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Pope Francis reportedly takes Vatican apartment, salary from Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke at EWTN's studio in Rome during the canonization of St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. / Credit: Steven Driscoll/CNA

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2023 / 13:34 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has stripped one of his top American critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, of his Vatican housing and salary privileges, the Associated Press is reporting.

According to the AP report, which is based on conversations with two anonymous sources briefed on the measures, the pope discussed his planned actions against the American prelate at a Nov. 20 meeting of Vatican office heads.

The pope reportedly said that Burke was a source of “disunity” in the Church and that he was using the privileges afforded to retired cardinals against the Church.

The Italian Catholic news blog La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana first reported pending actions against Burke on Nov. 27.

“Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I take away his apartment and his salary,” the pope had said at the Nov. 20 meeting, according to Bussola’s undisclosed Vatican source.

CNA was unable to immediately reach Burke to confirm the measures against him. The Vatican’s communications office did not respond to EWTN’s request for comment by time of publication.

The AP reported that the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, “referred questions to Burke.”

“I don’t have anything particular to say about that,” Bruni told reporters.

Burke was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1975 and was bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, from 1995 to 2004 and archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008. Widely regarded as an expert in canon law, Burke was appointed in 2008 as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Church) by Pope Benedict XVI. Two years later, Benedict made him a cardinal. 

Pope Francis removed him from the post of prefect 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 June, Pope Francis named Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, as Burke’s official replacement. At the time of the announcement, Burke was only a few days away from the customary retirement age for bishops of 75.

Burke has emerged as a strong critic of some of Pope Francis’ initiatives.

He was one of the five cardinals who sent “dubia” to Pope Francis asking for clarification on the Church’s position on doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women’s ordination, and sacramental absolution. 

The document was made public on the eve of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican and discussed at an Oct. 2 press conference in which Burke took part and expressed his concerns about the synod.

“It is unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has for its purpose the advancement of an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke said.

This would not be the first former curial official this year asked to leave his Vatican living quarters.

According to a German newspaper report in June, Pope Francis ordered Archbishop Georg Gänswein to leave the Vatican and return to Germany. Gänswein, a longtime secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, served as prefect of the Papal Household to both Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, until February 2020. Gänswein’s departure from the Vatican following the death of Benedict and subsequent dismissal by Pope Francis was seen by some as a fall from grace.

According to the German media report, Pope Francis in his comments on the decision “referred to the custom that the former private secretaries of deceased popes did not remain in Rome.”

Like Burke, Gänswein, 66, is without portfolio.

This is a developing story.

5 things to know about the debate on euthanasia in Ecuador

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ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

The discussion about the decriminalization of euthanasia in Ecuador started Nov. 20 when the country’s constitutional court began to evaluate the arguments for and against the request of a woman with an incurable disease who seeks to end her life.

Here are the key points to understand in the debate:

1. In Ecuador, euthanasia is illegal.

Euthanasia is illegal in Ecuador. The country’s constitution establishes in Article 66 “the right to the inviolability of life” and “to personal (physical) integrity.” In addition, there is no specific legislation that allows euthanasia or that considers there to be a “right to death.”

In a recent interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Pablo Proaño, a lawyer at the law firm Dignidad y Derecho (Dignity and Law) of Ecuador, explained that euthanasia is considered a “crime of homicide” and that the penal code “does not admit of exceptions.”

He also clarified that patients have the right to decide to undergo or continue with treatment or to decide not to do so. “If, as a consequence of this informed and free decision, the person dies, there is no penalty.”

In Latin America, only Colombia allows euthanasia. In 1997 that country’s constitutional court decriminalized the practice and in 2015 it issued a ruling that regulates it under certain specific conditions.

2. An ALS patient initiated the debate for the decriminalization of euthanasia.

On Aug. 8, Paola Roldán, a 42-year-old woman who has been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for three years, filed a lawsuit with the constitutional court to declare Article 144 of the Comprehensive Organic Penal Code unconstitutional. The article punishes causing a person to die under various circumstances (i.e., not first degree murder) with sentences of 10-13 years in prison.

ALS is a neurodegenerative and muscular condition that paralyzes all the muscles in the body including those used for eating, speaking, and breathing.

After a period of three months, the Supreme Court of Ecuador determined that her case should have a public hearing, which began Nov. 20 and could last several weeks. There is no set time for the ruling to be issued, and the decision will be made by a majority vote of the nine justices.

The first hearing was chaired by constitutional judge Enrique Herrería, who listened to Roldán’s arguments and her lawyers as well as representatives of the government, the National Assembly, and experts with different positions.

3. Roldán’s legal team advocates for a supposed right to “death with dignity.”

One of her three lawyers, Ramiro Ávila, told the Spanish news agency EFE on Nov. 19 that “Paola needs legal authorization to have a mercy killing, because if someone assists her in the death, he could face a sentence of up to 13 years.”

During the Nov. 20 hearing, Ávila asked the court to recognize the supposed “death with dignity” for those who experience intense physical or emotional suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or injury and who freely choose to undergo a euthanasia procedure.

The law firm Dignity and Law pointed out Nov. 15 that the constitution does not consider there to be a “right to death” and that an effort is being made to “oblige the state to recognize, guarantee, and promote the supposed right to ‘death with dignity’ well beyond establishing an exception to the punishment of the crime of homicide.”

“Instead of recognizing the ‘right to die,’ both the constitution of Ecuador and international treaties reject this notion and establish the duty to accompany and protect the incurably sick, disabled, elderly, and dying, precisely out of respect for human dignity,” he noted.

4. The decision of the constitutional court will create a precedent.

Farith Simón, one of Roldán’s lawyers, told the Associated Press that the ruling could create “a set of situations similar to those to which the norm would apply.”

“Paola filed this appeal thinking about herself and other people who could suffer similar circumstances so that they can, if they want, exercise this right,” he added.

Dignity and Law attorney Proaño explained to ACI Prensa that, indeed, the ruling of the constitutional court would open the door for all people in similar situations to “access euthanasia without legal consequences for doctors and family members.”

The lawyer also pointed out that in other countries in the region, such as Peru and Colombia, the decriminalization of euthanasia has advanced through the higher courts with similar cases.

5. Experts advocate access to palliative care instead of euthanasia.

Dignity and Law said in a Nov. 21 statement that the Ecuadorian legal system is not only opposed to euthanasia “since it involves forcing the death of a human being” but also to therapeutic cruelty.

Therapeutic cruelty refers to the medical practice of continuing aggressive or invasive treatments without obvious benefits for the patient, despite suffering from serious or terminal illnesses. “It unjustifiably prolongs life and lengthens the patient’s suffering,” the law firm explained.

Dr. Pilar Calva Mercado, a surgeon with a specialty in human genetics and bioethics, said in a Nov. 21 statement that “avoiding cruelty involves accepting a consequential death and the natural end, unlike euthanasia that seeks to cause it directly.”

Dignity and Law demands that terminally ill patients not be forced through unnecessary medical treatments to prolong their agony “but that, at the same time, they do not stop receiving the necessary ordinary care: food, hydration, cleaning, and a patent airway in addition to palliative care that, currently, reduces pain by up to 95%.”

The law firm highlighted the need to “reinforce the mechanisms that allow a dignified life for these people” and that they be “guaranteed the minimum care necessary so that death comes naturally with due support for the patient and their loved ones.”

The firm also noted that instead of allowing euthanasia in Ecuador, the National Health System must be improved as well as financial and medical support for the families of incurable patients. Dignity and Law also demanded respect for international human rights treaties.

“What international law seeks is to protect those who suffer from terminal illnesses, so that they can die with dignity, that is, by receiving adequate medical, emotional, and legal support that does not force them to endure unnecessary suffering or prolong life unjustifiably,” Dignity and Law argued.

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

Here are Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 at the Vatican

Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 24, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 09:03 am (CNA).

As the preparatory season of Advent draws near, the Vatican has published the schedule of Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 through the Jan. 7 feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Most of the liturgies will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following his custom in recent years, Pope Francis will preside over a Christmas Eve “Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m. in the basilica.

On Christmas Day, he will deliver the traditional “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing from the central balcony on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This blessing is given only on Christmas and Easter or on other exceptional occasions and includes the pope’s wishes for peace in the world.

For the vigil of the Jan. 1 solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the pope will preside over first vespers, also known as evening prayer. The prayer service will also include the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.

This year, Dec. 31 will also mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 95.

On Jan. 1, 2024, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is also commemorated as the World Day of Peace.

For the solemnity of Epiphany, which is observed in Italy and the Vatican on Jan. 6, Francis will again preside at a Mass at 10 a.m. 

And on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 7, Pope Francis will preside at a Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where he will also baptize the babies of several Vatican employees.

Among other pre-Christmas festivities, the Vatican will also unveil its Nativity scene and light its Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 9, one day after the Dec. 8 solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when Pope Francis will mark the feast day by honoring the Virgin Mary with a prayer near the Spanish Steps.

Here are 14 Catholic organizations to support this GivingTuesday

Outside a homeless shelter. / Credit: Adrian Fallace via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0

CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

GivingTuesday, annually held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity.” First created in 2012, GivingTuesday is a day that encourages people around the world to do something good for others — whether donating to a worthy cause or simply helping your neighbors take out their garbage.

In honor of GivingTuesday, we’ve compiled a list of Catholic organizations that are making a difference globally or in their local communities.

Pro-life support

St. Gianna’s Place in Londonderry, New Hampshire, is a transitional home for women facing unplanned pregnancies and their children. In addition to providing women with shelter, St. Gianna’s place offers women job and life skills training, parenting skills, and spiritual, emotional, and social support.

Gabriel’s Retreat Ministries helps women “find love and support when expecting the unexpected.” Retreats offered by this ministry are available for pregnant or new moms, up to one year postpartum, at no cost and are designed to nurture their faith as daughters of God and find joy in motherhood. The retreats, which take place across the state of Missouri, are also open to women facing an unexpected maternal or fetal diagnosis.

Vocational support

The formation of priests is an essential part of the life and growth of the Church, as well as ensuring Catholics around the world can have access to the sacraments. The St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C., works to prepare young men for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination into the priesthood. Similarly, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminaries bring men from all over the world, inspired by the Neocatechumenal Way, to prepare for life as a missionary priest. There are 101 Redemptoris Mater seminaries throughout the world and six in the U.S.: Newark, New Jersey; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Dallas; and Miami.

You may also consider visiting your archdiocesan website to see if there are any special collections for your local seminary. 

Support the elderly

St. Agnes Home is a senior care facility run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in Kirkwood, Missouri. The assisted living facility offers 24-hour nursing oversight, care from certified nurse aides, access to physical therapy, and group outings, among several others. However, what sets St. Agnes Home apart from the rest is the spiritual aspect. Daily Mass is celebrated along with weekly Eucharistic adoration, rosaries, and other spiritual activities. 

Housing support

For men suffering from addiction, the Assisi Bridge House in Houma, Louisiana, is a residential halfway house that gives these men the opportunity to live in a community setting in which they make a commitment to change their lives. Each individual is given a care plan tailored to their personal needs, and family participation is highly encouraged. The rehabilitation program also includes aspects of spirituality and church attendance. 

Support for the disabled

Camp I Am Special in Fruit Cove, Florida, fosters and celebrates the lives of children, teenagers, and adults with disabilities by hosting in-person camps that give these individuals the opportunity to grow in independence. The programming at the camp allows them to take risks, stretch their abilities, and enjoy the company of others.

Several dioceses also have their own foundations individuals can donate to supporting those with disabilities. For example, in the Diocese of Wichita, the Holy Family Special Needs Foundation works to foster the human, intellectual, and spiritual growth of people with disabilities through education, activities, and services.

International aid

If you are looking to help those suffering in the Middle East, there are several organizations accepting donations in order to help with critical relief. Catholic Relief Services is working to provide families with assistance in the Holy Land and Palestine. In addition to bringing aid to those in the Holy Land, Aid to the Church in Need and Caritas International are working to help those suffering in other parts of the world such as Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, Africa, and Morocco. 


Catholic media organizations such as Word on Fire and Ascension work to provide Catholic content to the faithful and help them encounter Christ through digital and print media.

EWTN is looking for 1,000 new monthly donors to proclaim the Eternal Word worldwide. Consider becoming a monthly donor to help provide programming that is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. (Editor’s note: EWTN is the parent company of Catholic News Agency.)

‘No fear’ among Spanish bishops over upcoming meeting with Pope Francis about seminaries

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ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

The spokesman for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE), Bishop Francisco César García Magán, stated at a Nov. 24 press conference that “there is no fear” among the bishops regarding the upcoming meeting of all the bishops with Pope Francis to address the state of the seminaries.

The conference spokesman acknowledged that “it is a singular event” for all the bishops of a nation to be called as a group to a meeting in Rome outside of their “ad limina apostolorum” visits.

“It doesn’t happen every day, obviously, that the pope convenes [a meeting] with an episcopate,” he added.

In addition, García said the archbishop of Barcelona and president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, “asked around” at the Vatican, and “they have confirmed that it was about the seminaries.”

He also told the media in an appearance at the end of the conference’s 123rd plenary assembly that the Spanish prelates are completely uninformed of the content of the report prepared by the apostolic visitors.

“I can't say anything about the report either because we haven’t received it,” he confirmed.

Apostolic visitation

On Jan. 13, the bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este-Minas in Uruguay,  Milton Luis Tróccoli, and the bishop of Salto in the same country, Arturo Eduardo Fajardo, began an apostolic visit ordered by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy.

The purpose of the visit was to learn about “the implementation of the formation plan for Spanish seminaries approved by the CEE in 2019 to conform with ‘The Gift of the Priestly Vocation: Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis [a document issued by the Congregation for the Clergy in 2016] and the promotion of seminarian formation.”

The Church in Spain has 85 diocesan seminaries, among them 15 Redemptoris Mater seminaries — which have a missionary orientation and are closely linked to the Neocatechumenal Way — one Jesuit seminary and one Opus Dei seminary.

​After the close of the extraordinary plenary assembly, the CEE announced Oct. 31 at a press conference the invitation issued by the Dicastery for the Clergy, explaining that the meeting “will address the conclusions of the work carried out by the bishops who made the visit to the seminaries in Spain at the beginning of this year.”

According to the CEE, Spanish seminaries have fewer than 1,000 candidates for the priesthood for the first time since records have been kept.

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