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Catholic-run Pennsylvania migrant facility criticized for ‘deplorable’ conditions

"We had to sue the Biden administration to get them to release these documents,” American Accountability Foundation President Thomas Jones told "EWTN News Nightly" anchor Tracy Sabol. “When the documents came out, we [understood] why we had to sue them.” / Credit: "EWTN News Nightly"/Screenshot

CNA Staff, May 22, 2024 / 10:53 am (CNA).

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal what a federal government official described as “deplorable” conditions that were found in 2021 at a Catholic-run facility for migrant children in Pennsylvania. 

The emails were obtained via FOIA by the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) and published by CatholicVote last week. They show a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official relaying an April 2021 report from a worker out of Pennsylvania on the Journey of Hope facility in Pittsburgh. 

That facility is run by the Holy Family Institute, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “rooted in the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching and the heritage of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.” It works via contract with the U.S. government to house unaccompanied migrant children.

In the email, dated April 10, 2021, the Pennsylvania worker described the facility as “deplorable.”

“They haven’t cleaned a thing in the time it’s been set up,” the worker reported. “There is [expletive] smeared on the floors. We have begged their admins to have a cleaning service come in but they refuse. Say the 5-year-olds can clean themselves.” 

“Everyone on my floor has lice,” the report continued. ”They treated them then [put] them back in the same dirty sheets.”

“I thought one of the girls was pregnant,” the worker said. “The clinic refused to see her. Kids have 100 fever and aren’t seen by anyone. It’s bad.”

On Tuesday, Thomas Jones, the president of AAF, spoke with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol about the exposé. He described the findings as “appalling and shocking.”

Jones told Sabol that AAF has had a “longtime focus” on investigating migrant facilities in the U.S. He said it was “pretty complicated” to obtain the emails that revealed the conditions at the Pittsburgh facility.

“Unfortunately, we had to sue the Biden administration to get them to release these documents,” he said. “And I think when the documents came out, we [understood] why we had to sue them.”

“The conditions just weren’t just unclean,” Jones noted. “The whistleblower was recording things like there was fecal matter smeared across the wall, children had lice, toilets were overflowing. And what happened was kind of the bureaucratic finger-pointing instead of somebody doing the simple, humane thing to pick up a mop and clean this mess up.”

Jones said the group has not yet corroborated the claims from the government employee, but they decided that the report “needs to be on the street right away.” He added that it is “really incumbent upon the Department of Health and Human Services to do a full-scale audit with the assistance of the Department of Justice to make sure all of these facilities are up to standards, that this isn’t happening anywhere else.”

Reached via email on Tuesday, the Holy Family Institute did not comment on the allegations of the conditions at the facility. “Please direct your questions to the Federal Office of the Administration for Children and Families,” the institute said. That federal office did not respond to a similar query.

Here’s the latest update on abortion measures up for a vote in 2024

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 22, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The 2024 elections are less than six months away. While all eyes are on the presidential matchup, there are also numerous efforts by abortion activists to enshrine abortion rights in state codes and constitutions.

Nearly a dozen states are considering such measures ahead of the November elections. The efforts come after the 2022 repeal of Roe v. Wade, which returned to the states the power to legislate on abortion, resulting in nearly half of states enacting strong protections for babies in the womb.

CNA is tracking efforts by both pro-abortion and pro-life supporters to put abortion-related votes on the November 2024 ballot. See below for the latest updates on ballot measures around the country.


The political action committee Arizona for Abortion Access said in April that it had gathered more than 500,000 signatures to see its pro-abortion constitutional amendment put before voters in November. The threshold for the activists was about 383,000 and the deadline for signatures is July 3.

The proposed amendment would allow late-term abortions up to “fetal viability” — about 22-24 weeks — or later in pregnancy if a doctor deems it necessary for a woman to end the life of her child. The secretary of state’s office will still need to verify the signatures before the initiative can appear on the ballot.

Abortion is currently restricted in Arizona until the 15th week of pregnancy.

The state has been the focus of pro-abortion and pro-life activists throughout 2024 due to fights over an 1860s-era abortion ban still on the books in the state. Democrats and some breakaway Republicans succeeded in repealing the law at the beginning of May. 


The pro-abortion group Arkansans for Limited Government has proposed ballot language to the attorney general that could result in a vote on abortion in November.

The originally proposed state constitutional amendment, an initial draft of which was rejected by the state attorney general in November, would forbid the state from restricting “access to abortion within 18 weeks of conception, or later in pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, [and] in the event of a fatal fetal anomaly.” 

Arkansans for Limited Government did not respond to a query asking if they had secured enough signatures to put the amendment before voters in November. The group was still calling for signatures on its Facebook page last week; nearly 100,000 signatures must be gathered for the proposal to reach the ballot.

David Cox, the assistant director of the Little Rock-based Family Council, told CNA last year that “if passed, the amendment’s language would effectively erase decades of good, pro-life laws” in the state.

In Arkansas, abortion is illegal in nearly all cases except if a doctor determines that one is necessary to save the mother’s life.


Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate in Colorado circulated dueling ballot proposals for 2024. For either amendment to reach the ballot, proponents needed to gather more than 124,000 signatures.

The pro-life initiative, which would have been added to the state statutory code, would stipulate that a living human child “must not be intentionally dismembered, mutilated, poisoned, scalded, starved, stabbed, given toxic injections known to cause death, left to die of the elements for lack of warmth or nutrition,” or otherwise killed. 

It failed to gather enough signatures before its April 18 deadline.

The pro-abortion measure, meanwhile, would affirm state laws that are already in place that allow abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. 

Its language would amend the state constitution to say that the government “shall not deny, impede, or discriminate against the exercise of the right to abortion, including prohibiting health insurance coverage for abortion.” 

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office said last week that the measure had secured enough signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

Abortion is presently legal at all stages of pregnancy in Colorado, one of only a handful of states that allow abortion at any time.


The pro-abortion group Floridians Protecting Freedom successfully gathered enough signatures to place its Right to Abortion Initiative constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The proposed language of the measure would add a right to abortion before the point of “viability” to the state’s constitution if 60% of voters approve. It would also allow for abortions later in pregnancy if a woman’s doctor deems it necessary to end the life of her child. 

The Florida attorney general in October 2023 had asked the state Supreme Court to block the effort, arguing that the initiative “does not satisfy the legal requirements for ballot placement.”

The court’s justices ruled in April that the measure could appear on the ballot. 

In Florida, abortion is currently illegal after six weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions. 


The proposed Maryland Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment would cement an abortion “right” in the state’s constitution and make it impossible for pro-life laws to be enacted. The amendment was added to the ballot by the state Legislature after passing by a supermajority vote (60%). It will ultimately be decided by the state’s voters on Nov. 5.

Maryland state laws on abortion were extreme even before Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, 2022. In April of that year, the Legislature allotted $3.5 million per year for “abortion care” training there.

The Maryland Board of Public Works, meanwhile, in June of this year approved nearly $1.3 million in emergency spending to pay for a stockpile of two abortion drugs in response to a lawsuit that could take one of the drugs off the market.

Maryland currently places no gestational limits on abortion. Parental notice is required for a minor to have an abortion.


The pro-abortion group Missourians for Constitutional Freedom announced in May that it had turned in more than 380,000 signatures to place its pro-abortion initiative on the November ballot. The measure, if passed, would amend the state constitution to establish a broad right to abortion.

A countermeasure, one that would have seen abortion legalized in the state, had been proposed by the Missouri Women & Family Research Fund. That group, which was launched by longtime Republican staffer Jamie Corley, argued on its website that the state should provide “reasonable exceptions for abortion care, protection for birth control, and immunity for mothers and doctors against criminal prosecution.” 

To that end the group submitted multiple proposed constitutional amendments to the state in August. Yet the group suspended its campaign in February, with Corley stating that the dual pro-abortion campaigns could “create confusion and potentially split the vote.”

Abortion is illegal in Missouri with narrow exceptions for the mother’s life and/or health.


In April, the Montana Supreme Court said pro-abortion activists there could gather signatures to put a pro-abortion state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. 

The measure, if passed, would “amend the Montana Constitution to expressly provide a right to make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion.”

Activists need to gather more than 60,000 signatures by June 21 to place the measure on the ballot.


The pro-abortion group Protect Our Rights filed language with the secretary of state that could see abortion on the ballot in November. More than 87,000 signatures must be gathered for the proposal to reach the ballot. 

The measure, if approved, would “amend the Nebraska Constitution to provide all persons the fundamental right to abortion without interference from the state or its political subdivisions until fetal viability.” 

Backers of that measure did not clarify to CNA if they’ve reached enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The deadline is July 5.

A proposed pro-life amendment, meanwhile, would amend the state constitution to outlaw abortion “in the second and third trimesters” except in cases of medical emergencies or when the baby is the product of rape or incest. Advocates with that amendment similarly did not respond when asked if they had secured enough signatures.

The state earlier this year limited abortion to 12 weeks into pregnancy


The pro-abortion coalition group Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom said in April of this year that it had reached “more than 50%” of its goal of collecting enough signatures to put a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Supporters of the initiative need 102,000 valid signatures by June 26 to qualify for the ballot.

The measure would affirm current extreme laws on abortion and add to the state constitution a “fundamental right to abortion” up to the point of “fetal viability.” It would also allow for abortions later in pregnancy if a woman’s doctor deems it necessary to end the life of her child. 

The group has already met the threshold necessary to place the measure on the ballot, but an activist told local media that abortion advocates “want to make sure all of our data is absolutely correct” and are thus collecting double the number of signatures required. The pro-abortion group did not respond to a query from CNA asking whether it had met its signature goal since April. 

Earlier this year Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, signed into law a measure to protect abortionists who violate abortion laws in other states and prevent health care licensing boards from disqualifying a person due to his or her participation in providing abortions.

Abortion is legal up until about 24 weeks of pregnancy in the state, or even later in pregnancy if the life of the mother is at risk. 

New York

In New York, lawmakers initially succeeded in getting a proposed amendment on the 2024 ballot. It would have added a so-called “right” to abortion to the state constitution in the form of an equal rights amendment. 

The amendment was added to the ballot by the state Legislature after passing by a majority vote in both chambers in two consecutive legislative sessions, as required by law. The proposal stipulated in part that state residents “shall [not] be denied equal rights under the laws [of the state]” on the basis of “pregnancy.” 

But a state Supreme Court judge ruled in May that the measure could not appear on the ballot in November because the state did not follow the proper procedure in adding it. The state has vowed to appeal the decision. 

Abortion is legal in New York through “viability,” though it is largely available after viability as well, given exceptions for the mother’s “mental health.” 

South Dakota

The South Dakota secretary of state confirmed in May that a pro-abortion amendment would appear before voters on the November 2024 ballot. 

The measure would establish “a constitutional right to an abortion” and allow the fatal procedure through all nine months of pregnancy. Signature-gathering was spearheaded by the pro-abortion group Dakotans for Health. 

Abortion is illegal in South Dakota barring exceptions to save the mother’s life.

Catholic high school decades in the making breaks ground in northern Colorado

The graduating senior class pioneered St. John Paul II High School in Colorado as freshmen. The 12 students are the first to have gone through all four years of the St. John Paull II program. / Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School

CNA Staff, May 22, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

After operating out of a parish for four years, a long-anticipated Catholic high school in northern Colorado celebrated graduation on its newly broken ground last weekend.

The seniors who pioneered St. John Paul II High School as freshmen studying at Our Lady of the Valley Parish four years ago graduated on the 44 acres that will be home to the school’s future building. These 12 students — the first graduates to have gone through the entire program — joined the founding headmaster, Blaise Hockel, in breaking ground days before graduation. 

The executive committee breaks ground at graduation. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School
The executive committee breaks ground at graduation. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School

Local Coloradans have been waiting decades for a Catholic high school in the Fort Collins area, miles away from any Catholic high school. Forty-nine years before St. John Paul II opened its doors in Windsor, Colorado, on Aug. 17, 2020, local Catholics sent a letter to the archdiocese requesting a Catholic high school. 

As the closest Catholic high school in a 45-mile radius, St. John Paul II draws students from a 60-mile radius, even bringing students in from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“For many Catholic families in the area, including my own and my wife’s, when our families came into northern Colorado, they were hearing whispers and rumblings about a Catholic high school opening up,” Hockel told CNA in a phone call. 

Now, some 53 years later, the long-awaited school will have its own building, grounds, and even a chapel. 

“When we started this process, we very intentionally wanted to build something that was beautiful, that would lead to families, to students, to the people of northern Colorado seeing it as the heart of the Church in northern Colorado,” Hockel said. 

Edward Mulholland, a professor at Benedictine College, was the commencement speaker for the St. John Paul II High School graduation. Mulholland directs the Great Books program at Benedictine. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School
Edward Mulholland, a professor at Benedictine College, was the commencement speaker for the St. John Paul II High School graduation. Mulholland directs the Great Books program at Benedictine. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School

The model plan shows landmark paintings such as “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo, while the chapel features an altar rail, elegant altar, and accents of blue paint on the vaulted ceiling and walls. 

“When you walk into a space where you’re supposed to be pursuing the good, and it is a bland beige, it’s really hard to aspire,” Hockel continued. “It’s hard for teachers to inspire. It’s hard for students to aspire towards greater things. So we’re trying to design this building not like so many of the other things that have been slapped up over the last couple of decades.” 

Averi Ulibarri, valedictorian of the senior class, gives a speech at graduation. Credit:  Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School
Averi Ulibarri, valedictorian of the senior class, gives a speech at graduation. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School

The new building is set to be completed in time for the 2025-2026 academic year. Hockel said the school has received an “unprecedented” amount of support in the most necessary area — more than $25 million in funds for the school.

“At the beginning of the process, we were working with a major consulting firm who told us that we would be able to raise a certain amount of dollars and no more,” he said. “And we tripled the number of dollars that we raised within four months of going out, asking the community for support.”

“The experts have been at a loss to explain why this is going as well as it is,” Hockel continued. “But the answer is pretty simple. It’s a combination of a desire of the people for the good for their community and the will of God, and nothing short of it.”

The school began with 26 students in 2020 and has nearly doubled in size; Hockel anticipates more growth.

“As we’ve closed on our land here … we’re going to be building our first phase of the school with the anticipation of growing to 180 students in the next two years, and then growing up to 250 while we’re in our Phase 1 plan,” he explained. “Then as we look to our next two phases across the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll look to increase that number to a population of about 400 to 450 students and maxing out at, within the next 30 years, a 600-person campus.”

St. John Paul II offers “a four-year program steeped in traditional classical education” that emphasizes “a holistic education,” Hockel noted. 

The classical education model at St. John Paul II emphasizes primary sources, the early Church Fathers, as well as a “very robust” math and science program.

Father Gregg Pederson and Father Crispan Kibambe celebrated the baccalaureate Mass in a tent on the new grounds of St. John Paul II High School. Pearson is pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, which hosted the school for four years. Kibambe is the parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School
Father Gregg Pederson and Father Crispan Kibambe celebrated the baccalaureate Mass in a tent on the new grounds of St. John Paul II High School. Pearson is pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, which hosted the school for four years. Kibambe is the parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish. Credit: Monica Yee/St. John Paul II High School

“The students read primary sources, they read Church Fathers,” Hockel said. “They go through a very robust math and science program so that they can get up into modern calculus and into modern physics, with the anticipation that by the time they graduate from our school, they’re prepared to be well-formed young men and women if they choose to pursue college or if they choose to pursue trade, that regardless, they are well-formed citizens.”

“We’re built on the principle that we should give to the children a holistic education, which is built around their mind, around their body, around their communal development, around their spiritual development, so that ultimately they can fulfill that call of the Great Commission and go out and make disciples of all nations,” he added.

Humility is the 'gateway to all virtues,' pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Though not found on the classical list of cardinal or theological virtues, humility lies "at the base of Christian life," Pope Francis said.

"Whereas pride and arrogance swell the human heart, making us appear to be more than we are, humility restores everything to its correct dimension," he said. Human beings are "are wonderful creatures, but we are limited, with qualities and flaws."

During his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 22, the pope ended his series of talks on vices and virtues by discussing humility, which he said is "the gateway to all virtues."

In the beatitudes, Jesus praised the "poor in spirit" and said "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," he said. "It is the first beatitude,"because it underlies those that follow it: meekness, mercy (and) purity of heart arise from that inner sense of littleness."

"Blessed are the people who guard this sense of their own littleness in their hearts," he said. "These people are shielded from an ugly vice: arrogance."

Pope Francis steps onto the popemobile.
Pope Francis steps onto the popemobile after his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 22, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Humility is present throughout the Gospel, even in its opening pages, he said, noting how the Angel Gabriel announces Jesus' coming birth not in Jerusalem, but in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, "but it is precisely from there that the world is reborn."

Similarly, the person selected to bring the Son of God into the world "is not a queen who grew up coddled, but an unknown girl: Mary."

God is drawn to the "littleness" in Mary, "which is above all an interior littleness," the pope said. "He is also drawn to our own littleness when we accept this littleness."

Although Mary may have faced difficult periods "in which her faith advanced in darkness," Pope Francis said that Mary's "rock-solid" humility never wavered.

Mary's humility, he said, "is her invincible strength; it is she who remains at the foot of the cross while the illusion of a triumphant Messiah is shattered."

Pope Francis gives his blessing.
Pope Francis gives his blessing to visitors in St. Peter's Square during his general audience at the Vatican May 22, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Pope Francis added that humility is what "saves us from the devil and from the danger of becoming his accomplices."

"Humility is the source of peace in the world and in the church," he said. "Where there is no humility, there is war, there is discord, there is division."

Pope Francis ended his audience asking Christians to pray for peace for the world consumed by war.

"Let us not forget the martyred Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, that this war may end; let us not forget Myanmar; let us not forget the many countries at war," he said. "Brothers and sisters, we must pray for peace in this time of world war."

‘Equal Rights Amendment’ that could have expanded abortion fails in Minnesota

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA) at the state capitol in St. Paul. The proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology,” the archdiocese said. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

A controversial proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota, which the state’s Catholic bishops had opposed due to concerns it would expand abortion access, failed to advance this week amid partisan deadlock.

The proposed amendment, sponsored by St. Paul Rep. Kaohly Her of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), would have added several protected categories to the state’s constitution, in part saying the state cannot discriminate against a person on the basis of sex.

Within the category of sex, the proposal included “making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy​ or decision whether to become or remain pregnant,” as well as “gender identity or gender expression” and “sexual orientation.”

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis had in early May urged Catholics to join a rally to oppose the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), saying the proposal “fails to protect Minnesotans from discrimination based on religion, could constitutionally mandate legal abortion up to the moment of birth, and promotes harmful gender ideology.”

The ERA in Minnesota failed on Sunday evening after time ran out for the Democratic-controlled Senate to vote on it before the end of the legislative year, leaving the measure tabled. The amendment is dead for now until January 2025 unless a special session is called. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said Monday he will not call a special session to try again to pass the ERA, the AP reported.

The proposed amendment, if the Senate had passed it, would have been submitted to the people at the 2026 general election. If ratified by a simple majority, the amendment would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2027. 

Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, speaking in a May 6 video message on behalf of the state’s bishops, warned that the proposal constitutes “an imposition of the sexual revolution on the people of our state.”

The so-called right to abortion, which the Church has always opposed, would become enshrined in Minnesota’s constitution, making it “so fundamental that we can’t even legislate against it,” Barron said. In addition, he noted that the proposal lacks the possibility of conscientious objection, meaning churches, schools, and health care institutions guided by faith could be mandated to endorse practices or speech that violate their beliefs. 

At the May 8 rally at the Minnesota State Capitol, Bishop Joseph Williams, then an auxiliary of St. Paul and Minneapolis, spoke against the proposal and said moments like this show that what “unites us as people of faith is much greater than what divides us.” Williams was named coadjutor bishop of Camden, New Jersey, by Pope Francis on May 21. 

From a statutory perspective, abortion is already legal up to birth in Minnesota following the 2023 passage of the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, which enshrined a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

Possible miracle at Lourdes: Almost-blind woman recovers her sight

null / Credit: Célian de La Rochefoucauld via

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The Hospitality of Our Lady of Lourdes of Madrid concluded its 101st pilgrimage on May 19, serving 800 participants, one of whom apparently was cured.

UK plans to end gender ideology in schools, set age-based sex education rules

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 15:55 pm (CNA).

A proposed update to Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) lesson guidance would prohibit schools from teaching that “gender is a spectrum.”

German priests do not support Synodal Way, new study finds

Cardinal Reinhard Marx. / Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch

CNA Newsroom, May 21, 2024 / 12:56 pm (CNA).

The study, officially titled “Who Becomes a Priest?”, found that priests are “alienated from the concerns of Church reform,” lead author Matthias Sellmann said May 17.

Spain archbishop on schismatic nuns: ‘I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences’

The schismatic decision of the Poor Clares "seems absolutely wrong to me" but we must see "if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it," said Spanish Archbishop Mario Iceta. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 12:26 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Mario Iceta of Burgos in Spain noted: “I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences” of their decision.

Pope Francis on female deacons: ‘No’

Pope Francis sits down for an interview with Norah O'Donnell on CBS' "60 Minutes," which aired Monday, May 20, 2024. / Credit: CBS News/Adam Verdugo

CNA Staff, May 21, 2024 / 11:26 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has once again come out strongly against an ordained female diaconate, reiterating what for the Holy Father has been a consistently firm stance against women becoming clergy. 

The pope made the remarks this week in an interview with CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell during an appearance on the network’s flagship magazine program, “60 Minutes.”

“You will have many young boys and girls that will come here at the end of next month for World Children’s Day,” O’Donnell said to the pope at one point during the interview. “And I’m curious, for a little girl growing up Catholic today, will she ever have the opportunity to be a deacon and participate as a clergy member in the Church?”

“No,” the pope replied. 

Pressed by O’Donnell as to whether a female diaconate was “something you’re open to,” Francis replied: “If it is deacons with holy orders, no.” 

“But women have always had, I would say, the function of deaconesses without being deacons, right?” he said. “Women are of great service as women, not as ministers, as ministers in this regard, within the holy orders.”

The Holy Father in the interview stressed the importance of women’s roles in the Catholic Church, describing them as “the ones who move changes forward, all sorts of changes.” 

“They are braver than the men. They know how best to protect life,” the pope said. “Women are masterful custodians of life. Women are great. They are very great. And making space in the Church for women does not mean giving them a ministry, no. The Church is a mother, and women in the Church are the ones who help foster that motherliness.” 

“Don’t forget that the ones who never abandoned Jesus were the women,” he pointed out. “The men all fled.”

Francis last year reaffirmed the impossibility of women becoming priests, or even modern Church deacons, stating that “holy orders is reserved for men.”

The pope in his discussion with O’Donnell — his first in-depth interview with a U.S. broadcast network — touched on a wide variety of subjects, from immigration to war to antisemitism.

Here are some other highlights from the Holy Father’s remarks during the interview, which aired in full on Monday evening: 

On immigrants fleeing violent countries for safer nations:

“The solution is migration, to open the doors to migration. For an immigration policy to be good, it must have four things: for the migrant to be received, assisted, promoted, and integrated. This is what is most important, to integrate them into the new life.”

On washing the feet of female prisoners at a women’s prison in Rome on Holy Thursday: 

“It is true, this time it was only women because it was a women’s jail. And the message is that men and women, we are all children of God. That men and women we are all apostles and we all can lead. Let us not forget that the bravest apostles, the most courageous, were the women: Mary Magdalene, Mary Salomé, and Mary of Santiago. They stayed with Jesus to the very end.”

On climate change: 

“Unfortunately, we have gotten to a point of no return. It’s sad, but that’s what it is. Global warming is a serious problem. Climate change at this moment is a road to death. A road to death, eh? And it is an artificial climate change, no? Something provoked, not the normal climate change, right? …

“In great measure, [wealthy countries are to blame], because they are the ones that have more of an economy and an energy based on fossil fuels that are creating this situation, right? They are the countries that can make the most difference, given their industry and all, aren’t they? But it is very difficult to create an awareness of this. They hold a conference, everybody is in agreement, they all sign, and then bye-bye. But we have to be very clear, global warming is alarming.”

On his plans for retirement:

“It has never occurred to me. Maybe if the day comes when my health can go no further. Perhaps because the only infirmity I have is in my knee, and that is getting much better. But it never occurred to me.”