Vatican City, Apr 25, 2017 / 05:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis expressed his joy for his upcoming trip to Cairo in a video message, saying he hopes to bring peace and friendship to all Egyptian citizens.
“I am truly happy to come as a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the Country that gave, more than two thousand years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing from the threats of King Herod,” the Pope said an April 25 video message.
The video shows Pope Francis expressing his excitement to visit the land “where Patriarchs and Prophets lived,” and wishes to bring strength and comfort to the Christian community.
“I hope that this visit will be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region.”
On April 10, the Director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed the Pope's trip to Egypt despite the recent violence from the Islamic State taking place within the country.
Coptic Christians make up the majority of Egypt's Christian community, but suicide bombings, kidnappings, and other violent attacks from the Islamic State have affected both Christians and Muslims.
General Minister of the Franciscan Community acknowledged the present dangers and said the Pope is “very informed” of the issues occurring in Egypt.
“Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land – needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves up in prejudices,” Pope Francis said.
He added, “It needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood, justice, and humanity.”
The Pope hopes he may bring “a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world, in which Egypt occupies a primary position.”
Pope Francis will begin his trip by giving an address for an international conference of peace at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, an esteemed Muslim institute. He will be speaking with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, who is considered by some to be head of the Sunni Muslim branch of thought.
Afterwards, the Pope will meet with the state officials and Patriarch Tawadros II of Alexandria, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Tawadros II was nearly injured during one of the two attacks which killed 44 people and injured over 100 more. During Palm Sunday liturgy, one suicide bomber detonated at the entrance of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.
The Pope will then celebrate mass on Saturday, and have a meeting with the Coptic Catholic Bishops over lunch. Pope Francis was invited by the Coptic Catholic Patriarchy during their ad limina visit to the Vatican on Feb. 6.
Vatican City, Apr 25, 2017 / 10:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will not use a bulletproof vehicle during his trip to Egypt this weekend, despite recent terror attacks against Christians in the country, according to Reuters.
"The Pope will use a closed car to move around, but not an armoured one," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed yesterday. "That's how he wanted it."
This is not the first time Pope Francis has done so - he typically prefers to travel in more open vehicles, or ones that are not bulletproof, because he feels that allows him to better interact with the people on the streets.
Pope Francis will be traveling to Cairo, Egypt, April 28-29 for his first international trip of the year. Interfaith dialogue with Muslims and showing solidarity with persecuted Christians will be main priorities of the trip.
His trip comes after several recent attacks on Christian in the country.
In December, a bombing at Cairo's main Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others, most of them women and children.
On Palm Sunday, the bombing of two Coptic churches killed 43 and injured more than 100 others.
Last week, gunmen attacked security forces near the famous St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert, killing a police officer and injuring three others. This attack and the church bombings were all claimed by ISIS.
Egypt’s president has declared a three-month state of emergency in the country following the Palm Sunday attacks. Despite the risk, the Vatican announced earlier this month that the Pope’s trip to Egypt would continue as planned.
Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their visit at the Vatican Feb. 6. The Pope had also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb, after his visit to the Vatican in the spring of 2016, marking a thaw in Vatican-Muslim relations in Egypt.
During his trip, Pope Francis will meet with the Grand Imama state officials, leaders of Egypt’s Catholic Coptic and Orthodox Coptic churches, and Catholic priests and religious of the country.
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2017 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage June 20 to visit the graves of two 20th century Italian priests in the towns of Bozzolo and Bariana, the Vatican announced Monday.
Fr. Lorenzo Milani and Fr. Primo Mazzolari both have reputations for being anti-establishment, though they were obedient to the Church throughout their lives. The Pope's visit to their graves will take place in a “private and unofficial manner,” the April 24 communique stated.
The pilgrimage takes place in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Fr. Milani, who lived from 1923-1967. Pope Francis spoke about Fr. Milani in a video message to the participants of a presentation on the priest's complete works in Milan Sunday.
“I would love to remember him especially as a believer, in love with the Church even though he was wounded,” the Pope said in the message April 23, “and as a passionate educator with a vision of the school that seems to me to respond to the need of the hearts and the intelligence of our children and youth.”
Pope Francis' brief visit – only half a day – will begin with an early morning helicopter flight to Bozzolo June 20, landing at 9:00 a.m. He will be welcomed by the Mayor of Bozzolo and the Bishop of Cremona, Antonio Napolioni.
From there the Pope will proceed to the parish of St. Peter to pray at the tomb of Fr. Primo Mazzolari, after which he will give a commemorative speech to the faithful present at the church.
At 10:30 a.m. he will leave for Barbiana, arriving at the Barbiana church at 11:15 a.m. He will be welcomed there by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence and the Mayor of Vicchio, a municipality of Florence.
He will then visit privately the cemetery of the church to pray at the grave of Fr. Lorenzo Milani. Afterwards, Pope Francis will meet in the church with still-living disciples of Fr. Milani.
After a short visit to the rectory in the adjacent garden he will give a speech in the presence of around 200 people, including the disciples, priests of the diocese and some children living in family homes in the area. The Pope will return to the Vatican by about 1:15 p.m.
Fr. Milani came from a wealthy but secular family, the son of an atheist father and a Jewish mother. He studied art, which had a profound influence on his conversion to Catholicism and eventual entrance into the priesthood in 1947.
His “frankness that sometimes seemed too rough when not marked by rebellion” carried over even into his priesthood, Pope Francis noted in his video message. This led to some friction and misunderstandings with ecclesiastical and civil structures “because of his educational proposal, his preference for the poor, and defense of conscientious objection.”
Despite this, however, he was always deeply obedient to the Church and to her directives. He once wrote: “I will never oppose the Church because I need (her) several times a week for the forgiveness of my sins, and I would not know to whom else to go to look for it if I had left the Church.”
Fr. Primo Mazzolari lived from 1890-1959. He grew up in a small neighborhood of the town of Cremona, Italy, entering the seminary in 1902. Some have called him a “priest of the embankment,” because he grew up on the banks of the Po River and also at the “embankment” of the Church.
Very politically active, he intervened in the First World War and after, and was so anti-fascist he refused to sing the “Te Deum” after a failed attack on Mussolini by Tito Zaniboni in 1925.
His greatness already recognized, he was invited to the Vatican by both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI before his death. In 2015 permission was formally granted to open the diocesan phase of Fr. Mazzolari's cause for beatification.
Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.
Vatican City, Apr 24, 2017 / 10:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday comforted the sister of Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest who was killed by ISIS sympathizers while celebrating Mass in Normandy, France last summer.
According to the Associated Press, the Pope gripped the hands of Roselyne Hamel and spoke quietly to her during an April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island.
Fr. Hamel was killed July 26, 2016 while celebrating Mass after two armed gunmen stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy. The assailants entered the church and took the priest and four others hostage. Local law enforcement reported that the priest’s throat was slit in the attack, and that both of the hostage takers were shot dead by police. The attackers were identified as Islamist extremists.
Pope Francis issued a statement at the time decrying the “absurd violence.” He later said during a Mass in September at the Vatican in honor of Fr. Hamel that the slain priest “is blessed now,” according to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen who was there.
The Pope referred to the priest as “an example of courage” because “he emptied himself to serve others, to build brotherhood among men.”
Last October, the French diocese of Rouen officially began an inquiry into the beatification of Fr. Hamel after the Pope waived the traditional five-year waiting period.
At the service Saturday, Roselyne shared with the congregation how her brother was “strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”
She said that his death was a witness for the whole world, and continued the ‘yes’ with which he had given his life in service to Christ at the moment of his ordination.
You may also like:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Pope Francis green-lights opening of Fr. Jacques Hamel beatification process <a href="https://t.co/2vk9URDioB">https://t.co/2vk9URDioB</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/France?src=hash">#France</a></p>— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="https://twitter.com/cnalive/status/782708743192600577">October 2, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Vatican City, Apr 23, 2017 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said mercy is essential in living the Christian life, because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better, but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.
“Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone of the life of faith, and concrete way with which we give visibility to the Resurrection of Jesus,” the Pope said April 23.
Mercy, he said, is understood as a true awareness of “the mystery” that the Church is living, particularly during the Easter season.
Not only is mercy understood in various ways such as through the senses, intuition and reason, but we can also become aware of it through an act of mercy that we personally experience, he said, adding that “this opens the door of the mind to better understand the mystery of God and of our personal existence.”
“It makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no meaning, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments, because it deprives them of their own dignity,” he said.
Additionally, mercy also allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized,” recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.
“Mercy warms the heart and makes it sensitive to the needs of our brothers with sharing and participation,” Francis said, explaining that in the end, mercy “commits everyone to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Sunday Regina Coeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. The Regina Coeli is traditionally prayed instead of the Angelus throughout the liturgical Easter season.
In his brief speech, the Pope noted now the Sunday after Easter in the past was referred to as “in albis,” meaning “in white,” as a reminder of the white garments worn by those who had come into the Church on Easter Sunday.
In the time after Easter, he said, Sunday takes on “an even more illuminating” aspect, especially considering the previous traditional custom in which the garment would be worn by the person for the entire week after their baptism until the following Sunday, when they began their new life in Christ and the Church.
Francis then pointed to how the Sunday after Easter was later designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope Saint John Paul II during the Jubilee year 2000.
“It was a beautiful institution!” he said, noting that his own Extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy concluded just a few months ago, on the Nov. 20, 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King.
In wake of the Jubilee, Divine Mercy Sunday “invites us to take up with strength the grace that comes from the mercy of God,” he said, noting that in the day’s Gospel from John, Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, and gives them the message: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”
After saying this, Jesus then entrusts them with a special task, telling them “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”
“This is the meaning of the mercy that is presented to us on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus as forgiveness of sins,” Pope Francis said, explaining that the Risen Christ gave his Church as a first task “his same mission of bringing to all the concrete announcement of forgiveness.”
Francis said this commission is a visible sign of Christ’s mercy, which brings both peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord.
He closed his address praying that Mary, the Mother of Mercy, would “help us to believe and live all of this with joy,” and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.
The Pope then greeted pilgrims from various countries around the world, giving a special shout-out to Spain, where yesterday the priest Fr. Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières was proclaimed a Blessed, and to all youth who had been confirmed or are currently candidates for Confirmation.
He then thanked everyone who sent him messages wishing him a happy Easter before asking for prayers and giving his blessing.
Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The devil’s hatred for Christ and for our redemption is the root cause of all persecution since the beginnings of the Church, Pope Francis said at a special liturgy that focused on modern martyrs.
“The memory of these heroic witnesses, old and new, confirms us in the knowledge that the Church is a Church of martyrs… they have received the grace of confessing Jesus until the end, until death,” the Pope said April 22.
He said that if we look well into history, the root cause of every persecution is “the hatred the prince of this world has toward those who have been saved and redeemed by Jesus with his death and with his Resurrection.”
Pointing to Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid! The world will hate you, but know that before you, it hated me,” from the Gospel passage read at the liturgy, Francis said the use of the word “hatred” is both strong and frightening.
“He, who is the master of love, who liked so much to speak of love, speaks of hatred,” he said, noting that Jesus “always wanted to call things by their name.”
Jesus has chosen and redeemed us as “a free gift of his love,” he said, adding that through this love, we have been saved from “the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world.”
“And the origin of hatred is this: that we are saved by Jesus, and the prince of this world doesn’t want it, he hates us and provokes persecution, which since the time of Jesus and the early Church continues until our days.”
Pope Francis offered his reflections during a special April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island. Overseen by the Community of Sant’Egidio, the basilica was founded at the end of the 10th century and contains a vast number of relics belonging to 20th century martyrs.
The collection was initially gathered after the Jubilee of 2000. A year ahead of the jubilee, Pope John Paul II established the “New Martyrs” commission to study and investigate modern cases of martyrdom in preparation for the event.
As a result, the commission gathered some 12,000 dossiers of martyrs and witnesses of the faith from around the world.
To commemorate the heroic witness of those who had given their lives for Christ, John Paul II in 2002 had a large icon made and placed in the basilica of St. Bartholomew, which sits on the main altar to this day.
In addition to the icon, various relics and items belonging to the martyrs have been placed in each of the basilica’s side chapels, and are divided by either specific points in history, such as the “new martyrs of Nazism,” or geographical locations, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe.
Benedict XVI visited the basilica in April 2008, making Pope Francis the third pontiff to set foot in the basilica, and to keep the papal tradition of honoring new martyrs.
In his homily, Pope Francis lamented the fact that “many Christian communities are objects of persecution!”
However, he noted that often in difficult moments, people call for “heroes.” The Church today also needs the heroic witness of martyrs and saints, he said, explaining that this includes “the saints of everyday life,” who move forward with coherency, but also those who “have the courage to accept the grace of being witnesses until the end, until death.”
“All of them are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who carry the Church forward,” he said. By demonstrating with their lives that Jesus is alive and risen, they also “attest with the coherency of their lives and with the strength of the Holy Spirit that they have received this gift.”
Pope Francis then paused for a moment and deviated from his prepared text. He recalled an encounter he had with a Muslim man he met during his 2016 trip to Lesbos who, along with his three children, had fled his village after his wife, who was a Christian, was killed by extremists.
When the militants came to their home and asked what their religion was, the woman said she was Christian, and, when she refused to throw down a crucifix she that was hanging on the wall, she was killed in front of her family.
This woman, Francis said, is “another crown” that can be added to the rest of the martyrs honored in St. Bartholomew, because “she is looking at us from heaven.”
Pope Francis closed his homily saying the ability to remember the many modern-day martyrs inside a basilica filled with their relics is “a great gift,” because “the living heritage of the martyrs today gives us peace and unity.”
“These ones teach us that, with the strength of love, with meekness, one can fight against tyranny, violence and war and can realize peace with patience,” he said, and prayed, asking that each person present might be a worthy witness of the Gospel and the love of God.
Before giving his homily, Pope Francis heard the testimonies of three people who were relatives or friends of modern-day martyrs.
First was Karl Schneider, son of Paul Schneider, a pastor of the Reformed Church who was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 because he defied Nazism as “irreconcilable with the words of the Bible.”
In his brief reflection, Schneider said his father had been “strongly opposed every temptation to politically influence the Church.”
“All of us, even today, make too many compromises,” he said, “but my father stayed faithful only to the Lord and to the faith. He was a pastor and a spiritual guide. Even in the concentration camp!”
Despite the torture and suffering his he endured, Schneider’s father shouted out from his cell, offering words of comfort and hope from the Bible to the other prisoners.
Recalling words spoken by his elderly mother before her death, Schneider said his mother said her husband “was chosen to announce the Gospel and this is my consolation.” As his son, Schneider said he “I feel this consolation until today.”
Next was Roselyne, sister of Fr. Jacques Hamal, the 85-year-old priest who was murdered by two young ISIS sympathizers in Rouen, France in July 2016.
Speaking to the congregation, Roselyne said that in his old age Fr. Hamal had been fragile, but “he was also strong. Strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”
His death, she said, “is in line with the life of a priest, which was one of a life given: a life offered to the Lord, when he said ‘yes’ at the moment of his ordination, a life of service to the Gospel, a life given for the church and her people, above all the poorest.
She pointed to the “paradox” that while alive her brother never wanted to be “at the center,” but that after his death, “has given a testimony for the entire world, the greatness of which we cannot measure.”
After her brother died, Roselyne said the reaction of the community was strong. Rather than wanting revenge, there was a desire for “love and forgiveness,” she said, explaining that even Muslims who wanted to show solidarity with Christians came to visit the parish for Sunday Masses in a show of support.
Despite her loss, Roselyne said “it’s a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity, how much love have been generated by the witness of Jacques,” and prayed that his sacrifice would “bring fruits, so that the men and women of our time can find the path to living together in peace.”
Finally, a man named Francisco Hernandez gave a brief reflection on his friend William Quijano, killed in El Salvador in 2009 because of his work with youth that sought to promote peace and draw them away from the violence of criminal gangs.
In his reflection, Hernandez said the only crime of his friend was that of “dreaming of a world of peace.”
“William never ceased teaching peace, but rather, his commitment has broken the chain of violence,” he said, recalling how Quijano had always insisted that ending violence begins with the youth, and so dedicated himself to working with children.
Hernandez said his friend “never spoke of repression or revenge against the gangs, but insisted on the need for a change in mentality.”
“In every existential periphery, William bore witness to his hope in a different world, founding himself on the Gospel and the most human virtues, on the centrality of closeness,” he said, adding: “this is the greatest gift of that the small life of William Alfredo Quijano Zetino, my friend.”