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Pope Francis Appoints Bishop Mario Dorsonville as Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux

WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has appointed Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, as Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on February 1, 2023, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The biography for Bishop Dorsonville may be found here.

The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux is comprised of 3,500 square miles in the State of Louisiana and has a total population of 257,423 of which 81,512 are Catholic.

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World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life and Profession Class of 2022

WASHINGTON – The universal Catholic Church will celebrate World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life on February 2, 2023 and in parishes throughout the United States over the weekend of February 4-5.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, reflected that World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life provides a special opportunity for the faithful to give thanks to God for those living a consecrated vocation. “We give thanks to God today for continuing to call men and women to serve him as consecrated persons in the Church. May each of us be inspired by their example to love God above all things and serve him in all that we do.”

The USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to conduct its annual survey of newly professed men and women religious in the United States. The survey, Women and Men Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2022 polled religious who professed perpetual vows in 2022 in a religious congregation, province, or monastery based in the United States. Of the 168 identified newly professed, a total of 114 responded for an overall response rate of 67%.

Some of the major findings and highlights of the report are:

  • The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2022 is 33. Half of the responding religious are age 34 or younger. The youngest is 25 and the oldest is 75.
  • Two in three responding religious (66%) are Caucasian, European American, or white followed by Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian (16%), Hispanic/Latino(a) (10%), and African/African American/black (4%).
  • Nearly half of the responding religious (48%) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is higher than that for all Catholic adults in the United States (16%).
  • On average, respondents report that they were 18 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, with half being 18 or younger when they first did so.
  • More than nine in ten (93%) responding religious report that someone encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life. Men are more likely than women to be encouraged by a parish priest, friend, mother, and parishioner; meanwhile, women are more likely than men to be encouraged by a religious sister or brother.

Prayers of the Faithful and a short bulletin quote for World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life is available on the USCCB website. Profiles of the Profession Class of 2022 and the full CARA report is available here.

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Pope preaches peace, cooperation, resilience to a Congo 'gasping for breath'

KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) -- The people of Congo are more precious than any of the gems or minerals found in the earth beneath their feet, yet they have been slaughtered by warmongers and exploited by prospectors, Pope Francis said.

"This country, so immense and full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, struck by violence like a blow to the stomach, has seemed for some time to be gasping for breath," the pope said Jan. 31 at a meeting with Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi, other government and political leaders, diplomats and representatives of civil society.

Poverty, internal displacement, crime and violence plague the Congolese people. The United Nations and human rights organizations say more than 100 armed groups are operating in the country, sowing terror particularly in the east.

Yet, according to the U.S. State Department country report, for Africa "regional stability and security is dependent on durable peace" in Congo, "the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa," one bordering nine other nations and home to diamonds and vast mineral reserves. It also has the largest Catholic population in Africa and has the sixth most Catholics of any nation after Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States and Italy.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets from the airport to the city center, cheering as the pope passed by in the popemobile. Many children and teens were dressed in their school uniforms, parishioners proudly held banners welcoming the pope in the name of their communities and many of the women wore brightly colored cotton dresses with images of the pope.

Speaking to several hundred leaders in the garden of the Palais de la Nation, his official residence, President Tshisekedi told the pope that the welcome and harmony that had characterized Congo for centuries has, in the past 30 years, "been undermined by the enemies of peace as well as terrorist groups, mainly from neighboring countries."

"Indeed," he told the pope, with "the inaction and silence of the international community, more than 10 million people have had been their lives taken from them atrociously. Innocent women, even pregnant ones, are raped and disemboweled, young people and children have their throats slit, families, the elderly and children are condemned to brave fatigue and exhaustion, wandering far from their homes in search of peace because of the atrocities committed by these terrorists in the service of foreign interests," who want to exploit the countries natural resources.

Pope Francis, responding to the president, added that Congo is suffering from a "forgotten genocide," one the world must recognize.

Returning to his prepared text, the pope chose diamonds as the key image in his first speech in Congo, insisting that "you, all of you, are infinitely more precious than any treasure found in this fruitful soil!"

In a speech frequently interrupted by applause and shouts of "Amen," the pope urged the Congolese people to demand the respect they deserve; he pleaded with the country's political leaders to put the common good ahead of greed and a lust for power; and he begged the international community to help Congo, not plunder it.

"Diamonds are usually rare," he said, "yet here they are abundant."

"If that is true of the material wealth hidden in the soil, it is even more true of the spiritual wealth present within your hearts," he said. "For it is from hearts that peace and development are born, because, with God's help, men and women are capable of justice and of forgiveness, of concord and reconciliation, of commitment and perseverance in putting to good use the many talents they have received."

Every person in Congo has a part to play, Pope Francis insisted.

"May violence and hatred no longer find room in the heart or on the lips of anyone, since these are inhuman and un-Christian sentiments that arrest development and bring us back to a gloomy past," he said.

Referencing both the loss of life and the term for diamonds mined to finance conflict, the pope said that "the poison of greed has smeared (Congo's) diamonds with blood."

The developed world, he said, "often closes its eyes, ears and mouth" to the tragedy occurring in Congo while greedily buying up coltan, a mineral used in mobile phones, and other natural resources from the country.

"Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa," Pope Francis insisted to applause and the stopping of feet. "Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered."

At the same, the pope did not let the Congolese off the hook, especially those who promote members of their own ethnic group or political party to the detriment of their neighbors, "thus nurturing spirals of hatred and violence."

"From a chemical standpoint, it is interesting that diamonds are made up of simple atoms of carbon which, if differently bonded, form graphite: in effect, the difference between the brilliance of the diamond and the darkness of graphite comes from the way the individual atoms are arranged," he said.

Different ethnic groups or cultural traditions do not create tension automatically, but it depends on people and the way they choose to live together, the pope said. "Their willingness or not to encounter one another, to be reconciled and to start anew makes the difference between the grimness of conflict and a radiant future of peace and prosperity."

Pope Francis also called for greater respect for the environment, including the Congo rainforest, second in size only to the Amazon. The pope called it "one of the great green lungs of the world."

But, he said, efforts to protect it must be carried out in cooperation with the people who live there and rely on it for their livelihoods.

Pope arrives in Africa

Pope arrives in Africa

Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa, Congo, Jan. 31.

Pope clarifies remarks about homosexuality and sin

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis reaffirmed that homosexuality is not a crime, and that any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin, in a written response to a request for clarification about his remarks during a recent interview with the Associated Press.

In an interview with the agency televised and published in Spanish Jan. 25, the pope had said that "being homosexual is not a crime. It is not a crime." He defined as "unjust" laws that criminalize homosexuality or homosexual activity and urged church members, including bishops, to show "tenderness" as God does with each of his children.

In the interview the pope said, "We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity. Being homosexual is not a crime. It is not a crime."

Then, he voiced an objection to that statement, followed by how he would respond to that objection, saying, "'Yes, but it is a sin.' Fine, but first let us distinguish between a sin and a crime."

"It's also a sin to lack charity with one another," he added.

U.S. Jesuit Father James Martin, who is editor of Outreach.faith, which provides news and resources for LGBTQ Catholics, wrote to the pope asking him to clarify his statement, which some media outlets had reported as the pope saying being gay is a sin.

Father Martin published the pope's written reply in Spanish Jan. 27. The pope acknowledged, "In a televised interview, where we spoke with natural and conversational language, it is understandable that there would not be such precise definitions."

"It is not the first time that I speak of homosexuality and of homosexual persons. And I wanted to clarify that it is not a crime, in order to stress that criminalization is neither good nor just," the pope wrote.

"When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. Of course, one must also consider the circumstances, which may decrease or eliminate fault," he wrote.

"As you can see, I was repeating something in general. I should have said, 'It is a sin, as is any sexual act outside of marriage,'" he wrote. "This is to speak of 'the matter' of sin, but we know well that Catholic morality not only takes into consideration the matter, but also evaluates freedom and intention; and this, for every kind of sin."

"And I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong," the pope wrote.

 

Preaching peace amid violence: Pope heads back to Africa

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' fifth trip to the African continent will highlight gestures of peace and reconciliation, consoling the victims of violence but also emphasizing the importance of each person sowing peace in the family, the neighborhood and the nation.

The pope is scheduled to travel to Kinshasa, Congo, Jan. 31-Feb. 3 before making an ecumenical pilgrimage to Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 3-5 with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

"It is enough, or it should be enough, that the pope is going to support the peace process; but the fact that he and his colleagues have committed to doing this as a joint visit should be understood to be a spectacular commitment to the peace process itself," said Chris Trott, the British ambassador to the Holy See and former British envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

Although the civil wars in both Congo and South Sudan officially have ended, the people continue to suffer from horrific acts of violence, which force the large-scale displacement of communities and keep much of the population in poverty.

Both countries are rich in natural resources, which makes the poverty even more glaring, but also gives the powerful or the disgruntled something else to fight over.

Pope Francis frequently decries the notion that "Africa is to be exploited." As he told the Comboni Missionaries' magazine in an interview published Jan. 14, the world's powerful nations gave Africa "independence halfway: they give them economic independence from the ground up, but they keep the subsoil to exploit," extracting oil or minerals and paying only a pittance.

Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the nuncio to Congo, told reporters in Kinshasa Jan. 10 that Pope Francis' plan to visit the country is an acknowledgement of Congo as the African nation with the most Catholics -- close to 50 million faithful -- and "the country of the first black bishop of the African continent," Nzingo Mpemba, also known as Bishop Henrique de Portugal, the son of the ruler of Kongo who was ordained a bishop in the early 1500s.

The theme of the pope's visit, "All reconciled in Jesus Christ," he said, is a call to the Congolese to set aside grudges and unite to end the great suffering of their compatriots who live under the constant threat of violence, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

Pope Francis will stay in Kinshasa, the capital, but his original itinerary for Congo included a day trip east to North Kivu province for Mass and a meeting with the survivors of the conflicts there.

But the violence in North Kivu has flared up again, canceling that part of the papal trip.

In early December Catholics and other Christians took to the streets in a protest supported by the Congolese bishops. In a message read at the rally, the bishops accused Rwanda, and to some extent Uganda, of perpetrating the violence in the East through the M23 rebel militia.

The Congolese government also has blamed Rwanda and Uganda for sponsoring the rebel movement and using the rebels as cover to steal minerals that are abundant in eastern Congo.

But M23 is one of only dozens of armed groups operating in the area. The Allied Democratic Forces, a group affiliated with Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Pentecostal church in Kasindi Jan. 15, which killed at least 14 people.

In November Bishop Placide Lubamba Ndjibu of Kasongo issued a public appeal to the government to restore order in the East.

People need lasting solutions to the disputes over gold mining in eastern Congo, which, he said, are "sowing a climate of terror and desolation, accompanied by deaths, rapes, school closures, the destruction of food reserves and looting of livestock."

Looting livestock is a major problem in South Sudan as well and is related to the problem of forcing young women into early marriage, a problem Irish Loreto Sister Orla Treacy has been fighting for decades.

In 2005, six years before South Sudan achieved its independence from Sudan after 50 years of war, Sister Treacy and two other Irish sisters arrived in Rumbek to open a school for girls. The students were accepted only if their parents signed a promise to allow the girls to complete high school and not marry them off in exchange for cattle, which is the most stable currency in the land and the chief sign of wealth.

Sister Treacy told Catholic News Service Jan. 15 that so far, "we have had a good year in Rumbek, the best, I can say" in terms of peace and of keeping students in school. "We have a new, strong governor who has worked with the different communities to try and help to build peace. He has also passed a bill against early and forced marriage. We still get troubles but at least now we can quote the governor and tell families to go to him if they don't like our answer!"

The Irish sister and some 50 students and members of justice and peace committees in the Diocese of Rumbek were in training in mid-January. They are planning a nine-day, 200-mile walk to Juba to join Pope Francis, Archbishop Welby and the Rev. Greenshields for an ecumenical prayer service for peace.

The visit, she said, can "help to shine a spotlight on South Sudan. We hope that it will generate world interest and also help push our leaders to keep working for peace and development."

Ambassador Trott, who was involved in negotiating the 2018 peace agreement among the major actors in South Sudan's civil war, said the ongoing conflicts have an ethnic element because they are regional, but "at its heart is about access and control of resources," including oil, minerals, water and rich farmland. "This fight has always been about who benefits from those resources and who controls them."

"This is where the churches come in," he said, because a peace process can address power and resource sharing, but the success of an agreement depends on a willingness to implement it and to reconcile with former enemies for the good of the nation.

"Diplomats can only talk to their heads or about their pockets," the ambassador said. "But I think the three ecumenical leaders can really appeal to people's sense of responsibility" and what they want their legacy to be.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Expresses Support for “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion”

WASHINGTON - Earlier today, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’  (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities sent a letter to House and Senate sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” (H.R.7 and S.62), in support of the legislation.

“Protecting taxpayers from being forced to pay for abortion in violation of their conscience is a principle that has enjoyed historically broad support among Americans, regardless of their otherwise passionately divided views on the topic. It has also been life-saving,” said Bishop Burbidge in his letter. Rather than funding abortion, he continued, “Congress can better serve the common good by prioritizing policies that comprehensively assist women, children, and families in need in ways that will not only encourage childbirth but make it easier to welcome and raise a new child.”

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which has also been supported by the USCCB in previous sessions of Congress, would make long-standing prohibitions on federal funding of elective abortion permanent and government-wide, rather than having to depend on various appropriations, which can put these funding protections or other programs for those in need at risk. 

The full letter is available here.

Additional information and resources on taxpayer funding of abortion are available at the following:  https://www.notaxpayerabortion.com/learn and https://www.respectlife.org/no-taxpayer-abortion.

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God 'suffers' when believers injure, ignore those God loves, pope says

ROME (CNS) -- God suffers and grieves when those who profess to believe in him do not love the people he loves and do not work for the justice he desires, Pope Francis said.

"God suffers when we, who call ourselves his faithful ones, put our own ways of seeing things before his, when we follow the judgments of the world rather than those of heaven, when we are content with exterior rituals yet remain indifferent to those for whom he cares the most," the pope said in his homily Jan. 25 at an ecumenical evening prayer service.

Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant representatives joined the pope at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls for vespers closing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions joined the mostly Rome-based religious leaders for the service.

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches entrusted the preparations of the 2023 week of prayer to a group convened by the Minnesota Council of Churches.

Acknowledging "the injustices perpetrated in the past against native peoples and in our own day against African Americans," Pope Francis said, the group chose as the theme for the week "Do good; seek justice" from Isaiah 1:17.

In the face of "various forms of contempt and racism, before indifference, lack of understanding and sacrilegious violence, the word of God admonishes us: 'Learn to do good, seek justice,'" the pope said. "It is not enough to denounce, we need also to renounce evil, to pass from evil to good."

"In other words," he said, God's "admonishment is meant to change us."

In Isaiah's time -- and even today, the pope said, "it was generally thought that the rich, who made great offerings and looked down upon the poor, were blessed in God's eyes. Yet this was, and is, completely to misunderstand the Lord. It is the poor that Jesus proclaims blessed, and in the parable of the final judgment, he identifies himself with those who hunger and thirst, the stranger, the needy, the sick and those in prison."

Even more, Pope Francis said, God is offended by "sacrilegious violence," the violence of destroying another person, made in God's image and likeness.

"We can imagine with what suffering he must witness wars and acts of violence perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians," the pope said.

With all the knowledge people have of spirituality and theology, he said, "we have no excuses" to believe that God would want faith to be used to harm another.

"Still, there are those who appear to feel encouraged or at least permitted by their faith to support varieties of narrow and violent nationalism, xenophobia and contempt, and even the mistreatment of those who are different," the pope said.

In fidelity to God, he said, "we must be opposed to war, to violence and to injustice wherever they begin to appear."

Pope Francis prayed that St. Paul would "help us to change, to be converted; may he obtain for us something of his own indomitable courage."

Such courage is needed to continue on the path to full Christian unity, he said, and to overcome the temptations to be impatient or to focus only on the needs of one's own church.

Pope: Defeat racism with Christian unity

Pope: Defeat racism with Christian unity

Pope Francis said that Christian unity can defeat nationalism and xenophobia.

Christians must not be oppressed by guilt, but filled with joy, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must not "put pressure on others" to convert or induce in them "feelings of guilt," but take a weight off their shoulders through joyfully sharing the Gospel, Pope Francis said.

At his general audience Jan. 25, the pope explained that Jesus frees people from all forms of oppression and that this freedom is cause for joy.

"Oppressed is the one who feels crushed by something that happens in life: illness, struggles, burdens on the heart, feelings of guilt, errors, vices, sins," said Pope Francis. "Let us think, for example, about feelings of guilt. How many of us have suffered from this?"

"If someone feels guilty about something they did and they feel bad," he said, "the good news is that with Jesus this ancient evil of sin, which seems unbeatable, no longer has the last word."

"God forgets all of our sins, he has no memory of them," the pope said. Even if someone repeatedly commits the same sins, God also "will always do the same thing: forgive you, embrace you."

Pope Francis added that Christians must be joyful in sharing the Gospel, since "the faith is a stupendous love story to be shared."

Bearing witness to Jesus, he said, involves communicating "a gift so beautiful that words cannot express it. But when joy is missing, the Gospel does not come through" since the Gospel itself is a proclamation of joy.

"A sad Christian can speak about beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the message he or she conveys is not happy," he said.

Christians are called to be guides who lead others to accept God's love. For Christians, he said, "life is no longer a blind march to nowhere" determined by chance, health or even finances, but an invitation to love.

Pope Francis urged Christians to joyfully share the message to the poor and said that God calls on each person to make themselves interiorly poor. The quickest way to encounter Jesus, he said, is to "put yourself in need: in need of grace, in need of forgiveness, in need of joy, and he will come to you."

Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day Jan. 27, Pope Francis also remembered the "extermination of millions of Jewish people, and those of other faiths, that cannot ever be forgotten or denied."

"There cannot be a commitment to building fraternity without first eliminating the roots of hate and violence that fueled the horror of the Holocaust," he said.

 

Pope: God always forgives

Pope: God always forgives

During his general audience Jan. 25, Pope Francis said God always forgives sin.

Mission begins by meeting Jesus in the Scriptures and Eucharist, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having come to know Jesus through the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, Catholics are called to share with others the hope and joy that come from faith and that endure even when life gets difficult, Pope Francis said.

"What the world needs is the love of God, to encounter Christ and believe in him. For this reason, the Eucharist is not only the source and summit of the life of the church, it is also the source and summit of her mission," Pope Francis wrote, quoting the late Pope Benedict XVI.

The connection between the missionary call of every disciple and the gift of Jesus present in the Eucharist was at the center of Pope Francis' message for World Mission Sunday, which will be celebrated Oct. 22. The Vatican released the text of the message Jan. 25.

The theme the pope chose for the 2023 celebration is "Hearts on fire, feet on the move," which he said was inspired by the story of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. The Bible says the disciples' hearts "burned within them" as Jesus explained the Scriptures and how they recognized him when he broke bread with them, and they set off to share the good news with others.

World Mission Sunday 2023 will be celebrated during the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and Pope Francis also used his message to talk about the missionary profile of the synod.

"The urgency of the church's missionary activity naturally calls for an ever-closer missionary cooperation on the part of all her members and at every level. This is an essential goal of the synodal journey that the church has undertaken, guided by the key words: communion, participation, mission."

The synodal process, he said, is "not a turning of the church in upon herself, nor is it a referendum about what we ought to believe and practice, nor a matter of human preferences. Rather, it is a process of setting out on the way and, like the disciples of Emmaus, listening to the risen Lord. For he always comes among us to explain the meaning of the Scriptures and to break bread for us, so that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, carry out his mission in the world."

While Pope Francis often warns against proselytism -- using pressure or coercion to get someone to convert -- he insisted that the church exists for mission and that every person in the world has the right to hear the Gospel.

"Today more than ever, our human family, wounded by so many situations of injustice, so many divisions and wars, is in need of the good news of peace and salvation in Christ," he said. "I take this opportunity to reiterate that 'everyone has the right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to announce it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signals a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet.'"

A person who has truly encountered the risen Lord necessarily will be "set on fire with enthusiasm to tell everyone about him," the pope said.

So, for the Catholic Church, "the primary and principal resource of the mission are those persons who have come to know the risen Christ in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, who carry his fire in their heart and his light in their gaze. They can bear witness to the life that never dies, even in the most difficult of situations and in the darkest of moments."

Just like the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus immediately went to tell others about their encounter with him, the pope said, "our proclamation will be a joyful telling of Christ the Lord, his life, his passion, his death and resurrection, and the wonders that his love has accomplished in our lives."

Pope Francis thanked those who have dedicated their lives to sharing the Gospel with people far from their homelands and thanked all Catholics who pray for and donate to the church's missionary outreach.

"Let us set out again with burning hearts, with our eyes open and our feet in motion," the pope said. "Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity."

 

Mass media needs more kindness, truth spoken with charity, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The media and the field of communications need to exercise more kindness and share the truth with charity, Pope Francis said.

"Kindness is not only a question of 'etiquette' but a genuine antidote to cruelty, which unfortunately can poison hearts and make relationships toxic," the pope wrote in his message for World Communication Day.

Just as kindness is needed in social relationships, "we need it in the field of media, so that communication does not foment acrimony that exasperates, creates rage and leads to clashes, but helps people peacefully reflect and interpret with a critical yet always respectful spirit, the reality in which they live," he added.

"We are all called to seek and to speak the truth and to do so with charity," he said in the message released at the Vatican Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.

The theme of the 2023 celebration -- marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, this year May 21 -- is "Speaking with the heart. 'The truth in love.'"

"We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable," the pope said, but communicators should fear "doing so without charity, without heart."

Communicating should be done "in a cordial manner," he said, one that is rooted in love for the other and caring about and protecting the other's freedom.

The world today is marked by polarization and division, and even the church is not immune, he said.

"We Christians in particular are continually urged to keep our tongue from evil," he said, choosing instead words that edify, fit the occasion and "may impart grace to those who hear."

"In the church, too, there is a great need to listen to and to hear one another," he said. When people listen attentively and openly without prejudice, it "gives rise to speaking according to God's style, nurtured by closeness, compassion and tenderness."

There is a "pressing need in the church for communication that kindles hearts, that is balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters" as well as that lets itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, he said.

The church, he wrote, needs communication that: is both gentle and prophetic; finds new ways to proclaim the Gospel today; puts the faithful's relationship with God, with others, especially the neediest, at the center; lights "the fire of faith rather than preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity"; is based on "humility in listening and 'parrhesia' (boldness) in speaking"; and never separates truth from charity.

And, the pope said, the wider world needs people who speak from that heart and promote "a language" or culture of peace, especially where there is war, as well as make way for "dialogue and reconciliation in places where hatred and enmity rage."

"True peace can only be built in mutual trust," which needs "bold and creative" communicators who are willing "to take risks to find common ground on which to meet" and "helps create the conditions to resolve controversies between peoples," the pope said in his message.

Because words can often turn into "warlike actions of heinous violence," he said, "all belligerent rhetoric must be rejected, as well as every form of propaganda that manipulates the truth, disfiguring it for ideological ends."

St. Francis de Sales still provides an important reminder that "we are what we communicate," he said.

St. Paul VI said the saint's writings are "highly enjoyable, instructive and moving," which are precisely the things every article, report, television or radio program and social media post should include, Pope Francis said.

"May people who work in communications feel inspired by this saint of tenderness, seeking and telling the truth with courage and freedom and rejecting the temptation to use sensational and combative expressions," he said.