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U.S. Bishops Approve New Guidelines for Pastoral Ministry with Native Peoples

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At their annual June Plenary Assembly, the Catholic bishops of the United States approved a national pastoral framework to guide dioceses and those engaged in ministry with Native and Indigenous peoples. The document, Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry, intended for use by dioceses, Catholic Native organizations, schools, missions, and parishes, was approved by the full body of bishops in a vote of 181 to 2 with 3 abstentions.

The document was presented to the body of bishops for the vote by Bishop Chad Zielinski of New Ulm, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. “The framework encourages bishops, dioceses and local Catholic Indigenous communities to work together, using the framework as a reference while developing their own local pastoral plans that are sensitive to the vast cultural differences among the various Native and Indigenous Tribes,” said Bishop Zielinski. “It covers a broad range of issues and concerns such as missionary discipleship, evangelization, the role of catechesis, sacramental and liturgical questions, youth and young adult ministries, and social justice issues. And it also addresses difficult topics such as reconciliation for any mistreatment and wrongs done during the boarding school period,” he continued.

After a dialogue with Native Catholic leaders in 2019, the subcommittee responded to the needs raised by developing a framework to guide Native and Indigenous communities in revitalizing pastoral ministry. The pastoral framework is the result of extensive consultation and dialogue over the last several years by the subcommittee with the leadership of Catholic Native groups.

The full text of Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry is currently posted here, and the formatted version will be posted to the USCCB’s website on the page of the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs shortly: https://www.usccb.org/committees/native-american-affairs.

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U.S. Bishops Affirm Advancement of a Cause of Beatification and Canonization for Adele Brise, Lay Woman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - At their annual June Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on a possible cause of beatification and canonization for Adele Brise. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. By a voice vote, the bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

The following brief biography of Adele Brise was drawn from information provided by the Diocese of Green Bay:

Adele Brise was born on January 30, 1831, in Dion-le-Val, Belgium, to Lambert and Catherine Brise. Despite losing sight in one eye from a childhood accident, she was known for her cheerful demeanor. Adele pledged to the Blessed Virgin Mary to become a religious sister after her first Holy Communion, a goal that continued even after her family immigrated to the United States in 1855. Settling in Wisconsin, Adele remained committed to her religious calling.

In 1859, Adele experienced several apparitions of a woman dressed in white whom she later identified as Mary, the Queen of Heaven. She instructed Adele to become a teacher of religion. Adele began a door-to-door ministry, eventually founding a community of laywomen known as the Sisters of Good Help. They chose to live following the Franciscan way of life, without taking formal vows and focusing on religious education. The community faced many challenges, including the Peshtigo fire of 1871, which threatened their chapel and school. Historically considered one of the deadliest forest fires, these buildings were spared and considered by many to be a miraculous and divine response to prayers.

Adele continued her mission tirelessly, teaching and catechizing children, and creating a lasting impact on her community until her death on July 5, 1896. Her legacy of devout service is summarized by the inscription on her headstone: “Sacred Cross, Under thy Shadow I Rest and Hope.”

The Marian apparitions experienced by Adele in 1859 were given formal and official approval by Bishop Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay in December 2010, and the site of the apparitions was designated as a national shrine by the U.S. bishops in 2015, today known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion.

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World needs urgent political action to guide AI, pope tells G7

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Political leaders have a responsibility to create the conditions necessary for artificial intelligence to be at the service of humanity and to help mitigate its risks, Pope Francis told world leaders.

"We cannot allow a tool as powerful and indispensable as artificial intelligence to reinforce such a (technocratic) paradigm, but rather, we must make artificial intelligence a bulwark" against the threat, he said in his address June 14 at the Group of Seven summit being held in southern Italy.

"This is precisely where political action is urgently needed," he said.

Many people believe politics is "a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians -- not all of them, some. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another," he said.

But the world cannot function without healthy politics, the pope said, and effective progress toward "universal fraternity and social peace" requires a sound political life. 

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Pope Francis gives a speech on the benefits and dangers of artifical intelligence to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope addressed leaders at the G7's special "outreach" session dedicated to artificial intelligence. In addition to the G7 members -- the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain -- the forum included specially invited heads of state, including the leaders of Argentina, India and Brazil.

The G7 summit was being held in Borgo Egnazia in Puglia June 13-15 to discuss a series of global issues, such as migration, climate change and development in Africa, and the situation in the Middle East and Ukraine. The pope was scheduled to meet privately with 10 heads of state and global leaders in bilateral meetings before and after his talk, including U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Because of time limits set for speakers during the outreach session, the pope read only a portion of his five-page speech, although the full text was made part of the official record. The Vatican provided a copy of the full text.

In his speech, the pope called artificial intelligence "an exciting and fearsome tool." It could be used to expand access to knowledge to everyone, to advance scientific research rapidly and to give "demanding and arduous work to machines."

"Yet at the same time, it could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations or between dominant and oppressed social classes, raising the dangerous possibility that a 'throwaway culture' be preferred to a 'culture of encounter,'" he said.

Like every tool and technology, he said, "the benefits or harm it will bring will depend on its use." 

pope g7
Pope Francis gives a speech on the benefits and dangers of artifical intelligence to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

While he called for the global community to find shared principles for a more ethical use of AI, Pope Francis also called for an outright ban of certain applications.

For example, he repeated his insistence that so-called "lethal autonomous weapons" be banned, saying "no machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being."

Decision-making "must always be left to the human person," he said. Human dignity itself depends on there being proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs.

Humanity would be condemned to a future without hope "if we took away people's ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines," he said. In his text, he specifically criticized judges using AI with prisoner's personal data, such as their ethnicity, background, education, psychological assessments and credit rating, to determine whether the prisoner is likely to re-offend upon release and therefore require home-confinement.

The pope also cautioned, students especially, against "generative artificial intelligence," which are "magnificent tools" and easily make available online "applications for composing a text or producing an image on any theme or subject."

However, he said, these tools are not "generative," in that they do not develop new analyses or concepts; they are merely "reinforcing" as they can only repeat what they find, giving it "an appealing form" and "without checking whether it contains errors or preconceptions."

Generative AI "not only runs the risk of legitimizing fake news and strengthening a dominant culture's advantage, but, in short, it also undermines the educational process itself," his text said. 

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Pope Francis listens to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni before giving his speech to world leaders attending the Group of Seven summit in Borgo Egnazia in Italy's southern Puglia region, June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/courtesy of G7 Italia 2024)

"It is precisely the ethos concerning the understanding of the value and dignity of the human person that is most at risk in the implementation and development of these systems," he told the leaders. "Indeed, we must remember that no innovation is neutral."

Technology impacts social relations in some way and represents some kind of "arrangement of power, thus enabling certain people to perform specific actions while preventing others from performing different ones," he said. "In a more or less explicit way, this constitutive power dimension of technology always includes the worldview of those who invented and developed it."

In order for artificial intelligence programs to be tools that build up the good and create a better tomorrow, he said, "they must always be aimed at the good of every human being," and they must have an ethical inspiration, underlining his support of the "Rome Call for AI Ethics" launched in 2020.

It is up to everyone to "make good use" of artificial intelligence, he said, "but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful."

Pope swaps jokes with comedy stars at Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As they waited for Pope Francis to arrive at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican Apostolic Palace for an early morning audience, late night comedy stars looked at each other and thought, "something's wrong." 

"We're in this beautiful, beautiful space in the Vatican and for some reason they've let comedians in, which is always a mistake," comedian Conan O'Brien told reporters after meeting the pope June 14. 

He was just one of 105 comedians from around the world who traveled to the Vatican for a papal audience and to "establish a link between the Catholic Church and comic artists," according to the Dicastery for Culture and Education, which organized the meeting.

Conan O'Brien speaks to journalists.
U.S. television host and comedian Conan O'Brien speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Comedians from the United States included Stephen Colbert, Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Whoopi Goldberg, Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia among others. 

Before Pope Francis entered the room, Fallon stood in front of the pope's chair and was cracking jokes to the entertainment of his peers. But once Pope Francis entered, they all took to their feet to applaud. Several stars, accustomed to being in front of the cameras, held out their phones to record the pope walking steadily to his seat. 

And immediately Pope Francis cracked a joke, saying that since smiling is good for one's health, it would be better for him to just make a funny face for the crowd rather than to read his lengthy speech.

Pope Francis greets Jimmy Fallon.
Pope Francis shakes hands with Jimmy Fallon during a meeting with comedians at the Vatican June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Yet he told the comedians that "in the midst of so much gloomy news, immersed as we are in many social and even personal emergencies, you have the power to spread peace and smiles." 

"You are among the few who have the ability to speak to all types of people, from different generations and cultural backgrounds," he said.

The pope highlighted the unique role of laughter in bringing people together in the face of conflict, stressing that humor "is never against anyone, but is always inclusive, purposeful, eliciting openness, sympathy, empathy."

He also encouraged them to remember a prayer often attributed to St. Thomas More, which he said he prays every day: "Grant me, O Lord, a good sense of humor."

Louis-Dreyfus, the star of hit shows "Seinfeld" and "Veep," said after the meeting that Pope Francis' words were "gorgeous," and praised the pope's message for highlighting that comedy "has a sacredness to it."

Stephen Colbert speaks to reporters.
U.S. comedian and writer Stephen Colbert speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Each comedian was able to greet the pope individually at the end of the audience. 

Colbert, a Catholic, said he told the pope in Italian that he gave his voice to produce the audiobook version of the pope's recently published autobiography. He later told reporters that after reading the book, he thought he would love to interview the pope on his late-night TV program, "but I really want to do a cooking segment with him, because he talked a lot about cooking: evidently he makes a great 'tortellini in brodo.'"

Jim Gaffigan, another Catholic comedian who speaks often about his faith life, brought his family with him to the Vatican to meet the pope. His son Michael got rosary beads blessed by the pope that he proudly touted around the Vatican hallway leading out of the meeting. 

Gaffigan told reporters after the meeting that being Catholic and a comedian is "the most punk rock thing you can do," since believing in God in the comedy business is just "asking for trouble."

Jim Gaffigan speaks with reporters.
U.S. comedian and actor Jim Gaffigan speaks with reporters in the Lapidary Gallery of the Apostolic Palace, part of the Vatican Museums, after meeting Pope Francis during an audience June 14, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Although the group of comedians who came to the Vatican and met the pope was not composed solely of Catholics, the experience "was universal," Gaffigan said. "There is this warmth, this openness, even with the exceeding amounts of problems that have existed and will exist." 

The pope typically sits in front of the groups he meets with for a group photo before leaving his audiences, and participants often sit politely and clap as he walks away. 

This time, Chris Rock, seated near the front row, jumped up behind Pope Francis to put his face right by the pope's for the photo. Other comedians couldn't resist following suit and soon enough a group swarmed around the pope for the picture. 

Pope Francis encouraged the fun, chuckled and gave a wave as he walked out. 
 

Pope champions laughter with comedians

Pope champions laughter with comedians

Pope Francis met with comedians, including famous U.S. late night comics, at the Vatican June 14.

Nuncio tells US bishops: Eucharist remains 'place of encounter' where Christ transforms wounded Church (Our Sunday Visitor)

At the US bishops’ spring meeting, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, spoke about the National Eucharistic Revival.

Cardinal Pierre emphasized that “the Eucharistic encounter with the risen Lord affords a new personal and ecclesial experience, one in which the wounds suffered in the Body of Christ become signs of his victory over death.” He concluded, “We are not perfect! We are weak! And by letting Christ have communion with us in our shared weakness, our shared woundedness, we will also share in his saving strength.”

In a wide-ranging address to his brother bishops, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the bishops’ conference, quoted at length from the statements against transgenderism in the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent document, Dignitas Infinita (CWN analysis).

In a message to Pope Francis, the bishops sought the Pontiff’s prayers and joined in the Pope’s own prayer for peace.

Cardinal Koch discusses 'reformulation' of Vatican I's dogma on papal infallibility (Vatican Press Office)

In an interview on the new Vatican study document on papal primacy and synodality (CWN coverage), Cardinal Kurt Koch spoke of a “’re-reception,’ or even ‘reformulation,’” of the teachings of the First Vatican Council (1869-70) on the primacy and infallibility of the Pope.

The prefect of the Dicastery for the Promoting Christian Unity, which published the document, said that “since its dogmatic definitions were profoundly conditioned by historical circumstances,” some ecumenical partners “suggest that the Catholic Church seek new expressions and vocabulary faithful to the original intention, integrating them into an ecclesiology of communion and adapting them to the current cultural and ecumenical context. There is therefore talk of a ‘re-reception,’ or even ‘reformulation,’ of the teachings of Vatican I.”

Cardinal Koch said that the existence of the papacy is less of an ecumenical hindrance than it was in 1967, when Pope St. Paul VI said that the Pope “is without a doubt the greatest obstacle on the path to ecumenism.”’

“In our globalized world, there is undoubtedly a growing sense of the need for a ministry of unity at the universal level,” said Cardinal Koch. “The question that arises is to agree on how to exercise this ministry, defined by John Paul II as a ‘service of love.’”

A 'caress' and 'kiss from the Church': Cardinal Zuppi donates 80 fans to Italian prison (L'Osservatore Romano (Italian))

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, has donated 80 fans to Rebibbia prison in Rome, as part of Semi di tarassaco volano nell’aria [“Dandelion Seeds Fly in the Air”], an initiative of the Italian bishops to donate 2,000 fans to 30 prisons.

“It is the caress of a mother who is close to you,” said Cardinal Zuppi. The Vatican newspaper reported that “copying the gesture of children when they put a hand to their mouth, he blew towards those present, concluding, ‘Here, take this kiss from the Church.’”

Holy See calls for reopening of Gaza entry points for humanitarian assistance (L'Osservatore Romano (Italian))

Speaking at an international diplomatic conference, the apostolic nuncio to Jordan said that “the Holy See calls for the reopening of entry points into Gaza” for humanitarian assistance and “underlines the importance of an orderly distribution of food and supplies.”

Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso delivered his remarks at Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza, a conference organized by Jordan, Egypt, and the UN.

Pope, in book preface, pays tribute to the Olympics and peace (Vatican News)

Pope Francis has written approvingly of a UN resolution calling for a worldwide truce from July 19, a week before the Paris Olympics, until September 15, a week after the Paralympics.

“In the particularly dark historical moment we are living, the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris are an opportunity for peace,” Pope Francis wrote. “Reflecting on the value of the Olympic truce—proposed by the United Nations—my hope is that sport can concretely build bridges, break down barriers, and foster peaceful relations ... The true Olympic and Paralympic spirit is an antidote to the tragedy of war and an opportunity to redeem oneself by ending violence.”

The Pontiff made his remarks in his preface to a new book, Giochi di Pace: L’anima delle Olimpiadi e delle Paralimpiadi [Games of Peace: The Soul of the Olympics and the Paralympics].

The Pope also paid tribute to the Olympics and praised the addition of communiter [together] to the Olympic motto.

“When playing sports together, it does not matter where a person comes from, their language, culture, or religion,” the Pope said. “This is also a lesson for our life and reminds us of fraternity among people, beyond their physical, economic, or social abilities.”

Buenos Aires governor meets with Pontiff (@Kicillofok)

In the latest of a series of recent meetings with Argentine leaders, Pope Francis received Axel Kicillof, Argentina’s former finance minister and the current governor of Buenos Aires, in a June 13 audience.

“A great honor to have been received by Pope Francis at the Vatican to talk about the social situation of our country and our province,” Kicillof tweeted. “A very warm meeting in which we were also able to share all the work that we have been carrying out ... The Pope is an international reference, and for us it is very important to have his word and his perspective in these times of crisis.”

In the two months prior to his meeting with Kicillof, Pope Francis received an Argentine governor, an Argentine political party leader, and the new Argentine ambassador.

Following his April 17 audience, Governor Gustavo Valdés of Corrientes said that the Pontiff “expressed to me his intention to visit Argentina this year.” Earlier, in February, the Pope met at length with Argentine President Javier Milei, who invited the Pontiff to visit his native land.