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Al Kresta, longtime Catholic radio host, dies at 72

Al Kresta. / Credit: EWTN

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2024 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

Al Kresta, a longtime Catholic radio host, author, and founder and president of Ave Maria Radio, died Saturday at his Michigan home after a battle with liver cancer. He was 72. 

A former evangelical Protestant who rose to prominence as a radio host before his conversion to Catholicism in 1992, Kresta’s voice was heard on hundreds of radio stations daily, including EWTN Catholic Radio, via Ave Maria’s flagship program, “Kresta in the Afternoon.” 

According to a webpage set up by Kresta’s family to provide updates, Kresta was admitted to the University of Michigan Hospital on April 29 “after a month of tests,” which culminated in a liver cancer diagnosis on May 3. 

Born in 1951 in New England and raised Catholic, Kresta’s road back to the faith of his baptism was winding. Despite his upbringing, he described himself as a “stereotypical 1960s kid” who as a young man leaned into the worldly desires of “drugs, sex, and rock ’n’ roll.” The Catholic Church “didn’t hold much appeal to me,” he told EWTN’s “The Journey Home” in 2004. 

“I was a musician and I wanted to pursue my music and a hedonistic, self-centered lifestyle,” he told the National Catholic Register in a 2000 interview. 

“In 1969 I left home and became homeless by choice. I lived on the street, slept in vacant apartments, stayed on the beach in the Florida Keys and bummed off of friends. After some hallucinogenic LSD experiences, I hitchhiked along the eastern seaboard looking for someone who could help me make sense of my hallucinations. I ended up in a New Age group.”

Later, though, through “a series of remarkable, providential occurrences,” Kresta said he became convinced that the New Age movement’s depiction of Jesus as a hippie guru was not correct. In 1974, as a student at Michigan State University, he embraced evangelical Protestantism, in large part thanks to the writings of C.S. Lewis. He leaned into his newfound faith, eventually opening a Christian bookstore and even pastoring a nondenominational church for five years. 

As a pastor, Kresta said he was sometimes tripped up by the fact that there were authoritative questions he had to answer about the Christian faith and that he realized that “the Bible alone couldn’t settle these matters.”

“I had no authority,” he admitted in a later, 2007 “Journey Home” interview.

In the early 1990s, Kresta hosted a Catholic priest on his evangelical-focused radio program as part of an episode dedicated to “Catholic answers to Catholic questions.” Kresta said he was so moved by the priest’s answers that it hit him like a ton of bricks: “My God, I’m a Catholic.” In 1992, he repented and returned to his Catholic faith; his entire family converted at the same time. 

Kresta would later say that the “intellectual integrity of the Catholic faith is unlike anything in Protestantism.”

“The Catholic faith has never disappointed me when it comes to my use of reason or intellectual coherence,” he said. 

Colleagues remember Kresta as ‘deeply thoughtful’ and ‘courageous’

EWTN President and Chief Operating Officer Doug Keck on Saturday said that Kresta’s passing was “a titanic loss not only for EWTN and Ave Maria Catholic Radio but for the entire Church." 

“As his show intro said, he always had the Bible in one hand and a copy of the New York Times in another,” Keck said. 

“He was fearless in his willingness to take on tough issues both inside and outside the Church!” he continued. “But always with a wisdom-driven, balanced approach designed to meet the listeners where they are but never leave them there.” 

“He was an inspiring figure who overcame incredible physical roadblocks to serve his God, his family, and his Church.”

Teresa Tomeo, the host of the radio show “Catholic Connection,” said she would “always remember meeting [Al] long before I started in Catholic radio.”  

“I was so impressed with his knowledge of Scripture and the faith as well as his early and courageous pro-life work,” she told CNA. “We lost a warrior on so many fronts. These are tough times but we continue the work in his honor and memory.”

Scott Hahn, meanwhile — a renowned biblical scholar, author, convert, and founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology — called Kresta “one of the most deeply thoughtful and thoroughly converted men I’ve had the privilege of knowing — and calling a good friend.” 

“He will be greatly missed by many,” Hahn said. “Requiescat in pace.”

Matthew Bunson, vice president and editorial director of EWTN News, told CNA on Saturday: “Aside from his goodness, his greatness as a father, husband, and friend, his passing will be a massive loss to the Catholic cause.” 

“He was one of the keenest observers in the Church of contemporary culture and the ecclesiastical landscape,” Bunson said. “We are intellectually poorer for his passing but even more we have lost a truly prayerful, gentle, and faithful disciple of Christ.”  

Rob Corzine, the vice president of academic programs at the St. Paul Center, told CNA that he first became acquainted with Kresta through the radio host’s “bridge group.”

“It was a room filled with about equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics who wanted to hear him explain basic Catholic doctrines once a week throughout Lent,” Corzine said.

“Al had the gift of hearing your real question, however poorly you put it or even understood it yourself, and answering that.”

At the time of meeting Kresta, Corzine was “an evangelical who had been reading my way toward the Church for the last few years.” Shortly after, Corzine was coming into full communion with the Church; in several more months Kresta was showing him the ropes of Catholic radio.

“Al is one of the many people to whom I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude,” Corzine said. “And I am only one of the thousands of whom that is true.”

Helped launch Ave Maria Communications 

In 1997, Tom Monaghan — the founder of Domino’s Pizza and also Ave Maria University in Florida — called Kresta and asked if he wanted to move to Ann Arbor to help create Ave Maria Communications. Monaghan “funded the media enterprise for years,” Kresta said in a 2013 Catholic World Report (CWR) interview. Ave Maria later became a major affiliate of EWTN (which also owns Catholic News Agency).

“There’s absolutely no doubt that Catholic radio’s principal mission has been catechesis,” Kresta told CWR.

“I think in the next generation of Catholic radio that’s going to become increasingly clear. Because the last generation was spent defending the faith and defending papal infallibility … We’ll continue to defend magisterial teaching, but I think we now have to help people distinguish [between what] we owe religious assent and what are prudential judgments.” 

In 2003, Kresta suffered with and survived a serious bout of necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection. It resulted in the loss of one leg, necessitating the use of a wheelchair.

Kresta said a year or so after the illness on “The Journey Home” that the experience helped him to learn that even in the midst of terrible suffering, “you can think on the cross of Jesus, and you can offer up that suffering.”

His Catholic faith helped him, he said, to “enter more deeply into a sense of Christ’s sufferings … through being buffeted by pain, your sense of self is firmed up and strengthened, moment by moment there’s a stronger sense of who I am before God ... Christ living in me.”

“The Catholic Church’s teaching on suffering got me through arguably what was the most severe crisis I’ve had in my life ... it was my leg, or my life. So, it was my leg. Which was a very easy decision all things considered,” he said with a laugh. 

Kresta is survived by his wife of nearly five decades, Sally, as well as his five children and many grandchildren.

This article has been corrected to reflect Al Kresta's age at the time of his passing. He was 72, not 73.

10 inspiring Catholic quotes about fatherhood

null / Credit: maxim ibragimov/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2024 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Every Father’s Day, we recognize and give thanks for the fathers in our lives. It’s a day to honor all men who love and sacrifice for others and to remember the love each of us receives from God the Father. Whether you’re writing out a Father’s Day card or pondering the great vocation of being a father, here are 10 quotes from Catholic figures and writings about fatherhood:

Pope Francis:

“Every family needs a father — a father who shares in his family’s joy and pain, hands down wisdom to his children, and offers them firm guidance and love.” 

St. John Paul II:

“In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.”

Pope Benedict XVI:

“God is a father who never abandons his children, a loving father who supports, helps, welcomes, forgives, saves, with a fidelity that immensely surpasses that of men, opening up to an eternal dimension.”

Pope Francis:

“A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: He is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.”

G.K. Chesterton:

“God chooses ordinary men for fatherhood to accomplish his extraordinary plan.”

Father Lawrence Lovasik: 

“Fatherhood is a vocation in God’s service to be not held lightly or frivolously, but with the serious determination of serious men.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2214:

“The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents.”

St. John Paul II:

“Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood.”

St. Vincent de Paul:

“A man of prayer is capable of everything.” 

Servant of God Father John Hardon:

“St. Joseph is the divinely revealed model of human fatherhood.”

Priest says schismatic Spanish nuns are in state of ‘paranoia’ according to own thesis

Calle de Bailén Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. / Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Madrid, Spain, Jun 15, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Father Jesús Silva of the Archdiocese of Madrid discusses why the schismatic Poor Clares of the Belorado Monastery are experiencing what he calls “paranoia.”

Priest and martyr of communism Father Michał Rapacz beatified in Krakow

The beatification Mass of Father Michał Rapacz at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow-Łagiewniki, Poland, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. / Credit: Episkopat News

Rome Newsroom, Jun 15, 2024 / 07:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Father Michał Rapacz in January. The 41-year-old priest was shot twice by communist authorities in 1946.

Nonprofit announces largest single investment in Catholic school education history

Students from the Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools. / Credit: Big Shoulders Fund

CNA Staff, Jun 15, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation, announced June 12 that it will be donating $150 million over the next 10 years to the Big Shoulders Fund, which will invest the funds in initiatives that aim to improve the quality, accessibility, and sustainability of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana.

This is the largest single investment in pre-K–12 Catholic education in history.

Driven by its founder’s vision, the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation supports “catalytic community projects and self-sustaining initiatives that cultivate a strong quality of life in Northwest Indiana and statewide,” according to its website.

The Big Shoulders Fund was founded in 1986 to ensure that children in Chicago’s most under-resourced areas could have access to quality, values-based education. In 2019, it was invited by civic leaders and philanthropic funding to replicate their work in Northwest Indiana by sharing its model with Catholic schools in the Diocese of Gary.

A student from the Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools. Credit: Big Shoulders Fund
A student from the Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools. Credit: Big Shoulders Fund

Bill Hanna, executive director of the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, told CNA that their hope is to “provide every student access to a high-quality, values-based education that creates strong academic and career outcomes.”

He added: “The primary focus of the investment will be on serving students and communities with the greatest amount of economic and educational need. We hope that this investment will develop the nation’s most effective network of outcomes-based Catholic schools.”

Bishop Robert J. McClory of the Diocese of Gary in a press release called the donation “a historic and transformative commitment from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, the largest single investment ever given for pre-K–12 Catholic education.”

“On behalf of all families who will benefit from this commitment, we are thankful and filled with great hope for the future. This is an enormous vote of confidence for Catholic education and the value of our individual schools,” he said. “I am honored by the continued commitment of the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, Big Shoulders Fund, and our community. This gift creates an opportunity for the Diocese of Gary to fulfill our mission even more vibrantly to support families and enhance our schools to become an extraordinary model of Catholic school education.” 

“We are eager to go forward and experience the impact this commitment and collaboration will have on the lives of our students, their families, our teachers, and our communities.”

McClory wrote in an email to CNA that this donation will give the diocese the “opportunity to help every student in our schools to excel” and hopes it will “inspire others to consider how they can support Catholic schools in their own communities and nationwide.”

Students and teachers from the Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools. Credit: Big Shoulders Fund
Students and teachers from the Diocese of Gary Catholic Schools. Credit: Big Shoulders Fund

In addition to serving students and communities with the greatest amount of economic and educational need in Northwest Indiana,  the investment will support initiatives that focus on curriculum development, teacher training, leadership development, infrastructure improvements, and student support services as well as new governance models, management structures, and assistance with enrollment and tuition management.

Colleen Brewer, Diocese of Gary superintendent of Catholic schools, told CNA: “A gift of this magnitude gives the Diocese of Gary the opportunity to open our doors to more students, serve our families in a deeper way, and be able to elevate our current success.” 

“Too often, finances are a barrier in doing what you want to do in a school,” she added. “Now we can identify the needs we are presented with and have the partners and resources to directly address those problems for the benefit of the students. This type of gift is a symbol of trust.”

Thanks to the resources and funding provided through this investment, Big Shoulders Fund will be able to provide accessible and transformative pre-K–12 education to at least 20 schools across four counties in the Diocese of Gary Catholic school network.

Additionally, the Diocese of Gary announced that it will establish an independent endowment with The Catholic Foundation for Northwest Indiana, a nonprofit organization, by the end of the year. The hope is to have the invested endowment funds grow up to $50 million over the next 15 years and be used for the retention and compensation of principals, teachers, and staff within diocesan schools.

Through a pilgrim’s eyes: The Byzantine Divine Liturgy on the Eucharistic Pilgrimage route

Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. / Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Denver, Colo., Jun 15, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

About halfway through the western route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, the Perpetual Pilgrims took a quiet respite from the road on Saturday, June 8, to attend an age-old Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy in Denver.

Day-to-day, the perpetual pilgrims make their way across the U.S. by walking and driving, sometimes in a procession of cars, with the monstrance holding the Eucharistic Lord in the mobile chapel. 

In addition to their frequent stops at parishes, processions, and service activities, the pilgrims spend much of their time in adoration as the van drives across the country. The Junipero Serra Route began on the coast of California on May 18 and is set to reach Indianapolis in mid-July. 

When they reached Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church, the pilgrims stood with other parishioners and attendees on the rugs laid across the wood floors of the small church, listening to the chant and song.

Unassuming on the outside, the humble but beautiful interior is covered with golden icons and blanketed with detailed rugs for parishioners to stand on and sit during the homily. 

The pilgrimage so far

Jack Krebs, one of the Perpetual Pilgrims, said he joined the pilgrimage because he wanted to share Jesus in the Eucharist.

When asked what his daily life looks like as a pilgrim, he said it varies a lot, depending on the day, the parish, and the diocese. 

“But generally, it will be Mass in the morning and then a quick procession, and then we’ll drive, and we’ll have a driving procession,” he said. “Sometimes it’s with cars following. Other times it’s just having adoration in the van.”

Jack Krebs (right) and other perpetual pilgrims in the Communion line at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Jack Krebs (right) and other perpetual pilgrims in the Communion line at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Krebs said it can be difficult to stay focused depending on where they are driving. 

“Through the mountains and through the very beautiful areas, it’s easy to make that your prayer as you’re driving through and reading some of the Psalms,” he said. “It’s really easy to reflect in that way.”

“But there’s other times where you’re just driving through a city and there’s just so much distraction and ads and all this stuff,” he continued. “But it’s also unique because Jesus gets to just bless that place as you go.”

“If he’s really present here, then he will impact all these people,” Krebs continued. “I almost see it as Jesus walking around in Galilee, just laying his hands on people’s heads and blessing them whenever they encounter him.”

During the pilgrimage, Krebs said he has been taking inspiration from both the Psalms and the Gospels.

“The Gospel [stories] of Jesus walking around have been very profound because we’re living that — just walking around with Jesus,” he said. “Some people look on and are very struck. Some people think it’s weird.”

Father Joel Barstad, pastor at Holy Protection in Denver, processes with the Gospels before the Gospel reading during the Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Father Joel Barstad, pastor at Holy Protection in Denver, processes with the Gospels before the Gospel reading during the Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“I feel like I’m in a way filling that role similar to what the Apostles did, of just walking along and bringing Jesus to the people,” he explained.

“I think the other thing is Jesus has reminded me that it’s not on me as a pilgrim to fix people. It’s not on me to carry this movement,” Krebs said. “It’s just on me to bring the people to him and bring him to the people and just let him do the heavy lifting, and let him take care of it.”

Father Joel Barstad processes from the altar through the church, a small room, with the gifts of bread and wine before the consecration during Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Father Joel Barstad processes from the altar through the church, a small room, with the gifts of bread and wine before the consecration during Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

The pilgrims not only spend a lot of time with Jesus but also with each other. Krebs said they are being more intentional about one-on-one time to help form deeper friendships.

Byzantine liturgy

Attending a Byzantine Catholic liturgy for the first time is very different from the Roman Catholic Mass, starting with the lack of pews.

Attendees stand reverently throughout most of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Attendees stand reverently throughout most of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“I think [of] what Father said in the very beginning of the sacred liturgy, ‘If this is new to you, just let it wash over you,’” Krebs recalled. “I really like that he said that because it gave me a context in which to approach this.”

The Mass, called a Divine Liturgy, involves multiple processions around the crowded room with incense. Many parishioners will make the sign of the cross and a low bow, sometimes touching the floor. The Eucharist is given via intinction, where the small cubes of consecrated, leavened bread are placed in the chalice and given on a spoon.

Attendees of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy sit on the floor during the homily at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Attendees of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy sit on the floor during the homily at Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in downtown Denver on June 8, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Young kids are invited to stand in the front while the priest reads the Gospel, and during the homily attendees sit crisscrossed on the ground while pews line the walls for those who need them.

Jack Krebs receives the Eucharist during a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. The Eucharist is given via “intinction,” where the small cubes of consecrated, leaven bread are placed in the chalice and given on a spoon. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Jack Krebs receives the Eucharist during a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy on June 8, 2024. The Eucharist is given via “intinction,” where the small cubes of consecrated, leaven bread are placed in the chalice and given on a spoon. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“I sat there and let the beauty of it wash over me and tried to be present to the beauty of the icons and the church architecture,” Krebs said. 

Nature and God 

Krebs, originally from Wisconsin, studied environmental science at the University of Nebraska. He went on the national pilgrimage after first hearing about it from a friend. 

“I think it just made my prayer become a lot more relational,” he said of the Eucharistic Revival. “I’ve been coming to know the gift of the Eucharist is a lot deeper.”

After the pilgrimage, Krebs will be working at Annunciation Heights, a program that runs outdoor Catholic camps for youths, families, and students in Estes Park, a town in the Colorado Rockies.

“I studied environmental science and water science in college, so praying or being close to the Lord in creation, or coming to know our Creator through that has been powerful,” he said.

Krebs mentioned taking inspiration from Psalms 121 and 122, which are the psalms that people would pray when making pilgrimages to Jerusalem. 

“[We’re] driving through the mountains and one of the Psalms uses the imagery, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so God’s love surrounds you,” he recalled. “And we’re driving through this canyon, and I’m thinking, if these mountains, if these rocks are God’s love, I’m just so safe here. Nothing can hurt me down here. It’s just so beautiful and you feel safe.”

Krebs shared another reflection that the pilgrimage has inspired, noting that images from the Psalms help convict him “of the deeper truth of God’s love, or his care for us, or his mystery, his grandeur, his smallness — all of it.”

“Because even as I’m driving by and I see this one little flower in the middle of the pasture, God knows that that flower is there, and he willed that that flower was there, and that flower is just glorifying him in its smallness,” he continued. “It’s going to live for a year, and then it’s going to die, and no one’s going to know about it — but God cares so much about the small things.” 

“And then I think also going through the cities where there’s more people, I think the image is Jesus is able to look on all these people and see them and bless them,” he continued. “Not that he doesn’t see them [already], but he’s being made physically present here because in such a real way.”

Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis at G7 Summit to discuss foreign policy, climate change

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 14, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden privately met with Pope Francis early Friday evening in Apulia, Italy, at the Group of Seven (G7) Summit to discuss foreign policy and climate change.

Francis is the first pope to address the G7 summit, which is an annual meeting of government leaders from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy. The European Union also participates but is not an official member.

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media

In a statement following the meeting, the White House said both leaders “emphasized the urgent need for an immediate cease-fire and a hostage deal” in Gaza and the need to “address the critical humanitarian crisis.”

The statement added that “Biden thanked Pope Francis for the Vatican’s work to address the humanitarian impacts of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, including his efforts to help return kidnapped Ukrainian children to their families.”

“President Biden also reaffirmed his deep appreciation for the pope’s tireless advocacy for the poor and those suffering from persecution, the effects of climate change, and conflict around the world,” according to the statement.

In the morning, prior to the meeting, a senior Biden administration official said during a press teleconference that Biden planned to discuss issues in the Middle East and Ukraine with the pontiff. On Ukraine, the official said “the Holy See has been actively engaged” on this issue. 

“Cardinal [Matteo] Zuppi, in particular, has been an envoy working to return Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported across the border, separated from their families,” the official added. “Of course, it’s one of the huge tragedies of this war. And the Holy See has also been engaged in trying to promote a peace agreement.”

The official said Biden would also discuss climate change, “which is an issue that is near and dear to both leaders.”

“Of course, the president’s plan for adaptation and resilience, which was launched in November of 2021, is an important effort to deal with climate change, as is the multilateral Loss and Damage Fund to which the United States has contributed $17.5 million, an important effort to mitigate some of the effects of climate change,” the official said.

Before the scheduled meeting, Biden and other leaders briefly greeted Francis when he arrived at the summit to address officials about concerns related to artificial intelligence (AI). The pontiff, who has called for global regulations on AI, expressed apprehensions about AI becoming a tool for war and cautioned against relying too much on AI without human input during his address. Francis has promoted global regulations to ensure AI is used to advance the common good.

The senior administration official said during the teleconference that Biden would also likely discuss AI with Francis — an issue that has been important to the pontiff over the past year. 

“I’ll just say on AI, I think we are both interested in responsible use of artificial intelligence, preserving human dignity and human rights,” the official said. “And so they’ll have a chance to get into that.”

The White House statement following the meeting, however, did not mention AI. 

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media

Biden previously met with Francis in October 2021 for about 75 minutes to discuss poverty, climate change, and other issues. That was Biden’s first in-person meeting with the pontiff as president, but the two leaders also spoke on the phone shortly after the presidential election. Biden and Francis also spoke on the phone in October 2023 to discuss the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Biden had met Francis three times before becoming president.

The president claimed in 2021 after the two met in person that Francis told him he “was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving Communion.” The Vatican declined to comment on whether Francis made those comments. However, in July 2022, Francis criticized Biden for the president’s support of abortion, saying that it is an “incoherence” for a Catholic to be in favor of legal abortion.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been at odds with the Biden administration over issues related to abortion and gender ideology. The bishops also criticized the president’s recent border security measures.

U.S. bishops vote to take first steps to declare Adele Brise a saint

Adele Brise. / Credit: National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion

Louisville, Ky., Jun 14, 2024 / 17:35 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Catholic bishops voted on Friday to begin the process of officially declaring Adele Brise a saint. Brise, an immigrant from Belgium living in northern Wisconsin, witnessed the first and only approved Marian apparition in the United States in 1859.

In a unanimous voice vote at their spring general assembly held in Louisville, Kentucky, the bishops gave their approval to advancing on the local level the cause of beatification and canonization of Brise.

In 2022, the Vatican gave its formal stamp of approval to the apparitions Brise witnessed, recognizing the newly named National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion in Champion, Wisconsin, as an approved apparition site. 

Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, who initiated the formal investigation into the apparitions, told CNA the number of pilgrims traveling to the shrine has increased from 10,000 a year to over 200,000 a year today since the apparitions were approved. 

“The Blessed Mother is calling people to come to the shrine to experience the peace there, the simplicity, the basics of the Gospel, the catechism are exposed there,” Ricken said.

Our Lady of Champion is the patroness of the Northern Marian Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage will be stopping at the shrine on June 16 on its way to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

A saint for our times

On Oct. 9, 1859, the Belgian-born Brise reported seeing the first of three apparitions of the Virgin Mary while walking in the woods in Champion, Wisconsin. 

Brise, who was 28 at the time, saw a woman dressed in white and wearing a crown of gold stars who asked her to pray for the conversion of sinners and teach children about the faith.

Brise immediately set out to visit families within a 50-mile radius of her home to share the Gospel with them and teach them the catechism. They were Belgian immigrants like herself, but unlike Brise, they had lost their faith since coming to America.

“She’s really current for now because we’re facing the same problems. People not knowing the faith, people having fallen away from the Church. She’s a model for us of what it means to be an evangelizing catechist. She’s very pertinent for today as well,” Ricken said.

“From the moment of the apparitions, Adele furiously traveled the wild country of northeast Wisconsin, teaching children. She would go so far as to do the household chores for the families in exchange for simply having some time to instruct the children,” Ricken said.

Brise went on to gather other women to help her with her mission and establish a school house and convent. Brise’s father built a chapel at the site of the apparitions, which eventually became a shrine to Our Lady of Good Help. The name was taken from the words the Blessed Mother said to Brise: “I will help you.”

What did the Blessed Mother say to Brise?

After Brise reported seeing the first apparition, her parish priest advised that if she were to appear again she should ask: “In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?”

“I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them,” the apparition said.

According to the shrine’s website, the apparition “gazed kindly” upon Brise and her companions (who could not see her) and said: “Blessed are they that believe without seeing.” Then, looking toward Brise, the Queen of Heaven asked: “What are you doing here in idleness while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?”

“What more can I do, dear Lady?” Brise asked, weeping.

“Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

“But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?” Brise said.

“Teach them their catechism,” the woman in white replied, “how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing; I will help you.”

Possible miracles

In his address to his fellow bishops, Ricken shared the testimonies of people who said they had received healing thanks to the intercession of Brise.

Candidates for beatification and canonization normally require two miracles attributed to their intercession as well as evidence that they were holy and virtuous.

“As we examine Adele’s life more closely and gather testimonies of people who attest to the life of the growing virtue and possession of Adele, two stories of healing speak out to the most,” Ricken said.

He recounted the story of a woman named Sharon, who while hospitalized for depression saw a vision of a woman she believed to be Brise who gave her the will to live a joyful life of faith.

The second person to testify, a man named John, was diagnosed in 2018 with colorectal cancer, which had metastasized to his lungs. He received what he believes to be a miraculous cure after he prayed for Brise’s intercession.  

“As of January 2022, I was declared with no evidence of disease, and I have been without cancer detected through my last scans all the way through April 2024,” Ricken quoted the man’s testimony. 

“I pray every day, and I’m convinced that my visit to the Champion Shrine, my deepening relationship with Mary through Adele, has really blessed me,” the bishop quoted John as saying. 

Top European human rights court rules countries can’t be forced to introduce assisted suicide

null / Credit: HQuality/Shutterstock

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jun 14, 2024 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of Hungary’s right to uphold its laws prohibiting assisted suicide, affirming the laws of 46 countries.

Vatican appoints new administrator of Steubenville Diocese amid possible merger

Bishop Edward M. Lohse. / Credit: Diocese of Kalamazoo

CNA Staff, Jun 14, 2024 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has removed Bishop Paul Bradley as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio, the bishop revealed on Friday, with Pope Francis appointing a new administrator to take his place. 

Bradley said in a letter to the diocese on Friday that the Holy Father had “informed me that my service as apostolic administrator of the diocese has been completed,” with Francis having “thanked me for my leadership over these last nine months.” 

The Vatican has appointed Kalamazoo Bishop Edward Lohse as the new apostolic administrator of the Ohio diocese, Bradley said. The appointment was effective immediately. 

Bradley had retired from the bishopric in Kalamazoo last July before being appointed by the pope as apostolic administrator of Steubenville on Sept. 28. 

The prelate was appointed to that role after the departure of prior Bishop Jeffrey Monforton, whom Pope Francis transferred to the Archdiocese of Detroit at the same time. 

While serving in the Steubenville Diocese, Monforton had proposed a merger between Steubenville and the Diocese of Columbus. That plan drew negative feedback and disappointment from many within Steubenville, including clergy who said they had not been consulted about the proposal. 

Monforton ultimately put a hold on the plan one week before the U.S. bishops’ conference planned to vote on the merger at its 2022 meeting in Baltimore.

Bradley and Columbus Bishop Earl Fernandes said in December of last year that the two dioceses were back into talks about a possible merger. 

The Steubenville Diocese was created in November 1944 out of territory previously part of the Diocese of Columbus. The diocese has seen a marked decline in population in the subsequent 80 years as the region has suffered from economic struggles stemming from losses in the coal and steel industries. 

In March of this year the two dioceses said in a press release that they had “submitted a summary of findings on how both dioceses could be affected by a potential merger” to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr as well as the apostolic nunciature. 

“No decision on a merger has been made,” the bishops said at the time. “The final decision will be made by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.” 

“This process of discernment is distinct from the process of implementation should a merger occur,” the bishops said. 

In his letter on Friday, meanwhile, Bradley said he was “so very grateful to the Holy Father” for the Steubenville appointment. 

He said Lohse, who will continue to serve as bishop of Kalmazoo, would “complete the current process of discernment” underway in the diocese.

“I am confident that Bishop Lohse will provide excellent leadership to the diocese throughout the remainder of this process,” the bishop said.