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The longest and grandest of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages: A look at the Serra Route

A map of a few of the largest cities that will be traversed by the Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages. / Credit: EWTN News in Depth

CNA Staff, May 18, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

This weekend marks the beginning of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimages, an unprecedented effort to walk with the Eucharist thousands of miles across the United States as a public witness to the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly the body of Jesus Christ. 

A group of two dozen young people, dubbed “perpetual pilgrims,” will walk the entire way, 6,500 miles in total across the four routes. All are welcome to participate in Eucharistic processions and other prayer-filled events taking place across the country over the next two months.

The longest and arguably the most challenging of the four routes, the Junipero Serra Route, begins in San Francisco and ends in Indianapolis at the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21. The Serra Route pilgrims will walk over 2,000 miles — across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and the Midwest’s Great Plains. 

The Serra Route is named after “The Apostle of California,” St. Junipero Serra, whom Pope Francis canonized during a visit to the United States in 2015. Serra was an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary who founded mission churches all along the California coast, many of which are still in operation as Catholic churches today.

Here are some highlights to expect during this historic pilgrimage.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge — May 19

The Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
The Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

There will be a special blessing of the perpetual pilgrims before they begin their journey at Mission Dolores, which was founded in 1776 and remains the oldest intact building in San Francisco. Soon after the commencement of the pilgrimage following Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco, the procession will move to the Golden Gate Bridge and cross its iconic 1.7-mile span. Those wanting to join for this portion can register here.

Sailing on the Sacramento River — May 22

The Sacramento River. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
The Sacramento River. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

After arriving in Sacramento — California’s capital, which is named for the Blessed Sacrament — by boat, the procession will proceed to a homeless shelter for Eucharistic adoration. Later, the pilgrims will visit inmates at Folsom Prison. Catholic leaders in Sacramento say they have arranged for the events in Sacramento to serve and celebrate the city’s marginalized: the unhoused, prisoners, migrants, mothers in need, and farm workers. (Register here.)

Boating across Lake Tahoe — May 24

Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

At South Lake Tahoe near the California-Nevada border, the procession will take to the water once again and sail across the lake, which is world-renowned for its scenery and recreation opportunities. (Register to join here.)

Traversing the Rocky Mountains — roughly May 26 to June 6

The Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Credit: Jonah McKeown
The Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Credit: Jonah McKeown

Between Lake Tahoe and Denver, there will be numerous opportunities for participants to join the procession as it goes through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery in Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah. 

This portion of the route will take the pilgrims across the Great Basin desert and then through the rugged and awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains, which inspired St. John Paul II when, as pope, he came to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. (In case you’re wondering, not everything on the route will be done on foot; specially designed vans will transport the Eucharist and the pilgrims over certain portions of all four routes.)

Jesus on the plains of Nebraska — June 21

Bishop James Conley leads a Eucharistic procession outside Lincoln's Cathedral of the Risen Christ. Credit: Diocese of Lincoln
Bishop James Conley leads a Eucharistic procession outside Lincoln's Cathedral of the Risen Christ. Credit: Diocese of Lincoln

In a joint event between the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Lincoln, the procession will begin outside on the grounds of the Cloisters on the Platte (a well-known Ignatian retreat center) and process about five miles with the Blessed Sacrament to the picturesque Holy Family Shrine. (Register here.)

A stop at Benedictine College — June 25-26

Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Credit: EWTN News in Depth
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Credit: EWTN News in Depth

The procession will go through Atchison, Kansas, home of Benedictine College. Overnight adoration will take place June 25, followed the next morning by the Liturgy of the Hours and Benediction, the celebration of Mass, and a Eucharistic procession around campus on June 26. (Register here.)

A walk through the ‘Rome of the West’ — July 5-7

The St. Louis Arch. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
The St. Louis Arch. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

In early July the procession will make its way through St. Louis, which is sometimes called the “Rome of the West” for its many beautiful Catholic churches. The procession will stop at several shrines, including the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a French missionary saint who brought Catholic education to the Missouri frontier in the early 19th century. (Register here.)

How life has changed for the girl who recovered her sight at 2023 World Youth Day

A view of the crowd and nearby waterfront at the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug. 1, 2023. / Credit: Arlindo Homem/JMJ Lisboa 2023

ACI Prensa Staff, May 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Jimena, the young woman who regained her sight after receiving Communion at a Mass during World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, about how she experienced that moment, her return home, and the details of a special meeting she had with Pope Francis during a pilgrimage she made with her family to Rome to thank the Virgin for that “miracle.”

For two and a half years, Jimena suffered from a loss of sight due to a myopia problem that left her with a 95% vision loss.

She traveled to Lisbon from Madrid with a group from Opus Dei. During the days prior, relatives and acquaintances of the young woman organized a novena to pray to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day is commemorated Aug. 5, the same day she recovered her sight.

Time seemed to stop in that Madrid cafeteria where Jimena and her father spoke with ACI Prensa. With the simplicity of a 17-year-old girl and an expression full of light and hope, Jimena remembered in detail what she felt on that day last year when she was cured.

‘I cried from a sense of peace’

“When we came back from Communion I sat down in the pew and then all the nervousness I had felt suddenly disappeared. I had been shaking with nervousness, and when we got down on our knees after taking Communion, I closed my eyes, and I felt a lot of peace, and then I stopped shaking.”

After receiving the body of Christ in a church in Évora de Alcobaça, a town north of Lisbon, the young woman said she felt the need to cry, but it was not a normal cry: “I began to cry from a sense of peace, it had never happened to me before; I didn’t know that you could cry for feeling at peace.”

“I was like super peaceful, as if inside I already knew what had happened, without opening my eyes. And then I opened them, I dried my tears, and I could see the altar, the tabernacle perfectly...”

‘God’s plans are much bigger than ours’

She also recalled recognizing her friends, who began to celebrate with her over what had happened. “When the Mass was over, for thanksgiving, I went up to read the prayer of the Virgin of the Snows to give thanks.”

From that moment on, Jimena has been grateful every day for the “miracle” that made her understand “that you have to let yourself fall a little into the arms of God, because his plans are much bigger than ours. It’s more about trusting than trying to take our life of faith wherever we want.”

‘Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway’

Her father recalled that just prior to the healing, Jimena was going to undergo emergency surgery in the operating room. “She prayed a lot to the Virgin that night, and the next day the convergence in her eye was cured,” so there was no need to operate, he said.

For her father, this first healing of his daughter had been a sign: “If you have a previous healing from the Virgin, then your faith is sustained by that. That is to say, Our Mother doesn’t leave things halfway, and she was not going to abandon us at that time.”

After some time after that “sign,” during a walk on the Rincón de la Victoria beach in Málaga, Spain, on the way to stop and pray before an image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel that is among the rocks, father and daughter decided to abandon themselves completely to the Virgin.

“It was on that walk on the beach where we remembered a very important thing, which I believe is essential in this entire process, and that is to let God act, not to put God in our plans, but to be part of his. So, you change the way you pray. It’s not about praying for God to do what you want, but about praying to understand what God wants you to do.”

Jimena’s father explained that it was then “when we understood that we had to put together a novena for Aug. 5.”

The doctors’ opinion after ‘the miracle’

Upon returning from Portugal, Jimena visited the doctor who had followed her case in recent years and who due to her illness she didn’t know by face. “I couldn’t explain it to her, I was very emotional. And then a doctor also said that no matter at what point I might have been cured, it would never have been instantaneous,” the young woman related.

“Yes,” her father said, “she basically told us that she had no logical explanation; that within the medical possibilities, Jimena could have been cured little by little by the time she was 40 or 45 years old. So there was that possibility, but of course, at 16 years of age and so suddenly there are no previous cases — there are none.”

The young woman’s father said it was a very nice appointment with the doctor and that “all the nurses were excited to see her and gave her hugs. They did all the tests again and the condition was completely gone.”

Pope Francis encouraged pilgrimage to St. Mary Major

Upon returning from World Youth Day, Jimena wrote a letter to Pope Francis to tell him about her experience.

The Holy Father did not take long to respond and encouraged her and her family to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as St. Mary of the Snows, one of the most important basilicas in Rome dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows and for which the pontiff has a special love.

What Pope Francis did not know is that providentially the family had already planned — a year ago — a trip to Rome to spend the end of the year there.

“I got the tickets in January of last year, months before Jimena had been cured. We assumed that we would go to Rome with Jimena being blind, but look…” her father said, becoming emotional.

A special meeting with Pope Francis

During their trip to the Eternal City, which became a pilgrimage in gratitude to the Virgin, the family had a private meeting with the Holy Father and also participated in the Mass he offered on Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Jimena’s father recalled that everyone was “captivated” by Pope Francis, who received them for more than an hour in the Vatican’s St. Martha House with his typical closeness and familiarity.

Jimena’s father told ACI Prensa that the pope gave them a lot of advice and encouraged them “to put down all of Jimena’s testimony in writing and to contact our bishop in Madrid.” 

Following the pontiff’s advice, they are currently working on writing up Jimena’s testimony and are awaiting a response from the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal José Cobo Cano, whom they tried to contact a few months ago.

Regarding the doctors’ reaction, he said the Holy Father “stressed that this type of medical comment is admitted as valid in their process for miracles and so on. Because, as he told him, it’s very difficult for a doctor to manage to pronounce the word ‘miracle’ with all of their scientific knowledge.”

Jimena and the Virgin Mary

Jimena, who during this time has shared her testimony to small groups in Madrid, said she now has “a great deal of devotion” to Our Lady of the Snows but confesses that she has always had a bond with the Virgin Mary: “I feel her close every day.”

She also said that she has “a special affection for her, because in the end, in everything that has happened to me, I have always relied a lot on the Virgin, especially because it seemed easier for me to hold on to the rosary.”

“The Virgin, in the end, since she is an intercessor, that relationship that she has as a mother with us seemed easier to me. I see her as the mother that she is and that she appears, not physically, but she has little signs or things in which she shows us all that she is already here.”

Her father emphasized that Jimena has been able to understand that “she is not the protagonist of all this, but that she had a gift far above other people and that it is her responsibility to be generous and give it. But the protagonist in the end is the Virgin.”

“Since the miracle of Aug. 5 last year, they ask us to join novenas for healing people, and we join them all. But we do it anonymously, because I think it would be bad for people to think that Jimena has power. Another thing is that Jimena may have an extraordinary faith and a very great interior life, but that belongs to her private life,” her father noted.

He emphasized that “it’s a mistake to think that, suddenly, someone has power because they have received a gift. They are two very different things, and mixing them is a mistake. I believe that one of the beautiful things, which is also a grace of the Virgin, is being able to share her experience in personal and in-person testimonies so that other people come closer to the Lord. And that’s it. And the rest is pure superstition.”

The young woman’s father noted that there are many miracles in the Gospel whose recipients are people whose name is never known. Also, he stressed that today there are many miracles and that “Jimena’s has been more notable because the Virgin wanted it.”

“You have to leave it to her. She [the Virgin Mary] is the one who takes us to all corners [of the world]. It’s impossible for us to have planned with a large publicity budget to get to where this story has reached,” he pointed out.

‘The Eucharist is a much greater miracle’

For Jimena, “the Eucharist, in the end, is a much bigger miracle because it seems like it is hidden because it does not have — what do I know — lightning bolts falling from the sky or anything, but in the end it is God, who is the one who has allowed me to recover my sight and for us to all be here, the one who who comes down from heaven to put that in a piece of bread and that we receive it.”

“It seems to me that it is the moment in which we are closest to heaven here on earth, because in the end we are in union with God. So, I try to go to Mass whenever I can.”

A ‘new normal’

Jimena said with a smile that, before recovering her sight, she “had a list of books that I wanted read to me. The return to normal life has been a new normal in which I have done many things,” she said.

The young woman added that in a few days she will make a pilgrimage again to Rome with the group of her friends who were with her during World Youth Day.

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

Here’s how the city of Rome is preparing for the 2025 Jubilee Year

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. / Credit: EWTN News

Rome Newsroom, May 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year (Dec. 24, 2024, to Jan. 6, 2026). According to the city’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, the upcoming “Jubilee of Hope” is expected to draw in an additional 30 million to 35 million tourists to Italy during the Catholic holy year.

“The jubilee is an extraordinary global event with a great spiritual significance for which the city of Rome must be ready,” Gualtieri told EWTN News Vatican Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser. “We are working to make it more welcoming so that pilgrims can live the experience of the Jubilee in the best possible way.” 

The city of Rome’s online portal Roma Si Transforma currently lists approximately 358 planned projects in the Lazio region in which Rome is located. Each project is categorized as either a culture, innovation, inclusion, or sustainability intervention, with projects specifically funded for the jubilee including the 79.5-million-euro (about $86.4 million) Piazza Pia transformation and the 4-million-euro (about $4.3 million) Piazza Risorgimento redevelopment.

Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. Credit: EWTN News
Construction projects are underway in Rome as the city prepares for the 2025 Jubilee Year. Credit: EWTN News

Next to Vatican City, the transformation of Piazza Pia into a more open and pedestrian-friendly square is close to halfway completed. It will connect Castel Sant’Angelo — a historic structure originally built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian but later used as a papal fortress — to St. Peter’s Square. 

“Piazza Pia will unite — in a kind of embrace — Castel Sant’Angelo, Via della Conciliazione, and St. Peter’s Square. Before, a highway passed through it, [but] I think it will become one of the most beautiful squares in the world,” Gualtieri said.

As the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums are two famous tourist attractions for visitors to Rome, Gualtieri explained that he has been closely collaborating with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect for the Section of New Evangelization of the Dicastery for Evangelization, and other Holy See representatives to support the crowds of pilgrims wanting to see the art collections and religious masterpieces contained within the walls of Vatican City.

“We had to work hard to imagine how to make Piazza Risorgimento more beautiful and make the arrival [of visitors] from the subway to the Vatican Museums more accessible,” Gualtieri explained. “[Archbishop] Fisichella is truly extraordinary in helping us always to find solutions. The whole Holy See is busy, starting with the Holy Father, [Cardinal Pietro] Parolin [Vatican secretary of state] and everyone else.”

The façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran — one of four main papal basilicas in Rome that will have Holy Doors opened by the pope and remain open throughout the jubilee year — is under renovation in preparation for the millions of pilgrims expected to visit the city next year.

Besides the papal basilicas — St. Peter’s Basilica, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls — there are also 12 “jubilee churches” in Rome to serve as places of gathering for pilgrims who wish to attend catechesis sessions on the year’s theme of “hope” or to receive the sacraments in varying languages.

According to Gualtieri, several local parishes spread across the city are also being refurbished ahead of the jubilee year to support the Catholic communities already living within Rome.

The city of Rome has also considered specific sites for the calendar events of the jubilee year in Rome and the wider Lazio region, which have the capacity to host hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

Tor Vergata will hold the Jubilee of the Youth and World Youth Day festival and overnight vigil in mid-2025, while Centocelle Park will be the location of several Mass celebrations for various groups including the sick and health care workers, artists, and even the armed forces.

Gualtieri also told EWTN that pilgrimage routes, including the ancient Via Francigena — which extends from England to Italy — would also undergo restoration work to improve usability, safety, and accessibility for pilgrims.  

On May 9, the feast of the Ascension, Pope Francis officially proclaimed the 2025 Jubilee Year through a papal bull at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, indicating further guidelines on the special year of pilgrimage and grace for Catholics worldwide. 

Through the announcement, the Holy Father invited “pilgrims of hope” to “travel the ancient and more modern routes in order to experience the jubilee year to the full” and “above all by approaching the sacrament of reconciliation — the essential starting point of any true journey of conversion.”

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: Don’t miss these stops on the St. Juan Diego Route

A map of the Juan Diego Route which goes through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, ending in Indiana. / Credit: EWTN News In-Depth

CNA Staff, May 18, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will span the United States with four different pilgrimages starting in California, Texas, Mississippi, and Connecticut and meeting in Indianapolis for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress.

“A cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before. All told, it will travel through 27 states and 65 dioceses, covering a combined distance of 6,500 miles on foot and with the help of support vehicles,” said Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc. “It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way.”

The St. Juan Diego Route, named for the beloved saint who encountered Our Lady of Guadalupe, will start at the southern tip of Texas with a Pentecost Mass hosted by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Brownsville on May 19. 

Here are a few highlights among the 101 stops throughout Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana.

The most popular Marian shrine

Several days into the pilgrimage, Bishop Daniel Flores will celebrate Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan de Valle, a historic basilica and national shrine in the Rio de Grande Valley, on May 22. The most frequented Marian shrine in the U.S., San Juan welcomes more than 1 million visitors annually to honor a statue of “La Virgen de San Juan.” Built in 1949, the building was nearly destroyed in 1970 when a plane crashed into it during Mass. Though the building sustained $1.5 million in damage, no parishioners were injured and clergy were able to retrieve the statue and the Eucharist.

The St. Juan Diego route stops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle,  a minor basilica and national shrine in the Diocese of Brownsville. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
The St. Juan Diego route stops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, a minor basilica and national shrine in the Diocese of Brownsville. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

A historic encounter 

Pilgrims will gather for adoration and praise and worship at the historical Presidio La Bahía, a Spanish fort built in the 1740s and an important site of the Texas Revolution, on May 27. Participants will attend Mass in the chapel of the Presidio the following day.

The historic Presidio La Bahía, a Spanish fort, is an important site of the Texas Revolution. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
The historic Presidio La Bahía, a Spanish fort, is an important site of the Texas Revolution. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

The Anglican rite 

On May 31 in Houston, pilgrims and participants will gather at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham for an Ordinariate Evensong and adoration. Walsingham is a site of importance for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, an ecclesiastical jurisdiction that enables Anglican converts to maintain elements of Anglican liturgy and tradition. Evensong is an Anglican liturgical tradition that combines evening and night prayer through song. 

Courtyard of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, a parish of the Anglican ordinariate. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
Courtyard of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, a parish of the Anglican ordinariate. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

Along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico 

A Eucharistic procession will begin on June 6 on the coast of Louisiana at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales, a Gothic-style cathedral built in 1926. The procession will stop at several churches along the way until it reaches St. Joseph Co-Cathedral.

The pilgrimage will follow the Gulf of Mexico, stopping at historical parishes such as Our Lady of the Gulf on the bay of St. Louis, Mississippi, a historical parish built in 1847, destroyed by a fire in 1907, and rebuilt in 1908. 

Our Lady of the Gulf on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in St. Louis, Mississippi. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
Our Lady of the Gulf on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico in St. Louis, Mississippi. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

A new type of New Orleans parade

On June 9, pilgrims will attend Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedral in the U.S. It was built in 1727 and rebuilt after a fire in 1793. After Mass at the cathedral dedicated to the “crusading king,” participants will go on a Eucharistic procession through the French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood.

The French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood and the only intact French Colonial and Spanish settlement in the U.S. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
The French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood and the only intact French Colonial and Spanish settlement in the U.S. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

Procession through Nashville 

The city known for its music scene will encounter Christ this June when pilgrims shock the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, with a Eucharistic procession. On June 28, participants can join a Eucharistic procession beginning at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and processing up Capitol Hill. The route will stop at three of the oldest Catholic churches in the Nashville Diocese.

The motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth
The motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Screenshot from EWTN News In Depth

For more details on the St. Juan Diego Route, visit the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage website.

Orthodox patriarch anticipates Pope Francis visit to Turkey for Council of Nicaea anniversary

Pope Francis meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Vatican, Oct. 4, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 18:04 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis might be traveling to Turkey next year for the 1,700th anniversary of the First Council of Nicaea, according to Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in comments he made on Thursday.

Although the Holy See has not confirmed any travel plans, the ecumenical patriarch told a group of reporters that a committee is being established to organize a visit, according to the Orthodox Times. The referenced council took place in the ancient city of Nicaea in 325 A.D. in the former Roman Empire, which is now the present-day city of İznik in Turkey. 

“His Holiness Pope Francis wishes for us to jointly celebrate this important anniversary,” Bartholomew said.

The Council of Nicaea was the first ecumenical council in the Church. It is accepted by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and other Christian communities that accept the validity of early church councils. It predates the Chalcedonian Schism — which separated the Oriental Orthodox communion from Rome — by more than 100 years and predates the Great Schism — which separated the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome — by more than 700 years.

During the council, the bishops condemned the heresy of Arianism, which asserted that the Son was created by the Father. Arius, a priest who faced excommunication for propagating the heresy, did not accept that the Son was coeternal with the Father.

According to the council, Jesus Christ is “begotten; not made” and is “of the same substance with the Father.” It affirms that the Son is coeternal with the Father and condemns any heresies that assert “the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change” and heresies that assert “there was a time when [Christ] was not [in existence].” 

The council was convened by Emperor Constantine the Great, who is venerated as a saint in some Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox traditions.

Nebraska bishop shares mental illness story, offers message of hope 

Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln credits the support of friends, family, medical professionals, and his golden retriever, Stella, with his recovery from mental illness. / Courtesy: Dennis Kellog

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 17:14 pm (CNA).

After seven years of heading the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop James Conley found himself “buckling” under all of his duties and experiencing severe anxiety, insomnia, and depression. 

Several years later, after addressing his mental health needs, the bishop shared his reflections on mental health and Christ in a May 16 pastoral letter in which he emphasized the importance of support from his friends, family, medical professionals — and his golden retriever, Stella. 

“I was overwhelmed by my responsibilities as bishop and relying too much on my own strength,” Conley wrote in a May 17 introduction to his pastoral letter in the Southern Nebraska Register. “As I received good professional care, I learned that weakness is part of the human condition, but the more we rely exclusively on ourselves, the more those weaknesses are exacerbated.”

Mental health is a growing concern in the United States. The percentage of U.S. adults diagnosed with depression has risen almost 10% since 2015, reaching 29% according to a 2023 Gallup poll, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that almost half of U.S. teens report experiencing persistent sadness and hopelessness.

The Catholic Church is taking steps to prioritize support and resources for those struggling with mental illness and challenges. From Phoenix to Washington, D.C., dioceses are offering Masses and retreats for people struggling with mental illness, while the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM) is establishing mental health resources in parishes worldwide

A bishop’s healing 

In his pastoral letter, Conley shared about how stress, overwork, and self-reliance led to the deterioration of his mental, physical, and spiritual health. The road to wellness would be a long one, but when Conley shared why he was taking a leave of absence, he received overwhelming support from the people of his diocese.

“About seven years after becoming bishop of Lincoln I started buckling under my episcopal duties,” Conley wrote in the May 16 letter. “The people of this diocese have a beautiful faith, and I wanted to be the strong, invincible leader I thought they deserved. Day in and day out, I tried to fix the problems brought to me instead of surrendering them to the Lord.”

Overwhelmed by the work, Conley noted that over time, he “slackened in taking care of my own physical and mental well-being.” 

“The first thing to go was my sleep because my brain would run nonstop,” Conley wrote. “All night I would lie in bed rehashing the day’s events, wrongly believing everything depended on me, that I was responsible for all the outcomes in the diocese. Although the wear and tear of this lifestyle was taking its toll, I kept trying to muscle through.”

An experienced runner, Conley eventually had to stop running his biannual half-marathons “due to a lack of energy.” He was hardly sleeping and ate “irregularly or not at all.”

“My physical deterioration led to emotional and psychological decline and, before I knew it, I was barely holding onto the last thread of my spiritual health,” he recalled. 

Eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, anxiety, and tinnitus, which can be amplified by stress, Conley “was forced to confront my denial.” But unsure if he could take time off for mental health issues, Conley said he “minimized my problems.”  

“Thankfully, my sister, friends, and medical professionals helped me recognize that it wasn’t selfish to take care of myself,” Conley noted.

At the end of 2019, Pope Francis granted Conley permission to take a leave of absence to recover from his mental health issues. Though it was “extremely hard to step away,” Conley said he received an “outpouring of support and prayer” from his diocese. 

“I would need all that grace since the hardest part of my journey was still ahead,” he said. 

While Conley was recovering, COVID-19 hit, causing the bishop’s “three anchors” of Mass, the rosary, and the Liturgy of the Hours to have “little solace” for him as he often had to offer Mass alone. Thrown into spiritual darkness, Conley “grappled” with the question “Where was God?”

Through meditating on his reliance on Christ, Conley began to recover from “unhealthy self-reliance” while developing his trust in God.

“I started to experience the freedom of surrender as I gradually allowed Jesus to shoulder burdens I had been carrying on my own,” he wrote.

“The last gift of this difficult healing season was my dog, Stella,” he continued. “My good friend Bishop James Wall of Gallup was in the process of getting a puppy and he convinced me to do likewise. We took a seven-and-a-half-hour road trip to El Paso to pick up four 8-week-old golden retrievers, two for us and two for other friends.”

“Looking back it’s funny to think that a 10-pound puppy was crucial in beginning to bring joy back into my life,” he continued. “Stella goes nearly everywhere with me now and is loved by all. Since I live alone, she provides needed companionship and ensures I get outside every day for walks.”

Conley ultimately returned from his leave of absence in November 2020, recovering with the help of several qualified Catholic doctors including a psychologist and psychiatrist. He shared his story with CNA in a 2020 interview.

Catholicism and mental health

Preserving faith through depression can be a challenge, but according to a 2012 study, being religiously involved can help people recover faster from depression. Resources for Catholics struggling with mental health vary; some parishes offer retreats or group ministries, while others provide referrals to therapy or other resources.

Conley noted that in times of spiritual despair, we “must protect” the “treasure” of hope that comes from God.

“When hope wanes, let us remember the countless ways God has blessed us, the particular instances in our lives where he has ‘come through,’ and the dark times when he felt absent but, in hindsight, we could discern his presence,” he wrote.

“A Catholic view of mental health is necessary because it defines well-being according to reason and revelation,” Conley wrote.

“One might rightly ask, if we don’t speak of a Catholic physics or a Catholic biology, why do we need a Catholic understanding of mental health?” he continued. “The answer is because any notion of mental health is laden with beliefs about the human person, about true human anthropology … But notions of human flourishing depend on one’s beliefs about the human person’s origins, purpose, and destiny.” 

Allison Ricciardi, a psychotherapist and counselor who launched the website in 2001, helps connect Catholics with therapists who are dedicated to the Catholic faith and its teachings. 

“The teachings of the Church are really solidly grounded in an understanding of the human person,” she told CNA in a phone call. “Between Scripture and teachings of the Church, [they] really do help us to understand human nature and how grace perfects that nature.”

Many saints have struggled with mental illness, Conley observed, and their lives are a reminder “that God is active in every life at all times in history.”

“How comforting to know many saints struggled like us — St. Ignatius of Loyola contemplated suicide, St. Jane Frances de Chantal suffered from depression for over 40 years, St. John of God had a mental breakdown that resulted in hospitalization, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton struggled with anxiety and depression,” he wrote. “They all grew closer to God through their struggles and so can we.” 

“Both body and soul must be attended to, for we reflect and glorify God through both,” he continued. “In this understanding of the human person, we can see how issues in body or soul potentially harm mental health.”

Maryland Republican Senate candidate Larry Hogan backs codifying Roe

Larry Hogan, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, greets supporters before casting his ballot in the state primary election at Davidsonville Elementary School on May 14, 2024, in Davidsonville, Maryland. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 16:04 pm (CNA).

The Republican nominee for Senate in Maryland — former Gov. Larry Hogan — announced he would vote to codify the abortion standards set in Roe v. Wade if elected, which would legalize abortion nationwide. 

Hogan, who is hoping to be the first Republican to represent Maryland in the Senate in nearly four decades, endorsed the plan to codify Roe in an interview with the New York Times, which was published on Thursday, May 16. Before this interview, the former governor had a mixed record on life issues. 

“As governor, I protected the rights of Maryland women to make their own reproductive health decisions,” Hogan said in a May 16 post on X, linking to the New York Times interview. “I will do the same in the Senate by restoring Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. No one should come between a woman and her doctor.”

Hogan, who is Catholic, called himself “pro-choice” in the interview and said he would “continue to protect the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices just like I did as governor for eight years.” 

“I think Marylanders know and trust that when I give them my word, I’m going to keep it, and I’ve protected these rights before,” the former governor added. “And I’ll do it again in the Senate by supporting a bipartisan compromise to restore Roe as the law of the land.”

Hogan served as governor of Maryland for two terms from 2015 until 2023, winning his first race by less than a four-point margin and winning reelection by nearly a 12-point margin. Maryland has a heavily Democratic electorate, and it was expected to be an easy Senate win for Democrats until Hogan announced his candidacy.

As governor, Hogan vetoed legislation to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions instead of reserving the procedure to only physicians. Democrats overrode his veto. Hogan, however, consistently said he did not support new restrictions on abortion in Maryland when campaigning for governor.

The plan to codify Roe, which is supported by Democratic leaders in Congress and President Joe Biden, would override state laws that protect life. The law would set a national standard to legalize abortion in every state until at least the point of viability. Although viability normally occurs around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the proposal endorsed by Democratic lawmakers does not set a strict week-based limit but rather allows viability to be determined by the woman’s treating physician, who is often the abortionist.

Hogan’s Democratic opponent — former Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks — who also supports codifying Roe, responded to the former governor’s announcement by calling into question his sincerity. 

“Larry Hogan won’t protect abortion rights,” Alsobrooks said in a post on X on May 16. “Senate Republicans won’t protect abortion rights. I will protect abortion rights. We will keep Maryland and the Senate blue.”

The pro-abortion group Reproductive Freedom for All — formerly called National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) — went further, calling Hogan’s statement “a lie.” The group had previously listed Hogan’s record when he was governor as “mixed” on abortion. 

“There is only one candidate in this race who will fight tooth and nail to lock the federal right to abortion into law — and that’s Angela Alsobrooks,” Reproductive Freedom for All President and CEO Mini Timmaraju said in a May 16 statement

The Senate election is on Nov. 5 to replace Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who is retiring. The Democratic Party currently holds a slim 51-49 majority in the chamber.

Voters in Maryland will also vote on a statewide referendum that would enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution. 

California governor: Pope Francis told me he was ‘proud’ of state’s death penalty moratorium

California Gov. Gavin Newsom attends an event with fellow governors in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 23, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 17, 2024 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that following a conference at the Vatican this week Pope Francis personally conveyed his endorsement of California’s efforts to end the use of the death penalty. 

In a recent interview with Catholic News Service, Newsom said the pope expressed “how proud he was of the work we’re doing in California.” 

California is one of more than two dozen states that still have the death penalty, with the largest death row in the United States. However, no one has been executed in California since 2006, due in part to a moratorium beginning in 2019 that Newsom oversaw via executive order. 

Newsom told CNS after his meeting with Pope Francis that he was “struck” by the pope’s sudden comments to him on the death penalty.

“I wasn’t anticipating that, especially in the context of this convening,” he told the news outlet. 

Pope Francis throughout his pontificate has promoted the end of the death penalty worldwide, changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 on the permissibility of the death penalty. The Church had long taught that the death penalty could be legitimate in limited cases, while the updated language teaches that capital punishment is “inadmissible,” and its elimination should be sought.

The change reflects a development of Catholic doctrine in recent years. St. John Paul II, calling the death penalty “cruel and unnecessary,” encouraged Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.

The Vatican’s top doctrinal office’s April declaration on the theme of human dignity, Dignitas Infinita, reiterated that the death penalty “violates the inalienable dignity of every person, regardless of the circumstances.”

California’s Catholic bishops have expressed support for the state’s moratorium on the death penalty. 

“This is a good day for California and a good day for our country,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a 2019 statement. Gomez said that the death penalty does not deter crime, nor does it provide “true justice” to those who were victims of crime.

Gomez, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has long called for an end to capital punishment throughout the United States.

Newsom, a Democrat who has held the governor’s office since 2019, has faced serious criticism for actions he has taken as governor related to the expansion of abortion as well as the expansion of protection for “gender-affirming care” for minors. 

Newsom was one of several U.S. leaders who spoke at the Vatican Climate Summit, held at the Vatican from May 15–17 at the Casina Pio IV, the seat of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, which sits in the Vatican Gardens. According to Newsom’s office, he highlighted in his speech California’s climate leadership and called for “greater global partnership,” urging world leaders to “protect democracy against the rise of extremism and in the face of climate deniers.”

Movie on Blessed Carlo Acutis and his love for the Eucharist opens this weekend

School children read about the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis at the celebration of his new shrine at St. Dominic Parish in Brick, New Jersey. Oct, 1, 2023. / Credit: Thomas P. Costello II

ACI Prensa Staff, May 17, 2024 / 14:46 pm (CNA).

The film “Eucharistic Miracles: The Heartbeat of Heaven” about Blessed Carlo Acutis and the Eucharistic miracles he studied with such devotion is showing in theaters across multiple U.S. states and the nation’s capital this weekend. 

Specifically, the feature film is showing in theaters in California; Nevada; Arizona; Utah; Idaho; Texas; Washington; Oregon; Indiana; New Jersey; Colorado; New York; Tennessee; Michigan; Georgia; Illinois; Florida; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Pennsylvania; and Mississippi.

Gaby Jácoba, director of the International Catholic Film Festival, which is bringing the film about Acutis to movie theaters in the United States, emphasized the importance of “attending the first weekend” to see the film, in order for theaters to decide to extend the length of time they show it: “If the cinemas see that there are many people attending, they will keep it longer so more people can have this experience.”

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Jácoba highlighted the importance of this premiere in conjunction with the National Eucharistic Revival promoted by the Catholic Church in the United States.

The film about Acutis, who had a deep love for the Eucharist that was reflected in the extensive research he did on Eucharistic miracles around the world, can be a valuable “instrument” and “tool” to inspire Eucharistic revival in the U.S.

Jácoba said the film comes to America “after a long wait” and that the International Catholic Film Festival team “is very excited” that the moment has arrived.

She also noted that months ago the mother of Blessed Carlo Acutis, Antonia, visited the United States, presenting the trailer and the film in various cities.

This film “is going to be a tool to know and fall more in love with the Holy Eucharist,” said Jácoba, who invited “all groups, communities, parishes, apostolates, and movements to attend this first weekend” and see “Eucharistic Miracles: The Heartbeat of Heaven.”

The director of the International Catholic Film Festival said: “It’s a film that had a great impact on me, that profoundly renewed my love for the holy Eucharist.”

The film explores Eucharistic miracles “not only through faith but also through reason, through science, through the impressive studies that have been carried out,” she noted.

The movie is also suitable for children from “8 or 9 years old” and can be especially important for those “who are preparing to make their first Communion,” she said.

“We all left with hearts transformed and inflamed with love for the holy Eucharist and we know that, after watching this film, your experience with the holy Eucharist will be completely different, you will leave renewed,” Jácoba concluded.

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

National Eucharistic Pilgrimage: When is it passing through your town?

The National Eucharistic Revival recleased a detailed map of the upcoming pilgrimage routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress. / Credit: National Eucharistic Revival

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 17, 2024 / 12:03 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage kicks off this weekend as Catholics observe the solemnity of Pentecost on Sunday, May 19. All are welcome to participate in Eucharistic processions and other prayer-filled events taking place across the country over the next two months.

To take part in an event near you, here’s a guide to finding all the stops along the four pilgrimage routes crossing the country and converging at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 16.

The stops include shrines, cathedrals, parishes, cultural sites, and parks. At the stops, the faithful in the area will have the chance to join in the national event by participating in Mass, adoration, devotions, praise and worship, and fellowship as well as have opportunities to accompany the Eucharist on the streets as part of the pilgrimage.

Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, Inc., said that “a cross-country pilgrimage of this scale has never been attempted before.”

“It will be a tremendously powerful action of witness and intercession as it interacts with local parish communities at stops all along the way,” Glemkowski said. “Following Jesus and praying through cities and rural towns is going to be life-changing for the Church across America.”

He also stressed that Catholics in communities across the country are “invited to be part of the historic movement to set hearts ablaze.”

What is the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The national pilgrimage consists of four different routes beginning on opposite sides of the country and meeting in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress July 17–21.

Collectively the four National Eucharistic Pilgrimage routes will traverse 6,500 miles, 27 states, and 65 dioceses while carrying Christ in the Eucharist. 

The organizers are calling it “our national Emmaus moment” after the biblical passage in which Jesus walked with two of his disciples along the road to Emmaus. Through this campaign, the bishops plan to rededicate the country to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Where can I meet up with it? 

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s four routes are the Marian Route from the north, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Route from the east, the St. Juan Diego Route from the south, and the St. Junipero Serra Route from the west. 

To see when the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is making a stop near you, click here

The Northern “Marian Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass and Eucharistic procession at a historic site in the Lake Itasca region of Minnesota.

The Eastern “Seton Route” begins with Mass at the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 18. 

The Southern “Juan Diego Route” will begin with a Pentecost Mass on May 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Brownsville, Texas, just a few minutes’ walk from the U.S. border with Mexico. 

The Western “Junipero Serra Route” will begin on May 18 with solemn vespers and adoration at the historic Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, at which Serra once celebrated Mass. 

Who will be leading the pilgrimages? 

Each route will be led by a team of eight “Perpetual Pilgrims” who will accompany our Eucharistic Lord for the entire length of the journey. 

A “rotating cadre” of 30 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal will provide “ecclesial support” for the pilgrims. 

How can I participate? 

Participating in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is simple and costs nothing. Exact details on individual events at pilgrimage stops, including registration information, are available on the route pages

You can also participate by walking portions of the pilgrimage with the Perpetual Pilgrims. To do so, organizers ask that you register, which you can do by clicking here.

This article was originally published on Feb. 23, 2024, and was updated on May 17, 2024.