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Pope dedicates videomessage to Italian educator

5 hours 1 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to a festival organised to promote books and reading, which is taking place in Milan from 19 to 23 April. The videomessage is dedicated to Don Lorenzo Milani, the prior of Barbiana, and writer of many works including “letter to a professor”. The Italian priest is also being remembered at the event entitled “Time for Books”. In the videomessage the Holy Father describes Don Milani as a believer, in love with the Church even though he was hurt, and a passionate educator with a vision for  school life. He goes on to say that “going to school means opening the mind and heart to reality, to the richness of its aspects, its dimensions.” The Pope adds that Don Milani displayed a spiritual restlessness, fueled by love for Christ, the Gospel, the Church, society, and school, which he increasingly dreamed of as a "field hospital" to help the wounded, and to help make the lives of the marginalized and discarded better.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Regina Caeli: With Mercy violence and rancor have no sense

10 hours 56 min ago
(Vatican Radio) In his Angelus address in a sunny St Peter’s Square, Pope France recalled the Church tradition of calling the first Sunday after Easter “in albis”, an expression he said, meant to recall the rite of those who had received baptism in white on the Easter Vigil. The Pope went on to say that  in the Jubilee of Year of 2000, St. John Paul II established that this particular Sunday was to be dedicated to Divine Mercy. Listen to our report: In the last months, the Holy Father said, “we have concluded the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and this Sunday invites us to resume the grace that comes from the mercy of God.” Drawing inspiration from the  Gospel reading of the day, the Holy Father  reminded those present of Jesus’ words, "receive the Holy Spirit. Those to whom you will forgive sins will be forgiven ". Here is the sense of the mercy, the forgiving of sins, noted Pope Francis, “that occurs on the day of the resurrection of Jesus.” The Risen Jesus, he continued  has sent to his Church, as a first task, his own mission to bring to everyone the concrete announcement of forgiveness. This visible sign of his mercy brings with him the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord. Mercy said the Pope, makes us realize that violence, rancor, and revenge have no sense. Mercy also opens the door of the heart and allows us to express our closeness, above all to those who are alone and marginalized. Mercy, in short, said Pope Francis is everyone committed to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy, he concluded, is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form in which we give visibility to the resurrection of Jesus. Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father remembered the Beatification in Oviedo, Spain on Saturday of Father Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières an educator who lived in the nineteenth century, and founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Guardian Angel. The Pope also greeted Polish pilgrims on the Feast of Divine Mercy and thanked Caritas Poland for their support of so many families in Syria.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: 'martyrs are the living blood of the Church'

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 12:03
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday paid tribute to modern day martyrs whom he said “are the living blood of the Church". The Pope was presiding over a Liturgy of the Word at the Church of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber , a shrine to the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Speaking during his homily , the Pope had words of closeness for the many Christian communities being persecuted today “because of the hatred of the spirit of this world”. “How often, he said, in difficult moments of history, have we heard it said: ‘Today our country needs heroes’.? Likewise, we can ask, ‘Today what does our Church need?’ Martyrs, witnesses, that is, everyday saints of ordinary life, lives lived coherently; but we also need those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses until the end, until death”. He said that martyrs are “the witnesses who carry forward the Church; those who witness to the fact that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is alive, who witness to Him with coherent lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received as a gift”. And, speaking off-the-cuff the Pope turned his attention to refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of their faith and said that many, today, find themselves in refugee camps, many of which he said, are like concentration camps, while international agreements seem to be more important than human rights.     Please find below Vatican Radio’s the full translation of the Pope’s homily : We have come as pilgrims to this Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island, where the ancient history of martyrdom joins the memory of the new martyrs, of many Christians killed by the insane ideologies of the last century, and killed only because they were disciples of Jesus. The memory of these heroic, old and recent witnesses confirms us in the awareness that the Church is a Church of martyrs. And martyrs are those who, as the Book of Revelation reminds us, "Are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They had the grace to confess Jesus until the end, until death. They suffered, they gave their lives, and we receive the blessing of God for their witness. And there are also many hidden martyrs, those men and women who are faithful to the gentle strength of love, to the voice of the Holy Spirit, those who in their daily lives seek to help their brothers and sisters and to love God without reserve. If we look hard, we can see that the cause of every persecution is the hatred of the prince of this world toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus through His death and resurrection. In the Gospel we just heard (cf. Jn 15: 12-19), Jesus uses a strong and frightening word: the word "hatred". He, who is the master of love, who so enjoyed talking about love, speaks of hatred. But he always liked to call things by their name. And he tells us, "Do not be afraid! The world will hate you; but know that before it hated you, it hated me. " Jesus chose us and redeemed us as a free gift of His love. With His death and resurrection He redeemed us from the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world. And the origin of hatred is this: since we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of the world does not want that, he hates us and encourages persecution, which from the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church continues to this day. How many Christian communities are being persecuted today! Why? Because of the hatred of the spirit of this world. How often, in difficult moments of history, have we heard it said: "Today our country needs heroes."? Likewise, we can ask, "Today what does our Church need?" Martyrs, witnesses, that is, everyday saints of ordinary life, lives lived coherently; but we also need those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses until the end, until death. All these are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry forward the Church; those who witness to the fact that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is alive, who witness to Him with coherent lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received as a gift. Remembering these witnesses of the faith and praying in this place is a great gift. It is a gift for the Community of Sant'Egidio, for the Church in Rome, for all the Christian communities of this city, and for so many pilgrims. The living legacy of martyrs today gives us peace and unity. They teach us that with the strength of love, with gentleness, one can fight against arrogance, violence, and war - and that peace can be achieved with patience.  And so we can pray: O Lord, make us worthy witnesses of the Gospel and of your love; pour out your mercy upon humanity; renew your Church, protect persecuted Christians, grant peace to the whole world, soon. (from Vatican Radio)...

Testimonies of family and friends of the "New Martyrs"

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 11:48
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ visit to the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew on the Tiber Island (San Bartolomeo all’Isola) featured a Liturgy of the Word for the Vigil of the “New Martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries. During the Liturgy, family members and friends of three of the many new “witnesses of the faith” offered their testimonies about the witness of their loved ones: Karl Schneider, the son of Reformed Church pastor Paul Schneider, who was killed in Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald; Roselyne, the sister of Fr Jacques Hamel, killed by radical Islamists in France last year; and Francisco Hernandez Guevara, a friend of William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009. Mementos of all three martyrs are preserved by the Sant’ Egidio Community at the Basilica. Karl Schneider said his father Paul worked to maintain “a Christian orientation” in German society during the Nazi era. Paul Schneider, he said, was killed because he knew that the goals of National Socialism were irreconcilable with the words of the Bible. Despite his age – he was 85 years old when he was murdered – Père Jacques Hamel was “strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for the people” – including, his sister said, even his murderers. Finally, William Quijano, who organized “Schools for Peace” in El Salvador, “never spoke of repression or revenge against the violent gangs in his country. His friend, Francisco Guevara, said Quijano “never gave up teaching peace… His commitment broke the chain of violence.” Below, please find the prepared testimonies of the family and friends of the “new martyrs”: Testimony of Karl A. Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, Reformed Church pastor, killed at Buchenwald on 18 July 1939 Holy Father, dear Sant’Egidio community, dear Christian community, I want to offer heartfelt thanks for the great honour you paid today to my father Paul Schneider, and for the fact that my daughter and I are able to be here. My father was killed in 1939 at the Buchenwald concentration camp because for him the goals of National Socialism were irreconcilable with the words of the Bible. The Church has the task of watching over the State. With this conviction, my father strongly opposed any attempt to influence the Church politically. He committed himself so that the German people might maintain a Christian orientation in the state and in society. All of us, even today, make too many compromises, but my father remained faithful only to the Lord and to the faith. He was a shepherd and a spiritual guide – even in the concentration camp! Until the end, whenever possible, despite torture and suffering, he cried with courage from the window of his cell in the bunker words of consolation and hope of the Bible to other prisoners. This is why he was called “the Preacher of Buchenwald.”   And he did not forget us, his family. In a letter from the concentration camp kept in this church, my father strongly affirms his faith in the Easter victory of life. And he writes knowing that my mother, I, my brothers and sisters, are also under the protection of God. My mother's words, even when she was very old, were: “He was chosen to proclaim the Gospel and this is my consolation.” I, as his son, feel this consolation to this day. Reading from Revelation 7:11-14): Lector : And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ***** Testimony of Roselyne, sister of Père Jacques Hamel, killed in Rouen, 26 July 2016 Holy Father, last year, on July 26, my brother, Jacques Hamel, was killed at the end of the Mass he had just celebrated at Sant’Etienne de Rouvray in Normandy. Jacques was 85 years old when two young men, radicalized by hate speech, thought they would commit a heroic act by turning murderous violence. At his age Jacques was frail, but he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for the people, whoever they might be – and, I’m certain, for his killers as well. As your Holiness said in memory of Jacques, in this difficult time he did not lose his presence of mind when, from the altar, he accused the true author of the persecution: “Begone Satan!” Truly, “killing in the name of God is always satanic.” His death is in line with his priestly life, which was a “given” life: a life offered to the Lord when he said “yes” at the time of his ordination, a life serving the Gospel, a life given to the Church and for the people, especially for the poorest, whom he always served on the outskirts of Rouen. There is a paradox: he who never wanted to be spotlight bore witness to the entire world, [a witness] whose cannot yet be measured. We have lived the reaction of all those Christians who have not yet preached revenge or hatred, but love and forgiveness; we have seen it in the solidarity of Muslims who wanted to visit the Sunday assemblies after his death; we have seen it in France, which has shown its unity around the tenderness for this priest. For us, his family, there is surely pain and emptiness. But it is a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, and how much love has been generated by Jacques’s witness. As he wrote, “Our vocation is to participate in building a new fraternity in a new world context.” Yes, Jacques, my brother, with his life wanted to live as a brother with all those who had been entrusted to him; with his death he became to all. Last September we accompanied Jacques’ breviary which is now preserved in this Basilica, and we are deeply grateful for the memory of the witnesses of the faith here and for the solidarity [we experienced]. May Jacques’ sacrifice bear fruit, that men and women of our time might find the way to live together in peace. ***** Witness of Francisco Hernandez Guevara , friend of William Quijano, killed in El Salvador on 28 September 2009 Holy Father, my name is Francisco Guevara, and I come from El Salvador in Central America. I am absolutely certain: Love and friendship enlarge the heart; William, too, had a heart enlarged by hope, and this was his strength. He loved life, and in his friendly way he attracted many young people and children to the “School of Peace.” And on September 28, 2009, he was killed. What was his crime? He dreamed of a world of peace. William never gave up teaching peace; indeed his commitment broke the chain of violence. He said, “The world is full of violence, so we must work for peace, beginning with children. We must have the courage to be teachers, because a country without schools or teachers is a country without a future and without hope. The Schools of Peace are sanctuaries that place a barrier in the way of violence and poverty. Security is not only achieved with firmness, but with love.” He spoke to everyone about his dream: “We have the heart [ anime ], the intelligence and the strength to put ourselves to work. And prayer will sustain us.” It is surprising that William never spoke of repression or revenge against maras (as the gangs are called Salvador), but insisted on the need for a change of mindset. For everyone. In the children, first of all; and he sought to give them affection in order to show that with the study they could progress, they could have a future – [but he also saw the need for a change in attitude] in young people, in adults. He had effected just such a change in himself. He could have been one of the many who said, “No, nothing can be done here.” But instead he entered so profoundly into the dream of the Community, the dream of a new humanity, that he wanted to live it to the full. Children could and should change; young people could and should change. What happened to William, although it is tragic, makes us believe that another Latin America can be built, free from the nightmare of the maras . In the existential periphery, William bore witness to his hope in a different world, based on the Gospel and on more human values, on the centrality of closeness. This is the great gift of the small life of William Alfredo Quijano Zetino, my friend.   (from Vatican Radio)...

19th century French priest beatified in Spain: Louis Antoine Ormières

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 05:52
(Vatican Radio)  The 19th century French priest Louis Antoine Ormières was beatified in the Spanish town of Oviedo on Saturday by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Founder of the Sisters of the Guardian Angel and 87 schools in France and Spain, Fr. Ormières (1809-1890) dedicated his life to providing education for young people. “My principle has always been to do good and allow others to speak” was Blessed Ormières’ oft repeated phrase. In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Giada Aquilino, Cardinal Angelo Amato called the new Blessed “an enterprising man and a born educator with a personality rich in Christian virtues, like faith, hope, and charity, and in human qualities, like goodness, gratitude, serenity, and friendship.” As examples of Blessed Louis Antoine Ormières’ charity, Cardinal Amato said he “once defended a man unjustly accused of theft, offered hospitality to exiles from Spain, pleaded with well-off people to help a young man who had to take care of his family at the death of his father, and helped out a single mother of two young boys.” “He was so generous in helping the sick that his bishop called him a martyr of charity,” Cardinal Amato said. The miracle attributed to Fr. Ormières, which paved the way for his beatification, was of one of the Spanish sisters of the Guardian Angel who was suffering from a maxillofacial cancer. Pope Francis recognized the miracle in a decree on 8 July 2016. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican's message to Buddhists on Vesakh

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 05:25
  The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on Saturday, issued a message on the occasion of the Buddhist feast of Vesakh on the theme ‘Christians and Buddhists: Walking Together on the Path of Nonviolence’. The Message signed by Council President, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Council Secretary, Fr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ emphasizes the urgent need to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence as both these values were promoted by Jesus Christ and the Buddha. The text reiterates how Jesus walked the path of nonviolence to the very end, to the cross and calls his followers  today to embrace his teaching about nonviolence.  Buddha also heralded the same message and encouraged all to overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth. Therefore the message calls for a  common enterprise, to study the causes of violence, combat violence  and to pray for world peace while walking together on the path of nonviolence. The full text of the message is here below : Message FOR THE FEAST OF VESAKH 2017 Vatican City   Dear Buddhist Friends, In the name of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, we extend our warmest greetings and prayerful good wishes on the occasion of Vesakh . May this feast bring joy and peace to all of you, to your families, communities and nations. We wish to reflect this year on the urgent need to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence. Religion is increasingly at the fore in our world today, though at times in opposing ways. While many religious believers are committed to promoting peace, there are those who exploit religion to justify their acts of violence and hatred. We see healing and reconciliation offered to victims of violence, but also attempts to erase every trace and memory of the “other”; there is the emergence of global religious cooperation, but also politicization of religion; and, there is an awareness of endemic poverty and world hunger, yet the deplorable arms race continues. This situation requires a call to nonviolence, a rejection of violence in all its forms. Jesus Christ and the Buddha were promotors of nonviolence as well as peacemakers. As Pope Francis writes, “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet, he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ ( Mk 7:21)” (2017 Message for the World Day of Peace, Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace , no. 3). He further emphasises that “Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16)” (ibid .) . Accordingly, “to be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence” (ibid.). Dear friends, your founder, the Buddha also heralded a message of nonviolence and peace. He encouraged all to “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.” ( Dhammapada , no. XVII, 3). He taught further that “Victory begets enmity; the defeated dwell in pain. Happily the peaceful live, discarding both victory and defeat.” (ibid . XV, 5). Therefore, he noted that the self-conquest is greater than the conquest of others: “Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself” (ibid , VIII, 4). In spite of these noble teachings, many of our societies grapple with the impact of past and present wounds caused by violence and conflicts. This phenomenon includes domestic violence, as well as  economic, social, cultural and psychological violence, and violence against the environment, our common home. Sadly, violence begets other social evils, and so “the choice of nonviolence as a style of life is increasingly demanded in the exercise of responsibility at every level […] ” ( Address of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Letters of Credence , 15 December 2016). Though we recognize the uniqueness of our two religions, to which we remain committed, we agree that violence comes forth from the human heart, and that personal evils lead to structural evils. We are therefore called to a common enterprise:  to study the causes of violence: to teach our respective followers to combat evil within their hearts;  to liberate both victims and perpetrators of violence from evil; to bring evil to light and challenge those who foment violence;  to form the hearts and minds of all, especially of children, to love and live in peace with everyone and with the environment; to teach that there is no peace without justice, and no true justice without forgiveness; to invite all to work together in  preventing  conflicts and rebuilding broken societies;  to urge the media to avoid and counter hate speech, and biased and provocative reporting; to encourage educational reforms to prevent the distortion and misinterpretation of history and of scriptural texts;  and to pray for world peace while walking together on the path of nonviolence. Dear friends, may we actively dedicate ourselves to promoting within our families, and social, political, civil and religious institutions a new style of living where violence is rejected and the human person is respected. It is in this spirit that we wish you once again a peaceful and joyful feast of Vesakh ! Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran                President                                                                              Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ                                                                                                     Secretary     (from Vatican Radio)...

St Egidio church honours memory of modern day martyrs

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 05:02
(Vatican Radio) The memory of the modern martyrs , killed for their Christian faith over the past century, will be honoured on Saturday evening as Pope Francis presides at a prayer service in Rome’s Basilica of St Bartholomew on the Tiber island . The initiative, organised by the lay Catholic St Egidio community , also aims to highlight the difficulties and discrimination that many Christians still face in countries around the world today as they try and witness to their faith. Altars in six chapels around the church display objects such as letters, prayer books and other personal possessions recalling the witness of men and women from many countries and different Christian traditions who have laid down their lives for their faith. Claudio Betti is a professor of modern history and assistant to the St Egidio community president. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the church of St Bartholomew and about the importance of sharing the memory of these modern day martyrs Listen:  Betti notes that the basilica is dedicated to two ancient martyrs, St Bartholomew the apostle and the 10th century Bohemian missionary St Adalbert. In the 1990s the church was given to the St Egidio community and in the year 2000 Pope John Paul II decided to dedicate it to the memory of the modern martyrs. St Egidio’s founder Andrea Riccardi and other members had already been collecting together for publication thousands of dossiers and objects that were then incorporated into the altars around the church. Relics of the martyrs The first object they were given was the last letter written by Reformed Pastor Paul Schneider , killed in the Buchenwald Nazi death camp for refusing to stop proclaiming Christ as Saviour. A more modern relic is the missal with which Archbishop Oscar Romero had been celebrating Mass when he was murdered in San Salvador in 1980. Most recent of all is the prayer book of French Father Jacques Hamel , killed during a terror attack on his church near Rouen in July of last year. During Saturday’s celebration Fr Jacques’ sister will speak about his witness of faith. Prayer service features testimonies Claudio Betti notes there will be three different testimonies during the simple liturgy on Saturday: alongside Fr Jacques’ sister will be the son of Rev. Schneider, and a young man from El Salvador where community member  William Quijano was murdered in 2009 for trying to help people escape from the criminal gangs. Following the readings and homily of Pope Francis, there will be prayers for these modern martyrs, as well as for those who are considered martyrs, such as two Orthodox bishops Mar Gregorios Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi,as well as Fr Paolo del Oglio, who were kidnapped in Syria by ISIS and have not been heard of since. Blood of martyrs unites Christians Betti also underlines the ecumenical dimension of these martyrs, noting that the specially commissioned icon on the main altar makes clear that martyrdom is what unites Christians. In the blood of the martyrs, he says, unity is already achieved, such as the Catholic and Orthodox bishops who worked and were killed together in the Soviet gulags. Betti says the message of the martyrs is very clear, showing that unity is more important than individual lives and ambitions. While the martyrs were not looking for death, he says, they show that there are things worth dying for. The memories of their lives tell stories of people who have served the poor and marginalized until death, calling us back to what Christianity really means. (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See ‘deeply concerned’ over Middle East situation

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 09:25
(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See has expressed deep concern over the current situation in the Middle East and reiterated its support for a two-state solution in Palestine. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, made the comments in an address to the Security Council. Citing the “resent use of chemical agents in Syria” and the “Palm Sunday terrorist bombings in Egypt”, Archbishop Auza said, “The Holy See is deeply concerned with the current situation in the Middle East.” He lauded Lebanon for “heroically” hosting millions of refugees from neighboring countries and territories in conflict. In addition to this burden, he said Lebanon is also facing the threat of militias and armed groups operating within its territories. Turning to the situation in Palestine, Archbishop Auza said, “Since 1947, the Holy See has constantly supported the two-state solution for the State of Israel and a Palestinian State to exist side by side in peace. The Holy See wishes to reiterate its belief that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties, with the strong and effective support of the international community.” He warned against “unilateral decisions, acts of violence and inflammatory rhetoric” and said, “Pope Francis calls on both parties to listen to the voices of dialogue, show goodwill and extend gestures of encounter to give their peoples that peace for which their hearts deeply long.” Please find below the full text of Archbishop Auza’s address: Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on " The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question" 20 April 2017 Madam President, Some heinous acts of late have plunged some areas of the Middle East further into violent chaos and new lows of barbarism. The recent use of chemical agents in Syria once again constitutes a gross violation of international humanitarian law and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Palm Sunday terrorist bombings in Egypt and the attack on fleeing refugees were abominable attacks against innocent civilians gathered in prayer in sacred places or trying to escape violence and as such were attacks against the very foundation of human dignity and rights. My Delegation extends its sincere condolences to the families of those whose loved ones have been slaughtered and offers prayerful good wishes to those who survived the attacks and their families. Madam President, The Holy See is deeply concerned with the current situation in the Middle East. Lebanon is heroically bearing the burden of hosting millions of refugees from neighboring countries and territories in conflict. In addition to the impacts of this heavy burden, its stability is also threatened by armed groups. In order to stabilize Lebanon, the Security Council adopted resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701, calling for the disarming of all armed non-state actors. Yet militias and groups armed and funded by outside sources remain active beyond the control of the Lebanese authorities. Parallel situations exist in neighboring territories and countries, where terrorist groups and other armed non-state actors operate, plunging the region deeper into un-governability, persecuting ethnic and religious minority groups and trampling fundamental human rights. Madam President, Since 1947, the Holy See has constantly supported the two-state solution for the State of Israel and a Palestinian State to exist side by side in peace. The Holy See wishes to reiterate its belief that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians can move forward only if it is directly negotiated between the Parties, with the strong and effective support of the international community. Only sustained negotiations in good faith will resolve differences and bring peace to the peoples of Israel and Palestine. Leaders and citizens on both sides must have the foresight and courage to make fair concessions, because an agreement would be impossible as long as mutually excluding and impossible demands remain. There is no alternative to a negotiated settlement, if both Israel and Palestine are to enjoy security, prosperity and peaceful co-existence, side by side with internationally recognized borders. Pope Francis assures all of his efforts and prayers that the deep wounds dividing Israelis and Palestinians may experience healing. Unilateral decisions, acts of violence and inflammatory rhetoric can only further deepen wounds, intensify hatred and widen divisions, making negotiations more difficult and reconciliation more distant. Pope Francis calls on both parties to listen to the voices of dialogue, show goodwill and extend gestures of encounter to give their peoples that peace for which their hearts deeply long. Madam President, Twisted religious claims mixed with irredentist ideologies contribute to the bloodshed in the Region. Unimaginably barbaric acts are being perpetrated supposedly in the name of God or religion. Ethnic and religious minority groups who for millennia have peacefully coexisted with the Muslim majority communities have been targeted by extremists. Their cultural and historical patrimony has been destroyed, threatening to annihilate every trace of their long-standing presence in the Region. The Holy See urges the International Community, through the Security Council, not to forget them and to intensify efforts to spare them from the genocidal scourge of violent terrorist groups and other non-state actors. The Holy See urges religious leaders to speak out forcefully against such terror and to act to control effectively their followers who are reprehensibly claiming to act in God’s name by means of terror. No religious leader should tolerate using religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom. In this regard, in February this year Al-Azhar and the Holy See held a discussion in Cairo on countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion. Moreover, the Holy See calls upon the arms suppliers to act in accord with internationally agreed upon norms for weapons sales. The blood of innocent civilians cries out against the unchecked flow of arms in the Region. The Holy See cannot stress enough how much the disregard of treaties that regulate arms trade and transfer contributes to armed conflict, crime, acts of terrorism and the displacement of people, which, in turn, undermine peace and security, stability and sustainable development. It cannot underline strongly enough that the vast majority of persons adversely affected by armed conflict and other forms of armed violence are civilians and cannot ignore how often these weapons are used to attack civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals, water and food facilities. Madam President, My delegation wishes to close its remarks with the prayer of Pope Francis after recent attacks in Egypt and Syria: “May the Lord convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death” and “may he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade”. Pope Francis’s scheduled visit to Egypt on April 28 and 29 would like to stress once again that there is no greater antidote to violence and hatred than dialogue and encounter. Thank you, Madam President. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican Museums launches “Museums at Work” initiative

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 07:51
(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican Museums have launched a new scientific-cultural initiative entitled “Museums at Work” to show visitors the process of restoring a work of art. Taking place over the coming months in Room XVII of the Vatican Pinacoteca, the “Museums at Work” programme seeks to show the public “the everyday activities of the Pope’s Museums”. The initiative presents the restoration of the triptych of “The Virgin bestows her belt to Saint Thomas, The Mass of Saint Gregory, and Saint Jerome Penitent” (1497) by Viterbo Antonio del Massaro. The Vatican Museums’ website says the triptych is “a painting possibly destined for an important Roman monastic community with strong doctrinal interests and particular devotion to the Virgin and to the Fathers of the Church.” Restoration efforts for the triptych were financed by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to pay tribute to modern day martyrs

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 07:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will celebrate a Liturgy of the Word in memory of the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries on Easter Saturday. The commemoration is to take place in the Rome Basilica of St. Bartholomew together with members of the Community of Sant’Egidio who look after the Basilica’s Shrine to the memory of modern martyrs.   In a statement Sant’Egidio remarked that the event takes on a very special significance in times marked by the suffering of so many Christians in the world, and in the light of Easter. Listen to the report by Linda Bordon i: St. Bartholomew is not a parish Church but, as per the request of Saint Pope John Paul II in 1999, it serves as a shrine to men and women who died in defense of their faith during totalitarian regimes and Latin American dictatorships as well as more recent martyrs of terrorism. During the course of the liturgy friends and relatives of some modern martyrs will give testimonies. They include Karl Schneider, son of Paul, the Reformed Church Pastor killed in the nazi concentration camp Buchenwald in 1939 for having described the objectives of nazi Germany as “irreconcilable with the words of the Bible”; Roselyne, sister of Father Jacques Hamel, assassinated in Rouen, France, on 26 July  last year while celebrating Holy Mass, and  Francisco Hernandez Guevara, friend of William Quijano, a young member of the Sant’Egidio Community in Salvador who was killed in 2009 while working to keep young people away from criminal rings. After the homily, Pope Francis will pay tribute to the six chapels in the Basilica where the relics of the martyrs are kept. During the liturgy a candle will be lit for every prayer recited in their memory. These include Armenians and other Christians who were victims of massacres perpetrated during World War I, martyrs of peace and dialogue like the Trappist monks of Notre Dame de l’Atlas in Algeria, Don Andrea Santoro who was gunned down in Turkey, Don Pino Puglisi who was killed by the Mafia and many many missionaries who lost their lives in defense of their faith. Well-known names like that of San Salvador bishop Oscar Romero will resonate together with many less famous ones and a special prayer will be said for Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, Paul Yazigi and father Paolo Dall’Oglio, all of them abducted in Syria and of whom all traces have been lost.         After the liturgy Pope Francis will meet with a group of refugees who have found welcome in Rome thanks to the “humanitarian corridors” project promoted by Sant’Egidio, with women victims of human trafficking and with young migrants who have travelled to Italy unaccompanied. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at audience: Christian hope is born on Easter morning

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 07:46
(Vatican Radio) Our faith was born with the Risen Jesus on Easter morning. That was Pope Francis message at his General Audience on Wednesday as he continued his catechesis on the meaning of our Christian hope. Listen to our report :  Reflecting on the words of St Paul to the early Christian community in Corinth, the Pope said Jesus himself is our hope and his resurrection is the event that grounds our faith. Without it, he said, Christianity would be a mere human philosophy and Jesus would simply be another great religious figure. Pope Francis said our belief is based on the testimony of those who encountered the risen Christ, from Saint Peter and the group of the twelve disciples, to Saint Paul, who was converted by his dramatic meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Following that encounter, Paul, who previously persecuted Christians, becomes instead an apostle of the faith. Faith is a surprise, a grace The Pope said that encountering Christ in faith is always a surprise; it is a grace given to those whose hearts are open.  It overturns our comfortable existence and opens us to an unexpected future, sowing life and light in place of death and sorrow.  Even though we are all sinners, he said, we too can go to the tomb, see the stone rolled away and realise that God has an unexpected future for each one of us. Jesus lives in our midst This is the reason for our Easter joy, the Pope said: in the risen Jesus, who dwells in our midst, we encounter the power of God’s love, which triumphs over death, bringing new life and undying hope. During this Easter season, he concluded, let us continue to cry from our hearts that Jesus is risen and lives among us here, today. (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 04:30
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope. Reflecting on 1Cor 15, the Holy Father said the Risen Christ is the hope of Christians, since his resurrection is the event that grounds our faith. Please find below the official English summary of the Pope's catechesis: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In these joyful days of Easter, our continuing catechesis on Christian hope looks to the Risen Jesus.  Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus himself is our hope.  His resurrection is the event that grounds our faith; without our confident belief in its historical reality, the Christian faith would be a mere human philosophy, and Jesus himself simply another great religious figure.  Our belief is based on the testimony of those who encountered the Risen Christ, from Saint Peter and the group of the Twelve to Saint Paul, who was converted by his dramatic meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Encountering Christ in faith is always a surprise; it is a grace given to those whose hearts are open.  It overturns our comfortable existence and opens us to an unexpected future, sowing life and light in place of death and sorrow.  This is the reason for our Easter joy: in the risen Jesus, who dwells in our midst, we encounter the power of God’s love, which triumphs over death and brings ever new life and undying hope. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christian communities

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 07:35
(Vatican Radio) On Easter Monday Pope Francis greeted pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, praying especially for Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace before the recitation of the Regina Coeli midday prayer, the Pope said the day’s liturgy echoes the great cry of Easter Sunday, ‘Christ is Risen, Hallelujah!’ Listen to our report:  We hear the words of the angel to the women at the tomb, saying ‘Go quickly and tell his disciples, he has been raised from the dead.” Those words are directed at us too, the Pope said, inviting us to go quickly and proclaim this message of joy and hope to the women and men of our day. The message that death and the tomb have not had the last word, but that Christ is Risen, bringing new life to all. Solidarity and welcome In light of this event, Pope Francis said, we are called to be men and women who affirm the value of life. In the midst of so much suffering in the world, he said, we will be Resurrection people if we know how to offer gestures of solidarity and welcome, strengthening the desire for peace and for a world which is free from degradation. Transformed by the Spirit Those ordinary, human gestures, sustained by faith in the Risen Lord, the Pope said, will be transformed by the Spirit and take on new strength to reach into every heart, freeing us from wretchedness and bringing hope to the suffering and oppressed. Corageous witness of faith May Mary, a silent witness to the death and Resurrection of her son Jesus, help us to be signs of the Risen Christ in the world, the Pope said. He concluded by praying in a special way for all those Christian communities that are persecuted and oppressed in different parts of the world today, saying they are called to give a particularly difficult and courageous witness to the Easter message. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Easter Sunday Mass: Hold fast to faith

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 09:04
(Vatican Radio) On Easter Sunday morning Pope Francis presided over Mass in St Peter’s Square festooned for the occasion with colourful tulips from Holland. Breaking with tradition the Pope gave an off the cuff homily encouraging Christians to keep the faith despite the wars, sickness and hatred in the world. ``The Church never ceases to say, faced with our defeats, our closed and fearful hearts, `stop, the Lord is risen.' But if the Lord is risen, how come these things happen?'' He went on to say ``Nobody asks us: `But, are you happy with all that's happening in the world?' Are you willing to go forward','' carrying a cross, as Jesus did? The Pope also noted in his impromptu homily that " in this culture of waste what is not needed is thrown away, discarded, that stone - Jesus - is discarded and is the source of life. And we too, pebbles on the ground, in this land of pain, tragedy, with faith in the Risen Christ we have a wisdom in the midst of many calamities. The wisdom to look beyond and say, "look there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross amidst this ambivalence. Look ahead, do not close in on yourself". (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: To the the city and the world

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 07:47
Vatican Radio) “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!” Those were Pope Francis’ words as he delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica on a sunny Easter Sunday. Listen to our report:    The Pope said that “by his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.” In every age, the Holy Father underlined, “the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world.  He goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.  He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery,… and takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence…” The Risen Shepherd continued Pope Francis walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes.  He also prayed that the Risen Lord would grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade. During his address the Pope prayed for peace in the Middle East especially in war torn Syria recalling Saturday's attack which killed dozens of people near the city of Aleppo, calling it "the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees". He also looked to the African Continent praying that the Good Shepherd would remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who, he said,  “endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.” Remembering too Latin America, the Pope shared his hope that it would be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes. Turning his attention to Europe the Holy Father prayed that the Risen Lord would grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people. He also made special mention of Ukraine expressing the hope  that the country, “still beset by conflict and bloodshed, would regain social harmony.” Finally, taking his leave Pope Francis said, “may Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.”               (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi message

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 06:31
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Easter Sunday gave his tradition Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message from the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica. In it he prayed that Risen Lord would walk beside those who are marginalized who are victimized by old and new forms of slavery. The Holy Father also prayed the Lord would bring peace to the Middle East, come to the aid of Ukraine, shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe and  build bridges of dialogue in Latin America.  Below is the English language translation of the Pope's Urbi et Orbi message Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!             Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”             The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment.  By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.             All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep.  But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us.  To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).             In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world.  With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life.  Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.             The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization.  He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.             He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction.  He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.             The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes.  Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.             In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace.  May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.             Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death.  May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.             May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.             May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence.  May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.             May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony.  May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.             The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe.  May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.             Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together.  With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message:  “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!”  May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.             Happy Easter! ...

Pope Francis at Easter vigil: the Lord is alive!

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 04:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning with the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the singing of the exultet , then the readings recalling the great moments in salvation history, and then the proclamation of the Good News: Christ is risen from the dead. Listen to this report: In his homily, the Holy Father said, “Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.” “If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road,” he said, “then we are not Christians.” Let us go, then,” he went on to say. “Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give.  May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps.  May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness,” of our own. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: homily at Easter Vigil, 2017

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 04:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the evening of Holy Saturday, 2017. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks, in their official English translation. ********************** Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Easter Vigil 15 April 2017 “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” ( Mt 28:1).  We can picture them as they went on their way…  They walked like people going to a cemetery, with uncertain and weary steps, like those who find it hard to believe that this is how it all ended.  We can picture their faces, pale and tearful.  And their question: can Love have truly died? Unlike the disciples, the women are present – just as they had been present as the Master breathed his last on the cross, and then, with Joseph of Arimathea, as he was laid in the tomb.  Two women who did not run away, who remained steadfast, who faced life as it is and who knew the bitter taste of injustice.  We see them there, before the tomb, filled with grief but equally incapable of accepting that things must always end this way. If we try to imagine this scene, we can see in the faces of those women any number of other faces: the faces of mothers and grandmothers, of children and young people who bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality.  In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking.  We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family.  We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles.  Their faces mirror the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams.  By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes.  By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change.  In their grief, those two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified. The faces of those women mirror many other faces too, including perhaps yours and mine.  Like them, we can feel driven to keep walking and not resign ourselves to the fact that things have to end this way.  True, we carry within us a promise and the certainty of God’s faithfulness.  But our faces also bear the mark of wounds, of so many acts of infidelity, our own and those of others, of efforts made and battles lost. In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration.  Worse, we can even convince ourselves that this is the law of life, and blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us.  So often we walk as those women did, poised between the desire of God and bleak resignation.  Not only does the Master die, but our hope dies with him. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake” ( Mt 28:2).  Unexpectedly, those women felt a powerful tremor, as something or someone made the earth shake beneath their feet.  Once again, someone came to tell them: “Do not be afraid” , but now adding: “He has been raised as he said!”   This is the message that, generation after generation, this Holy Night passes on to us: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!”  Life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew (cf. ROMANO GUARDINI, The Lord , Chicago, 1954, p. 473).  The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon.  The beating heart of the Risen Lord is given to us, and we are asked to give it in turn as a transforming force, as the leaven of a new humanity.  In the resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others. When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities.  God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy.  This is the promise present from the beginning.  This is God’s surprise for his faithful people.  Rejoice!  Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened. That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord.  Christ is alive!  That is what quickened the pace of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  That is what made them return in haste to tell the news ( Mt 28:8).  That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks.  They returned to the city to meet up with the others. Now that, like the two women, we have visited the tomb, I ask you to go back with them to the city.  Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces.  Let us go back with them to tell the news…  In all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out.  Let us go back to proclaim, to share, to reveal that it is true: the Lord is alive!  He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.  If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians. Let us go, then.  Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give.  May we allow his tenderness and his love to guide our steps.  May we allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: remarks at Good Friday Via crucis

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 07:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the  Via crucis  at the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, he briefly addressed the faithful gathered to participate in the devotion. Below, please find our English translation of his remarks. ************************************** O Christ! Abandoned and betrayed even by your own and sold for next to nothing. O Christ! Judged by sinners, handed over by those in Authority. O Christ! Suffering in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple. O Christ! Beaten and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross. O Christ! Pierced by the lance that broke your heart. O Christ! Dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence. O Christ! Our only Saviour, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame and hearts filled with hope: Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and wreckage that have become a normal part of our lives; Shame for the innocent blood shed daily by women, children, migrants and people persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic and social diversity or because of their faith in You; Shame for the too many times that, like Judas and Peter, we have sold you and betrayed you and left you alone to die for our sins, fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities; Shame for our silence before injustices; for our hands that have been lazy in giving and greedy in grabbing and conquering; for the shrill voices we use to defend our own interests and the timid ones we use to speak out for other's; for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed when it comes to following the path of good; Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have caused scandal and pain to your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love, our initial enthusiasm and total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust. So much shame Lord, but our hearts also feel nostalgia for the confident hope that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own; The certain hope that our names are etched in your heart and that we are reflected in the pupils of your eyes; the hope that your Cross may transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that are able to dream, to forgive and to love; that it may transform this dark night of your cross into the brilliant dawn of your Resurrection; The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own; The hope that the many men and women who are faithful to your Cross may continue to live in fidelity like yeast that gives flavour and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity; The hope that your Church will try to be the voice that cries in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead; The hope that good will be victorious despite its apparent defeat! O Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt; We ask you to remember our brethren destroyed by violence, indifference and war; We ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, our wilful blindness and in the vanity of our worldly calculations. O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honour and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of your mercy. Amen. (from Vatican Radio)...

Fr. Cantalamessa: Passion teaches Cross our only hope

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 13:05
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over the Passion Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. In keeping with tradition, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM. Cap., preached the sermon on the occasion. Below, please find the full text of his prepared remarks, in their official English translation. ************************************** Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap “O CRUX, AVE SPES UNICA” The Cross, the Only Hope of the World Sermon for Good Friday, 2017, St. Peter’s Basilica We have listened to the story of the Passion of Christ. Apparently nothing more than the account of a violent death, and news of violent deaths are rarely missing in any evening news. Even in recent days there were many of them, including those of 38 Christians Copts in Egypt killed on Palm Sunday.  These kinds of reports follow each other at such speed that we forget one day those of the day before. Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2000 years ago? The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning. Let us meditate for a while on it. “ When they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water ” (Jn 19:33-34). At the beginning of his ministry, in response to those who asked him by what authority he chased the merchants from the temple, Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). John comments on this occasion, “he spoke of the temple of his body” (Jn 2:21), and now the same Evangelist testifies that blood and water flowed from the side of this “destroyed” temple. It is a clear allusion to the prophecy in Ezekiel about a future temple of God, with water flowing from its side that was at first a stream and then a navigable river, and every form of life flourished around it (see Ezek 47:1ff). But let us enter more deeply into the source of the “rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38) coming from the pierced heart of Christ. In Revelation the same disciple whom Jesus loved writes, “Between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev 5:6). Slain, but standing, that is, pierced but resurrected and alive. There exists now, within the Trinity and in the world, a human heart that beats not just metaphorically but physically. If Christ, in fact, has been raised from the dead, then his heart has also been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body, in a different dimension than before, a real dimension, even if it is mystical. If the Lamb is alive in heaven, “slain, but standing,” then his heart shares in that same state; it is a heart that is pierced but living—eternally pierced, precisely because he lives eternally. There has been a phrase created to describe the depths of evil that can accumulate in the heart of humanity: “the heart of darkness.” After the sacrifice of Christ, more intense than the heart of darkness, a heart of light beats in the world. Christ, in fact, in ascending into heaven, did not abandon the earth, just as he did not abandon the Trinity in becoming incarnate. An antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours says, “the plan of the Father” is now fulfilled in “making Christ the heart of the world.” This explains the unshakeable Christian optimism that led a medieval mystic to exclaim that it is to be expected that “there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing [sic] shall be well” (Julian of Norwich). * * * The Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that appears at the entrance to their monastery, in their official documents, and in other settings. It consists of a globe of the earth surmounted by a cross with writing around it that says, “ Stat crux dum volvitur orbis ” (“The Cross stands firm as the world turns”). What does the cross represent in being this fixed point, this mainmast in the undulation of the world? It is the definitive and irreversible “no” of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies—to all that we call “evil,” and at the same it is equally the irreversible “yes” to love, truth, and goodness. “No” to sin, “yes” to the sinner. It is what Jesus practiced all his life and that he now definitively consecrates with his death. The reason for this differentiation is clear: sinners are creatures of God and preserve their dignity, despite all their aberrations; that is not the case for sin; it is a spurious reality that is added on, the result of one’s passions and of the “the devil’s envy” (Wis 2:24). It is the same reason for which the Word, in becoming incarnate, assumed to himself everything human except for sin. The good thief to whom the dying Jesus promised paradise, is the living demonstration of all this. No one should give up hope; no one should say, like Cain, “My sin is too great to be forgiven” (see Gen 4:13). The cross, then, does not “stand” against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history. Jesus says to Nicodemus, “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering. * * *  “ Dum volvitur orbis ,” as the world turns.  Human history has seen many transitions from one era to another; we speak about the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, the imperial age, the atomic age, the electronic age. But today there is something new. The idea of a transition is no longer sufficient to describe our current situation. Alongside the idea of a change, one must also place the idea of a dissolution.  It has been said that we are now living in a “liquid society.”  There are no longer any fixed points, any undisputed values, any rock in the sea to which we can cling or with which we can collide. Everything is in flux. The worst of the hypotheses the philosopher had foreseen as the effect of the death of God has come to pass, which the advent of the super-man was supposed to prevent but did not prevent: “What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness?” (Nietzsche, Gay Science , aphorism 125). It has been said that “killing God is the most horrible of suicides,” and that is in part what we are seeing. It is not true that “where God is born, man dies” (Jean-Paul Sartre). Just the opposite is true: where God dies, man dies. A surrealist artist from the second half of the last century (Salvador Dalí)  painted a crucifix that seems to be a prophecy of this situation. It depicts an immense, cosmic cross with an equally immense Christ seen from above with his head tilted downward. Below him, however, is not land but water. The Crucified One is not suspended between heaven and earth but between heaven and the liquid element of the earth. This tragic image (there is also in the background a cloud that could allude to an atomic cloud) nevertheless contains a consoling certainty: there is hope even for a liquid society like ours! There is hope because above it “the cross of Christ stands.” This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: “ O crux, ave spes unica ,” “Hail, O Cross, our only hope.” Yes, God died, he died in his Son Christ Jesus; but he did not remain in the tomb, he was raised. “You crucified and killed Him,” Peter shouts to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “But God raised him up” (see Act 2:23-24). He is the one who “died but is now alive for evermore” (see Rev 1:18). The cross does not “stand” motionless in the midst of the world’s upheavals as a reminder of a past event or a mere symbol; it is an ongoing reality that is living and operative. * * * We would make this liturgy of the Passion pointless, however, if we stopped, like the sociologists, at the analysis of the society in which we live. Christ did not come to explain things but to change human beings. The heart of darkness is not only that of some evil person hidden deep in the jungle, nor is it only that of the western society that produced it. It is in each one of us in varying degrees. The Bible calls it a heart of stone: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone,” God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36:26). A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life. Not to keep our gaze turned only outward toward others, we can say that this also actually describes our hearts as ministers for God and as practicing Christians if we still live fundamentally “for ourselves” and not “for the Lord.” It is written that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:51). These signs are generally given an apocalyptic explanation as if it is the symbolic language needed to describe the eschatological event. But these signs also have a parenetic significance: they indicate what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ. In a liturgy like today’s, St. Leo the Great said to the faithful, “The earth—our earthly nature—should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks—the hearts of unbelievers—should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart.” (“Sermon 66,” 3; PL 54, 366). The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart.” In receiving the Eucharist we firmly believe his very heart comes to beat inside of us as well. As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” and then we too, like he did, will return home “justified” (Lk 18:13-14). ________________________________ Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson (from Vatican Radio)...

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