German 'synod' will proceed despite Vatican objections

MUNICH, Germany (CNA) -- The head of the German bishops’ conference told Vatican officials last week that addressing controversial theological topics during the German bishops’ proposed “binding synodal path” will be a service to the universal Church.

Pope Francis: Life without parole is no solution to crime

VATICAN CITY -- Sentencing someone to life in prison without the possibility of parole is "not the solution to problems, but a problem to solve," Pope Francis told Italian prison guards, prison chaplains and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

"If you close hope in a cell, there is no future for society," the pope told thousands of guards, chaplains, volunteers and their family members Sept. 14 during an audience in St. Peter's Square.

Among those present were two detainees who are serving life sentences, but are engaged in a formal process of recognizing the gravity of their crimes, making amends as far as possible and preparing to apply for parole.

While protecting its citizens, the pope said, every society also must seek ways to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes and find ways to help them make positive contributions to society.

Making someone pay for the "errors of the past" cannot mean "canceling their hope for a future," he said. In fact, everyone has "the right to hope."

Saying he wanted to address all inmates, Pope Francis said he had one word for them: "courage."

Have courage "because you are in God's heart, you are precious in his eyes and, even if you feel lost and unworthy, don't lose heart," the pope said. "You who are detainees are important to God who wants to accomplish marvels in you."

Even behind bars, he said, "never let yourselves be imprisoned in the dark cell of a heart without hope; don't give in to resignation. God is bigger than every problem and he is waiting for you in order to love you."

"Put yourselves before the crucifix, under the gaze of Jesus, before him with simplicity and sincerity," the pope told prisoners. "There, with the humble courage of one who doesn't lie to him- or herself, peace will be reborn, and trust in being loved and the strength to go on will flourish."

Pope Francis was not speaking only figuratively. During the audience, he blessed the "cross of mercy" made by detainees in the Paliano prison, which the pope visited in 2017. The tall crucifix is decorated with "biblical scenes of liberation, ransom and redemption" and will be taken on pilgrimage to prisons throughout Italy.

Speaking to prison police, prison guards and prison staff, Pope Francis publicly thanked them for their work, which is often hidden and poorly paid.

"I know that it isn't easy," the pope said, "but when, in addition to watching over security, you are a presence close to those who have fallen into the web of evil, you become builders of the future, you lay the foundations for a coexistence that is more respectful and, therefore, for a society that is safer."

If a prison sentence has the ultimate aim of preparing detainees to return to society and contribute to their community as upstanding citizens, Pope Francis said, then the guards who spend the most time with them must be models of treating others with dignity and respect.

"I thank you for not only being vigilant, but especially for safeguarding the people entrusted to you so that in recognizing the wrong they did, they will accept avenues of rebirth for the good of all," the pope told the guards.

"You are called to be bridges between the prison and civil society," he told the guards. By "exercising a correct compassion, you can overcome the mutual fears and the drama of indifference" that separate the inmates and wider society.

Papal commission for protection of minors meets in Rome

VATICAN CITY -- Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors meeting in Rome said there was a continued need to make safeguarding consistently part of the life of the church around the world.

Pope Francis urges Eastern Catholic bishops to promote ecumenism

VATICAN CITY -- Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.

Prince Charles to attend Newman’s canonization in Rome

VATICAN CITY (CNA) -- Prince Charles will attend the canonization of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman next month.

Prince Charles to attend Newman’s canonization in Rome

VATICAN CITY (CNA) -- Prince Charles will attend the canonization of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman next month.

God's Word on Sunday: Wheels of divine justice miss nothing

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 22 (Year C) Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

Corruption and dishonesty in the business and social realms are nothing new. 

Pope Francis to visit Thailand, Japan in November

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis will finally fulfill his desire to be a missionary to Japan when he visits the country, as well as Thailand, Nov. 20-26, the Vatican announced.

Pope Francis explains giving St. Peter's relics to Orthodox

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis said giving fragments of St. Peter's bones to the head of the church founded by Peter's brother, St. Andrew, was meant to be a reminder and encouragement of the journey toward Christian unity.

Cardinal Etchegaray a key papal envoy

VATICAN CITY -- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a longtime Vatican official and papal envoy who was sent to some of the world’s most wounded and challenging places, died in France Sept. 4. He was 96.

Vatican: German synod plans must conform to church law

VATICAN CITY -- The German bishops' plans for a two-year process of consultation and deliberation on key issues facing the Catholic Church must conform to universal church law and must be approved by the pope, said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.