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Pope Francis’ spiritual life tip: A daily examination of conscience helps to avoid repeating mistakes

November 30, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recommended a daily examination of conscience as an “indispensable” practice in spiritual life.

An examination of conscience is a prayerful reflection on one’s thoughts, words, and deeds that helps to identify moments of sin and ask for God’s mercy.

This daily examination can be “an invitation to learn from our experiences” and “not to continue to repeat the same mistakes,” the pope said.

Speaking at his general audience on Nov. 30, Pope Francis said that the devil’s temptation “starts from what is most dear to us and then, little by little, reels us in.”

He said: “This is why a daily examination of conscience is so important. Before finishing the day, stop for a while. What happened? Not in the newspapers, not in life — what happened in my heart?”

“Noticing what happens is important, it is a sign that God’s grace is working in us, helping us to grow in freedom and awareness. … Learn to read in the book of your heart what happened during the day.”

General audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
General audience with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Pope Francis’ advice was part of his tenth catechesis in a weekly series on spiritual discernment, which he began at the end of August.

The pope noted that prayer during the day should not be viewed as a way to avoid a job or task that needs to be done, as in “every time I have to wash the dishes or clean the house, I have a strong urge to pray!”

“Prayer is not an escape from one’s responsibilities,” he said. “On the contrary, it is an aid in realizing the good we are required to do, here and now.”

In celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, the pope announced that a delegation of the Holy See had traveled to Constantinople.

“I wish to express my special affection to my dear brother Patriarch Bartholomew I and the entire Church of Constantinople,” Francis said.

“May the intercession of the Holy Brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, grant soon to the Church the full joy of her unity and peace to the whole world, especially at this time to the dear and tormented Ukraine, always in our hearts and prayers.”

Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Five Kenyan acrobats performed stunts in St. Peter’s Square toward the end of the audience to the movie soundtrack of the Blues Brothers. The pope smiled and clapped as the group — called The Black Blues Brothers — put on an acrobatic show to the musical soundtrack from the beloved 1980 comedy film.

Looking out at the Vatican’s recently decorated and nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, the pope wished a blessed Advent season in his greetings to visiting pilgrims from abroad. In his message to Polish-speaking pilgrims, the pope offered a reminder of the unique role of the Virgin Mary in the Advent season.

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

“May Our Lady, who accompanies us on the Advent journey, obtain for you and for all present the gift of a heart open to God and to others. I bless you from the bottom of my heart,” Pope Francis said.

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Pope Francis says dialogue ‘slow,’ but only way forward with China

November 28, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pilgrims from China greets Pope Francis during his general weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on May 22, 2019, at the Vatican. / Photo by Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis/Corbis News

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 09:30 am (CNA).

In a new interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis said the Vatican-China deal has had both failures and successes, but he “cannot find another way” to carry out diplomacy.

The pope spoke about the Vatican-China deal with America Magazine on Nov. 22, two days before the Nov. 24 installation ceremony of Bishop John Peng Weizhao, which the Vatican said “did not occur in accordance with … what was stipulated” in the renewed provisional agreement.

A Nov. 26 statement said that “the Holy See noted with surprise and regret” that Peng had been installed as an “auxiliary bishop of Jiangxi,” a diocese that is not recognized by the Vatican.

In the America Magazine interview, published Nov. 28, Pope Francis emphasized dialogue “up to the point that is possible.”

“Dialogue is the way of the best diplomacy,” he said. “With China I have opted for the way of dialogue. It is slow, it has its failures, it has its successes, but I cannot find another way.”

He added that the Chinese people have great wisdom and deserve his respect and admiration.

“I take off my hat to them,” Francis continued. “And for this reason I try to dialogue, because it is not that we are going to conquer people. No! There are Christians there. They have to be cared for, so that they may be good Chinese and good Christians.”

Peng’s installation ceremony took place one month after the Vatican renewed its provisional deal with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops for an additional two years.

The most recent appointment of a bishop in China, Archbishop Cui Qingqi, took place more than one year ago on Sept. 8, 2021.

Since the China deal entered into force in October 2018, only six bishops have been appointed, two of whom were already in talks for nomination before the deal’s signing.

Meanwhile, as many as one-third of China’s Catholic dioceses may be without a bishop.

There are 66 bishops in China, according to a report by Bishop Shen Bin of Haiman, who co-leads the Chinese Council of Bishops — a body that supports the Patriotic Association and is not recognized by the Holy See.

The Holy See divides China into 20 archdioceses, 85 dioceses, and 34 apostolic prefectures (Beijing subdivides the country into 98 dioceses).

The boundaries of the “Diocese of Jiangxi,” where Bishop Peng was installed this month, were drawn by Chinese authorities without Vatican approval.

“The Holy See hopes that similar episodes will not be repeated, remains awaiting appropriate communications on the matter from the authorities, and reaffirms its full readiness to continue the respectful dialogue concerning all matters of common interest,” the Vatican said Nov. 26.

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Pope Francis: ‘Jesus did not create bishops’ conferences’

November 28, 2022 Catholic News Agency 4
Pope Francis meets with the United States bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2015. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 08:01 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has emphasized the difference between bishops’ conferences and bishops in a new interview with America Magazine.

“The bishops’ conference is there to bring together the bishops, to work together, to discuss issues, to make pastoral plans. But each bishop is a pastor,” the pope said in a lengthy interview conducted at his Vatican home on Nov. 22 and published Nov. 28.

“Let us not dissolve the power of the bishop by reducing it to the power of the bishops’ conference.”

The conversation with the Jesuit publication covered a wide range of topics, including the role of bishops, racism, polarization, sexual abuse, the Vatican-China deal, and whether he has any regrets from his time as pope.

In the interview, Pope Francis was told about a 2021 America Magazine survey that found that Catholics in the United States consider the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to be the least trustworthy out of the groups listed — 20% of U.S. Catholics surveyed found the USCCB to be “very trustworthy.”

Francis was asked: “How can the U.S. Catholic bishops regain the trust of American Catholics?”

“The question is good because it speaks about the bishops,” he responded. “But I think it is misleading to speak of the relationship between Catholics and the bishops’ conference. The bishops’ conference is not the pastor; the pastor is the bishop. So one runs the risk of diminishing the authority of the bishop when you look only to the bishops’ conference.”

“Jesus did not create bishops’ conferences,” he added. “Jesus created bishops, and each bishop is pastor of his people.”

The U.S. bishops met in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly on Nov. 14-17. Katie Yoder
The U.S. bishops met in Baltimore for their annual fall general assembly on Nov. 14-17. Katie Yoder

Pope Francis said the emphasis should be on whether a bishop has a good relationship with his people, not on administration.

He gave the example of Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas: “I do not know if he is conservative, or if he is progressive, if he is of the right or of the left, but he is a good pastor.”

In the U.S., the pope said, there are ‘some good bishops who are more on the right, some good bishops who are more on the left, but they are more bishops than ideologues; they are more pastors than ideologues. That is the key.”

“The grace of Jesus Christ is in the relationship between the bishop and his people, his diocese,” he said.

A bishops’ conference, instead, is an organization meant to “assist and unite.”

Pope Francis was also asked whether the USCCB should prioritize the fight against abortion over other issues.

To which he said: “this is a problem the bishops’ conference has to resolve within itself.”

The pope pointed out that the activity of a bishops’ conference is on the organizational level, and in history, conferences have at times gotten things wrong.

“In other words, let this be clear: A bishops’ conference has, ordinarily, to give its opinion on faith and traditions, but above all on diocesan administration and so on,” he said, again emphasizing the sacramental nature of the pastoral relationship of a bishop to his diocese and its people.

“And this cannot be delegated to the bishops’ conference,” he added. “The conference helps to organize meetings, and these are very important; but for a bishop, [being] pastor is most important.”

In the interview, Pope Francis also denounced polarization as “not Catholic,” and said the Catholic way of dealing with sin is “not puritanical” but puts saints and sinners together.

He also said in the U.S., where there is a Catholicism particular to that country, something he called “normal,” “you also have some ideological Catholic groups.”

Pope Francis arrives at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 23, 2015. CNA
Pope Francis arrives at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 23, 2015. CNA

On the topic of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis was asked about the apparent lack of transparency when it comes to accusations against bishops, compared with the handling of accusations against priests.

The pope called for “equal transparency” going forward, adding that “if there is less transparency, it is a mistake.”

To a question about Black Catholics, Francis said he is “aware of their suffering, that he loves them very much, and that they should resist and not walk away” from the Catholic Church.

“Racism is an intolerable sin against God,” he added. “The Church, the pastors and laypeople must continue fighting to eradicate it and for a more just world.”

Asked if he has any regrets, or if he would change anything he has done in nearly 10 years as pope, Francis said in English, as he laughed, that he would change “all! All!”

“However, I did what the Holy Spirit was telling me I had to do. And when I did not do it, I made a mistake,” he added.

On his seeming constant joyfulness, the pope said he is not “always like that,” except when he is with people.

“I would not say that I am happy because I am healthy, or because I eat well, or because I sleep well, or because I pray a great deal,” he explained. “I am happy because I feel happy, God makes me happy. I don’t have anything to blame on the Lord, not even when bad things happen to me. Nothing.”

He said the Lord has guided him through both good and difficult moments, “but there is always the assurance that one does not walk alone.”

“One has one’s faults,” he said, “also one’s sins; I go to confession every 15 days — I do not know, that is just how I am.”

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Pope Francis prays for homeless man who died in St. Peter’s Square

November 26, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis prays on St. Peter’s Square, Oct. 5, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2022 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for a homeless man who was found dead near the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square on Friday morning.

Burkhard Scheffler, a 61-year-old man born in Germany, died on a cold night on the street, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Nov. 25.

Like many homeless people in Rome, Scheffler sometimes spent his nights sleeping under the shelter of the colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, where he received assistance from the Vatican Dicastery for the Service of Charity.

In the past decade, Pope Francis has established many services near the Vatican for the homeless, including a four-story homeless shelter, a medical clinic, a laundry service, showers, and an ambulance.

“Pope Francis learned with sorrow of the death of Burkhard Scheffler near the colonnade of St. Peter’s last night,” Bruni said.

“In his prayer, the pope remembers Burkhard and all those who are forced to live without a home in Rome and around the world and invites the faithful to join him.”

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, entrusted Burkhard to the intercession of St. Francis while on pilgrimage in Assisi.

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