General Audience January 31, 2024 Photo: Vatican Media

Vatican Chronicles: A Week Between Tennis, Chinese, Jews, Gazan Children in Vatican Hospital, Celibacy and Validity of Sacraments

Week of january 29 to february 4, 2024

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(ZENIT News / Roma, 02.05.2024).- The interview with the Pope, published in the important Italian newspaper La Stampa, was like an anticipation that the week would be full of activities. And so it was. The two most important current topics addressed in the interview were the conflict in the Holy Land and the blessings of irregular couples. For the former, Pope Francis recalled the Holy See’s unalterable position on the two-State solution, and he answered the lagtter briefly, reaffirming his two previous public interventions on this matter. Of current importance also were his congratulatory words to the Italian tennis champion Jannik Sinner, during the Pope’s meeting with the world of Catalan tennis at the beginning of the week in the Vatican.

Being the first days of February, made known were the Holy Father’s prayer intentions, which he entrusts  to all Catholics worldwide. Given that the Virgin of Lourdes is celebrated in February, he said: “cure, yes, if it’s possible, but take care always.” Presented and published also last week was one of the most awaited Messages by the Catholic world: that of Lent. It is one of the Pontiff’s annual Messages, which gives rise to reflection and inspires goals for that liturgical period.

The week also had a Chinese component: On February 2, the Pope received a Delegation in the Vatican of the Italy-China National Federation. However, the gesture in that reception, with Chinese dragons in the Apostolic Palace’s Clementine Hall, was only one more gesture: in that week two Chinese Bishops were appointed such by the Pope, in agreement with the Chinese Communist Government. For some years now, there exists an agreement of understanding between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, by which Episcopal appointments in that country are made jointly.

I recall that on the day Pope Francis granted an audience to Vatican experts, he apologized for giving us work on the day of rest. That day we all thanked him . . .  but I think he soon forgot because on Saturday, February 3, a letter of the Pope was made known to Jews that live in Israel. The letter condemned anti-Semitism expressly, which, the Pontiff said, is verified these days in some places of the West.

Passing to the Vatican in general, also very active last week was the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: in fact, we can say that it dictated the topic with which the week opened and also with which it closed. Published at the beginning of the week was a communication specifying what is understood  by “vulnerable adults” in the context of abuses, to then make clear in what cases the Dicastery is competent to judge some of those abuses. The week — also on Saturday! — closed with the same Dicastery’s Note on the validity of the Sacraments. It is a document that reminds priests in synthesis that they are not the owners of the Sacraments but their administrators. And that in face of the verification of abuses, which in many cases make the Sacraments invalid, it recalls that neither the form nor the matter of the Sacraments can be altered.

We learned that Rome will host the meeting of 300 parish priests who represent different Catholic dioceses worldwide. Behind this meeting there seems to be — although it’s not said –, the fact that it is precisely priests who have been less involved in the  synodal process. And as the second and last part of the Synod on Synodality will take place in October 2024, the intention is that this group will make a contribution to the Document, which will help to prepare that second part of the Synod.

Eleven children arrived in Rome last week, victims of the invasions in Gaza. Some of them will be treated in the Hospital located on Vatican territory: the Bambino Gesu, which specializes in paediatrics. Others will go to other Italian hospitals. The intention is to bring more children to Italy for treatment, but for the time being, only these eleven have been allowed to leave. Behind this endeavour are the Franciscans of the Holy Land.

Also on Vatican territory a new brand of wine will be produced. In fact, in the Papal Villas of Castel Gandolfo, vineyards will be cultivated which will produce a brand of wine that the Vatican will sell (to date, no additional details have been made known).

Passing to the Church in general, for the second time the Assistant Secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, spoke against ecclesiastical celibacy. A Spanish Bishop answered him, on what we once called Twitter, and asked him if he was speaking in a personal capacity or in virtue of the place where he works and the position he holds, to know what to expect. It’s the second time that the Archbishop of the capital of Malta returns to this topic.

In another part of the world, specifically in Panama, on the same day (in reality in the course of a few hours), we learned that Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza, of the diocese of David, had disappeared without a trace. A couple of hours later we learned (ZENIT was one of the first media to report it) that he had been found. What is not clear is what happened in the meantime. The police said that, when finding him (in good health), he was disoriented. The Cardinal is 80.

Thus this chronicle ends. Yes, the many events reported give evidence of the vitality of information produced in such a small State. Thank goodness it’s only 44 hectares!

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter:, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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