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Saint John Damascene

Icon of Saint John Damaskinos
Image: Saint John Damaskinos | unknown

Saint of the Day for December 4

(c. 676 -749)
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Saint John Damascene’s Story

John spent most of his life in the Monastery of Saint Sabas near Jerusalem, and all of his life under Muslim rule, indeed protected by it.

He was born in Damascus, received a classical and theological education, and followed his father in a government position under the Arabs. After a few years, he resigned and went to the Monastery of Saint Sabas.

He is famous in three areas:

First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Paradoxically, it was the Eastern Christian emperor Leo who forbade the practice, and it was because John lived in Muslim territory that his enemies could not silence him.

Second, he is famous for his treatise, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the Greek Fathers, of which he became the last. It is said that this book is for Eastern schools what the Summa of Aquinas became for the West.

Third, he is known as a poet, one of the two greatest of the Eastern Church, the other being Romanus the Melodist. His devotion to the Blessed Mother and his sermons on her feasts are well known.

Saint John Damascene's liturgical feast is celebrated on April 30.


Reflection

John defended the Church’s understanding of the veneration of images and explained the faith of the Church in several other controversies. For over 30 years, he combined a life of prayer with these defenses and his other writings. His holiness expressed itself in putting his literary and preaching talents at the service of the Lord.


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Pope Francis expresses sorrow over ‘spiral of death’ in the Holy Land

Pope Francis prayed for peace in the Holy Land at the end of his Angelus address on Jan. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2023 / 08:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Holy Land on Sunday, calling the recent spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence a “spiral of death” that accomplishes nothing.

In his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29, the pope expressed “great sorrow” for the death of Palestinians killed in an Israeli military raid as well as seven Israelis killed in a shooting outside of a synagogue in east Jerusalem.

“The spiral of death that increases day after day does nothing other than close the few glimpses of trust that exist between the two peoples,” Pope Francis said.

“From the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed during firefights with the Israeli army. I appeal to the two governments and to the international community so that, immediately and with delay, other paths might be found that include dialogue and a sincere search for peace. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for this.”

The pope spoke following a wave of violence in Israel and Palestine this week. On Friday night, seven Israelis were killed and three wounded in a shooting outside of a synagogue in east Jerusalem on the Jewish Sabbath, the deadliest attack on Israelis in 15 years, according to the Associated Press.

The synagogue shooting occurred the day after an Israeli military raid in the West Bank killed nine Palestinians and another Palestinian man was shot by Israeli forces in al-Ram, north of Jerusalem.

The Latin Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem joined other Christian leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday in warning that the current “state of affairs will almost certainly bring further atrocities and anguish, driving us away from the much sought-after peace and stability that we all seek.”

In a joint statement issued by the patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem on Jan. 29, the Christian leaders called upon all parties “to practice restraint and self-control.”

“In closely monitoring this regrettable situation, we have concluded that this proliferation of violence that has led to the unwarranted deaths of 32 Palestinians and seven Israelis since the start of the New Year seems to be self-perpetuating. It will surely continue and even escalate unless a robust intervention is resolutely undertaken by community and political leaders on all sides,” it said.

“Everyone must work together to defuse the current tensions and to launch a political process based upon well-established principles of justice that will bring about a lasting peace and prosperity for all. Consonant with this, in these most difficult of times we call upon all parties to reverence each other’s religious faith and to show respect to all holy sites and places of worship.”

The patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem asked God to grant wisdom and prudence to political leaders seeking to find ways to overcome the violence and to bring about “a just and peaceful solution for our beloved Holy Land.”

Where is Mass attendance highest? One country is the clear leader

A group of school girls receiving the sacraments of baptism and confirmation in Onitsha, Anambra, Nigeria, on May 30, 2022. / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 29, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

A compilation of new data by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University sheds light on the countries around the world that have the highest Mass attendance numbers. 

CARA researchers used data from the World Values Survey (WVS), a major international study of religious belief that has been conducted for decades, to examine 36 countries with large Catholic populations. Of those countries, the researchers ranked them by the percentage of self-identified Catholics who say they attend Mass weekly or more, excluding weddings, funerals, and baptisms. 

According to the data, Nigeria and Kenya have the highest proportion of Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more, with Nigeria as the clear leader. Ninety-four percent of Catholics in Nigeria say they attend Mass at least weekly. In Kenya, the figure was 73%, and in Lebanon it was 69%.

The level of attendance in Nigeria is notably high given the high number of violent attacks against Christians across the country in recent years. Terrorist incidents inside Catholic churches are not infrequent; notably, in June of last year, gunmen believed to be Islamic extremists opened fire on Catholic worshippers attending Pentecost Mass at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in southwestern Nigeria, killing at least 50. 

More than half of all Catholics attend weekly or more in the Philippines (56%), Colombia (54%), Poland (52%), and Ecuador (50%). But in 29 of the 36 countries examined, fewer than half of self-identified Catholics attend Sunday Mass. The researchers acknowledged that the use of self-reported Mass attendance numbers could inflate the figures slightly, meaning actual attendance numbers could be, in reality, slightly lower across the board. 

The WVS data did not include the U.S., but CARA’s polling data indicated that the percentage of Catholics in the United States who attend Mass weekly or more is 17%, even though more than three-quarters of U.S. Catholics consider themselves to be a “religious person.”

Continuing down from there, the lowest levels of weekly attendance were observed in Lithuania (16%), Germany (14%), Canada (14%), Latvia (11%), Switzerland (11%), Brazil (8%), France (8%), and the Netherlands (7%).

“One might assume that the more religious Catholics are in a country, the more likely they are to be frequent Mass attenders,” the CARA researchers wrote. 

“Yet, there is not a strong correlation between the numbers identifying as a ‘religious’ Catholic and frequent Mass attendance.”

Countries with a higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita had lower levels of Mass attendance and vice versa, they noted.

“While there seems to be a disconnect between identifying as a religious person and attending Mass weekly there is a third factor that may explain the comparative distribution of both of these attributes. If you’ve looked closely at the countries you might have noticed some economic clustering,” the CARA researchers wrote. 

“In this small sample of countries, we can surmise that Catholicism is strongest in what is often called the developing world where GDP per capita are lower, while it appears to be contracting in wealthier ‘developed’ countries,” the researchers concluded. 

“The precise mechanisms associated with economic development and wealth that are impacting Catholics’ participation in the faith and identification as religious are unclear. Whatever they are, they matter significantly.”

Letter from Benedict XVI reveals the ‘central motive’ for his resignation, biographer says

Pope Benedict XVI revealed in a letter to his biographer that insomnia was the "central reason" why resigned in 2013. / Paul Badde/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Jan 29, 2023 / 07:15 am (CNA).

According to papal biographer Peter Seewald, chronic insomnia ultimately led to Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign in 2013. 

In his last letter to the biographer — dated Oct. 28, 2022 — Benedict wrote the “central motive” for his resignation from office was “insomnia,” Seewald said according to a Jan. 27 report by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. 

The pontiff, who died Dec. 31, 2022, also wrote that insomnia had accompanied him “continuously since World Youth Day in Cologne.”

The 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne took place a few months after Benedict’s election and was his first papal journey. 

The Bavarian-born pontiff served for nearly eight more years before announcing he was stepping down — citing waning strength — on Feb. 11, 2013.

Confirming a German media report, Seewald told agency KNA that Benedict XVI had not wanted to “make a fuss about the closer circumstances of his resignation, which was justified by his exhaustion,” while still alive.

Since the rumors and speculations about Benedict’s resignation have not died down, Seewald said he was obliged “to publish the decisive detail entrusted to me about the medical history of the German pope.”

The biographer said that Benedict XVI had used strong sleeping pills.

On his trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, Benedict told Seewald, he realized he must have “bumped into something in the bathroom and fallen” after waking up only to discover his handkerchief was “blood-soaked.”

After seeking medical attention, Benedict was able to continue his program. However, following the incident, the pope’s personal physician ordered Benedict to reduce his intake of sleeping pills and stressed that he should only attend public appointments in the morning when traveling abroad.

On this account, Benedict reasoned he should make way for a new pope who would be able to attend World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. 

Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia elevated to basilica  

The Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia was elevated by the Vatican to the status of basilica this week. / Miraculous Medal Shrine

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2023 / 06:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican recognized the Miraculous Medal Shrine, located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, as the city’s second basilica, elevating its status to a minor basilica this week.  

The shrine, created by the Vincentians in 1927 under the leadership of Father Joseph Skelly, is now known as the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The Marian title is based on apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830. The medal includes a depiction of Mary, the Mother of God, with the prayer “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” encircling her.

“It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica,” Father Timothy Lyons, the shrine’s rector, said in a statement. “We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the Shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and the Shrine community.” 

According to a news release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the elevation to a basilica grants the shrine certain privileges and responsibilities, such as the celebration of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul; and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry.  

Basilicas also have the authority to grant plenary indulgences, which remove all temporal consequences of one’s sin. This is distinct from a partial indulgence, which only removes part of the temporal consequences. The designation also recognizes the shrine as a historic landmark, according to the archdiocese.  

“I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for bestowing this tremendous honor on the Miraculous Medal Shrine,” Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez said in a statement. “This moment is one of great joy for the entire Church in Philadelphia. The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a great gift drawing souls closer to Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. I congratulate the Vincentians and all those working to sustain the Shrine and its ministry. May their work continue to bear great fruit.” 

The shrine had applied for the status of basilica for several years before Pope Francis granted the recognition. The city’s only other basilica is the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is on the east side of Logan Square. There are 91 other basilicas in the United States. The shrine was the first American church to be granted the title this year; there were two churches granted the recognition of basilica last year.

Pope Francis decries culture that ‘throws away’ unborn children, elderly, poor

Pope Francis greets the crowd at his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2023 / 05:55 am (CNA).

In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis decried a culture that “throws away” unborn children, the elderly, and the poor if they are not useful.

“The throwaway culture says, ‘I use you as much as I need you. When I am not interested in you anymore, or you are in my way, I throw you out.’ It is especially the weakest who are treated this way — unborn children, the elderly, the needy, and the disadvantaged,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 29.

“But people are never to be thrown out. The disadvantaged cannot be thrown away. Every person is a sacred and unique gift, no matter what their age or condition is. Let us always respect and promote life! Let us not throw life away.”

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, the pope noted that the “throwaway culture” is predominant in more affluent societies.

“It is a fact that about one-third of total food production goes to waste in the world each year, while so many die of hunger,” he said.

“Nature’s resources cannot be used like this. Goods should be taken care of and shared in such a way that no one lacks what is necessary. Rather than waste what we have, let us disseminate an ecology of justice and charity, of sharing.”

Pope Francis underlined that Jesus’ call in the beatitudes to be “poor in spirit” includes the “desire that no gift should go to waste.” He said that this includes not wasting “the gift that we are.”

“Each one of us is a good, independent of the gifts we have. Every woman, every man, is rich not only in talents but in dignity. He or she is loved by God, is valuable, is precious,” he said.

“Jesus reminds us that we are blessed not for what we have, but for who we are.”

A small stage was set up in St. Peter’s Square ahead of the pope’s Angelus address where young people gathered with balloons and banners singing hymns as part of Catholic Action’s “Caravan of Peace.”

At the end of the Angelus, a young boy and girl in blue sweatshirts joined Pope Francis in the window of the Apostolic Palace and read aloud a letter sharing their commitment to peace.

A young boy and girl in blue sweatshirts joined Pope Francis in the window of the Apostolic Palace and read aloud a letter sharing their efforts as part of Catholic Action’s “Caravan of Peace.” Vatican Media
A young boy and girl in blue sweatshirts joined Pope Francis in the window of the Apostolic Palace and read aloud a letter sharing their efforts as part of Catholic Action’s “Caravan of Peace.” Vatican Media

Pope Francis thanked Catholic Action for the initiative, adding that it is especially important this year with the war in Ukraine.

“Thinking of tormented Ukraine, our commitment and prayer for peace must be even stronger,” he said.

The pope also appealed for peace in the Holy Land, expressing sorrow for the death of 10 Palestinians killed in the West Bank in an Israeli military raid and a shooting outside of a synagogue in east Jerusalem in which a Palestinian killed seven Israelis.

“The spiral of death that increases day after day does nothing other than close the few glimpses of trust that exist between the two peoples,” Pope Francis said.

“Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed in firefights with the Israeli army. I appeal to the two governments and the international community to find, immediately and without delay, other paths, which include dialogue and the sincere search for peace. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for this!”

People in the crowd held up a "peace flag" as the pope prayed for peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land. Vatican Media
People in the crowd held up a "peace flag" as the pope prayed for peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land. Vatican Media

Noting that he will soon be traveling to Africa, Pope Francis asked people to pray for his apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5.

“These lands, situated in the center of the great African continent, have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the east of the country, suffers from armed clashes and exploitation. South Sudan, wracked by years of war, longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship,” he said.

“In South Sudan, I will arrive together with the archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace, to entreat God and men to bring an end to the hostilities and for reconciliation. I ask everyone, please, to accompany this journey with their prayers.”

Catholic speaker Leah Darrow combines life on the farm with cultivating one’s faith

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. / UST MAX Studios

Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Nestled within the countryside of Fordland, Missouri, a town of 800 people, is an 80-acre farm filled with chickens, cattle, vegetable gardens, pumpkins, and a whole lot of faith called the Big Family Farm. This is where Catholic speaker, mother of six, and former model Leah Darrow and her family reside.

In a new video series called “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation,” created by University of St. Thomas Houston’s MAX Studios, Darrow welcomes viewers into her home and shares what inspired her family to leave the hustle and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of the farm.

Raised on a cattle farm in Oklahoma, Darrow was brought up in the farm lifestyle and would share stories about the farm with her husband, Ricky. He, on the other hand, was raised on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Their family of eight was living a life in St. Louis that Darrow described as “incredibly comfortable” thanks to the accessibility of having groceries delivered to their front door, Amazon, Uber, and more.

The married couple began to ask themselves, “‘Do you think that this life is how God is calling us to live? Are we living the life God is calling us to live right now?” Darrow said in an interview with CNA.

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. UST MAX Studios
A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. UST MAX Studios

“And then we began to say, ‘Where could we raise saints the best?’” she added. “And we just realized that it was in a place where we had more space, and we had more quiet, and we had more nature, and we had more time for contemplation, and we had more time just to be together as a family.”

She also emphasized that the couple knew they wanted their lives to be a “little bit more uncomfortable and inconvenient” — a life where it was necessary to plan ahead to account for the 45-minute drive to get groceries.

“We have our milk dropped off to us by our farmer down the road every week. That’s probably the most convenient thing that we have right now in our life,” she joked.

Darrow shared that part of the driving force behind their move was a desire to create something for families where they could come together as one. This led them to plant a 3-acre pumpkin patch on the farm, which now hosts an event called Pumpkin Days during the month of October.

“We did want to create an opportunity for families to come together and spend time outside in nature and just connect themselves back to the land and ideally back to their Creator,” she explained. “So, what could we do to bring people here? What could we do to have an opportunity where families could get out instead of doing something inside or being on screens all day? And we decided to have a pumpkin patch.”

Darrow discussed how moving to the farm also impacted not only how she sees God’s creation in nature but also how her prayer life has changed. Now, when she sits down at her kitchen table, she knows where everything came from — whether it be vegetables from their garden, eggs from their chickens, milk from their neighbor, or meat from animals they raised.

“It’s a very different relationship with the land, with respect to nature, with the weather — obviously all this leads to God willing all of this,” she shared. “My prayers have never included rain as much as they have after becoming a farmer.”

Leah Darrow and her husband, Ricky, during the Pumpkin Days event held on their farm in Fordland, Missouri. UST MAX Studios
Leah Darrow and her husband, Ricky, during the Pumpkin Days event held on their farm in Fordland, Missouri. UST MAX Studios

Through this video series, Darrow hopes that people will be inspired to look at their lives and ask themselves where God is calling them to be a little bit more uncomfortable.

She explained: “We want to create a deeper awareness of asking ourselves, where am I comfortable? Is this where God’s calling me? And where could I begin to branch out and seek something in a more natural state?”

Life on the farm and the purpose behind the video series also offer a segue into Darrow’s new personal development program called Power Made Perfect. This program is a Scripture-based course for women that focuses on human formation. The 14-week course is split into two sections: restoration, looking inward; and resurrection, looking outward. Its purpose is to empower Christian women to reach their full potential and embark on a transformative journey, done through faith in Jesus, in order to experience true change from within.

“The goal of Power Made Perfect is to really help a person live in a state of possibility with God,” Darrow said.

Together through the video series and her personal development program, Darrow hopes to “increase awareness” among people so that they begin to develop a growth mindset and are willing to ask themselves the hard questions about where God is truly calling them.

“There’s something to be said about growth, and we grow when we have those difficult moments in life. That’s where we’re really growing,” she said. “And if life is incredibly comfortable, if we have everything we need at literally a drop of a hat … if we’re in a place where we’re not looking up and connecting with people and connecting with nature and what God is providing, we really miss out on something greater.”

How the ‘satanic’ New York City courthouse statue is all about abortion

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander. / Credit: Ben Shapiro/YouTube

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

An unusual new 8-foot-tall golden statue standing on top of a New York City courthouse has sparked controversy, with many across the country reacting to its unveiling with shock and disgust. One media outlet even called it a “satanic golden medusa.” 

According to the artist who created the statue, it’s a symbol of women’s empowerment and an expression of support for abortion. The “satanic” imagery so many have pointed out closely resembles that employed by a pro-abortion group dedicated to banning religion from the public square. 

What does the artist say?

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander.

Sikander, 53, has been an influential New York City artist for years, serving on the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers in New York in 2017. A self-described “citizen of the world,” Sikander says her work is meant to take classical and Indo-Persian styles and imbue them with modern feminist inflections.

According to the artist, the statue was commissioned as part of “cultural reckoning” to better represent “21st-century social mores” in public spaces, the New York Times reported.

She described her statue as a “fierce woman” and a “form of resistance.”

The title “NOW” is meant to call attention to Sikander’s belief that fierce female resistance is needed now, after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and since the national right to abortion was eliminated with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The goat-like horns

Atop the head of the courthouse statue are large braids that curl in on themselves to form goat-like horns. According to Sikander, the horns signify “sovereignty” and “autonomy.”

On Fox News, commentator Tucker Carlson decried the statue as “demonic.” 

The horned statue does bear a resemblance to the image of the goat-like “Baphomet,” used by The Satanic Temple (TST), a self-described “non-theistic” religious organization that frequently engages in political protests of expressions of religion in the public square. 

The Satanic Temple, while employing satanic imagery, states in a FAQ on their website that they do not believe in Satan.

In recent years, TST has sued states with significant abortion restrictions, saying these laws violate the group’s “religious right” to practice its “abortion ritual.” The organization has also protested prayer in school and Christian-themed imagery displayed on public space.

The lace collar

The statue wears a lace collar around its neck, which Sikander has explained is meant to resemble the collar worn by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg, who died in 2020 and sat on the Supreme Court for 27 years, has come to be seen by many abortion activists, such as the group “Ruth Sent Us,” as a symbol of female empowerment and even abortion itself.

The “Ruth Sent Us” website states its mission is to fight what it calls “a racist and misogynistic theocracy” Supreme Court. The group has organized protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes and inside Catholic churches during Mass.

An ‘anti-monument’ monument

Since 1900, the New York City courthouse has displayed a collection of statues of men significant to the development of law, including Moses, Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and Confucius. The New York Times ran a glowing feature of the new statue, titled “Move Over Moses and Zoroaster: Manhattan Has a New Female Lawgiver.”

By depicting a naked, horned female image, Sikander said she meant to break from tradition.

“I have always had an affinity for the anti-monument in my practice,” Sikander explained in an artistic statement released on Madison Square Park Conservancy’s website.

Explaining the figure’s nakedness, Sikander said “the body is a powerful tool that carries its social construction. It can also function as a site of resistance.”

The statue rises atop a lotus flower, which Sikander described as “alluding to perception as illusion” and signifying “a deeper truth beyond its form.”

The sister statue ‘Witness’

The courthouse statue is one piece of a pair, with its sister statue “Witness” displayed in nearby Madison Square Park. The park statue is identical to its partner save for a hooped skirt, which is meant to resemble the dome of the New York City courthouse.

Along the figure’s hoop skirt are mosaic swirls that spell the word “Havah.” A Hebrew, Arabic, and Urdu word, translations for “Havah” vary.

To Sikander, translations of “Havah” as “to breathe,” “to be,” and the name “Eve” all fit her intention.

To her, “Havah” means “to breathe, to add air, to change a narrative.” The Art Newspaper reported that Sikander said she hopes her statues will be icons of resistance, saying, “Eve is also the first law-breaker, right?”

The two statues will remain in New York until June, when they will be placed on exhibit in Houston.

Pope Francis clarifies comments on sin and homosexuality

Pope Francis speaks at his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Jan. 18, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 28, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has written a letter to clarify his comments on sin and homosexuality from a recent interview with the Associated Press.

“When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” the pope wrote to Jesuit Father James Martin in response to a request for clarification.

Francis said he was trying to say in the interview that criminalization of homosexuality “is neither good nor just.”

“As you can see, I was repeating something in general,” he wrote. “I should have said ‘It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage.’ This is to speak of ‘the matter’ of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin.”

Martin published the pope’s Spanish-language letter and an English translation on the website of Outreach on Jan. 27. Martin is the editor of Outreach, which describes itself as “an LGBT Catholic resource” operating under the auspices of America Media.

In an interview published Jan. 25 by AP, Pope Francis said: “Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

The Outreach article posited that the pope’s comment that “yes, but it’s a sin” was intended to be from a hypothetical interlocutor to whom Pope Francis was responding.

In his Jan. 27 letter, Pope Francis ascribed the confusing statement to the conversational tone of the interview.

“It is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions,” he said.

The pope also noted that the AP interview was “not the first time that I speak of homosexuality and of homosexual persons.”

When speaking about the sin of sexual activity outside of marriage, he added that “of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault.”

The Catholic Church does not teach that homosexuality, that is having same-sex attraction, is a sin.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people with homosexual tendencies should be treated with respect, and unjust discrimination against them should be avoided, while “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The Catechism also teaches that for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be met: It must be grave matter, which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

Skull of St. Thomas Aquinas unveiled at 700th anniversary of his canonization

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Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas has arrived at the Dominican Convent of Toulouse, France, and placed in a new reliquary as the order celebrates the 700th anniversary of the saint’s canonization in the Catholic Church.

The new reliquary was created by Augustin Frison-Roche and was blessed during a Mass on Jan. 27 in the church of the convent. It was then transferred to the Jacobin Convent of Toulouse for the opening Mass of the seventh centenary of the Italian saint, theologian, and philosopher on Saturday, Jan. 28. A procession of the relics followed the Mass.

The opening of the reliquary took place in the Dominican convent’s sacristy in the presence of Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, OP; the chancellor of the Toulouse Diocese, Father J.-François Galinier-Pallerola; and prior of the Toulouse convent, Father Philippe Jaillot, OP.

Sculptor and painter Frison-Roche posted a photo of the new reliquary on his Instagram account, where he wrote: “Happy New Year to all. For me it begins in the light of St. Thomas Aquinas.”

The Dominican order also shared photos of the rare event.

“The opportunity to witness the opening of a reliquary is rare, as it is sealed to guarantee the authenticity of its contents,” the order wrote in their Instagram post. “The opening is only done for major reasons that require the renewal of the container.”

You can also watch a video of the reliquary journey shared by the Dominicans: 

The reliquary will now embark on a journey across France and abroad. 

Aquinas was a Dominican friar and priest and is considered one of the Church’s greatest teachers, philosophers, and theologians. 

Some of his greatest accomplishments are his works of theology. These include the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium Theologiae, and Summa Theologica.

Nearing death, he made a final confession and asked for the Eucharist to be brought to him. In its presence, he declared: “I adore you, my God and my Redeemer … for whose honor I have studied, labored, preached, and taught.”

Aquinas died on March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323 and made a doctor of the Church in 1567.