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Pope on Easter: The Resurrection is more than a party – it’s the source of eternal life

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 17:17

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2017 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reminded Christians Easter Sunday that the Resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith – and that even in the face of unexplainable tragedy and suffering in the world, we can declare, “Christ is risen!”

“This is not a fantasy. The Resurrection of Christ is not a party with many flowers,” he said during Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “This is beautiful, but it is not this, it is more; It is the mystery of the rejected stone that ends up being the foundation of our existence.”

“This throwaway culture,” he said, where we use something and then throw it away, “where what is not needed is rejected, the stone – Jesus – is discarded” but then becomes the source of eternal life.

The world has many misfortunes, such as disease, human trafficking, wars, destruction, revenge and hatred. We may be tempted to ask, “But where is the Lord?” he said. “Today, the Church continues to say: ‘Stop, Jesus is risen.’”

The Pope said that before God, we can each say: “I do not know how this goes, but I'm sure that Christ is risen, and I'd bet on that.”

“Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to tell you. Go home now, repeating in your heart: ‘Christ is risen,’” he concluded.

Following Mass, Pope Francis gave the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He said how through his death and Resurrection, Christ the Shepherd has come to save his people – those “lost sheep” who through sin have wandered onto the wrong path and away from him.

“All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross,” he said.

In his prayer, the Pope listed by name some of the current conflict zones around the world, especially the Middle East, Africa, South America and Ukraine, and called for peace in those regions of ongoing violence.

In particular, he named an attack which took place on the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria April 15. A bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy killed at least 112 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said April 16.
“In these times, especially support the efforts of those who work actively to bring relief and comfort to the civilian population in Syria, the victims of a war that continues to sow horror and death.”

“Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries,” he prayed.

The Pope also prayed for all those caught in forms of slavery and for all those forced to leave their home because of conflict, terrorism, famine or oppressive regimes.

“In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life,” he said.

Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s "Urbi et Orbi" message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy Easter!

Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”

The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.

All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim: “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).

In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.

The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.

He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.

The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.

In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.

Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death. Just yesterday the last despicable attack on fleeing refugees which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.

May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.

May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.

May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.

The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.

Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days. Happy Easter!

Christ renews a weary humanity, Pope Francis says at Easter Vigil

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 01:46

Vatican City, Apr 15, 2017 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During Easter Vigil at the Vatican Pope Francis noted that many people today mirror the sadness and grief of the women who went to Jesus' tomb thinking he was still dead.

However, the Resurrection, he said, offers new hope for those who have perhaps lost it.

“That is what this night calls us to proclaim: the heartbeat of the Risen Lord. Christ is alive!” the Pope said April 15.

It is the excitement of this message, he said, that made them hurry back to tell the others that Jesus had risen: “That is what made them return in haste to tell the news. That is what made them lay aside their mournful gait and sad looks. They returned to the city to meet up with the others.”

Like the women, each us has also visited the tomb during the vigil, he said, and urged Christians to “go back” with the women into their cities with news of Jesus’ rising.

“Let us all retrace our steps and change the look on our faces,” he said. “Let us go back with them to tell the news in all those places where the grave seems to have the final word, where death seems the only way out.”

The Pope told them go back and proclaim the truth that “the Lord is alive! He is living and he wants to rise again in all those faces that have buried hope, buried dreams, buried dignity.”

“If we cannot let the Spirit lead us on this road, then we are not Christians,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke during his homily for the Easter Vigil, which he celebrated, as usual, in St. Peter's Basilica as the culmination of his Holy Week events. Apart from the vigil, Pope Francis will also celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square Easter morning and give his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

After delivering his homily, Pope Francis administered the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – to 11 people, one of whom, Ali Acacius Damavandy, is from the United States.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb in the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, it’s easy to imagine their uncertain steps and their “pale and tearful” faces.

These women didn’t run away, but remained steadfast, and were people that had took life as it came and “knew the bitter taste of injustice.” However, they were still unable to accept Jesus’ death, he said.

By imagining the scene as it plays out, we can picture in the faces of these two women the faces of many others who “bear the grievous burden of injustice and brutality,” he said.

“In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking,” Francis said, explaining that we can also see the reflection of those treated with “contempt” because they are immigrants.

“We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles,” he continued.

The faces of these women also mirror “the faces of women, mothers, who weep as they see the lives of their children crushed by massive corruption that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams. By daily acts of selfishness that crucify and then bury people’s hopes. By paralyzing and barren bureaucracies that stand in the way of change.”

Francis pointed to the pain of all those “who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified,” saying this is also reflected in the grief experienced by the two women.

The women can also represent the faces of each of us personally, he said, explaining that like them, many of us can feel driven to continue walking forward and not to resign ourselves to the fact that “things have to end this way.”

While we carry God’s promise of faithfulness inside of us, our faces, the Pope said, often we bear the mark of various wounds, including infidelity on our part or the part of another, or of battles we have lost.

“In our hearts, we know that things can be different but, almost without noticing it, we can grow accustomed to living with the tomb, living with frustration,” he said, noting that even worse, we can also convince ourselves that “this is the law of life.”

By doing so, we “blunt our consciences with forms of escape that only serve to dampen the hope that God has entrusted to us,” and walk, like the women did, the line between the desire for God and “bleak resignation.”

However, with the Resurrection the women suddenly and unexpectedly feel “a powerful tremor,” and hear a voice telling them not to be afraid, because Jesus has risen from the dead.

The message: “Do not be afraid, brothers and sisters; he is risen as he said!” is one that has been passed on from generation to generation, Pope Francis said, explaining that “life, which death destroyed on the cross, now reawakens and pulsates anew.”

“The heartbeat of the Risen Lord is granted us as a gift, a present, a new horizon,” he said, explaining that this heart is given to us and in turn, we are also asked to give it to others as “the leaven of a new humanity.”

In his Resurrection, Christ not only rolled back the stone to the tomb, Francis said, but he also wants “to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.”

Precisely when the religious leaders of the day, in collusion with the Romans, thought they they had the last word, God enters and “upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities,” the Pope said. “God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy.”

This, he said, is the promise that has been present from the beginning and which is “God’s surprise” for his people.

Pope Francis closed by saying that hidden in every life there is a seed of the Resurrection, “an offer of life ready to be awakened.”

He prayed that all would allow themselves to be surprised by this “this new dawn and by the newness that Christ alone can give,” and asked that we not only allow Christ’s loving tenderness to guide our steps, but that we also “allow the beating of his heart to quicken our faintness of heart.”

Good Friday papal preacher: In a changing world, the cross remains the same

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 22:57

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Even as sinful people in a society filled with violence and increasing secularism, we have hope because Christ's cross perdures, the papal preacher said at the Vatican's Good Friday Service.

“The cross, then, does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said April 14.

He gave the homily during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Fr. Cantalamessa also gave the homilies at Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Fridays throughout Lent.

Today, we are constantly hearing about death and violence, he said. “Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago?”

“The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning,” he said.

Fr. Cantalamessa preached: “The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

He explained how the Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that hangs at the entrance to their monastery. It has a globe of the earth with a cross above it, and written across it: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” or “The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

He described a painting by Salvador Dali, called “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” It depicts Christ on the cross as if you are looking from above. Beneath him are clouds, and below that, water.

In a way, the water beneath Christ in this image, instead of earth, is a symbol of the lack of firm foundation of values in our current society, he explained. But even though we live in this very “liquid society,” there is still hope, because “the cross of Christ stands.”

“This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: ‘O crux, ave spes unica,’ ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.’”

The point of Christ’s Passion, however, is not an analysis of society, he said. “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings.”

In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness,” he said. In the Bible, it is called “a heart of stone.”

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life,” he said.

He explained that even as practicing Christians we have these hearts of stone when we live fundamentally for ourselves and not for the Lord.

Quoting God’s words through the prophet Ezekiel, Fr. Cantalamessa said: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

He went on to explain how in Scripture we are told that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”

This description, using apocalyptic language and signs, indicates “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

“The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart,’” he said.

We believe that though he was slain, because Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, his heart has also “been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body.”

And when we receive the Eucharist, we “firmly believe” that the very heart of Christ has come to “beat inside of us” as well, he explained.

“As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ and then we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified’.”

Why did Pope Francis visit Benedict XVI? To say happy birthday!

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 03:35

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2017 / 03:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Early Easter greetings and birthday wishes were the reason for Pope Francis’ visit with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

Following his annual custom, Francis visited his predecessor at Vatican City’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery on April 12 to extend his greetings ahead of Easter Sunday. The Vatican Press Office said the visit had “a double celebratory character” given that Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday, April 16, falls on Easter this year.

Benedict XVI sends birthday greetings to Pope Francis every Dec. 17. Last December, on Pope Francis’ 80th birthday, the Pope emeritus sent a “very affectionate” written message that was “particularly appreciated” by the current pontiff, the Holy See press office said.

That December day, the Pope emeritus also sent three small gifts and made a personal phone call to his successor.

You can show God's love even behind bars, Pope Francis tells inmates

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 23:24

Rome, Italy, Apr 13, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spent Holy Thursday washing the feet of inmates, telling them in a brief homily that God is someone who loves until the end. He urged them to imitate this love even while in prison.

“Having loved his people who were in the world, he loved them to the end. God loves like this, to the end,” the Pope said April 13. “He gives life to each one of us and he boasts of this because he has love, and to love until the end isn’t easy.”

“We are all sinners and we all have limits and defects,” he said. While we all know how to love, “we are not like God who loves without looking at the consequences.”

He encouraged the inmates to imitate the love Jesus showed in washing the feet of his disciples, saying they didn’t need to get up and take their shoes off, but “if you can act as a help, do a service, here in prison, do it. Because this is love, it’s like washing the feet.”

Pope Francis visited the maximum security facility of Paliano prison in the south of Rome. It houses former mafia collaborators.

The Paliano prison is famous for being the only institution in Italy reserved specifically for “collaborators of justice,” that is, criminals who choose to come clean and collaborate with the police in exchange for police protection and, at times, compensation from the State. As of April 1, there were 70 detainees in the prison.

The visit marks the Pope’s third Holy Thursday visit to a prison since he became pontiff in 2013.

After arriving around 4 p.m. local time, Pope Francis met with the inmates before celebrating the Mass that marks Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with his disciples.

During the celebration, the Pope washed the feet of 12 inmates. Three of these were women and one was a Muslim who will be baptized in June.

All of them were Italians apart from one Argentinian and one Albanian. They are serving sentences for various crimes. And apart from two who have life sentences, the rest are expected to be released between 2019 and 2073.

About 60 collaborators collaborators of justice were present for the Mass. Two of them, a man and a woman, were from solitary confinement. The Pope met with these two privately just before he celebrated Mass.

He also greeted each inmate personally.

In his brief homily, the Pope noted that even though Jesus knew his hour had come and that he would be “betrayed and handed over” by Judas, he still chose to love.

“He who was the head, who was God. He washed the feet of his disciples,” he said, explaining that washing the feet of guests was a custom at that time. Since there were no paved streets, people would frequently arrive full of dust.

According to the custom, “the slaves did this,” he said, adding that “Jesus knew and he did it.”

Pointing to how Peter in the Gospel initially doesn’t want Jesus, the Master, to stoop and wash his feet, Pope Francis said that in the moment Jesus explained “that he came into the world to serve and to serve us. To make himself a slave for us. To love until the end.”

The Pope said that although the Pope is the head of the earthly Church, the true head of the Church is Jesus: “The Pope is only the figure of Jesus and I would like to do the same that he did and the priest washes the feet of his faithful.”

“Whoever is greatest must do the work of a slave,” the Pope said, recalling the Gospel scene where the disciples were fighting among themselves about who was the greatest.

On that occasion, “Jesus said: whoever wants to be the most important must make himself the smallest,” the Pope said, adding that “all of us are poor, but he loves us as we are.”

The washing of the feet, he said, is not “a folk ceremony.” Rather, it is “an act to remember what Jesus did. Let us think of the love of God alone today.”

Inmates at the prison have access to various activities provided by the prison’s institutional projects, such as opportunities for work, education, cultural and recreational activities, religious and sporting events, and meetings with family members.

Some of the courses available to inmates include iconography classes, ceramics, a pizzeria and kitchen for sweets, a carpentry workshop and an agricultural area with organic farming and a zone blocked off for breeding goats, rabbits, chickens and pigs, and for producing honey.

According to an April 13 communique from the Vatican, prison director Nadia Cersosimo has said these efforts are “initiatives that avoid idleness, reduce distances, fight prejudices and open the path to reinsertion.”

The prisoners offered Pope Francis a handmade cross and a buffet  prepared with products from their gardens.

The Pope’s decision to visit isn’t surprising given the attention Pope Francis has often given both to prisoners, and to condemnations of mafia activities.

He has often condemned the violence of organized crime. He has made a point to visit prisons in nearly all of the international trips he takes, as well as local trips within Italy.

Right after his election in March of 2013 Francis decided to offer his Holy Thursday Lord’s Supper Mass at the Casal del Marmo youth detention center in Rome. He washed the feet of young men and women, both Christians and Muslims, detained there.

In 2014, Pope Francis said the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled. In 2015 he visited another prison, celebrating Mass at Rome’s Rebibbia prison.

For Holy Thursday in 2016 Pope Francis visited a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome. He washed the feet of refugees, who included Muslims, Hindus, and Coptic Orthodox Christians.

In new interview, Pope says to never give up hope for conversion

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 18:22

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2017 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has given an interview ahead of his Holy Thursday visit to a prison, warning, among other things, against the hypocrisy of viewing inmates only as criminals beyond hope who deserve to spend their lives in jail.

“At times a certain hypocrisy pushes us to see in prisons only people who have done wrong, for whom the only path is that of the prison,” the Pope said in the interview, published April 13, Holy Thursday.

However, as he often has before, the pontiff stressed that “we all have the possibility of making mistakes. All of us in one way or another have erred. And hypocrisy makes it so you think there is no possibility of changing one’s life.”

Francis lamented that there often seems to be a lack of trust in rehabilitation and the ability for prisoners to be reinserted into society. With this mentality, “one forgets that we are all sinners and, often, that we are also prisoners without realizing it.”

“When we stay closed in our prejudices, or are enslaved by idols of a false wellbeing, when we move within ideological schemes or make absolute market laws that crush people, in reality you doing nothing other than stand between the narrow walls of the cell of individualism and self-sufficiency.”

In doing this one is “deprived of the truth that creates freedom,” he said, cautioning that “to point your finger at someone who has done wrong cannot become an excuse for hiding one’s own contradictions.”

Pope Francis gave his interview to Paolo Rodari of Italian newspaper La Repubblica. It was published to coincide with the Pope’s Holy Thursday visit to a prison on the outskirts of Rome for former members of the mafia, where he will wash the feet of 12 men and women serving various sentences, and who are both Christian and Muslim.

The interview focused largely on the Pope’s many visits to prisons as part of Holy Week and during international trips, as well as his preference for the “discarded” and the rising danger of modern war and conflicts.

He said the idea of visiting prisons came largely through the example of the late Cardinal Secretary of State, Agostino Casaroli, who passed away in 1998 and would frequently spend his Saturday nights at youth prisons on Rome’s Via Casal del Marmo.

Francis, who has washed the feet of inmates on Holy Thursday in both 2013 and 2015, said the reason he is choosing to do so again is because of Christ’s declaration that “I was a prisoner and you visited me.”

“The mandate of Jesus goes for each one of us, but above all the bishop, who is the father of everyone,” the Pope said, noting that when some inmates express their guilt to him, he responds by telling them: “let whoever is not guilty throw the first stone.”

“Let us look inside and try to find our faults. Then, the heart will become more human,” he said, explaining that priests and bishops must always be disposed to serve others.

When asked about his attention to those who are discarded, Pope Francis turned to the Gospel episode of the hemorrhaging woman who touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed.

This scene, he said, reflects the fact that “Jesus gives health and freedom to the socially and religiously discriminated…Jesus’ heart is always for them, for the excluded, as among other things the woman was perceived and represented then.”

Although the woman was afraid to be seen, Jesus admired her faith and in meeting her gaze, he didn’t chastise her, but rather welcomed her with mercy and tenderness, seeking a personal encounter that gives her dignity.

The same thing goes for each of us when we feel “discarded” by our sins, the Pope said, explaining that “we must have the courage to go to him, to ask for forgiveness for our sins and to go forward. With courage, like this woman did.”

When it comes to war and conflict, Francis said that in his opinion sin today “manifests itself with all its strength of destruction in wars, in the different forms of violence and mistreatment, in the abandonment of the most fragile.”

Echoing similar statements that he frequently makes, the Pope noted that it’s the poor and vulnerable that are the first to pay the price.

When faced with these situations in the midst of Holy Week, the Pope said the only thing that comes to his mind “to ask with more strength for peace for this world subjected to arms traffickers who earn with the blood of men and women.”

Looking back at the violence of the past century, marred by two World Wars and numerous other conflicts, Francis said it’s hard to tell whether or not the world is more violent now than it was then, or if thanks to modern communications technologies we are simply “more aware of violence or more addicted to it.”

He stressed the importance of not responding to violence with violence, saying “violence is not the cure for our shattered world.”

Responding to violence with violence leads “at best” to forced migration and suffering, an imbalance in the distribution of resources, and difficulties for youth, families in hardship, elderly and the sick.

“In the worst case,” he said, “it brings the death, both physical and spiritual, of many, if not all.”

The Gospel is never gloomy, but joyful, Pope tells priests

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 15:00

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2017 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his annual Chrism Mass for Holy Week Pope Francis told priests to always convey the truth and mercy of the Gospel with joy, saying the “Good News” brought by Jesus can never be rigid or presumptuous, but is rather meek and humble.

“Everything (Jesus) proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news,” the Pope said April 13. “News full of the joy of the Gospel – the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.”

The phrase “good news” can at times appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel,” he said, but in reality, the words “point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel.”

“The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy,” he said, explaining that just as Jesus did, a priest makes the Gospel message joyful “with his entire person.”

When a priest preaches, “briefly, if possible,” the Pope jested, “he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.”

The Good News “is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel,” he said, stressing that “it is not a thing but a mission.”

Pope Francis gave his homily during the annual Holy Week Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, during which he blesses the oils that will be used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick during the coming year.

With the symbol of anointing being a strong presence throughout the Mass, the Pope typically directs his homily to priests, using it as an opportunity to offer a special message for them and their ministry in particular.

In his homily, Francis told priests that when the word “Gospel” is spoken, it “becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy.”

“We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone,” he said.

The truth “can never be abstract” or lack concreteness in people’s lives, he said, but at the same time cautioned that mercy can never be “a false commiseration” that leaves people in misery “without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.”

Similarly, the message of the Good News “can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal,” he said, and offered priests three “icons” of how to keep the Gospel fresh in every age without going sour or being poured out.

The first icon the Pope pointed to were the stone jars used at the wedding feast in Cana, which he said “clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary.”

Mary, he said, “is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises.”

As someone who promptly responded to the angel’s announcement by going to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Mary helps us overcome fear and “the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy.”

A second image the Pope pointed to was the jug and wooden ladle carried by the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.

The image of the jug and ladle point to the crucial importance “of concrete situations,” Francis said, explaining that since Jesus had no way to draw water, the woman with her jug and ladle was able to quench the Lord’s thirst.

“She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins,” he said, and pointed to Mother Teresa as another example of a new wineskin filled with “inclusive concreteness.”

In starting her mission with one concrete person, Mother Teresa, “thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all,” he said.

Pope Francis then pointed a third image of the Good News, which he said is “the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself.”

“From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way,” he said, stressing that “evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid.”

In every situation, the Holy Spirit tells us what we need to say to our enemies and guides our steps forward, he said, adding that “this meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.”

Pope Francis closed his homily praying that as priests contemplate these three “icons” of the Gospel, the Good News would find in them “that contagious fullness which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the inclusive concreteness of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the utter meekness whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.”

Pope Francis: we find hope in embracing our crosses with love

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 19:21

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2017 / 07:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Church this week reflects on Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Pope Francis said that it is the cross that gives us hope, and urged faithful to enter into the mystery of Christ’s death by contemplating the joy that comes from sacrifice.

“During these days, days of love, let us be enveloped by the mystery of Jesus who, like a grain of wheat, in dying gives us life. He is the seed of our hope,” the Pope said April 12.

“Let us contemplate the Crucified Christ, the source of hope. Little by little we realize that hope with Jesus is learning to see, indeed right now, the plant in the seed, Easter in the cross, life in death.”

Speaking during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis told pilgrims he was giving them some homework. He instructed them when they get home to stop in front the crucifix, look at Jesus and tell him: “With you, I can always hope. You are my hope.”

“Now imagine the crucifix,” he told the crowd, “and all together say to Jesus Crucified, three times: ‘You are my hope.’” When the crowd said, Francis wasn’t convinced, and had them repeat it again even louder.

“We we really believe that in the Crucified Christ our hope is reborn,” he said, but cautioned that “it is a different hope from that of the world. What hope is this? The hope that is born of the cross.”

Love and hope come together on the cross of Christ, he said, explaining that this is a cross everyone must carry at different points in their lives.

“But it's beautiful to help others, to serve others,” he said, noting that this can get tiring at times, “but life is like that…This is love and hope together: to serve and give.”

“Of course, this love comes from the cross, from sacrifice, as it did for Jesus,” he said, stressing that the cross in itself is not the goal, but rather “a necessary step” to the ultimate goal, which is “glory, as Easter shows us,” he said.

It is in laying down one’s life, not holding onto it, that we find true joy, the Pope said, and pointed to the sacrifice of a mother, which he said is “another beautiful image that Jesus left to his disciples during the Last Supper.”

Jesus says in John 16:21 that “the woman, when giving birth, is in pain, because her hour has come; but, when she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the suffering, because of the joy that a child has come into the world.”

This is what mothers do, Francis said, noting that they give life to another through suffering, but then they are “joyful and happy (because) love gives birth to life and even gives meaning to pain.”

Love is the “engine” that fuels our hope, he said, and encouraged pilgrims to ask themselves: “Do I love? Have I learned to love? Am I learning every day to love more?”

“There is no other way to overcome evil and to give hope to the world,” he said, except by serving with humility and love.

“Have you thought about this?” he asked. No one likes to lose power and the logic of the seed that must die before bearing fruit is difficult to understand, he said, but stressed that this is the way of God.

He pointed to how many times in life we move forward with the mentality that the more we have the more we want. However, Jesus clearly says the opposite: “He who loves his life will lose it.”

This is why our hope is born from Christ’s transformation of death into life, he said, explaining that in the same way Jesus transforms our own sin into forgiveness, “our death into the resurrection, our fear into confidence.”

“That's why there on the Cross, our hope is born and is always born again; that's why with Jesus all our darkness can be transformed into light, every defeat into victory, every disappointment into hope. Every? Yes, every.”

EWTN exec named consulter for Vatican communications office

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 16:22

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2017 / 04:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced that EWTN’s Chairman of the Board Michael Warsaw has been named by Pope Francis a consultor of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

The announcement of Warsaw’s appointment was made in an April 12 communique from the Vatican, along with the names of 13 other new consultors.

Warsaw was promoted to Chairman of the Board for EWTN in 2013. He has worked for EWTN since 1991, and had been named president in 2000, and CEO in 2009. He also serves as publisher of the National Catholic Register since the paper's acquisition by EWTN in 2011.

He has worked for more than 35 years in media, and has overseen EWTN's television, radio, and internet programming and production, as well as hosting the program “Bookmark.” He had been appointed COO in 2009.

EWTN was founded in 1981 by Mother Angelica, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The network today transmits programming to more than 264 million homes in 144 countries. What began with approximately 20 employees has now grown to nearly 400.

The religious network broadcasts terrestrial and shortwave radio around the world, operates a religious goods catalog and publishes the National Catholic Register and Catholic News Agency, among other publishing ventures.

In addition to Warsaw, other new consultors to the Secretariat are: Fr. Ivan Maffeis, Undersecretary of the Italian Bishops Conference; Fr. José María La Porte, Dean of the Faculty of Institutional Social Communications of the Pontifical University of Santa Croce; Fr. Peter Gonsalves, S.B.D., Dean of the Faculty of the Science of Social Communications at the Pontifical Salesian University; Fr Eric Salobir, O.P., Promoter General for Social Communications of the Order of Preachers; Fr. James Martin S.J. of America Magazine; Fr. Jacquineau Azétsop S.J., Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Paolo Peverini, Professor of Semiotics at Luiss Guido Carli University; Fernando Giménez Barriocanal, President and Managing Director of Radio Popular-Cadena COPE; Ann Carter of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications; Graham Ellis, Vice Director of BBC Radio; Dino Cataldo Dell’Accio, Chief ICT Auditor at the United Nations and Michael Paul Unland, Executive Director of the Catholic Media Council.

Donate blood, get free admission to the Vatican Museums

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 12:29

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2017 / 12:29 am (CNA).- A new initiative in Italy will allow blood donors to receive a free ticket to the Vatican Museums.

“Without blood, there is no life. Without art, life would be empty and sad,” said Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums.

The initiative is the product of a partnership between Rome’s Gemelli University Hospital and the blood donor group “Francesco Olgiati,” in collaboration with the Vatican Museums.

Seeking to encourage the donation of blood, which can be life-saving for patients who need transfusions, the agreement allows people who donate blood to receive a voucher, which is valid for entrance into the Vatican Museums without waiting in line. The vouchers, which are worth 4 euro each, must be used by the end of 2017.

Gemelli University Hospital distributes more than 17,000 units of blood and blood components, which are used in treating patients with a variety of conditions.

Such initiatives, Jatta said, allow the Vatican Museums to be “a living cultural institution, an integral part of the social fabric…just as Pope Francis has hoped.”

“We hope that many will take advantage of this opportunity: it benefits both themselves and others.”

Bible scholar gives inside look at Vatican's Stations of the Cross

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 03:33

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2017 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis chose French biblical scholar, Anne-Marie Pelletier, to write the meditations for this year's annual Good Friday Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.

A recipient of the Ratzinger Prize in 2014, as well as a wife and mother, Pelletier’s meditations follow her own scripturally-based Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, based on the 14 biblical stations used by St. John Paul II in 1991.

Because the Stations of the Cross do not have a “binding form,” Pelletier told Vatican Radio, “I chose those moments that seemed particularly significant.”

Her stations are not significantly different from the traditional 14 stations followed by pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, though the biblical stations don’t include the three falls of Jesus or Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as in the traditional devotion.

She also begins with Jesus’ condemnation, rather than his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.

Using more than just the accounts of Christ’s Passion in the Gospels, Pelletier’s reflection weaves in Scripture and biblical references from both the Old and New Testaments as she reflects on how the entire life of Christ has been leading him, and us, to his ultimate sacrifice.

Pelletier’s meditations also reflect significantly on the perspective of the women along Jesus’ path, especially his mother, Mary.

An important scholar of contemporary French Catholicism, Pelletier has taught biblical studies at the European Institute of Religious Sciences and served as vice-president of the Jewish-Christian Documentation Information Service in Paris. She is the first woman to win the Ratzinger Prize.

The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The prize is awarded by the Ratzinger Foundation, which was founded in 2010 with Benedict XVI’s approval to study and promote his writings as a theologian, as a cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and as Pope.

Pelletier opens the stations with Jesus’ condemnation before the members of the Sanhedrin, who “did not need a lengthy discussion to come to a decision,” she wrote. “The matter had long been settled. Jesus must die!”

Showing how at each point of his life Jesus faced enemies, she wrote that “our recollection must go back even further,” to Bethlehem, to Jesus’ very birth, when “Herod had decreed that he must die.”

Jesus escaped that time, but “already his life hung in the balance. In the sobbing of Rachel mourning her children who are no more, we hear a prophecy of the sorrow that Simeon will foretell to Mary (cf. Mt 2:16-18; Lk 2:34-35),” she writes.

In the fourth station, when Jesus is crowned with a crown of thorns, draped in a purple cloth and mocked with the words, “Hail, King of the Jews!” the paradox of Jesus’ kingship is revealed to us “as a love that seeks only the will of his Father and his desire that all should be saved.”

In this station she prays, “Lord our God, on this holy day that brings your revelation to fulfillment, we ask you to tear down every idol in us and in our world. You know the sway they have over our minds and our hearts. Tear down in us every deceitful illusion of success and of glory.”

When Jesus meets the mourning women of the daughters of Jerusalem, at the seventh station, Pelletier reflects on the gift of tears Jesus bestows upon them, asking them not to weep for him, but for the world.

The tears “fall silently down their cheeks. And undoubtedly, even more often, they fall unseen in the heart, like the tears of blood spoken of by Catherine of Siena,” she writes. “Not that women alone should weep…” she emphasizes, though it is their grief that “embraces all those tears shed quietly and without fanfare in a world where there is much to weep for.”

The eleventh station is devoted to Jesus and his mother Mary. Throughout her son’s life, Pelletier writes, Mary had entrusted each event “to the great patience of her faith” and today, the day of his crucifixion “is the day of fulfilment.”

“The sword that pierced her Son’s side pierces her own heart. Mary too plunges into that bottomless trust whereby Jesus lives to the full his obedience to the Father. Standing there, she does not desert him. Stabat Mater. In the darkness, but with certainty, she knows that God keeps his promises.”

The reflection on the tender faithfulness of women continues in the final station, as Jesus is laid in the tomb and the women prepare to anoint his body the following morning at daybreak, after the Sabbath has ended.

“Grant too that we, who have accompanied you along this path of love to the very end, together with the women of the Gospel, may remain in expectant prayer,” Pelletier concludes.

“For we know that our prayers will be answered by the resurrection of Jesus, which your Church now prepares to celebrate in the joy of Easter night.”

Consistory announced to approve Fatima children's canonization

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 22:59

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2017 / 10:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will hold an ordinary public consistory on April 20, where the cardinals of the Church are expected to pave the way for the canonization of the Fatima visionaries.

There are five causes of canonization waiting for approval by the cardinals. Most prominent is the cause of Francesco and Jacinto Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the 1917 Marian apparitions at Fatima.

The cardinals’ approval at the consistory is the final step in the process leading up to canonization. Pope Francis has already given approval for the causes to move forward. Following the consistory, canonization dates will be set.

It has been widely speculated that Pope Francis will canonize the Fatima visionaries during his trip to Fatima for the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there. That trip will take place May 12-13.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church.

The brother and sister, who tended to their family's sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Francisco died April 4, 1919. Jacinta died the following year, Feb. 20, 1920.

Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima.

The canonization cause for Sister Lucia Santo – the third Fatima visionary – is currently underway. Sr. Lucia lived to the age of 97, much longer than the other two visionaries, and the Vatican is currently examining information about her life that has been collected over the past eight years since her cause was officially opened.

In addition to the Fatima children, other causes of canonization set for approval at next week’s consistory are Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan, young martyrs of Mexico in 1529; Fr. Faustino Míguez, the Spanish priest who founded the Calasanzian Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess; Fr. Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest who died in October 1739; and Fr. Andrea de Soveral, Fr. Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, Matteo Moreira, and their 27 companions, martyrs of Natal, Brazil in 1645.



Love is the best medicine, Pope Francis tells pediatric patients

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 22:56

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2017 / 10:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The caresses born of love are the most important medicine, Pope Francis told a group of patients, families, and doctors from Rome's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital on Monday.

“There is the danger, the risk of forgetting the most important medicine that only a family can give: caresses! It is a form of medicine that is too costly, because to have it, to be able to do this, you must give everything, you must give all your heart, all your love,” Pope Francis said April 10. “And you give them this affection, the caresses of the doctors, the nurses, the director, everyone.”

The patients, ages 5-18, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where he told them that “Each of you is a story. Not only the sick children, but also the doctors, the nurses, those who visit, the families.”

He recalled his Dec. 15, 2016 meeting with the group, saying that on that occasion the physicians “introduced the people to me. They all knew everyone’s names: 'This one is fighting this disease…'.”

“They also knew what was happening in their lives. And I perceived … that more than a hospital this is a family, that is one of the words you said. The most important thing was the name, the person, and only at the end was the disease mentioned, but almost incidentally, a secondary matter. It is a family, isn’t it?”

The Pope also recalled that “you were a bit ashamed of getting up and not looking good in front of the camera, and the director, who is a bit like a mother, came up to you and said, 'Come', and she encouraged you. This is the beauty of a family, this is beautiful.”

“Entering in a hospital always makes us afraid, and I see this when I come up to some children, not all, but some very little ones, and they see me in white, and they begin to cry; they think it is a doctor who has come to give them a vaccine, and they cry and are afraid. I stroke them a few times and they calm down. Because there is always the function of the hospital … one must do this …”

He said Bambino Jesu “has grown a lot lately, and has become a family. … The child, the patient finds a family there. Family and community, two words that you have said and repeated, and I wish to thank you for this, because Bambin Gesù offers witness, human witness. Human.”

“It is a Catholic hospital, and to be Catholic, first you must be human, and you give human witness today. Please, continue always on this path, grow in this way.”

Bambino Gesu (which translates to the child Jesus) is the largest pediatric hospital and research center in Europe. Owned by the Holy See and known as the Pope’s hospital, Bambino Gesu also serves children from all over the world.

The Holy Father is a popular figure at the hospital, where children write him letters and know many details of his life, including words from his homilies and facts about his home country and favorite soccer team.

Pope Francis has visited the facility several times, as did Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

German family continues to fight for right to homeschool

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 18:02

Mainz, Germany, Apr 11, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In August 2013, a group of 20 police officers and social workers stormed the home of Petra and Dirk Wunderlich and took away their children.

Their offense: homeschooling.

The Wunderlich’s children were returned to them, but their legal situation remains precarious, as the German government continues to criminally punish families who homeschool with fines or even imprisonment.

Homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since 1918, though in recent years the policy has raised questions and concerns with human rights groups who say it is an infringement on the right to family life.

The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to review the Wunderlichs' case and to look at whether Germany’s actions breached the right to family life, which is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ruled in 2006 that there is no right to homeschooling.

“I sincerely hope the European Court of Human Rights will reaffirm that the state has no right to abduct children from their family just because they are being home-schooled,” Dirk Wunderlich, the father of the family, told legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Our youngest daughter was only four years old when the authorities broke into our home and took our children without warning. She couldn’t stop crying for 11 days. Her older sister hasn’t laughed since this incident. We chose to educate our children at home, because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive,” he said.

Alliance Defending Freedom International, an Arizona-based legal group, finalized written submissions to the European Court of Human Rights last week on behalf of the Wunderlich family, asking the high court to protect the freedom of parents to homeschool their children.

“The eventual judgment in the case will have wide implications regarding parental rights for the 800 million Europeans who are subject to the rulings of the court,” the group said in a statement.

“Children deserve the loving care and protection of their parents. It is a serious thing for a country to interfere with the parent-child bond, so it should only do so where there is a real risk of serious harm,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, lead counsel for the family in Wunderlich v. Germany.

“Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions – something they believe they can do better in the home environment. The right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is a fundamental right protected in all of the major human rights treaties. Germany has signed on to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences.”

Several German families who wish to homeschool – many of them Christian – have sought refuge in the United States, transplanting their lives in order to have the right to educate their children at home. Others have fled to countries like France or Austria, which have more lax policies.

In 2014, Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that restrictions on homeschooling were justified, because the government has a compelling interest in preventing the formation of religious or ideological parallel societies. The court also argued that requiring children to attend school allows them the good of interacting with other children who may think differently than themselves.

Despite deadly attacks, Pope Francis will still go to Egypt

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 21:50

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2017 / 09:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican confirmed Monday that Pope Francis' trip to Egypt at the end of the month will go on as planned, despite terrorist attacks which killed more than 43 people during Palm Sunday celebrations in the country.

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, told journalists April 10 that “the Pope's trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled.” The Pope himself also confirmed that the trip will take place, according to Franciscan Fr. Marco Tasca.

During a meeting April 10 with General Ministers of the Franciscan Order, Francis “very firmly confirmed his trip to Egypt,” Fr. Tasca said, adding that he is “very informed.”

Pope Francis plans to visit the Egyptian capital of Cairo April 28-29, in what is largely a bid to foster greater Catholic-Muslim dialogue, particularly on the point of ending extremist violence.  

The first of Sunday’s attacks, a bomb at the Coptic Christian church of Mar Gerges in the northern city of Tanta, Egypt killed 27 people and wounded at least 71 more, according to BBC News.

A second blast took place shortly after outside of a Christian church in Alexandria, killing 17 and injuring another 35. The man, a suicide bomber, had tried to storm the entrance to the church before being stopped by police, three of whom died in the blast. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The attack in Alexandria narrowly missed harming the Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, who was participating in Mass inside the church.

After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass April 9, Pope Francis prayed for victims of “the attack that unfortunately took place today near Cairo,” voicing his closeness to Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, to and to the entire Coptic nation.

“I express my heartfelt sorrow,” he said, praying that the Lord would “convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and death, and those who make and traffic arms.”

His Holiness Pope Tawadros II is one of the religious leaders Pope Francis plans to meet with while in Cairo at the end of April. His schedule will also include a meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayyeb.

The Pope will leave Rome at 10:45 am, April 28, arriving in Cairo around 2:00 pm.

After a brief welcoming ceremony and visit with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam will each give a speech at an international conference on peace.

Francis will then meet with state authorities and with the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Pope Tawadros II.

On Saturday, April 29, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the morning, followed by a meeting with Egypt’s bishops over lunch. Pope Francis was invited to visit Egypt by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit at the Vatican Feb. 6, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.

In the afternoon Francis will meet with priests, religious and seminarians followed by a farewell ceremony before boarding the papal plane, which is scheduled to leave Cairo at 5:00 pm, arriving in Rome at 8:30 pm.

For a community already suffering from an attack which killed 30 at a church connected to the main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo in December 2016, Sunday’s attacks have given rise to even greater concern over the security in Egypt.

'Pope Francis laundry' service opens for homeless in Rome

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 16:46

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2017 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the latest Pope Francis-inspired initiative for the poor opened up in Rome – a new laundromat, with washing, drying and ironing services for those without a home or a fixed living situation.

"The Pope's Laundry,” as it is being called, is organized in partnership with the Community of Sant'Egidio and will be run by volunteers who will wash, dry and iron the clothes and blankets of those who otherwise can’t clean their belongings.

The initiative was born out of an invitation from Pope Francis in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, “to give a ‘concrete’ experience of the grace of the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” an April 10 communique from the Vatican stated.

As Francis wrote at the end of the Year of Mercy, the announcement said, “To want to be close to Christ demands to be near to our brothers, because nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a concrete sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy is made visible and tangible in concrete and dynamic action.”

The service, located in an old hospital in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, now called the “People of Peace Center,” includes six brand-new washers and dryers, donated by Whirlpool. Irons, detergent and other products needed for the service have also been donated.

The laundromat joins services to welcome and assist the poor already in place at the location for more than 10 years.

In the next few months, they plan to also add a barber, free clothing, medical clinics, and the distribution of necessities to the Center.

The laundry service follows a string of special initiatives by Pope Francis to serve the homeless in Rome.

In 2015, Francis established showers, bathrooms and a barber shop inside the Vatican to serve the homeless population.

Later in the same year, he opened up a new homeless shelter for men, just around the corner form the Vatican in Via dei Penitenzieri, furnished by the Papal Office of Charities and donations, and run by sisters from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.  

With enough space to house 34 men, the shelter brought the Vatican’s total capacity for housing the homeless up to 84.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has also invited homeless men and women to the Vatican, whether to see the Sistine Chapel, to dine with him, or for special events, showing his continued commitment to put into practice his charge to the Church to go out to the “peripheries.”

Pope prays for victims of attack on Coptic church in Egypt

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 16:16

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2017 / 04:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a bomb blast killed over 20 people and wounded several others during Palm Sunday celebrations in Egypt, Pope Francis voiced his closeness to the Coptic nation, and prayed for those who perpetrate violence through the arms trade.

After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass April 9, Pope Francis prayed for victims of “the attack that unfortunately took place today near Cairo,” voicing his closeness to Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawardos II, to and to the entire death Coptic nation.

“I express my heartfelt sorrow,” he said, and prayed that the Lord would “convert the hearts of those who sow fear, violence and death, and those who make and traffic arms.”

The Pope’s words came shortly after a bomb attack took place on the Coptic Christian Church of Mar Gerges in the northern city of Tanta, Egypt.


Islamic extremists target St George Cathedral, Tanta Egypt. Over 20 martyrs & 59 injured. It's becoming our regular gift before feasts.

— Bishop Suriel (@BishopSuriel) April 9, 2017
Worshippers had already packed the area to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass when the bomb was detonated. According to the Associated Press, at least 21 were killed and around 40 others wounded in the blast.

The attack took place just two weeks before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt April 28-29 in what is largely a bid to foster greater Catholic-Muslim dialogue, particularly on the point of ending extremist violence.

Francis offered his words of sorrow before leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer after Mass.

In his brief words before the prayer, he offered a special greeting to all those participating in WYD and their bishops, particularly those from Poland and Panama, and the Church and civil authorities who accompanied them to the Mass.

He also prayed for victims of the terrorist attacks that took place Friday, April 7, in Stockholm, when a 39-year-old Uzbek-native drove a large lorry truck into a department store, killing four and wounding 10, including a child.

Francis offered prayers for the victims as well as the many who are “still strongly tried by war, the tragedy of mankind.”

This Holy Week, look for Jesus in those who suffer, Pope says

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 15:48

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2017 / 03:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Palm Sunday Pope Francis said that as Holy Week begins, we should contemplate not only the glory with which Jesus is recognized as king as he enters Jerusalem, but also the suffering he endures before his death, and which is seen in the many who suffer due to war, violence and slavery today.

As the Church enters into the week before Jesus’ Passion and death, the Lord “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No.”

Instead, Jesus is present “in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases.”

Many people also suffer from “wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

The Pope’s words came at the same time a bomb attack took place on the Coptic Christian Church of Mar Gerges in the northern city of Tanta, Egypt, as worshippers packed the area to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass. According to the Associated Press, at least 21 were killed and around 40 others wounded in the blast.

“Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved,” the Pope said.

The presence of God in each of these brothers and sisters is not “some other Jesus,” the Pope said, but is “the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals.”

“We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace,” he said, and encouraged faithful to reflect on Jesus’ suffering during Holy Week and to look for him in the faces of those among us who suffer.

As usual, Pope Francis celebrated his April 9 Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, beginning with the blessing of palms at the obelisk in the center of the piazza. After the blessing, he led a short procession up to the main altar, where he continued with the celebration of the rest of the Mass.

The Mass coincided with the 32nd World Youth Day, which this year holds the theme “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” and is the first step in preparing for the global 2019 WYD encounter in Panama.

To mark the occasion, a delegation of 200 youth from Panama, a number of other Central American countries and Mexico were present in the square to receive the WYD cross and the Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani” from Polish youth, who hosted the global 2016 event in Krakow.

In his homily during Mass, Pope Francis said the celebration of Palm Sunday is “bittersweet,” since there is both joy and sorrow as the Church recalls the cries acclaiming him as king during his entrance into Jerusalem, but which is accompanied by the solemn proclamation of his Passion and death.

“In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience in some small measure what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem,” he said.

“Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God,” he said, but noted that while he enters the city in this glorious manner, Jesus “is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter.”

“Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great ‘patient,’ who suffers all the pain of humanity,” he said, and encouraged faithful to reflect on the suffering Jesus would face in the week before his death.

As we listen to the crowd joyfully acclaim Jesus as our King, let us also reflect on “the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns, and lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion,” the Pope said.

Pointing to the passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples that if anyone wants to follow him, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” Francis noted that “Jesus never promised honor and success. The Gospels make this clear.”

Rather, the Lord had always warned his disciples that his was a path of suffering, and that the final victory would be achieved through his Passion and death on the cross.

“All this holds true for us too,” the Pope said, and urged those present to pray for the grace “to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds.”

He also encouraged them to pray for the patience “to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.”

Bishops seek input from youth ahead of 2018 synod

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 04:09

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2017 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An international conference this week in Rome is seeking feedback from young people on the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops, as preparations are also underway for the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.

The purpose of the April 5-9 conference, “From Krakow to Panama: The synod on the way with the young,” was primarily to de-brief on WYD in Krakow and to help with the planning and implementation of WYD Panama in January 2019.

A new aspect this year, however, the conference also dedicated two days to a presentation of the prepatory document for the 2018 Synod of Bishops, which will discuss “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

According to an April 6 statement, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said it’s important to note that the upcoming synod is not being put on by young people or about them as subjects of study, but that it is for them, and that is why it is important they are included.

He also explained that the preparatory document is just the beginning of the process.

Bishop Fabio Fabene, Undersecretary of the Synod, also explained the document and the dynamics of how they are consulting with local Churches, learning about the situation of young people around the world, and involving youth throughout the process.

“We also want to talk to those who are distant and indifferent,” he said, “showing them a Church that is caring for their present and their future.”

The conference included 300 delegates from bishops’ conferences from 104 countries and from 44 different movements, associations, and communities, as well as a large number of youth.

Put on by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, the meeting is leading up to the diocesan-level World Youth Day in Rome April 9.

Presentations throughout the week included testimony from youth on WYD Krakow and from Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama on the preparations for WYD Panama.

Delegates from various countries gave feedback on the preparatory document and the topic for the upcoming Synod, including the United States, which asked that the document be presented to young people in a creative manner, including social media.

Some countries, like Burundi and Colombia, face many challenges to the faith, but said they have high expectations for the outcome of the Synod.

In the afternoon on April 6, Alessandro Rosina, Professor of Demography and Statistics at the Catholic University of Milan and a Synod consultant, presented analysis on the situation of young people from the first part of the synod document.

Rosina said that “people are not young in the same way in all periods of history: the experience of being young today is unique and must be recognized as such. Furthermore, while the young share common traits throughout the world, there are also local features, and regions have their characteristics.”

The Church “must grow more attentive to the young and become a positive experience in their lives so that they may choose her,” he said. “We need audacious young people,” he continued, quoting Pope Francis, “who are aware that they are a value for the world.”

In addition to the working days, the conference included a Friday evening concert for youth put on by two musical groups of the Focolare Movment: Gen Rosso and Gen Verde, of which the latter is a musical group made up entirely of women of various nationalities.

Pope to youth: The Church needs to hear your voice

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 01:15

Rome, Italy, Apr 8, 2017 / 01:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis held a special prayer vigil in anticipation of World Youth Day and the 2018 Synod of Bishops, telling youth that they are the voice of the future, and as such, have something to say to the entire Church, including to himself and the bishops.

In his April 8 speech, the Pope noted how the prayer vigil marked the “double-beginning” of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Faith, Young People and the Discernment of Vocation,” as well as the upcoming 2019 global World Youth Day encounter in Panama.

The journey of WYD is being taken from “Krakow to Panama, and in the middle the synod,” he said, explaining that the synod is an event “from which no young person should feel excluded.”

“We are holding this synod for Catholic youth, but also youth who come from Catholic associations, so then it’s stronger? No. This synod is a synod for all youth!”

“Young people are the protagonists,” he said, explaining that this includes agnostics, those who are far from the Church or struggle with their faith, and even those who consider themselves to be atheists.

The synod, he stressed, “is a synod for youth, and we all want to hear you. Every young person has something to say to others, has something to say to adults, to priests, to sisters, to bishops and to the Pope! We all need to listen to you.”

Coming on the heels of the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family, the next Synod of Bishops will be held in 2018 and is dedicated primarily to themes surrounding the youth and the struggles they face in contemporary society.

Held at the Roman basilica of Saint Mary Major, the Pope’s prayer vigil takes place ahead of tomorrow’s World Youth Day, titled “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” and which is the first step in preparing for the global 2019 encounter in Panama.

Hosted by the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and the Vatican office for Laity, Family and Life, the vigil included songs and scripture readings, as well as the testimonies of some youth from the Rome and Lazio regions.

After hearing the testimonies of Alcantarine Franciscan nun Sr Marialisa, 30, who shared the story of finding her vocation, and of 23-year-old Pompeo Barbieri, who was paralyzed at the age of 8 after surviving an earthquake in Puglia in 2002, the Pope stressed the need for youth to be active players in the process.

Recalling what he told youth during the 2016 International WYD in Krakow, Francis said that “it’s terrible to see a young person ready to go into retirement at the age of 20. It’s terrible. And it’s terrible to see young people who spend their lives on their couch.”

What is needed instead are young people who walk, who go out on the street and “move forward beside others, but looking toward the future.”

He pointed to the Gospel ready read during the encounter, which recounted how Mary “went in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth after learning that she was pregnant in her old age.

Like Mary, “the world today needs young people that go with haste, who don’t get tired of going with haste. Of young people who have that vocation of feeling that for them, life offers a mission,” he said.

As he frequently has in the past, the Pope emphasized the importance of experiencing life as a journey, saying that the world and the Church need youth who participate in this journey and who are engaged in the process.

“But what drama there is in the world today,” he said, noting that unfortunately, today “young people are often discarded; they don’t have work, they aren’t given an ideal for their lives, they don’t have education, they lack integration. Many are forced to flee and live as refugees in in other lands.”

“It’s hard to say this, but often times young people are treated as garbage,” he said, explaining that the goal of the synod is to show the world that “young people are here. We are going to Panama to say that we are here, on a journey, we don’t want to be garbage, we have value to give.

However, participating in the journey involves risks and the possibility of making mistakes, he said, but cautioned that if a young person doesn’t take risks, “they have grown old. We must take risks.”

Pointing to how Sr. Marialisa in her testimony said that she had quit going to church after receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, Pope Francis noted that in Italy the sacrament is frequently called the sacrament of “Arrivederci,” meaning “goodbye,” since youth typically stop attending church after.

Part of the reason for this, Francis said, is because many youth don’t know what to do after Confirmation. However, he noted that in her testimony, Sr. Marialista during journey to discovering her vocation, never stopped, even when she went astray, and wasn’t afraid to take risks in trying new things.

“You must prepare the future, the future is in your hands,” he told the youth, explaining that not only those who are organizing the synod, but “the entire Church wants to hear from youth want they think, what they want, what they feel, what they criticize and what they are most drawn to. Everything.”

“The Church needs still needs a spring, and spring is the season of youth,” he said, and invited the youth to begin the journey without fear or shame, but with courage.

Francis noted that many times in life we spend a lot of time asking the question “who am I?” and in the end, we can “spend a lifetime” contemplating the answer. However, the real question we have to ask ourselves, he said, is “for whom am I?”

Just as Mary was able to ask that question, discern that in that moment she was asked to go to her cousin and went, youth today must also ask this question, the Pope said, explaining that this is a task that will give them work for their entire lives.

It’s a task “that makes you think, makes you feel, makes you work,” he said, and stressed the importance of knowing how to speak the “three languages: the language of the head, of the heart and of the hands. And to go forward.”

The synod, he said, is not just a “parlor” to hang out at, and it’s not “just a circus or party for people to come together to speak,” but is rather a place to find “concreteness,” because “in this liquid society, concreteness is needed. And concreteness is your vocation.”

Pope Francis closed his speech by emphasizing to youth, as he often has, the importance of speaking with the grandparents, saying this “bridge of dialogue” between elderly and youth is needed today “more than ever,” because even the elderly still have dreams.

He closed saying that while he doesn’t know if he will be the Pope to meet them in Panama in 2019, “there will be a Pope there and he will ask you if you took time to speak to the elderly, to listen to their dreams, so you can concretely act as prophets in the world today!”