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Cardinal Parolin will represent Pope Francis at climate conference

Cardinal Pietro Parolin. / Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will head the Vatican’s delegation to the COP28 climate conference in place of Pope Francis, who continues to recover from an acute bronchial infection. 

“I can confirm that the cardinal secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, will preside over the Delegation of the Holy See already present in Dubai on the occasion of COP28 to bring, on Saturday, Dec. 2, the contribution that the Holy Father would have liked to make,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement released Friday. 

The conference began on Thursday and will conclude Dec. 12.

In the days leading up the announcement, Parolin hinted that he would be going to the conference, telling journalists gathered at the lower chamber of the Italian Parliament: “I have usually participated in all of them, starting with the COP in Paris and all the COPs, so I think I will go this time, too, but obviously shortening my stay.” 

“There is the delegation that stays for the whole two weeks of the works; I would only participate in the first part of the works,” Parolin said. 

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it was canceling the 86-year-old pontiff’s trip to Dubai at the behest of his doctors. The pope has been struggling since last week with both a mild flu and lingering symptoms from that illness.

Francis said Thursday that he was still struggling with an acute bronchial infection stemming from the flu infection. The Vatican subsequently reported that the pope’s condition was improving, though he was still on an intravenous antibiotic treatment. 

“As you see, I am alive. The doctor didn’t let me go to Dubai. The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from the heat to the air conditioning,” Pope Francis informed participants in a health ethics seminar at the Vatican on Nov. 30.

Pope Francis shared his hopes for the conference in a Thursday post on X.

“May participants in #COP28 be strategists who focus on the common good and the future of their children, rather than the vested interests of certain countries or businesses. May they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame,” he said.

The Conference of the Parties is an annual climate change summit of the United Nations, held since 1995, that brings together states and nonstate actors in order to discuss meeting current benchmarks in the reduction of carbon emissions and to spearhead initiatives.

The participants include the countries that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One of the major achievements of the COP was the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement during COP21 in 2015.

Parolin will deliver the remarks originally prepared for the pope on Saturday. The following day, he will preside over the inauguration of an interfaith pavilion alongside Spanish Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, an expert on Islam and current prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue. 

This is the first time that there will be a faith pavilion at the conference. Hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the COP28 presidency, and an array of other faith-based partners, the venue will feature more than 65 sessions for “religious and other civil society representatives, Indigenous peoples, scientists, youth, and political leaders,” according to the pavilion’s website.

Advent 2023: A Season Full of Grace


This is Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for the Month of December


This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December

Pope Francis meets on April 29, 2023, with children and adults who are visually impaired and have other disabilities at a Catholic institute in Budapest, Hungary, dedicated to Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann. / Credit: Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of December is for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are among the most fragile among us,” Pope Francis said in a video released Nov. 28. 

“Some of them suffer rejection, rooted in either ignorance or prejudice, which then
marginalizes them,” he added.

The Holy Father urged civil institutions to “support their projects through access to education, employment, and places where they can express their creativity.”

“Programs and initiatives are needed that promote their inclusion. Above all else, big hearts are needed who want to accompany.”

The pope encouraged individuals to change “our mentality a little” and open “ourselves to the abilities and talents of these people who are differently abled, both in society as well as in the life of the Church.”

“And so, creating a completely accessible parish does not only mean eliminating physical barriers,” he said. “It also assumes that we stop talking about ‘them’ and start talking about ‘us.’”

He concluded with a prayer: “Let us pray that people with disabilities may be at the center of attention in society, and that institutions offer inclusion programs that enhance their active participation.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

Constant Thefts in Churches Plague Mexican Archdiocese


Opus Dei Priest Dies From Heart Attack While Preaching at Retreat


Constant thefts in churches plague Mexican archdiocese

The Cathedral of San Luis Potosí in Mexico. / Credit: Saher via Wiki Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:40 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí expressed its concern about the constant wave of thefts that is plaguing churches in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí.

Father Tomás Cruz Perales, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí, said in a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that although thefts from churches are a constant, most of them have so far been insignificant, primarily thieves looking for money in the poor box.

“It’s a situation that we’re going through, but it’s very identified with people seeking to satisfy needs, perhaps related to [drugs and alcohol], or who live from day to day,” Cruz commented. He also lamented that in some cases, when confronted, the offenders “have even attacked the sacristans.”

However, he noted that on a couple of occasions more serious sacrileges have been committed where sacred objects have been destroyed. In a particularly serious incident at St. Philip of Jesus Church located on the outskirts, eight chalices and six ciboriums with gilded relief (and adorned with) precious stones, patens, microphones, wiring, and video cameras were stolen.

“Even the altar wine was [desecrated]. That day there was a true sacrilege, especially because the consecrated hosts were left on the ground,” the priest added.

Although thefts from churches “are a constant,” Cruz noted that insecurity goes beyond simply stealing money from poor boxes: “It’s a situation that we experience throughout the country, unfortunately,” he noted, alluding to the widespread problem of thefts from homes, businesses, and on the streets.

The spokesman said that most churches, particularly in the state capital, have taken security measures, “such as the installation of cameras and alarms, especially when the churches have already been closed.”

He also thanked the local authorities for the measures implemented so far but called on the population to remain alert in the face of growing insecurity.

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

Opus Dei priest dies from heart attack while preaching at retreat

Father Fadi Sarraf, 51, was a recently ordained Opus Dei priest. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Opus Dei

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

Father Fadi Sarraf, a recently ordained priest of Opus Dei, reportedly died of a heart attack while preaching at a facility near Montreal, Canada, where the personal prelature often holds retreats.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Fadi Sarraf, 51, who passed away today suddenly of an apparent heart attack while preaching a retreat at the Manoir de Beaujeu. May he rest in peace,” Opus Dei’s information office in Canada said on X Tuesday.

Prior to being a priest, Sarraf, an immigrant from Damascus, Syria, was an engineer in Canada. He came to that country at 17 years old, according to a June 2021 article on Opus Dei’s website.

German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was the personal secretary of the late Pope Benedict XVI, ordained Sarraf in Rome along with 26 other members of Opus Dei on May 22, 2021.

Sarraf, who joined Opus Dei in 1990, first encountered the personal prelature in 1989 when one of his classmates at McGill University in Montreal invited him to visit the Riverview Study Centre, a formation center for young men run by Opus Dei.

“I really enjoyed the different activities that they had, the conferences, the times of prayer in the chapel and especially the study weekends and the hikes,” he said.

Sarraf described leaving his homeland for Canada as “not easy” but said that “by overcoming my fear of the unknown I learned that beauty and goodness can express themselves in different ways.”

“This led me to be curious about discovering it in everyone I meet and in every situation,” he said.

After graduating as a mechanical engineer, Sarraf earned his master’s in business administration at Laval University in Quebec City. 

Following his graduate degree, he became the director of Ernescliff College, a student residence run by Opus Dei that offers Christian formation on the University of Toronto campus.

Sarraf also worked part time leading a formation program at Northmount, a Catholic boys’ elementary school in Toronto.

Moving to Montreal in 1997, Sarraf then worked for the Foundation for Culture and Education as a project manager and fundraiser. The foundation is an institute for the formation of men and women in Canada.

Able to communicate in five languages, Sarraf said that his goal in life was “to do God’s will in whichever way it manifested itself.”

“In the early years that meant doing different projects, taking care of different apostolic activities and construction projects for facilities that would be used for Opus Dei’s apostolates,” he said.

“Over the last four or five years there was more focus on preparing for the priesthood, even though I continued with many of the tasks I had before,” he added.

Sarraf said his decision to become a priest became “crystallized” in 2017, and he moved to Spain to pursue a master’s degree in theology at the University of Navarre.

He then pursued his doctorate in spiritual theology in Rome in 2020. 

“The decision to become a priest is in continuation with my decision to serve God in Opus Dei. Obviously I will serve God in a different way because you change your profession: as a priest you become a priest 100%, so you leave behind your other activities. During the years that I have been in Opus Dei, God has been preparing me for this transition,” he said at the time.

Sarraf said that “to serve others is the primary goal of the priest, to bring them closer to God, to help them discover God’s love in their daily life.”

“Ever since I announced that I was going to be ordained a priest, many people have been writing to me asking me for prayers, assuring me of their prayers too. I actually keep a list of the different requests so that I don’t forget anyone,” he said.

“My primary intention is that more people in the world discover God’s love for them, and that all of us being ordained together be precisely that instrument of God’s love, a bridge between man and God, to help people discover peace and love in their lives,” he said.

Sarraf said that a priest is supposed to help “everyone,” not just Catholics or Christians.

“It’s the example we see of Our Lord in the Gospel. Even though his main mission was to the Jews, he was open to everyone, and the message of the priest, the Christian message, is not only for a few but for everyone,” he said.

“The priest should welcome everyone and try to bring anyone he comes in touch with to discover God’s love and how he or she can correspond to that love,” he added.

NET Ministries launches outreach to U.S. Hispanic youth

YDisciple is a streaming project aimed at providing training resources for adults and teaching materials for youth. It announced in November 2023 it is partnering with the Juan Diego Network to adapt the YDisciple project to the Spanish language and the needs of Latino culture. / Credit: Screenshot of YDisciple

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 30, 2023 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

In an effort to better serve young people, NET Ministries is collaborating with the Juan Diego Network through its founder, José Manuel De Urquidi, to adapt the YDisciple project to the Spanish language and the needs of Latino culture.

Based in Minnesota and with a national outreach, NET’s mission and vision is “to challenge young Catholics, through relational ministry, to follow Christ and embrace a life of community in the Church in this new Apostolic Age, engaging 1 million young Catholics with the good news through well-formed missionary leaders,” its website explains. 

YDisciple is a streaming project aimed at providing training resources for adults and teaching materials for youth, focused on the creation of small groups that encourage discussions and reflections on faith. Its resource library includes videos, guides for participants and leaders, and resources for parents.

According to a Pew Research study, 60% of Catholics under the age of 18 in the United States are Hispanic.

Annie Grandell, director of YDisciple, explained that in the project, “we are not limiting ourselves to a simple translation, we are ‘transliterating.’ That is, we are working closely with the Juan Diego Network, an organization passionate about involving all the young people of our Church.”

“Not only have they translated the videos, but they have adapted them so that they resonate authentically with the Hispanic community,” she pointed out.

Juan Diego Network is a leading Catholic podcast producer and intercultural marketing and communications agency with a clear focus: evangelize, form, and entertain the Latino community in today’s world.

On Sept. 14, two series, “Dios es” and “La invitación” (“God Is” and “The Invitation”), were launched on YDisciple.tv. The first is a collection of videos based on questions asked by today’s youth.

“La invitación” is a four-part series for small-group study that invites young people to reflect on important questions such as: What does it mean to follow Jesus? What is the Gospel? Why do I need community?

The Spanish collection with these new releases and other introductory videos is available here.

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