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Pope reportedly confirms he is taking away Burke’s apartment, denies calling him his ‘enemy’

The facade of Cardinal Raymond Burke's Vatican apartment. / Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 17:31 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis reportedly has confirmed that he plans to take away Cardinal Raymond Burke’s Vatican apartment and salary but denied that he referred to the American prelate as his “enemy,” according to a web post by papal biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The pope reportedly announced at a meeting of Vatican heads on Nov. 20 that he intended to take action against Burke, who has publicly criticized some papal initiatives, according to the Italian Catholic news blog La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, which first reported the news on Nov. 27.

The Associated Press later confirmed the report based on conversations with two anonymous sources.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Burke said he has not been informed of the pope’s intention to take away his apartment and salary.

“People can draw their own conclusions about why the Holy Father told this to Austen Ivereigh and not the person concerned,” Burke said. He told the outlet that he intends to stay in Rome even if he is forced to find somewhere else to live.

“It’s my duty as a cardinal to remain in Rome,” he said.

Pope Francis removed Burke from the post of prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Church) in 2014 and instead appointed him cardinal patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a mostly ceremonial role dedicated to the spiritual welfare of the members of the order. He remained patron until this year but had held only the title, having been reportedly restricted from active involvement since 2016 and thus sidelined during the extensive institutional reforms of the order over the last years.

In an article that was highly critical of Burke published on the website Where Peter Is, Ivereigh wrote that Pope Francis confirmed to him that he plans to take away Burke’s apartment and salary.

“I met with Pope Francis on the afternoon of November 27th. It was a short meeting because of his lung inflammation, which meant it took him some effort to speak. (The following evening his trip to Dubai was canceled because it had not improved enough.) In the course of our conversation, Francis told me he had decided to remove Cardinal Burke’s cardinal privileges — his apartment and salary — because he had been using those privileges against the Church,” Ivereigh wrote.

“He told me that while the decision wasn’t a secret, he didn’t intend a public announcement but earlier that day (Monday) it had been leaked,” he wrote.

Ivereigh is the author of two hagiographic biographies of Pope Francis and co-authored the 2020 book “Let Us Dream: A Path to a Better Future” with the Holy Father. He also holds a key advisory position in the current Synod on Synodality.

Ivereigh wrote that the pope said, contrary to some media reports, that he did not refer to Burke as his “enemy.”

According to the La Nuova Bussola Quotidian’s unnamed Vatican source, Pope Francis told the meeting of Vatican department heads on Nov. 20: “Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I take away his apartment and his salary.”

In his web post, Ivereigh wrote that he doubted the veracity of that report, saying: “I knew this quote was pure fiction. Pope Francis would never conduct a personal vendetta. It was conveniently in line with the traditionalist narrative of a merciless, vindictive pope who recklessly and unreasonably ‘punishes’ those who disagree with him.”

Ivereigh said he “wrote Pope Francis a note alerting him to this quote and offering to correct it with the truth as he had put it to me” and received a clear denial from the Holy Father.

“On Tuesday evening I had a note back from the pope. ‘I never used the word “enemy” nor the pronoun “my.” I simply announced the fact at the meeting of the dicastery heads, without giving specific explanations,’” Ivereigh wrote.

CNA reached out to the Vatican press office to confirm Ivereigh’s report but did not receive a response by time of publication.

The papal biographer has been a frequent critic of Burke, who had publicly voiced his concerns about the Synod on Synodality’s threat to Church doctrine.

In a recent post on the social media platform X, Ivereigh compared the cardinal to Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre, who founded the Priestly Society of St. Pius X and was excommunicated for ordaining priests without Vatican approval.

Ivereigh wrote: “Burke’s claim to be on the true branch while the tree goes its own way was the justification of Abp. Lefebvre, who led a schism following Vatican II. Just as Lefebvre rejected collegiality then, Burke rejects synodality now, despite both being authentic Church developments.”

Activist group pushes to enshrine abortion rights in Arkansas constitution

null / roibu / Shutterstock.

CNA Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

An activist group in Arkansas this week announced an effort to pass a state constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion, with the southern state becoming the latest abortion battleground in the post-Roe v. Wade U.S. 

The group For AR People, which bills itself as working to “build a stronger state that works for everyone,” announced on Monday the formation of the group Arkansans for Limited Government in support of the Arkansas Reproductive Healthcare Amendment.

The amendment as currently written would forbid the state from restricting “access to abortion within 18 weeks of conception, or in cases of rape, incest, [and] in the event of a fatal fetal anomaly.” 

Abortion would also be permitted “to protect the pregnant female’s life or health,” the amendment says.

The amendment had been submitted to state Attorney General Tim Griffin for review earlier this month. On Tuesday the attorney general rejected the submission, saying in a decision that “ambiguities in the text of [the] proposed measure” could be misleading to voters.

The group will have to revise the proposal, Griffin said. Upon its acceptance by the attorney general’s office, activists will have to gather nearly 100,000 signatures by next July to ensure its placement on the 2024 ballot. 

In a statement shared with CNA, Arkansans for Limited Government said it “appreciate[d] the attorney general’s thorough review of and impartial response to the amendment’s language.” The group said it would “begin work immediately with the amendment drafter to craft a revised amendment.”

Pro-life groups, meanwhile, were speaking out against the measure this week. Arkansas Right to Life said in a statement shared with CNA on Tuesday that “the broadly written language [of the proposal] is so extreme that even pro-choice voters will see it goes too far.” 

“It clearly allows abortions up to the moment of birth and mandates that even the most basic limits on the profit-driven abortion industry are removed,” Executive Director Rose Mimms said. “The proposed constitutional amendment is not about limited government, it’s about forcing no-limit abortion on the people of Arkansas.”

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

“For example, it would prevent Arkansas from requiring abortionists to have parental consent before performing an abortion on an underage girl,” he argued. “The amendment also could permit abortion in Arkansas through all nine months of pregnancy — including late-term abortion and partial-birth abortion.”

The amendment would allow the state General Assembly to “prohibit or restrict access to abortion only when it establishes a compelling government interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” 

The interest would be “compelling,” the language states, “only if it is for the purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking access, does not infringe on the individual’s decision making, and is consistent with widely accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine.”

Arkansas is one of several states in which abortion rights battles are playing out in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s repeal last year. 

Earlier in November, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum that added a new right to “reproductive freedom,” including abortion and contraception, to the state constitution.

Activists in numerous other states including Arizona, Florida, and Nebraska are likewise pushing to amend their respective constitutions to protect abortion rights.

Catholic cathedral complex bombed, bishop flees with refugees in worsening Myanmar civil war

This photo taken on October 12, 2014, shows the exterior of a church in Loikaw, Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. / Credit: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The pastoral center of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, Myanmar, was bombed on Nov. 26 and occupied by the Burmese military the next day, according to reporting by Agenzia Fides, the news arm of Pontifical Mission Societies.

Though no one was killed in the bombing, the pastoral center’s ceiling collapsed and Bishop Celso Ba Shwe and the 80 refugees taking shelter in the church were forced to flee, per the Hong Kong Catholic news service UCA News.

Shwe said in a statement published by Agenzia Fides that “the Burmese army tried to take the Christ the King Cathedral complex three times” before finally occupying it on Nov. 27.

“As a local bishop,” Shwe said, “I, together with the priests, tried to convince the military generals of the importance of the religious sites and asked them to leave the place to spare, where displaced people are also welcomed.”

The cathedral complex had been sheltering about 82 refugees from throughout Myanmar’s Kayah state, a region that has become a major battleground between the Burmese military junta and several rebel militias.

According to LiCAS news, an Asian Catholic news source, the bishop also reported that “50 soldiers came and occupied [the cathedral] to make use of it as a shield.” 

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that many elderly, disabled, sick, women, and children were among those taking refuge in the cathedral complex. Ten priests and 16 religious were also among those taking shelter in the cathedral. Now, the refugees and bishop have fled the cathedral to seek refuge in other churches or the nearby wilderness.

Myanmar, which is bordered by India to the west and China to the east, is a majority Buddhist country that has large Catholic and Protestant minorities in some states. The country has been caught in a bloody civil war since 2021 after local militias united to oppose the military junta that had seized control of the government earlier that year.

This is not the first time that Catholic churches and holy sites have been caught in the crossfire in the ongoing war. Catholic sites in Kayah state and in the Loikaw Diocese have been especially hard hit by military strikes.

On Aug. 12 Mary Mother of Mercy Church in the village of Htee Thaw Ku in the Loikaw Diocese was hit by air strikes that destroyed the church’s ceiling and windows, according to UCA News.

In March 2022, CNA reported that Myanmar military airstrikes hit Our Lady of Fatima Church in Saun Du La village and the Sisters of Reparation convent, a home for retired nuns in Kayah state.

In total, according to Agenzia Fides, 21 of the diocese’s 41 parishes have been affected. The Diocese of Loikaw has about 93,000 faithful.

Agenzia Fides reported Shwe saying that “due to the intensification of armed conflict in November, more than 80% of the urban and rural population in Kayah State have been displaced and the number of internally displaced people continues to rise.”

Shwe said that the cathedral had become a popular refuge site but that “unfortunately, we were not safe there either.”

A report published in March by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the conflict has resulted in a “humanitarian and human rights crisis” in which over 1.3 million people have been displaced and more than 3,000 civilians killed.

According to the U.N. report, as the conflict has escalated the Myanmar military junta has in recent months “stepped up aerial attacks, bombing villages, schools, medical facilities, and encampments for internally displaced persons.”

Pope Francis renewed his previous calls for peace in Myanmar in a Nov. 19 Angelus statement in St. Peter’s Square. The pope’s statement was published by Vatican News.

“War always, always, always is a defeat,” Francis said.

“I renew my closeness to the dear people of Myanmar who unfortunately continue to suffer from violence and suppression,” the pope went on. “I pray that they will not be discouraged and always trust in the Lord’s help.”

Vatican: Pope’s health ‘stable’; treatment continues as lung inflammation remains

Pope Francis greets pilgrims and poses for photos at the end of his general audience on Nov. 29, 2023. / Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 15:58 pm (CNA).

The Vatican on Wednesday said Pope Francis’ health was stable as the Holy Father continues to receive treatment for ongoing lung inflammation stemming from a flu infection.

“The Holy Father’s condition is stable; he has no fever, but lung inflammation associated with respiratory distress remains,” the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“He continues antibiotic therapy,” the statement added.

Pope Francis has been struggling for several days with persistent symptoms following what the Vatican called a mild flu infection that developed last week.

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it had canceled the pope’s planned trip to Dubai this week due to his continuing struggles with lung inflammation. Francis had been scheduled to travel to Dubai to deliver a speech at the COP28 climate conference.

The Vatican said on Monday that the Holy Father’s condition was “clearly improving,” with the pontiff in “good and stable” condition and without a fever.

The pope last week visited the Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome after his flu diagnosis. During that visit, Francis underwent a CT scan to rule out the risk of “pulmonary complications,” the Holy See said at the time.

Francis, who turns 87 next month, has experienced a number of medical setbacks in recent years. He has been hospitalized on more than one occasion, most recently in June for abdominal surgery.

Part of the pope’s right lung was removed in a surgery in 1957 in Argentina before he began his novitiate with the Jesuits. Earlier this year, the pope was treated for bronchitis for several days, quipping on his April 1 release: “I’m still alive, you know.”

Though he continues to struggle with the symptoms from the flu, the pope has kept up a somewhat regular schedule at the Vatican this week, hosting a soccer team on Wednesday and appearing for his Wednesday audience (his prepared remarks, however, were read by a Vatican official), while the Holy Father also met with French abuse victims on Tuesday.

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer team founded by a Catholic religious

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis met Wednesday with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother.

The pope, who is known to be an avid soccer fan, met with the team on Nov. 29 while still recovering from the flu and lung inflammation, according to the Vatican.

Francis told the team: “Excuse me, but with this cold, I cannot speak much, but I am better than yesterday.” The pope asked a priest to read his message to the athletes and then greeted them one by one.

Celtic F.C. is a Scottish soccer team based in Glasgow. The team was founded in 1887 by Brother Walfrid, a consecrated Marist brother, to help raise funds to feed the poor. 

Brother Walfrid was born as Andrew Kerins in Ireland’s County Sligo in 1840 and grew up in poverty amid the Irish potato famine. He emigrated to Scotland at the age of 15 where he discerned a vocation to religious life with the Marist Brothers, a Catholic religious institute of consecrated brothers dedicated to the education of the poor.

Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with professional soccer players from the Celtic Football Club, a team founded by an Irish Catholic religious brother, on Nov. 29, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Walfrid started Celtic with the mission of supplying “funds for the maintenance of the dinner tables of our needy children,” particularly in the impoverished Irish immigrant neighborhoods of Glasgow’s East End.

“He envisaged harnessing the potential of the Irish Catholic diaspora through the vehicle of a football club. … He believed his endeavor could in turn provide monies which could be used to charitably ameliorate the situation of the neediest members of the community,” said Michael Connolly, author of “Walfrid: A Life of Faith, Community, and Football” published in 2022.

In its long history, the team has been known for its rivalry with another Scottish club called the Rangers, who drew support largely from the Protestant Unionist community in Glasgow, and at some points the bitter rivalry has devolved into violence.

The Scottish soccer team was in Rome for a Champions League match on Nov. 28 against the local S.S. Lazio club and lost to the Italians 2-0. 

Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to the players the day after their loss. 

“Everyone struggles to win, but victory is not the goal, that can be defeat,” the pope said in brief off-the-cuff remarks. 

“Victory is the entire process of playing together, playing as a team,” he added.

More than 130 Masses celebrated in 5 countries to promote Queen Isabella’s canonization

Queen Isabella I of Castile, Spain. / Credit: New World Encyclopedia, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 12:55 pm (CNA).

On Nov. 26, 1504, Queen Isabella of Spain — known as “the Catholic” monarch — died, and more than 500 years later, 133 Masses were celebrated in her memory in thanksgiving for her life and legacy as well as to promote the cause for her canonization.

For several years, the Enraizados en Cristo y en la Sociedad Association (Rooted in Christ and in Society) has kept up an ongoing campaign to promote devotion to the queen of Castile, who has been named a Servant of God by the Catholic Church.

This year, 133 Masses were celebrated with this intention, most of them in Spain but also in Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, and the United States.

The campaign joins the relaunch of the diocesan commission to promote the cause of canonization of the queen. The diocesan phase, which began in 1958 in the Archdiocese of Valladolid, was concluded in 1972.

Transferred to Rome, the historical “positio” (a formal brief arguing for canonization) was approved in 1990 as “authentic, complete, and suitable for judging the virtues and reputation for sanctity” of the monarch, the wife of King Ferdinand of Aragon and “unanimously praised by the consultants of the historical section of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,” as detailed on the website of the commission for the canonization of the queen.

In 1993, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference asked Pope John Paul II to expedite the procedures for the cause. The Vatican Secretariat of State responded that “a suitable time of study and reflection” was prudent due to unspecified circumstances. Subsequently, both in 1997 and in 2001, these requests were renewed.

The opinion of the Vatican Theological Commission is necessary for the queen to be declared Venerable, a prior step to her consideration as Blessed.

The archbishop of Valladolid, Luis Argüello, explained his pastoral decision to relaunch the cause of Queen Isabella both in Spain and in Latin America in an article posted on the archdiocesan website in January. Among other points, he noted the success of the publication of the proceedings of the international symposium “Elizabeth the Catholic and the Evangelization of America,” now in its second edition.

Luis Argüello, archbishop of Valladolid and general secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Photo credit: CEE
Luis Argüello, archbishop of Valladolid and general secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Photo credit: CEE

The archbishop of Valladolid stressed the opportunity to encourage the work of the commission at a time when phenomena such as historical revisionism by the cancel culture as well as indigenism among the peoples of the Americas seeking to recover their identity are clouding the reputation of the queen.

The archbishop of Granada, José María Gil Tamayo, has also advocated for the prompt official recognition of the sanctity of the Catholic queen, whose remains rest in his cathedral.

“The queen went out of her way for the poor,” he noted, “for the poor here, with her style and tenor of life, of sobriety. And, at the same time, with the Indians on the islands” and the continents. “She went out of her way to defend their rights. Charity was always present in this woman,” the prelate explained.

Gil, who referred to Isabella of Castile as “this holy woman,” predicted that “history will also value all the consequences of her government,” and from a Christian point of view, “the great evangelizing feat in the history of the Church” — announcing Christ to the native peoples of the Americas.

“Without this woman, it would not have been possible,” the archbishop of Granada stressed.

The Rooted in Christ and in Society Association also maintains a campaign for the faithful to declare their devotion to Isabella of Castile, whom they consider an example of a woman, wife, and mother who was also involved in the affairs of state. 

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Ailing Pope Francis holds weekly audience, but aide reads his remarks

Pope Francis presided at his weekly audience with the public at the Vatican, but he said that he's still unwell and asked an aide to read his remarks for him on Nov. 29, a day after canceling an overseas trip.

Pope Francis: Technological focus on efficiency dehumanizes today’s society

Pope Francis greets members of the public attending his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City on Nov. 29, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 29, 2023 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Still recovering from the flu and a respiratory tract infection, Pope Francis attended his weekly general audience Wednesday but his reflection was read for him by a Vatican official.

The Holy Father’s appearance in the Paul VI Audience Hall on Nov. 29 came a day after his doctors persuaded him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai for the COP28 conference on climate change, scheduled for Dec. 1–3.

The pope, who needed to have an aide read his Angelus reflection on Sunday as well, sat on stage in front of the crowd throughout the one-hour public audience, which included a circus performance.

In his prepared remarks, read by Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, Pope Francis warned of the dangers of refashioning society on the basis of a technocratic and materialistic “vision of life that discards those who do not produce and struggles to look beyond the immanent.”

This point was reinforced by referring to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which is a lesson about man’s “sacrificing all individuality to the efficiency of the collective.”

One unique feature today, however, is that “we could even say that we find ourselves in the first civilization in history that globally seeks to organize a human society without the presence of God, concentrated in huge cities that remain horizontal despite their vertiginous skyscrapers,” the pope observed.

In this search for “the efficiency of the collective” there is instead a desire “that absorbs the uniqueness of each into a bubble of uniformity.”

But these tendencies “are dangerous, alienating, destructive ambitions” specifically in the context of the present moment as this “cohesion, instead of fraternity and peace, is often based on ambition, nationalism, homologation, and techno-economic structures that inculcate the persuasion that God is insignificant and useless: not so much because one seeks more knowledge, but above all for the sake of more power.”

Pope Francis greets members of the public attending his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City on Nov. 29, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets members of the public attending his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall in Vatican City on Nov. 29, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

Cognizant of these challenges, Pope Francis suggested that Evangelii Gaudium, his 2013 apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, offers a potential antidote to this now ubiquitous tendency, saying there must be “an evangelization capable of shedding light on these new ways of relating to God, to others, and to the world around us, and inspiring essential values. It must reach the places where new narratives and paradigms are being formed, bringing the word of Jesus to the inmost soul of our cities.”

Pope Francis noted that the proclamation of the Gospel is not merely an abstract project, nor is it just a “repetition of an acquired style, but testimony that the Gospel is alive today here for us.” Instead, it is built upon dialogue that requires “frequenting the spaces where one suffers, works, studies, and reflects, inhabiting the crossroads where human beings share what has meaning for their lives.”

“It means being, as a Church, a leaven for dialogue, encounter, unity. After all, our own formulations of faith are the fruit of dialogue and encounter among cultures, communities, and various situations," he continued.

“We must not fear dialogue: On the contrary, it is precisely confrontation and criticism that help us to preserve theology from being transformed into ideology.”

At the end of the audience the Holy Father repeated his call for peace and prayers for those who continue to suffer due to the Israel-Hamas war. 

“I hope that the ongoing truce in Gaza continues, so that all the hostages are released and access to the necessary humanitarian aid is still allowed,” he observed. “I heard from the parish there: There is no water, there is no bread, and the people are suffering. It is the simple people, the common people who suffer.” 

The pope also had sharp words for weapons manufacturers, saying: “There is a group that earns a lot: the weapons manufacturers; these earn well on the death of others.”

The Holy Father closed by thanking members of a circus troupe that performed during the audience. 

“The circus expresses a dimension of the human soul: that of gratuitous joy, that simple joy, made with the mystique of the game,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets French abuse victims at Vatican

Pope Francis uses a cane to walk at his general audience on Nov. 29, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met a group of abuse victims from France at his residence on Tuesday afternoon after assuring them in a written message of his commitment to eradicate abuse in the Church.

The greeting at the pope’s Santa Marta residence followed a meeting the group of 21 victims had with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on the morning of Nov. 28.

Francis had been scheduled to receive the group on Monday, but the appointment was canceled due to his ongoing illness, which the Vatican has said is “influenza and inflammation of the respiratory tract.”

The Vatican meetings were organized by the Commission for Recognition and Reparation, a group formed to support abuse victims following the release of the final report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church in France in 2021.

The people who met Pope Francis on Tuesday were victims of Brother Gabriel Girard, a member of the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, who abused them in the 1960s and 1970s in France.

In a written message delivered to the abuse victims on the morning of Nov. 28, Pope Francis said: “I speak to you today, not in person as I had hoped, but comforted by the fact that my words will be transmitted to you by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.”

Pope Francis, who will turn 87 next month, was still having difficulty speaking during his weekly public audience on Wednesday morning.

The pope said in his message to victims that he renewed “the nonnegotiable task of the Church for the realization and the verification of the policies of safeguarding and of the professional standards in the human formation of our clergy and our religious, as well as the research of safe environments in our schools.”

He thanked the group for their “courage and endurance” and assured them of his prayers.

Francis also recalled that the reason he instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was to protect children and other vulnerable people from experiencing “the greatest evil in a place in which you — with your families — searched for that which is true and good. The subversion of the rights of a child through violence and abuse is a betrayal of our God-given humanity.”

“I asked the commission to listen to your words in my name and to collect your testimonies so that they can strengthen and inspire our common task to eradicate the abuses in our Church and in our communities. We can do it only together, all together, each person doing his part to break the silence of abuses,” he said.

New Catholic PR agency looks to help Catholics become ‘strengthened in the faith’

null / Credit: Courtesy of Sophia Communications

CNA Staff, Nov 29, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

A newly launched New England-based public relations outfit is working to promote a variety of Catholic organizations and endeavors by “spreading the faith via the media” through faith-based outlets and other markets. 

Sophia Communications is an outgrowth of Sophia Institute Press, a publishing company based in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The press publishes “many of the most beloved Catholic authors” and distributes “over 1 million influential books per year,” according to its website. It was founded by John Barger, who had formerly taught philosophy at Magdalen College, a Catholic school in New Hampshire.

Sophia’s newly launched PR firm debuted on Nov. 7. The firm said in a press release that it will offer “a vital connection to the ever-evolving faith-based and conservative media markets through their relationships with high-level press, influencers, clergy, and faith leaders.”

Sarah Lemieux, the executive director of the communications initiative, told CNA in an interview that the broader Sophia organization has had “so much success generating local, national, and international publicity for our own brands and products.”

With the communications firm, the group is “opening our doors to represent others,” she said.

Lemieux said the firm is hoping to support “mainly good Catholic organizations and causes on the one hand” as well as “those looking to enrich the Catholic world through their positive products and programs.” 

“Really, what we’re about is spreading the faith via the media,” she said. “When people buy books, games, music, puzzles, and calendars that we represent, they really just become strengthened in their faith.”

The group in its press release said its bookings “have ranged from local faith-based radio programs to national media networks like Salem Media and EWTN” as well as a variety of conservative print outlets and other media.

Lemieux told CNA the newly launched firm is still gathering clients. “We have a few in the queue,” she said.

“We have a lot of crossover products,” she said. “We get our clients on mainstream, secular, and Protestant media. We’re basically an evangelization tool using mass communications, and we love it.”

Among its clients include the Catholic companion book Benedictus, the bookstore Fraternity Publications, and several other brands.

The entire endeavor, Lemieux told CNA, is “explicitly Catholic.”

“We currently have about 63 employees in our institution,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to expand our team. We will be growing.”

(Editor’s note: In August 2015, Sophia Institute Press began partnering with EWTN to form EWTN Publishing Inc., which produces various publications with a focus on the works of EWTN’s founder, Mother Angelica. EWTN is the parent company of CNA.)