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Easter 'Urbi et Orbi' Message of Pope Francis - full text

4 hours 26 min ago
Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter! The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6). This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death. That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love : it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!” : Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness. With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord! Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you. Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible. Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned. Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty. Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped. Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith. We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent. We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue! Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan. We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela. By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres ! Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace! Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter! ...

Pope at Easter Vigil: 'Return to Galilee' and rediscover God's grace

7 hours 24 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Jesus’ call to his Apostles, after his Resurrection, to “return to Galilee”, is the call to re-read everything in the life of Christ “on the basis of the cross and its victory.. from this supreme act of love,” said Pope Francis in his homily during the Easter Vigil celebration on Saturday evening. It is also a call to every Christian to rediscover their baptism “as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience,” he said. “To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey." To “return to Galilee” also means renewing “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. … It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me,” he added. During the celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Pope also baptised 10 catechumens, the youngest of whom is a seven-year-old Italian and the eldest is a 58-year-old from Vietnam. These 10 newly baptized Christians come from different countries, including France, Belarus, Lebanon and Senegal. Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily : The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10). After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”. Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22). To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love. For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy. In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me. Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy. The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth. “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!...

Pope Francis set to preside over Easter Vigil in Saint Peter's Basilica

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 13:06
(Vatican Radio) On the evening of April 19, Pope Francis is scheduled to preside over the Easter Vigil celebration in Saint Peter's Basilica. During this celebration the Pope will baptise ten catechumens, the youngest of whom is a seven year old Italian and the eldest a fifty- eight year old from Vietnam. The catechumens come from a number of different countries including France, Bielorussia, Lebanon and Senegal. On Easter Sunday morning Pope Francis will preside over Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Square at 10.15 a.m. and will then impart his traditional ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing, to the city and to the world from the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica. The mass will take place in a colourful floral setting, a yearly gift from the florists of the Netherlands and the liturgical rite will be accompanied by music from both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions....

Pope Francis urges prayers for victims of S. Korean ferry disaster

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 05:06
(Vatican Radio) This Holy Saturday, Pope Francis has asked people worldwide to join him in prayer for the victims of the tragic ferry disaster in South Korea. Using the global twitter network, the Holy Father tweeted: “Please join me in praying for the victims of the ferry disaster in Korea and their families”. South Korea has been plunged into mourning following the sinking of a shuttle ferry the Sewol earlier this week carrying 476 passengers on board. Many of them – over 300 - were high school students on a school trip to the holiday island of Jeju. Early reports said that the ferry turned sharply and listed, perhaps due to a shift in the cargo it was carrying and crew members said the captain, who was not initially on the bridge, had tried to right the ship but failed. Some 500 relatives of the 272 people still missing have been camped out in a nearby gymnasium in the port city of Jindo day and night since Wednesday. The official number of those missing was revised up from an earlier estimate of 269. Pope Francis is due to visit South Korea this August for Asian Youth Day, August 14-18, and the beatification of the 124 new Korean Martyrs. ...

Pope Francis: In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man and greatness of God's mercy

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 03:18
(Vatican Radio) “In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God's mercy who does not treat us according to our sins, but according to His mercy”. This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ brief unscripted address Friday evening as he presided at the traditional "Via Crucis", or Way of the Cross, service at Rome’s ancient Colosseum. Emer McCarthy has this report. Listen: Immigrants, the unemployed, the sick, the elderly and prisoners: these were the focus of thousands of pilgrims prayers Friday evening as they gathered in the darkness around the ancient amphitheater, behind a simple wooden Cross. "God - Pope Francis said – placed all the weight of our sins on the Cross of Jesus, all the injustices perpetrated by every Cain against his brother, all the bitterness of the betrayal of Judas and Peter, all the vanity of tyrants, all the arrogance of false friends. It was a heavy Cross, like the night of abandoned people, as heavy as the death of loved ones, heavy because it carried all the ugliness of evil". The Cross emerged from the ruins marking the 14 stations of Christ’s final journey here on earth, borne between two burning candles by immigrants, prisoners, homeless, elderly, women, disabled, and former drug addicts. From the Palatine Hill opposite the Colosseum, Pope Francis knelt in prayer as the meditations by Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini were read. The Archbishop from the southern region of Campobasso, has been at the forefront in the fight against organised crime in southern Italy. His reflections spoke of "all of those wrongs that have created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences: job insecurity, unemployment, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury”. The meditations also denounced the abuse of women and children, the loneliness of old people, of prisoners who endure torture, victims of organized crime and loansharks. The Archbishop wrote: "Today, many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair”. As the Cross came to a standstill before the Holy Father four the 14 th station, the Pope spoke briefly in unscripted remarks to the thousands of pilgrims gathered below in flickering candle light. He spoke of the “monstrosities” that mankind is capable of when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil. But he concluded “it is also a glorious Cross, as [glorious] as the dawn after a long night, because it represents the totality of the love of God, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals". "However - he continued – it is also a glorious Cross, as [glorious] as the dawn after a long night, because it represents the totality of the love of God, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals. In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God's mercy who does not treat us according to our sins, but according to His mercy. Before the Cross of Christ, we see, we can almost touch with our hands how much we are eternally loved; Before the Cross, we feel like 'children' and not 'things ' or objects". "Oh, our Jesus - the Pope concluded - lead us from the Cross to the Resurrection and teach us that evil will not have the last word, but love , mercy and forgiveness. O Christ, help us to once again cry : 'Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with Him. Yesterday I died with Him, today I live with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Him, today raised with Him '. Finally, let us all together remember the sick, remember all the abandoned people under the weight of the Cross, that in the trial of the Cross they may find the strength of Hope, the Hope of the Resurrection and the Love of God"....

Pope Francis: the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 11:19
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presides over the via crucis – the Way of the Cross – this Good Friday evening at the Colosseum in Rome. The Way of the Cross is a centuries-old and much beloved devotion, that began as a sort of spiritual pilgrimage to the places and scenes and events of Christ’s passion for those who could not make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land in person, as well as for those who had made it and wished to relive their experience, and for those who were preparing for the journey. The practice of placing the “stations” of the Cross in churches, as well as the number of stations – 14 – is traceable at least to the 18 th century. Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano in Italy has composed the meditations accompanying this year’s via cruces devotion at the Colosseum. The faithful who are to carry the cross come from every age, background and state of life in the Church, all chosen to complement and illustrate the theme of suffering – often secret and in silence – that is the driving motif running through Archbishop Bregantini’s meditations. The event is always well attended, regardless of weather, though this year Rome’s civil authorities have anticipated an even larger than usual turnout. Giant television viewing screens in the nearby Circo Massimo and on the via dei fori imperiali, which runs past the Colosseum, have been put in place for participants. The event is scheduled to begin at 9:00 PM and to conclude at 10:45 PM, Rome Time. Listen to our report : ...

Papal Good Friday liturgy solemn, prayerful

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 08:59
(Vatican Radio) Hundreds of faithful filled St Peter’s Basilica Friday evening for the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord. The liturgy, also known as the Good Friday service, recalls the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Pope Francis presided the liturgy, whose focal points included the reading of the Passion of Christ and the Adoration of the Holy Cross. Earlier in the day, Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told a press conference that the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord is the only papal liturgy in the year when the Pope does not preach the homily. The Pope presides, but he does not speak any of his own words, said Fr Lombardi. Instead, the homily is given by the preacher of the papal household, currently Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. Following the homily, the liturgy proceeded with the 10 universal prayer intentions specific to Good Friday: for the Church, the Pope, and all orders and degrees of the faithful, for catechumens, Christian unity, and the Jewish people, for those who do not believe in Christ and for those who do not believe in God, for all in public office and for all in special need. The second part of the liturgy followed with the Adoration of the Holy Cross, during which the Cross of Christ was unveiled. The Stabat mater , a 13 th -century hymn which meditates on the suffering of Mary at the foot of the Cross, was sung, after which the Cross was placed before the altar for the entire assembly to adore in silence. The Good Friday liturgy is not a Mass, therefore the Eucharist was not consecrated. However, Communion was distributed. After the Pope prayed the blessing over the people, the liturgy concluded in silence, with no words of dismissal, as is the tradition for this second day of the Easter Triduum. Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci : ...

Good Friday homily: Judas' story ‘should move us to surrender' to Christ

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 05:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Friday evening. The celebration of the Passion of Our Lord, also known as the Good Friday service, is the liturgy that recalls the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, preached the homily. Below is the official English translation of the full text of Fr Cantalamessa’s homily : ‘Judas was Standing with Them’ (Jn 18:5) In the divine-human history of the passion of Jesus, there are many minor stories about men and women who entered into the ray of its light or its shadow. The most tragic one is that of Judas Iscariot. It is one of the few events attested with equal emphasis by each of the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The early Christian community reflected a great deal on this incident and we would be remiss to do otherwise. It has much to tell us. Judas was chosen from the very beginning to be one of the Twelve. In inserting his name in the list of apostles, the gospel-writer Luke says, “Judas Iscariot, who became (egeneto) a traitor” (Lk 6:16). Judas was thus not born a traitor and was not a traitor at the time Jesus chose him; he became a traitor! We are before one of the darkest dramas of human freedom. Why did he become a traitor? Not so long ago, when the thesis of a “revolutionary Jesus” was in fashion, people tried to ascribe idealistic motivations to Judas’ action. Someone saw in his name “Iscariot” a corruption of sicariot, meaning that he belonged to a group of extremist zealots who used a kind of dagger (sica) against the Romans; others thought that Judas was disappointed in the way that Jesus was putting forward his concept of “the kingdom of God” and wanted to force his hand to act against the pagans on the political level as well. This is the Judas of the famous musical Jesus Christ Superstar and of other recent films and novels — a Judas who resembles another famous traitor to his benefactor, Brutus, who killed Julius Caesar to save the Roman Republic! These are reconstructions to be respected when they have some literary or artistic value, but they have no historical basis whatsoever. The Gospels — the only reliable sources that we have about Judas’ character — speak of a more down-to-earth motive: money. Judas was entrusted with the group’s common purse; on the occasion of Jesus’ anointing in Bethany, Judas had protested against the waste of the precious perfumed ointment that Mary poured on Jesus’ feet, not because he was interested in the poor but, as John notes, “because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it” (Jn 12:6). His proposal to the chief priests is explicit: “‘What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver” (Mt 26:15). But why are people surprised at this explanation, finding it too banal? Has it not always been this way in history and is still this way today? Mammon, money, is not just one idol among many: it is the idol par excellence, literally “a molten god” (see Ex 34:17). And we know why that is the case. Who is objectively, if not subjectively (in fact, not in intentions), the true enemy, the rival to God, in this world? Satan? But no one decides to serve Satan without a motive. Whoever does it does so because they believe they will obtain some kind of power or temporal benefit from him. Jesus tells us clearly who the other master, the anti-God, is: “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24). Money is the “visible god” in contrast to the true God who is invisible. Mammon is the anti-God because it creates an alternative spiritual universe; it shifts the purpose of the theological virtues. Faith, hope, and charity are no longer placed in God but in money. A sinister inversion of all values occurs. Scripture says, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23), but the world says, “All things are possible to him who has money.” And on a certain level, all the facts seem to bear that out. “The love of money,” Scripture says, “is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Behind every evil in our society is money, or at least money is also included there. It is the Molech we recall from the Bible to whom young boys and girls were sacrificed (see Jer 32:35) or the Aztec god for whom the daily sacrifice of a certain number of human hearts was required. What lies behind the drug enterprise that destroys so many human lives, behind the phenomenon of the mafia, behind political corruption, behind the manufacturing and sale of weapons, and even behind — what a horrible thing to mention — the sale of human organs removed from children? And the financial crisis that the world has gone through and that this country is still going through, is it not in large part due to the “cursed hunger for gold,” the auri sacra fames, on the part of some people? Judas began with taking money out of the common purse. Does this say anything to certain administrators of public funds? But apart from these criminal ways of acquiring money, is it not also a scandal that some people earn salaries and collect pensions that are sometimes 100 times higher than those of the people who work for them and that they raise their voices to object when a proposal is put forward to reduce their salary for the sake of greater social justice? In the 1970s and 1980s in Italy, in order to explain unexpected political reversals, hidden exercises of power, terrorism, and all kinds of mysteries that were troubling civilian life, people began to point to the quasi-mythical idea of the existence of “a big Old Man,” a shrewd and powerful figure who was pulling all the strings behind the curtain for goals known only to himself. This powerful “Old Man” really exists and is not a myth; his name is Money! Like all idols, money is deceitful and lying: it promises security and instead takes it away; it promises freedom and instead destroys it. St. Francis of Assisi, with a severity that is untypical for him, describes the end of life of a person who has lived only to increase his “capital.” Death draws near, and the priest is summoned. He asks the dying man, “Do you want forgiveness for all your sins?” and he answers, “Yes.” The priest then asks, “Are you ready to make right the wrongs you did, restoring things you have defrauded others of?” The dying man responds, “I can’t.” “Why can’t you?” “Because I have already left everything in the hands of my relatives and friends.” And so he dies without repentance, and his body is barely cold when his relatives and friends say, “Damn him! He could have earned more money to leave us, but he didn’t.” How many times these days have we had to think back again to the cry Jesus addressed to the rich man in the parable who had stored up endless riches and thought he was secure for the rest of his life: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20) Men placed in positions of responsibility who no longer knew in what bank or monetary paradise to hoard the proceeds of their corruption have found themselves on trial in court or in a prison cell just when they were about to say to themselves, “Have a good time now, my soul.” For whom did they do it? Was it worth it? Did they work for the good of their children and family, or their party, if that is really what they were seeking? Have they not instead ruined themselves and others? The betrayal of Judas continues throughout history, and the one betrayed is always Jesus. Judas sold the head, while his imitators sell body, because the poor are members of the body of Christ, whether they know it or not. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). However, Judas’ betrayal does not continue only in the high-profile kinds of cases that I have mentioned. It would be comfortable for us to think so, but that is not the case. The homily that Fr Primo Mazzolari gave on Holy Thursday 1958, about “Our Brother Judas” is still famous. “Let me,” he said to the few parishioners before him, “think about the Judas who is within me for a moment, about the Judas who perhaps is also within you.” One can betray Jesus for other kinds of compensation than 30 pieces of silver. A man who betrays his wife, or a wife her husband, betrays Christ. The minister of God who is unfaithful to his state in life, or instead of feeding the sheep entrusted to him feeds himself, betrays Jesus. Whoever betrays their conscience betrays Jesus. Even I can betray him at this very moment — and it makes me tremble — if while preaching about Judas I am more concerned about the audience’s approval than about participating in the immense sorrow of the Savior. There was a mitigating circumstance in Judas’ case that that I do not have. He did not know who Jesus was and considered him to be only “a righteous man”; he did not know, as we do, that he was the Son of God. As Easter approaches every year, I have wanted to listen to Bach’s “Passion According to St. Matthew” again. It includes a detail that makes me flinch every time. At the announcement of Judas’ betrayal, all the apostles ask Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” Before having us hear Christ’s answer, the composer — erasing the distance between the event and its commemoration — inserts a chorale that begins this way: “It is I; I am the traitor! I need to make amends for my sins.” Like all the chorales in this musical piece, it expresses the sentiments of the people who are listening. It is also an invitation for us to make a confession of our sin. The Gospel describes Judas’ horrendous end: “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver, he departed; and he went and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3-5). But let us not pass a hasty judgment here. Jesus never abandoned Judas, and no one knows, after he hung himself from a tree with a rope around his neck, where he ended up: in Satan’s hands or in God’s hands. Who can say what transpired in his soul during those final moments? “Friend” was the last word that Jesus addressed to him, and he could not have forgotten it, just as he could not have forgotten Jesus’ gaze. It is true that in speaking to the Father about his disciples Jesus had said about Judas, “None of them is lost but the son of perdition” (Jn 17:12). But here, as in so many other instances, he is speaking from the perspective of time and not of eternity. The enormity of this betrayal is enough by itself alone, without needing to consider a failure that is eternal, to explain the other terrifying statement said about Judas: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mk 14:21). The eternal destiny of a human being is an inviolable secret kept by God. The Church assures us that a man or a woman who is proclaimed a saint is experiencing eternal blessedness, but she does not herself know for certain that any particular person is in hell. Dante Alighieri, who places Judas in the deepest part of hell in his Divine Comedy, tells of the last-minute conversion of Manfred, the son of Frederick II and the king of Sicily, whom everyone at the time considered damned because he died as an excommunicated. Having been mortally wounded in battle, he confides to the poet that in the very last moment of his life, “…weeping, I gave my soul / to Him who grants forgiveness willingly” and he sends a message from Purgatory to earth that is still relevant for us: Horrible was the nature of my sins, but boundless mercy stretches out its arms to any man who comes in search of it. Here is what the story of our brother Judas should move us to do: to surrender ourselves to the one who freely forgives, to throw ourselves likewise into the outstretched arms of the Crucified One. The most important thing in the story of Judas is not his betrayal but Jesus’ response to it. He knew well what was growing in his disciple’s heart, but he does not expose it; he wants to give Judas the opportunity right up until the last minute to turn back, and is almost shielding him. He knows why Judas came to the garden of olives, but he does not refuse his cold kiss and even calls him “friend” (see Mt 26:50). He sought out Peter after his denial to give him forgiveness, so who knows how he might have sought out Judas at some point in his way to Calvary! When Jesus prays from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), he certainly does not exclude Judas from those for whom he prays. So what will we do? Who will we follow, Judas or Peter? Peter had remorse for what he did, but Judas was also remorseful to the point of crying out, “I have betrayed innocent blood!” and he gave back the thirty pieces of silver. Where is the difference then? Only in one thing: Peter had confidence in the mercy of Christ, and Judas did not! Judas’ greatest sin was not in having betrayed Christ but in having doubted his mercy. If we have imitated Judas in his betrayal, some of us more and some less, let us not imitate him in his lack of confidence in forgiveness. There is a sacrament through which it is possible to have a sure experience of Christ’s mercy: the sacrament of reconciliation. How wonderful this sacrament is! It is sweet to experience Jesus as Teacher, as Lord, but even sweeter to experience him as Redeemer, as the one who draws you out of the abyss, like he drew Peter out of the sea, as the one who touches you and, like he did with the leper, says to you, “ I will; be clean” (Mt 8:3). Confession allows us to experience about ourselves what the Church says of Adam’s sin on Easter night in the “Exultet”: “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” Jesus knows how to take all our sins, once we have repented, and make them “happy faults,” faults that would no longer be remembered if it were not for the experience of mercy and divine tenderness that they occasioned. I have a wish for myself and for all of you, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters: on Easter morning, may we awaken and let the words of a great convert in modern times, Paul Claudel, resonate in our hearts: My God, I have been revived, and I am with You again! I was sleeping, stretched out like a dead man in the night. You said, “Let there be light!” and I awoke the way a cry is shouted out! My Father, You who have given me life before the Dawn, I place myself in Your Presence. My heart is free and my mouth is cleansed; my body and spirit are fasting. I have been absolved of all my sins, which I confessed one by one. The wedding ring is on my finger and my face is washed. I am like an innocent being in the grace that You have bestowed on me. This is what Christ’s Passover can do for us....

Pope Francis: 'Serve one another in love'

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:29
(Vatican Radio) In a gesture of humility and service, and in imitation of Christ, Pope Francis put on an apron and knelt down to wash the feet of 12 patients at a long-term care facility, during the Missa In Coena Domini, or the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, on Thursday evening. Visibly fatigued and requiring assistance to kneel and stand up again as he came close to the end of the rite, Pope Francis conveyed tenderness and concern for each person, pouring water on each person’s foot, then drying it and kissing it, before offering a loving gaze, sometimes reciprocated, depending on each person’s state of health. The patients ranged in age from 16 to 86, and all suffer from a variety disabilities. All of them are Italian (though three were of a different ethnic origin), including one Muslim man. The Mass was celebrated in Italian in the chapel of the Santa Maria della Provvidenza Centre, one of more than two dozen healthcare facilities, run by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation. It reflected the character of the healthcare centre and of the local Christian community, with the centre’s usual Sunday choir, consisting of patients, volunteers and staff, singing popular Italian hymns. Many of the centre’s patients sat in their wheelchairs in the front rows of the assembly. The Mass, which recalls Christ’s last Passover meal with this Apostles, his washing of their feet in a gesture of service, and the institution of the Eucharist, begins the Easter Triduum. The Pope’s selection of the location and his gesture of washing the feet of 12 people with disability was intended to underline the forms of fragility, in which the Christian community is called to recognize the suffering Christ and to which it must devote attention, solidarity and charity. In his brief homily, the Pope recalled that God made himself a servant in Christ and that this is the inheritance of all believers. Christ came to love and his followers, in turn, “need to be servants in love”. Speaking extemporaneously, he said to wash the feet of another was, in Jesus’ time, the task of the slave or the servant of the house. In executing this gesture, Jesus tells his followers that they are called to be servants to each other. “Everyone here must think of others… and how we can serve others better,” he said. At the end of the Mass, the Pope carried the Blessed Sacrament to an Altar of Repose. He remained there in prayer until the end of the Pange Lingue hymn, after which he processed out of the chapel in the usual silence with which the Holy Thursday evening liturgy concludes. This is the second year the Pope celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper among a group of people usually marginalized by society. Last year, the Pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper at a youth detention centre. Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci: ...

Pope Francis: In coena domini homily

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 14:00
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis preached an extemporaneous homily during the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which was held at S. Maria della Provvidenza, a rehabilitation and long-term care facility in the suburbs of Rome. The following is an English translation of Pope Francis’ reflections on the Lord’s loving act of service, an act which the Pope himself imitated later in the mass, kneeling down to wash the feet of twelve patients of the centre. ********* We have heard what Jesus did at the Last Supper: It is a gesture of farewell. He is God and he makes himself a servant, our servant. It is like an inheritance. You also must be servants of one another. He crossed this path by love. Also you must love each other and be servants in Love. This is the inheritance that Jesus leaves us. And he makes this gesture of washing feet, which is a symbolic act. The slaves performed this, the servants at the meals for the people who came to dine because at that time the streets were made of dirt and when they entered in a house it was necessary to wash one’s feet. And Jesus made performed this action, a work, a service of a slave, of a servant. And this he leaves like an inheritance amongst us. We must be servants of each other. And for this, the church, today, commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he also—in the ceremony—performs the action of the washing of the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants of one another. Now I will perform this act, but all of us, in our hearts, let us think of others and think in the love that Jesus tells us that we have to have for the others and let us consider also how we can serve better, other people. Because Jesus wanted it this way amongst us....

Pope Francis at Chrism Mass: the joy of being a priest

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:50
(Vatican Radio) “The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest.” At the Chrism Mass in Saint Peter’s, Pope Francis spoke about “priestly joy,” a joy, he said, “which anoints us,” an “imperishable joy,” a “missionary joy.” The joy which anoints priests, the Pope said, “has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them, and strengthened them sacramentally.” It is a joy that can never be taken away; although it “can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles … deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed.” Pope Francis focused especially on the third feature of priestly joy: “Priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy.” This joy, he said, “arises only when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock.” There, his joy is “guarded” by the faithful, by “God’s faithful people” who are able to protect and embrace their priests, to help them open their hearts “to find renewed joy.” Priestly joy, the Holy Father continued, is guarded, not only by the flock, but “by three sisters who surround it, tend it, and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity, and sister obedience.” Explaining these three “sisters,” the Pope said that because the priest is poor “in terms of purely human joy,” he must seek his joy “from the Lord and from God’s faithful people.” The priest must go out of himself, seeking God and the people of God. “Going out of ourselves,” he said, “presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.” Priestly joy is also a “sister to fidelity,” Pope Francis said – not, he explained, “in the sense that we [priests] are all ‘immaculate’ (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are all sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church.” Priests will find true joy when they are faithful to their mission, doing “all that he has to do, and letting go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord entrusted to him.” Finally, priests find joy in “sister obedience,” an obedience not only to the externals of their mission, “but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood.” The Pope continued, “It is also an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always, and as best I can,” following the example of Mary. “All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world,” Pope Francis said. “It is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord might “enable many young people to discover the burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call.” He prayed, too, for the recently ordained, for priests who have been in ministry for some time, and for elderly priests. ...

Pape Francis during Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass commemorates the institution of the priesthood

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 05:47
“Anointed with the oil of gladness”. In a few words Pope Francis was able to capture the mission of a priest. This he did in his homily at Holy Thursday's Chrism Mass, 17 April, in St Peter's Basilica. The following is the English text of the Pope's homily, which was delivered in Italian. Dear Brother Priests, In the eternal “today” of Holy Thursday, when Christ showed his love for us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we recall the happy day of the institution of the priesthood, as well as the day of our own priestly ordination. The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint. Anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness. Priestly joy has its source in the Father’s love, and the Lord wishes the joy of this Love to be “ours” and to be “complete” ( Jn 15:11). I like to reflect on joy by contemplating Our Lady, for Mary, the “Mother of the living Gospel, is a wellspring of joy for God’s little ones” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 288). I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that priest is very little indeed: the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men. The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock. No one is more “little” than a priest left to his own devices; and so our prayer of protection against every snare of the Evil One is the prayer of our Mother: I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness (cf. Lk 1:48). And in that littleness we find our joy. Joy in our littleness! For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us. A joy which anoints us . In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing. An imperishable joy . The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us ( Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6). A missionary joy . I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them. And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy. A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience. The joy of priests is a joy which is sister to poverty . The priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself. We know that our people are very generous in thanking priests for their slightest blessing and especially for the sacraments. Many people, in speaking of the crisis of priestly identity, fail to realize that identity presupposes belonging. There is no identity – and consequently joy of life – without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 268). The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than “exit” signs, signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve him. Unless you “exit” from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty. Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to fidelity . Not primarily in the sense that we are all “immaculate” (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church. Here fruitfulness is key. The spiritual children which the Lord gives each priest, the children he has baptized, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechizes and helps to grow, the poor he assists… all these are the “Bride” whom he rejoices to treat as his supreme and only love and to whom he is constantly faithful. It is the living Church, with a first name and a last name, which the priest shepherds in his parish or in the mission entrusted to him. That mission brings him joy whenever he is faithful to it, whenever he does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him: Feed my sheep (cf. Jn 21:16,17). Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to obedience . An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience: the parish to which I am sent, my ministerial assignments, my particular work … but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood. It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can, following the example of “Our Lady of Promptness” (cf. Lk 1:39, meta spoudes ), who hastens to serve Elizabeth her kinswoman and is concerned for the kitchen of Cana when the wine runs out. The availability of her priests makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children about to make their First Communion… Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen ( ob-audire ) and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy or to encourage those good desires with resourceful charity. All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world: it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus, the one Good Shepherd who, with deep compassion for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd, wants to associate many others to his ministry, so as himself to remain with us and to work, in the person of his priests, for the good of his people. On this Holy Thursday, I ask the Lord Jesus to enable many young people to discover that burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call. On this Holy Thursday, I ask the Lord Jesus to preserve the joy sparkling in the eyes of the recently ordained who go forth to devour the world, to spend themselves fully in the midst of God's faithful people, rejoicing as they prepare their first homily, their first Mass, their first Baptism, their first confession… It is the joy of being able to share with wonder, and for the first time as God’s anointed, the treasure of the Gospel and to feel the faithful people anointing you again and in yet another way: by their requests, by bowing their heads for your blessing, by taking your hands, by bringing you their children, by pleading for their sick… Preserve, Lord, in your young priests the joy of going forth, of doing everything as if for the first time, the joy of spending their lives fully for you. On this Thursday of the priesthood, I ask the Lord Jesus to confirm the priestly joy of those who have already ministered for some years. The joy which, without leaving their eyes, is also found on the shoulders of those who bear the burden of the ministry, those priests who, having experienced the labours of the apostolate, gather their strength and rearm themselves: “get a second wind”, as the athletes say. Lord, preserve the depth, wisdom and maturity of the joy felt by these older priests. May they be able to pray with Nehemiah: “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (cf. Neh 8:10). Finally, on this Thursday of the priesthood, I ask the Lord Jesus to make better known the joy of elderly priests, whether healthy or infirm. It is the joy of the Cross, which springs from the knowledge that we possess an imperishable treasure in perishable earthen vessels. May these priests find happiness wherever they are; may they experience already, in the passage of the years, a taste of eternity (Guardini). May they know, Lord, the joy of handing on the torch, the joy of seeing new generations of their spiritual children, and of hailing the promises from afar, smiling and at peace, in that hope which does not disappoint. ...

Holy Thursday: Pope Francis at the service of the aged and disabled

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:23
(Vatican Radio) For the second year in a row Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper among people often pushed to the margins of society. He will once again visit the Don Gnocchi centre in Rome’s Casal del Marmo area, close to the Youth Detention Center where the Pope celebrated Mass among young prison inmates last year. This year he will be visiting a sister center for the elderly and disabled. The Mass of Our Lords Supper commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s mandate to the Apostles – the first ordained bishops and priests- to be at the service of God’s people. A moment that symbolizes this service is the Mandatum – or washing of the feet of twelve people. Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi has confirmed that this year the chosen twelve will include nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, a young man from Cape Verde and an Ethiopian woman. All of whom have received help and support from the Don Gnocchi Foundation to overcome the difficulties, marginalization and isolation they often face on account of their age or a disability. But why does Pope Francis seem to have a particular preference for the Don Gnocchi Foundation? To find out more Linda Bordoni spoke to expert physicist Dr. Furio Grammatica*, who is the Chair of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) at the Don Gnocchi Foundation. She found out that with a chain of 30 healthcare and research centres specialized in rehabilitation throughout Italy, the Foundation embodies what Pope Francis has termed “moving out to the margins” in search and support of those people society has forgotten or discarded. Listen: “What are the expectations of your guests and your operators, getting close to the meeting with the Pope ?” It has been a big surprise for all of us. We all knew how Pope Francis likes the concrete service to the most frail people, and we all felt him as a “supporter” of our mission, like his predecessors showed us to be. On the other hand, when we realised that, thanks to a request of our President – Monsignor Angelo Bazzari – the Pope really decided to visit us in a so important and symbolic occasion – we all thought “too fantastic to be true”! Concerning our guests, one could guess that most of them cannot fully catch the meaning of this visit, but this is definitively not true, even for the most critical cases: what I learned first, when I joined Don Gnocchi Foundation 10 years ago, is that our guests all developed a clear “sixth sense” on how much they are loved, and – in a definitively more straight way than us – they fully rely on people closer to them, who represent the fondness they feel. Pope Francis is not only a Pope, but a icon of the tenderness and strength at the same time, so they are really excited in view of meeting the Pope. We, as Don Gnocchi Foundation operators, really expect a familiar, easy, true presence of the Pope at our Centre, bringing-in a wave of hope and strength in our daily care towards our guests. These are not easy days, for anyone. By the way, the Lent period reminds us the meaning of solitude, weakness, doubts, being tired or confused. Let me say, to see the Pope coming at our workplace means anticipating a bit the Easter for us ! “What does Pope Francis' decision to visit your Foundation represent for you ?” Our Founder, Don Carlo Gnocchi, has been defined as “a charity entrepreneur”, putting together two terms that are sometimes felt as opposite. Actually he demonstrated in his life, and left us as an heritage, that these terms are not only compatible, but synergic. For those like us, willing to continue on this track, the secret not to be overcome by pure management logic is to stay stuck on the reality of the sufferance, with humility, feeling our limits, but - on the other hand – “combating the battle against the invasion of death”, as Don Carlo used to say, by all means : charity together with science, patience together with innovation, closeness together with technology. We feel that Pope Francis message – so far – has been very clear and is very encouraging for us to go on in this track: staying close to neighbour, first, somehow witnessing the caress of God through all our available means. If the Pope comes and washes the feet to our guests, we can only be more and more determined to offer them all that we can. “Can you tell us something about your structure and activities ?” Don Gnocchi Foundation is more than 60 years old. Don Carlo Gnocchi was a chaplain of the alpine troops during the second world war, and there he saw – as everyone – horrific situations and the fear of dying soldiers especially to leave their families alone; but – with the typical vision of the saints – don Carlo also saw a perspective to be trained by this desperation and to offer a vision of hope, starting from there. In 60 years the Foundation evolved together with the frailties of its guests, passing from the little war victims to the wider target of rehabilitation , but keeping the holistic approach of the Founder: the human being has to be restored as a whole, as a masterpiece, taking into account body and soul at the same time and using all means available. So we passed from crutches to nanotechnologies, from blood analysis to genomics, from bare visual inspection to advanced neuroimaging, from the pilot centre to a chain of 29 centres in 9 Italian regions, in which we see 3,5 million patients a year, and more than 5.000 operators work in the field of clinics, rehabilitation, assistance to elderly, to disabled people, to terminally ill patients; education; scientific and technological research (the Foundation is recognised by the Italian Ministry of Health as a Research Hospital excellence centre in the field of rehabilitation medicine); innovative models of territorial care, also using ICT advanced techniques; presence in developing countries to export the value of being rehabilitated even where desperation of everyday life is the rule. This is the declination of the Foundation mission slogan “Accanto alla vita, sempre”, that is “Always aside life”. “Always” means from the childhood to the death and from hospital to home. It is important for us what Pope Francis repeatedly says: be magnanimous, let’s stretch our hearth. We hope he will remind to all of us this encouragement next Thursday, confirming he will support us with his guide. * Furio Gramatica, physicist, was born in Milano in 1964. He is the Chair of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) at Don Gnocchi Foundation – an Italian chain of 30 healthcare and research centres specialized in rehabilitation – where he also leads the Nanomedicine and Clinical Biophotonics Laboratory (LABION). For five years he served as Director of the Biomedical Technology Department “Polo Tecnologico” in the same Foundation. Formerly, he spent several years at CERN (Geneva), at Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics and in high-technology companies, with R&D management roles. Dr. Gramatica is a member of the Executive Board of the European Technology Platform of Nanomedicine (ETPN) and Chair of the ETPN Clinical Interface Group; member of the board of experts, evaluators and reviewers of the European Commission and of Wellcome Trust; nanomedicine Scientific Advisor of the Italian Ministry of Health; national representative of Italy at ETPN Mirror Group; member of Nanotechnology Commissions of Assobiotec and of Milano Engineers Association; fellow professor of physics at Milan University Medical School....

Pope Francis: Chrism Mass homily

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 03:48
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Chrism Mass of the Rome diocese on Holy Thursday morning, in St. Peter's Basilica. The Chrism Mass is the traditional liturgy, during the course of which the oils to be used in the sacraments of initiation, Holy Orders and healing throughout the coming year are blessed. It is also a particularly profound moment of unity among the clergy of the diocese together with the bishop. The theme of the Holy Father's homily was the joy of priestly service. Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father's prepared remarks. ******************************************************* “Anointed with the oil of gladness” Dear Brother Priests, In the eternal “today” of Holy Thursday, when Christ showed his love for us to the end (cf. Jn 13:1), we recall the happy day of the institution of the priesthood, as well as the day of our own priestly ordination. The Lord anointed us in Christ with the oil of gladness, and this anointing invites us to accept and appreciate this great gift: the gladness, the joy of being a priest. Priestly joy is a priceless treasure, not only for the priest himself but for the entire faithful people of God: that faithful people from which he is called to be anointed and which he, in turn, is sent to anoint. Anointed with the oil of gladness so as to anoint others with the oil of gladness. Priestly joy has its source in the Father’s love, and the Lord wishes the joy of this Love to be “ours” and to be “complete” (Jn 15:11). I like to reflect on joy by contemplating Our Lady, for Mary, the “Mother of the living Gospel, is a wellspring of joy for God’s little ones” (Evangelii Gaudium, 288). I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that priest is very little indeed: the incomparable grandeur of the gift granted us for the ministry sets us among the least of men. The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock. No one is more “little” than a priest left to his own devices; and so our prayer of protection against every snare of the Evil One is the prayer of our Mother: I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness (cf. Lk 1:48). And in that littleness we find our joy. For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us. A joy which anoints us. In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing. An imperishable joy. The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us (Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6). A missionary joy. I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them. And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy. A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience. Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to poverty. The priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself. We know that our people are very generous in thanking priests for their slightest blessing and especially for the sacraments. Many people, in speaking of the crisis of priestly identity, fail to realize that identity presupposes belonging. There is no identity – and consequently joy of life – without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than “exit” signs, signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve him. Unless you “exit” from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty. Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to fidelity. Not primarily in the sense that we are all “immaculate” (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church. Here fruitfulness is key. The spiritual children which the Lord gives each priest, the children he has baptized, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechizes and helps to grow, the poor he assists… all these are the “Bride” whom he rejoices to treat as his supreme and only love and to whom he is constantly faithful. It is the living Church, with a first name and a last name, which the priest shepherds in his parish or in the mission entrusted to him. That mission brings him joy whenever he is faithful to it, whenever he does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him: Feed my sheep (cf. Jn 21:16,17). Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to obedience. An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience: the parish to which I am sent, my ministerial assignments, my particular work … but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood. It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can, following the example of “Our Lady of Promptness” (cf. Lk 1:39, meta spoudes), who hastens to serve Elizabeth her kinswoman and is concerned for the kitchen of Cana when the wine runs out. The availability of her priests makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children about to make their First Communion… Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen (ob-audire) and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy or to encourage those good desires with resourceful charity. All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world: it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus, the one Good Shepherd who, with deep compassion for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd, wants to associate many others to his ministry, so as himself to remain with us and to work, in the person of his priests, for the good of his people. On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to enable many young people to discover that burning zeal which joy kindles in our hearts as soon as we have the stroke of boldness needed to respond willingly to his call. On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to preserve the joy sparkling in the eyes of the recently ordained who go forth to devour the world, to spend themselves fully in the midst of God's faithful people, rejoicing as they prepare their first homily, their first Mass, their first Baptism, their first confession… It is the joy of being able to share with wonder, and for the first time as God’s anointed, the treasure of the Gospel and to feel the faithful people anointing you again and in yet another way: by their requests, by bowing their heads for your blessing, by taking your hands, by bringing you their children, by pleading for their sick… Preserve, Lord, in your young priests the joy of going forth, of doing everything as if for the first time, the joy of spending their lives fully for you. On this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to confirm the priestly joy of those who have already ministered for some years. The joy which, without leaving their eyes, is also found on the shoulders of those who bear the burden of the ministry, those priests who, having experienced the labours of the apostolate, gather their strength and rearm themselves: “get a second wind”, as the athletes say. Lord, preserve the depth, wisdom and maturity of the joy felt by these older priests. May they be able to pray with Nehemiah: “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (cf. Neh 8:10). Finally, on this priestly Thursday I ask the Lord Jesus to make better known the joy of elderly priests, whether healthy or infirm. It is the joy of the Cross, which springs from the knowledge that we possess an imperishable treasure in perishable earthen vessels. May these priests find happiness wherever they are; may they experience already, in the passage of the years, a taste of eternity (Guardini). May they know the joy of handing on the torch, the joy of seeing new generations of their spiritual children, and of hailing the promises from afar, smiling and at peace, in that hope which does not disappoint....

In Coena Domini explained

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 03:01
(Vatican Radio) I Missa in Coena Domini , or Mass of Our Lord’s Supper, the second of Holy Thursday’s liturgies, with which the universal Church enters the Holy Triduum. Listen: “The Holy Triduum are those final days when we follow Our Lord from the celebration of the Passover meal and the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room, in Jerusalem, towards his death the following day on Good Friday. Then we rest with him in the tomb on Holy Saturday until we celebrate we great joy looking back through all the scriptures, the wonderful workings of God to this moment when the Resurrection takes place. Three days but effectively one celebration. “It begins on Holy Thursday night with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper…when we celebrate the first Eucharist, when we commemorate Our Lord’s ordination of his first priests, the Apostles, and when we remember that coupled with the Eucharist, when we receive the Eucharist we are receiving nourishment not only for ourselves but we are receiving something that makes us like Christ. And for that we recall the washing of the feet of others, because this is the act of charity, this is the act that makes us Christians different in everything we do. We take our worship into the streets by converting it into a revelation in action, a revelation of God’s love for the whole world”. Produced by Emer McCarthy...

The Chrism Mass explained

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:56
(Vatican Radio) In a series of reflections, the Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Arthur Roche, walks Vatican Radio through the Holy Week liturgies, explaining their significance, symbolism and place within the history of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. He begins with the Chrism Mass, the first of the liturgies Holy Thursday morning, that leads us towards the Holy Triduum. Listen: “On the first Holy Thursday when Our Lord in the Upper Room, celebrated the Eucharist with his disciples…he ordained his first bishops, his first priests. On that day every year, in every diocese throughout the world, the bishop together with his priest gather together to celebrate Mass together. It’s called ‘the Great Concelebration’. It’s a very unique event, in the life of the Church because the priests renew their promises to serve the Lord, in the various ministries that they have been given. But they also promise to serve the Lord through the conversion of their own lives constantly turning towards Him, the source of all life”. “On this same occasion the Chrism Mass – chrism is the same word as Christ, Jesus is called Christ because he is the Anointed One of God – the oils which are used for the celebration of the Sacraments are blessed and consecrated. The Oil for the Sick… and the Oil of Catechumens…and the Oil of Chrism is consecrated. Through that oil of Chrism those who are being ordained bishops or priests will have that oil put either on their head …or hands to show that they are being set apart in a very special way to minister to the people of God. They are the ones to bring Christ to the people whom they have been sent to serve”. Produced by Emer McCarthy...

Pope Francis: weekly General Audience

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday – the Wednesday of Holy Week or “Spy Wednesday” as it is called in many parts of the English-speaking world. The Gospel reading of the day recounts Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, which sets in motion the events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. In his catechetical remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square under a brilliant blue April sky, with a crisp spring breeze blowing through the city, Pope Francis spoke of Christ’s free embrace of suffering and death, which he took on for our sake. It was a theme to which he returned in the English-language remarks that were read out following the main catechesis in Italian. “Out of love for us,” wrote Pope Francis, “Jesus freely walked the path of humiliation and self-abandonment for our salvation.” Listen : As Saint Paul says, “he emptied himself… and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). As we contemplate Jesus in his passion, we see reflected the sufferings of all humanity and we discover God’s answer to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. He gives us his Son, who dies humiliated, betrayed, abandoned and reviled. Yet God’s victory shines forth in what appears, in human terms, to be failure and defeat. The Holy Father’s English remarks went on to say that Jesus’ passion is the culmination of his revelation of the Father’s infinite love and his summons to faith in his word. Christ takes upon himself the power of evil in order to set us free: “by his wounds we have been healed” (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). This week, as we follow Jesus along the way of the cross, may we imitate his loving obedience to the will of the Father, especially in times of difficulty and humiliation, and open our hearts to his gifts of reconciliation, redemption and new life. There were several groups of English-speaking pilgrims in the crowd, from countries including England, Australia, Canada and the United States, for whom the Holy Father had greetings. Pope Francis offered a particular welcome to the delegation from the NATO Defense College, which is located in Rome and which hosts major international events as the premier academic institution of the Treaty Organization. Pope Francis will lead the Holy Week liturgies and devotions in Rome, including the traditional Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, the Missa in coena Domini at the Centro Santa Maria della Provvidenza – “Our Lady of Providence” – home for the elderly and disabled on Thursday evening, the Passion service with the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday afternoon, and the Way of the Cross on Good Friday evening at the Colosseum in Rome, and the culminating celebration of the Sacred Triduum – the Easter Vigil Mass – in St Peter’s Basilica, on the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday morning, when he will also give the traditional urbi et orbi blessing following Mass....

Pope Francis: Promulgation of Decrees

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 03:52
(Vatican Radio) On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, Pope Francis received the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Card. Angelo D’Amato, SDB, and authorized the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees: - A miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Ludovico of Casoria (nee Archangelo Palmentieri), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor and founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of St Elizabeth – the “Gray Sisters”; Born in Casoria (Italy) on March 11, 1814 and died in Naples (Italy) March 30, 1885. - A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Amato Ronconi, of the Third Order of St. Francis, the founder of the Poor Pilgrims Hospice of the city of Saludecio now called the Blessed Amato Ronconi Rest Home/Charitable Work; born in Saludecio (Italy) in or around the year 1226 and died in Rimini (Italy) in or around 1292; - The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Maria Alano de Guynot Boismenu, of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Titular Archbishop of Claudiopolis, former Apostolic Vicar of Papua; born in Saint -Malo (France) December 27, 1870 and died in Kubuna (Republic of the Fiji Islands, Oceania) November 5, 1953; - The heroic virtues of the Servant of God William Janauschek, professed priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer; born in Vienna (Austria) October 19, 1859 and died there June 30, 1926....

Vatican Secretary of State presides over Mass for modern day martyrs

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 01:37
(Vatican Radio/l’Osservatore Romano) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, presided at Mass Tuesday evening in commemoration of the many men and women killed for their witness to the faith in the world today. They are the modern day martyrs whose memory is honored each year by the Catholic community of St Egidio in a special suffrage Mass in the basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, led the community in prayer for these men and women from Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, the Central African Republic who were ready to offer their lives for the Gospel. Also present at the gathering were representatives from the various Churches and Christian communities that have been marked by the blood of martyrs. Emer McCarthy reports: Commenting on the passage from the Gospel of Mark proclaimed in the liturgy of the Word, Cardinal Parolin pointed to the union of the loving witness borne by Christians who do not flee derision and the prospect of death for their fidelity to God, and Christ himself who out of love for the Father endured derision from those who passed beneath the Cross. “Today's prayer keeps their memory alive, because their legacy is alive. This legacy flows from lives that were often humble and frail, but that were steeped in love”. Still today “in various contexts many of our brothers and sisters remain the object of anti-Christian hatred. They are not being persecuted not because they are vying for worldly, political, economic or military power, but precisely because they are tenacious witnesses of another vision of life, one of abasement, service, freedom, which is based on faith”. In their weakness, the Secretary of State said, “they are close to us, they show us that strength comes from God and that it is always possible to go forth and reach out to those who are far off, even those who see you as an enemy”. The Cardinal then emphasized the point by quoting the profound certainty expressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium : “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God's word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed”. According to Open Doors, a nondenominational group tracking persecuted Christians worldwide, 2,123 Christians were killed last year due to their faith. More than half of those reported killings occurred in Syria, followed by over 600 in Nigeria and 88 in Pakistan. But North Korea — a country of more than 24 million, with an estimated 300,000 Christians — remained the most dangerous country worldwide for Christians for the 12th consecutive year, followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq. (Photo AP: Priest Aysar Georgis walks past pictures of slain Iraqi Christians outside Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010. Iraqi Christians are marking a somber Christmas in the face of repeated violence by militants intent on driving their beleaguered community from Iraq. The writing in arabic reads," Martyrs blood - seeds of life.")...

Cardinal Parolin celebrates the memory of the new Christian martyrs

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 10:31
Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, the Central African Republic. There is a long list of areas where Christians still today are enduring persecution, discrimination, privation of religious liberty and martyrdom. It was no accident that, during the Holy Mass he celebrated on 6 April at Santa Marta, Pope Francis recalled that “today, in the 21 st century, our Church is a Church of martyrs”. It is within this context that the Community of Sant'Egidio gathers each year in prayer during Holy Week, in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, to remember the new Christian martyrs. Today, Tuesday 15 April, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, led the community in prayer for these men and women who were ready to offer their lives for the Gospel. Also present at the gathering were representatives from the various Churches and Christian communities that have been marked by the blood of martyrs. Commenting on the passage from the Gospel of Mark proclaimed in the liturgy of the Word, Cardinal Parolin pointed to the union of the loving witness borne by Christians who do not flee derision and the prospect of death for their fidelity to God, and Christ himself who out of love for the Father endured derision from those who passed beneath the Cross. “Today's prayer keeps their memory alive, because their legacy is alive. This legacy flows from lives that were often humble and frail, but that were steeped in love”. Still today “in various contexts many of our brothers and sisters remain the object of anti-Christian hatred. They are not being persecuted not because they are vying for worldly, political, economic or military power, but precisely because they are tenacious witnesses of another vision of life, one of abasement, service, freedom, which is based on faith”. In their weakness, the Secretary of State said, “they are close to us, they show us that strength comes from God and that it is always possible to go forth and reach out to those who are far off, even those who see you as an enemy”. The Cardinal then emphasized the point by quoting the profound certainty expressed by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium : “The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God's word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed”....

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