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Mom of Carlo Acutis: Teen computer whiz was an ‘influencer’ for God

Rome Newsroom, Sep 24, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Venerable Carlo Acutis, who will be beatified in Assisi Oct. 10, is an example of a teen who used the internet to “influence” people to draw closer to God, his mother said.

“Carlo was able to use social media and especially the internet as an ‘influencer’ for God,” Antonia Salzano told EWTN.

Carlo was 15 when he died from leukemia in 2006. He was a computer whiz who taught himself how to program and created a website cataloging the world’s Eucharistic miracles.

Growing up in the center of Milan, Carlo had a deep love for the Eucharist. He never missed daily Mass and adoration. He also prayed the rosary frequently and went to confession every week.

From age 11, he started helping out teaching catechism to kids at his parish, and he was always helping the poor and homeless in his neighborhood.

According to Salzano, Carlo lived ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

“Obviously, being a boy of our times, he experienced what all the young people of his generation have -- so, computers, video games, football, school, friends...” These things might feel common to us, she said, but “he managed to transform it into the extraordinary.”

Like many teens, Carlo liked to play video games. His mom said he could teach young people today about how to properly enjoy them and other technology, without falling prey to the pitfalls of internet and social media use.

“Because he understood that they were potentially very harmful, very dangerous, he wanted to be the master of these means, not a slave,” she said. Her son practiced the virtue of temperance, she explained, so he “imposed on himself a maximum of one hour per week to use these means of communication.”

“So for Carlo, for sure the first point is to teach young people to have temperance,” Salzano continued, “that is, to understand the need to maintain the proper autonomy and the need to be always able to say ‘no, enough,’ to not become a slave.” 

Salzano said that Carlo would say it was about balance. If someone spends his or her life only following “influencers,” they might only learn about what outfit to wear and “they completely forget about God,” she said.

She noted that social media today has turned into a “yardstick” by which people measure their happiness.  

“Then you are happy if there is a ‘like,’ if there is no ‘like’ you are unhappy,” she said. “Here, Carlo is saying: ‘Not me, but God.’”

“Certainly today, in a society based a little on the ephemeral, on the exaltation of the self, of the ego, and where one forgets the existence of God, Carlo is certainly very prophetic,” Salzano added.

“Carlo reminds us of what is most important. The most important thing is to put God in the first place in our life.”

Salzano explained that her son lived a very modern life, but for him, “the faith has always been the same for more than 2,000 years; that is, that God exists, he became incarnate, died and rose again for us.”

“So Carlo is also a messenger of this ... But bringing it into what is the modern world of young people, so he definitely has a lot to teach,” she said.

Another lesson he can show others is the good which can be done right in one’s own neighborhood.

Instead of buying himself games, Carlo used his little bit of spending money to purchase things for the homeless in his area, like a sleeping bag.

Her son did not like money to be wasted on useless things, she said, and he did not care about fashion or clothing brands.

Salzano said: “If I said to him: ‘Carlo, let’s buy an extra pair of shoes,’ he would get angry [and reply] ‘Mom, one is enough. Let’s help the poor.’”

“He was a very, very simple guy. For him, a pair of trousers was as good as another, a pair of shoes was as good as another,” Salzano noted.

In an interview with CNA Newsroom in May 2019, Carlo’s mom said “since he was three, four years old, he showed a big interest in Christ, in the Holy Virgin. When we used to take a walk outside, he used to always want to enter inside the church, to say hello to Jesus, and to send kisses to the cross.”

Salzano said that she herself “was not the ideal model of a Catholic mother” when her son was born, and “was quite ignorant in faith things.” But through Carlo’s influence, she came back to the faith.

“So little by little I started to get closer to the Church. I started to go back to Mass. And this was actually because of Carlo. Carlo was for me a kind of little ‘Savior,’” she said.

British prime minister’s son baptized a Catholic

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The son of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was baptized a Catholic earlier this month, the Diocese of Westminster said Tuesday.

In a statement Sept. 22, the diocese said: “We can confirm that Wilfred Johnson was baptized in Westminster Cathedral on Sept. 12, 2020, in a private ceremony, attended by both parents and a small number of guests, in keeping with current (COVID-19) guidelines.”

The Daily Telegraph reported Sept. 21 that the ceremony took place in the Lady Chapel of the cathedral in central London. The baptism was reportedly conducted by Fr. Daniel Humphreys, acting administrator of Westminster Cathedral. 

The news emerged after Italian media reported incorrectly that Johnson had flown secretly to the city of Perugia Sept. 11. The prime minister’s office denied the claim, disclosing that Johnson had attended his four-month-old son’s baptism in London Sept. 12. 

Johnson himself was baptized a Catholic at the behest of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl. But he was confirmed in the Church of England while studying at Eton College, effectively abandoning Catholicism for Anglicanism. 

Carrie Symonds, his fiancee and the mother of his son, Wilfred, is a Catholic who has referred to her faith on social media. 

Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson was born on April 29, 2020. Announcing her son’s birth on Instagram, Symonds said that he was named Wilfred after Johnson’s grandfather, Lawrie in honor of her grandfather, and Nicholas after Dr Nick Price and Dr Nick Hart, who saved the prime minister’s life after he was admitted to hospital with the coronavirus earlier that month.

“I couldn’t be happier. My heart is full,” she wrote.

Johnson is the first baptized Catholic to become prime minister. 

Tony Blair regularly attended Mass while serving as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, but was only received into the Catholic Church after he stepped down from office.

After centuries of persecution, the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 enabled Catholics to sit in Parliament and hold government office. But the Act said that no Catholic could advise the Crown on the appointment of Church of England bishops. As this is one of the duties of prime ministers, the Act effectively prevented a Catholic from assuming the role. 

But commentators argue that if a practicing Catholic were to be elected prime minister today, then an alternative arrangement for appointments to the established church could be found.

Stuart Reid, a Catholic who served as deputy editor of The Spectator magazine when Johnson was editor, told CNA that he thought that the prime minister would have taken the decision to baptize Wilfred seriously.  

He said: “Boris is not the most obvious Christian in Westminster, but having his child by the Catholic Carrie baptized into the Church is almost certainly not something he did in a fit of irony. He leaves irony for Downing Street. What Boris has done, it seems, is to yield to his woman, as a good man should. But there may be something more to it.”

He noted that Johnson worked alongside “fairly opinionated Catholics” when he edited The Spectator from 1999 to 2005. 

“It may be why he once commissioned a feature on the ontological argument of St. Anselm. There was no news peg (as if), but he probably thought it would amuse his staff and add droll elegance to The Spectator’s pages,” he said.

“Like most editors and their underlings, he did not like advertising features, and he once published a Luxury Goods special in the Spectator in which a former chairman of the Latin Mass Society, Michael McMahon, wrote a piece attacking the idea of laying up treasures on earth. ‘Ashes to ashes; dust to dust,’ wrote McMahon, ‘in the fullness of Time, even Rolexes rust.’” 

Referring to Johnson’s new fitness regime following his recovery from COVID-19, Reid added: “It is very difficult to understand what is going on here, but the child has been baptized and that is a good thing. It is possible that in the fullness of time even Boris will swim the Tiber. He is looking pretty trim these days.”

The medieval carpentry techniques used in Notre Dame cathedral rebuild

CNA Staff, Sep 23, 2020 / 12:00 am (CNA).- After fire toppled the iconic spire and destroyed the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France in April 2009, heated debates ensued about whether the reconstruction should use the church’s original design, or use a more modern design and technique.

Some proposed futuristic ideas included a rooftop swimming pool and a greenhouse atop the 850-year-old cathedral.

Last year, the French Senate passed a bill mandating that Notre-Dame be rebuilt as it was before the fire, with lumber and medieval carpentry techniques, which were highlighted in a public demonstration Saturday in the cathedral’s square.

“It shows…firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the reconstruction efforts, told the AP.

“Secondly, it shows us the...method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”

The public carpentry demonstration was held Sept. 19 as part of European Heritage Days. The triangular truss highlighted at the event was the seventh of a total of 25 new trusses that will be installed in the nave of the cathedral during the rebuild.

Carpenters told the AP that they selected a truss with a more complex design for the event. The truss, built in July, was raised from the ground for display at the event using a pulley system. Once raised, a celebratory oak branch was tied to the top, a traditional “symbol of prosperity and a salute to the workers,” according to the AP.

“It’s a moment to see ancestral techniques that last. There is the present and the past and it links us to our roots,” Romain Greif, an architect attending the event with his family told the AP.  “It’s an event.”

The trusses will be installed in the roof of the church at a yet unknown date. French president Emmanuel Macron has said he wants the reconstruction to be completed by 2024, when Paris is set to host the Olympics.

Last year on the evening of April 15, 2019, a major fire broke out at the cathedral, destroying the roof and the spire. Shortly after midnight April 16, firefighters announced that the cathedral's main structure had been preserved from collapse.

The major religious and artistic treasures of the cathedral were removed as the fire began, including a relic of the crown of thorns.

Originally built between the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, the landmark cathedral in the French capital is one of the most recognizable churches in the world, receiving more than 12 million visitors each year.

Its original spire was constructed in the 13th century, but was replaced in the 19th century due to damage.

The cathedral was undergoing some restorative work at the time the fire broke out, though it is unknown if the fire originated in the area of the work.

Vatican cardinal: Pope Francis ‘concerned’ about Church in Germany

CNA Staff, Sep 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican cardinal said Tuesday that Pope Francis has expressed concern about the Church in Germany.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz Sept. 22 that he believed the pope backed an intervention by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote last week to Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, saying that a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” would harm relations with Orthodox Churches.

Asked if the pope personally approved the CDF letter, dated Sept. 18, Koch said: “There is no mention of this in the text. But the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria, is a very honest and loyal person. I cannot imagine that he would do anything that Pope Francis would not approve of. But I have also heard from other sources that the pope has expressed his concern in personal conversations.”

The cardinal clarified that he was not referring simply to the question of intercommunion.

“Not only, but about the situation of the Church in Germany in general,” he said, noting that Pope Francis addressed a long letter to German Catholics in June 2019.

The Swiss cardinal praised the CDF’s critique of the document “Together at the Lord’s Table,” issued by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in September 2019.

The 57-page text advocated “reciprocal Eucharistic hospitality” between Catholics and Protestants, based on previous ecumenical agreements on the Eucharist and ministry. 

The ÖAK adopted the document under the co-chairmanship of Bätzing and the retired Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein. 

Bätzing announced recently that the text’s recommendations would be put into practice at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in May 2021.

Koch described the CDF’s critique as “very serious” and “factual.”

He noted that the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had been involved with discussions about the CDF letter and that he had personally raised concerns about the ÖAK document with Bätzing.

“Those appear not to have convinced him,” he said.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German language news partner, reported Sept. 22 that the German bishops would discuss the CDF letter at their fall plenary meeting, which began Tuesday. 

When Bätzing was asked about Koch’s comments, he said that he had not had an opportunity to read the interview. But he commented that the CDF’s “critical remarks” would have to be “weighed up” in the coming days.

“We want to remove blockages so that the Church has a chance to evangelize in the secular world in which we move,” he said.

Koch told Herder Korrespondenz that the German bishops could not continue as before after the CDF intervention.

“If the German bishops were to rate such a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith less highly than a document from an ecumenical working group, then something would no longer be right in the hierarchy of criteria among the bishops,” he said. 

Vatican official backs initiative to help prevent future pandemics

Rome Newsroom, Sep 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency Monday, a Vatican official commended the organization for its preventative efforts to address another global threat: zoonotic diseases that cause pandemics.

The international organization known for safeguarding nuclear energy to prevent nuclear warfare has unveiled a new initiative entitled Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC), which aims to help countries quickly detect and respond to diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.

“This important global network is crucial to helping national laboratories in monitoring, surveillance, early detection and control of animal and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Avian Influenza and Zika,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Sept. 21.

Zoonotic diseases are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people each year, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

Speaking in Vienna at the agency’s 64th annual conference, the Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States said that the Vatican supported the ZODIAC project and believed it could further the unique collaboration between laboratories of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and IAEA using nuclear or nuclear-derived technologies.

“This unprecedented pandemic sheds new light on the interdependence between nations and, in particular, on the necessity to consider health as a primary common good, which requires solidarity and coordinated action at the global level,” Gallagher said.

The Vatican diplomat added that it would be desirable for the ZODIAC program to support the research and development for “novel technologies … for early detection and surveillance” of these diseases. 

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed problems related to virus detection capabilities in many countries, as well as the need for better communication between health institutions around the world,” he said.

Gallagher said that the Holy See was concerned about the signs of “an erosion of multilateralism and of the rules-based order” in the world, especially surrounding the control and ban of nuclear weapons. 

“The Holy See recognizes the important contribution of the IAEA in working for a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, commending the agency’s goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.

North Korea’s nuclear activities are currently of “serious concern,” Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, said at the general conference Sept. 21.

“The continuation of the country’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi added.

Gallagher said: “We must continue to work towards our common goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Apostolate reaches two decades of bringing the faithful home

After 20 years of welcoming people back home to their faith, Catholics Come Home’s loving message and invitation to return to the faith, continues to inspire. Through its beautiful and evangelistic commercials and resources fallen away Catholics are invited to take another look and active Catholics are called to evangelize. The impact of CCH’s work […]

Tom’s Evangelization Resource Checklist

Books Catholics Come Home by Tom Peterson Reasons to Believe by Dr. Scott Hahn I’m Not Being Fed! By Jeff Cavins Head & Heart by Katie Warner Search and Rescue by Patrick Madrid How to Share Your Faith with Anyone by Terry Barber Papal documents Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis Veritatis Splendor by Pope Saint […]

Cohabitation and Church Teaching

Why does the Church teach that having sex before marriage is wrong? First of all, if you’ve ever heard anyone – a priest, layperson, or anyone else – tell you that sex is something bad, then he or she is absolutely wrong! Our Church believes that sex is a wonderful thing. In the Old Testament, […]

What Does the Church Teach About IVF?

Why does the Church oppose in vitro fertilization? The reasons for the Church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization are twofold. First, the Church teaches that human dignity is best respected when the beautiful sexual union of two people conceives a child. This does not happen when a human being is created in a laboratory. As […]


To air in prime-time, worldwide on EWTN August 21, 2014– Atlanta (Roswell), GA — Catholics Come Home® will premier its high production quality, moving TV series filmed in over a dozen scenic locations in the US and Canada, called “Catholics Come Home” on EWTN Thursday night, Sep. 4 at 10 p.m. EST. The series will consist of thirteen […]