The canonical trial in the matter of accusations, including accusations of sexual abuse of minors, brought against the Most Reverend Anthony Sablan APURON, O.F.M.Cap., Archbishop of Agaña, Guam, has been concluded.

The Apostolic Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, composed of five judges, has issued its sentence of first instance, finding the accused guilty of certain of the accusations and imposing upon the accused the penalties of privation of office and prohibition of residence in the Archdiocese of Guam. The sentence remains subject to possible appeal. In the absence of an appeal, the sentence becomes final and effective. In the case of an appeal, the imposed penalties are suspended until final resolution.



Following today’s statements from the Holy See Press Office, I offer two stories – one from Sunday and the second from Monday’s press conference on a new papal document about pontifical universities – that I did not present in yesterday’s column due to the breaking news about and from China.

In the meantime, an update regarding the photos I published last Thursday that showed “sky writing” above the Vatican – planes whose chemtrails created large Xs in the sky. The Vatican gendarmerie wrote that, while what I saw was not indeed dangerous or strange, they wanted to thank me for my email in this regard and for being alert to what they described as “the wakes of condensation from the planes” that could have (and did) cause concern for some people. I was told that what appeared to be the optical illusion of planes flying right over Vatican City (which IS a no-fly zone) was caused by the extreme altitude of the planes, making it seem they were directly over the Vatican. Obviously, the Vatican has wonderful systems in place that can monitor people, movements and objects.


1. From Holy See Press Office this afternoon (my translation from the Italian):
“As a follow up to some information that recently arrived regarding the case of Bishop Juan de la Cruz of Osorno, Chile, the Holy Father has decided that Bishop Charles J. Scicluna, archbishop of Malta and president of the College that examines appeals (in matters of delicta graviora) in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will go to Chile to listen to those who have expressed the desire to present elements in their possession.”

2. Statement from Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:
“With reference to widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China, I am able to state the following:

“The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention. It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy”.


(Vatican News) On Sunday afternoon Pope Francis paid a visit to the basilica of Santa Sofia, home to Rome’s Greek-Catholic Community of Ukrainians, to thank the community that lives in Rome and to pray at the tomb of Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil. (Vatican photo)

The Pope exchanged greetings with the Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and in his address recalled the great models of Cardinal Josyp Slipyi, Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Stepan Czmil, and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, former Major Archbishop of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine.

Francis also paid a visit to the crypt to pray at the tomb of Salesian Ukrainian Bishop Czmil. Describing the bishop as “a person who has done me so much good,” the Pope explained that when he was a boy in Argentina, the bishop taught him, “to serve at Mass, to read your alphabet. From him I learned the beauty of your liturgy, from its stories the living testimony of how much faith has been tried and forged in the midst of the terrible atheistic persecutions of the last century.”

In his address, Pope Francis noted the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the suffering of the people there and said, “I am here today to tell you all that I am close to you: close with my heart, with my prayers, and when I celebrate Mass.” He then prayed that the weapons of war would be silenced.

The Holy Father also noted the numerous Ukrainian women of great faith, courage and charity, telling them, “you are precious and you bring to many Italian families the proclamation of God.”


On Monday, the Vatican released the text of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium (The Joy of Truth), on Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties.

By Christopher Wells (Vatican News)

Pope Francis has issued a new Apostolic Constitution, Veritatis gaudium, revising the norms governing Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties – that is, institutions granting pontifical degrees in fields such as theology, philosophy, and canon law, as well as numerous other disciplines.

Updating Sapientia christiana

The new document updates the previous Apostolic Constitution, Sapientia christiana, issued in 1979 in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Since its promulgation, Sapientia christiana has been amended three times, and other normative texts have been published, including the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

In addition, the Holy See has entered into various agreements concerning higher education and the awarding of academic degrees. The work of producing a new Apostolic Constitution that takes account of these changes was entrusted by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In a press conference introducing Veritatis gaudium, the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, said the Holy Father had encouraged their work in an address on 13 February 2014: “The 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration [Gravissimum Educationis], the 25th anniversary of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the updating of Sapientia christiana, lead us to reflect seriously on the many formational institutions around the world and on their duty to be an expression of a living presence of the Gospel in the field of education, of science and of culture.”

Cardinal Versaldi said Pope Francis made the decision to issue a new Apostolic Constitution after being presented with the revision of Sapientia christiana. The new Constitution, he said, indicates the meaning and the basic criteria for a renewal and a revival of ecclesiastical studies, especially in light of the “missionary” orientation of the Church, as described in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

What’s new

Following Cardinal Versaldi’s presentation at the press conference, the secretary of the congregation, Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani highlighted some of the most important innovations in the Veritatis gaudium. In particular, he mentioned the significance of bringing all ecclesiastical universities and faculties into line with the Holy See’s Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties (AVEPRO). Archbishop Zani also noted the guidelines governing relations between ecclesiastical academic institutions and their civil counterparts.

Notably, Archishop Zani said Veritatis gaudium makes provisions for “distance learning,” the possibilities for which have increased significantly since the publication of Sapientia christiana. The new Constitution also includes regulations concerning migrants and refugees, requiring ecclesiastical institutions to adopt procedures to provide for those who may not possess the required documentation for admittance.

The full text of the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium can be found on the Vatican website.


An excellent summary of Veritatis gaudium was done by my EWTN colleague, Elise Harris:

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2018 / 06:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis released a new apostolic constitution calling for a “radical” reform to the nature and curriculum of ecclesiastical universities and institutions.

“The primary need today is for the whole People of God to be ready to embark upon a new stage of Spirit-filled evangelization,” the Pope said in the document, “Vertatis Gaudium.”

This new stage of evangelization, he said, “calls for a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform. In this process, a fitting renewal of the system of ecclesiastical studies plays a strategic role.”

Signed Dec. 8, 2017, and published Jan. 29, 2018, the 87-page document is Francis’ is titled “Veritatis Gaudium,” meaning “the joy of truth.”

The document deals specifically with ecclesiastical universities and faculties, which, differing from regular Catholic universities, offer Vatican-approved degrees required to teach in seminaries or at pontifical universities.

It consists of two parts dedicated to general norms and specific norms, and also contains an appendix and norms of application. The document is meant to “update” previous norms, and abrogates any prior rules which contradict the new ones laid out by Pope Francis in Veritatis Gaudium.

The document abrogates any contrary norms established by John Paul II’s 1979 Apostolic Constitution “Sapientia Christiana,” issued after a careful study of the Second Vatican Council’s decree “Optatam Totius” on ecclesiastical studies. However, John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae” is not impacted , as it deals specifically with Catholic colleges and universities, rather than ecclesiastical academic entities.


In the foreword for his new constitution, Pope Francis, who has often spoken of the importance of education, said that while offering a great contribution to the Church’s life and mission, Sapientia Christiana “urgently needs to be brought up to date.”

“While remaining fully valid in its prophetic vision and its clarity of expression, the constitution ought to include the norms and dispositions issued since its promulgation, and to take into account developments in the area of academic studies in these past decades,” he said.

“There is also a need to acknowledge the changed social-cultural context worldwide and to implement initiatives on the international level to which the Holy See has adhered.”

Francis noted that the world is currently living not only a time of change, but it is also experiencing “a true epochal shift, marked by a wide-ranging anthropological and environmental crisis,” such as natural, social and financial disasters which are swiftly reaching “a breaking point.”

This reality, he said, requires “changing the models of global development and redefining our notion of progress.” However, a great problem in doing this is the fact that “we still lack the culture necessary to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths.”

Because of this, he said that on the cultural level as well as that of academic training and scientific study, “a radical paradigm shift” and “a bold cultural revolution” are needed which involve a worldwide network of ecclesiastical universities and faculties which are capable of promoting the Gospel and Church Tradition, but which are also “ever open to new situations and ideas.”

CLICK HERE to continue reading:



My guest this weekend in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is Marianne Mount, president of Catholic Distance University. She was in Rome from Charles Town, West Virginia, to attend a conference on Catholic Fundraising and Pilgrimage.

As the university’s website states, CDU programs integrate inspiring, Catholic content, always faithful to the Church’s teachings, with state-of-the-art learning management technologies that enable you to access your education in the comfort of your home or wherever you choose. Pope John Paul’s Apostolic Constitution Ex corde ecclesiae (from the heart of the church) is the foundational document and teaching for CDU.

CDU is an innovative, online university providing an accessible Catholic education for undergraduates, graduates, and non-degree seeking students. It has been a pioneer since 1983 using flexible, convenient distance technologies to bring high quality educational programs to each learner. (

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: For VI archives:


The following telegram was sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis:

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of injuries caused by the outbreak of the fire in Sejong Hospital, Miryang, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy. He prays especially for the repose of the deceased and for the healing of those injured. The Holy Father offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this disaster, and upon all he willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation.


This morning, the Holy Father addressed the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He thanked them for their work, especially “in the various questions that today call for an important pastoral discernment in, for example, examining cases related to graviora delicta and demands for release from the marriage bond in favorem fidei (the so-called Petrine privilege).

Graviora delicta is translated “more grave delict (or crime).” These are external violations against faith and morals or in the celebration of the sacraments. The Church considers such violations so serious that there is a special process to handle them.

The Pope highlighted “the study the congregation has undertaken on several aspects of Christian salvation, with the aim of reaffirming the meaning of redemption in reference to the neo-pelagian and neo-gnostic tendencies of today which are expressions of individualism that relies on its own forces for salvation.

He also mentioned their studies on the ethical implications of an adequate anthropology in the financial-economic field.

“You have also,” said Francis, “studied the delicate question of accompanying the terminally ill. Today’s process of secularisation, as its absolutizes the concept of self-determination and autonomy, has brought to bear in many countries a growing request for euthanasia as an ideological affirmation of the will and power of man over life. Thus, the voluntary interruption of life is seen as a ‘civilized’ choice…:We must always repeat that human life, from conception to its natural end, possesses a dignity that makes it intangible.”

An authentically pastoral action, said the Pope, is “very action where you take a person by the hand when he has lost the sense of his dignity and his destiny, and you lead him with trust to rediscover the loving fatherhood of God, his good destiny and the paths to build a more human world.”

ALSO FRIDAY The Holy Father welcomed members of the Pontifical Theological Academy as it celebrates its third centenary. It was founded by Pope Clement XI on April 23, 1718.


Pope Francis this morning received in audience President Jovenel Moïse of the Republic of Haiti, who subsequently met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

A press office statement noted that, in both meetings, “satisfaction was expressed at the good relations between the Holy See and Haiti. In addition, the common wish to strengthen collaboration was emphasized, in order to face various social problems, especially regarding young people, the poor and the most vulnerable, highlighting the significant contribution that the Church offers to the country in the sectors of education, healthcare and charity. Mention was then made of several matters of national and regional interest, focusing in particular on the persistent problem of emigration and the importance of dialogue to promote social cohesion and the common good.”



The Vatican today published a new document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.”

While the Instruction notes that the Church is not opposed to cremation, it recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places. It also clearly states that ashes should not be kept in private houses and that the scattering of ashes on land or at sea is not permitted, and notes: “When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.”

Click here for full English text of the new instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Following are the salient paragraphs:

  • To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”.  Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

“During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. …. (After consultation) the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.”

“Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: … By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul.”

  1. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.”

“By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity. She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.

“Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which ‘as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works’.”

“Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

  1. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.

“The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.

In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

  1. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.
  2. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.
  3. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.
  4. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.


On January 18, 2014 the Holy See Press Office released this statement: ”The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirmed on Saturday that the international commission investigating the events in Medjugorje held its last meeting on January 17th. The commission, created by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini. The commission has reportedly completed its work and will submit the outcomes of its study to the Congregation.” JFL: That commission was created in 2010 so the Vatican is indeed taking its time.


The following National Catholic Register piece by Edward Pentin is interesting for the simple reason that it does not deny the earlier story by a source in Croatia that the Pope will name an apostolic administrator for Medjugorje (here is the original story I put on my FB page¨):

“The Vatican has said reports that Pope Francis is to soon name a special administrator for Medjugorje are “premature”, but it is a hypothesis among others currently under consideration.

In a note to journalists today, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said “in recent days rumors have been circulating about the possible appointment of an apostolic administrator for the Medjugorje shrine”, one which would “report directly to the Holy See.”

Such a possibility is a “hypothetical subject for study among others,” Father Lombardi said, but added “there has still been no decision” about it “and so it is premature to speak of it as a direction already taken, or as an imminent decision”.

Over the past few days, reports in Croatian media have claimed that Pope Francis would soon appoint a special administrator of the Holy See for Medjugorje, possibly taking over in the next few months.

If it were to happen, some assume it would mean that Medjugorje would obtain the status of a shrine which would be managed by the Pope’s administrator, while the parish of Medjugorje and pastoral activities would remain in the hands of the Franciscans of the Herzegovinian Franciscan Province.

“It would seem that the decision would be a win-win situation for everybody,” reported Total Croatia News. “Herzegovinian friars would lose a part of their autonomy in decision-making, but they will no longer have to deal with the local bishop because the Vatican would take over all responsibilities.”

“Medjugorje would become ‘extraterritorial’ in a way, which would mean the end of 35 years of problems in relations between local bishops and the Medjugorje phenomenon,” the article said. “On the other hand, the Bishop of Mostar-Duvno Ratko Perić can also be satisfied, because the authority of the Vatican would guarantee that there would be no deviations in Međugorje.”

In June last year, the Vatican said no decision had been taken regarding certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje following the conclusion of a three-year commission that investigated the Medjugorje phenomenon.

Father Lombardi said around that time that no decision was expected until after the summer of 2015, but gave no definitive timescale.

The latest announcement shows that the Pope is in no rush to issue a judgment on the authenticity of Medjugorje, based on the commission’s findings, but that various concrete solutions are being seriously considered.




(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as the group released a report on the implementation of its doctrinal assessment by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The LCWR is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States and represents more than 80 percent of religious sisters in the US. The joint report was issued by the LCWR and Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle who led the three-year assessment process requested by the Vatican. The report marks the conclusion of the sensitive process, which the sisters say was carried out with a “spirit of cooperation among participants.”

Please find below the press release and joint report on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Press Release April 16

Officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Peter Sartain and officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met April 16.  Archbishop Sartain and LCWR officers presented a joint report (attached) on the implementation of the CDF Doctrinal Assessment and Mandate of April 2012.  The joint report outlines the manner in which the implementation of the Mandate has been accomplished.  The Congregation accepted the joint report, marking the conclusion of the Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR.  Present for the April 16 meeting were His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Archbishop Peter Sartain, Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Sr. Marcia Allen, CSJ, Sr. Joan Marie Steadman, CSC, and Sr. Janet Mock, CSJ, and other officials of CDF.

During the meeting, Archbishop Sartain and LCWR officers outlined the process undertaken by the Bishop Delegates and LCWR over the past three years, noting the spirit of cooperation among participants throughout the sensitive process. Cardinal Müller offered his thoughts on the Doctrinal Assessment as well as the Mandate and its completion.  He expressed gratitude to those present for their willing participation in this important and delicate work and extended thanks to others who had participated, especially Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, and the past officers and Executive Directors of LCWR.

Following the meeting, Cardinal Müller said:  “At the conclusion of this process, the Congregation is confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member Institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church.  It is this vision that makes religious women and men radical witnesses to the Gospel, and, therefore, is essential for the flourishing of religious life in the Church.”

Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, President of LCWR, was unable to be present for the meeting but commented, “We are pleased at the completion of the Mandate, which involved long and challenging exchanges of our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of Religious Life and its practice. Through these exchanges, conducted always in a spirit of prayer and mutual respect, we were brought to deeper understandings of one another’s experiences, roles, responsibilities, and hopes for the Church and the people it serves. We learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences.”

Archbishop Sartain added, “Over the past several years, I have had the honor of working with LCWR officers and meeting a large number of LCWR members through the implementation of the Mandate.  Our work included the revision of LCWR Statutes; review of LCWR publications, programs and speakers; and discussion of a wide range of issues raised by the Doctrinal Assessment, LCWR, and the Bishop Delegates. The assistance of CDF officials was essential to the great progress we made.  Our work together was undertaken in an atmosphere of love for the Church and profound respect for the critical place of religious life in the United States, and the very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious women has been mutually beneficial and a blessing from the Lord.  As we state in our joint final report, ‘The commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR’s witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion.’  The other two Bishop Delegates and I are grateful for the opportunity to be involved in such a fruitful dialogue.”

Joint Final Report

Following the publication of the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (April 18, 2012), the officers of LCWR and the Bishop Delegates began working in close collaboration toward the implementation of the Mandate which accompanied that document. From the beginning, our extensive conversations were marked by a spirit of prayer, love for the Church, mutual respect, and cooperation. We found our conversations to be mutually beneficial.  In this Joint Final Report, we set forth the manner in which the implementation of the Mandate has been accomplished.

LCWR Statutes:  The Statutes of the Conference were definitively approved for the first time by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1962; a revised text was subsequently approved by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on June 29, 1989. LCWR had initiated a review of the Statutes prior to receiving the Mandate.   In response to the 2012 Mandate, a subcommittee representing LCWR and the Bishop Delegates reviewed that document, attentive to the Mandate’s request for greater clarity in expressing the mission and responsibilities of the LCWR as a Conference of Major Superiors under the ultimate direction of the Apostolic See.  Through a collaborative process of mutual learning and of refining several drafts, it was agreed that “the role of the Conference as a public juridic person centered on Jesus Christ and faithful to the teachings of the Church is to undertake through its membership and in collaboration with other sisters those services which develop the life and mission of women religious in responding to the Gospel in the contemporary world” (Statutes, Section 2).  At the conclusion of this drafting and refining process, the subcommittee’s work was considered ready to be submitted to the LCWR Assembly. The 2014 Assembly overwhelmingly approved the text, and it was forwarded to the Apostolic See.  Following a positive review by the CDF, the revised Statutes were approved on February 6, 2015 by Decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Conference Publications and Programs:  The Mandate also called for a review of LCWR publications to ensure that the Conference’s mission would be fulfilled in accord with Church teaching.  The Conference’s mission is in service of its members and their positive role of collaboration in the Church’s mission.  At the same time, LCWR publications serve a larger audience in the Church. Many persons desiring spiritual growth have become readers of various publications. The nature of LCWR publications is intended to address spiritual matters rather than engage in formal theological inquiry.  Nevertheless, because of the vital link between spirituality and theology, and in order to inspire, help evaluate experience as Women Religious, and challenge to growth, publications need a sound doctrinal foundation.  To this end, measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it.  This exercise of theological responsibility is for the sake of both Conference Members and other readers. At the same time, it serves to protect the credibility of the Conference itself as a long-standing canonical entity of the Church.  In addition, a publications Advisory Committee exists and manuscripts will be reviewed by competent theologians, as a means of safeguarding the theological integrity of the Conference.

The Mandate also addressed care in the selection of programs and speakers at General Assemblies and other LCWR-sponsored events.  The choice of topics and speakers appropriate to the Conference’s mission and service will be carried out in a prayerful, thoughtful and discerning manner.  As with written publications, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to speak with integrity and to further the aims and purposes of the Conference, which unfold within the wider context of the Church’s faith and mission.  When a topic explicitly addresses matters of faith, speakers are expected to employ the ecclesial language of faith.  When exploring contemporary issues, particularly those which, while not explicitly theological nevertheless touch upon faith and morals, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to have due regard for the Church’s faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues. As with publications, this kind of professional integrity will serve the Members well.  Finally, a revised process for the selection of the Outstanding Leadership Award recipient has been articulated.

Other issues addressed by the Mandate:  Over the past three years, considerable time and attention were given to dialogue regarding other matters raised by the Mandate, including the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist; the place of the Liturgy of the Hours in religious communities; the centrality of a communal process of contemplative prayer practiced at LCWR Assemblies and other gatherings; the relationship between LCWR and other organizations; and the essential understanding of LCWR as an instrument of ecclesial communion.  These discussions had their origin in the Mandate and led to clarifying and fruitful conversation.

Conclusion:    Our work together in response to the Mandate has borne much fruit, for which we give thanks to God and the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious has been a blessing to be appreciated and further encouraged. The Commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR’s witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion.

Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Archbishop of Seattle

Most Rev. Leonard Blair, Archbishop of Hartford

Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, LCWR President

Sr. Marcia Allen, CSJ, LCWR President-Elect

Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, LCWR Past President

Sr. Joan Marie Steadman,, CSC,  LCWR Executive Director




Just before 9 am Wednesday morning, in keeping with the tradition for the January 21 liturgical memory of St. Agnes, two lambs, blessed earlier in the morning in the Roman basilica named for this saint, were presented to Pope Francis in the atrium of the Santa Marta residence where he lives. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains. When their wool is shorn, the Sisters of St. Cecelia weave it into the palliums that, on the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, are bestowed on new metropolitan archbishops as signs of their office.


The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, it symbolizes authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff. In a 1978 document, “Inter Eximina Episcopalis,” Pope Paul VI restricted its use to the Pope and metropolitan archbishops. Six years later, Pope John Paul decreed that it would be conferred on the metropolitans by the Pope on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Usually in attendance at the January 21 ceremony in the Apostolic Palace are two Trappist fathers, several nuns, two canons of the Chapter of St. John, the dean of the Roman Rota, and two officials from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and a number of other invited guests.

The baby lambs, under one year of age, are normally tucked into wicker baskets, and both lambs and baskets are adorned with flowers. In 2004 St. John Paul II blessed the lambs during a general audience in the Paul VI Hall as both the audience and St. Agnes’ feast day occurred on a Wednesday.

Agnes died about 305 and is buried in the basilica named for her on Rome’s Via Nomentana. Historical accounts vary about the birth, life and manner of death of Agnes but generally it isrecounted that, in order to preserve her virginity, she was martyred at a very young age, probably 12. She is usually depicted with a lamb because the Latin word so similar to her name, agnus, means “lamb.” The name Agnes is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective hagné meaning “chaste, pure.”

A couple of years ago I was intrigued by the January 21 press office communiqué about this event. It had been slightly altered since the announcement the previous day that the Pope would bless “two live baby lambs.” Naturally it was the word “live” that intrigued me – as if he might bless lambs that were no longer alive. That word did not appear the day of the blessings!

In 2011, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican paper, carried an interview with Sr. Hanna Pomniaowska, one of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who prepares the lambs every year for their Vatican visit. This order of nuns has been preparing the baby lambs for 130 years and it was their founder, Blessed Frances Siedliska, who started this custom in 1884. Up to that date another order of nuns had prepared the lambs but it became difficult when the nuns began to age. At that time the Sisters of the Holy Family took over the duties.

Two lambs are brought to the sisters on January 20 by the Trappist Fathers of Tre Fontane (Three Fountains). The nuns then bring the lambs to the top floor of their residence where there is a terrace with a laundry room where the lambs are washed with delicate soap usually used for children until their wool is white as the driven snow and they are dried with a hair dryer that, in recent years, has replaced the towels they once used.

The nuns are careful to completely dry the lambs so that, at their tender age, they do not fall sick. The room is well heated. After the lambs are dried they are placed in a tub that is covered with straw and closed with canvas so they don’t catch cold.  A meal of straw is fed to the lambs who then spend the night in the laundry.

The morning of January 21, the nuns place two small capes on the lambs, one is red to indicate St. Agnes’ martyrdom and the other is white to indicate her virginity. There are also three letters on each mantle: S.A.V. (St. Agnes Virgin) and S.A.M. (St. Agnes Martyr). The sisters weave crowns of interlocking red and white flowers, place them on the baby lambs’ heads, and then put the lambs in a decorated basket. The lambs are tied so they don’t escape.  In fact, one of them did escape a few years back, jumping up and running from the altar at St. Agnes basilica.

In the morning the lambs are brought to St. Agnes Basilica where they are placed on the altar and blessed. Following this ceremony, two papal sediari or chair bearers bring the lambs in a van to the Vatican where they are presented to the Holy Father. It is usually the sisters who are celebrating a jubilee of religious vows who are present in the papal chapel of Urban VIII.


The general audience today was dedicated, as is customary in the first Wednesday after a papal trip, to Pope Francis’ just-completed and very successful pilgrimage to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He named the highlights of each country, and when he spoke of families with numerous children – a topic of his interview on the papal plane with  journalists – he said – to great applause – that large families are not the cause of poverty, as many say, rather it is the econonic system.  He also received enthusiastic applause when he spoke of corruption.

As he began the catechesis in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis confessed, “I will always keep in my heart the recollection of the joyful welcome I received from the crowds.” He said the culmination of his stay in Sri Lanka was the canonization of St. Joseph Vaz, whose “example of holiness and love for his neighbor continue to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in her apostolate of charity and education. He added that the new saint represented “a model for all Christians, who are called upon today to offer the salvific truth of the Gospel in a multi-religious context.”

Francis mentioned his meeting with governmental authorities, emphasizing the importance of dialogue, respect for human dignity and efforts to involve all in finding suitable solutions for reconciliation and the common good.

The Holy Father highlighted his encounter with religious leaders, noting the good relations that exist between the various communities. “In this context, I wanted to encourage the cooperation that has already been initiated between the followers of different religious traditions, also in order to heal with the salve of forgiveness the wounds of those still afflicted by the sufferings of recent years.”

With reference to the Philippines, the Pope underscored “the constant fruitfulness of the Gospel and its capacity to inspire a society worthy of mankind, in which there is a place for the dignity of each person and the aspirations of the Filipino population.”

He explained that the main aim of his visit was to express his closeness to those brothers and sisters who had suffered as a result of the devastation wrought in November 2013 by typhoon Yolanda. “The power of God’s love, revealed in the mystery of the Cross, was made evident in the spirit of solidarity shown by the many acts of charity and sacrifice that marked those days of darkness.”

He also mentioned the young volunteer Kristel, who was killed in a freak accident after his visit to Tacloban when scaffolding collapsed due to extreme weather conditions. In fact, typhoon-like conditions forced the Pope to leave Tacloban on the island of Leyte four hours earlier than planned and to thus cancel some events on the Tacloban agenda.

Francis went on to speak about his encounter with families in Manila. “I have heard it said that families with many children and high birth rates are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me a simplistic opinion. I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. … It is necessary to protect families, which face various threats, so that they can bear witness to the beauty of the family in God’s plan.”

Sustained applause greeted these remarks.

Finally, he talked about his meeting with the young. “I wanted to offer them my encouragement for their efforts in contributing to the renewal of society, especially through their service to the poor and the protection of the natural environment. Care for the poor is an essential element of our Christian life and witness – because corruption steals from the poor – and requires a culture of honesty,” he concluded, and once again greeted by applause.


Following the general audience catechesis, the Pope launched an appeal for prayer for “the victims of the events of recent days in beloved Niger. Let us invoke from the Lord the gift of reconciliation and peace, so that religious feeling is not transformed into a cause of violence, oppression and destruction. I hope that a climate of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence may be reinstated as soon as possible, for the good of all.”

Speaking on Wednesday, the Holy Father mentioned specifically the “brutalities perpetrated against Christians, children and Churches.”

“War must not be waged in the name of God” he said, receiving yet more applause.

Vatican Radio reported that last week, in Niger’s capital Niamey and in the town of Zinder, at least 15 people were killed in two days of violent protests against the publication in France of a satirical magazine depicting Islam’s prophet. Over a dozen Christian Churches and other buildings were set ablaze. Security forces have been using tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters taking part in banned demonstrations in the capital.


The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis has appointed the following members of the College for the Review of Appeals to the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instituted by the Rescriptum ex Audientia SS.mi of 3 November 2014:

President: Bishop Charles J. Scicluna, auxiliary of Malta;

Members: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Cardinal Attilio Nicora, president emeritus of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) and the Financial Information Authority (AIF); Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan, emeritus of Rosario, Argentina; and Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Supplementary members are: Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, president of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See and of the Disciplinary Commission of the Roman Curia.