2022. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)  /

 

 

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend a mass by Pope Francis in western Canada Tuesday, a day after his historic apology for the abuse of Indigenous children at Catholic-run schools.

The 85-year-old pontiff is expected to deliver a homily in Spanish at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, in what will be one of the largest open-air events of his visit to Canada.

Knee pain has seen the Pope use a cane or a wheelchair in recent months, including in Canada, and he will greet crowds from his popemobile.

In his first address Monday, to a gathering of Indigenous people in the community of Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, he offered a long-awaited apology to Canada’s First Nations, Metis and Inuit people for the “evil” done over decades of abuse in schools.

“I am sorry,” he said, adding: “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples.”

He cited the “cultural destruction” and the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” of children over nearly a century at the schools.

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada’s government sent about 150,000 children into 139 residential schools run by the Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.

Many were physically and sexually abused, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

Organizers say more than 60,000 people are expected to attend the mass in Edmonton, which is being held under heavy security.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics is then expected to continue what he has described as a “penitential” journey, travelling in the afternoon to Lac Ste Anne, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Edmonton, for a liturgical celebration at one of North America’s most important pilgrimage sites.

Every year since the end of the 19th century, thousands of pilgrims mainly from Canada and the United States have come to bathe and pray in the healing waters, according to Indigenous rites.

Tuesday also marks the feast of St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus in the Catholic tradition, a major figure for many Canadian Aboriginal communities.

– ‘Path together’ –
Monday’s apology had a powerful impact on many, leaving survivors feeling overwhelmed and leaders praising it as historic, even as some warned it was only a first step.

“I believe there’s a path together. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said George Arcand, grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.

Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of the former schools, sending shockwaves throughout Canada — which has slowly begun to acknowledge this long, dark chapter in its history.

More than 4,000 children have been identified as dying in the schools, but the true toll is estimated to be at least 6,000.

The abuse created trauma for generations.

Following a July 27-29 visit to Quebec City, Pope Francis will end his trip in Iqaluit, capital of the northern territory of Nunavut and home to the largest Inuit population in Canada, where he will meet again with former residential school students, before returning to Italy.

Pope Francis Denies Resignation Rumours

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis has rebuffed suggestions he may be readying to resign, saying in an interview published Monday that rumours he was suffering from a serious illness were “court gossip”.

“It never crossed my mind”, Francis told Reuters news agency after weeks of speculation.

Pressed on whether he might emulate his predecessor Benedict XVI, who was the first pope since the middle ages to resign, the Argentine said “for the moment, no. For the moment, no. Really!”

But in the interview, which took place Saturday at the Vatican, he repeated his often-stated position that he might resign someday if failing health made it impossible for him to run the Church.

Asked when that might be, the 85-year-old said: “We don’t know. God will say.”

Francis said he had suffered a “small fracture” in his knee, which was treated with laser and magnet therapy.

The knee pain forced him to indefinitely postpone a July trip to Africa.

He denied rumours that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer during his colon operation in July 2021, saying it was merely “court gossip”.

Francis will travel to Canada this month, after which he said he would like to travel to Moscow and Kyiv if possible.

The pontiff has repeatedly offered to help mediate the war, saying he was hopeful for an invitation to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

AFP

Pope ‘Greatly Disappointed’ Over Cancelled Africa Visit

Pope Francis leads a mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, 2022 at St Peter’s basilica (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis has said he is “greatly disappointed” he cannot make a planned visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on Saturday due to knee pain.

The 85-year-old pontiff suffers chronic arthritis in his knee, according to Vatican sources, and has cancelled a string of events in recent months.

“The Lord knows how greatly disappointed I am to have had to postpone this long-awaited and much-desired visit,” the pope said in a video message released by the Vatican on Saturday. “But we remain confident and hopeful that we shall be able to meet as soon as possible.”

The Vatican had postponed the pope’s trip to South Sudan and the DRC on June 10 “at the request of his doctors” to avoid jeopardising treatment.

In his video message, the pope offered a “heartfelt blessing” to the two countries he was set to visit.

He said: “I think of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the exploitation, violence and insecurity from which it suffers, particularly in the east of the country, where armed conflicts continue to cause much intense suffering, aggravated by the indifference and the convenience of many.”

“I think of South Sudan and the plea for peace arising from its people who, weary of violence and poverty, await concrete results from the process of national reconciliation.”

“Dear Congolese and South Sudanese friends, at this time words are insufficient to convey to you my closeness and the affection that I feel for you,” he added.

The pope — who has needed a wheelchair at official events — has also spoken of an injured ligament and suffers from hip pain which forces him to limp. Last July, he spent 10 days in hospital after undergoing colon surgery.

A scheduled trip to Lebanon in June was also postponed due to health reasons, according to the Lebanese government — although the Vatican had never confirmed the visit.

But a trip to Canada at the end of July is still on the pontiff’s schedule.

‘So Many Murders’: Pope Mourns Priests Killed In Mexico

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday lamented the spiral of violence engulfing Mexico after two Jesuit priests and a man seeking sanctuary were gunned down inside a church.

The pope, himself a Jesuit, expressed sadness and dismay over the killings of men he called his “brothers” in the mountains of the northern state of Chihuahua.

“So many murders in Mexico. I am close, in affection and prayer, to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy,” the pontiff said at the end of his weekly audience at the Vatican.

Priests Javier Campos, 79, and Joaquin Mora, 81, were shot dead in the town of Cerocahui on Monday “while trying to defend a man who was seeking refuge,” according to the order, also known as the Society of Jesus.

The pursued man, identified as tour guide Pedro Palma, was also killed and his body taken away with those of the two priests.

Chihuahua state governor Maru Campos later confirmed that the three men’s bodies had been found.

“We have managed to locate and recover… the bodies of the Jesuit priests Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora, and of the tour guide Pedro Palma,” Maru Campos said in a video posted to social media.

The identity of the victims was confirmed by forensic experts, while the state prosecutor’s office announced a reward of $250,000 for information leading to the capture of the alleged murderer.

Authorities have identified as a suspect a 30-year-old man already wanted over the murder of an American tourist in 2018.

The prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday that before the murders, the suspect had assaulted two other people after a disagreement over a baseball game.

He later kidnapped Palma, who managed to escape and ran into the church seeking help.

About 30 priests have been killed in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Centro Catolico Multimedial, a Catholic organization.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in a wave of bloodshed in Mexico since the government deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

– Crime-ridden region –
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that a manhunt was under way for the alleged murderer.

The suspect was identified by another priest present in the church, he told reporters.

“That area of the mountains has for some time been infiltrated, penetrated, dominated by crime,” Lopez Obrador said.

The three bodies were placed in the back of a pickup truck by armed men, covered with plastic and taken away, according to Father Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, head of the Jesuits in Mexico.

“We demand justice,” the order said.

Experts say Chihuahua is an important transit route for illegal drugs bound for the United States and violently contested between rival trafficking gangs.

Father Jorge Atilano Gonzalez, also a Jesuit, told a local television station the priests killed on Monday had attempted to intervene because they knew the assailant, who was from the area.

“He wanted to confess” after the shooting, he said, citing the testimony of the third priest present.

“What we believe is that he was in a state of alcoholism or addiction because of the reaction he had,” he added.

– ‘Important social work’ –
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico condemned the killings, saying the priests had carried out “important social and pastoral work” among the Raramuri, or Tarahumara, Indigenous people.

“The murder of these two well-known priests reminds us of the situation of extreme violence and vulnerability faced by the communities of the Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua,” said UN human rights representative Guillermo Fernandez-Maldonado.

The Mexican Episcopal Conference called for a rapid investigation as well as increased security for the country’s clergy.

It is common for religious leaders in Mexico to act as defenders of their communities and as mediators with criminal gangs operating there.

In states such as Michoacan and Guerrero, some have even entered into dialogue with drug traffickers in a bid to keep the peace in largely poor regions with little government presence.

Pope Says Russia’s ‘Ferocious’ Invasion Perhaps Provoked

Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience on June 8, 2022 at St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

 

 

 

Pope Francis praised the “brave” Ukrainians defending themselves from Russia’s “ferocious” onslaught in an interview published Tuesday, but said the war was “perhaps in some way provoked” by NATO.

“What we are seeing is the brutality and ferocity with which this war is being carried out by the troops, generally mercenaries, used by the Russians,” he said, describing the Ukrainians as “a brave people”.

But, he warned, “the danger is that we only see this, which is monstrous, and we do not see the whole drama that is unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented”.

The pope has repeatedly condemned the war in Ukraine but has drawn criticism for failing to explicitly lay the blame on the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There were “no metaphysical good guys and bad guys here, in an abstract way,” he said in conversation last month with editors of Jesuit media, published by the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica Tuesday.

“Something global is emerging, with elements that are very much intertwined”.

Putin, he said, could not be painted as merely the “wolf”, with the West as “Little Red Riding Hood”.

The pope quoted an unnamed head of state as telling him a couple of months before February’s invasion that he was “very concerned about the way NATO was moving” and that the military alliance was “barking at the gates of Russia”.

Francis made a similar comment on the conflict’s possible causes in May, when he spoke in an interview of an “anger” in the Kremlin which could have been “facilitated” by “the barking of NATO at Russia’s door”.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church defended himself from critics who would accuse him of being in favour of Putin.

“Someone may say to me at this point: but you are pro-Putin! No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing,” he said.

“I am simply against reducing complexity to the distinction between good guys and bad guys, without reasoning about roots and interests, which are very complex.”

He also included the arms industry among possible incentives for war.