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For Immediate Release From Vatican News!

(A 10-Minute Read)

Catholic mental health ministers from all over the world gathered in the Dicastery for Communication for the first-ever Vatican workshop dedicated to mental health and pastoral care. By Joseph Tulloch

In 2016, at the age of 29, Deacon Ed Shoener’s daughter Katie committed suicide. She had wrestled with bipolar disorder for over a decade.

Katie’s death prompted Deacon Shoener to begin advocating for mental health awareness within the Church. He soon founded the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, a non-profit that supports parishes and dioceses in establishing mental health ministries.

Deacon Shoener shared this story at a first-of-its kind conference in the Vatican on Monday, which brought together individuals active in Catholic mental health ministry across the globe.

Participants included Vatican officials, representatives from the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, and individuals working on the frontline in Moldova, India, South Africa and elsewhere.

The View From The Vatican

Monsignor Anthony Ekpo, Undersecretary at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was the first to speak.

He said that mental health has become a priority for his Dicastery following its conversations with local churches around the world, which often voice major concerns about the issue.

Particularly worrying, Msgr. Ekpo said, are the human rights abuses sometimes committed against those with mental health challenges.

He also noted the connection between mental health and climate change, a key cause area for his Dicastery: anxieties and concrete difficulties related to the climate emergency, he said, can greatly aggravate mental health problems.

As a counter-measure, Msgr. Ekpo suggested what Pope Francis calls the “ecology of daily life”. This idea, he explained, is taken from the Pope’s 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, and involves paying attention to the environments we live in, and the way they “influence the way we think, feel and act.”

In a brief interview with Vatican News, Msgr. Ekpo's colleague Fr Shawn Conoboy expressed his gratefulness for the conference, and the work of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers.

Accompaniment, not treatment

There is a real shortage of mental health professionals across the globe, noted Bishop John Dolan from the US Diocese of Phoenix. For this reason, he said, it is very important that the Church attempt to step into the gap and provide assistance to individuals who would otherwise receive none.

The Church’s role in these cases, however, he stressed, cannot be to diagnose, prescribe or treat, work which must be left to professionals. Instead, he said, the Church must accompany – accompany those with mental health problems, and accompany their family members.

In his own Diocese, Bishop Dolan said, he runs a number of projects with this aim. One of them is a mission to educate priests to make them more aware of mental health issues, so they can connect those suffering from them with professionals. Too often, he said, priests misdiagnose those with mental health issues as suffering from spiritual problems – a failure to pray sufficiently, for example, or even demonic possession.

Bishop Dolan also helps counsellors and other mental health professionals in his Diocese – whose jobs do not generally pay well – to find affordable housing, to allow them to carry out their vital work.

Pope Francis’ prayers

Fr Frédéric Fornos, meanwhile, spoke of the partnership between the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which he directs, and the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers.

In 2021, he said, the Pope had asked for prayers for those with burnout and depression. This led to a collaboration with Deacon Shoener’s organisation, which provides now it with prayers for mental health related to the Pope’s prayer intention every month.

Fr Fornos suggested that prayer can be a useful resource for those suffering from mental health issues, quoting Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city...


Pope's February Prayer Intention: For The Terminally Ill

Pope Francis releases his prayer intention for the month of February 2024, and invites everyone to pray for the terminally ill and their families. By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis' monthly prayer intention this February is for the terminally ill and their families.

The Pope invited the Church to pray for this intention in this month's The Pope Video, which is entrusted to the entire Catholic Church through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

This month's Video comes during the month in which the Church observes the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February, on which the World Day of the Sick takes place.

Pope Francis explains that “when some people talk about terminal illnesses, there are two words they often confuse: incurable and un-'carable.' But they are not the same.”

Caring Even If Cannot Cure

He cites his predecessor Pope St. John Paul II, in saying, "Cure if it is possible; always take care.”

The images from The Pope Video for February exemplify situations showing love and tenderness for the terminally ill, and depending on how they are interpreted, depict a series of failures or successes, the failures being "if the only acceptable outcome is a cure," and successes instead being "if the objective is the care of the patient."

Pope Francis explains clearly that even when little chance for a cure exists, “every sick person has the right to medical, psychological, spiritual and human assistance.”

“Healing," he acknowledges, "is not always possible, but we can always care for the sick person, caress them.”

Guarantee Of Closeness And Support

Reflecting on the importance of palliative care, Pope Francis reaffirms that such care “guarantees the patient not only medical attention," but also "human assistance and closeness.”

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/20...


Pope At Audience: Reconcile, Let Go Of Anger Before The Sun Sets

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on the sin of wrath and invites us to guard against channelling our anger unjustly, insisting that we follow the Lord's example of forgiveness. By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Wrath and anger have a tendency to grow out of control, and thus we are called to actively seek peace and reconciliation.

Pope Francis gave this reminder during his Wednesday General Audience held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

Continuing his catechesis series on virtues and vices, the Pope focused this week on the sin of wrath, calling it a particularly "dark vice."

Wrath, the Pope said, is perhaps the easiest to detect from a physical point of view. "The person dominated by wrath can hardly conceal this impetus; you recognise it by the movements of their body, their aggressiveness, their laboured breathing, their grim and frowning gaze."

Often Targets First Offender Rather Than The Guilty

In its most acute manifestation, the Pope noted, anger is a vice "that leaves no respite."

"If it arises from an injustice suffered or deemed to be so," the Pope observed, "it is often not unleashed against the guilty party, but against the first offender."

"There are people," he acknowledged, "who hold back their anger at work, proving to be calm and compassionate, but once at home they become unbearable for their spouses and children."

Wrath, he acknowledged, can pervade our being, robbing us of sleep and causing us to rerun it in our minds.

Moreover, he said, it destroys relationships. Lingering resentment and detestation slowly but surely degenerate relationships, he said.

Reconcile Before The Sun Sets

The Apostle Paul, aware of how anger can grow out of control, the Pope said, urged Christians "to address the problem at once and seek to reconcile."

"It is important that everything be dissolved immediately, before the sun sets," the Holy Father insisted.

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/20...


Human Fraternity: 2024 Zayed Award Goes To Chilean ‘Mother Of Detainees’ Nun"

Human Fraternity: 2024 Zayed Award goes to Chilean ‘mother of detainees’ nun
The 2024 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity has been given to Sister Nelly León Correa, a Chilean nun working with prisoners; Sir Magdi Yacoub, an Egyptian cardiothoracic surgeon; and, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, two leading Indonesian Islamic organizations. By Alessandro Di Bussolo – Abu Dhabi

On Friday, in Abu Dhabi, the winners of the fifth edition of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity were announced, which recognizes contributions of individuals and organizations to humanity's progress and peaceful coexistence.

The Award celebrates the Document on Human Fraternity, signed on February 4, 2019, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

Award winners were Sister Nelly León Correa, Sir Magdi Yacoub, and two Indonesian Islamic organizations: Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

The announcement was made on Friday morning in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a press conference by the award's Secretary-General, Egyptian judge Mohamed Abdelsalam.

The three winners, each receiving a prize of one million dollars to enhance their activities, were selected by an independent panel of judges for their exceptional efforts to address complex social challenges and promote peaceful coexistence and solidarity among humanity at both the international and grassroots levels.

They will receive the award on February 5, during a ceremony at the Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi.

Sister Nelly León: Free to live and serve women in prison
Sister Nelly León: Free to live and serve women in prison
Chilean nun called ‘mother of detainees’
Known as "Mother Nelly," Sister Nelly León Correa is president and co-founder of the “Mujer Levántate” Foundation, and has spent more than 25 years assisting detained women, offering them support and training during their detention period and helping them reintegrate into society once released from prison.

Committed to the principles of human fraternity, the foundation, according to the award's rationale, “brings hope to those in prison and healing to those who have just been released.”

Nearly 94 percent of the program's participants remain free of convictions two years after leaving prison.

For her, the situation of detained women is “a horrendous drama that society has failed to see or does not want to see,” and for this, she is grateful that the Zayed Award offers visibility to women deprived of freedom.

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2...


Women’s Prophetic Leadership Changed The Face Of The Roman Empire

Religious life, both contemplative and active, as we know it today, has evolved over two thousand years. In this first of four essays, Christine Schenk summarizes what the literary record tells us about women in ancient Christianity. By Christine Schenk CSJ

When I was a young Sister of St. Joseph, I had a great desire to learn about our foremothers in the faith. While I dearly love the biblical texts, it is sometimes difficult to see myself in them because our lectionary texts nearly always feature our forefathers. Jesus’ dedicated women disciples—with the exception of Mary of Nazareth—are pretty much invisible. As I began studying for a master’s in theology at our local seminary, I devoured information about early Christian women. In this series of four essays, I hope to trace historical roots of women’s religious communities and perhaps help readers begin to recognize themselves in our early Christian history.

Expansion of Christianity

The Jesus movement spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire due in part to the initiative of female apostles, prophets, evangelists, missionaries, heads of house churches and widows. Its growth can also be attributed to the financial support from Christian businesswomen such as Mary of Magdala and Joanna (cf. Lk 8:1-3), Lydia (cf. Acts 16:11-40), Phoebe (cf. Rom 16:1-2), Olympias, a fourth-century deacon, and others. Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged as much on February 14, 2007, when he said, “without the generous contribution of many women, the history of Christianity would have developed very differently.” The “female presence in the sphere of the primitive Church,” he also noted, was in no way “secondary”.

The House Church

Early house churches were led by women such as Grapte, a second-century leader of communities of widows who cared for orphans in Rome (Figure 1) and Tabitha, a first-century widow “devoted to good works and acts of charity” (cf. Acts 9:36-43), who founded a house church community in Joppa. Through the house church, early Christians gained access to social networks that brought them into contact with people from diverse social classes.

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/...


Cardinal Czerny To Travel To South Sudan One Year After Pope's Visit

Cardinal Michael Czerny, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is due to visit South Sudan from 2-9 February to mark the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey. By Francesca Merlo

Cardinal Michael Czerny is set to travel to South Sudan from 2 to 9 February, commemorating the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis' Apostolic Visit to the country.

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will travel to Juba, Malakal, and Renk during his visit.

The programme of the journey is announced in a statement on the Dicastery's website.

Key events on the itinerary include Cardinal Czerny celebrating the Eucharist in Juba on 4 February and presiding over Mass in Malakal on 8 February, coinciding with the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking.

Additionally, the Cardinal will visit Renk, a town on the Sudanese border, where he will offer blessings to a boat designated for transporting migrants and refugees along the Nile River from Renk to Malakal.

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city...


Pope: ‘Let's Work Together For Peace In The Holy Land’

Pope Francis sends a letter to “my Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel", addressed to Karma Ben Johanan, a theologian of Jewish-Christian dialogue, and invites everyone to work for peace in the Holy Land.
By Roberto Cetera – Jerusalem

"My heart is close to you, to the Holy Land, to all the peoples who inhabit it, Israelis and Palestinians, and I pray that the desire for peace may prevail in all. I want you to know that you are close to my heart and to the heart of the Church."

Pope Francis sent those words to "my Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel" in a letter sent to Karma Ben Johanan.

The theologian of Jewish-Christian dialogue was among the promoters in recent weeks of an appeal to the Pope that was signed by about 400 rabbis and scholars, calling for the strengthening of Jewish-Christian friendship after the tragedy of October 7.

"We are deeply grateful for the trust and spirit of friendship with which the Pope, and with him the entire Church, has sought to reaffirm the special relationship that unites our communities, Catholic and Jewish.”

These were the Israeli theologian’s words of sincere appreciation for the Pope's letter, expressed to L'Osservatore Romano on Saturday in Jerusalem.

In his letter dated February 2, the Pope recalled that the Holy Land is unfortunately not excluded from the turmoil that grips the world and which constitutes a true "piecemeal world war,” which is causing widespread "apprehension and pain."

Pope Francis noted that the ongoing war has "produced attitudes of division in global public opinion, which sometimes results in forms of antisemitism and anti-Judaism."

“I can only reiterate that (...) the relationship that binds us to you is particular and singular, without ever obscuring, naturally, the relationship that the Church has with others and the commitment towards them, too,” said the Pope. “The path that the Church has walked with you, the ancient people of the covenant, rejects every form of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, unequivocally condemning manifestations of hatred towards Jews and Judaism as a sin against God," expressing his hopes for "ever closer collaboration to eradicate these phenomena."

Read the full article HERE!: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/20...

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Posted By: agnes levine
Monday, February 5th 2024 at 12:22PM
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