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Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Pope Francis: Even in the darkest moments, Jesus walks with us

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 20:39

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 08:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that no matter what trials we might face, we have hope because Jesus is always by our side, just like he was for the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“All of us, in our lives, have had difficult, dark times; moments in which we have walked sad, thoughtful, without horizons and (with) only a wall in front,” Pope Francis said May 24.

However, even in these moments “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm the heart and say, ‘Go ahead, I'm with you. Go ahead,’” the Pope said, adding that “the secret of the road leading to Emmaus is all here: even through unfavorable appearances, we continue to be loved.”

The Pope met with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, immediately following his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Francis said that no matter what, God always wants the best for us and “will walk with us.”

“Even in the most painful moments, even in the worst moments, even in moments of defeat: the Lord is there. And this is our hope. Let's go ahead with that hope! Because he is next to us and walks with us always!”

The Pope reflected on hope as it is found in the story of Christ’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they feel sad, discouraged and defeated because Jesus has been killed, but they do not yet know about his Resurrection.

All of their hopes from before the crucifixion have been shattered, but this is because they “cultivated only human hope,” Francis said.

It is on this scene that Jesus appears. “This scenario – the road – had already been important in the accounts of the Gospels,” he explained, but “now it will become even more, as they begin to recount the story of the Church.”

This encounter of Jesus with the disciples seems “fortuitous,” he said, in the way it resembles the many times we are carrying our own crosses or burdens of sorrow and disappointment. But Jesus joins them, even though they do not recognize him, and he begins what Pope Francis called a “therapy of hope.”

The first step in this therapy, he said, is to “ask and listen: our God is not an intrusive God. Even though he already knows the reason for the disappointment of those two, he leaves them time to be able to gauge the depth of the bitterness that he has undergone.”

Then, listening to their words, we hear “a chorus of human existence: ‘We hoped, but…We hoped, but….’”

“How much sadness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in each person's life!” the Pope said, noting that “we are all a bit like those two disciples.”

“How many times in life we hoped, how many times we felt a step away from happiness, and then we found ourselves disappointed,” he reflected.

“But Jesus walks with all discouraged people who go forward with head down. And walking with them, in a subtle way, he succeeds in returning hope.”

When he does speak to them, Jesus does it first through the Scriptures. In the Bible, you will not find stories of “easy heroism, thunderous campaigns of conquest,” the Pope said. “True hope is never cheap: it always goes through defeats.”

In fact, Francis said, Jesus models this for us by not being the kind of leader that drags his people to victory by violently destroying his opponents. Instead, he takes a position of disdain himself.

Later that same night, when the disciples have invited him to eat dinner with them, they recognize him when he breaks the bread, repeating the gesture of the first Eucharist.

“In this series of gestures, is there not the whole story of Jesus? And is there not, in every Eucharist, the sign of what the Church must be? Jesus takes us, blesses us, ‘breaks’ our lives – because there is no love without sacrifice – and offers it to others, offers it to everyone.”

Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is quick, he said, but in it we find “the fate of the Church.”

“He tells us that the Christian community is not locked up in a fortified citadel, but walks in its most vital environment; namely, the road. And there it meets people, with their hopes and their disappointments, sometimes heavy.”

“The Church listens to the stories of everyone, as they emerge from the depths of personal conscience, in order then to offer the Word of Life, the testimony of love, faithful love to the end,” he concluded. “And then, the hearts of people return to burning hope.”

Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting (Updated)

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 14:48

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience.

According to a May 24 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."

The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S.

President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Cardinal Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.”

Smiling, Francis explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump.

After the cameras left the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present.

During the "cordial discussions," the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be "engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican communique stated.

Pope Francis and President Trump also exchanged views "on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation inthe Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."

After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania Trump; daughter Ivanka, Tump's assistant and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his assistant and senior advisor.

Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster and Louis Bono, American Chargé d'Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich us officially approved as ambassador.  

Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”

In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them.

The Pope also gifted the U.S. President with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.”

On his part, President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do."

Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed.

Departing with a handshake, Trump said to Francis: "Thank you, thank you, I won't forget what you said."

After meeting with Pope Francis, Trump met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, as is customary for heads of state.

Pope Francis went immediately to begin the Wednesday general audience with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

After the meeting, First Lady Melania paid a visit to the Vatican-owned Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu, also known as the “Pope’s hospital.”

Bambino Gesu sits next to the Pontifical North American College on top of Rome’s Gianicolo hill, and is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future.

At the same time, Trump’s daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka, will make her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking.

The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, in particular.

Ivanka is participating in each of the seven days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and was also present for the public portion of his meeting with Francis.

Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17.

During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, she is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.

This article was updated at 12:12 p.m. local time in Rome with information from the official Vatican communique.

Pope Francis to nuns: Your joy can change the world

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 23:19

Vatican City, May 23, 2017 / 11:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Women who are consecrated to God live “the prophecy of joy,” and this authentic joy is their most credible witness, Pope Francis told leaders of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master on Monday.

“The world today is in need of this: that joy that arises from the encounter with Christ in a life of personal and community prayer, in daily listening to the Word, in the encounter with brothers and sisters, in a happy fraternal life in the community, including fragility, and in the embrace of the flesh of Christ in the poor. Prophets of a joy that is born of feeling loved and therefore forgiven,” he said May 22.

“Joy is a beautiful reality in the life of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us,” he said, adding “authentic joy, not self-referential or complacent, is the most credible witness of a full life.”

The Pope addressed an audience of sisters gathered in Rome in recent weeks for the 9th General Chapter of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. The general chapter has elected its new superior general and other leaders.

He emphasized his point about joy, saying “this joy that fills your hearts and manifests itself on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries, participating in the joy of the Church, that is evangelization.”

“But to do this there must be a true joy, not counterfeit joy. Do not falsify joy. Evangelization, when you are convinced that Jesus is the Good News, is joy and gladness for all. This joy drives away the cancer of resignation, fruit of the lethargy that withers the soul,” he added.

He voiced hope that the sisters’ lives shall bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the master of diversity and unity. He encouraged them “to tirelessly weave unity in legitimate differences, taking account also of the fact that you are present in different countries and cultures.”

Pope Francis advocated a cultivation of care and reciprocal acceptance; practicing fraternal correction and respect for weaker sisters, and “banishing from the community all divisions, envy, gossip; saying this with frankness and charity.”

The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master were founded in Italy 1924 by Blessed Fr. Giacomo Alberione and Mother Scholastica.

The Pope noted the sisters’ mission of “bringing to the men and women of our time the Gospel,” particularly through liturgical service and caring for priests.

He encouraged them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms and “to combat any form of self-centeredness.”

“It is ugly when a consecrated man or woman is self-centered, always looking at him or herself in the mirror. It is ugly,” he said.

He also encouraged them to show the fruits of communion with “the men and women of our time.”

“Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of the men and women of today, we find important indications for our discipleship of Christ,” the Pope said.

He encouraged the general chapter to listen to the sisters of the congregation and to contemporary men and women.

“Never tire of exercising continually the art of listening and sharing,” he said. “In this time of great challenges, which demand of consecrated people creative fidelity, impassioned research, listening and sharing are more important than ever before, if we want our life to be fully meaningful for ourselves and for the people we meet.”

Pope Francis said this practice requires “a climate of discernment, to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to Him.”

“Before us there opens up a world of possibilities,” he said. “The culture in which we are immersed presents all of them as valid, all of them as good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of ‘zapping’ and, at times, a culture of death, we must increase our habit of discernment.”

He encouraged the sisters to ask two questions at both the personal and community level: “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want us to do?”

The Pope warned against the dangers of a spirit of resignation, suggesting that the devil might tempt them by citing their small numbers or their few vocations and otherwise do what he can to make them have long faces.

“I encourage you also to be prophets of hope, with eyes turned to the future, where the Spirit pushes you, to continue to do great things with you,” he said. “The hope that does not disappoint is not based on numbers or works, but on Him, for Whom nothing is impossible”

“With this trust and this strength I repeat to you: do not join the prophets of misfortune, who do great damage to the Church and to consecrated life; do not give in to the temptation of torpor – like the Apostles in Gethsemane – and desperation,” he said.

“Awaken the world, illuminate the future! Always with a smile, with joy, with hope,” the Pope concluded. “May Mary our Mother protect you with her gaze, and the Lord bless you, show you His Face, and grant you peace and mercy.”

 

Manchester bishop: there is 'no justification' for horrific attack

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 16:16

Manchester, United Kingdom, May 23, 2017 / 04:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After what has been deemed a terrorist attack killed 22 people – mostly youth – at a theater in Manchester Monday night, local Bishop John Arnold condemned the act, saying there is no justification for such violence.

“The citizens of Manchester and members of the Catholic community are united in condemning the attack on the crowds at the Arena. Such an attack can have no justification,” Bishop Arnold said in a May 23 statement via the diocese’s Twitter account.  

In a series of tweets, he thanked the emergency services “for their prompt and speedy response which saved lives. We join in prayer for all those who have died and for the injured and their families and all affected by this tragedy.”

The bishop stressed that “we must all commit to working together, to help the victims and their families and to build and strengthen our community solidarity.”

Bishop Arnold, who oversees the Salford diocese that includes Manchester, made his statement in response to an attack which took place at Manchester Arena Monday night at the end of a concert by American pop artist Ariana Grande, who is popular among teens.

A bomb exploded in the foyer of the arena May 22 around 10:30p.m. local time, as concert goers were beginning to leave. At least 22 are dead, including children, and almost 60 are injured, according to reports.

The lone attacker was also killed in the blast. He is believed to have been carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated to cause the explosion, according to Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

Investigations have not yet revealed whether the attacker was working alone or if he was part of a larger network or terrorist group.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London, sent a letter to Bishop Arnold May 23 expressing his condolences for the attack.

“It was with great sorrow that I heard the media reports of last night's atrocity, in Manchester,” he said. “May God welcome into His merciful presence all who have died. May God turn the hearts of all who commit evil to a true understanding of His desire and intention for humanity.”

“I assure you, and all those you serve, of the prayers and condolences of your brother bishops in England and Wales,” he said, adding that “We, too, mourn this loss of life. We pray for the eternal repose of all who have died.”

The Diocese of Salford announced that Bishop Arnold would say a special Mass for the victims May 23 at 12:30p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, commonly called the “Hidden Gem,” and which is the Catholic Mother Church of Greater Manchester. Another Mass will be held at the Salford cathedral at 7p.m. local time.

In a May 23 statement immediately following a meeting of the government's emergency meeting, Cobra, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing “a callous terrorist attack” that targeted “some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families and friends of all those affected,” she said, noting that the attack is “among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom.”

“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people,” May continued, but said the arena attack stands out “for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”

Although he’s traveling abroad, U.S. President Donald Trump said during a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, that the “wicked ideology” of terrorism “must be obliterated.”

“I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack, and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims.”

“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life,” he added. “I won't call them monsters, because they would like that term, they would think that's a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that's what they are.”

The attack is the worst Britain has seen since a bombing on the London transport network on July 7, 2005 killed 52 people.

Pope Francis' newest cardinals show a global Church

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 03:08

Vatican City, May 22, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Only seven months after Pope Francis’ last consistory, he will create five new cardinals in June. He continues a pattern of finding cardinals at the peripheries of the world, from dioceses which have not traditionally had a cardinal.

The next consistory will take place June 28.

In this new batch Pope Francis has confirmed his preference for dioceses that are not traditional sees for a cardinal. For instance, this is the first time a bishop from El Salvador, Sweden, Mali, and Laos will receive a red hat.

The Pope’s choice of Bishop Louis Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, reveals his particular interest in Laos.

Laos, a one-party communist republic averse to religion, is one of the few countries lacking full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
 
However, in recent years the Laotian government has been showing a greater openness to the international community, and also to the religious sentiment of its mostly Buddhist population.

There are only 45,000 Catholics in Laos, less than one percent of the 7 million Laotians. Laos has no dioceses: there are only three apostolic vicariates with 22 priests and 11 religious priests. Three new priests were ordained in the country in 2016, and two more will be ordained this year.

The beatification of Italian missionary Mario Borzaga, of the Laotian priest Joseph Thao Thien and 14 companions martyred in 1960 gave more impetus to the Laotian “baby Church,” to use Bishop Mangkhanekhoun's words.

The beatification Mass took place in Vientiane on Dec. 11, 2016, with the participation of over 7,000 faithful. The government’s permission for the public celebration was considered a sign that the Laotian government is changing its hostile attitude towards religion. Meanwhile, the Holy See is trying to establish full diplomatic ties with the country in order to better protect the Catholic flock.

In Mali, the red biretta for Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamao can also be read through diplomatic lense.

Archbishop Zerbo has strongly committed to the ongoing dialogue for reconciliation in his country. In 2012, Al-Qaeda exploited a rebellion carried out by ethnic Tuaregs and tried to take control of the central government. Ever since, Mali has been living in a constant political crisis that has turned into a refugee crisis.

His elevation as cardinal will give Archbishop Zerbo more weight in the peace talks.

After his trip to Sweden late last year, Pope Francis also named as cardinal Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm.

Bishop Arborelius, a convert from Lutheranism, is the first Swedish-born Catholic bishop in the country since the Lutheran Reformation.

In El Salvador, Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, is the first auxiliary bishop ever to be appointed a cardinal while the bishop in charge of his archdiocese remains but a bishop.

His red biretta may be considered a reward for his service to El Salvador in his more than 30 years as auxiliary bishop, especially during the difficult years of the 1980-1992 civil war.

In contrast to other cardinals-to-be, the red hat for Archbishop Juan José Omella Omella is not a dramatic departure from tradition, as Barcelona is traditionally a see with a cardinal. Archbishop Omella’s predecessor, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, turned 80 on Apr. 29.

The announcement that Archbishop Omella will be created a cardinal comes only two days after the new presidency of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference met with Pope Francis in a private audience in Rome.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference gathered for its general assembly in Madrid on March 15. Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez was re-elected as president for a second three-year mandate by a strong majority. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia and former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was elected vice-president.

In the race for the presidency, Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, got four votes, while Archbishop Omella got just one vote.

By naming Archbishop Omella a cardinal, the Pope might want to show the Spanish Bishops’ Conference the men in whom he places his trust. The two Spaniards, Cardinal Osoro Sierra, appointed by Pope Francis as Archbishop of Madrid, and Archbishop Omella will have gotten their red hats in back to back consistories only seven months apart.

All of the new cardinals are below 80, so they all have the right to vote in a conclave to elect a Pope. Sweden’s Bishop Anders Arborelius is the youngest, as he will turn 68 in September, while Bishop Rosa is the oldest, about to turn 75.

In the last consistory, 13 out of 17 new red hats were given to bishops or archbishops below the age of 80.

Church rules set the maximum number of cardinal electors in a conclave at 120.

With the five new cardinals, Pope Francis has the increased the number of voting cardinals to 121, exceeding the limit by one.

The five new cardinals also slightly re-shape the composition of the College of Cardinals. After the June 28 consistory, Europe will be represented by 53 voting cardinals, compared with 51 at present. Central America’s voting cardinals will increase to five from four. Africa and Asia combined will have 15 cardinals in a prospective conclave, an increase of one.

Other regions’ number of cardinal electors is unchanged: North America still has 17 voting cardinals, South America has 12, and Oceania four.

Up to now, Pope Francis has created 61 cardinals: 49 voting cardinals, and 12 non-voting. The college of voting cardinals is completed by 52 cardinals created by Benedict XVI, and 20 by St. John Paul II.

What common ground could Trump and Pope Francis find?

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 00:02

Vatican City, May 22, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Francis was asked last week about his upcoming meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump, he made headlines for answering that he always tries to look for common ground.

Given that they have vocally disagreed on prominent issues in the past, what will the areas of shared agreement be?

The two are set to meet at the Vatican Wednesday, May 24, at 8:30 a.m., before Pope Francis' weekly general audience.

President Trump arrives to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip, which lasts nine days. He will also attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26.

Perhaps the most prominent area of disagreement between Trump and Francis is immigration.

During a Feb. 18, 2016, in-flight press conference, the Pope was asked to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand, particularly his threat to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pope Francis responded saying “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.” However, he also said that 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.

After the fact, then-Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi 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.

During Trump’s time in office so far, U.S. bishops – who have Francis’ full backing on the issue – have been critical of Trump’s moves on immigration, criticizing the “ban” he implemented in his first week in office halting refugee admissions for 120 days – indefinitely for Syrian refugees – and temporarily banning visa permissions for people seeking entry to the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Trump and Francis also have very divergent opinions on climate change. Francis insisted on the need to protect creation in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, saying problems such as global warming are caused by human activity.

The Pope gave his full support of the Paris Climate deal in 2015, sending Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 summit as his personal delegate to the gathering.

Trump later threatened to back out of the deal, but delayed the process until after the G7 summit he’ll be participating in this week.

While there will certainly be these and other points the two disagree on, there are several issues – other than their shared disregard for formal protocol – that could actually bring the two together.

These, to name a few, could be: pro-life issues, above all defense of the unborn; religious freedom, particularly for Christians in the Middle East; and the push for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Since his campaign days, Trump has identified himself as pro-life, and even gave a shout-out to the Jan. 27 March for Life in Washington D.C. in a clip of an interview with David Muir of ABC.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence became the first vice president to participate in the event, giving a keynote speech that stressed the “sanctity of life.”

Pro-life issues are likely to be at least one strong point of union for Trump and Francis, who has often spoken out against abortion and other concerns such as euthanasia, calling them in one audience in 2014 “sins against God.”

He has also encouraged the use of conscientious objection based on religious convictions, at one point describing it as “a basic human right.”

When it comes to the Trump administration, the pro-life issue remains a big issue for many U.S. Catholics, who praised the president’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibits U.S. funding of non-government organizations that either promote or perform abortions through family-planning funds.

Trump was also lauded for his appointment of Niel Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last year. Gorsuch has been praised not only for his pro-life stance, but also for his commitment to religious freedom.

Pope Francis and Trump are also likely to share concern for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

Both Trump and Francis have called for greater solidarity and protection of persecuted Christians.

Francis has repeatedly spoken out on modern persecution, saying there are more martyrs today than in the early Church, with the “ecumenism of blood” having become a watermark phrase of his pontificate.

Trump himself said during his campaign that protecting persecuted Christians would be a priority. As evidence of this intent, at a May 11 summit on persecuted Christians U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, “We’re with you, we stand with you,” and assured of both his and Trump’s prayers.

As with any political figure, questions still loom as to how much Trump will actually do, especially if differing political opinions get in the way. But overall, the topic will likely be a point of agreement and collaboration with the Vatican.

And while Trump’s previous rhetoric on Islam is something Francis would likely hastily disagree with, a recent shift in the president’s tone is something the Pope would certainly welcome.
 
During his election campaign, Trump called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and voicing his opinion that “Islam hates us.”

However, so far Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims has cooled during his first international trip abroad.

In his May 21 speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Ridyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump avoided the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” referring instead to “the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.”

“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country and, frankly, for their families and for their children,” Trump said, speaking to leaders from more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries.

The choice is “between two futures,” and “it is a choice America cannot make for you,” he said, adding that “a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.”

He said he didn’t come to “lecture,” but to seek an end to terrorism and the beginning of peace in the Middle East region, noting that roughly 95 percent of terrorist victims are themselves Muslim.

The president said he wants a partnership with people who share the same “interests and values” as the U.S., calling Islam one of the “great faiths” with an “ancient heritage” that has served as the “cradle of civilization.”

In addition, Trump said the problem of terrorism is not “a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it...This is a battle between good and evil.”

The U.S. president’s more moderate tone on Islam, and indeed his unprecedented praise of some aspects of Muslim culture, is something Pope Francis would likely appreciate. The Pope has on multiple occasions warned against “Islamophobia,” insisting that not all Muslims are terrorist.

However, while the two might have new-found common ground in terms of how they refer to the Muslim community, at least in the public sphere, Francis will likely take issue with the weapons deal signed by Trump and Saudi King Salman.

The deal guarantees the Middle Eastern powerhouse some $350 billion in weapons over the next 10 years, with $110 billion going into effect immediately.

Francis has consistently called for an end to the arms trade, criticizing nations that sell weapons to warring countries in order to keep the conflicts going that line their own pockets. The Pope has used almost countless occasions to insist for an end to this “scourge.”  

Saudi Arabia has also been criticized by many other Middle Eastern nations for funding ISIS, most directly through weapons sales.

But regardless of the deal, terrorism is sure to be one of the key topics discussed, and if Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia is an indication of how he intends to address the issue from here on out, the two just might be able agree on this point.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, Trump flew to Israel for an official visit in a bid to cement Israeli ties and help move forward on a peace deal with Palestine. After arriving this morning, he voiced hopes to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin of a broader peace deal in the region.

“You have a great opportunity right now. Great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East. People have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing. I think we're going to start see things starting to happen,” he told Rivlin.

In a speech to Israeli Prime Minister on the tarmac, Trump said: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way.”

In a previous encounter, Trump had asked Netenyahu to “hold off” on building more settlements in order help give space to further peace discussions in the region.

Earlier this month Trump met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, telling him that when it comes to a deal that pleases both parties, “we will get it done.”

The commitment to a two-state solution has been a longstanding priority for the Vatican, which was reinforced during a recent 2015 agreement between Palestine and the Holy See to promote religious freedom in the area.

Trump himself, however, has said his administration is not married to the idea of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict, deviating from previous administrations on the issue.

While the Vatican and Trump might not agree on what exactly a peace deal looks like, it’s likely to be a shared concern.

Another topic that could be a point of union between the Pope and the president is human trafficking; not necessarily because Trump himself has been a hardliner on the issue, but more likely because the president’s daughter and high-profile adviser Ivanka Trump has made a commitment to it.

It is in this capacity that she is participating in each of the nine days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, including the public portion of his meeting with Francis.

While in Italy, Ivanka is also set to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio, a group often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, to discuss putting an end to human trafficking.

During the meeting, the Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue.

So while there are clearly many areas in which Pope Francis and Trump diverge, the meeting will likely find both men seeking to find common ground.

Francis himself during his May 13 press conference refrained from making a premature evaluation of Trump, saying “I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this.”

When the two finally meet, “things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

Peace and friendship are things that can’t be forced, he said, explaining that they take daily effort and are “handcrafted.”

“Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together,” he said. Even if someone thinks differently, “be very sincere,” and respectful. 

Man builds replica of St. Peter's Square with 36,000 toothpicks

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 04:23

Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum, the Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal; are just some of the universal monuments that a Colombian teacher makes to scale out of little wooden sticks (toothpicks).

One of his recent works is Saint Peter's Square and he dreams of showing it to Pope Francis during the visit the pontiff will make to this country in September.

Alberto Antonio Cruz Serna has been building models with toothpicks since he was 12.

He currently resides in the town of Puerto Berrio, in the Antioquia district teaches natural science to high school students at the Antonio Nariño Educational Institution, and has built more than 200 artistic creations with his own unique style.

Among his works there are also small-scale replicas of Catholic buildings such as Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Puerto Berrio and Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Cruz, who is the father of five children, has displayed his works in a number of cities in Colombia, such as Medellín and Barrancabermeja. He has also won several awards.

“What motivates me to build these works of art in toothpicks is the challenge of it. The structure is spectacular. It's not like the wood you cut and set in place. Here it's about joining stick to stick, seeing the lengths and making shapes. The degree of difficulty makes it more interesting,” the 59-year-old teacher told CNA.

Cruz revealed that he has never visited the monuments he has reproduced with toothpicks. Nor has he studied architecture or design. He just does research on the Internet and in books on every detail of the artwork he wants to reproduce.

His tools? A nail clipper and special wood glue.

Cruz commented that his motivation for building the replica of Saint Peter's Square was that in late 2015, he learned that Pope Francis might be visiting Colombia. The Vatican would later confirm the trip, which is scheduled for this September.

The construction of the artwork took 17 months. Cruz spent about five hours a day on the project. On weekends, he worked almost all day. 

The Saint Peter's Square model was made of more than 36,000 toothpicks. It measures about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide.

Cruz said that one of the most beautiful characteristics of St. Peter's Square are the columns because “they are like arms that welcome Catholics from all parts of the world each time that the Pope celebrates a Mass or appears. The shape of the plaza is like a hug.”

While he was working on this structure, Cruz also made a reproduction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum.

Regarding the pontiff's visit to his country, Cruz said that “we Colombians are waiting for the moment when the pope visits. It is critical to the process we are going through (as a nation).”

He added that the Pope is important to him because “I'm Catholic, my family is too. And so, who would not want to meet the Pope? If he is the closest representative of God that we have on Earth? For Catholics, who would not want to be at his side?

Cruz said that he would like to display the model of St. Peter's Square and the other works of art in Medellin during Pope Francis' apostolic visit.

“My dream is that wherever the Holy Father is, I'd be nearby with my artwork and so he could take a look at them…That is the dream I want to fulfill. So he would be with me for just a few seconds.”

The teacher hopes that the Antioquia political and religious authorities will take an interest in his work and he will have the opportunity to display them. “I'll keep on persevering and knocking on doors,” he said.

Cruz said that the governor of Antioquia will soon be visiting the school where he teaches, and he will take advantage of the occasion to show him the Saint Peter's Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum.

His upcoming projects include the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Las Lajas, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
 

Always act with gentleness and respect, Pope Francis says

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 23:20

Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 11:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a visit to a Roman parish Sunday, Pope Francis repeated his frequent condemnation of gossip, telling the congregation instead to always treat others with gentleness and respect, as the Holy Spirit does.

“The language of Christians who cherish the Holy Spirit, who was given to us as a gift, is special: they don’t have to speak in Latin, no. It’s another language: it’s the language of gentleness and respect,” the Pope said May 21.

Reflecting on these two points can help each of us to reflect on our own attitude as Christians, he said, asking “is it an attitude of gentleness, or of wrath? Or bitterness?”

“It’s terrible to see people who say they are Christians, but who are full of bitterness,” Francis said, adding that the language of the Holy Spirit “is gentle...because he’s gentle. And respect. Always respect others. He teaches to respect others.”

Pope Francis made his comments during an off-the-cuff homily while celebrating Mass at Rome’s St. Peter Damiani parish in the Casal Bernocchi neighborhood in the south of Rome.

After leaving the Vatican around 3:45p.m., the Pope arrived at the parish around 4:15p.m. and was greeted by the Vicar of Rome Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the titular bishop of the parish, as well as the auxiliary bishop of Rome’s southern sector, Paolo Lojudice, and the pastor, Fr. Lucio Coppa.

Francis’ visit marked the third time a Pope has gone to the parish. The first was Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1972 for the 900th anniversary of the death of St. Peter Damiani, and the second was St. John Paul II in 1988.

Before celebrating Mass at 6p.m., Francis met with 80 children enrolled in First Communion classes and around 100 youth who attend post-Confirmation activities. During the discussion, he responded to two questions posed by the youth.

He then met with sick and elderly parishioners, families whose children have been baptized this year, members of the Neocatechumenal Way, employees of the parish and volunteers with the parish’s Caritas program. Four of the parishioners then went to confession with Pope Francis before Mass.

In his brief homily, the Pope noted that even though Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit as his advocate, which he promised to do in the day’s Gospel reading from John, “the devil knows how to weaken us.”

“He will do everything, so that our language is not respectful or gentle, even within the Christian community,” the Pope said.

He lamented the fact that many people come to a parish in the hope of finding a meek and respectful community, and instead find one with “internal bickering, gossip, chatter, competition.”

“They find that air that’s not of incense, but of gossip, and then what do they say?” the Pope asked. “(They say) ‘if these are Christians, I prefer to stay a Pagan,’ and they go away disillusioned.”

With the language focused only on ambition and jealousy, “we push people away and we don’t allow the Spirit to work,” Francis said, explaining that he returns to the topic of gossip so often because “this is the sin that’s the most common in our Christian communities.”

Jesting, Pope Francis said he once spoke to a priest who said some of his parishioners could receive communion standing at the back of the church, because their tongue reached all the way to the altar.

“We must cherish the Holy Spirit and not speak like the devil teaches us,” he said, adding that gossip “hurts my heart,” and is the sin “that destroys our communities the most.”

Francis closed his homily pointing to Mary, telling parishioners, when they go to pray in front of her, to look down at the serpent she is standing on and pray not to be like that: not to leave one’s tongue stuck out, but rather to cherish the Holy Spirit as she did.

“Let’s not throw stones at each other. The devil has fun, this is a carnival for him,” the Pope said. Instead, “let us ask for this grace: to cherish the Holy Spirit that is within us, not sadden him, and that our attitude be one of gentleness and respect.”

Pope prays for victims of spiked violence in Central African Republic

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 18:10

Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 06:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis offered his prayer and support for victims of a recent jump in violence in the Central African Republic, repeating his frequent call for the use of dialogue, rather than weapons, to solve conflicts.

“Painful news unfortunately comes from the Central African Republic, which I carry in my heart, especially after my visit in November 2015,” the Pope said May 21, noting that recent clashes “have caused numerous victims and displaced, and threaten the process of peace.”

He voiced his closeness to the people, the bishops, and to “all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence” in the CAR.

Francis then prayed for the deceased and the wounded before renewing his appeal that “weapons be silenced and the good will of dialogue prevail in order to give peace and development to the country.”

The Pope’s words come after a spike in violent fighting this week between mainly Muslim fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition that in 2013 overthrew former CAR president Francois Bozize, and anti-balaka militias, formed mainly of Christians.

At least 22 people, including 17 civilians, were killed during fighting between the two groups this week in the western town of Bria. Nearly 10,000 others were forced to flee to avoid further bloodshed.

Pope Francis visited the CAR from Nov. 29-30 at the end of his tri-nation tour to Africa, which also included stops in Kenya and Uganda. One of the highlights of his visit was his opening the Jubilee Holy Door in the capital city Bangui, ahead of the official Dec. 8 start of the Year of Mercy.

Francis' trip to the CAR marked his first time as Pope in an active war zone. The country became embroiled in violence in December 2012 when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka. They left their strongholds in the north of the country and made their way south, seizing power from then-president Francois Bozize.

In reaction, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called the anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character. Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting, with many more displaced.

In his brief speech before praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope focused love of God and neighbor as “the greatest commandment” in the Gospel.

He turned to the days’ Gospel reading from John, in which the Evangelist recounts Jesus’ promise to send another “paraclete,” or “advocate,” in reference to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ assurance to his disciples that “I will never leave you orphans” transmits “the joy of a new coming of Christ: he, risen and glorified, dwells in the Father and, at the same time, comes to us in the Holy Spirit,” Francis said.

By reflecting on these words, we understand that we are part of the People of God in communion with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, he said, adding that it is precisely in this union that the Church discovers the “inexhaustible source of her own mission, which is realized through love.”
Pope Francis then pointed to Jesus’ words that “whoever loves me keeps my commandments,” saying it’s love that brings us to knowledge of Jesus thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit.

“Love of God and neighbor is the greatest commandment of the Gospel,” he said, adding that today the Lord asks us to respond to the call to love by “putting God at the center of our lives and dedicating ourselves to the service of our brothers, especially those most in need of support and consolation.”

Noting how difficult it can be to love at times, the Pope said that “if there is an attitude that is never easy, is never a given even for the Christian community, it’s knowing how to love, to love one another well based on the example of the Lord and with his grace.”

“At times conflict, pride, envy and division leave their mark even on the beautiful face of the Church,” he said, explaining that a Christian community must live in the charity of Christ.

However, it is exactly there where the devil comes and tries to fool us, Francis said, adding that those who allow themselves to fall for his delusions are “the most spiritually weak people.”

Even for Christians, knowing how to love is never a given “once and for all,” he said. Rather, we must begin again each day and put in the effort so that the love we have for the brothers and sisters we meet “becomes mature and purified by those limits or sins that leave it partial, selfish, sterile and unfaithful.”

“Every day we must learn the art of loving, every day we must follow with patience the school of Christ, with the help of his Spirit,” he said, and led pilgrims in praying the traditional Regina Coeli prayer, recited during Easter instead of the Angelus.

After, Francis noted that on May 24, the same day as his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Catholics in China will celebrate the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, who is venerated in the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

“To the Chinese Catholics I say: let us raise our gaze to Mary our Mother, so that she help us to discern the will of God regarding the Church’s concrete path in China and sustain us in welcoming with generosity her project of love.”

“May Mary encourage us to offer our personal contribution for communion among believers and for the harmony of society as a whole,” he said, urging Chinese Catholics not to forget to “bear witness to the faith with prayer and with love, always remaining open to encounter and dialogue.”

Pope Francis announces new June 28 consistory

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 16:56

Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 04:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Regina Coeli address Sunday, Pope Francis announced to pilgrims that he will be holding a June 28 consistory to create 5 new cardinals he said represent the “catholicity” of the Church.

“Brothers and sisters, I wish to announce to you that Wednesday, June 28, I will hold a consistory for the nomination of 5 new cardinals,” the Pope said May 21, adding that “their origin from different parts of the world manifests the catholicity of the Church, spread throughout the earth.”

The day after the consistory, on the June 29 Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals will concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peters Basilica alongside the new metropolitan archbishops named during the previous year, who traditionally receive the pallium from the Pope on that day.

The five new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo, of Bamako, Mali; Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain; Bishop Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden; Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, Laos and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane.

Keeping true to Francis’ style, the new appointments represent not only the weight key European dioceses such as Stockholm carry, but also the Pope’s acute attention to the peripheries.

A key example of this is the appointment of a cardinal to communist Laos. In 2015 Pope Francis advanced the causes of canonization of 12 potential saints, two of whom were martyred by communist revolutionaries in Laos in 1960.

The Pathet Lao defeated the royalist forces in 1975, and Laos has been a communist state ever since. Foreign missionaries were expelled or fled that year, and now fewer than two percent of Laotians are Christian.

Also noteworthy is his appointment of San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, marking the first time he has tapped an auxiliary as cardinal. Bishop Chávez was chosen over his Archbishop, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, for the red hat.

San Salvador is also the diocese Bl. Oscar Romero led before being shot during Mass in 1980. He was recognized as a martyr and beatified in 2015. Rumors have been going around that Romero will be canonized sometime this year, however, so far there has been no confirmation.

The new cardinals will join the 17 other prelates who got a red hat during Francis’ most recent consistory, held Nov. 19, 2016, to coincide with the close of the Jubilee of Mercy.

On that occasion, the Pope named 13 new cardinals of voting age, including three Americans, and five who had already passed the voting age of 80, making them ineligible to be elected Pope or to vote in the next conclave.

The Americans named by the Pope in November were Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Newark, and Bishop Kevin Farrell, prefect of the new Congregation for Laity, Family and Life.

Others of voting age include: Archbishop Mario Zenari, who is and will remain apostolic nuncio to the “beloved and martyred” Syria; Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui; Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid; Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brazil; Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario of Dakha, Bangladesh; Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida, Venezuela; Archbishop Joseph de Kesel of Malines Brussels; Bishop Maurice Piat of Port-Louis, Mauritius Island; Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla, Mexico and Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Non-voters elevated were: Anthony Soter Fernandez, Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Renato Corti, Archbishop Emeritus of Novara and Sebastian Koto Khoarai, O.M.I, Bishop Emeritus of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho.

Additionally, Francis also nominated Fr Ernest Simoni, an Albanian priest from the diocese of Shkodra, whose testimony of the persecution of the Albanian Church under the communist regime the Pope cried at during his 2014 daytrip to the country.

Rome hosts annual March for Life

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 23:15

Rome, Italy, May 20, 2017 / 11:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Held this year on May 20, Rome’s seventh annual March for Life was a chance for pro-life advocates of any faith to share their convictions about the sanctity of life and how it is founded in a love of life and family.

“It is the seventh edition of the March and as in the past years, we expect thousands of people to come and create a joyful atmosphere,” Alessandro Elia, one of the event’s organizers, told CNA ahead of Saturday’s event.

“In fact, we are against abortion because we love life and we love the family, a natural institution which is fundamental for every human society.”

This year was Rome’s sixth – and Italy’s seventh – annual March for Life. The event’s tagline was “For life without compromise.”

Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to participants in the pro-life event. In a written message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis voiced his hope that the March for Life would promote the dignity of human life in Italy.

More than 6 million babies have been aborted in Italy since abortion on demand was legalized in the country in 1978.  Since that time, “it seems like being contrary to abortion is not permitted,” Elia said. 

“Many Catholics and non-Catholics are very determined to end abortion and the March for Life is an annual occasion to prove that we exist and that our requests need to be taken into account by the civil and political world.”

First held in Rome on Mother's Day in 2012 – previously held in another part of the country on one other occasion – the annual event was modeled after the U.S. March for Life held each year in Washington D.C.

Over the past four years, thousands of people have traveled from around the world to take part.

This year's March for Life began its peaceful demonstration at the Piazza della Repubblica, marching down Via Cavour, a major thoroughfare of the city, to arrive at the Piazza della Madonna di Loreto, located next to the busy Piazza Venezia of the well-known Altare della Patria national monument.

Thought open to people of all faiths, the night before the March Eucharistic Adoration was held at the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to pray for the reparation of the crime of abortion.

Though there were heavy rain showers off-and-on the morning and early afternoon of the day of the March, by the time it began in the afternoon blue skies and sunshine prevailed.

Euthanasia is a current pro-life issue in Italy at the moment, as the Italian Chamber has voted in favor of a bill that would effectively force doctors to follow directives from patients or their trustees – no matter made how many years earlier – to even include the withholding of food and water.

Next the bill to be passed by the Italian Senate. The law, on advanced healthcare directives (in Italian called DAT), “requires the doctor to be bound by an anticipated declaration of a patient who requests the suspension of nutrition and hydration,” Elia explained.

In this case, he said, the so-called “‘right to die’ for the patient equals the duty to kill for the doctor. This is unacceptable.”

Besides forcing doctors to participate in what is essentially a form of assisted suicide, “the death of patients by starvation and dehydration is extremely cruel,” he said.

Pope invited by bishops to address the future of Europe

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 06:32

Vatican City, May 19, 2017 / 06:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will deliver his fifth speech on the present and future of Europe during an event organized by the Commission of the European Bishops’ Conferences of the European community (COMECE).

The event, titled “Rethinking Europe,” has been organized by COMECE in collaboration with the Holy See, and will take place in Rome Oct. 27-29  to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which laid the foundation for the European Union.

Pope Francis was invited to the event during a private meeting he had with the COMECE standing committee on May 16. The meeting took place in the afternoon in Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives.

The COMECE delegation is composed of president Cardinal Reinhard Marx and the four vice-presidents, bishops Jean Kockerols, Gianni Ambrosio, Czeslaw Kozon, Rimantas Normila. COMECE general secretary, Fr. Olivier Poquillon also attended the meeting.

The group also had meetings with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Cardinal Marx stressed in a press release that the “Rethinking Europe forum will be the start of a process of dialogue between the Churches representatives (both bishops and lay people) and the politicians who have political responsibility and make decisions.”

After the encounter with COMECE’s standing committee, Pope Francis met on May 18 with the new presidency of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences, known by the acronym CCEE.

While the COMECE is composed by bishops delegated by their Bishops’ Conferences to deal with institutions associated to the European Union, the CCEE is composed by the presidents of the Bishops Conferences in Europe, and deals with the pastoral challenges of each of the European countries represented.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, current president of the Italian Bishops Conference, was elected President of the CCEE.

The Italian cardinal explained in a press conference that the topics discussed with Pope Francis included secularization, migration, youth and human trafficking.

When the conversation turned to the challenges of young people, “the Pope warned us about the demographic winter. He particularly recommended us to care for young people”.

Cardinal Bagnasco also underscored that “Pope Francis expressed gratitude and admiration for the work done by the Churches in Europe in order to tackle the migration issues.”

 

Pope's historic meeting with Huntington's patients offered ray of hope

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 03:24

Vatican City, May 19, 2017 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ gathering this week with a group of Huntington’s disease patients was a major inspiration for those seeking to increase awareness and research about the condition.

“In the U.S. this is HD Awareness Month, so we're working on just telling the story of families affected by Huntington’s disease, and this brings it to a whole different platform,” said Louise Vetter, CEO of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

“Really, with Pope Francis setting the tone I think it offers so much hope and inspiration.”

On Thursday, Pope Francis became the first world leader to publically recognize the plight of those suffering from Huntington’s disease, as he welcomed an audience of some 150 people with the condition. The pontiff stayed for nearly an hour after the audience to offer each individual a hug and a greeting.

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an incurable genetic brain disorder characterized by rapid, uncontrollable muscle movement known as chorea. As the disease progresses, it can lead to loss of control over speech and memory, dementia and death. 

The gene which causes Huntington’s was discovered nearly 25 years ago, but there is still no cure and relatively limited treatment options.

This is especially true for people living in South America, where prevalence of the disease is almost 1,000 times higher than in the rest of the world and often combined with extreme poverty. Because the disease affects families generationally, they are often caught in a cycle of need.

In 2013, Ignacio Munoz-Sanjuan, a neuroscientist working to develop treatments to fight the progression of Huntington’s disease, traveled to South America to see first-hand the difficulties faced by communities with high numbers of Huntington’s patients, particularly in Venezuela and Colombia.

While there, he noticed that a lot of the help people needed wasn’t related only to the immense difficulties of the disease, but had even more to do with living in conditions of extreme poverty, such as no food, no water, no clothes, poor housing, and almost no medical support. 

This led to his founding of Factor-H, a humanitarian project specifically to help with non-medical related issues for people in communities with high concentrations of Huntington’s patients.

One of the biggest problems faced there, he told CNA, is that there is no institutional support to provide food or assistance to the communities.

People aren’t able to work because they are often caring day and night for multiple terminally ill family members. And in some communities, “people barely have enough food to eat once a day. They have no sanitation, no running water,” he explained.

Compounding the challenge is the fact that many Huntington’s patients require up to 5,000 calories per day – more than twice the caloric needs of an average healthy adult. Finding adequate nutrition when food is already scare is often impossible.

“In one of the towns in Venezuela, probably the biggest cluster (of Huntington’s patients) in the world, I met a Catholic priest who is there locally and who is trying to do what he can, but there's nothing institutionalized.”

Munoz-Sanjuan found it very difficult to find ways to help in Venezuela and ran into a lot of roadblocks. It’s hard to send money because of the rate of inflation, he said, and after the border with Colombia was closed he could no longer send food via the neighboring country.

He said that he thinks the more people know about the problem, though, the more they will want to help.

“The problem is concentrated in a few locations and there are not that many people, a few thousand people affected in each one of these towns, so it's a manageable problem if we get organized. But I think that's really where the Church can play a big role,” he said.

Because the disease is relatively rare, it is not well-known, and non-governmental organizations generally focus their support elsewhere.

Munoz-Sanjuan also felt “that the scientific community owed something back to those people because they participated in studies for many years that led to the cloning of the gene, but they still don't have access to the genetic test and really things haven't changed much for them.”

“I thought that one of the few institutions that could potentially help would be the Catholic Church,” he said.

This gave birth to the idea for the global meeting at the Vatican and the audience with Pope Francis, which took place May 18 with some 1,700 people from 16 different countries.

The meeting with Pope Francis was called “HDdennomore” (pronounced “hidden no more”) and put on in special solidarity with South America. Two families from Venezuela, two from Colombia, and one girl from Argentina – all affected by the disease in different ways – were brought to the Vatican by Factor-H to meet the Pope.  

Present at the audience, in addition to 150 Huntington’s patients, were members of the medical and scientific communities who treat patients with Huntington’s and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression.

“I know there are some people from Caritas and some cardinals that are really interested in helping, but I think that most Church officials, like many people in institutions, have never really heard of the disease, or the magnitude of the problem in their countries,” Munoz-Sanjuan said.

He hopes this event is the beginning of a conversation and will help shine a light on the disease and on what the conditions are like in many communities. 

For Vetter, the meeting was a big step forward in efforts to combat the “devastating illness.”

“We really have a call to action to raise awareness of Huntington’s disease and the need for community to really be involved caring for these families,” she said.

“We're thrilled to be part of this global effort and be able to pull off that shame and offer the opportunity for these families to feel validated,” she continued. “To be able to help society offer that reassurance and for the Church to really set that tone – it’s incredible.”
 

Pope Francis: Church teaching helps us avoid harm of ideology

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 23:45

Vatican City, May 19, 2017 / 11:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis warned that ideologues sow confusion and division in the Church in the name of false clarity, rather than relying on the Pope, the bishops, and Church councils inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“We are human, we are sinners,” he said, adding that there are difficulties even in the Church. Being sinners leads to humility and drawing closer to God who saves us.

Looking to the early Church, Pope Francis made a distinction between those who had “forceful discussions” but “a good spirit,” and those who “sowed confusion.”

“The group of the apostles who want to discuss the problem, and the others who go and create problems,” the Pope distinguished. “They divide, they divide the Church, they say that what the Apostles preached is not what Jesus said, that it is not the truth.”

The Pope's words came in his homily at Casa Santa Martha May 19, Vatican Radio reports. He reflected on the Council of Jerusalem of 49 A.D., recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, which rejected claims that gentile converts to Christianity would have to be circumcised.

In the early Church, he charged, “there were jealousies, power struggles, a certain deviousness that wanted to profit from and to buy power.”

In the end, the apostles' discussion came to agreement.

“They had hearts open to what the Holy Spirit said. And after the discussion 'it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,'” the Pope said.

This is not “a political agreement” but “the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” that led them to reject the “necessities” some would require of Christian converts, like a refusal to eat meat sacrificed to idols and a requirement to abstain from “illegitimate unions.”

The “liberty of the spirit,” however, allowed gentiles to enter the Church without circumcision.

At that first Church Council, Pope Francis said, “the Holy Spirit and they, the Pope with the bishops, all together,” gathered together in order “to clarify the doctrine,” as would be done through the centuries at successive councils so that “what Jesus said in the Gospels, what is the Spirit of the Gospels, would be understood well.”

The Pope encouraged the congregation not to be afraid in the face of “the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.” He stressed that the Church has “its proper Magisterium, the Magisterium of the Pope, of the bishops, of the councils.” They should follow the path “that comes from the preaching of Jesus, and from the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit.” This path is “always open, always free,” because “doctrine unites, the Councils unite the Christian community” but “ideology divides.”   

Pope Francis further warned against divisive elements in the Church.

“But there were always people who without any commission go out to disturb the Christian community with speeches that upset souls: 'Eh, no, someone who says that is a heretic, you can’t say this, or that; this is the doctrine of the Church,'” he said.

“And they are fanatics of things that are not clear, like those fanatics who go there sowing weeds in order to divide the Christian community.”

He said their “great error” results from when Church doctrine, which comes from the gospel and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, “becomes an ideology.”

Benedict XVI praises Cardinal Sarah as great 'spiritual teacher'

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 04:30

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an afterword to a book on silence and prayer recently authored by Cardinal Robert Sarah, Benedict XVI praised the prelate as a spiritual model given the depth of his interior life, saying the liturgy is safe in his hands.

“Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us,” Benedict XVI said.

The emeritus Pope added that we ought to be grateful to Pope Francis for his 2014 appointment of Cardinal Sarah as prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The liturgy, Benedict said, has a certain type of “specialization” which ultimately “can talk right past the essential thing unless it is grounded in a deep, interior union with the praying Church, which over and over again learns anew from the Lord himself what adoration is.”

“With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands,” he said.

Benedict’s afterword to Cardinal Sarah’s book marks one of the rare occasions he has spoken publicly or published any sort of document since his retirement in 2013.

Although Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, was published last month, future printings will include Benedict’s afterword, which he wrote during the Easter Octave. The full text of the essay was published by First Things May 17.

The book is in interview format, and was conducted by French journalist and author Nicolas Diat, who also collaborated on Cardinal Sarah’s 2015 interview-book God or Nothing.

In his afterword, Benedict reflected on the topic of silence itself, pointing to the letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians that reads: “It is better to keep silence and be (a Christian) than to talk and not to be.”

Referring to Christ as a teacher, the text says that “even what he did silently is worthy of the Father. He who has truly made the words of Jesus his own is able also to hear his silence, so that he may be perfect: so that he may act through his speech and be known through his silence.”

Benedict then reflected on what it means to hear Christ's silence and to know him through it, noting that in the Gospels we learn that Christ spent many nights “alone on the mountain” in prayer and conversation with the Father.

“We know that his speech, his word, comes from silence and could mature only there,” he said. “So it stands to reason that his word can be correctly understood only if we, too, enter into his silence, if we learn to hear it from his silence.”

Although historical context is necessary in order to interpret Christ's words, that in itself is not enough “really to comprehend the Lord’s message in depth,” Benedict said.

Those who today read the “ever-thicker” commentaries on the Gospels often still end up “disappointed” he said, because they learn “a lot that is useful about those days and a lot of hypotheses that ultimately contribute nothing at all to an understanding of the text.”

“In the end you feel that in all the excess of words, something essential is lacking: entrance into Jesus’s silence, from which his word is born,” he said, adding that “if we cannot enter into this silence, we will always hear the word only on its surface and thus not really understand it.”

Pointing to Cardinal Sarah’s book, Benedict said the prelate “teaches us silence -- being silent with Jesus, true inner stillness, and in just this way he helps us to grasp the word of the Lord anew.”

Although the cardinal rarely speaks of himself in the text, Benedict said his answers reveal the depth of his spiritual life.

In response to one of Diat’s questions on whether in his life he has ever felt that words were too “cumbersome” or heavy, Cardinal Sarah responds by saying, “In my prayer and in my interior life, I have always felt the need for a deeper, more complete silence...The days of solitude, silence, and absolute fasting have been a great support. They have been an unprecedented grace.”

This answer, Benedict said, makes visible “the source from which the cardinal lives, which gives his word its inner depth.”

“From this vantage point, he can then see the dangers that continually threaten the spiritual life,” he said, noting that this also goes for priest and bishops.

This threat endangers the Church as well, “in which it is not uncommon for the Word to be replaced by a verbosity that dilutes the greatness of the Word,” Benedict said.

He then pointed to another passage of the book which he said is a good examination of conscience for every bishop: “It can happen that a good, pious priest, once he is raised to the episcopal dignity, quickly falls into mediocrity and a concern for worldly success.”

“Overwhelmed by the weight of the duties that are incumbent on him, worried about his power, his authority, and the material needs of his office, he gradually runs out of steam,” Cardinal Sarah said.

Benedict said that given the depth of Cardinal Sarah’s own spiritual life, he is a “spiritual teacher” who, because of his silent prayer with God, has something to say to everyone.

No research justifies the use of human embryos, Pope Francis says

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 22:26

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said that there is no outcome that can justify the use or destruction of embryos for scientific purposes – even for the commendable cause of trying to help those suffering from incurable diseases.

“Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,” he said May 18.

Pope Francis spoke during a meeting at the Vatican Thursday with people affected by a rare and incurable genetic brain disorder called Huntington’s disease, along with their families and caretakers.

His comments were significant given the massive slate of members from the medical and scientific communities who treat the patients with Huntington's and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression. Present were some 1,700 people from 16 different countries. Sponsors for the event included major corporations such as Virgin Airlines.

There are several ethical problems surrounding the research on Huntington’s disease, including the use of embryonic stem cells taken from embryos made through in vitro fertilization.

The Pope noted this fact during the audience, encouraging scientists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throw-away culture” which treats human beings as objects for use.

The is not the first time Francis has spoken out against embryonic stem cell research. In his 2015 environment encyclical Laudato Si, he decried “a tendency” within the field of science “to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos.”

“We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development,” he said, adding that once technology disregards ethical principles, “it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit.”

“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”

Once the human being seeks absolute dominion, the foundations of our life “begin to crumble,” the Pope said in Laudato Si, so that instead of cooperating with God, man puts himself in God’s place “and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.”

Pope Francis to Huntington's patients: You deserve respect and love

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 20:22

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 08:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday offered a message of hope and love to patients with Huntington’s disease, a rare and incurable genetic brain disorder that causes intense suffering.

According to organizers, it was the first time that a pope - or any world leader - had recognized the plight of those with the disease.

In his speech, Francis said the fears and difficulties of people affected by Huntington’s disease have been surrounded “with misunderstandings and barriers (for) far too long.”

“In many cases the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment. Today, however, we are here because we want to say to ourselves and all the world: ‘HIDDEN NO MORE!’” he said.

This isn’t just a slogan, but a commitment we must foster, he continued.

“The strength and conviction with which we pronounce these words derive precisely from what Jesus himself taught us,” he said, noting that throughout his ministry, Jesus “met many sick people; he took on their suffering; he tore down the walls of stigma and of marginalization that prevented so many of them from feeling respected and loved.”

Pope Francis spoke during a conference organized at the Vatican hosting people affected by Huntington’s disease, along with their families and caretakers.

Huntington’s disease is characterized by rapid, uncontrollable muscle movement known as chorea. As the disease progresses, it can lead to loss of control over speech and memory, dementia and death. The gene which causes Huntington’s was discovered nearly 25 years ago, but there is still no cure and relatively limited treatment options.

This is especially true for people living in South America, where prevalence of the disease is almost 1,000 times higher than in the rest of the world and often combined with extreme poverty. Because the disease affects families generationally, they are often caught in a cycle of need.

The meeting with Pope Francis was called “HDdennomore” (pronounced “hidden no more”) and put on in special solidarity with South America. Two families from Venezuela, two from Colombia, and one girl from Argentina – all affected by the disease in different ways – were brought to the Vatican by a humanitarian group to meet the Pope.  

Also present at the audience were members of the medical and scientific communities who treat the patients with Huntington’s and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression.

In total, there were some 1,700 people present from 16 different countries. Seated in the front row were 150 people affected by Huntington’s that each got a personal greeting from Pope Francis, who stayed nearly an hour after the audience concluded in order to greet them all individually.

Jesus never let disease keep him from an encounter with people, but instead taught that every human person is precious and has dignity – something no person or illness can erase, the Pope explained.

“Brothers and sisters, as you see, you are a large and motivated community,” he concluded.

“May the life of each of you – both those who are directly affected by Huntington’s disease and those who work hard every day to support the sick in their pain and difficulty – be a living witness to the hope that Christ has given us,” he said, noting that “even through suffering there passes a path of abundant good, which we can travel together.”

Stressing the value of every human life, the Pope emphasized that no outcome can ever justify the use or destruction of embryos for scientific research – even for the commendable cause of trying to help those suffering from incurable diseases.

“Some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves – such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society – can justify the destruction of human embryos,” he said May 18.

Currently there are several ethical problems surrounding the research on Huntington’s disease, including the use of embryonic stem cells taken from embryos made through in vitro fertilization.

The Pope noted this fact during the audience, encouraging scientists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throw-away culture” which treats human beings as objects for use.

 

Pope to ambassadors: Work for peace amid 'complex' global conflicts

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 17:33

Vatican City, May 18, 2017 / 05:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis received the credentials of six new ambassadors to the Holy See, telling them to work for the common good and support peace efforts that lessen tensions given the complexity of the global climate.

“The international scene is at present marked by great complexity, nor is it free of dark clouds,” the Pope said May 18. This situation, he added, requires “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”

Francis spoke to ambassadors Ms. Zhanar Aitzhan of Kazakhstan; Ms. Aichetou Mint M'Haiham of Mauritania; Mr. Ramesh Prasad Khanal of Nepal; Mr. Boubacar Boureima of Niger; Mr. Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman of Sudan and Mr. Colin Michael Connelly of Trinidad and Tobago.

He asked them to convey his respect to their respective heads of State, and offered a special greeting to M'Haiham, who is Mauritania’s first ambassador to the Holy See.

In his brief speech, the Pope said there are several factors that aggravate the problems that exist on the global stage, the first of which is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities.”

These authorities are responsible for the common good, “yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few,” he said, noting that there seems to be an increasing impulse toward violence.

In many ways, there is “a greater readiness to have recourse to force,” he said, “not as a last resort but practically as one means among many, ready to be used without a full consideration of its consequences.”

Another factor exacerbating current conflicts is “fundamentalism,” the Pope said, pointing specifically to “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power” and the “manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power.”

Turning to the task the ambassadors themselves will face, Francis said the response to these “distortions” and the risks they pose to promoting peace must be the creation of “a responsible economic and financial system” that is responsive to the needs of both individuals and their communities.

“Men and women, not money, must once more become the goal of the economy!” he said, urging the diplomats to face differences with “the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use.”

Likewise, Pope Francis also stressed the importance of isolating those “who seek to turn a religious affiliation or identity into a motive of hate for all others.”

“Those who befoul the image of God in this way need to be confronted by a concerted commitment to demonstrating that those who honor God’s name save lives, not take them,” he said.

If we move more decisively in the direction of peace, mercy and compassion rather than division, war and indifference, then “the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress,” he said.

Francis then offered his personal greetings to the Catholic population in each of the six countries represented by the ambassadors, and assured the diplomats of the constant support of the Roman Curia in fulfilling their duties.

Medjugorje, the findings of the Ruini report

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:29

Vatican City, May 17, 2017 / 10:29 am (Vatican Insider / La Stampa).- Thirteen votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first seven appearances in Medjugorje, one vote against and one “suspensive” ballot, which will give a final answer later. A majority of suspensive votes and many doubts instead, concerning the apparition phenomenon from the end of 1981 to today.

These are the results of the work done by the commission on Medjugorje established in 2010 by Benedict XVI and chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.  

Pope Francis mentioned this report in the press conference on the return flight from Fatima when he revealed the distinction between the first apparitions and the later ones, saying, “A commission of good theologians, bishops, cardinals. Good, good, good. The Ruini report is very, very good. It is well known that the signal that emerged from the Pontiff’s words is positive about the spiritual fruits and the conversions (people who go there and convert, people who meet God, who change life),” but was negative with regard to the current apparitions: “I prefer Our Lady as Mother, and not the head of the telegraph office, who sends a message every day.”

A commission wanted by Ratzinger  

From 17 March 2010 to 17 January 2014, a commission chaired by Ruini was set up by the will of Benedict XVI. In addition to the former chairman of the CEI, Cardinals Jozef Tomko, Vinko Puljic, Josip Bozanic, Julián Herranz and Angelo Amato took part. The psychologist Tony Anatrella, the theologians Pierangelo Sequeri, Franjo Topic, Mihály Szentmártoni and Nela Gašpar, the Mariologist Salvatore Perrella, the anthropologist Achim Schütz, the canonist David Jaeger, the speaker of the causes of the saints Zdzislaw Józef Kijas, the psychologist Mijo Nikic and the official of the Doctrine of the Faith Krzysztof Nykiel. Their task was to “collect and examine all the material” about Medjugorje and to present “a detailed report” followed by a vote on the “supernatural nature or not” of the apparitions as well as the most appropriate “pastoral solutions.” The committee met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina.

Positive Findings on First Appearances  

The commission noted a very clear difference between the beginning of the phenomenon and its following development, and therefore decided to issue two distinct votes on the two different phases: the first seven presumed appearances between June 24 and July 3, 1981, and all that happened later. Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite police arrest and death threats. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions.

The doubts about the development of the phenomenon  

With regard to the second phase of the apparitions, the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the fact that the youngsters had said they would end, however this actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have received from the apparition. On this second stage, the committee voted in two steps. Firstly, taking into account the spiritual fruits of Medjugorje but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers. On this point, 3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive effects, and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects. If, in addition to the spiritual fruits, the behaviors of the seers is also taken into account, eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon.

The Pastoral Solution  

Having noted that the Medjugorje seers have never been adequately followed on the spiritual side, along with the fact that for a long time they have no longer been a group, the commission has endorsed the end of the ban on pilgrimages organized in Medjugorje. In addition, 13 members and experts out of the 14 present voted in favor of the constitution of “an authority dependent on the Holy See” in Medjugorje as well as the transformation of the parish into a pontifical sanctuary. A decision based on pastoral reasons - the care of millions of pilgrims, avoiding the formation of “parallel churches,” clarity on economic issues - which would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions.

The doubts of the Doctrine of the Faith  

Francis mentioned them on the airplane. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith led by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller expressed doubts about the phenomenon and about the Ruini report, considered an authoritative contribution to be compared with other opinions and reports. In 2016 a “Feria IV”, the monthly meeting of Dicastry members, was summoned to discuss the Medjugorje case and the Ruini report. Each of the cardinals and bishops who members of the Feria IV received the text of the commission but also other material in the hands of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During the meeting, members were asked to give their opinions. However, Pope Francis, unwilling to have the Ruini report put up for “auction,” decided that the opinions of the Feria IV members had to be sent directly to him. And that’s exactly what happened.

Francis’ decision  

After examining the Ruini report and the opinions of the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope decided to entrust to the Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser a “special mission of the Holy See” to “acquire more in-depth knowledge of the pastoral situation “In Medjugorje, and “above all, the needs of the faithful who come to pilgrimage” to “suggest any pastoral initiatives for the future.” By summer 2017 the Polish Archbishop will deliver the results of his work with which the Pope will make a decision.

 

This article originally appeared at Vatican Insider. Reprinted with permission.

Pope points to Mary Magdalene as an apostle of hope

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:36

Vatican City, May 17, 2017 / 03:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By calling Mary Magdalene by name after his resurrection, Jesus shows us just how personal his relationship with mankind is, Pope Francis said Wednesday, adding that after this intimate encounter, Mary then becomes an apostle of hope for the world, announcing the Lord’s rising.

“Mary: the revolution of her life, the revolution destined to transform the existence of every man and woman, begins with a name that echoes in the garden of the empty tomb,” the Pope said May 17.

“How beautiful to think of that the first appearance of the Risen One took place in such a personal way! That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and delusion, who is moved by us, and who call us by name,” he said.

After finally realizing who is speaking to her, Mary would like to run and embrace Jesus, but “he is by now oriented to the heavenly Father, while she is invited to bring the announcement to her brothers.”

“So that woman, who is the first to encounter Jesus...now has become an apostle of the new and greatest hope,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience. He continued his catechesis on the virtue of Christian hope, focusing on the figure of Mary Magdalene at the tomb.

Mary was the first to arrive at the tomb, he said, noting that she is “one of the disciples who accompanied Jesus from Galilee, putting herself at the service of the early Church.”

The Gospel, he said, describes Mary “a woman of easy enthusiasm,” who after seeing the empty tomb runs back to the apostles disappointed by what she saw.

Her first hypothesis that Jesus’ body had been taken was “the simplest she could formulate,” Francis said, explaining that her first announcement “is not that of the Resurrection, but of an unknown theft, perpetrated while all of Jerusalem slept.”

Then, when she returned to the tomb a second time, her steps are “slow and heavy,” as she is now suffering not only from the death of Jesus, but also because of the inexplicable disappearance of his body.

However, while she is bent over his grave in tears, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the Pope said, noting how the Gospel underlines “how persistent her blindness is,” since she not only didn’t notice the presence of two angels questioning her, but neither does she recognize Jesus, mistaking him for the gardener.

“Instead, she discovers the most shocking event in human history when finally he calls her by name,” Pope Francis said, adding that this personal interest in humanity is something “that we find carved in many pages of the Gospel.”

“Around Jesus there are many people who look for God; but the most marvelous reality is that, long before, there is above all God who is concerned about our lives, who wants to uplift, and to do this calls us by name, recognizing the personal face of each person,” he said.

The Pope stressed that every person has a story of love that God writes for them on earth, calling each one by name.

“He knows us by name, he watches over us, he waits for us, he forgives us, he is patient with us. True or not true?” Francis said, saying “each one of us has this experience.”

Pointing to the joy Mary felt after discovering Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, the Pope said it’s a happiness that isn’t given in small drops, but is rather “a waterfall” that envelops our entire lives.

“The Christian existence is not woven on fluffy happiness, but on waves that engulf everyone,” he said, and encouraged the crowd to place themselves in the Gospel scene, “with the bags of disappointments and defeats that each one carries in their heart.”

In that instant, he said, “there is a God close to us who calls us by name and says: ‘Rise, cease your tears, because I have come to free you!’”

Jesus, he said, is not someone who adapts to the world, tolerating the death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people. Rather, “our God is not inert, but dreams of the transformation of the world, and he realized it in the mystery of the Resurrection,” he said.

Turning to Mary Magdalene, Francis said her example is one of hope, and that her intercession helps us to live the experience of the Resurrection, because “at the time of tears and abandonment, she hears the Risen Jesus who calls us by name, and with a heart full of joy goes to announce: I have seen the Lord!”

This isn’t the first time the Pope has drawn attention to the importance of Mary Magdalene. Just last year, in June 2016, Francis signed a decree bumping the liturgical celebration honoring the Saint from a memorial to a feast, putting her on par with the apostles.

On the Church’s liturgical calendar, saints are honored with either a “memorial” a “feast,” or a “solemnity.” Solemnities rank the highest, with feasts coming in second and memorials in third.

While there are 15 other memorials on Mary Magdalene’s July 22 feast, hers was the only obligatory one to celebrate. After being elevated to the level of a feast, the celebration bears a more significant weight.

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