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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Learn from the synod, be ‘missionary disciples,’ pope tells U.S. seminarians

VATICAN CITY — Tomorrow’s priests are called to be “missionary disciples” in light of the Church’s synodal journey, Pope Francis told U.S. seminarians. Speaking to the Cleveland-based community of St. Mary’s Seminary during an audience at the Vatican March 6 to mark the seminary’s 175th anniversary, the pope said that learning to listen, to walk together and to bear witness to God are “essential” characteristics of priestly formation that are principles of synodality. Pope Francis urged the seminarians to listen to God by making room for Him every day and praying in silence before the tabernacle. “The good shepherd walks with the flock: sometimes ahead, to mark the way; sometimes in the midst, to encourage them and sometimes behind, to accompany those who may be struggling,” Pope Francis said. He explained how “listening to God and walking with others bears fruit in our becoming living signs of Jesus present in the world.” (CNS)

Catholics express concern over end of COVID-era SNAP payments

WASHINGTON — A pandemic-era program that provided extra payments to Americans who qualify for food stamps ended March 1, causing concern for some Catholic advocates about how low-income individuals and families will put food on the table at a time when inflation has driven up food prices. During the coronavirus pandemic, Congress temporarily permitted states to issue extra money to food stamp recipients under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. While 18 states had previously ended the additional SNAP benefits, 32 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories did so March 1. The average eligible household will lose $95 a month for groceries, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Catholic nutrition advocates said they are concerned about the uncertainty the program’s end presents to recipients and encouraged Catholics to check in with their parishes or dioceses about ways to help those impacted by food insecurity. (OSV News)

WORLD

Remembering deadly shipwreck, pope prays to end human trafficking

VATICAN CITY — Human traffickers must be stopped from risking the lives of migrants traveling in search of a better future, Pope Francis said. After praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 5, the pope prayed for the victims of a shipwreck off the coast of Cutro in Italy’s southern province of Crotone, which killed at least 70 people Feb. 26. A boat carrying some 180 migrants sank near the Italian coast after sailing from Turkey. Only 80 survivors had been found as of the morning of March 6. According to Italy’s border police, the migrants each paid smugglers 8,000 euros (about $8,500) to be taken to Europe. “That human traffickers be stopped, and that they do not continue to take the lives of so many innocent people,” Pope Francis prayed after the Angelus. “May the journeys of hope never again turn into journeys of death,” he said. “May the clean waters of the Mediterranean no longer be bloodied by such tragic accidents.” (CNS)

Vatican statistics show decline in clergy, religious women worldwide

VATICAN CITY — The number of Catholics and permanent deacons in the world rose in 2021, while the number of seminarians, priests and men and women in religious orders declined, according to Vatican statistics. At the end of 2021, the number of Catholics in the world reached 1.378 billion, up 1.3% from 1.36 billion Catholics at the end of 2020, according to the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a brief overview of the global numbers March 3. The total number of diocesan and religious order priests decreased globally by 0.57% to 407,872, the Vatican office said. The total number of religious women, it said, was 608,958 at the end of 2021 — a decrease of 1.7% from 619,546 at the end of 2020. The number of permanent deacons — 49,176 — saw a 1.1% increase over the previous year, with the majority of them serving in the Americas. The number of seminarians has been declining each year since 2013, the Vatican office said. (CNS)

Pope names new cardinals to his council of advisers

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis named five new members to his international Council of Cardinals and renewed the mandate of four current members, the Vatican announced March 7. Those whose mandates have been renewed are: Cardinals Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, 78, who was appointed to the council in 2013; Pietro Parolin, 68, Vatican secretary of state, who was first appointed in 2014; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, 78, who was appointed in 2013; and Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, 63, who was appointed to the council in 2020. The new members appointed are: Cardinals Gérald C. Lacroix of Québec, 65; Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona, 76; Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, 64; Sérgio da Rocha of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, 63; and Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, 78, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. Italian Bishop Marco Mellino, 56, continues as secretary of the council. He was appointed adjunct secretary in 2018 and secretary in 2020. (CNS)

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