Pope Francis has formally created a new official ministry in the Catholic Church for those who teach the fundamentals of the faith to children and others, opening the position to "men and women of deep faith and human maturity."
Instituting a new ministry of "catechist" with the apostolic letter Antiquum Ministerium ("Ancient Ministry"), the pope said those who already serve as teachers of the faith in places across the world experience a spiritual calling to do so and are often leaders in their communities.
With the new document, issued motu proprio (on the pope's own initiative), lay catechists can be officially instituted into roles as ministers for their local dioceses and receive recognition for what the pope termed a "stable form of service rendered to the local Church."
NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano says that this motu proprio does not eliminate ordination as necessary for sacramental ministry, but does expand the notion that evangelization can be found among the laity.
In January, Pope Francis changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations, effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men.
Britain's withdrawal from the European Union in January, the consequent customs arrangement in the Irish Sea and the 100th anniversary of the partition of the island are ramping up tensions in the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.
Concerned at the impact on the fragile 23-year-old Good Friday Agreement peace deal, the Church Leaders Group of Ireland, including Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, urged unity from political leaders.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins called for increased integrated education in Northern Ireland and likened schooling children according to their religions to "abandoning them to parcels of hate and memory that others are manipulating."
Higgins' call amplifies the view of some parents and teachers that integrated education in Northern Ireland would help young Catholics and Protestant to forge relationships to cement the gains of the peace process.
In his latest column, Franciscan Fr. Daniel Horan says that the wisdom of the 800-year-old Franciscan spiritual tradition has some robust and surprising insights on how Christians should navigate social media and the internet.
At EarthBeat, read about a recent online event in which Indigenous and faith leaders said that the threats facing Indigenous people opposing industrial operations on their lands — discrimination, harassment and assassination — all disproportionately affect women.
When the White House announced it would back efforts to suspend intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, it was a victory for Vatican officials and U.S. Catholic groups that had long supported loosening vaccine patents to help expand production of the life-saving shots.