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Vatican, Myanmar officially establish diplomatic ties

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 01:01

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting Thursday between Pope Francis and Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, the two cemented their diplomatic relationship, agreeing to send ambassadors to each other's countries.

“The Holy See and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, keen to promote bonds of mutual friendship, have jointly agreed to establish diplomatic relations at the level of Apostolic Nunciature, on behalf of the Holy See, and Embassy, on the part of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese diplomat, politician and author who currently serves as the State Counsellor and Foreign Minister of Myanmar.

Before her rise to power, she spent much of her career under house arrest due to her push for human rights and democracy, which contradicted the military rule at the time.

She first met with Pope Francis in October 2013 when she came to Rome to pick up an honorary citizenship she'd been awarded in 1994 but hadn't been able to retrieve. Just two years later, Pope Francis appointed Myanmar's first-ever cardinal, Charles Bo, in a clear show if his respect for the country and his preference for the peripheries.  

The move to officially establish diplomatic ties comes just two months Myanmar's parliament voted in March to make their country the 183rd nation to enjoy diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

The proposal from the Vatican was postponed in February by the nuncio to Thailand, Archbishop Paul Tsang-in Nam, who also acts as a delegate to Myanmar. He then held a meeting with Cardinal Bo and Aung San Suu Kyi, resulting in the March announcement.

While Aung San Suu Kyi and Pope Francis' meeting this morning likely focused on strengthening their diplomatic ties, mention was also likely made on the part of the Pope of the persecuted Rohingya minority, which he has spoken out on often.

Rohingya people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group largely from the Rakhine state of Burma, in west Myanmar. Since clashes began in 2012 between the state's Buddhist community and the long-oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority, some 125,000 Rohingya have been displaced, while more than 100,000 have fled Myanmar by sea.

In order to escape forced segregation from the rest of the population inside rural ghettos, many of the Rohingya – who are not recognized by the government as a legitimate ethnic group or as citizens of Myanmar – have made the perilous journey at sea in hopes of evading persecution.

In 2015, a number of Rohingya people – estimated to be in the thousands – were stranded at sea in boats with dwindling supplies while Southeastern nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia refuse to take them in.

However, in recent months tens of thousands have fled to Bangladesh amid a military crackdown on insurgents in Myanmar's western Rakhine state. The horrifying stories recounted by the Rohingya include harrowing tales of rapes, killings and the burning of their houses.

According to BBC News, despite claims of a genocide, a special government-appointed committee in Myanmar formed in January has investigated the situation, but found no evidence to support the allegations.

In Bangladesh, however, the Rohingya have had little relief, since they are not recognized as refugees in the country. Since October, many who fled to Bangladesh have been detained and forced to return to the neighboring Rakhine state.

Pope Francis first brought up the plight of the Rohingya people during an audience in 2015 with more than 1,500 members of the International Eucharistic Youth Movement.

“Let’s think of those brothers of ours of the Rohingya,” he said. “They were chased from one country and from another and from another. When they arrived at a port or a beach, they gave them a bit of water or a bit to eat and were there chased out to the sea.”

This, he told the youth, “is called killing. It’s true. If I have a conflict with you and I kill you, its war.”

He brought them up again a month later in an interview with a Portuguese radio station, and he has consistently spoken out on behalf of the Rohingya in Angelus addresses, daily Masses or general audiences.

Most recently, in his Feb. 8 general audience the Pope asked pilgrims to pray with him “for our brother and sister Rohingya. They were driven out of Myanmar, they go from one place to another and no one wants them.”

“They are good people, peaceful people, they aren’t Christians, but they are good. They are our brothers and sisters. And they have suffered for years,” he said, noting that often members of the ethnic minority have been “tortured and killed” simply for carrying forward their traditions and Muslim faith.

He then led pilgrims in praying an “Our Father” for the Rohingya, asking afterward St. Josephine Bakhita, herself a former salve, to intercede.

So while the official establishment of diplomatic relations is a major step in terms of strengthening relations between the Holy See and Myanmar, there are murky waters that still need to be tread.

Solanus Casey, Cardinal Van Thuan among those advanced toward sainthood

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 22:47

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 10:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday approved decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints advancing the causes for canonization of 12 individuals, including the American-born Capuchin Solanus Casey and the Vietnamese cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.

In his May 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the congregation, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Solanus Casey, which allows for his beatification.

Venerable Casey was known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor.  

Born Bernard Casey on Nov. 25, 1870, he was the sixth child of 16 born to Irish immigrants in Wisconsin. At age 17 he left home to work at various jobs, including as a lumberjack, a hospital orderly, and a prison guard.  

Reevaluating his life after witnessing a drunken sailor brutally stab a woman to death, he decided to act on a call he felt to enter the priesthood. Because of his lack of formal education, however, he struggled in the minor seminary, and was eventually encouraged to become a priest through a religious order rather than through the diocese.

So in 1898 he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, in 1904 was ordained a “sacerdos simplex” – a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

He was very close to the sick and was highly sought-after throughout his life, in part because of the many physical healings attributed to his blessings and intercession. He is also known for his fondness for playing the violin and singing, although he had a bad singing voice because of a childhood illness which damaged his vocal chords.   
 
Even in his 70s, Fr. Solanus Casey remained very active, and would even join the younger religious men in a game of tennis or volleyball. He died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87.

Fr. Michael Sullivan, provincial minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, said May 4 that “Long before we knew and loved Pope Francis, we had the example of Fr. Solanus who lived the Gospel of Mercy. Known for his compassion and simplicity, he drew many thousands to God.”

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit commented that “The beatification of Father Solanus Casey is an incomparable grace for the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit and for the whole community of Southeast Michigan. He is an inspiration to all us Catholics – and to all – of the power of grace to transform one’s life.”

The Pope also recognized the heroic virtue of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. Imprisoned for his faith in Vietnam for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement, he is now declared venerable, a significant step forward in his cause.

Cardinal Van Thuan was born in Vietnam in 1928. He was ordained a priest of the Vicariate Apostolic of Hue in 1953 and appointed Bishop of Nha Trang in 1967.

He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon in April 1975, six days before the city fell to the North Vietnamese army. Cardinal Van Thuan was imprisoned in a re-education camp by the communist government of Vietnam for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement.

While imprisoned he smuggled out messages written on scraps of paper that were copied by hand and circulated among the Vietnamese community, eventually being printed in The Road of Hope.

He also wrote prayers in prison, which were later published in Prayers of Hope. He was allowed no religious items, but after sympathetic guards smuggled in a piece of wood and some wire for him, he was able to craft a small crucifix.

After being released from prison, he spent three years under house arrest before being permitted to visit Rome in 1991. He was exiled from Vietnam from that point until early 2001, and he resigned as Saigon's coadjutor archbishop in 1994 when he was appointed vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He became the council's president in 1998.

In 2000 he preached the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia, which were subsequently published as Testimony of Hope.

He was made a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 2001, and he died in Rome on Sept. 16, 2002, at the age of 74.

Three other causes were also approved for beatification Thursday: Venerable Maria of the Immaculate Conception, founder of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (1789-1828); Venerable Clara Fey, founder of the Institute of the Sisters of the Poor Baby Jesus (1815-1894); and Venerable Catalina de Maria, founder of the Congregation of the Servant Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (1823-1896).

Pope Francis has also approved the declaration of the martyrdom of Servant of God Luciano Botovasoa, layman and father, of the Third Order of St. Francis, killed in hatred of the faith in Vohipeno, Madagascar on April 17, 1947.

Also recognized were the heroic virtues of the servants of God Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa of Florence (1872-1961); Giovanna Meneghini, founder of the congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary (1868-1918); Vincenza Cusmano, first superior general of the Congregation of the Poor Servants (1826-1894); Alessandro Nottegar, layman and father, founder of the Community of Regina Pacis (1943-1986); Edvige Carboni, laywoman (1880-1952); Maria Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri y Fernández de Heredia, laywoman of the Personal Prelature of Santa Croce and of Opus Dei (1916-1975).

Trump to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 24

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 21:47

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 09:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump will meet Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican later this month.

“His Holiness Pope Francis will receive the Hon. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace,” the Vatican announced Wednesday.

“President Trump will then meet with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.”

The president and the pope have sometimes been put at odds.

During a Feb. 18, 2016 in-flight press conference, Reuters reporter Philip Pullella asked the Pope to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand.

Pope Francis answered: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

The pontiff added he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate.

One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States.

Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Feb. 19 told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy, bridge-building.

The U.S. bishops have had a mixed response to the early days of the Trump administration, criticizing his refugee and immigration plan, while praising his pro-life measures.

Pope urges Vatican communications to go digital amid ongoing reform

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 18:14

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 06:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, which is holding their first plenary assembly this week, that given a growing digital culture throughout the world, new media must become a primary platform for spreading the Gospel.

“Studying new ways and means to communicate the Gospel of mercy to all people, in the heart of different cultures, through the media that the new digital cultural context makes available to our contemporaries” is something that is “very much in my heart,” Pope Francis said May 4.

He spoke to members of his Secretariat for Communications, which was formed in June 2015 as part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, during their first plenary assembly.

The assembly is taking place May 3-5 at the Vatican and gathers members of the secretariat, which is headed by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano.

In his audience with the plenary participants, Francis said the word “reform” is something we shouldn’t be afraid of. To reform, he said, isn’t just “repainting” things, but is rather “giving another form to things, organizing them in a different way.”

“And it must be done with intelligence, meekness, but also...also, allow me the word, with a bit of ‘violence,’” he said, but stressed that its a “good violence to reform things.”

More than just merging the Vatican’s various communications entities, the secretariat has the task of building “a truly new institution” that has arisen from the need for a “so-called ‘digital convergence,’” he said.

Whereas in the past each form of expression had its own medium in either newspapers, books, photographs, television, radio and CDs, now all of these forms of communications, are transmitted “with a single code that exploits the binary system.”

In this context, he pointed to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which will officially join the secretariat next year, saying it “will have to find a new and different way to reach a number of readers greater to what it can achieve in paper format.”

As of now the paper operates primarily in daily and weekly print format, with a limited online presence in its various languages.

Pope Francis also turned to Vatican Radio, which broadcasts papal and Vatican news several languages throughout the world, saying the entity will need to be revisited “according to new models and adapted to the modern technologies and needs of our contemporaries.”

He made a point to emphasize the attention Vatican Radio has given to broadcasting in countries will little access to technology, such as certain countries in Africa, noting that services to these places “have never been abandoned.”

In addition to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Publishing House and the Vatican Typography office will also be merged into the greater working community of the secretariat, which is something the Pope said will require “availability to harmonize” with their “new productive and distributive design.”

“The work is great, the challenge is great, but it can be done. It must be done,” he said, stressing the need to for a willingness to work together as all of the changes and merges take place.

As the study commissions within the secretariat move forward in identifying new paths and proposals, the Pope told them to be “courageous” in the criteria they choose, asking that the guiding criteria be an “apostolic and missionary one, with special attention to situations of discomfort, poverty, difficulty.”

“In this way, it becomes possible to bring the Gospel to everyone, to optimize human resources, without replacing the communication of the local Churches and, at the same time, supporting the ecclesial communities most in need.”

He concluded his speech stressing the need to “not let ourselves be overcome by the temptation of attachment to a glorious past,” and encouraged members instead to make “a great effort of teamwork to better respond to the new communicative challenges that the culture of today asks of us, without fear and without imagining apocalyptic scenarios.”

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Communications on June 27, 2015, with the promulgation of the motu proprio, “The current communication context.”

One of its primary responsibilities is the restructuring and consolidation of the Holy See’s various communications outlets, which were previously ran as individual offices.

The dicastery will eventually oversee Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography, the Photograph Service, and the Vatican publishing house.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, previously head of Vatican Television, is prefect of the department. On April 12, 2017, the Pope named a group of 13 new consultors, including EWTN's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Warsaw

The Green Pope isn't who you think it is.

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 12:02

Vatican City, May 4, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There once was a Pope called “The Green Pope.”

He earned the title from both the religious and the secular alike, because he wrote frequently about the environment and asked all Catholics to be better stewards of God’s creation.  

Under this pope’s pontificate, the Vatican became the world’s first sovereign state to become carbon-neutral, meaning that all of the small country’s greenhouse gas emissions are offset by renewable energies and carbon credits, thanks to extra trees and solar panels. He also made use of a more energy efficient, partially electric popemobile.

No, “The Green Pope” is not Pope Francis.

It’s his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, which may come as a surprise to those who believe Benedict’s legacy was his staunch conservatism.  

During the World Day of Peace celebration in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI chose the theme “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.”

“We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment,” he said.

Drawing on the wisdom from his own predecessors, including Pope John Paul II, Pope Leo XIII and Pope Paul VI, Benedict in his message implored his flock to view climate change and care for creation as an extension of the Church’s care for humanity. He also addressed the phenomenon of “environmental refugees” several years before Francis noted the environment’s contribution to the current refugee crisis.

“Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of 'environmental refugees', people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources?” Benedict asked in his message.

“All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development,” he added.

This was not the only time Pope Benedict addressed the environment and climate change. In Sydney in 2008, he told the young people of World Youth Day in his opening remarks that care for creation and care for humanity are interconnected.

“The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection on the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable,” he said.

He even managed to work the topic into his 2007 apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis”, on the topic of Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church.

In the letter, in a section entitled “The sanctification of the world and the protection of creation”, Pope Benedict XVI noted that even the liturgy reminds the faithful of the importance of God’s creation when “the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, ‘fruit of the earth,’ ‘fruit of the vine’ and ‘work of human hands,’” he wrote.

“With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit. Rather, it is part of God's good plan, in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ,” he added.  

His writings on the topic were so prolific and profound that he is quoted numerous times in Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si”.

Like Benedict and his other papal predecessors, Pope Francis noted that an ecology of the environment was directly related to a proper human ecology.

“There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then ‘our overall sense of responsibility wanes,’” Pope Francis wrote in “Laudato Si”, quoting Benedict XVI.

Care for creation, or for “our common home”, as Francis often calls it, will most likely continue to be one of the primary concerns of his pontificate. Besides his encyclical, Pope Francis frequently speaks about climate change and the environment in various audiences, including when he became the first pope to address the United States Congress last fall.

But the important intellectual and practical groundwork laid by his predecessors, and particularly by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, cannot be overlooked.

 

This article was originally published Oct. 11, 2016.

After visit, Pope Francis says Egypt is a 'sign of hope'

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 16:30

Vatican City, May 3, 2017 / 04:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis recalled his recent visit to Egypt, saying that given its rich biblical and cultural history, the country is a sign of hope, and has a special role to play in brokering peace in the Middle East.

“Egypt for us was a sign of hope, of refuge and of help,” the Pope said during his May 3 general audience.

He noted how in scripture Jacob and his sons traveled to the region when it was in famine, and later Jesus himself also found refuge there from Herod.

“So recounting this trip enters on the path of recounting hope,” he said, adding that for Christians, “Egypt has the sense of speaking about hope, whether in history or today, and of this brotherhood that I am telling you about.”

Pope Francis spoke just days after returning from his April 28-29 visit to Egypt, which was made largely as the result of a recent thawing in relations between the Vatican and the prestigious al-Azhar University, one of the highest institutional authorities in Sunni Islam, which had been strained since 2011.

The visit also took place in wake of increasing attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community, and as such was meant to offer support for local Christians as well as cement Catholic-Muslim relations.

During his visit, Pope Francis met with the Great Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayyeb, at the al-Azhar University, where he also spoke to the International Conference for Peace. He then met with Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and civil authorities before sharing a moment of prayer with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II.

He also spent time with Egypt’s Christian community, celebrating Mass for Catholics on the second and final day of his trip, and meeting with the country’s priests, religious and seminarians.

In his general audience address, the Pope thanked Egypt for “the truly warm welcome” he was given, saying President el-Sisi and the Egyptian authorities made “an extraordinary commitment so this event could take place in the best of ways.”

The goal, he said, was for the visit to be “a sign of peace for Egypt and for that entire region, which unfortunately suffers from conflicts and terrorism.”

Francis told pilgrims that his visit to the al-Azhar University had the “double horizon” of promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and of promoting peace on a global level.

“In this context, I offered a reflection that valued the history of Egypt as a land of civilization and alliance,” he said, explaining that Egypt is widely considered to be “synonymous with ancient civilization and with treasures of art and knowledge.”

This serves as a reminder “that peace is built through education, the formation of wisdom, of a humanism which includes as the religious dimension, the relationship with God, as an integral part,” he said, pointing to the speech given by al-Tayyeb.

“Peace is also built starting from the alliance between God and man, founded on the alliance between men,” he said, explaining that this is a law which can be summed up in the two commandments of love of God and neighbor.

Francis then said this same foundation is also the basis of building “the social and civic order, in which all citizens of every culture, origin and religion are called to participate.”

Because of “the great historic and religious patrimony” of Egypt and its role in the Middle East, the country has “a peculiar task on the path toward a stable and lasting peace, which does not rely on the law of force, but the force of the law.”

Turning to his encounter with Egypt’s Christian community, the Pope said that Christians in Egypt, as in every other nation, “are called to be the leaven of brotherhood,” which is only possible if they are in communion with Christ.

Recalling how he signed a joint-declaration with Patriarch Tawadros, Francis said the two renewed their commitment to finding a shared baptism, and prayed together for the “the martyrs” who have died in recent attacks on the Coptic community.

“Their blood fertilized that ecumenical encounter,” he said, noting that in addition to himself and Tawadros, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople was also present.  

Francis then pointed to the Mass he celebrated with Egyptian Catholics, calling it a celebration of “faith and fraternity,” in which the presence of the Risen Lord was truly felt.

He also recalled his meeting with the priests, religious and seminarians of Egypt, saying he saw in them “the beauty of the Church in Egypt,” and could pray with them for all Christians in the Middle East, that “they be salt and light in that land, in the midst of that people.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, he noted that Egypt has “a lot of seminarians,” which he said is “a consolation.”

He closed by offering his thanks and praying that the Holy Family of Nazareth, who “emigrated on the banks of the Nile to avoid the violence of Herod,” would always bless and protect the Egyptian people, “and guide them on the path of prosperity, fraternity and peace.”

Pope Francis: Closed hearts cause suffering in the Church

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 04:29

Vatican City, May 2, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Moralists without empathy are unable to see how God transforms “hearts of stone” into real hearts of flesh – and it's a problem that harms the Christian community, Pope Francis said.

“This causes suffering in the Church. The closed hearts, the hearts of stone, the hearts which do not want to be open, do not want to hear, the hearts which only know the language of condemnation,” the Pope said during his Tuesday morning homily at Casa Santa Maria.

He reflected on the hardness of heart which lead to the death of Saint Stephen, as depicted in the day's reading from the Acts of the Apostles at Mass.

The temple authorities who stoned St. Stephen are what Pope Francis called “those who condemn all who are outside the law.” He said Stephen had called them “uncircumcised of heart” because they lacked an ability to understand the word of God.

Although the apostles were called foolish by Christ on the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, the Pope clarified that they were blinded by misunderstanding and fear but capable of hearing the truth and being corrected.

“When Jesus rebuked them, they let his words enter them and their hearts burned within them, while those who stoned Stephen were furious and did not want to listen!”

Pope Francis referred to the Lord’s “beautiful promise” to the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

A tender and responsive heart understands correction and how to hear. Closed hearts, however, don't know how to listen, they only “know how to condemn, they do not know how to say ‘Explain it to me, why do you say this? Why this? Explain it to me.”

He said these stony hearts are not able to handle Christ's words of rebuke and are the same hearts which led to the deaths of Saint Stephen and the prophets in the Old Testament.

“There was no place in their hearts for the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said, comparing them to Stephen who “was filled with the Holy Spirit, he had understood everything, he was a witness to the obedience of the word made flesh, and this was done by the Holy Spirit.”

Reflecting on the Gospel when the Pharisees propose to stone the adulteress, he told those present to “look inside yourself” to see the sins which Christ makes clearer.

“We look at the tenderness of Jesus, the witness of obedience, that great witness, Jesus, who has given life, which makes us look for the tenderness of God, confronting us, our sins, our weaknesses.”

The fear, misunderstanding, and foolishness of the apostles on the way to Emmaus represent us with our “many doubts, many sins” the Pope said. However, during the temptation to pull away from the cross, he said we should “make space to hear Jesus, who makes our hearts burn.”

Pope Francis urged the faithful to “enter this dialogue and let us call for the grace of the Lord which softens the rigid hearts of those people who are always closed in the law and condemn all who are outside the law.”

Vatican group talks new ways to help poor, marginalized

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 23:33

Vatican City, May 2, 2017 / 11:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Traditional solutions to the problem of poverty typically take a top-down welfare approach, focused on fulfilling a person's most basic needs, such as food and shelter – but which don't address the issue of societal participation and inclusion.

The plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, held at the Vatican April 28-May 2, aimed to find solutions which promote inclusion for the otherwise marginalized, especially the poorest in society.

“All of the 20th century, and the end of the 19th century, the response to the poorest of the poor was to provide them with absolute basic necessities, such as the workhouse, food, clothes,” said Margaret Archer, president of the Academy of Social Sciences.

“This is not enabling them to participate in society; at best, only to survive. Life is about more than just simple survival. Welfare is a top-down solution. So this was the motive for the conference on participation,” she said.

Archer, who spoke to journalists at a press conference May 2, said the question of how to go about helping “the poorest of the poor” is a “major challenge” for social theory.

“When you have a population of extreme poverty, what do you do? You give them welfare. The Pope doesn't want the simplistic solution of just giving them money, because it doesn't last forever anyway,” she said.

The academy's plenary session, titled “Towards a participatory society: new ways for social and cultural integration,” discussed the wide-ranging topic of societal exclusion, which can manifest in different ways in different parts of the world.

In addition to the poor and economically disadvantaged, it also can include migrants and refugees, religious minorities, and those with disabilities.

In some parts of the world, an initial exclusion can end up leading to more and worsening issues, said Paulus Zulu, a professor at the University of Natal. In Africa, for example, he said there is “a crisis of representative democracy.”

This is one of the major causes of a lack of social participation, he explained. And when this happens to too great an extent, it frequently leads to excluded populations seeking inclusion or existence elsewhere, one of the reasons behind migration, especially economic migration.

In their meetings, the group discussed alternative ways to bring about “global social change in the direction of inclusivity and fraternity,” Archer said, one solution being through Church support of non-governmental organizations.

Pope Francis sent a message to the academy on April 28 encouraging them in their plenary session and urging them, according to the Church’s social doctrine, to find “ways to apply in practice fraternity as the governing principle of the economic order.”

“Fraternity allows people who are equal in their essence, dignity, freedom, and their fundamental rights to participate differently in the common good according to their capacity, their plan of life, their vocation, their work, or their charism of service,” he said.

“From the beginning of my pontificate, I wanted to point out that 'in our brother lies the permanent extension of the Incarnation for each of us' (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). In fact, the protocol we are judged by is based on brotherhood: 'All you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did to me' (Mt. 25:40).”

“Even though we live in a world where wealth abounds, many people are still victims of poverty and social exclusion,” Francis continued.

“The Gospel Proposal: 'Seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice, and all these things will be added to you' (Mt 6:33) has been and is still a new energy in history that tends to arouse fraternity, freedom, justice, peace and dignity for all.”

Concluding, he quoted from Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, saying: “To the extent that the Lord will succeed in reigning in us and among us, we will be able to participate in divine life and we will be one to the other ‘instruments of his grace, to pour out the mercy of God and to weave nets of charity and fraternity.’”

Pope Francis: Work is more than money, it's about the person

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 01:52

Vatican City, May 1, 2017 / 01:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reflecting on the dignity of work, Pope Francis said that a society of fraternity promotes the dignity of the person and provides a solution to the “global economic dictatorship.”

“Do not be trapped in the vortex of pessimism, please! If each one does his or her part, if everyone always places the human person – not money – with his dignity at the center, if an attitude of solidarity and fraternal sharing inspired by the Gospel is strengthened, you will be able to leave behind the morass of a hard and difficult economic season of work.”

This was the Pope’s message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, corresponding to the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker traditionally celebrated by the Church on May 1. The research institute is meeting for a Plenary Assembly at the Vatican April 28 to May 2, 2017.

The Pope warned against the two extremes of viewing everything solely as a “trade commodity” on one hand, and overemphasizing a “duty” to the state on the other.

He said solidarity with men and women experiencing “social exclusion and marginalization” is not enough. Rather, there must be an expansion of “the parameters of the traditional concept of justice.”

The solution is a society of fraternity, said the Pope, which contains not only the right to equal and just wages, but also supports the development of skills in correspondence to the individual’s vocation and dignity.

Before equal remuneration is “conceived as a right” said the Pope, it is important to first recognize work “as a capacity and an inalienable need of each person.”

The Pope has discussed the connection between work and dignity before. In March, he talk to a large group recently laid off by an Italian satellite company due to cutbacks, expressing the importance of the dignity of each person and management’s responsibility to that dignity.

“Work gives dignity, and managers are obliged to do all possible so that every man and woman can work and so carry their heads high and look others in the eye with dignity,” said the Pope to a group recently let go from Sky Italy.

 

Francis prays for victims of the ongoing crisis in Venezuela

Sun, 04/30/2017 - 17:13

Vatican City, Apr 30, 2017 / 05:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Regina Coeli address on Sunday, Pope Francis called attention to the violence in Venezuela, offering up his prayers for the victims and appealing to the government and citizens to seek solutions to the crisis.

“There is no stop to the arrival of dramatic news about the situation in Venezuela and the aggravation of the clashes with many dead, wounded and detained,” he said April 30.

“As I unite myself to the pain of the families of the victims, for which I ensure prayers for suffrage, I appeal to the Government and all the members of Venezuelan society to avoid any further form of violence, to respect human rights and to seek negotiated solutions to the serious humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population.”

Month-long anti-government demonstrations, political clashes and looting in Venezuela have left at least 22 people dead, the Guardian reports.

Tens of thousands of people have joined the latest protests, caused largely by food and medicine shortages, increasing unemployment and anger at President Nicolás Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian restrictions on elections and democratic institutions.

“We entrust to the Blessed Virgin Mary the intention of peace, reconciliation and democracy in that dear country,” Francis continued. “And pray for all the countries that are experiencing serious difficulties, especially in these days I think of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”

During his address to some 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope drew attention to the celebration Sunday of the Day for the Catholic University of the Sacred Hear in Italy and “Biblical Sunday” in Poland, where parishes, schools and mass media are all publicly reading a part of Sacred Scripture.

“Christian formation is based on the Word of God,” he said, “I wish every good for this initiative.”

He also spoke about Leopoldina Naudet, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, who was beatified in Verona April 29. “She grew up in the court of the Habsburgs, first in Florence and then in Vienna, having as a girl a strong vocation for prayer, but also for educational service,” he said.

“She consecrated himself to God and, through various experiences, came to form a new religious community in Verona, under the protection of the Holy Family, still living in the Church today.”

Francis also expressed his thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary for his apostolic visit to Egypt April 28-29, asking the Lord to “bless all the Egyptian people,” including the Christian and Muslim authorities, and the Christians in the country.

Immediately before leading the Regina Coeli Sunday, Pope Francis held an audience in St. Peter’s Square with members of the lay organization Catholic Action. He also greeted them during the Regina Coeli address urging them to “go forth!” into the world.

The group, committed to living out faith in community and service, met in Rome last week to celebrate the 150th year since their founding.

In their audience, the Pope said that his own father and grandmother were members of Catholic Action, encouraged them to not grow lazy or complacent in the future, getting too “comfortable in the armchair.”

“I encourage you to continue to be a people of missionary disciples who are living and witnessing the joy of knowing that the Lord loves us from infinite love, and who together with him deeply love the story we live in,” he said.

“So we were taught by the great witnesses of holiness that paved the way for your association,” including Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. “Catholic Action, live up to your history! Live to the height of these women and these men who preceded you.”

Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight presser from Egypt

Sun, 04/30/2017 - 03:41

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 / 03:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his conversation with journalists on the way back from Egypt, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including North Korea, populism and a possible visit from President Donald Trump.

While nothing has been confirmed as far as a meeting with the U.S. president, much of what Francis said in the 32-minute press conference, which took place during his April 29 flight from Cairo to Rome, focused on themes that came up during his two-day visit to Egypt, but which can be applied to some of the major issues up for global discussion today.

Please read below for CNA's full transcript of the Pope's inflight press conference:

Greg Burke (Vatican press director): Here among the journalists are those who are making a trip for the first time and those who have made almost 100.. No, more than 100, I think… And you, I don’t know if you know how many international trips you’ve made…

Pope Francis: 18!

Greg Burke: Ah, 18, alright great. I didn’t know. Nineteen is around the corner, so also you have a good number of Papal trips now. Thanks for this moment which is always a strong moment for us and let’s start with the Italian group, Paolo Rodari. I don’t know if you want to say something first.

Pope Francis: Yes, good evening and thanks for your work because these were 27 hours, I think, of much work. Thanks so much for what you did, thank you. And I’m at your disposal.

Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father.

Paolo Rodari (Repubblica): Hello. Holy Father, thank you. I wanted to ask you about your meeting yesterday with al Sisi. What did you speak about? Topics of human rights were mentioned and, in particular, that you were able to speak about the case of Giulio Regeni, and do you think the truth will be reached in that regard?

Pope Francis: On this I will give a general response, to then reach the particular. Generally when I am with a head of state in private dialogue, that remains private, unless, by agreement, we say ‘let’s say on this point, we’ll make it public.’ I had four private dialogues here with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, with al Sisi, with Patriarch Tawadros and with Patriarch Ibrahim and I believe that if it is private, for respect one must maintain privacy… it is confidential… but later there is the question on Regeni. I am concerned, from the Holy See I have moved on that topic because the parents also asked me to. The Holy See has moved. I will not say how or where, but we have moved.

Greg Burke: Dario Menor Torres, from El Correo Espanol.
 
Dario Menor (El Correo Espanol): Thank you, Holiness! You said yesterday that peace, prosperity and development deserve every sacrifice and later you underscored the importance of the inalienable rights of man. Does this mean a support for the Egyptian government, a recognition of its role in the Middle East, and how it tries to defend Christians despite insufficient democratic guarantees from this government?

Pope Francis: Could you repeat… what does what mean? I didn’t hear…

Dario Menor: If these words that you said on the importance of peace, of prosperity and development, saying that they deserve every sacrifice, if we should interpret them as a support of the Egyptian government and how it tries to defend Christians despite insufficient democratic guarantees.

Pope Francis: No, No… one must interpret (it) literally as values in themselves… I said that defending peace, defending the harmony of peoples, defending the equality of citizens, whichever the religion they profess may be, are values. I spoke of values! If a person who governs defends one value or defends another, it is another issue. I have made 18 [international] visits. In many of those nations, I’ve heard, ‘But the Pope, going there, gives support to that government,’ because a government always has its weaknesses or it has its political adversaries, and some say one thing or another… I don’t get mixed up (in that)... I speak about values, and every person sees, is a judge if this government, this state, that from here, that from there, carries those values forward…
 
Dario Menor: Were you left with the urge to visit the Pyramids?

Pope Francis: But, do you know that today at 6:00 in the morning, two of my assistants went to visit the pyramids?

Dario Menor: Would you have liked to go with them?

Pope Francis: Truly, yes.

Dario Menor: Thanks a million.

Virginie Riva (Europe 1): Holy Father, a question possibly starting from the trip and extending it to France, if you accept. You spoke at al-Azhar, at the university, about demagogic populism. French Catholics in this moment are tempted by the populist or extreme vote, they are divided and disoriented. What elements of discernment could you give these Catholic electors?

Pope Francis: Great… there is a dimension of “populisms” - in quotes, because you know that this word for me, I’ve had to relearn it in Europe, because in Latin America it has another meaning - there is an issue in Europe and there is an issue of the European Union behind it… that which I said about Europe I will not repeat it here… I’ve spoken about it four times, I believe, twice in Strasbourg, once at the Charlemagne Prize and at the beginning of the commemoration of the 60th. There is everything I’ve said about Europe. Every nation is free to make choices that it believes convenient before this. I cannot judge if this choice is made for this reason, or for another, because I don’t know the internal politics. It is true that Europe is in danger of dissolving. This is true! I said it softly in Strasbourg. I said it more strongly at the Charlemagne [Prize ceremony] and lately without nuance. We must meditate on only that - the Europe that goes from the Atlantic to the Urals - there is an issue that scares Europe and perhaps feeds … the issue is emigration. This is true. But let’s not forget that Europe was made by migrants, centuries and centuries of migrants. We are them! But it is an issue that must be studied well, also respecting opinions, but the honest opinions of a political discussion - with the capital letter, big, with the big ‘Politics’ and not with the little ‘politics’ of the nation that in the end winds up falling. About France, I’ll tell the truth. I don’t understand the internal French politics. I don’t understand it. I’ve sought to have good relations, also with the current president, with which there was a conflict once, but after I was able to speak clearly about things, respecting his opinion. On the two political candidates, I don’t know the history. I don’t know where they come from, nor - yes, I know that one represents the strong right, but the other I truly don’t know where they come from - for this (reason) I cannot give a clear opinion on France. But, speaking with Catholics, here in one of the gatherings, while I was greeting people, one said to me, ‘But why don’t you think big about politics ?’ What does that mean? Well, he said it to me as if asking for help… eh, to make a party for Catholics. This is a good man but he’s living in the last century. For this, the populisms have relationships with migrants, but this is not from the trip. If I still have time later I can return to this. If I have time, I will return.

Vera Shcherbakova (ITAR-TASS): Holy Father, thank you first of all for the blessings… you blessed me. I knelt down some minutes ago. I am Orthodox and I don’t see any contradiction with my baptism, anyway, I see it as a great pleasure. I wanted to ask: what are the prospects for the relations between the Orthodox, obviously Russian, but also yesterday in the common declaration with the Coptic Patriarch, the common date of Easter (came up) and that they speak of a recognition of baptism… where are we on this point? How do you evaluate the relations between the Vatican and Russia as a State, also in light of the defense of the values of Christians in the Middle East and especially in Syria? Thanks.

Greg Burke: This is Vera Shcherbakova, of the TASS Agency.

Pope Francis: Christos Anesti! I, with the Orthodox, have always had a great friendship, since Buenos Aires, no? For example, every January 6th I would go to vespers, to the complete readings, at your Cathedral of Patriarch Plato, who is in an archbishop in the area of Ukraine, no? And he… two hours and forty (minutes) of prayer in a language that I didn’t understand, but you could pray well, and then the dinner with the community. Three hundred people, a Christmas Eve dinner, not a Christmas dinner. They still couldn’t eat dairy or meat, but it was a beautiful dinner and then bingo, the lottery… friendship… also with the other Orthodox, also sometimes they needed legal help. They would come to the Catholic Curia because they are small communities and they would go to the lawyers. They’d come in and out. But, I’ve always had a filial, fraternal relationship. We are sister Churches! With Tawadros, there is a special friendship. For me, he’s a great man of God! And Tawadros is a patriarch, a pope that carries the Church forward, the name of Jesus before (him). He has a great apostolic zeal… He is one of the most - permit me the word, but in quotes - ‘fanatics’ of finding a fixed date for Easter. I am too. We are seeking the way. But he says, ‘Let’s fight!’ He is a man of God. He is a man who, when he was bishop, far from Egypt, went out to feed the disabled, a man who was sent to a diocese with five churches and he left behind 25, I don’t know how many Christian families with the apostolic zeal. The you know how they make the election among them. They look for three, then they put the names in a bag, they call a child, they close their eyes and the child chooses the name. The Lord is there. He is clearly a great patriarch. The unity of baptism is moving ahead. The guilt of baptism is an historical thing (Editor’s note: Pope Francis seems to be referring to the historical ‘breach’ between the recognition of baptism between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic traditions. Neither currently recognizes baptism carried out in the other Church), because in the first Councils it was the same, then as the Coptic Christians baptized children in the shrines, when they wanted to get married, they came to us, they were married with a Catholic, they asked for the faith… but they didn’t have it and they asked for baptism under a condition. It started with us, not with them… but now the door has been opened and we are on a good path of overcoming this issue, the door…. In the common declaration, the penultimate paragraph speaks of this. The Russian Orthodox recognize our baptism and we recognize their baptism.  I was a very close friend as the bishop of Buenos Aires with the Russians, also with the Georgians, for example… but the patriarch of the Georgians is a man of God, Ilia II. He is a mystic! We Catholics must learn also from this mystical tradition of the Orthodox Churches. During this trip, we had this ecumenical encounter. Patriarch Bartholomew was there too. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop was there and then there were other Christians - Anglicans, also the secretary of the Union of Churches of Geneva (Editor’s note: Pope Francis is referring to the Conference of European Churches) but all that makes ecumenism is on the path. Ecumenism is made on the path, with the works of charity, with the works of helping, doing things together when they can be done together. Static ecumenism doesn’t exist! It is true that theologians must study and come to an agreement, but it will not be possible for this to finish well if we’re not walking. What can we do together? Pray together, work together, do works of charity together… but, together, eh! And move ahead. The relations with Patriarch Kirill are good. They are good. Also, Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion has come many times to speak with me and we have a good relationship.

Greg Burke: She’s asking about with the State…

Pope Francis: Ah, with the State! I know that the State speaks of this, of the defense of Christians in the Middle East. This I know and believe that it is a good thing to fight against persecution… today there are more martyrs than in the first centuries, most of all in the Middle East.

Greg Burke: Phil Pulella...this question will address the trip, but then let's see where it ends...
 
Phil Pulella (Reuters): If I can I would like to speak about another topic, but I'll start with the trip. You spoke yesterday in your first speech about the danger of unilateral action, and that everyone must be builders of peace. Now you have spoken very clearly about the "third world war in pieces," but it seems that today this fear and anxiety is concentrated on what is happening in North Korea...
 
Pope Francis:
Yes, it's the focal point!
 
Pulella: Exactly, it's the point of concentration. President Trump sent a team of military ships to the coast of North Korea, the leader of North Korea threatened to bomb South Korea, Japan and even the United States if they succeed in building long-range missiles. People are afraid and speak of the possibility of a nuclear war as if it were nothing. You, if you see President Trump, but also other people, what will you say to these leaders who are responsible for the future of humanity? Because we are in a very critical moment...

Pope Francis: I would call them, I call them and I will call them like I called on leaders in different positions to work on resolving problems along the path of diplomacy, and there are facilitators, many of them, in the world. There are mediators who offer...there are countries like Norway, for example, no one can accuse Norway of being a dictatorial country, and it's always ready to help, to name an example, but there are many. The path is the path of negotiation, the path of diplomatic solutions. This world war in pieces of which I've been talking about for two years more or less, it's in pieces, but the pieces have gotten bigger, they are concentrated, they are focused on points that are already hot. Things are already hot, as the issue of missiles in North Korea has been there for more than a year, now it seems that the thing has gotten too hot. I always say to resolve problems on the path of diplomacy, negotiation, because the future of humanity...today a widespread war destroys I don't say half of humanity, but a good part of humanity, and it's the culture, everything. It's terrible. I think that today humanity is not able to support it. Let's look to these countries that are suffering an internal war, inside, where there are the fires of war, in the Middle East for example, but also in Africa, in Yemen. Let's stop! Let's look for a diplomatic solution! And there I believe that the United Nations has the duty to resume their leadership, because it's been watered down a bit.

Pulella: Do you want to meet President Trump when he comes to Europe? Has there been a request for a meeting?
 
Pope Francis: I still have not been informed by the Secretariat of State if there has been a request, but I receive every head of state who asks for an audience.  

Greg Burke: I think the questions on the trip have finished. We can take one more still, then we have to go to dinner at six-thirty. There is Antonio Pelayo from Antena 3, who you know…

Antonio Pelayo (Antena 3): Thank you. Holy Father, the situation in Venezuela has deteriorated recently in a very serious way, and there have been many deaths. I want to ask you if the Holy See intends to carry out this action, this peacemaking intervention, and what forms could this action take?

Pope Francis: There was an intervention from the Holy See at the strong request of the four presidents that were working as facilitators. And the thing didn’t turn out. And it remained there. It didn’t turn out because the proposals weren’t accepted or they were diluted. It was a ‘yes-yes,’ but ‘no-no.’ We all know the difficult situation of Venezuela. It is a nation that I really love. And I know that now they are insisting, I don’t know well from where, I believe that it’s from the four presidents, on relaunching this facilitation and they are looking for the place. I think that this has to be with conditions already, very clear conditions. Part of the opposition doesn’t want this. Because it’s curious, the very opposition is divided and on the other hand it appears that the conflicts are always worse.  But, there is something in movement. I was informed of that, but it is very up in the air still. But all that can be done for Venezuela has to be done, with the necessary guarantees, if not we’re playing ‘tin tin pirulero’ (Editor’s note: this is a Spanish term for trying one thing, then another and another without knowing what one is doing). It’s not working...

Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father. And now we go to...

Jörg Heinz Norbert Bremer (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung): Some days ago you spoke about the theme of refugees in Greece, in Lesbos, and you used this word "concentration camp" because there were too many people. For us Germans this was obviously a very, very serious word, and very close to "extermination camp." There are people who say that this was a linguistic lapse. What did you intend to say?

Pope Francis: First, you must read well everything that I said. I said that the most generous in Europe were Italy and Greece. It's true, they are closer to Libya, to Syria. From Germany, I have always admired the ability of integration. When I studied there, there were many integrated Turks in Frankfurt. They integrated and had a normal life. There was no linguistic lapse: there are concentration camps, sorry: refugee camps that are true camps of concentration. Perhaps there are some in Italy, or in another area...in Germany, I'm not sure, but you think of what people do who are closed in a camp and can't leave. Think about what happened in Northern Europe when they wanted to cross the sea and go to England. They are closed inside. But it made me laugh a bit, and this is a bit of Italian culture, but it made me laugh that in a refugee camp in Sicily, a delegate of Catholic Action told me, one of the delegates from the dioceses in Argentina - there is one or two in the area there, I don't know which diocese - the heads of that city where the camp was spoke to the people in the refugee camp, and they said: you, here inside, it will hurt you and your mental health too...you have to go out, but please don't do anything bad. We can't open the door, but we can make a little hole behind. Go out, have a nice walk, and this is how relationships were made with the people who lived in that city, good relationships, and these (refugees) aren't delinquents, they don't commit crimes. The sole fact of being closed without anything (to do), this is a lager! (Editor’s note: he is referring to the German name for concentration camp. For example, Auschwitz was a “lager”). But it doesn't have anything to do with Germany, no.

Greg Burke: Thank you Holy Father.
 
Pope Francis:
Thanks to you for this work you do which helps a lot of people. You don't know the good that you can do with your news pieces, with your articles, with your thoughts. We must help people and also help communication, because communication...may the press lead us to good things, may it not lead us to disorientations that don't help us. Thank you very much! Have a good dinner, and pray for me!

Ed Pentin, Elise Harris, Alan Holdren and Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.

Pope Francis talks nuclear war, North Korea during in-flight presser

Sun, 04/30/2017 - 02:50

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During a press conference Saturday aboard the papal plane from Egypt to Rome, Pope Francis said that in the face of conflict and the possibility of nuclear war, United Nations leaders need to provide a strong leadership, focusing on diplomacy and peaceful negotiation.

“I always say to resolve problems on the path of diplomacy, negotiation.”

To find diplomatic solutions to conflict “I believe that the United Nations has the duty to resume their leadership, because it's been watered down a bit,” he told journalists April 29.

Asked what he would say to leaders, considering the fear surrounding the possibility of nuclear attack from North Korea, the Pope said that he would call on them to resolve problems “along the path of diplomacy,” like he has called on leaders to resolve a variety of problems.

“The path is the path of negotiation, the path of diplomatic solutions,” he said. “This world war in pieces of which I've been talking about for two years, more or less, it's in pieces, but the pieces have gotten bigger, they are concentrated, they are focused on points that are already hot.”

“Things are already hot, as the issue of missiles in North Korea has been there for more than a year, now it seems that the thing has gotten too hot.”

The issue of nuclear weapons in North Korea has been at the forefront as the UN Security Council met April 28 to discuss how to enforce the several sanctions they have already imposed on North Korea, such as resolution 2321, passed in Nov. 2016, after North Korea’s latest successful nuclear test on Sept. 9 of that year.

Hours after their meeting, North Korea filed another missile – early Saturday local time – which exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said.

Ahead of the Security Council meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump said that if diplomatic efforts fail, the U.S. is willing to engage with North Korea directly over ending its nuclear weapons program.

Direct conflict is possible, though “he would love to solve things diplomatically,” he said in an interview with Reuters April 28.

The question concerning the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea was asked during the flight back to Rome after the Pope’s April 28-29 trip to Cairo, Egypt.

During the 32-minute long press conference, the Pope also addressed peace in the Middle East and the situation in Venezuela. He also responded to a question about populism, highlighting in particular the difference between populism in Europe and populism in Latin America.

Asked about a possible meeting with Donald Trump, he said that he had not been informed of any request, but that he always meets with heads of state if they ask.

During the brief trip, the Pope made his way to Egypt’s prestigious al-Azhar University and adjunct mosque, considered one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam, where he met with Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb and addressed participants in the International Peace Conference.

He then met with the country’s authorities, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, before heading to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral for his meeting with Tawadros, the last official appointment of the day.

Saturday he celebrated Mass for around 15,000 people in Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium before meeting with local bishops, followed by a prayer meeting with priests, religious and seminarians before he boarded the plane to return to Rome.

Order of Malta elects new Grand Master amid ongoing reform

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 21:37

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 / 09:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Malta elected Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre as their new Grand Master as the latest move in the ongoing reform their leadership, which the bulk of his one-year mandate will focus on.

Announced in an April 29 communique from the order, the election of Dalla Torre was the result of the Order of Malta’s daylong “Council Complete of State,” which fell shortly after the resignation of the Order’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, earlier this year.

Dalla Torre will swear an official oath before Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order, and members of the “Council Complete of State” that elected him Sunday, April 30, at the church of Santa Maria in Aventino.

Even though he's currently concluding a two-day trip to Egypt, Pope Francis was the first to be informed of Dalla Torre’s election through a letter. Notice was then given to other members and entities of the Order, including the 106 States with whom they currently hold diplomatic relations.

According to the Order’s communique, Dalla Torre will serve as Grand Master for a mandate of one year, and will work closely with the Order’s Sovereign Council to advance their humanitarian work and to strengthen the spiritual life of the Order.

The new Grand Master was born in Rome in 1944 and is an expert in art and art history. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Rome, with a specialization in Christian Archaeology and Art History.

He later began teaching courses in Classic Greek at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome, and was eventually named head of their library and their chief archivist for important collections.

Dalla Torre entered the Order of Malta in 1985 and made his solemn vows as a professed knight in 1993. From 1994-1999 he served as Grand Prior of Lombardy and Venice, and from 1999-2004 was a member of the Sovereign Council.

In 2004, he was elected Grand Commander, and after the death of the 78th Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie, he stood in as interim Lieutenant. He has served as Grand Prior of Rome since 2008.

His first official engagement as Grand Master will be the May 5-9 international pilgrimage of the Order of Malta to Lourdes, which each year gathers some 7,000 members and volunteers of the Order to assist sick and disabled pilgrims.

Dalla Torre’s election comes after Festing’s Jan. 24 resignation, which he submitted upon the request of Pope Francis after a short, but intense spat with the Vatican.

Festing’s resignation marked the end of a month-long power struggle between the Order of Malta and the Holy See, which began with the forced dismissal of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager from both his position, and his membership in the Order, in early December.

The Holy See then intervened, establishing a committee to investigate the decision. The Order then pushed back, saying Boeselager’s dismissal was an “internal act of governance,” making the Holy See’s investigative group “legally irrelevant” given the Orders’ sovereignty.

After a brief back and forth, the Holy See eventually responded Jan. 17 reiterating its confidence in the group and their work. Shortly after that Festing was called in for a private meeting with the Pope and was asked to resign.

Three days later the Order’s Sovereign council voted to accept Festing’s resignation and Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR Dec. 15, was also reinstated as Grand Chancellor.

In February, the Pope appointed Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order, specifically their leadership, until a new Grand Master was appointed.

Shortly before Saturday’s vote, the Pope held a lengthy April 26 meeting with Becciu and the Order of Malta’s leaders, likely to discuss the election and their process of reform.

According to the Order of Malta, Dalla Torre’s primary focus during the coming year will be the reform of their Constitution, with special attention given to any “institutional shortages” the Order might have.

“The recent crisis has brought to light some weaknesses in the systems of control and in the balance of governance,” the communique read, adding that “the reform will take this into account.”

Special attention will also be paid to solidifying the spiritual life of the Order and to finding ways to increase the number of their professed members. Some consultations on how to do this have already been done, but suggestions from all of the Order’s members, professed or not, are welcome.

When Dalla Torre’s mandate is up next year, he will reconvene the “Council Complete of State” to either re-elect him, or to elect a new Grand Master.

Pope tells Egypt religious to never fear or flee from the cross

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 19:44

Cairo, Egypt, Apr 29, 2017 / 07:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Egypt’s priests and religious to never be discouraged or fear the challenges of their ministry, and warned against seven key temptations he said can keep them from being faithful to the Lord in their daily tasks.

“Do not be afraid of the burdens of your daily service and the difficult circumstances some of you must endure,” the Pope said April 29. “We venerate the Holy Cross, the instrument and sign of our salvation. When we flee the Cross, we flee the resurrection!”

Pope Francis met with Egypt’s priests, religious and seminarians at Cairo’s Al-Maadi Seminary on the final day of his April 28-29 visit to the country, intended to both offer support to local Christians and strengthen interfaith and ecumenical ties in the region.

After being welcomed by the seminary’s rector, Fr. Toma Adly Zaky, the Pope thanked Egypt’s religious for the good they do “amid many challenges and often few consolations,” and offered his encouragement.

While there are many reasons to be discouraged “amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices,” he voiced his hope that they would be “a positive force, salt and light for this society.”

However, “this will be possible if consecrated men and women do not give in to the temptations they daily encounter along their way,” he said, and highlighted seven key areas of temptation “described well” by the first monks of Egypt.

First, he warned against the temptation “to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead.” Christ, as the Good Shepherd, has the responsibility of leading his sheep, Francis said, explaining that “he cannot let himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism.”

Rather, “he is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken-hearted,” he said, and stressed that one’s fidelity to the Lord must always be strong, even when human gratitude is lacking.

The Pope then pointed to a second temptation “to complain constantly,” noting that it’s easy to complain about others, the faults or shortcomings of a superior, the state of the Church and even a lack of possibilities.

However, consecrated people are the ones “who turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse,” he said, adding that “the person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work.”

Francis also warned, as he often does when speaking to religious men and women, against the temptation of gossip and envy.

There is “a great danger” when consecrated people, instead of finding joy in the success of others, allow themselves to be “dominated by envy” and to hurt others through gossip, he said.

This danger is manifested when instead of striving to grow, religious “start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value.”

Envy, he said, “is a cancer that destroys the body in no time.”

A fourth attitude the Pope told religious to steer clear of is the temptation to compare oneself to others, because “enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us.”

“Comparing ourselves with those better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness,” he said, noting that those who always compare themselves “end up paralyzed.”

Jesting about the irony of being in Egypt, he also cautioned against the temptation of “to become like Pharaoh,” which he said means to “harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters.”

The temptation here “is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve,” he said, explaining that the only antidote to this “poison” is to become a servant to everyone.

Pope Francis then warned against the temptation to individualism, quoting a well-known Egyptian phrase that goes: “me, and after me, the flood!”

“This is the temptation of selfish people,” he said. “Along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves.”

The Church, on the contrary, is made up of the communion of faithful where the salvation of one depends on the holiness of all, he said, adding that anyone who adopts an individualist attitude “is a cause of scandal and of conflict.”

Finally, the Pope pointed to one last temptation to “keep walking without direction or destination.”

At times, “consecrated men and women can lose their identity and begin to be neither fish nor fowl,” he said. “They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. They can forget their first love.”

When this happens, they lose their clear and solid identity and begin walking aimlessly. As a result, instead of leading other people, “they scatter them,” he said.

Francis told those present that their identity as sons and daughters of the Church “is to be Copts – rooted in your noble and ancient origins – and to be Catholics – part of the one and universal Church: like a tree that, the more deeply rooted it is in the earth, the higher it reaches to the heavens!”

He noted that avoiding these temptations isn’t easy, but that it is possible “if we are grafted on to Jesus.”

“The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful,” he said. “Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission.”

Given Egypt’s rich monastic history, Pope Francis told the religious to draw from the example of figures such as Saint Paul the Hermit, Saint Anthony and the Desert Fathers.

“You too can be salt and light, and thus an occasion of salvation for yourselves and for all others, believers and non-believers alike, and especially for those who are poor, those in need, the abandoned and discarded,” he said, and assured them of his closeness.

Our only 'fanaticism' should be love, Pope tells Egypt's Catholics

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 15:40

Cairo, Egypt, Apr 29, 2017 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis told Egyptian Catholics that truly living the faith means ridding ourselves of hypocritical attitudes and focusing on the only obsession that counts: loving others, no matter how hard it is.

“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!” the Pope said April 29.

True faith, he said, “is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction and without preference.”

Pope Francis spoke to the 15,000 people who attended his Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo as part of his April 28-29 visit to Egypt. The trip comes largely as the result of a recent thawing in relations between the Vatican and the prestigious al-Azhar University, one of the highest institutional authorities in Sunni Islam, which had been strained since 2011.

The visit also takes place in wake of increasing attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community, and as such is meant to show support for Christians as well as cement Catholic-Muslim relations.

Egypt has around 272,000 Catholics and 213 parishes out of a total population of nearly 89 million. The country is predominately Muslim, with Christianity, including Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Catholics, making up only 10 percent of the population.  

In his homily, which was given in Italian with Arabic translation, Francis spoke about the qualities of a sincere faith, pointing out that we are called to love, serve, and help our brothers and sisters – never treating them like an enemy.

True faith, he said, “spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.” It also gives us “the courage to forgive those who have wronged us,” and to live out the corporal works of mercy.

Continuing, the Pope said “true faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own. Indeed, the more we grow in faith and knowledge, the more we grow in humility and in the awareness of our littleness.”

His words centered on the day’s Gospel passage for the third Sunday of Easter, which tells the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The experience of the disciples, he said, can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life.

At first the disciples are full of disappointment and despair, not understanding how God could have allowed Jesus, their Savior, to be crucified, Francis observed. However, Jesus then approaches and walks with them, turning their despair into life.

“They could not understand why Almighty God had not saved him from such a disgraceful death,” he said. “The cross of Christ was the cross of their own ideas about God; the death of Christ was the death of what they thought God to be.”

However, in reality, “it was they who were dead, buried in the tomb of their limited understanding,” the Pope continued, adding: “How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas of God, a god created in the image and likeness of man!”

“How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life!”

Eventually, it is in the “breaking of the bread,” the Eucharist, that the two disciples recognize the Risen Jesus and are “filled with joy, confidence and enthusiasm, ready to bear witness,” he said.

Unless we also “tear apart the veil clouding our vision and shatter the hardness of our hearts and our prejudices, we will never be able to recognize the face of God.”

It was precisely in this darkness and despair that Jesus approaches and “turns their despair into life,” Francis said, explaining that “when we reach the depths of failure and helplessness, when we rid ourselves of the illusion that we are the best, sufficient unto ourselves and the center of our world, then God reaches out to us to turn our night into dawn, our affliction into joy, our death into resurrection.”

We must follow the same path of the disciples, not remaining in doubt or despair, focused only on the cross, but coming to realize the truth and hope of the resurrection, he said, stressing that “we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power.”

This experience must also translate into how we treat others, he said, saying “the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus teaches us that it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence.”

“It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters. All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity.”

The Pope said that in this sense, it’s useless to be concerned about our image, “since God looks at the soul and the heart and he detests hypocrisy. For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!”

Just like the disciples saw and believed, returning immediately to Jerusalem to share their experience, the Church also “needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments,” he said.

Francis concluded by encouraging those present, “filled with joy, courage and faith” like the disciples of Emmaus, to “return to your own Jerusalem, that is, to your daily lives, your families, your work and your beloved country.”

“Do not be afraid to open your hearts to the light of the Risen Lord, and let him transform your uncertainty into a positive force for yourselves and for others,” he said.

“Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!”

Pope thanks charity organization for generous service to the Church

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 19:25

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2017 / 07:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with members of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, telling them that in a world full of desperation, their charitable assistance helps the Church spread a message of hope to those most in need.

“Today’s world, so often torn by violence, greed and indifference, greatly needs our witness to the Gospel message of hope in the redemptive and reconciling power of God’s love,” he said April 27.

He voiced his gratitude to the organization “for your desire to assist the Church’s efforts to proclaim that message of hope to the ends of the earth and to work for the spiritual and material advancement of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, especially in developing countries.”

Pope Francis met with members of the Philadelphia-based charitable organization Thursday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. They are gathered in Rome April 26-29 for their annual pilgrimage, during which they present the Pope with their annual contribution to his charities.

The Papal Foundation was established by U.S. Catholics in 1988 under St. John Paul II, to whom it offered its first donation of financial support in April 1990.

Since then, the organization, according to their website, has provided more than $111 million in grants and scholarships, the funds of which go toward building up the Church, educating and preparing leaders, and caring for vulnerable people, both young and old, throughout the world.

The primary purpose of the organization is to provide financial support for the Pope’s charities, with the commitment “to walk in union with the Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church as we bring the love of Christ to a world in need.”

In 2015, the Papal Foundation awarded almost $15 million in grants and scholarships to various projects around the world, including to churches, seminaries, schools, hospitals, convents and monasteries, and in the areas of humanitarian aid, communications, and education.

Last year the foundation donated a whopping $10 million to support the Pope’s numerous global charitable initiatives.

In his speech, Pope Francis said he was happy to greet the group on their visit, particularly in the joy of the Easter season, when the Church “celebrates the Lord’s victory over death and his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit.”

“It is my hope that your pilgrimage to the Eternal City will strengthen you in faith and hope, and in your commitment to promote the Church’s mission by supporting so many religious and charitable causes close to the heart of the Pope,” he said.

“Each of us, as a living member of Christ’s body, is called to foster the unity and peace that is the Father’s will, in Christ, for our human family and all its members,” he continued.

Francis then said a “vital” part of their commitment to the work of the foundation is to pray for “the needs of the poor, the conversion of hearts, the spread of the Gospel, and the Church’s growth in holiness and missionary zeal.”

He also asked them to not forget to pray for him.

“Dear friends, with these words of encouragement, and with great affection, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church,” he concluded. “To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in the Lord.”

Pope donates rent for beach serving people with disabilities

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:08

Vatican City, Apr 27, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has donated the rent for a private Italian beach that allows disabled people to enjoy the shore, the charity that manages the project announced this week.

The group Work of Love, a Catholic non-profit, has rented part of the Little Madonna beach located near Rome since 2012 in an effort to give disabled people better access to the beach. It is equipped with ramps, walkways and specialized beach chairs and water-friendly wheelchairs, and includes amenities such as a snack bar, changing rooms, and showers.

The beach is run by a group of volunteers and specialized FINP (Italian Swimming Federation Paralympic) staff and is open every day of the week during peak summer swimming season.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told CNN Pope Francis gave the group an undisclosed sum to "support the project that helps disabled youth and in particular to cover the cost of the annual rent for the beach known as the Little Madonna."

The beach is the only one of its kind in the region, and was created to allow all people to enjoy the beach “without architectural and mental barriers,” the group states on their site.

In a statement, the charity said they received the donation with "enthusiasm and astonishment."

It is not the first time Pope Francis has sponsored trips to the beach. Last summer, Archbishop Krajewski told Vatican Insider that the Holy Father had been treating Rome’s homeless to beach trips followed by pizza parties, sometimes with the Pope himself serving up a slice.

He said the van would take about 10 people each day to go swimming on the Italian coast, nearly 20 miles from Rome. The archbishop drove the van, while passengers sang and listened to the radio. At the beach, each guest was offered a swimsuit and towel and afterwards was treated to pizza.

“We certainly are not saving the world with some of these initiatives, we are not solving the problems of the homeless in Rome, but at least we are restoring to them a little dignity,” Archbishop Krajewski said at the time.

Other initiatives carried out by Archbishop Krajewski on behalf of the Pope include a dormitory, barber services and showers for those in need. In 2015, the Pope invited a group of homeless people in Rome to the Sistine Chapel. In 2016, he invited 2,000 homeless people and migrants to the circus. Pope Francis also sent an electronic scooter to an elderly couple with disabilities, who had difficulty getting around. He has also given Christmas gifts to poor migrants and umbrellas to the homeless.

 

Smaller changes expected from Council of Cardinals' latest meeting

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 03:05

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2017 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue discussion on reforming the Roman Curia, focusing on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council Promoting the New Evangelization.

According to an April 26 communique, during their 19th session the cardinals studied texts to propose to Pope Francis regarding the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and the three courts.

No big changes are expected out of this latest round of meetings – those changes were the new dicasteries formed last fall, Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists at a briefing Wednesday.

This time, Burke said, the cardinals and Pope focused on regulation within the departments, hoping to arrive at something like a “new Pastor bonus,” the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.

In the meetings they inspected texts for the three courts of the Roman Curia: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura, and the Roman Rota.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

They also spent a significant amount of time discussing the selection and training of staff of the Holy See, both laity and clerics.

In addition to the nine members of the council and Pope Francis, officials of the State Secretariat, the Council of the Economy, and the Office of Work of the Apostolic See (ULSA) also took part.

Cardinal George Pell gave an update on the Secretariat for the Economy, particularly on the monitoring of budgets and “the formation of personnel and human resources.”

The cardinals, in addition to speaking about the tribunals and bishop selection, continued to discuss points brought up during the last round of meetings, including the possible restructuring of the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples and Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley gave an update on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he heads, speaking about their plenary meeting in March and their visits to various ministries.

Carrying over from previous meetings, the council of cardinals also discussed decentralization, the relationship between bishops’ conferences and the Roman Curia, and how to be more in service to local bishops.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus.

Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality, and the Church’s “missionary drive.”

The council of cardinals is set to meet again June 12-14 to continue discussion on moving forward in reforming curial structures.

Jim Harbaugh: My priorities are 'faith, then family, then football'

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 00:27

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2017 / 12:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, now head coach for the University of Michigan football team, is also a Roman Catholic – and he said Wednesday that faith plays a major role in his life.

“The role that (faith) plays in my life is in the priorities that I have,” he said April 26, “faith, then family, then football.”

Coach Harbaugh spoke to CNA following a general audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square April 26. He and his wife, Sarah, greeted Francis following the audience and presented him with a gift from the team – a University of Michigan helmet and pair of cleats.

The helmet included both the Italian and American flags and a little cross by the chinstrap. The Pope gave Harbaugh “some marching orders,” the coach said, “he told me to pray for him.”

Following the encounter, Harbaugh and his family and the University of Michigan football team were hosted for lunch on the terrace of the EWTN Rome bureau offices. After lunch they held a brief press conference.



Harbaugh, 53, has been head football coach for the University of Michigan since 2015. He played college football at Michigan from 1983-1986 and played in the National Football League (NFL) for 14 seasons from 1987-2000. He has seven children.

Speaking to CNA about his experience meeting Pope Francis, Harbaugh quoted his father-in-law, Merrill Feuerborn, who told him, “To live in a state of grace, put your trust in the Lord, and be not afraid.”

“When I met Pope Francis today, I was riding on a state of grace,” he said, “that feeling was beyond description. And I know that there's something that I'm supposed to do with that opportunity, with that encounter, of meeting the Holy Father. I'm going to pray about it.”

Harbaugh is in Rome April 22-30. He brought along his family as well as almost his entire team and staff – some 150 people. He said he wanted to give his players an experience they might not otherwise have.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, he brought the team and staff to Rome for a week of team-building, cultural and historical experiences, and of course, spring practices.

The aim of this trip was to “have an educational experience like none other,” he told CNA.

“Not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field, you know? It's out connecting to people, and having a chance for our players and staff to see things they've never seen before, eat things they’ve never tasted, to hear a language they've never heard.”

One goal for the trip was to connect his team with people they otherwise might not have met, he said. Their first day in Rome, the group met and picnicked with a group of refugees, including several from Syria.

Later on Wednesday, Harbaugh and some members of the team and his family visited the SOS Children’s Village, a community made up of homes for children who are in positions of family or social hardship.

Harbaugh said that attending the general audience and meeting Pope Francis was an emotional experience, not just for him but for his team as well. Asked what he hopes his team will take away from the experience, he said just that “the relationship with God is a personal one.”

He said his suggestion for each of his players would be to spend time in silence and think and pray “about what it means, and what they should take away from it.”

“Because we don't always know what to do with it,” he continued. “I don't know what to do with the encounter I had meeting Pope Francis today. What exactly did it mean? What opportunity was given and what am I supposed to do with that?”

Immediately afterward, Harbaugh said he was able to speak with a priest from Detroit, Msgr. Robert McClory, about the experience: “And that was the advice that he gave me: to be silent, to pray, to be with God and listen, and you'll get it, you'll figure it out.”

Two players had the opportunity to get a little bit closer to the Pope during the audience, which Harbaugh chose through an essay competition. The winners, offensive lineman Grant Newsome and defensive tackle Salim Makki, both said they are inspired by Francis.

Attending the audience “was just an incredible experience,” Newsome said.

“Not only as a Christian, but as a person in general, just to listen to someone who is so internationally renowned as Pope Francis and to hear him and have him bless us was just an incredible experience for me and I know for a lot of the other guys on the team.”

Makki, a Muslim, said he looks up to Pope Francis as a hero. “He's always shown that Muslims and Christians and Catholics can combine – we're all brothers and sisters, we can co-exist together.”

Jack Wangler, a senior wide receiver told CNA, “I can speak for everybody, I think: this has been a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”

“It's been great to come here with the team and use it as a bonding experience and a cultural experience, to expand what we've learned in the classroom,” said Catholic fullback Joe Beneducci.

He told CNA that he remembers reading about the Church and the Vatican at school and watching St. John Paul II’s funeral on TV. “Coming here to see it in person, it put it all in perspective and made me appreciate it just that much more.”

“I think it's brought me closer to my faith as well, which is very nice.”

About the qualities of a good sportsman, Harbaugh said, “It talks about it in the Bible: strive hard to win the prize. To have that motivation, to have that quality of perseverance and discipline and drive is what really makes a good athlete.”

Sunday, before they leave to return to Michigan, Harbaugh’s infant son, John Paul, will be baptized at St. Peter’s Basilica. His daughter, Addison, will also make her first Holy Communion.

In the press conference, Harbaugh told journalists that if he accomplished nothing else in his life, to have met the Pope, and see his son be baptized and his daughter receive First Communion at the Vatican, would make him feel like “a blessed man.”

“This has been the experience of a lifetime.”

Pope Francis: Everything passes – except God's love for us

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 16:38

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2017 / 04:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said Christian hope, rather than coming from the empty promises of other human beings, is rooted in Christ’s promise to never leave us, and to stay by our side until the end of time.

“How long, by comparison, will God's care for mankind last?” the Pope asked April 26. “The Gospel's answer leaves no doubt: until the end of the world!”

“The heavens will pass away, the earth will pass away, human hope will be erased, but the Word of God is greater than everything and will not pass away.”

“There will be no day of our life where we will cease to be a concern for the heart of God,” he said, adding that “God will certainly provide for all our needs, he will not abandon us in times of trial and darkness.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his weekly general audience, continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope.

In his speech, he stressed that for Christians, hope is not a vague feeling, or the same thing as the “changing sentiment” of those who want to change the world using only their own willpower.

“Christian hope, in fact, finds its root not in the attraction of the future, but in the security of what God has promised us and made in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Because of this promise, we can follow the Lord without fear, he said, explaining that “if the beginning of every vocation is a ‘follow me’ by which he assures us he will always remain before us, then why fear? With this promise, Christians can walk everywhere.”

Even in those places of the world filled with wounds or bad circumstances, we can be assured of Christ’s presence, he said. As Psalm 23:4 says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

“It is exactly where the darkness spreads that we need to keep lighting a light,” he said.

Francis noted how in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the evangelist recalls the prophetic announcement which is also found in the Book of Isaiah: “To him will be given the name of Emmanuel, which means God with us.”

This verse, along with the promise at the end of the Gospel, “I am with you every day until the end of the world,” together communicate the mystery of God’s identity – that he is “God with us,” the Pope said.

“Our existence is a pilgrimage, a journey,” but on this journey, we are never alone, he said. “Above all, the Christian does not ever feel abandoned, because Jesus promises to not wait until the end of our long journey, but to accompany us in each of our days.”

However, Francis warned that if we rely on our own strength in this journey, we will be discouraged and disappointed, “because the world often proves resistant to the laws of love.”

This, he said, is why “the holy faithful people of God are people standing and walking in hope. And wherever they go, they know that God's love has preceded him: there is no part of the world that escapes the victory of the Risen Christ, the victory of love.”

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