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Mass at Santa Marta- Ode to joy

7 hours 31 min ago
Joy and hope are Christian traits. It is sad to find a believer who knows no joy, fearful in his attachment to cold doctrine. This was the very reason for Francis’ ode to joy during Mass at Santa Marta on Thursday, 26 March. At the beginning of Mass, the Pope acknowledged the Carmelite “Hour of Prayer for Peace”. “Dear brothers and sisters”, he said, “the day after tomorrow, 28 March, will be the fifth centenary of the birth of St Teresa of Jesus, Virgin Doctor of the Church”. And “at the request of the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelites, who is here today with Fr Vicari, on that day in all the Carmelite communities in the world there will be an hour of prayer for peace. I wholeheartedly join this initiative”, Francis affirmed, “in order that the flame of God’s love may extinguish the fires of war and of violence that plague mankind, and that dialogue may prevail over armed conflict everywhere”. He concluded these initial remarks by asking: “May St Teresa of Jesus intercede for this, our petition”. The Pope’s homily began with a reference to “two Readings offered in today’s Liturgy (Gen 17:3-9 and Jn 8:51-59), which “speak of time, of eternity, of years, of the future, of the past”. In fact “time seems to be very important in the liturgical message” of the day, he said. However, Francis chose to reflect on different words which he believed, he said, “to really be the message in the Church today”. They are the words of Jesus as narrated by John the Evangelist: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad”. Thus, today’s central message is “the joy of hope, the joy of trusting in God’s promise, the joy of fruitfulness”. In fact, “Abraham, in the time the First Reading speaks about, was 99 years old and the Lord appeared to him and secured the covenant” with these words: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father”. Abraham, Francis continued, “had a 12- or 13-year-old son: Ishmael”. But God assured him that he would become “the father of a multitude of nations”. and “changed his name”. Then “He continued and asked him to be faithful to the covenant”, saying: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant”. Essentially, God told Abraham: “I give you everything, I give you time: I give you all, you will be father”. Surely Abraham, the Pope said, “was happy about this, was filled with comfort” in hearing the Lord’s promise: “Within a year you shall have another son”. Of course, in hearing these words, “Abraham laughed, the Bible says afterwards: how, a son at 100 years old?”. Yes, “he had begotten Ishmael at 87 years, but at 100 years a son is too much. It was incomprehensible!”. Therefore, “he laughed”. But “that smile, that laughter was the start of Abraham’s joy”. Here then, the Pope brought back the essence of Jesus’ words as the day’s central message: “Your father Abraham rejoiced”. Indeed, “didn’t dare believe and said to the Lord: ‘But if only Ishmael should live in your presence?”. To which he received the response, “No, it shall not be Ishmael. It shall be another”. Thus, the Pope stated, Abraham “was joyful” and “a little later his wife Sarah also laughed. She was hiding behind the tent door, listening to what the men were saying”. And “when these messengers of God gave Abraham the news about his son, she too laughed”. And this really was “the beginning of the great joy of Abraham”, Francis said. Yes, “the great joy: he rejoiced in the hope of seeing this day; he saw it and was filled with joy”. The Pope recommended that we look to “this beautiful icon: Abraham who was before God, who bowed himself to the earth. He heard this promise and his heart opened to hope and was filled with joy”. This is precisely “what these doctors of the law did not understand”, Francis said. “They did not understand the joy of the promise; they didn’t understand the joy of hope; they didn’t understand the joy of the covenant. They did not understand”. And “they didn’t know how to rejoice, for they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith”. However, the Pope explained, “our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith; he had been made righteous in faith”. Meanwhile the doctors of the law “had lost the faith: they were doctors of the law, but without faith!”. Moreover: “they had lost the law! Because the centre of law is love, love for God and for neighbour”. However, they “had only a system of specific teachings which they refined further every day so that no one would touch them. They were “men without faith, without laws, attached to doctrines which had even become a casuistic approach”. Francis also proposed practical examples: “We can pay taxes to Caesar, can’t we? This woman, who was married seven times, when she went to heaven would she be the spouse of those seven?”. And “this casuistry was their world: an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God”. For this very reason “they were unable to rejoice”. They didn’t even enjoy themselves at parties, the Pope affirmed, although they surely “uncorked a few bottles when when Jesus was condemned”. But they were always “without joy”, or moreover, “afraid that one of them, perhaps while drinking” would remember the promise “He would rise”. And thus, “straight away, with fear, they went tot he prosecutor to say ‘please, be careful with this one, that it isn’t a trick”. All this was because “they were afraid”. But “this is life without faith in God, without trust in God, without hope in God”, the Pope affirmed once again. The life of these men, he added “who only when they understood that they had been wrong” did they think that the only choice left was to take up stones to throw at Jesus. “Their heart had become stone”. Indeed “it is sad to be a believer without joy”, Francis explained, “and there is no joy when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law, but only the prescriptions, the cold doctrine. This is what counts”. In contrast, the Pope again proposed “Abraham’s joy, that beautiful act of Abraham’s laughter” when he heard the promise of having “a son at 100 years”; as well as “Sarah’s smile, a smile of hope”. This is because “the joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of a person’s faith: without joy that person is not a true believer”. In conclusion, Francis used the very words of Jesus: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was glad to see my day; he saw it and was glad”. The Pope then asked “the Lord for the grace to rejoice in hope, the grace to be able to see the day of Jesus, when we will be with Him and the grace of joy”....

Pope leads worldwide prayer for peace

9 hours 3 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday morning began a special prayer for peace as part of the 500 centenary celebrations marking the birth of St Teresa of Avila.  The Pope led the hour of prayer at the Casa Santa Marta before saying Mass along with the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Order, Father Saverio Cannestrà. The worldwide Teresian family is participating in this initiative including Carmelite priest Fr Eugene McCaffrey from the Avila Carmelite Centre in Dublin, Ireland, who is also written on St Teresa. He spoke to Lydia O’Kane of his delight at the announcement. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Carmelite Fr Eugene McCaffrey  “We’re delighted with the whole initiative and a little taken by surprise… and we’re joining with the Holy Father and with the whole Church…” Father McCaffrey said that St Teresa “spent her whole life not just teaching prayer but praying and drawing people into the great mystery of the relationship with God. He added that his community would be having a “Birthday Party” to celebrate this milestone in the life of this Saint and Doctor of the Church. Below please find World Prayer for Peace, proposed to the Holy Father Pope Francis Dear brothers and sisters: The Order of Discalced Carmelites, friars, nuns, and seculars, the entire Teresian family, in union with the whole Church, today celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of its foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church. At the request of the Father General of the Order, during the span of this day a world hour of prayer for peace will take place in all convents, monasteries, and fraternities. I unite myself joyfully to this initiative and begin with these words our supplication to God, Father of all of us, so that, through the intercession of Christ Jesus, he will pour his Spirit over all the nations, so that dialogue among men will triumph over violence and the conflicts that scourge our world. To this prayer I invite all faithful Catholics, all Christians of other denominations, and also members of other religions and men and women of good will. "The world is all in flames [...] and are we to waste time asking for things that if God were to give them we would have one soul less in heaven? No, my Sisters, this is not the time to be discussing with God matters that have little importance" (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection 1,5). The world is all in flames is the sorrowful cry of Teresa as she contemplates the conflicts, wars, and divisions in society and the Church of her time. Today we also make this our cry and present it to Jesus as a supplication: Lord, the world is all in flames! We, like Saint Teresa, know that by our own efforts we will not attain the precious gift of peace. Therefore, with our petition let us hold tightly to the power of the redeeming Cross of Christ: "Oh my Lord and my Mercy, my only Good! What more do I seek in this life than a union so close to you, that there can be no distinction between you and me? With such a companion, what can be difficult? With you so close to me, what dare I not attempt for your sake?" Joined to the Cross of Christ and from the hand of the Virgin, his Mother and our Mother, and from the hand of Teresa, we beseech God to increase the opportunities for dialogue and encounter among men, that we learn to ask for forgiveness so that peace may grow in the world like the fruit of the reconciliation that he has come to bring to us. Let us pray: (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Santa Marta: Faith, not cold doctrine, brings joy

10 hours 7 min ago
(Vatican Radio)  It is not “cold doctrine” that brings joy, but faith, and the hope of meeting Jesus.  He who cannot rejoice is an unhappy believer: that’s what the Pope said in his homily at Thursday morning’s Mass in Santa Marta in the Vatican. Abraham’s joy upon hearing that as God promised, he may become a father inspired Pope Francis’ reflection Thursday.  Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis remarked that Abraham is old, as well as his wife Sara, but he believes and opens "his heart to hope" and is "full of consolation." Jesus reminds the doctors of the law that Abraham "rejoiced" to see his day "and was full of joy": "And that's what these doctors of the law did not understand. They did not understand the joy of promise; they did not understand the joy of hope; they did not understand the joy of the alliance. They did not understand! They did not know how to rejoice, because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith. Our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith; he was justified in the faith. These others had lost faith. They were doctors of the law, but without faith! But what’s more: they had lost the law! Because the center of the law is love, love for God and neighbor. " The Pope then continued: "It’s only that they had a system of precise doctrines and that they clarified each and every day that no one touch them. Men without faith, without law, attached to doctrines that also become an attitude of casuistry: you can pay the tax to Caesar, can you not? This woman, who has been married seven times: when she goes to Heaven will she be the bride of those seven men? This casuistry… This was their world, an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And for this, they could not rejoice! " Perhaps, the doctors of the law - the Pope observes ironically - could also have fun, "but without joy," indeed "with fear." "This is life without faith in God, without trust in God, without hope in God." And "their heart was petrified." It 's sad, the Pope stressed, to be a believer without joy - and  joy is not there when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law  - but only the regulations, cold doctrine": "The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of the faith of a person. Without joy that person is not a true believer. Let's go home, but before that, we celebrate here with these words of Jesus: “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” And ask the Lord for the grace to be rejoicing in hope, for the grace to see the day of Jesus when we will be with Him and for the grace of joy. " (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See: All parties need to work to implement Ukraine agreements

10 hours 46 min ago
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See reminded the international community of the need to “respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders” as a “key element” for ensuring stability, both for Ukraine and the entire region. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, on Thursday addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council about the situation in Ukraine. “The Holy See welcomes the steps taken to enforce the ceasefire, which is intended as an essential condition to arrive at political solutions exclusively through dialogue and negotiation,”said Archbishop Tomasi. “At the same time, it emphasizes the crucial need for all parties to implement the decisions taken by common agreement, acknowledging in this context the efforts made by the UN, the OSCE and other relevant organizations with reference to the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements,” he said.   The full statement by Archbishop Tomasi is below   Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council on the Ukraine Geneva, 26 March 2015                 With reference to the Statement made by this Permanent Mission at the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council on March 26, 2014, the Holy See reiterates its closeness and solidarity to all the people of Ukraine, whose country continues to be affected by the present conflict.                  With this intervention, the Holy See intends to stress once again the urgent need to respect international legality regarding Ukraine’s territory and borders, as a key element for ensuring stability at both the national and the regional level, and to re-establish law and order based on full respect for all fundamental human rights.                 In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the steps taken to enforce the ceasefire, which is intended as an essential condition to arrive at political solutions exclusively through dialogue and negotiation. At the same time, it emphasizes the crucial need for all parties to implement the decisions taken by common agreement, acknowledging in this context the efforts made by the UN, the OSCE and other relevant organizations with reference to the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements.                  The Holy See holds that the full adherence of all parties to the provisions of said Agreements is a prerequisite for all further efforts to improve the humanitarian and human rights situation in the affected territories, by, first of all, bringing an end to the loss of human life, acts of violence and other forms of abuse. It should also include the release of all hostages and illegally held persons and ensure unfettered access by all legitimate actors to provide humanitarian assistance in those areas.                 At the same time the Holy See is concerned about the social emergency facing the population living in the areas affected, who suffer from poverty, hunger, insecurity and health risks. It is also concerned about injured and displaced persons and families suffering from the loss of loved ones. In this urgent situation, the Holy See is committed to offering its assistance through its institutions and requests the charitable organisations of the Catholic Church to intensify and coordinate their efforts to provide assistance to the people of Ukraine. The Holy See also wishes to express its confidence in the solidarity of the international community.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Italian President invites new Italian Cardinals to lunch at the Quirinale Palace

12 hours 12 min ago
(Vatican Radio) The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, on Wednesday hosted a lunch at the Quirinale Palace for the newly-created Italian Cardinals: The Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo,Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli; and the Archbishop of Agrigento, Cardinal Francesco Montenegro. Also attending the lunch was the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, Archbishop Adriano Bernardini. The discussions were “friendly”, and touched on the economic crisis affecting Italy, especially the country’s young people, as well as the situation of refugees arriving from across the Mediterranean, who are often people fleeing areas devastated by war and conflict. Cardinal Montenegro, who serves as the President of “Fondazione Migrantes” as well has heading the  Commission for Migration for the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), has been urging  the member states of the European Union to collaborate on effective measures to help refugees, especially in providing emergency assistance to asylum seekers, protecting unaccompanied minors, facilitating family reunification, and battling people-smugglers and human-traffickers. Cardinal Montenegro and Cardinal Menicheilli received their red hats at the Consistory help on February 14th this year. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis appeals "logic of profit" not prevail over solidarity

13 hours 37 min ago
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Wednesday again appealed that the “logic of profit” not prevail over solidarity and justice. Speaking to Italian pilgrims at the end of his General Audience, the Holy Father directly a group of workers from the province of Vibo Valentia, in the southern Italian region of Calabria, has been particularly affected by Italy’s economic crisis. “I express my concern and closeness to your persistent problems,” Pope Francis said. “I make a heartfelt appeal that the logic of profit may not prevail over that of solidarity and justice,” he said. “At the centre of every issue, especially in relation to work, there must always be the human person and his or her dignity,” continued Pope Francis. “And the ability to have work is a question of justice, and it is an injustice not to have work.” The Holy Father said “being unable to bring bread to the table means losing one's dignity,” adding that “this is the crisis of our time, especially for the young who, without work, have no prospects for the future and may become easy prey to criminal organisations”. Pope Francis concluded by asking people to “fight” for the justice of work. (from Vatican Radio)...

Members and substitutes confirmed for the Synod of Bishops meeting

13 hours 59 min ago
(Vatican Radio/VIS) Pope Francis has confirmed more members and substitutes for the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops , which will take place from October 4-25, 2015, under the theme "The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world." The following is a list of the members and substitutes appointed by the competent entities and ratified by the Holy Father on 17 March. A) Episcopal Conferences NORTH AFRICA (C.E.R.N.A.) Member: Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco, O.P., of Oran, Algeria Substitute: Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martinez, O.F.M., of Tangier, Morocco BOTSWANA, SOUTH AFRICA and SWAZILAND Members: Archbishop Stephen Brislin, of Cape Town, Kaapstad, president of the Episcopal Conference, South Africa Bishop Zolile Peter Mpambani, S.C.I., of Kokstad, South Africa Substitutes: Bishop Dabula Anton Mpako of Queenstown, South Africa Bishop Jan De Groef, M. Afr., of Bethlehem, South Africa BURKINA FASO and NIGER Member: Bishop Joseph Sama of Nouna, Burkina Faso Substitute: Archbishop Djalwana Laurent Lompo of Niamey, Niger CHAD Member: Bishop Henri Coudray, S.J., apostolic vicar of Mongo Substitute: Bishop Joachim Kouraleyo Tarounga of Moundou CONGO (Democratic Republic) Members: Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola of Tshumbe, president of the Episcopal Conference Bishop Philibert Tembo Nlandu, C.I.C.M., of Budjala Substitute: Bishop Joseph Banga Bane of Buta GUINEA Member: Archbishop Vincent Coulibaly of Conakry Substitute: Bishop Raphael Balla Guilavogui of N'Zerekore LESOTHO Member: Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, O.M.I., of Maseru, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitute: Bishop Augustinus Tumaole Bane, O.M.I., of Leribe LIBERIA Member: Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah of Gbarnga Substitute: Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley of Cape Palmas MALI Member: Bishop Jonas Dembele of Kayes Substitute: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako MOZAMBIQUE Member: Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, O.F.M. Cap., of Maputo Substitute: Bishop Adriano Langa, O.F.M., of Inhambane NAMIBIA Member: Bishop Philipp Pollitzer, O.M.I., of Keetmanshoop Substitute: Bishop Joseph Shipandeni Shikongo, O.M.I., apostolic vicar of Rundu NIGERIA Members: Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso of Kaduna Bishop Camillus Raymond Umoh of Ikot Ekpene Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo Substitutes: Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, president of the Episcopal Conference TOGO Member: Bishop Jacques Danka Longa of Kara Substitute: Bishop Benoit Comlan Messan Alowonou of Kpalime UGANDA Members: Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, president of the Episcopal Conference Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana, Vice president of the Episcopal Conference Substitutes: Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha, auxiliary of Mbarara Bishop Sanctus Lino WANOK of Nebbi AMERICA ANTILLES Member: Bishop Francis Alleyne, O.S.B., of Georgetown, Co-operative Republic of Guiana Substitute: Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guiana BOLIVIA Members: Bishop Braulio Saez Garcia, O.C.D., auxiliary of Santa Cruz de la Sierra Bishop Krzysztof Janusz Bialasik Wawrowska, S.V.D., of Oruro Substitute: Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, O.F.M., auxiliary La Paz GUATEMALA Member: Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Nunez of Vera Paz, Coban, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitute: Bishop Gonzalo De Villa y Vasquez, S.J., of Solola-Chimaltenango HAITI Member: Bishop Yves-Marie Pean, C.S.C., of Les Gonaives Substitute: Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidor of Cap-Haitien NICARAGUA Member: Bishop Cesar Bosco Vivas Robelo of Leon en Nicaragua Substitute: Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, S.D.B., of Esteli PANAMA Member: Bishop Aníbal Saldana Santamaria, O.A.R., prelate of Bocas del Toro Substitute: Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R., bishop of David, president of the Episcopal Conference PERU Members: Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Episcopal Conference Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M., of Trujillo Substitute: Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi, S.C.V., of Piura VENEZUELA Members: Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas Archbishop Diego Rafael Padron Sanchez of Cumana, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitutes: Bishop Fernando Jose Castro Aguayo, auxiliary of Caracas, Santiago de Venezuela Bishop Rafael Ramon Conde Alfonzo of Maracay ASIA CHINA Member: Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-Mien of Hsinchu Substitute: Bishop Thomas Chung An-Zu of Kiayi PHILIPPINES Members: Archbishop Romulo G. Valles of Davao Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu Bishop Gilbert A. Garcera of Daet Substitutes: Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David, auxiliary of San Fernando Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., of Cagayan de Oro INDONESIA Members: Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, president of the Episcopal Conference, military ordinary for Indonesia Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung of Larantuka Substitute: Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, O.F.M., of Jayapura KAZAKHSTAN Member: Archbishop Tomash Bernard Peta, of Mary Most Holy in Astana, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitute: Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C., auxiliary of Mary Most Holy in Astana LAOS and CAMBODIA Member: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos Substitute: Olivier Michel Marie Schmitthaeusler, M.E.P., apostolic vicar of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, president of the Episcopal Conference MALAYSIA - SINGAPORE - BRUNEI Member: Archbishop John Wong Soo Kau of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Substitute: Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Malaysia MYANMAR Member: Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., archbishop of Yangon Substitute: Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang of Kalay ARAB STATES (C.E.L.R.A.) Member: His Beatitude Fouad TWAL, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitute: Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham, auxiliary and patriarchal vicar for Jerusalem of the Latins for Jordan EUROPE BELARUS Member: Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev Substitute: Bishop Antoni Dziemianko of Pinsk CROATIA Member: Bishop Valter Zupan, emeritus of Krk, president of the Council of the Croation Episcopal Conference for the Family and Life Substitute: Bishop Antun Skvorcevic of Pozega RUSSIAN FEDERATION Member: Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, F.S.C.B., of Mother of God in Moscow, president of the Episcopal Conference Substitute: Bishop Joseph Werth, S.J., of Transfiguration in Novosibirsk GERMANY Members: Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munchen und Freising Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode of Osnabruck Substitutes: Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer Bishop Wilfried Theising, auxiliary of Munster GREAT BRITAIN (SCOTLAND) Member: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president of the Episcopal Conference of Scotland Substitute: Bishop John Keenan of Paisley PORTUGAL Members: Cardinal Manuel Jose Macario Do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, president of the Episcopal Conference Bishop Antonino Eugenio Fernandes Dias of Portalegre-Castelo Branco, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity and the Family Substitute: Bishop Antonio Augusto Dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, vice president of the Episcopal Conference CZECH REPUBLIC Member: Bishop Jan Vokal of Hradec Kralove Substitute: Bishop Ladislav Hucko, apostolic exarch for Catholic of Byzantine rite in the Czech Republic SWITZERLAND Member: Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey, C.R.B., of Sion, Sitten Substitute: Bishop Valerio Lazzeri of Lugano B) “Sui Iuris” Oriental Catholic Churches Synod of the Syro-Malabar Churches Members:Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Palai of the Syro-Malabars, India Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur of the Syro-Malabars, India Substitutes: Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad of the Syro-Malabars, India Bishop Thomas Elavanal, M.C.B.S., of Kalyan of the Syro-Malabars, India (from Vatican Radio)...

The exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin

14 hours 24 min ago
 (Vatican Radio/VIS) A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office on Wednesday to present the upcoming exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin (Turin, 19 April – 24 June 2015), on the occasion of the second centenary of the birth of St. John Bosco, which will be specially dedicated to the young and to those who suffer. The Pope will also make a pilgrimage to Turin from 21 to 22 June. The speakers at the conference were the Archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosaglia, Papal guardian of the Shroud; Elide Tisi, mayor of the city; Roberto Gottardo, president of the diocesan commission for the Shroud; and Rev. Luca Ramello, director of youth pastoral ministry for the diocese. Archbishop Nosaglia explained that the Shroud represents, for the Universal Church, a point of reference of the first order for the life of the faith of many people and communities, who in this image recognise the signs of the Lord's passion, of Jesus who “inspires our lives and challenges us to fully realise our deepest vocation. Therefore”, he added “the theme I have chosen for the next exhibition is 'The Greatest Love': the gift of salvation which is made visible in our response, the worship of God and service to our brothers”. “The Pope's trip, like the exhibition as a whole, is also intended to give thanks for 'the Saint of youth', and for the service that the Salesian family carries out in Turin and throughout the world in the fields of education, mission, sport and communication. … The world of youth is particularly involved in the Salesian mission, and during the Pope's visit there will be a sort of mini Youth Day, a series of meetings, encounters, prayer, moments of celebration that help resume contact with the young. An extraordinary sign will be the presence of the Word Youth Day Cross, which will make a stop in Turin during its journey to Krakow”. Another peculiarity of this exhibition is attention to the world of those who suffer, and therefore this year sick or disabled pilgrims and those who accompany them will be able to benefit from new hospitality structures based on the model of the ‘Accueil’ in Lourdes. It is also hoped that the Pilgrimage to the Shroud will offer an opportunity to partake in the sacrament of Reconciliation, as a “concrete sign of forgiveness” and, as on previous occasions, “in various places priests will hear the confessions of the faithful in all the world's major languages”. The Archbishop emphasised that the 2015 exhibition has been organised according to the criterion of austerity, in a period of severe economic and social crisis throughout the area, and he thanked those entities that have offered their cooperation to help limit costs as far as possible. He also announced that during the display of the Shroud, Beato Angelico's celebrated “Lamentation over the Dead Christ” will be exhibited in the diocesan museum, on loan for the occasion from the city of Florence. “As you are aware, visiting the Shroud is completely free. Traditionally many pilgrims at the leave a simple offering at the end of their journey, deposited with full discretion at the exit of the Cathedral and in the areas by the confessionals. On this occasion all the offerings will be given to the Pope when he is with us in Turin on June 21st. We will ask him to use them, naturally at his discretion, for a work, or a project to assist the poorest or neediest”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Brother of beheaded Briton shares interfaith witness with Pope

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 13:02
(Vatican Radio) Among those greeting Pope Francis at the end of his general audience in St Peter’s Square was Mike Haines, whose brother, David, was murdered by a so-called Islamic State militant in September 2014. Since then, Mike has been working tirelessly to spread a message of interfaith cooperation and unity to combat violence and extremism. Accompanying him to the Vatican on Wednesday to share this testimony was the wife of another British murder victim, Alan Henning, as well as a Muslim friend of the Haines family, London-based Imam Shahnawaz Haque. Philippa Hitchen met Mike and Shahnawaz just after the audience to find out more about their mission … Listen here to Philippa’s report:  If you look up the story of David Haines’ kidnapping, you’ll see an all-too-familiar picture of a black clad executioner holding his pale faced victim in a bright orange suit, with a warning that he’ll be the next to die. It’s an image that has haunted Mike Haines, ever since the terrorists  murdered US journalist Stephen Sotloff and David’s family knew they had little chance of ever seeing him alive again. Yet it’s also the image that drives Mike forward with his mission of trying to end fear and hostility between people of different cultures and religions, knowing that it’s the best way he can honour the work that David was doing with refugees on the border between Turkey and Iraq. That’s why he was here in the Vatican, fighting back the tears, as he told Pope Francis about the message he was bringing. Mike says he’d tried to prepare the right words, but when he saw the Pope arriving, his mind went blank. However, he continued, Pope Francis made him feel at ease, by saying that he was praying for the Haines family and praying for him to continue his work… Recalling the day he found out his brother had been kidnapped, Mike says he received a phone call from the head of ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) for whom David had been working……his brother, Mike says, was doing what he was best at, going out and helping others… "it was his calling". Following his capture, Mike adds, he knew that the chances of getting David out were not good so the family’s mantra was “to prepare for the worst and hope for the best”…. Though Mike finds it hard to talk about the tragedy his family has endured, he's quite clear in his condemnation of those who try to blame the Muslim community for the terrorist atrocities. In fact one of the first things he did in the wake of David’s murder was to seek the advice of a Muslim scholar so he could quote a couple of verses from the Koran to show his solidarity with Britain’s Muslim communities. Islam, he says is about “understanding, tolerance, welcoming, it’s about giving strength” but like every religion, he continues, there are groups of people who take sentences of their holy books to give them justification for their actions and that is wrong…. In his mission to close the gap of fear and suspicion that the terrorists are trying to create, Mike is supported by his friend, psychotherapist and Muslim scholar Shahnawaz Haque who says it is "extremely disturbing, distressing and traumatic" when terrorists use the words of the Koran to justify their acts of unspeakable violence. He recalls that as a young child of Asian immigrants in the UK he suffered from prejudice and racist slurs in the streets and now, he says, it’s hard to imagine or understand the fear that people say they have of the Muslim community… Shahnawaz Haque says the only way to combat the prejudice and fear is through education and interaction between ordinary people. He believes Pope Francis himself is modelling the true religious qualities of humility and compassion, as well as creating new opportunities for encounter and interfaith understanding between people of so many cultures and communities. “I pray that God assists him in the good work that he’s doing”, he says. (from Vatican Radio)...

Programme of the Holy Father's visit to Turin

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 08:55
Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – On Sunday 21 June the Pope will visit Turin. Francis will arrive in the Italian city at 8 a.m. and, half an hour later, will meet with representatives of the world of work in the Piazzetta Reale. From there, he will move on to the Cathedral where he will pray before the Holy Shroud and before the altar of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. At 10.45 a.m. he will celebrate the Eucharist in Piazza Vittorio and will recite the Sunday Angelus prayer. Following Mass, the Pope will proceed to the Archbishop's residence to lunch with young detainees from the “Ferrante Aporti” penitentiary for minors, several immigrants and homeless people, and a Rom family. At 2.40 p.m. he will visit the Sanctuary of the Consolata, where he will withdraw for a few minutes in private prayer. At 3 p.m., in the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, where he will meet with Salesians and the Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians. An hour later, in the Church of Cottolengo, he will meet with the sick and disabled. Back in Piazza Vittorio, at 6 p.m., he will meet with young people of the city, after which he will retire to the archbishop's residence. On Monday 22, at 9 a.m., he will visit the Valdese Temple. Upon returning to the archbishop's residence, where he will meet privately with some of his relatives. He will celebrate a Holy Mass with them in the Chapel and will lunch with them. Before his departure from “Torino Caselle” airport, he will pay a short visit to the members of the Committee of the Shroud, the organisers and supporters of his visit....

At the General Audience Pope Francis calls for prayer for families

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 08:34
A special “pause in prayer” for the family and for life: this was the heart of the General Audience on Wednesday, 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The Pope asked the faithful present in St Peter's Square to pray a Hail Mary and the prayer to the Holy Family composed for the Synod of Bishops, recalling that the Church “like a mother, never never abandons the family, even when it is miserable, wounded and humiliated in so many ways. Nor when it falls into sin, or moves away from the Church; she will always do anything to try to take care of it and heal it, to call it to conversion and to reconcile it to the Lord.” The following is a translation of the Pope's catechesis, which was give in Italian. Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! In our series of catecheses on the family, today's is a special step: it will be a pause in prayer. Indeed, on 25 March in the Church we solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, the mystery of the Incarnation begins. The Archangel Gabriel visits a humble girl in Nazareth and proclaims to her that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. With this Annunciation the Lord illumines and strengthens Mary's faith, as he will also do for her spouse Joseph, so that Jesus might be born into a human family . This is very beautiful: it shows us how deeply the mystery of the Incarnation, as God desired, comprehends not only the conception in the mother's womb, but also acceptance in a real family. Today I would like to contemplate with you on the beauty of this bond, the beauty of condescension of God; and we can do this by reciting the Hail Mary together, of which the first part takes up the words of the Angel, those he addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” And now a second aspect: on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in many Countries the Day for Life is celebrated. That is why, 20 years ago, St John Paul II on this day signed the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae . In order to remember this anniversary present in the Square today are many followers of the Pro-Life Movement. In Evangelium Vitae, the family occupies a central plac e, as it is the womb of human life. The word of my venerable Predecessor reminds us that a human couple was blessed from the beginning to form a community of love and life, entrusted with the mission to generate life . Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage, make themselves open to honour this blessing, with the grace of Christ, for their whole lives. The Church, for her part, is solemnly committed to care for the family that is born, as a gift of God for her life, in good times and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable . The Church, like a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is downhearted, wounded and humiliated in so many ways. Nor when it falls into sin, or moves away from the Church; she will always do everything to try to care for and heal it, to call it to conversion and to reconcile it to the Lord. If this then is the task, it is clear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be able, in every age, to carry out this mission! A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer that can rejoice with the rejoicing and suffer with the suffering. Here then is what I, together with my co-workers, have thought to offer today: renewal of prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family . We relaunch this commitment until this coming October, when the Ordinary Synodal Assembly dedicated to the family will take place. I would like that this prayer, as the whole journey of the Synod, be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for people and families that, for different reasons, are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). Thus, sustained and animated by the grace of God, the Church can be ever more committed, and every more united, in the witness of the truth of the love of God and of his mercy for the world's families, none excluded, both within the fold and without it. I ask you please do not fail to pray. Everyone – Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. This is what is needed, not gossip! I call to prayer also those who feel far or who are no longer used to doing it. This prayer for the Synod on the family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a holy card, which you are holding in your hands. I invite you to keep it and carry it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy persistence, as Jesus asked us to. Now let us recite it together: Jesus, Mary and Joseph in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you in trust we turn. Holy Family of Nazareth, make of our families too places of communion and cenacles of prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, never more let families face the experience of violence, closure and division: whoever has been wounded or scandalized let them know immediate consolation and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, let the coming Synod of Bishops reawaken in all awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, its beauty in God's plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, hear, answer our prayer, Amen. Special greetings I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, the Channel Islands, Denmark, Germany, Malta, Qatar, Indonesia, Australia and the United States of America. I greet in particular the representatives of the Hindu Community of Kerala. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord. God bless you all! I greet with special affection workers from the Province of Vibo Valentia, who are living in a grave economic situation. I would like to join the interventions of their Bishop, Luigi Renso, in expressing my concern and closeness to those facing these problems. I address a heartfelt appeal that the logic of profit not prevail, but rather that of solidarity and justice. At the centre of every situation, especially work-related, should be the person and his or her dignity: that is why having work is a matter of justice, and it is an injustice not to have work! When people do not earn their bread, they lose their dignity! And this is the drama of our times, especially for young people, who, without work, have no prospects in their future and can so easily become prey to criminal organizations. Please, let us fight for this: the justice of work....

Pope calls for renewed prayers for Synod on the Family

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 05:38
(Vatican Radio) At a rain-soaked General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis called for renewed prayers for the upcoming Synod of Bishops in the Family. After meeting briefly with a group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope began his reflection by noting that March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, marks a special stage in the journey of catechesis on the family, a moment to pause for prayer. The Annunciation, the “beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation” shows that God willed for His Only-begotten Son to not only be conceived in the womb of a mother, but to be welcomed into a true family. Pope Francis led his audience in the recitation of the Hail Mary as a means of contemplating the beauty of this relationship between God and mankind. The Holy Father then noted that March 25th is celebrated in many countries as the Day of Life; it is also the twentieth anniversary of the encyclical Evangelium vitae by St John Paul II. Pope Francis noted that the family occupies a central place in the encyclical. “The words of my venerable Predecessor remind us that the human couple was blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, to which He entrusted the mission of procreation,” the Pope said, and Christian spouses open themselves to the blessing of children. The Church too, he said, “is solemnly committed to the care of the family that results from it, as a gift of God for her own life, in good fortune and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable.” The Church never abandons families, even when they are weak and wounded, but always seeks to heal them. To complete this mission, the Pope continued, there is great need for prayer, prayer which is full of love for the family and for life. For that reason, Pope Francis asked for a great renewal of our prayers for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, set for next October. “I would like for this prayer, and the whole Synod journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for His flock, especially for persons and families that, for different reasons, are ‘troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd’.” Everyone, from the Pope to the lay faithful, are called to pray for the Synod. There is great need for prayer, he repeated, and not for gossip or chatter. To renew this prayer, Pope Francis offered a special prayer for the upcoming Synod, in which he led the crowd. The full text of the prayer, in an unofficial translation, can be found at the end of the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks for the General Audience: Dear brothers and sisters, good day! But good day… but it’s not a pretty day, eh? Today the Audience is in two different places, as we do when it rains: you here in the Square, and many sick people in the Paul VI Hall, who are following the audience on the big screens. Now, as a gesture of brotherly courtesy, let us greet them with a round of applause. [Those in the Square applaud.] It’s not easy to applaud with an umbrella in hand, eh? In our journey of catechesis on the family, today is a somewhat special stage: It will be a break for prayer. In the Church on March 25th, we solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, the beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble girl of Nazareth, and announces that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. With this Announcement, the Lord illumines and strengthens the faith of Mary, as He will later do for her husband, Joseph, so that Jesus could be born in a human family. This is very beautiful: it shows us how profoundly the mystery of the Incarnation, just as God wanted, comprises not only the conception in the womb of the mother, but also being welcomed into a true family. Today I want to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of this condescension of God; and we can do so by reciting together the Hail Mary, which in the first part resumes the very words that the Angel addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together : [In Italian] Hail Mary, full of grace… And now a second aspect: On March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Day of Life is celebrated in many countries. For this reason, twenty years ago, Saint John Paul II on this date signed the Encyclical Evangelium vitae. To celebrate this anniversary, many members of the Movement for Life are in the Square today. In Evangelium vitae the family occupies a central place, insofar as it is the womb of human life. The words of my venerable Predecessor remind us that the human couple was blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, to which He entrusted the mission of procreation. Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony, open themselves to honour this benediction, with the grace of God, for all of life. The Church, for her part, is solemnly committed to the care of the family that results from it, as a gift of God for her own life, in good fortune and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is disheartened, wounded, and mortified in so many ways; it will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile it with the Lord. So then, if this is the task, it appears clear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be up to fulfilling this mission at all times! A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer that knows how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to suffer with those who suffer. So here is what I, with my collaborators, have thought to propose today: to renew the prayer for the Synod of the Bishops on the family. We are taking up this commitment again next October, when the ordinary Assembly of the Synod, dedicated to the family, will take place. I would like for this prayer, and the whole Synod journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for His flock, especially for persons and families that, for different reasons, are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). So, sustained and animated by the grace of God, the Church can be ever more committed, and ever more united, in the witness of the truth of the love of God and of His mercy for the families of the world, excluding none, whether within or outside the flock. I ask you, please, to not neglect your prayer. All of us – the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, lay faithful – we are all called to pray for the Synod. There is need of this, not of chatter! I also invite those who feel far away, or who are not accustomed to do so, to pray. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a little prayer card, which you have in your hands. It might be a little wet. I invite you to hold on to it and keep it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us. Now, let us say it together: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, In you we contemplate The splendour of true love, We turn to you with confidence. Holy Family of Nazareth, Make our families, also, Places of communion and cenacles of prayer, Authentic schools of the Gospel, And little domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth May our families never more experience Violence, isolation, and division: May anyone who was wounded or scandalized Rapidly experience consolation and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, May the upcoming Synod of Bishops Re-awaken in all an awareness Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family, Its beauty in the project of God. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Hear and answer our prayer. Amen. (Unofficial translation) (from Vatican Radio)...

SIGNIS Services Rome Presents the Reporter Kit

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 04:53
SIGNIS Services Rome (SSR) has introduced a new Reporter Kit which offers multi-media solutions for journalists in the field. The kit is ideal for Catholic radio and television in Africa. With this kit, freelance and media journalists will find user-friendly tools that enable them produce content, ready to go online or for broadcast at their convenience. It is as it were a mini mobile studio. The SIGNIS Reporter Kit facilitates the broadcast and publication of news on radio, TV, websites or social networks. The Reporter Kit contains all that the journalist needs to report and edit news or content on the go. A package or a whole programme can be assembled while out in the field. The kit has digital audio recorders, an HD video camera, a netbook (laptop) for editing video and audio, professional headphones, USB keys and hard disk for data storage. The kit even has accessories to enable the recording of sound in a difficult acoustic environment. The SIGNIS Reporters Kit comes in three models: First is the entry kit for audio productions, then there is the medium range kit for multi-media productions as well as the top of the range kit for professional audio and video. SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communications.  It headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium but it also has a branch in Rome, Italy that offers specialised services such as the provision of equipment and training. SIGNIS has members from over 140 countries. The aim of SIGNIS is to bring together Catholic radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet, and new technology professionals. Its very diversified programmes cover fields such as the promotion of films or television programmes (juries at important festivals: Cannes, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Venice, Ouagadougou and Zanizibar...), the creation of radio, video, and television studios, production and distribution of programmes, supplying specialised equipment and training professionals. The Mission of SIGNIS is to engage with media professionals and support Catholic Communicators o help transform cultures in the light of the Gospel by promoting human dignity, Justice and Reconciliation. (SIGNIS ROME, www.signisrome.net) e-mail: engafrica@vatiradio.va (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis sends condolences to families of plane crash victims

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 02:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to the families of the victims of a plane crash in the French Alps. In a telegram released on Tuesday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin writes that the Holy Father “joins in the grief of the families” of the victims, which include many children.  Pope Francis is also praying for those who died “entrusting them to the mercy of God” and he has  expressed his sympathy for all those affected by the tragedy, including rescue workers who are carrying out their duties in difficult conditions. The German A320 Airbus carrying 150 people came down in a remote, snow-covered mountainous region in the French Alps. There were no survivors. The cause of the crash is not yet known, however, the first black box flight recorder has been located. Weather at the time of the crash was calm, but it later deteriorated and there are forecasts of snow Wednesday further hampering search efforts. The Germanwings flight was travelling non-stop from Barcelona in Spain to Duesseldorf in Germany. Germanwings spokesman Thomas Winklemann said the descent lasted for eight minutes. 16 of those aboard the plane were pupils from Joseph-Koenig school in the German town of Haltern, returning from an exchange trip. A memorial mass was held Tuesday for the victims and the local church remained opened all night for those wishing to mourn.   The leaders of Germany, France and Spain are due to visit the crash site.   Below, please find the full text of the telegram for the air crash in France: Having learned of the tragic plane crash in the region of Digne, which caused many casualties, including many children, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in the grief of the families, expressing his closeness to them in sorrow. He prays for peace for the deceased, entrusting them to the mercy of God that He might welcome them into His dwelling place of peace and light. He expresses his deep sympathy for all those touched by this tragedy, as well as for the rescue workers working in difficult conditions. The Holy Father asks the Lord to give strength and consolation to all, and, as a comfort, he invokes upon them the abundance of divine Blessings.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Romero remembered as voice for victims of human rights violations

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 11:17
(Vatican Radio) March 24th is recognized as an international day for the victims of human rights violations, in honour of the Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero who was murdered while saying Mass on this day in 1980.  He was shot dead by hired assassins because he had become an increasingly outspoken opponent of the El Salvador’s government and military leadership, making public each week a list of the victims of the civil war. Across Latin America Romero has long been revered by many as ‘the voice of voiceless’, an inspirational figure for all who struggle to uphold the gospel values of human dignity, justice and peace. In February this year Pope Francis approved a decree saying that Romero had been killed out of “hatred for his faith”, paving the way for his beatification which is scheduled to take place in San Salvador on May 23rd. Among those who’ve been personally inspired by Romero’s dedication to the poorest and most vulnerable is the former director of the English Catholic aid agency CAFOD, Julian Filochowsky, who also heads the London based Romero Trust. Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:  (from Vatican Radio)...

Doors open to the Vatican Museums for 150 homeless people

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 08:02
A special visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel for some 150 homeless people has been organized by the Office of Papal Charities. Led by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, on Thursday, 26 March, the poor, who usually see only the steps outside the colonnade of St Peter's Square, will also have a chance to enjoy the Vatican's artistic patrimony. The visit is scheduled for the early afternoon: these guests will enter the Vatican through the Petriano entrance where they will be divided into three groups, each one will be entrusted to a guide. Before entering the Museums these groups will enjoy a privileged tour inside Vatican City State, passing the Domus Sanctae Marthae, behind St Peter's Basilica, through the piazzale della Zecca, the main path of the Gardens and the Cancello di Gregogio....

​Mass at Santa Marta - Christians? Yes, but....

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 07:44
How many people say they are Christians but don’t accept “the way” that God wants to save us? They are the ones Pope Francis defined as “Christians, yes, but...”, incapable of understanding that salvation passes through the cross. And Jesus on the Cross — the Pontiff explained in his homily during Mass at Santa Marta on Tuesday, 24 March — is the very “core of the message of the day’s Liturgy”. In the passage from the Gospel according to John (8:21-30), Jesus says: “When you have lifted up the Son of man...” and, foretelling of his death on the cross, evokes the bronze serpent that Moses raised “to heal the Israelites in the desert” and which was recounted in the First Reading from the Book of Numbers (21:4-9). The People of God enslaved in Egypt, the Pope explained, had been freed: “They had truly seen miracles. And when they were afraid, at the time of the Pharaoh’s persecution, when they were faced with the Red Sea, they saw the miracle” that God performed for them. The “journey of liberation” thus began in joy. The Israelites “were happy” because they had been “liberated from slavery”, happy because “they carried with them the promise of very good land, a land for them alone”, and because “none of them had died” on the first part of the journey. The women were also happy because they had “the jewels of the Egyptian women” with them. At a certain point though, the Pontiff continued, at the moment in which “the journey was getting long”, the people could no longer bear it and “they grew tired”. Therefore they began to speak “against God and against Moses: why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”. They began to “criticize: to speak against God, against Moses”, saying: “Here there is no bread and no water, and we loathe this worthless food, this manna”. In other words, the Israelites “loathed God’s help, a gift of God. And thus that initial joy of liberation became sorrow, complaining”. They would have probably preferred to be freed by “a magician performing magic with a wand” rather than a God who made them walk and made them “earn salvation” or “at least partly deserve it” by acting “in a certain way”. In the Scripture we meet a “discontented people” and, Francis pointed out, “criticizing is a way out of this discontentment”. In their discontent, “they vented, but they didn’t realize that the soul becomes poisoned with this attitude”. Thus, the serpents arrive, because “like this, like the venom of serpents, at this moment these people had a poisoned spirit”. Jesus, too, speaks of the same attitude, of “this way of not being content, not satisfied”. The Pontiff then referred to a passage from the Gospels of both Matthew (11:17) and Luke (7:32): “When Jesus speaks of this attitude He says: ‘How are you to be understood? Are you like those youths in the square: we played for you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn. Does nothing satisfy you?’”. The problem “wasn’t salvation” but rather “liberation”, because “everyone wanted this”; the problem was “God’s way: they didn’t like dancing to God’s song; they didn’t like mourning to God’s lamentations”. So “what did they want”? They wanted, the Pope explained, to act “according to their own thoughts, to choose their own path to salvation”. But that path “didn’t lead to anything”. This is an attitude that we still encounter today. “Among Christians”, Francis asked, how many are “somewhat poisoned” by this discontentment? We hear: “Yes, truly, God is good. Christians, yes, but...”. They are the ones, he continued, “who end up not opening their heart to God’s salvation” and who “always ask for conditions”; the ones who say: “Yes, yes, yes, I want to be saved, but on this path”. This is how “the heart becomes poisoned”. This is the heart of “lukewarm Christians” who always have something to complain about: “‘Why has the Lord done this to me?’ — ‘But He saved you, He opened the door for you, He forgave you of so many sins’ — ‘Yes, yes, it’s true, but...’”. Thus the Israelites in the desert said: “I would like water, bread, but the kind I like, not not this worthless food. I loathe it”. And we too “so often say that we loathe the divine way”. Francis emphasized: “Not accepting the gift of God with his way, that is the sin; that is the venom; that poisons our soul, it takes away your joy, it doesn’t let you go”. So “how does the Lord resolve this? With poison itself, with sin itself”: in other words “He takes the poison, the sin, upon Himself and is lifted up”. Thus “this warmth of soul, this being halfway Christians” this being “Christians, yes, but...” becomes healed. The healing, the Pope explained, comes only by “looking to the cross”, by looking to God who takes on our sins: “my sin is there”. However “how many Christians in the desert die of their sorrow, of their complaining, of their not wanting God’s way”. This is for every Christian to reflect upon: while God “saves us and shows us what salvation is like”, I “am not really able to tolerate a path that I don’t like much”. This is the “selfishness that Jesus rebukes in his generation”, which said of John the Baptist: “He has a demon”. And when the Son of Man came, He was defined as a “glutton” and a “drunkard”. And so, the Pope asked, “who understands you?”. He added, “I too, with my spiritual caprice regarding the salvation that God gives me, who understands me?”. Therefore, there is an invitation to the faithful: “Look at the serpent, the venom there in the Body of Christ, the poison of all the sins of the world and let ask for the grace to accept the divine way of salvation; to also accept this food, so wretched that the Hebrews complained about it”: the grace, that is, “to accept the ways by which the Lord leads me forth”. Francis concluded by praying that Holy Week may “help us to leave behind this temptation to become “ Christians, yes, but...’”....

The Challenge of 'Evangelii Gaudium' - Mission and worldly spirituality

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 06:39
In mapping the journey of evangelization, Pope Francis warns, discerningly, of obstacles on the way. He cautions about the “dark side” of secularity: the individualism it breeds, the relativism it propagates, the consumerism it celebrates, the “throw away” mentality that follows in its wake. Francis also draws on the church’s teachings on social justice to denounce a rapacious economic system that produces dehumanizing poverty, both material and cultural, for many. But Francis also bluntly addresses obstacles to the joyful proclamation of the Gospel that reside within the church itself. Among these he lists the lack of a truly collegial sharing of gifts and a clericalism motivated more by power-seeking than service of the Gospel. And his discernment probes deeper still. The Pope frequently warns of a “worldly spirituality” that has lost its anchor in Christ and the Spirit and drifts aimlessly. Too often we permit others to set the agenda rather than allow Christ and his Gospel to direct our undertakings. He laments: At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked skepticism with regard to the Church’s message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, although they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity and convictions. This produces a vicious circle. They end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do; they do not identify with their mission of evangelization and this weakens their commitment. They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses. Their work of evangelization thus becomes forced, and they devote little energy and very limited time to it (79). The only remedy for such alienation is conversion: turning again to the person of Jesus Christ and to the joy of encounter with him. Thus the Pope writes: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (3). Francis reiterates here what he has often stressed in homilies and talks: the heart of the Gospel is mysticism more than moralism. Of course, Christians must come to the aid of the poor and oppressed. They must be concerned about environmental degradation and religious intolerance and persecution. But this moral sensibility flows from a compelling and sustaining vision: the vision of the Lord who was crucified for our justification and raised to life for our salvation. Ultimately, the love of Jesus impels us. So Francis writes: “The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence” (264). Francis shares with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the conviction that the evangelical task is to promote a new or renewed encounter with the Mystery of God in Christ. They both insist that our communication must be “mystagogical:” leading into a deeper realization of the inexhaustible Mystery of our saving God. Such communication recognizes the importance of image and symbol, of art and poetry. It urges evangelizers, homilists, and theologians to appeal not only to truth and goodness, but to beauty as well. Francis recommends “a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it…. A formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith. Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new “language of parables” (167). The theme of the “newness” of Jesus Christ permeates Evangelii Gaudium . The risen Jesus is the heart of the Good News we seek to live and to share. Pope Francis quotes St Irenaeus: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness”. The Holy Father then comments: “With this newness Jesus is always able to renew our lives and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old…Each time we return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new paths open – creative methods, different forms of expression, more eloquent signs, words filled with new meaning for today’s world. In reality, every authentic act of evangelization is always 'new'”(11). The reason evangelizers can venture forth boldly, even to the farthest peripheries, is that their Center is secure: Jesus Christ “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). Because the risen Lord is ever new, he makes all things new.  Robert P. Imbelli...

Permanent Council of Cei: moment of prayer for martyrs, missionaries and lay people

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:00
Rome - "Tomorrow we Bishops of the Permanent Council will dedicate a special moment of prayer for the martyrs, missionaries and lay people, of today: we want them to feel the closeness of our love and of our communities, and the overwhelming gratitude for the example of intrepid faith. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians!". This is what Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference said yesterday afternoon, March 23, in his speech during the opening session of the Permanent Council of CEI. The Cardinal dedicated a considerable part of his speech to the theme of the persecution of Christians: "We cannot but remain painfully astonished before the persecution against Christians that grows and becomes cruel. The world of faith, of common sense, the human world remains baffled and beaten". Questioning the reasons for the persecution, he said: "One cannot but condemn such barbaric and studied cruelty against minorities, especially against Christians only because Christians. One cannot but condemn crazy and bloody strategies. Religion can never be challenged to kill or do violence". Finally, he stressed: "While it remains an urgent responsibility to ensure the rights of religious freedom in the world, once again we urge Europe to a serious examination of conscience on the phenomenon of Westerners who enlist in the death squads"....

The Pope concludes his trip to Naples: “Our God is the God of words and of silence”

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 09:26
Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – The final stage of the Pope's visit to Naples yesterday took place on the Caracciolo seafront promenade, where he met with the people of the city. The Holy Father again answered three questions. The first was posed by a young woman who wanted to know how to interpret God's silence when faced with difficulties such as corruption, and how to respond to this with signs of hope. “God, our God is a God of words, He is a God of gestures, and He is a God of silence. We know the God of words because in the Bible there are the words of God: God talks to us and seeks us. The God of gestures is the God around us. … And then there is the God of silence. Think of the great silences in the Bible: for instance, the silence in the heart of Abraham when he went to offer his son as a sacrifice. …. But God's greatest silence was the Cross: Jesus heard his Father's silence, to the point of defining it as abandonment. … And then there occurred God's miracle, that word, that grandiose gesture of the Resurrection. Our God is also the God of silence, and there are silences of God's that cannot be explained if you do not look to the Cross. For example, why do children suffer? Where is there a word from God to explain why children suffer? … I do not say that the silence of God can be 'understood', but we can draw nearer to God's silences by looking upon the crucified Christ, Christ abandoned from the Mount of Olives unto the Cross. … But 'God created us to be happy'. Yes, it is true. But very often He says nothing. And this is the truth. I cannot deceive you by saying, 'No, have faith and all will go well, you will be happy, you will have good fortune, you will have money …'. No, our God also remains in silence. Remember: He is the God of words, the God of gestures, and the God of silences, and you have to unite these three things in your life. This is what I can say to you. I am sorry. I have no other 'recipe'”. The second question was from an elderly woman, aged 95, who thanked the Pope for his defence of old age, a gift that today's society does not appreciate or discards, and commented that she had found a Christian community that showed her affection and gave her strength, and which had become like a family to her. “You used a key word for our culture: 'discard'. The elderly are discarded, because this society throws away what is no longer useful, what is 'disposable'. Children are not useful, so why have them? … We discard children, and we discard the elderly, because we leave them by themselves. We elderly have ailments and problems, and we bring problems to others, and people discard us perhaps because of these ailments, because we are no longer useful. And then there is this habit of – excuse the expression – leaving people to die, and since we like using euphemisms, we use a technical word: euthanasia. But euthanasia is carried out not only by injection; there is also a hidden euthanasia, that of no longer giving medicine, of not offering cures, of making life sad, and so one dies, one expires. … But this path that you have found is the best medicine for a long life: closeness, friendship, tenderness. … Solitude is the most potent poison for the elderly. … Sons and daughters, I remind you of the fourth commandment. Are you affectionate with your parents? Do you embrace them, do you tell them you love them? … Examine your consciences. Affection is the best medicine for the elderly”. Finally, a married couple asked the Pope how best to communicate the beauty of the family, through a pastoral ministry of outreach rather than defence. “The family is in crisis: this is true, and it is not new”, answered Francis. “Young people do not want to get married, preferring instead to live together, easily and without compromises; then, if a child comes along, they marry out of necessity. … The crisis of the family is a social reality. Then there are the ideological colonisations of the family, modes and proposals from Europe and also from overseas. The error of the human mind that is gender theory creates a lot of confusion. … What can we do, faced with such active secularisation? What can we do with these ideological colonisations? What can be done with a culture that does not consider the family, in which people prefer not to marry? I do not have a recipe: the Church is aware of this and the Lord has inspired the convocation of a Synod on the family, on its many problems. … For example, there is the problem of preparation for marriage. Preparation is not a question of a course: became a married couple in eight lessons. … It is another thing entirely. It begins at home, with friends, with youth, during engagement. Engagement has lost the sacred meaning of respect. Today, normally, engagement and cohabitation are almost the same thing. Not always, as there are good examples. How can we prepare an engagement to mature? It is like fruit. If you do not gather it when it is ripe, it is not good. But all this is a crisis, and I ask you to pray a lot. I have no recipes for this, but the witness of love and the witness of how to resolve problems are important”. At the end of the meeting, the Pope transferred to the maritime station of Naples in order to depart by helicopter. He arrived in Rome at 7 p.m....

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