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Alleged Rupnik victim: Many of the abused women have never received help

Father Marko Rupnik / Credit: Centroaletti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Italian professor Fabrizia Raguso, one of the original members of the Loyola Community and an alleged victim of Father Marko Rupnik, whom she met in 1990, explained the reasons that led her and the other signatories to publish an open letter following a report by the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center, founded by the Slovenian priest in the Eternal City.

“I personally cannot sit still and wait for everything to be decided behind our backs, without being informed of anything and without being allowed to participate in [how things turn out for us],” Raguso said in an interview with La Nueva Brújula Cotidiana.

“Although I have already requested and received the indult [to leave] and therefore I am completely freed from the community [Loyola], I nevertheless feel a responsibility, both civil and ecclesial, so that everything that has happened in these 30 years comes to light and justice is done,” she explained.

“Many of the sisters are still in quite bad shape and have never received any help, neither material nor psychological. The others who signed with me, in some way, with certainly personal nuances, feel the same,” she said.

Rupnik, who has been in charge of Lenten meditations for the Vatican Curia, is co-founder of the Loyola Community with Ivanka Hosta in Slovenia in the 1980s and where he allegedly abused adult nuns.

After a preliminary investigation entrusted to the Society of Jesus, the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) “determined that the incidents in question should be considered beyond the statute of limitations and therefore closed the case at the beginning of October of this year 2022,” according to a statement from the Jesuits dated Dec. 2, 2022.

The open letter from Rupnik’s victims

A group of alleged victims of Rupnik, who has been expelled from the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), published an open letter Sept. 19 in which they expressed their outrage and consternation following the report of the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center.

The letter, published in seven languages, is signed by several women who were part of the Loyola Community, such as Raguso, who is an assistant professor of psychology at the Portuguese Catholic University of Braga; Mira Stare, doctor in theology from the University of Innsbruck; Gloria Branciani, graduate in philosophy; Vida Bernard, graduate in theology; Mirjam Kovac, doctor in canon law; and Jožica Zupančič, doctor in missiology.

“The events and communications that have taken place in recent days: the private audience, later made public through images that appeared on the web, granted by the pope to Maria Campatelli, former nun of the Loyola Community and current president of the Aletti Center; and the statement made public today with the final report of the canonical visit made to the community of the Aletti Center, leave us speechless, without a voice to shout our consternation, our outrage,” says the letter, whose first addressee is the Holy Father.

The letter also charges that the report from the Diocese of Rome “ridicules the pain of the victims, as well as that of the entire Church, mortally wounded by such ostentatious arrogance.”

Rupnik and Hosta ‘are truly dangerous’

In the interview with La Nueva Brújula Cotidiana, Raguso noted that the signatories of the open letter feel “responsible for all the other people who may still be involved in Rupnik and Ivanka’s plots, especially if they are young.”

“In addition to Rupnik’s cunning ways of insinuating [himself] into civil, cultural, and ecclesial life, Ivanka has always continued to look for ‘vocations.’ She was concerned that not only was the community not growing but that many had left over time,” Raguso said.

The Italian professor warned that Rupnik and Hosta “are truly dangerous; they must be stopped definitively. Now, faced with this clumsy but also arrogant attempt to rehabilitate Rupnik and the Aletti Center, we feel that waiting for truth and justice from the ecclesial authorities was a waste of time.”

“We had to take a decisive step: Writing an open letter and putting our names and academic titles was a way to give a face and a name to the victims and counteract the preconceived idea that victims are ‘vulnerable’ because they lack awareness or are little educated,” she explained.

After emphasizing that “in the spiritual life, abuse destroys the relationship of the abused person with God,” the professor commented that after the abuse she has always seen Rupnik “as a true narcissist and with a great desire to assert himself, to gain fame and power; very angry when contradicted.”

Report of the Diocese of Rome on the Aletti Center

On Sept. 18, the Diocese of Rome released a statement about the canonical visit made to the Aletti Center, founded by Rupnik, with the aim of “investigating the dynamics of the association.”

Father Giacomo Incitti, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and in charge of the investigation, stated in the report that in “the Aletti Center there is a healthy community life, free of any particular critical problem.”

In addition, the visit also examined “the main accusations made against Father Rupnik, especially the one that gave rise to the request for excommunication,” the report states.

“On the basis of the abundant documentary material studied, the visitor has been able to note and, therefore, point out seriously anomalous procedures, the examination of which has generated well-founded doubts even about the request for excommunication itself,” states the report from the Diocese of Rome.

Rupnik was briefly excommunicated in 2019 for absolving in confession an accomplice of a sin against the Sixth Commandment.

“I believe that a Church so torn by these plots lacking clarity will not be able to endure much longer. It sincerely pains me that the bishops still do not understand that hiding evil destroys the Church; it doesn’t preserve it at all,” Raguso concluded.

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

Oklahoma archbishop decries execution of Anthony Sanchez as ‘archaic’

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. / null

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2023 / 17:22 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City on Thursday called the execution of convicted murderer Anthony Sanchez, which took place a week ago, “fundamentally at odds with the culture of life the state of Oklahoma proclaims to be building.”

Sanchez was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of 21-year-old University of Oklahoma student Juli Busken, KOCO5 reported. He died Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, about a 130-mile drive from Oklahoma City. 

“Today the state of Oklahoma has once again delivered what it deems ‘justice’ with the execution of Anthony Sanchez. No matter how heinous a crime a person commits, they do not forfeit their human dignity bestowed upon them by God, the author of life,” Coakley, who often speaks out against the death penalty, said in a Sept. 28 statement. 

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, despite enacting several anti-abortion measures in the largely conservative state, lifted a state moratorium on the death penalty in 2020. He has presided over 10 executions since taking office four years ago, as many as took place during the six years between 2013 and 2019. 

“This archaic punishment is fundamentally at odds with the culture of life the state of Oklahoma proclaims to be building,” Coakley continued. 

“I implore all people of goodwill to join me in advocating for an end to the death penalty in Oklahoma and instead working to achieve actual justice that respects human dignity and prioritizes healing the wounds of grief and loss. Please join me in praying for the soul of Juli Busken, her family, Anthony Sanchez, his family, and the corrections staff involved in carrying out the execution.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting an update promulgated by Pope Francis in 2018, describes the death penalty as “inadmissible” and an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (No. 2267). The change reflects a development in Catholic doctrine in recent years. 

St. John Paul II, calling the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary,” encouraged Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” The bishops of the United States have spoken frequently in favor of life sentences for convicted murderers, even those who have committed heinous crimes.

Coakley’s statement upon Sanchez’s death was similar to the one he released in July after Oklahoma executed convicted murderer Jemaine Cannon, who stabbed a 20-year-old mother of two to death. Coakley sits on the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

Oklahoma was the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt lethal injection as an execution method, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 1976, Oklahoma is the state with the highest number of executions per capita with a total of 112 executions, according to Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national advocacy organization that demonstrates against the death penalty. 

Capital punishment in Oklahoma has come under scrutiny and criticism in recent years, especially after a botched execution in 2021 during which John Marion Grant began convulsing and vomiting after being administered midazolam, the first drug in a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. Grant’s execution was itself the first in the state since the botched execution of Charles Frederick Warner in 2015.

One-third of St. Louis Catholic schools face possible closure 

Credit: Wuttichai jantarak/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of St. Louis may close more than 25 Catholic elementary schools amid a major restructuring plan that has already closed and merged many parishes. 

Roughly one-third of the 80 Catholic parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will meet with representatives from the Office of Catholic Education and Formation and their Episcopal Vicar to consult on their current and future status, the archdiocese announced Sept. 27.

The schools being met with were chosen based on enrollment numbers, demographic trends, parish and school financial strength, and proximity to neighboring Catholic parish elementary schools, the announcement continued. 

“While some Catholic parish elementary schools may be recommended by the parishes to close, others will enter a feasibility analysis phase,” the archdiocese, led by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, said. 

Throughout October, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and Formation and archdiocesan Episcopal Vicars will meet with pastors to discuss “the long-term sustainability of their parish elementary schools.”

“These meetings will be consultative in nature, and pastors will share and consider this information with parish and school leadership. Once this process is complete, pastors will return recommendations concerning their parish elementary schools to Archbishop Rozanski, much as they would under normal archdiocesan procedure,” the announcement continued. 

“Pastors who believe their schools are sustainable long-term will be asked to consider their current processes, develop a feasibility plan, and engage in strategic planning efforts to create strong, viable Catholic elementary schools.”

The archdiocese said it expects to announce school changes in early December — possibly later for some schools — to be implemented for the 2024-2025 school year. The archdiocese previously said that in response to requests to raise teachers’ salaries, they are “looking at a new compensation model for our teachers to take effect for the 2023-24 academic year.”

St. Louis is not one of the country’s largest dioceses but has historically had a disproportionate number of students in its Catholic schools. As recently as last year, 38% of St. Louis’ Catholic elementary school-age children were in a Catholic school compared with 13% nationally, and 31% of Catholic high school-age children are in a Catholic school compared with 10% nationally.

Three Catholic schools in the archdiocese closed earlier this year — St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Florissant, St. Mark in south St. Louis County, and Good Shepherd in Hillsboro. Also closed was Barat Academy, an independent Catholic high school in Chesterfield, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Closures for two other high schools — Rosati-Kain for girls and St. Mary’s for boys — were announced, but supporters raised enough money to keep the schools open independently. 

Existing Catholic school building structures in the archdiocese are at roughly 65% capacity and, due to the archdiocese’s expansive footprint, many schools are “facing increased costs that are affecting tuition, declining enrollment often based on geography, increased building maintenance needs, and parishes that are unable to subsidize the cost of a school,” the archdiocese said. 

The consultative process is part of a larger process of consolidation, branded “All Things New,” which is administered by the Pennsylvania-based Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI). It is very similar to the ones undertaken by CLI in recent years in other major midwestern archdioceses, such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Numerous factors, including increasing suburbanization and rising crime, have led in recent years to an exodus of people from St. Louis’ historic inner core, where the greatest number of large, historic parishes were clustered. Catholics have been gradually moving west for several decades, away from the city center along the Missouri River and toward the suburbs, leaving parishes in the more urban areas with smaller Catholic populations from which to draw. 

Overall, in 2021, the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis dipped below 500,000 for the first time since the 1960s. The number of parishes would have likely exceeded the number of priests by 2026 without action, according to archdiocesan projections. 

Rozanski’s final plans for the mergers and closures, announced in May, saw roughly 25% of the archdiocese’s parishes close or merge. 

Some Catholics in the archdiocese were critical throughout the All Things New process, in part because of the shakeup of parishes. More than 3,000 Catholics in the archdiocese signed a petition that asked the archbishop to halt the plan last spring, but Rozanski ultimately declined to revoke any of the decrees he made regarding the final plans, leaving the parishes with recourse only to the Vatican.

As a result, at least eight parishes this summer announced plans to send appeals to the Vatican, putting aspects of the mergers planned for the parishes on hold until the Dicastery for the Clergy issues a ruling, which could take several months.

Before making the changes, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the parishes as they were at the time. It considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. In addition, the archdiocese held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski said the feedback helped structure the final plan, which was approved by the All Things New Planning Committee. The committee included priests, deacons, parish life coordinators, lay leaders, and religious within the archdiocese. In addition to considering the feedback, they also looked into financial data and other information.

Meet the Vatican scientist helping NASA on a historic space mission

Brother Robert Macke, a Jesuit and astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, works in his office at the Vatican Observatory. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Brother Robert Macke

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Brother Robert Macke, known to many of his colleagues as “Brother Bob,” is a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and one of the world’s foremost experts in the study of meteorites. So, when Dr. Andy Ryan, one of the leads for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, needed help constructing a device to study some of the oldest asteroid material in the solar system, he naturally turned to Macke.

The NASA mission required a custom-built “pycnometer” to measure the density and porosity of asteroid material taken from deep space. The device had to fit very specific restrictions to avoid contaminating the samples. Companies selling off-the-shelf pycnometers didn’t fit NASA’s specifications — only Macke was able to make the exact device the OSIRIS-REx mission needed.

Now, Macke’s device will be used to closely study the asteroid material and hopefully answer some of NASA’s biggest questions about the origins of the solar system.

What is the OSIRIS-REx mission? 

OSIRIS-REx, which is short for the “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer,” is the first U.S. mission in history to deliver asteroid samples to Earth.

After seven years in space and collecting 8.8 ounces of surface material from the asteroid “Bennu” 200 million miles away, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft landed back on Earth on Sunday, Sept. 24.

The samples, which NASA says date back to the earliest days of the solar system, were taken to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they will be permanently housed and studied.

NASA believes the sample taken by OSIRIS-REx will help answer questions about both the nature of asteroids and the origins of life in the solar system.

According to the NASA project’s website, the Bennu asteroid “is a remnant from the tumultuous formation of the solar system” and unlike any rocks found on Earth, “Bennu’s rocks offer us insight into our own history — a time about 4.5 billion years ago when Earth was first forming.” 

How a religious brother helped NASA

According to Macke, Ryan wasn’t originally intending to ask him to join the mission, but after they began to talk, he realized Macke was the perfect candidate to lead the construction of the pycnometer.

“He contacted me because I have extensive experience with the measurement techniques involved, having applied them to a few thousand meteorites and other specimens from collections in several cities in the USA and elsewhere,” Macke told CNA. “At first he was just looking for advice, but as we talked more about it, eventually he asked me to join the team and to direct the construction of the device.” 

Brother Robert Macke, a Jesuit and astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, works in his office at the Vatican Observatory. Credit: Photo courtesy of Brother Robert Macke
Brother Robert Macke, a Jesuit and astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, works in his office at the Vatican Observatory. Credit: Photo courtesy of Brother Robert Macke

According to Macke, the process of constructing the device took over two years. His team’s efforts were complicated by the fact that the pycnometer had to be completely free of anything that might contaminate the specimens.

Now that the asteroid sample has returned to Earth, Macke’s pycnometer will be a crucial tool to unlock the secrets being held by Bennu hundreds of millions of miles away. 

“We have successfully built the device, but my task is not finished,” Macke said. “The next step is to use the device to measure the densities of these specimens. This process will be spread over several weeks, and perhaps months. I cannot declare complete success for my part of the project until it is finished.” 

Artist's concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
Artist's concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The study begins

Macke will be helping study the samples in Houston when it comes time to use his device.

“The OSIRIS-REx mission is a massive collaboration of scientists and engineers spanning numerous institutions and several countries,” Macke told CNA. “It is a real honor to be included among their number.”

Macke noted that he is “particularly excited” to be “helping to contribute to the wealth of knowledge that we will develop from the specimens brought back to the Earth from the asteroid Bennu.”

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket, Sept. 8, 2016. Credit: United Launch Alliance
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket, Sept. 8, 2016. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Though Macke said that he is honored to be on the NASA team studying Bennu, Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, told CNA that Macke is the perfect man for the job. 

“Bob is the best in the world at making these measurements, having traveled across the U.S. and Europe to measure meteorite collections — and lunar samples — in this way,” Consolmagno said.   

“I am delighted that a member of the Vatican Observatory is a member of the science team studying the samples from asteroid Bennu,” Consolmagno went on, “but it’s not surprising.” 

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is towed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before launch on Aug. 29, 2016. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is towed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before launch on Aug. 29, 2016. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

What is the Vatican Observatory? 

The Vatican Observatory, which has locations in Rome’s Castel Gandolfo and Arizona, is the official astronomical and scientific research arm of the Vatican. 

Though the modern observatory was founded in 1891, it has roots going back to 1582. Today, the Vatican Observatory is run by a community of Jesuit priests and brothers and is dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of the universe. 

According to Macke, the Vatican Observatory has been involved in “countless collaborations with institutions around the world” and occasionally, as in this case, it is involved in NASA missions as well. 

“I think it is safe to say that opportunities will arise to continue building useful collaborations with the whole scientific community,” Macke said. 

“The motto of the Vatican Observatory, given to us by Pope Pius XI in the 1930s,” Macke said, “is ‘Deum Creatorem Venite Adoremus,’ or ‘Come Let Us Adore God the Creator.’”

Many believe that faith and science contradict each other. Catholic scientists at the Vatican Observatory disagree. 

“By studying and learning about this great universe that is part of God’s creation, we can grow in appreciation of the Creator himself,” Macke said. “In short, for us, doing science is a form of worship. We do the same science as everybody else and work right alongside the others contributing to the sum total of human knowledge, but what motivates our work is fundamentally adoration of God the Creator.”

Catholic Church’s new cardinals explain why they chose their spiritual mottos

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba and his episcopal coat of arms (top left); Bishop Stephen Chow of Hong Kong and his episcopal coat of arms (top right); Bishop Américo Aguiar of Setúbal, Portugal, and his coat of arms (bottom left); Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town and his coat of arms. / Credit: ACI Africa; Archdiocese of Juba; Society of Jesus/Diocese of Hong Kong; Patriarchate of Lisbon; Archdiocese of Cape Town

Rome Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 15:42 pm (CNA).

Each of the new cardinals receiving the red hat at the consistory on Saturday has a chosen spiritual motto, giving a window into their spirituality and priorities.

Episcopal mottos selected when a Catholic priest is consecrated as a bishop are traditionally found at the base of his coat of arms and often remain unchanged when a cardinal becomes pope.

Pope John Paul II proclaimed his total devotion to the Virgin Mary with the motto “Totus Tuus” (“Totally Yours”), taken from St. Louis Grignion de Montfort’s Marian consecration prayer. Pope Benedict XVI chose “Cooperatores Veritatis” (“Cooperators of the Truth”) from Scripture in 3 John 1:8, and Pope Francis’ motto is taken from a homily by St. Bede on the Gospel account of the call of St. Matthew: “Miserando atque eligendo” (“Having mercy, he chose him”).

Among the 21 cardinals being created on Sept. 30, there are some unique mottos and imagery from a motto in Swahili to a giraffe on the coat of arms of a bishop from Asia.

Here is a look at the spiritual motto and coat of arms for each of the new cardinals eligible to vote in a conclave to elect the next pope:

Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś, 59, Poland, “Virtus in infirmitate” (“Power in weakness”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The coat of arms of Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Ryś chose his motto from a line in St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, noting that it sounds stronger in the original Greek, like “power matures in powerlessness” (2 Cor 12:9). The archbishop of Łódź, Poland, and author of more than 50 books said: “If we stop understanding weakness, the Church will become an organization like any other. The preaching of Christianity is the story of Christ, who was crucified and rose again. Without the cross, there is no Church.”

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, 58, patriarch of Jerusalem, “Sufficit tibi Gratia mea” (“My grace is sufficient for you”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The coat of arms of Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

When Pizzaballa became the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, he explained why he chose a line by St. Paul (2 Cor 12:9) as his motto: “The Church in the Holy Land has no means and no power. She only has Christ and his grace.” The Italian Franciscan who served for more than a decade in the Holy Land said that in the face of the seemingly “huge and insurmountable” difficulties facing the region, the “word of God reminds us that it is to grace alone, and nothing else, that we should entrust ourselves.” His coat of arms includes an image of the city of Jerusalem as it was depicted in the Middle Ages on seals of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem.

Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, 64, Hong Kong, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (“For the greater glory of God”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Jesuit bishop of Hong Kong chose the motto of the Society of Jesus as his episcopal motto. His coat of arms includes a giraffe, which Chow has explained symbolizes being able to see the big picture. Chow also noted that giraffes are known for having big hearts to pump enough blood to their heads and can therefore be considered a symbol of generosity. The coat of arms includes an image of Hong Kong’s Tsing-Ma Bridge, which Chow described as a symbol of the mission of the Church to form a bridge for different parties to meet one another.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, 77, France, “Si Scires Donum Dei” (“If you knew the gift of God”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Christophe Pierre. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Christophe Pierre. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The apostolic nuncio to the United States says that he chose his motto from Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman in John 4:10: “Jesus answered her, if you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” He explained that often people are unaware of what God is offering us and how the Church is a gift from God. “The Church is God’s presence in human reality. And we are God’s presence in the human reality. The Church is a sacrament of God’s presence,” he said. His coat of arms was designed by his younger brother and includes a white ermine, an animal that is a symbol of Pierre’s hometown of Saint-Malo, and the granite rocks of the French region of Brittany.

Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, OSA, 68, United States, “In illo uno unum” (“In the one Christ we are one”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, OSA. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost, OSA. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The current prefect for the Dicastery for Bishops took his episcopal motto from a line in a sermon by St. Augustine: “Nos multi in illo uno unum,” (“Though we are many, in the one Christ we are one”). Prevost served as the prior general of the Augustinian order for 12 years. His coat of arms includes the seal of the Augustinian order and a “fleur de lis” symbolizing the Virgin Mary.

Cardinal José Cobo Cano, 58, Spain, “In misericordia Tua, confidere et servire” (“In your mercy, trust and serve”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal José Cobo Cano. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal José Cobo Cano. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

When he was ordained an auxiliary bishop of Madrid, Cobo explained: “Looking back at my life’s journey … I see two fundamental things, entrusting myself to the mercy of God and service, which is what Assisi awakened in my vocation.” His episcopal coat of arms includes a cross with the five wounds of Christ, a wall symbolizing Our Lady of Almudena, and the basin that priests use to wash their hands. “I believe that kneeling down and washing the feet of others is a place of learning for the disciple, from which the Eucharist and the Church are born,” he said.

Cardinal Américo Aguiar, 49, Portugal, “In manus Tuas” (“In Your hands”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Américo Aguiar. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Américo Aguiar. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The Portuguese bishop who organized the 2023 World Youth Day chose his spiritual motto in tribute to the late Bishop António Francisco dos Santos of Porto, whose motto came from the last words of Christ as recorded in Luke 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The cardinal-elect recently unveiled a new coat of arms designed by Italian heraldic designer Giuseppe Quattrociocchi. It features the colors of the Portuguese flag as well as symbols from Pope Francis’ coat of arms — the seven-pointed star symbolizing the Virgin Mary and the tuberose symbolizing St. Joseph — to express his gratitude to the Holy Father.

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa, 63, Tanzania, “Mwanza na mwisho” (“The beginning and the end” in Swahili).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Protase Rugambwa. Credit:
The coat of arms of Cardinal Protase Rugambwa. Credit:

The motto of the current coadjutor archbishop of Tabora, Tanzania, comes from a line in the Book of Revelations 21:6: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Rugambwa chose to have a crucifix completely replace the usual shield in his episcopal coat of arms. The crucifix has the Greek symbols for Alpha and Omega on either side.

Cardinal Sebastian Francis, 71, Malaysia, “Fiat voluntas tua” (“Thy will be done”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Sebastian Francis. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Sebastian Francis. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The Malaysian bishop chose a line from the “Our Father” in Latin, “Thy will be done,” as his spiritual motto. His episcopal coat of arms has a paschal lamb holding a white banner with a red cross, symbolizing Christ’s victory over death. Francis has served as the bishop of Penang since 2011 and has been the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei for seven years.

Cardinal Stephen Brislin, 67, South Africa, “Veritas in Caritate” (“Truth in Love”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Brislin. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Brislin. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The archbishop of Cape Town’s motto comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:15. Brislin unveiled a new coat of arms just ahead of the consistory, which includes a red Basotho hat representing Brislin’s root in the Free State and an anchor reflecting Cape Town’s location as the Cape of Good Hope. In reference to Brislin’s episcopal motto, the South African bishops’ conference said that the cardinal-designate “has a rare gift of combining gentleness with firmness” and “presents a good balance between the teaching of the Church and pastoral sensitivity.”

Cardinal Ángel Sixto Rossi, SJ, 65, Argentina, “En todo amar y servir” (“In All Things to Love and Serve” in Spanish).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Ángel Sixto Rossi, SJ. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
The coat of arms of Cardinal Ángel Sixto Rossi, SJ. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Jesuit archbishop of Córdoba, Argentina chose a maxim of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, as his motto. His Ignatian spirituality is further communicated in the IHS monogram at the top of his coat of arms, which is an abbreviation for the name of Jesus in Greek and the seal of the Jesuit order. Rossi is known in Argentina for offering the Ignatius spiritual exercises.

Cardinal François-Xavier Bustillo, OFM Conv, 54, France, “In ipso vita erat” (“In him was life”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal François-Xavier Bustillo, OFM Conv. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal François-Xavier Bustillo, OFM Conv. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

Bustillo serves as the bishop of the French island of Corsica and his episcopal coat of arms includes the traditional symbol of Corsica, the Moor’s Head. The Spanish-born Conventual Franciscan also incorporated the crossed arms from the Franciscan order’s coat of arms at the top of his episcopal crest. Bustillo served as the custos of the Franciscan’s French province for 12 years. His motto comes from the prologue of the Gospel of John 1:4.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, 61, Argentina, “En medio de tu pueblo” (“Among your people” in Spanish).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández. Credit:
The coat of arms of Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández. Credit:

The new prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of Faith took his spiritual motto from a line in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings: “I, your servant, among your people,” the words of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:8. When he was the archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, Fernández chose a simple emblem with a cross, a dove, and a shepherd’s crook.

Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, 67, Italy, “Per orientalem viam” (“By the Eastern road”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

Gugerotti chose the episcopal motto “By the Eastern Road” long before he was named prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches in 2022. He holds a doctorate in eastern ecclesiastical sciences from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, of which he is now the grand chancellor. The Vatican diplomat formerly served as apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, 59, South Sudan, “Joy in the eternal word made flesh.”

The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla. Credit: Archdiocese of Juba
The coat of arms of Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla. Credit: Archdiocese of Juba

The archbishop of Juba chose to have his episcopal in English, rather than Latin, as have many bishops in South Sudan. His episcopal coat of arms includes African drums, a traditional shield, and a golden cross.

Cardinal Emil Paul Tscherrig, 76, Switzerland, “Spes mea Christus” (“Christ is my hope”).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Emil Paul Tscherrig. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Emil Paul Tscherrig. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The current apostolic nuncio to Italy chose to use the traditional coat of arms of his family, which incorporates a “T” in the center for “Tscherrig.” The Swiss cleric is the first non-Italian to serve as the Vatican’s ambassador to Italy. His motto is similar to the Catholic Church’s Easter Sequence, “Surrexit Christus, spes mea,” (“Christ, my hope, has risen.”)

Cardinal Luis Rueda Aparicio, 61 Colombia, “Permanezcan en mi amor” (“Remain in my love” in Spanish).

The coat of arms of Cardinal Luis Rueda Aparicio. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5
The coat of arms of Cardinal Luis Rueda Aparicio. Credit: Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5

The archbishop of Bogotá took his motto from Jesus’ words to the apostles at the Last Supper in John 15:9: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.”

Cardinal Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB, 63, Spain.

Father Artime will be made a cardinal before he is consecrated as a bishop. He has been the rector major of the Salesian order since 2014 and has come to an agreement with Pope Francis that he will remain in the role for one more year after his creation as a cardinal.

During GOP debate DeSantis says he would support 15-week national abortion ban

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during the FOX Business Republican Primary Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 27, 2023, in Simi Valley, California. / Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 13:32 pm (CNA).

Conspicuously absent from the second Republican presidential primary debate this week: much talk on abortion politics and policy. 

After occupying a sizable portion of the first debate in August, the issue was only discussed for brief minutes near the end of Wednesday’s event, wedged in between discussions on the size of the federal government and the GOP’s challenges with Latino voters. 

Only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were given the chance to speak on abortion — with DeSantis offering a vocal defense of pro-life beliefs before confirming that he would support a national 15-week ban on the procedure. 

Responding to a question from moderator Dana Perino as to how he might “win over independent pro-choice voters,” DeSantis cited his landslide reelection victory in Florida in 2022 after he signed a 15-week abortion ban in that state. 

“We won the greatest Republican victory in a governor’s race in the history of the state, over 1.5 million votes,” he said. He claimed the major victory came about “because we were leading with purpose and conviction.” 

DeSantis criticized remarks earlier this year from former President Donald Trump, who said Republican intractability on abortion was responsible for the GOP’s underperformance in the 2022 midterms. 

“It was the ‘abortion issue,’ poorly handled by many Republicans, especially those that firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother, that lost large numbers of voters,” Trump wrote on Truth Social in January.

DeSantis on Wednesday night disputed this assertion. “I reject this idea that pro-lifers are to blame for midterm defeats,” DeSantis said. “I think there’s other reasons for that.”

The GOP governor said he and his wife, Casey, had earlier in the day visited the graves of former President Ronald Reagan and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. That memorial site features a quote from Reagan in which the Republican president asserted that there is “purpose and worth to each and every life.”

“We’re better off when everybody counts, and I think we should stand for what we believe in,” DeSantis said Wednesday night. 

“I think we should hold the Democrats accountable for their extremism, supporting abortion all the way up until the moment of birth,” he added. “That is infanticide and that is wrong.”

Directly after those remarks, DeSantis confirmed that if elected president he would seek a 15-week nationwide ban on abortion.

When asked by fellow primary contender Sen. Tim Scott if he would support that federal policy, DeSantis — in a hurried moment filled with crosstalk — responded: “Yes, I will.”

DeSantis’ campaign later confirmed to the Daily Signal that he had indeed affirmed his support for a 15-week ban. 

The governor earlier this year signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida, an even stricter policy than that which he signed last year.

Just a few contenders for the GOP nomination have come out in support of a federal 15-week ban. DeSantis had previously refused to say if he’d support that policy; Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence have all previously voiced support for such a ban. 

Trump has dodged the question of a federal ban as he ramps up his 2024 campaign. Speaking to NBC News’ Kristen Welker earlier this month, he said that “from a legal standpoint,” it’s “probably better” if abortion is only regulated at the state level. “But I can live with it either way,” he said.

“Something is going to happen,” he told Welker. “It’s going to be a number of weeks. Something is going to happen where both sides are going to be able to come together.” The former president further described DeSantis’ six-week ban in Florida as “a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.”

DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to a query on Thursday morning. 

Aside from DeSantis, Christie was the only other contender to speak at length about abortion. 

The longtime Republican noted that he had repeatedly vetoed Planned Parenthood funding while governor of New Jersey, though he also said that he “believe[s] in states’ rights,” arguing that Republicans “fought hard against Roe v. Wade for decades to say that states should make these decisions.”

Christie said that the Republican candidate for president cannot be pro-life “just [for] the nine months in the womb.” He cited the need for widespread drug addiction treatment in the U.S. 

“If you’re pro-life you’ve got to be pro-life for the entire life,” he said.

New Hong Kong cardinal: Sharing ‘love of God,’ not conversions, goal of Church in China

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow said Sept. 28, 2023, that evangelization in China today should focus on communicating the love of God “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics.” / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2023 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow said Thursday that evangelization in China today should focus on communicating the love of God “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics.”

In an interview in Rome with CNA on Sept. 28, the bishop of Hong Kong, who will be made a cardinal in the consistory this weekend, spoke about his vision for evangelization in mainland China.

“I think it is important that we say that Pope Francis made a distinction. Evangelization is really to help people to understand the love of God — and the love of God without the agenda of turning them into Catholics — because that shouldn’t be the focus, as that focus would be very restrictive,” Chow said.

The cardinal-elect underlined that evangelization should help “them to come to understand our God means love, means goodwill and a better life.”

“Evangelization should be really coming to know God, who is love,” he said.

In Pope Francis’ travels to countries where Catholics are in the minority, the pope has made a distinction between “proselytism” and “evangelization.”

“Evangelization is essentially witness,” Francis told the Jesuits in Mozambique in 2019. “Proselytizing is convincing, but it is all about membership and takes your freedom away.”

During a Jan. 11. 2023, general audience, Pope Francis emphasized that evangelization and proselytism are not the same.

“And it does not begin by trying to convince others, but by witnessing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up,” he said of evangelization.

Francis recalled a line from a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007: “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction.’”

“Do not forget this,” Pope Francis added, calling Christians who proselytize “pagans dressed as Christians.”

The pope has also praised Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary and scholar, for his “proclamation of the Gospel” in China by proposing “the truth of the Christian faith and morality.”

The Chinese people have faced increased restrictions on religious freedom in the last decade. Catholic priests are only allowed to minister in recognized places of worship, which minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government implemented new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” which ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.

Despite the restrictions, two bishops from mainland China have been permitted to travel to Rome to participate in the Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

Chow is also a synod delegate, personally nominated by Pope Francis to take part in the nearly monthlong assembly. He said that he is “excited that the laypeople, men and women, and religious, are represented as full voting members.”

The cardinal-elect has led the Diocese of Hong Kong since December 2021. Chow said that one of the biggest challenges facing Hong Kong Catholics is how “to provide good moral education … so that we have moral citizens.”

He underlined the importance of formation in the parishes so that laypeople can evangelize outside of the parish.

“Evangelization is to your social community. Each parish is connected to your social community. We need to go out, get out of our parish, and really to connect with the social community and serve them,” he said.

Indianapolis Colts owner donates $5 million to Catholic Charities to honor cousin, a nun

Jim Irsay, a billionaire businessman who grew up in the Chicago area, praised his cousin Sister Joyce Dura’s service to others during her time as a religious sister. / Credit: 317football|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

CNA Staff, Sep 28, 2023 / 11:41 am (CNA).

Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team, announced this week that he is donating $5 million to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago in honor of his late cousin, Sister Joyce Dura. 

Irsay, a billionaire businessman who grew up in the Chicago area, praised his cousin’s service to others during her time as a religious sister. 

“Sister Joyce spent a half-century giving back to others, so with this gift I only hope to emulate my dear cousin’s spirit, grace, and her commitment to our communities,” Irsay said as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Catholic Charities Chicago is the official charitable arm of the Church in the country’s third-largest city, which is home to more than 2 million Catholics. The organization said it serves more than 350,000 free meals each year to people in need.

“We are delighted and honored by the Irsay family’s generosity to us,” Sally Blount, Catholic Charities Chicago president and CEO, said in a Sept. 26 statement.

“Jim and his family’s compassion for those we accompany and serve combined with their vision for honoring his cousin, Sister Joyce Dura, and her life’s mission — it’s all quite extraordinary.”

Sister Joyce, a member of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, entered the convent in 1965 and devoted the next nearly 50 years to her religious life. Sister Joyce served at several medical centers in Illinois in a variety of roles including nursing, social service, and pastoral care. She died in 2014 at age 71, the Sun-Times reported. 

Catholic Charities said in light of the gift, the organization’s five-night-a-week supper program at its headquarters in the River North district of Chicago will be known as the “Sister Joyce Dura, OSF, Supper Program” through 2033. 

Irsay, who has struggled with mental health and addiction over the years and now runs a foundation to support mental health, was raised Catholic and declared when accepting the AFC Championship trophy on behalf of the Colts in 2007: “As the humble leader of this organization, we’re giving all the glory to God right now.” 

The coach of the Colts that year — who led the team to a Super Bowl win — was Tony Dungy, an outspoken Christian and pro-life activist. After winning the game, the team’s late Catholic chaplain remembered the team gathering in the locker room and ending the day with prayer. Though the chaplain normally led the prayers, Dungy offered to conclude it “because of his deep faith.”

Republicans seek to overturn Biden transgender rule they say would cut school lunches

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. / Credit: Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 11:05 am (CNA).

Republican lawmakers are working to overturn a federal rule they say would punish schools that don’t follow the White House’s guidance on transgender protections by cutting funding for school meals. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its anti-discrimination rules last year to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s transgender status. The new rule will apply to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services and provide an avenue for transgender students to file discrimination complaints with the agency.

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, and Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Florida, filed resolutions in their respective legislative chambers to overturn this rule. Per the Congressional Review Act, Congress has the authority to eliminate the new rule if both chambers pass a resolution asserting congressional disapproval.

Marshall, Franklin, and other Republican lawmakers co-sponsoring the resolutions have warned that the rule could cause schools to lose federal funding for lunch programs for impoverished students in schools that separate sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms based on biological sex, regardless of the student’s self-proclaimed transgender identity.

“In Joe Biden’s America, public schools must support Democrats’ radical transgender movement or they’re at risk of losing substantial funding,” Marshall said in a statement his office provided to CNA. “This president is relentless in forcing his misaligned values on the American people and children.”

“We must stop this policy dead in its tracks to protect access to school lunches for students across the country and send a clear message to this administration: stop weaponizing the federal government in your pursuit of indoctrinating children,” Marshall added. “The USDA has NO authority to require biological boys to be given access to girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms, nor do they have the power to allow biological boys to compete against biological girls in girls’ sports.”

In a statement provided by his office to CNA, Franklin accused President Joe Biden’s administration of using “school lunch as leverage in a political game to intimidate school systems into adopting their woke agenda.”

“We’ve worked hard in Florida to kick progressive culture wars out of the classroom and keep parents in charge,” Franklin said. “We don’t co-parent with the federal government. The USDA does not have the authority to impose LGBTQ ideology and dangerous social experiments like shared bathrooms and locker rooms on local schools. I thank my colleagues for joining me to hold the Biden administration accountable for this abuse of power.”

The USDA has consistently rejected the claim that the new rule would threaten school lunch funding based on these policies and has insisted that the rule simply ensures that students do not face discrimination based on their gender identity in their efforts to access lunch assistance.

“Some have incorrectly suggested that there is a link between this update and state laws unrelated to FNS programs, such as those dealing with gender identity and sports participation,” Stacy Dean, the deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services at the USDA, said in a September 2022 statement

“That is not accurate — this update is specific to the federal nutrition assistance programs,” Dean added. “Others have suggested that this could result in loss of program funding. However, this action is about ensuring everyone has access to our programs, not reducing funding. When processing complaints, our goal is always to reach voluntary compliance. We strive to resolve issues by working directly with program operators and aim to ensure all program participants can continue to be fed.”

Could this affect Catholic schools?

Nonpublic schools that are affiliated with a particular religion, such as Catholic schools, are not subject to the USDA’s implementation of the anti-discrimination policies if the rule conflicts with the religious tenets of the school.

Catholic and other religious schools will not be required to submit a written request for an exemption but are allowed to request a formal USDA recognition if they choose to, according to guidance issued by the USDA. 

A Christmas message in September: How ‘Good King Wenceslas’ inspired his people to follow God

The statue of Saint Wenceslas (Pomník svatého Václava) in the eponymous square in Prague, depicts Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia in Prague, Czech Republic, May 23, 2009. / Credit: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 28, 2023 / 10:18 am (CNA).

Wenceslaus I is known by many titles: king, warrior, saint. Yet he is by far most popularly known as “Good King Wenceslas” in one of the most beloved Christmas carols of the 20th century.

During his time, he was a beloved Bohemian prince and now he is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. Despite being remembered most during the Christmas season, however, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Wenceslaus, who lived 903–935 A.D., on Sept. 28.

The carol, which has been sung by such beloved stars as Bing Crosby and continues to be performed by Christmas choirs around the world, is still a very popular Christmas tune today.

The song tells the story of how on the feast of St. Stephen (Dec. 26), Wenceslaus, though a mighty ruler, was moved by the sight of a poor, freezing peasant and braved a bitter winter night’s cold to go out and care for him.

In the carol, Wenceslaus does not disdain to dine with a lowly peasant, being concerned only with the welfare and safety of the poor man.

By some supernatural power, the holy king’s very footsteps warm his young page’s path as they trek through the snow to help the peasant. The ode concludes with the beautiful Christian message that by giving without regard for oneself, one receives so much more. 

In a way, the carol can be said to encapsulate the miraculous, even magical, spirit of Christmas itself. 

When Wenceslaus’ page finds he can no longer endure the cruelness of the bitter night, the saint tells him to follow in his footsteps:

“Sire, the night is darker now

 And the wind blows stronger

 Fails my heart, I know not how

 I can go no longer.”

 “Mark my footsteps, good my page

 Tread thou in them boldly

 Thou shall find the winter’s rage

 Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

By this, Wenceslaus both helps the poor peasant and teaches his page that by boldly doing God’s will, one will find the warmth and peace to go on. In other words, by walking in the path of God through self-sacrifice and abandonment to God’s will, one finds comfort and joy. 

Though the exact facts that led to the song’s creation are lost to history, Wenceslaus was indeed beloved by his people and renowned in his day as a pious and generous noble. 

He was actually a duke and was given the title of “king” posthumously by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I.

Wenceslaus was born less than a hundred years after Sts. Cyril and Methodius first brought Christianity to Bohemia and the Slavic lands. His father, Duke Wratislaw, was Catholic while his mother, Princess Dragomir, was a practicing pagan.

Educated in the faith by his grandmother, who also became a canonized saint, St. Ludmilla, Wenceslaus grew to become a defender and promoter of the Catholic faith.

After the death of his father, Wenceslaus, though still very young, was faced with a political and spiritual crisis. His mother turned on the Catholic Church, purging Catholics from public office, closing churches, and preventing all Christian preaching. 

While Wenceslaus could have chosen the path of less resistance and went along with his mother’s anti-Christian schemes, he chose to defy her and use his position to defend the Catholic faith. 

The end result of the struggle was that Wenceslaus ruled one half of the realm, while his mother and brother, Boleslaus, who also hated the Catholic faith, ruled the other half. 

Wenceslaus, who would have preferred to become a monk and not a duke, fortified himself in this struggle through fervent prayer, extreme asceticism, charitable service, and a vow of chastity. He is said to have built many churches throughout Bohemia and took extensive actions to care for the widowed, poor, and orphaned. 

Meanwhile, his mother carried out a plot to kill Ludmilla, having her strangled in her private chapel. St. Ludmilla’s feast day is Sept. 16.

The Bohemian duke also faced the threat of invasion from abroad. When Prince Radislaus of Gurima demanded that Bohemia submit to his rule, Wenceslaus, seeking to avoid a war, challenged him to single combat. It is said that two angels appeared during the duel, deflecting the javelin thrown at Wenceslaus and immediately inspiring Radislaus to drop to his knees in surrender.

Just as his strict morals and Christian piety inspired the love of his subjects, it also further incited the hatred of his brother and some nobles who sought to subvert Wenceslaus’ rule. 

Finally, on Sept. 28, 935, while Wenceslaus was praying in a chapel, he was attacked by Boleslaus and his henchmen. His brother dealt the final blow, running him through with a lance. 

Boleslaus was so hated by the Bohemian people that he became known to history as “Boleslaus the Cruel.” 

Wenceslaus was never forgotten by his adoring subjects who immortalized him in legends and folk songs, one of which would eventually become the carol we know today. 

During his 2009 visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI called Wenceslaus “a martyr for Christ” who “had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power.”

Wenceslaus’ life serves as proof of a deeper power than that of the world. 

While those nobles seeking their own gain and glory have long since been forgotten, Wenceslaus’ memory lives on. Though he did not seek glory and power for their own sake, his humble devotion to God and the Christian faith were the very attributes that have immortalized him in legend and history. 

His example reminds us, at any point of the year, that it is far better to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mt 6:33).  

The final words of the Christmas carol sung throughout the world in his memory can serve as an inspiring reflection on the value and power of a life lived for God. 

“In his masters step he trod

 Where the snow lay dinted

 Heat was in the very sod

 Which the Saint had printed

 Therefore, Christian men, be sure

 Wealth or rank possessing

 Ye, who now will bless the poor

 Shall yourselves find blessing.”