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Italy grants Alfie Evans citizenship in hopes of transfer to Rome

London, England, Apr 23, 2018 / 10:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday a hospitalized British child at the center of a heated legal battle was granted Italian citizenship, part of an effort to delay shutting off his life-support, and to transfer him to a Roman hospital for additional treatment and medical evaluation.

Two-year-old Alfie Evans suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition and has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

On Monday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to intervene in what has been a highly sensitive and complicated case, paving the way for Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Evans has been receiving care, to shut off the infant's life support.

After receiving the ruling from the ECHR Monday morning, the hospital scheduled Evans to be taken off life support later that day. However, according to Italian daily Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops, Evans' parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, were able to receive a last minute delay in order to clarify an aspect of the sentence.

Crowds of protesters lined the streets in front of the hospital Monday as they waited for the ruling, while Tom sent intermittent Facebook live posts from inside the hospital.

According to the BBC, some 200 protesters attempted to storm the hospital at one point, but were stopped by police, and backed off to the opposite side of the road.

In the meantime, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti granted citizenship to Evans, in hopes that being an Italian citizen will allow the infant to be transferred to Italy immediately.

The decision comes less than one week after Alfie's father, Tom, came to the Vatican to make a personal appeal to Pope Francis on his son's behalf. In a private audience with the pope before his Wednesday general audience April 18, Tom Evans plead for asylum in Italy for his family, so that Alfie can be moved to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to receive treatment.

Pope Francis has made several appeals for Alfie, asking in his April 15 Regina Coeli address for people to pray for Alfie and others “who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

The pope also recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”

Debate surrounding the case flared up when in February the court ruled that Alder Hey Children's Hospital could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parent’s wishes. The hospital has argued that continuing treatment is not in his best interest.

Despite Tom and Kate's desire to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges ruled in the hospital's favor. The case has since drawn international attention.

 

Italy grants citizenship to Alfie Evans in attempt to guarantee his care

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Italian government granted citizenship to Alfie Evans, a seriously ill British toddler, in a last-minute effort to prevent doctors in England from withdrawing life-support.

The Italian foreign ministry, in a brief note April 23, said Angelino Alfano, the foreign minister, and Marco Minniti, the interior minister, "granted Italian citizenship to little Alfie."

"The Italian government hopes that being an Italian citizen would allow the immediate transfer of the baby to Italy," the foreign ministry said.

The baby's parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, lost their latest legal battle April 23 to prevent doctors from removing Alfie's life-support when the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene.

Doctors in the U.K. have not been able to make a definitive diagnosis of the 23-month-old child's degenerative neurological condition, but they have said keeping him on life-support would be "futile."

A high court judge backed a lower court's ruling that the hospital can go against the wishes of the family and withdraw life-support.

Tom Evans flew to Rome and met Pope Francis April 18, begging the pope to help get his son "asylum" in Italy. The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome has offered to care for Alfie. Three specialists from Bambino Gesu had flown to Liverpool and examined Alfie. According to the president of Bambino Gesu, "a positive outcome would be difficult, but the baby's suffering can be alleviated."

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Pope calls for end to 'needless bloodshed' in Nicaragua

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Cabrera, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis called for an end to violence in Nicaragua after several days of protests against proposed social security legislation led to the deaths of more than two dozen people.

"I express my closeness in prayer to that country and I am united with the bishops in asking that every form of violence end, that a pointless shedding of blood be avoided and that open issues be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility," the pope said April 22 after praying the "Regina Coeli" prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The pope said he was "very worried about what is happening these days in Nicaragua," where citizens took to the streets beginning April 18 after the government announced changes to the nation's social security system.

The proposed overhaul, which would have increased pension contributions while reducing benefits by 5 percent, was scrapped by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega April 22.

Ortega has been heavily criticized for his handling of the crisis, which led to the deaths of 25 people. But despite criticism of the overhaul coming from business leaders, university students and elderly pensioners, the president publicly blamed right-wing groups for the inciting violence.

Outrage spread after a local journalist, Angel Gahona, was shot and killed while broadcasting the protest on Facebook Live. A police officer was also shot in the head during deadly clashes in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

Nicaragua's Catholic bishops called for peaceful demonstrations and sheltered protesters in the cathedral of Managua.

Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Jose Baez of Managua has been outspoken in his support of student protesters who have been targeted. In an April 22 tweet, he urged the president to engage in constructive dialogue.

"President Daniel Ortega, abandon your arrogant attitude, listen to the people, embrace dialogue with sincerity, feel the pain of so many families and contribute to peace in the country," he tweeted.

Bishop Baez also tweeted that he was calling on military and police forces to end the repression against protesters and "to listen to God's voice in their hearts: 'Thou shall not kill!"

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Francis shares a sweet treat with Rome's poor for feast of St. George

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- I-scream, you-scream, Pope Francis screamed... 'gelato!' on the feast of his patron saint, George, offering some 3,000 ice creams to homeless served in Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome.

Every year the pope's “onomastico,” or name-day, is celebrated as an official holiday in the Vatican. Under Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the feast is that of St. George, since Jorge is the Spanish equivalent.

And with temperatures in Rome finally starting to warm up, Francis decided to cool things down for Monday's feast, asking the papal almoner's office to provide the gelato to the poor and needy served by Catholic charitable organization, Caritas.

The papal almoner is Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who can often be seen mingling with the poor around St. Peter's Basilica.

However, the pope himself is also known to be a gelato lover, his favorite flavor being dolce de leche, according to the Vatican cookbook. An Argentine classic, dolce de leche is essentially the Latin American version of caramel, but richer.

In the past, other papal gelato favorites included classic Italian flavor 'cassata Siciliana' for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, which is made with chocolate, strawberry and mango ice cream. John Paul II, on the other hand, reportedly indulged in 'marron glacé' gelato from Rome's Gelateria Giolitti, which is ice cream flavored with candied chestnuts.

In addition to Monday's sweet treat, Pope Francis often makes similar gestures for Rome's poor, whether it's a trip to the circus, a tour of the Vatican museums or a pizza party lunch on his birthday.

In the past he has also taken homeless to the beach during the hot summer months, and with temperatures this year expected to exceed the burning weather of 2017, it's possible another outing will take place in the coming months.

Could a California bill ban Christian teaching on homosexuality?

Sacramento, Calif., Apr 22, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A proposed law in California could have a chilling effect on free speech, warn critics who fear that it could ban efforts to explain and promote Christian teaching on sexual morality.

“The broad reach of AB 2942 leaves even simple religious speech on same-sex attraction or activities open to legal action and impinges on the basic human right of freedom of religion,” said the California Catholic Conference in a statement.

Assembly Bill 2943, which passed through the California State Assembly on Thursday, would make any transaction relating to practice to change someone’s sexual orientation unlawful. The bill now will go to the California State Senate.

AB 2943 seeks to amend the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CRLA), a law that protects consumers from sellers who are mischaracterizing their product or service.

The bill would ban advertising or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts. It defines such efforts as “any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

The inclusion of “efforts to change behaviors” as a banned activity has led some critics to fear that the bill could be used to prohibit the promotion of Christian sexual morality - through books, counseling, or teaching.

The California Catholic Conference (CCC) has voiced opposition to the bill, and released a letter on its website urging Californians to contact their legislators to prevent it from becoming law.

The conference is concerned that the bill’s definitions are too broad, and seek to prevent adults from making decisions for themselves.

“AB 2943 would take something completely intangible - ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ – and add it to the CRLA,” the conference said.

Further, given that conversion therapy is already illegal for people under the age of 18 in the state, the California Catholic Conference questioned, “why would proponents wish to take away the freedom of adults to seek counselling” for issues regarding sexual orientation or behavior.

These concerns were echoed by Bill May of the Marriage Reality Movement, who told CNA that he feels the bill is “absurd” and inhibits the ability of people spreading “the Gospel’s universal call for repentance and changes in behavior.” May believes that if the bill were to become law, it could result in legal issues for preachers who discuss sexuality.

“Passage would lead to more harassment and possible legal challenges against preaching, literature, conferences and organizations that address sexual morality," said May.

 

Pope Francis to new priests: Be like Jesus the Good Shepherd

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God.

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22.

“Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”

The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador.

As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.”

It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.”

He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.”

“[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.”

Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter.

In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian.

“I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said.

Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion.

They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’”

Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.”

“He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”

Catholics likely to outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland by 2021

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Apr 22, 2018 / 04:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What would have been unthinkable 100 years ago in Northern Ireland will likely soon become a reality - Catholics will outnumber Protestants.  

Historically in Ireland, Catholics have desired independence for Ireland, while Protestants, who congregated in Northern Ireland, have wanted to maintain political ties to the United Kingdom.

This is still generally the case, though not without some significant exceptions on both sides. Still, the fact that Catholics may outnumber Protestants in the country by 2021 - 100 years after the country was founded - is remarkable.

Dr. Paul Nolan, who studies the social trends of Northern Ireland, told BBC News: "Three years from now we will end up, I think, in the ironic situation on the centenary of the state where we actually have a state that has a Catholic majority."

According to the last census in 2011, Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Northern Ireland by just three percent. More recent numbers show a Catholic majority in every age group of the population, except for those over 60. Among school-aged children, Catholics outnumber Protestants by a wide margin - 51 percent to 37 percent.

Nolan said that unionism - the political ideology of those in Northern Ireland who wish to maintain their political ties with the U.K. - is still possible, though unionists should be aware of this demographic shift.

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Last year, threats against Catholics in Northern Ireland have forced several families to flee their homes.

Mary Lou McDonald is president of the Sinn Féin party, which strongly supports nationalism, or an independent, united Ireland.

McDonald said she welcomed the discussion about what this shift in religious demographics could mean for Ireland.

“Of course unionists have to be at home in a new Ireland,” McDonald told the BBC. “So, yes, let's have the discussion.”

Encouragement a strong factor in priesthood discernment, study finds

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A strong majority of the 430 men who are about to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the United States come from families where both parents were Catholic, and had several friends encouraging them in their vocation.


The findings were from the annual survey of new ordinands by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate out of Georgetown University. Out of the 430 men to be ordained to the priesthood, 334 responded to the survey, including 252 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood and 78 ordinands to the religious priesthood.

While this year’s priesthood ordination class is slightly smaller than last year’s class of 590, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said the report provides “reasons for hope and areas for growth.”

"Although the overall number of ordinations to the Priesthood is lower this year, the information gathered from this survey and the generosity of those to be ordained continues to inform the important work of vocations ministry for the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said in a statement.

“It is essential that we continue to make the conscious effort to encourage young men to be open to hearing God's call in their life and assist them in the discernment process."

Encouragement from priests, parishioners and friends was a key factor in considering the priesthood for many of this year’s ordination class.

According to the survey, nearly nine in ten responding ordinands (86 percent) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life - usually by a parish priest, friend, or another parishioner. On average, respondents said about four different people in their lives encouraged them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

Father Ralph O'Donnell, Executive Director of the Secretariat for the USCCB, said that this was “one of the most encouraging statistics” from the report and that it should be a call to all the faithful to encourage vocations.

“This fact should enliven in the faithful a resolve to actively encourage the young people that they encounter to consider to what vocation God is calling them and to be generous in their response," he said in a statement.

The survey also found that most of the men being ordained this year were baptized Catholic as infants (90 percent) and that most also grew up in families where both parents were Catholic (83 percent). Slightly more than one-third of the respondents are also related to priests, the survey found.

This year’s class also included slightly more respondents who were born in the United States. In previous years, the average amount of foreign-born ordinands was around 30 percent, while only 25 percent of the 2018 ordination class is foreign-born. Of that 25 percent, the majority come from Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Colombia.

Many of the ordinands also had prior undergraduate school or work experiences before entering the seminary. The survey found that nearly half of all of this year’s class had completed an undergraduate degree before entering the seminary, with the most common areas of study being social science, theology, philosophy, business, or liberal arts. Two-thirds of the men also reported previous full-time work experience before entering the seminary.

Also included in the report were the ordinands’ answers to the prompt - “People might be surprised to know…”

Edgar Elamparo, of the Diocese of San Jose, responded with a story about going off to seminary.

“Before my family sent me off to the seminary, I saw my uncle in front of our house with tears in his eyes. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ He replied, ‘When you were young, I asked you what would you want to become when you grow up? and you said, I want to become a priest, and now here, you are on your way to your dream.’”

Brett Garland of the Diocese of Columbus said he “preached at my twin brother's wedding just two months after I was ordained a deacon, and I will be the celebrant of my older brother's wedding this summer, just a month after I am ordained a priest.  By living out their particular vocations, both of my brothers have encouraged me in my own vocation.”

This year’s survey was conducted between Jan. 29 - March 11 via email. The findings of the annual CARA survey are sent to the USCCB’s Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Christians must help others meet Jesus, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.

 

“The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.

 

“It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”

 

Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Pope Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”

 

This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”

 

Pope Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.

 

Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”

 

The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.

 

“It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”

 

The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”

 

“In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.

 

Laywomen among new CDF appointees

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests.

The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

The other two new consultors are Fr. Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Fr. Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University.

While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is headed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., and consultors include cardinals, bishops, priests, canon lawyers, and lay theologians.

One of its newest members, Dr. Linda Ghisoni, has held a position within the Vatican since November 2017, when Pope Francis appointed her a sub-secretary and the head of the section on laity, for the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome. In addition to teaching canon law at the Gregorian, she is a professor of law at Roma Tre University.

She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany.

In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotary Attorney at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge.

She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated).

Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters.

Dr. Michelina Tenace, 63, is from San Marco, Italy and a consecrated woman. After studying philosophy in France, she received a degree in foreign literature from Sapienza University in Rome and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University with a dissertation on Vladimir Soloviev.

She now teaches theology at the Gregorian University, including classes on spiritual theology, theological anthropology, the Council of Nicea, and Eastern Churches. She is also a staff member of the Ezio Aletti Study and Research Center, which supports Christian scholars and artists from Eastern Europe.

Tenace’s publications include numerous articles, as well as ten books, which have been translated into various languages. She was also named a member of the commission to study the female diaconate by Pope Francis in 2016.

Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, 42, was born in Brussels in 1975 and became a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Paris on June 23, 2013. She has worked as a palliative care nurse, a retreat organizer for youth, and a Catholic religion teacher, among other ministries.

Calmeyn received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2002 from the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Her dissertation was on theological principles and foundations of morality according to the work of Jesuit Fr. Albert Chapelle.

Since 2009 she has been a theology lecturer at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.