Ain’t no mountain high enough for U.S. priest

VATICAN CITY — When the Vatican press hall announces papal appointments, we’re usually presented with a rather dry encyclopedic biography of the new appointees: where they went to school, what they studied, ordination date, and teaching and ministry positions held over the years.

But thanks to Catholic radio host Lino Rulli (aka The Catholic Guy), we have a really fun and insightful look at the man who will be the new auxiliary bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis —  Father Andrew Cozzens.

The now 45-year-old priest from Stamford, Conn., took Lino (a Minnesota native) rock climbing a few years ago.

Somebody filmed the escapade and, aside from seeing Lino freak out, we see Father Andrew use rock climbing as a way to talk about faith:

“This is the beauty about rock climbing, it teaches trust. Trust is such an important thing in our relationship with God.”

Check out this leap of faith:


Marian Day schedule & liturgical booklet


The statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Chapel of Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. Her likeness is fashioned after the vision reported by three children on that spot in 1917. (CNS photo by Paul Haring) (Oct. 3, 2005)

VATICAN CITY — October is traditionally the month of the rosary and thousands of members of groups promoting Marian piety will be coming to the Vatican this weekend for an evening of Marian prayer with the pope on Saturday and a special Mass on Sunday.

By Pope Francis’ request, the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be brought to the Vatican for the celebrations. It will be only the 11th time since the statue was made in 1920 that it has been removed from the  Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

To help people prepare and follow events live online, here’s a brief schedule below and the official liturgical booklet for Saturday’s event and the official booklet for Sunday Mass.

Saturday October 12

5  p.m. (Rome time; 11 a.m. EDT)  Live streaming online here.

Pope Francis and pilgrims will welcome the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to St. Peter’s Square. There will be a Via Matris, or Way of the Mother, and a catechesis by the pope.

Afterward, the statue will be taken to the Rome Shrine of Divine Love, where the Diocese of Rome plans an all-night vigil and recitation of the rosary.


Pilgrims wave handkerchiefs as the statue of Our Lady of Fatima passes by following Mass at the basilica in Fatima, Portugal, Oct. 2, 2005. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

Sunday October 13

10:30 a.m. (Rome time; 4:30 a.m. EDT) Live streaming here.

The statue will return to St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the rosary and Mass with Pope Francis. The pope will consecrate the world to Mary during the event.

Oct. 13 is the date marking the first working session of the Second Vatican Council, which had been officially opened two days prior in 1962.

It is also the date of the sixth and final apparition of Mary to the three children in Fatima in 1917. The statue’s gold crown holds one of the bullets Blessed John Paul II had been shot with on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981.

Pope Pius XII and Blessed John Paul II had consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and most recently, Pope Francis asked that his ministry be consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima.

Papal approaches to the divorced and remarried


The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is seen as a couple strolls in the evening near Villa Borghese in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — What have recent popes said about the problem of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics?

It’s an issue that will get much attention at next year’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said today.

In just a few excerpts below, it’s easy to see the continuity in their approaches to this pastoral challenge.

Concerning the church’s position that those who have been divorced and civilly remarried cannot receive Communion, the future-Pope Francis said Catholics in this situation can still get involved with the parish community:

“There are things in the parish they can do. They should try to be part of the spiritual community, which is what the pontifical documents and the church’s magisterium advise. The pope (Benedict XVI) indicated that the church would stand by them. Being unable to receive Communion is obviously painful for some. In those cases, it’s important to explain the issues carefully. There are some cases where this turns out to be difficult. It’s a theological explanation that some priests explain well and people understand.”

— from the book “Pope Francis. His Life in His Own Words: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio”


Pope Benedict XVI led a gathering during the World Meeting of Families at Milan’s Bresso Park in June 2012. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters).

This is the same message Pope Benedict gave during the 2012 World Meeting of Families in Milan last year when he encouraged priests to find ways to help these couples

“feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not ‘excluded’ even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided.”

While these individuals are denied the Eucharist, he said there is another kind of communion:

“Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without ‘corporal’ reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage.

They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church.”

Pope John Paul II prays during a ceremony in Paul VI hall at the Vatican

Pope John Paul II praying during a ceremony marking the opening of the Year of the Eucharist in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican 2004. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Blessed John Paul II underlined the balance that must be sought — that there be sympathy with guidance, and mercy with truth. As he said in his 1997 speech to those taking part in the family council’s assembly dedicated to “The Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried:”

“The church, mother and teacher, seeks the welfare and happiness of the home and when it is broken for whatever reason, she suffers and seeks to provide a remedy, offering these persons pastoral guidance in complete fidelity to Christ’s teachings.”

In that talk, the late pope pointed to the guidelines spelled out in the document coming out of the 1980 synod on the family as well as the 1994 letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (headed by the future Pope Benedict), “Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful:

Pastors “are called to help them experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church, receiving them with love, exhorting them to trust in God’s mercy and suggesting, with prudence and respect, concrete ways of conversion and participation in the life of the community of the Church.”

It’s interesting to see how the future-Pope Francis rooted his response in what Pope Benedict had to say, and Pope John Paul also quoted a document largely written by the future-Pope Benedict.

Why Higgs boson matters

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer  (CNS photo)

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer, said HIggs particle points to deeper reality. (CNS photo)

On Oct. 8 Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics for their theory on how matter acquires mass.

This work — which they began researching  in the 1960s — was confirmed last year by the discovery of the Higgs boson (a subatomic particle nicknamed  “the God particle”) at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva.

If this has anyone scratching their heads or wondering how it  fits in with their faith, then it’s time to check back with what a Catholic physicist and a Catholic astronomer had to say about this mysterious particle during the summer.

U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican astronomer,  told Catholic News Service that the particle finding “indicates that reality is deeper and more rich and strange than our everyday life.”

When people go about their everyday business working or relaxing, they don’t think about the tiniest building blocks of physical matter, but “without these underlying little things, we wouldn’t be here,” he added.

Brother Consolmagno said the Higgs boson had been nicknamed “the God particle” as “a joke” in an attempt to depict the particle as “almost like a gift from God to help explain how reality works in the sub-atomic world.”

Because the particle is believed to be what gives mass to matter, it was assigned the godlike status of being able to create something out of nothing, he added.

These conjectures are not only bad reasons to believe in God, they are also bad science, he told CNS.

“You’ll look foolish, in say 2050, when they discover the real reason” for a phenomenon that was explained away earlier by the hand of God, he said.

But he did point out that faith and hope can exist in the scientific community. For example, “no one would have built this enormous experiment,” tapping the time and talents of thousands of scientists around the world, “without faith they would find something,” he said.

“My belief in God gives me the courage to look at the physical universe and to expect to find order and beauty,” he said. “It’s my faith that inspires me to do science.”

Father Andrew Pinsent, a former particle physicist who worked on an experiment at the previously mentioned CERN, wrote a column about the Higgs boson finding this summer for the Catholic Herald in England. The priest, currently a research director at Oxford University, said the discovery has “no obvious implications for theology” but said it is still “worth reviewing its implications for the human quest to understand life, the universe and everything.”

The priest pointed out that the research that went into discovering this subatomic particle was done in part to “fulfill one of the most noble human aspirations: to know the causes of things.”

He said the Higgs boson finding “is a piece of the puzzle of how (not why) the universe works” but he also said it was “scarcely a final answer.”

Pope Francis gives first ‘red carpet’ interview

VATICAN CITY — So far, Pope Francis has done impromptu interviews with journalists on a plane, in written correspondence and at his Vatican residence.

Now he’s done his first “red carpet” interview — responding to a TV reporter who squeezed through the throng and shouted a question over the cheering crowds.

floral carpet assisi san rufino

Screen-grab from Vatican television (CTV) coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi.

It happened in Assisi when the pope was greeting people gathered outside the Cathedral of San Rufino. However, instead of an actual red carpet, he walked along a colorful carpet made of flowers.

The clip, which aired last night on a political talk show, goes like this:

The Italian TV reporter asks:

“Your Holiness, is there hope for Italy?”

The pope approaches the reporter and replies:

“There is always hope because the Lord gives us hope, the Lord gives us the strength to go on.”

Riding his wave of good luck, the reporter continues:

“What do we have to do in order to have hope?”

The pope says:

“Well, look for it, and the Lord will inspire you!” [gives a thumbs up]

To see the clip, find it here.



Higher Education: How to choose the best Catholic college or university for you

By Caroline Hroncich 

Students chat in 2012 on campus of Marquette University in Wisconsin

College students chat on the campus of Jesuit-run Marquette University in 2012 in Milwaukee. (CNS photo/courtesy Marquette University)

VATICAN CITY — What are the best Catholic colleges and universities in the United States? Thousands of students applying to college ask themselves this question every day, and there is no simple answer.

Catholic colleges and universities provide students with diverse opportunities, both educational and spiritual, and there are a variety of methods for evaluating them. Many Catholic colleges appear frequently in secular ranking systems such as US News and World Report  and the Princeton Review. US News ranks colleges based on admissions selectivity, average SAT/ACT scores, availability of scholarships and other financial resources, alumni giving rate, GPA, and retention and graduation rates. The Princeton review ranks schools based on how current students respond to surveys. They question students about such factors as academics, extracurricular activities and general quality of campus life.

Chaplain chats with student outside chapel at Pennsylvania Catholic university

Father Philip Lowe, chaplain of Neumann University in Aston, Pa., chats with students outside the campus chapel in 2013. (CNS photo/courtesy Neumann University)

Another basis for evaluating Catholic colleges and universities is through indicators of what is often called Catholic identity: consistency of curriculum with church teaching; and faith-enhancing activities such as campus ministries, daily Masses and community service programs. Guides published by the National Catholic Register and Cardinal Newman Society look at Catholic higher education from this perspective.

Treasure hunt: Tracking down tickets to a papal Mass, general audience

Updated Aug. 6, 2015

VATICAN CITY — For people who have a visit to Rome on their itinerary, it may come in handy knowing how to get tickets to a papal Mass and how to attend the pope’s Wednesday general audience. Catholic newlyweds are given special “VIP” treatment at a papal audience and should follow this link here to find out more.

Pope greets crowd as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Tickets to these events are free, but mandatory, so here are some ways to track them down:


Sister Maria Howell at the Bishops’ Office for U.S. Visitors in Rome talks with visitors after giving them tickets for the Vatican’s Christmas Eve Mass in this photo from 2009. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

1. The U.S. Bishops’ Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican offers efficient and friendly service for securing tickets to most papal events.

The tickets should be requested at least 10 days in advance of the Wednesday general audience or the Mass the visitor would like to attend.

Send ticket requests by e-mail to or by fax to (+39) 06-679-1448. The office telephone number is: (+39) 06-6900-1821. From the USA, dial 011 before the +39 country code.

The office is located near the Trevi Fountain on Via dell’Umilta 30. Tickets for the Wednesday audiences are distributed at the office Tuesday afternoons from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The office will advise visitors about the pickup date for tickets to papal Masses.

Pope Francis' coat of arms seen before Mass at Vatican

Pope Francis’ coat of arms is seen on a banner. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

2. Write directly to the Vatican for tickets by using this pdf form. Send the filled-out form by fax to (+39) 06-6988-5863 (from the USA, dial 011 before the +39 country code) or put it in an envelope for the Pontifical Household, Vatican City State 00120, Europe.

After the request is made, the tickets can be picked up the afternoon before the audience between 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. or on the morning of the audience from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Bronze Doors under the colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

Click here to see where to find the Bronze Doors.


Pope Benedict XVI walking down the steps outside the bronze doors of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in 2007. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

3. If you are already in Rome and haven’t sent in a request, you may be able get a small number of tickets (max. 9) directly from the Swiss Guards at the Bronze Doors starting from three days before the Mass or general audience. Hours are from 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m.

Be warned that these tickets can run out and you will need a reservation if you need more than 10 tickets or you want to attend the very popular Christmas or Easter Mass.

No money-back guarantees: Unfortunately, having a ticket does not guarantee you get a seat or access to St. Peter’s Basilica or the Paul VI hall when they become full to capacity. Events held in St. Peter’s Square can accommodate about 80,000 people and you can stand in the outer edges of the square without a ticket.

Earlier the better: Because attendance has mushroomed since Pope Francis’ election, getting there 1-3 hours in advance is advisable, especially when the audience moves into the smaller Paul VI hall in August and the colder winter months.

No tickets are required to go to the Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square at noon.

Pope greets baby as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis greets a baby as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Best place to be for a glimpse of the pope? Get situated anywhere near one of the large white wooden barricades if you want a chance to see the pope up close as he passes by in the popemobile.

If you bring your small children in the hopes of a papal kiss, be sure to have them wear hats and sunscreen to protect them from the harsh sunlight that beats down on the square.

Dress code: Visitors should remember that there is a strictly enforced dress code for entering St. Peter’s Basilica — shoulders must be covered, even if with just a shawl, and shorts are not allowed. Women’s pants, skirts or dress must reach the knees. The rules are relaxed for a general audience outdoors in St. Peter’s Square.

For more info: on papal blessings, buying papal photos and visits to St. Peter’s tomb, check out our the CNS Pilgrim’s Page; look here for more on papal events, tips and Vatican tours; and here for the official schedule of papal events for 2015.

Here’s an amateur video we put together in 2011 showing how to get tickets, too: