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The Cross is more than jewelry – it's a call to love, Pope Francis says

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 18:03

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2017 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said Lent is a time to really contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the Cross, which is more than just a devotional symbol, but an exhortation to imitate the love of Christ.

“The Christian Cross is not a furnishing for the house or an ornament to wear, but a call to the love with which Jesus sacrificed himself to save humanity from evil and from sin,” the Pope said March 12.

As Lent moves forward, he encouraged Christians to “contemplate with devotion” the image of the Jesus crucified on the Cross, which he said is “it’s the symbol of our Christian faith, it’s the emblem of Jesus, died and risen for us.”

“Let us make sure that the Cross marks the stages of our Lenten journey in order to increasingly understand the severity of sin and the value of the sacrifice with which the Redeemer has saved us,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus address, which he focused on today’s Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the scene of the Transfiguration.

Speaking from the window of the papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Francis noted how in the passage, Matthew points out that Jesus’ face “shown like the sun and his garments became white as light.”

The “brightness” that characterizes the Transfiguration, he said, symbolizes the event’s ultimate aim, which is “to illuminate the minds and hearts of the disciples so that they are able to clearly understand who their master is.”

“It’s a flash of light that opens unexpectedly opens the mystery of Jesus and illuminates his entire person and his story,” he said.

Since they are already drawing near to Jerusalem, where Jesus will undergo his violent Passion and death, the Lord wants to prepare them for “this scandal that’s too strong for their faith and, at the same time, announce his resurrection, manifesting himself as the Messiah,” the Pope said.

By revealing himself in the way that he did to Peter, James and John, Jesus shows that he is a Messiah different than what was commonly expected at the time: he’s not “a powerful and glorious king, but a humble and disarmed servant; not a gentleman with great wealth, a sign of blessing, but a poor man who has not place to rest his head; not a patriarch with numerous descendants, but a homeless bachelor without a nest.”

“It’s truly a revelation of God upside down,” Pope Francis said, explaining that “the most disconcerting sign of this scandalous reversal is the Cross.”

However, it’s precisely through the Cross that Jesus will achieve “the glorious resurrection,” he said, noting that by transfiguring himself, Jesus wanted to show his disciples his glory not to help them avoid the Cross, but to “indicate where the Cross leads.”

“Whoever dies with Christ, will rise with Christ. Whoever fights together with him, will triumph with him,” the Pope said. “This is the message of hope that the Cross of Jesus contains.”

Mary, he said, was someone who knew how to contemplate this glory of Jesus that was masked by his humanity. He prayed that she would help Christians “to be with him in silent prayer, to allow ourselves to be illuminated by his presence, to carry in our heart, through the darkest of nights, a reflection of his glory.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, Francis offered special prayers for the victims of a March 8 fire at a safe house for girls in Guatemala.

“Brothers and sisters, I express my closeness to the people of Guatemala who live in mourning due to the grave and sad news of the fire that erupted inside the Virgin of the Assumption Safe House, causing victims and wounded among the girls who lived there,” he said.

The fire occurred March 8 after a group of girls and teenagers rioted to protest what they alleged was physical and sexual abuse at the facilities. Authorities said that some of the children set fire to mattresses and the fire then spread to the rest of the facility.

The center, located in the San Antonio area of the town of San José Pinula, was created to provide protection for about 400 girls and teenagers abandoned and at risk. However, it currently houses close to 750 children, including those in trouble with the law.

According to State officials, the girls who died in the fire were unable to get out because they were locked in a room, apparently as a punishment. The previous night, some 60 children escaped from the center

In his address, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord would “welcome their souls, heal the wounded, console their grieving families and the entire nation.”

He also invited faithful to pray with him “for all boys and girls who are victims of violence, mistreatment, exploitation and wars.”

“This is a plague,” he said. “This is a hidden cry that must be heard by all of us and which we can’t continue to pretend not to see or to hear.”

It's official: Pope Francis will visit Colombia September 6-11

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 21:21

Vatican City, Mar 10, 2017 / 08:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis will make a six-day trip to Colombia in September with four cities on his itinerary, almost a year after the government and FARC rebels signed a major peace agreement.

“Accepting the invitation of the President of the Republic and the Colombian bishops, His Holiness the Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Trip to Colombia from 6 to 11 September 2017,” a March 10 communique from the Vatican read.

While the official schedule is expected to be released shortly, the Vatican confirmed that Francis will visit the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena.

The trip will mark the third time Francis has visited his native South America since becoming Pope, with the first taking place in July 2013 when he traveled to Rio de Janiero for World Youth Day. The second tour took place in July 2015, with stops in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

In August 2016 a peace accord between the Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was finally reached following four years of negotiations in Cuba.

Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the civil war.

According to Human Rights Watch, with more than 6.8 million people forcibly displaced due to the conflict, Colombia has the world's second largest population of internally displaced people, with Syria in first place.

However, the August agreement was narrowly rejected in a referendum Oct. 2, with many Colombians claiming that it was too lenient on FARC, particularly when it came to kidnapping and drug trafficking.

A revised agreement was signed Nov. 24, and sent to Colombia’s Congress for approval, rather than being submitted to a popular vote. The reformed accord was approved Nov. 30, with revised features including the demand that FARC hand over assets to be used for reparations, a 10 year time limit for the transitional justice system, and FARC rebels' providing information about their drug trafficking.

In December Pope Francis met with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and former president Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, at the Vatican, encouraging them to continue working for peace.

When the deal was initially reached, the Pope praised the move, voicing his support “for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture.”

The Pope’s trip was officially presented in the country March 10 by Bishop Fabio Suescún Mutis, head of Colombia's military diocese and who is in charge of the preparation committee for the trip.

During presentation, Bishop Suescún said the Pope’s visit “is a moment of grace and joy to dream with the possibility of transforming our country and taking the first step,” according to the Colombian Bishops Conference website.

“The Holy Father is a missionary for reconciliation,” he said. “His presence helps us to discover that yes, it's possible to re-unite as a nation in order to learn to look at ourselves again with eyes of hope and mercy.”

He pointed to the logo of the trip, which in yellow and white pictures Pope Francis walking next to the thematic phrase “Demos el primer paso,” meaning “Let us take the first step.”

To take the first step, Suescún said, means “to again draw near to Jesus, to meet again the love of our families, to disarm words with our neighbor and to have compassion with those who have suffered.”

According to the Colombian Bishops Conference, after receiving the official confirmation of the Pope’s visit, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his joy saying “we will receive (Francs) with open arms and hearts, as a messenger of peace and reconciliation.”

He noted that on many occasions Pope Francis “gave courage and impelled” the peace process in the country, adding that “he is a messenger of love and faith; he's a forger of bridges and not walls.”

The president pointed to the fact that the Pope's trip will be made exclusively to Colombia, whereas there are typically multiple countries included in international papal trips.

“To have the Pope with us for four days, to know that he's traveling exclusively to give a voice of encouragement and faith to Colombians, is a privilege that fills us with gratitude,” Santos said.

The Pope's visit, he said, is an “encounter with the teachings of Jesus, the encounter among ourselves, as a society, as compatriots, as human beings and as children of God.”

He voiced his hope that the visit would help Colombians to unite around the “building of a more just and equitable country, with peace and more solidarity.”

“We have already begun to prepare and will continue to prepare so that this apostolic journey of Pope Francis in Colombia will bear the greatest of fruits of harmony and unity in our country.”

 

(This article was updated at 5:06p.m. local time in Rome with the words of Bishop Fabio Suescún Mutis and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos).

He's back! Pope Francis returns to Rome grateful for spiritual retreat

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 18:15

Vatican City, Mar 10, 2017 / 05:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After spending a week in Ariccia with members of the Curia for their annual Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis returned to the Vatican Friday with words of gratitude and his own brief reflection.

Shortly before leaving the Casa Divin Maestro retreat house in Ariccia, the Pope voiced his gratitude to Franciscan priest Giulio Michelini, who led the meditations for the week, saying “I want to thank you for the good you have wished us to have and for the good you have done us.”

He thanked the friar first of all for his openness and for being “natural” during the preaching, sharing himself “without artifice.”

Francis also gave thanks for all of the work Michelini put into preparing the meditations. “It’s true, there is a mountain of things to meditate on,” he said, but noted that as St. Ignatius says in the Exercises, when one encounters feelings of consolation or desolation, you must “stop there” to meditate on it.

Surely everyone has found one or two things to deeply reflect on after hearing Fr. Michelini's meditations this week, the Pope continued, saying the rest “will serve for another time.”

“Sometimes, the simplest words are the ones that help us, or the more complicated ones: to everyone, the Lord gives the right word,” he said.

Concluding his remarks, the Pope voiced his hope and prayer Fr. Michelini can “continue to work for the Church, in the Church, in teaching, in so many things that the Church entrusts to you. But above all, I wish you to be a good friar.”

Pope Francis returned to the Vatican Friday with members of the Roman Curia at the conclusion of their March 5-10 Lenten spiritual exercises. He began the tradition of leaving the Vatican for the retreat after his election, choosing instead to spend it in Ariccia, just a short ways outside of Rome.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash">#PopeFrancis</a> is back from Ariccia after a week of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/prayer?src=hash">#prayer</a> &amp; reflection for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/lent?src=hash">#lent</a> - welcome back <a href="https://twitter.com/Pontifex">@Pontifex</a>! <a href="https://t.co/L4kkuTkcIN">pic.twitter.com/L4kkuTkcIN</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/840157590554255360">March 10, 2017</a></blockquote>
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According to a Vatican communique, after offering the final March 10 Mass for Syria, the Pope and members of the Curia left, arriving back at the Vatican just before 11:30a.m.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Francis sent 100,000 euro to the poor in Aleppo, thanks to a contribution from the Roman Curia.

For this year's spiritual exercises, the Pope chose personally chose Fr. Michelini, a Franciscan of the Seraphic Province of the Friars Minor of Umbria, to do the preaching.

The meditations for each day were focused on the story of Christ's Passion as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. Each day included two meditations, each on a different part of the story.

For example, reflecting on Jesus' silence in the face of his accusers, Fr. Michelini spoke about the different kinds of silence: the good kind, such as silence in prayer and the bad kind, which is remaining silent in the face of wrongdoing, because we are worried what others will think of us.

Reflecting on Christ’s passion, Fr. Michelini in one meditation said, “I wonder if I have the courage to go all the way to follow Jesus Christ, taking into account that this brings to bear the cross.” As Jesus said, “‘if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.’”

She grew up in the art world – now she's leading the Vatican museums

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 16:02

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Barbara Jatta, the newest director of the Vatican museums, and the first woman to hold the position, said that working with art was a natural path for her to follow – and she can’t imagine a better place to do so.

On her extensive background in art, Barbara Jatta told CNA: “I don't think I chose it.” Her mother and sister are both restorers, her grandmother was a painter and her grandfather was an architect, she said. “All my family is in the art world…”

“So I grew up in art, looking at art, going to museums with my family. It was really something so natural for me to choose this,” Jatta said.

“I don't feel I have a career, I have the privilege of working with what I like. With what I really think is important for me to do and I'm doing it in the best place I can ever imagine.”

Asked what she thinks will be the greatest challenge in her new position, she said bringing “harmony in to this place.” She wants to “give the visitors the idea that they are in a privileged place with privileged people that work here.”

“I mean, all the people working here know that they work for the Pope, they work for a mission, rather than just having a simple work. And I would like to focus on this more and more,” she said.

Another challenge Jatta faces is balancing preservation of the art in the museums with accessibility to the public.

“I do think that it's very important to preserve what we have received from the past,” she said, “and at the same time, sharing it is one of our focuses. So it's important also to share the beauty in what we have here.”

The museums have recently made other changes as well, including launching an updated website at the end of January that is more user-friendly and includes an “Explore” section, where website visitors can view museum content right from their homes.

Expanding accessibility to the extensive collections of the museums, whether through the website or for in-person visitors is a major focus, Jatta said.

“The idea is to let the people and the visitors arriving spread out in the different museums…and so let them go into the different part of the museums that are not as often visited. We have wonderful parts of the museum that visitors generally do not go to, do not visit,” she said.

And the number of visitors to the museums continues to grow. In 2016, six million people visited the Vatican, she said, but that number is predicted to be even greater in 2017.

In Jan. and Feb. of 2017, “we had an increase of 18,000 people in the two months, compared to the other years,” she noted.

The large number of visitors is excellent for the museums, but not always great for protecting the artworks themselves.

Because of this, “we have a very important program for preservation of the entire spaces of the museum,” Jatta said, “which costs a lot in effort and money, but we do think that it's a very important part of our organization.”

Why should someone visit? The Vatican museums are a unique place, she said. For instance, it isn’t just one museum, but in fact many, all joined together. “So it's not only a museum of archeology – you have many other archeology museums in Rome or in other parts of Italy.”

What makes the Vatican museums unique is “the idea of having the different witnesses of the culture, art and faith, that's an important part, a fundamental part of this museum.”

For example, the ethnological museum has more than 80,000 pieces, from different continents, and all witnessing to the faith, she said. This museum is comprised of pieces that were given as gifts to the popes, especially Pius XI.

“But it really is an ongoing museum that is still receiving items from all over the continents and that's probably the most important aspect of our museums. The idea that they preserve witnesses of faith.”

Jatta was vice-director of the museums starting in June 2016, but before that, since 1996, she worked and led the prints section of the Vatican Library. “So I was always an art historian working within the Vatican walls,” she said.

She met Pope Francis while in her former job when she presented him with a work of art for the Jubilee of Mercy. “For sure, Pope Francis is very interested in art,” she continued, highlighting how he brought homeless to visit the Sistine Chapel because “he thought that they would never have the opportunity to see it and this is very important.”

He speaks “about art very often, and the sense that beauty and art link people is something very, very important that he tells us…and it's one of my ideas in leading these museums,” she said.

Mary Shovlain contributed to this story.

Pope Francis has some ideas on how to fix the priest shortage

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 01:22

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2017 / 12:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a newly-released interview Pope Francis discussed the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, saying the first response must be prayer. He also mentioned working with youth, the low birthrate, and the ordination of married men.

“The first [response]  – because I speak as a believer – the Lord told us to pray. Prayer, prayer is missing,” Pope Francis said in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit published March 8.

He called the lack of priests, to the point that some parishes are cared for by female “community leaders” in Switzerland, “a problem that the Church must resolve.”

After prayer, he recommended working “with youth who are seeking orientation. And this is very difficult, the work with youth, but it must be done because they ask for this: the youth are the great discarded ones in modern society, because they have no work in many countries.”

“For vocations, there is also another problem,” he said, “the problem of the birthrate. If there are no young men there can be no priests.”

He repeated his caution against “proselytism,” saying, “You can’t gain vocations with proselytism. 'Proselytism' – as if it were a charity society that makes you a partner.”

Without priestly vocations “the Church is weakened, because a Church without the Eucharist doesn’t have strength: the Church makes the Eucharist, but the Eucharist also makes the Church. The problem of vocations is a serious problem.”

Turning to the question of relaxing permissions for the ordination of married men and the requirement of priestly celibacy, he said that “optional celibacy is discussed, above all where priests are needed. But optional celibacy is not the solution.”

His interviewer asked if the permission for the ordination of viri probati – older married men – to the diaconate could be expanded to the priesthood.

While saying making celibacy optional for priests is not the solution, Pope Francis also signalled an openness to discussing the possibility.

“We must think yes, viri probati are a possibility. But then we must also consider what tasks they could perform, for example in isolated communities.”

The interview opened with a discussion of Pope Francis' devotion to Our Lady, Untier of Knots, and also touched on faith, populism, the Roman Curia, and his international trips.

Regarding faith, he said that “one can’t grow without crisis … crisis is part of the life of faith; a faith which doesn’t enter into crisis to grow, remains juvenile.”

Turning to populism, he expressed his concern over the movement's expansion in Europe. “Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century has shown … Behind populism there is always a messianism: always.”

He reminded people that he is imperfect, saying: “I am a sinner, I am limited. We must not forget that the idealization of a person is a subtle form of aggression, it’s a way to subtly attack a person. And when I am idealized, I feel attacked.”

Pope Francis also discussed international trips he hopes to take, and mentioned that he won't plan to go to Germany this year, or the next.

“I can’t go to Russia because I would also have to go to Ukraine,” he added.

“The important one would be to go to South Sudan, which I don’t think I’ll be able to do – it was in the schedule to go to the two Congos: with Kabila [president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] things aren’t going well, I don’t think I’ll be able to go; but I will go to India and Bangladesh, for sure, to Colombia, and then a day in Portugal, in Fatima, and then I think that there’s another trip being studied, to Egypt: it seems like a full calendar, no?”

Former Bank of America exec tapped as next Washington auxiliary

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 19:13

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2017 / 06:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Fr. Roy Edward Campbell, Jr., a former vice-president for Bank of America, as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“All of us in the Archdiocese are deeply grateful that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has named Father Roy Campbell to be an auxiliary bishop in our Church of Washington,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, said in a statement March 8.

Father Campbell, who was born, raised and who has worked and served in the archdiocese, “brings to his new ministry recognized talent and demonstrated ability. He also bears witness to the great cultural and ethnic richness of the Church of Washington reflected in all of the faithful, lay, religious and clergy.”

“Personally I look forward to continuing to work closely with our new auxiliary bishop, who over the years has made significant contributions to the pastoral life of this archdiocese,” he said.

Fr. Campbell, 69, had a 33-year long career with Bank of America, beginning as a teller and working his way up to vice president and “Project Manager” before taking an early retirement in 2002 to follow a priestly vocation.

Born on Nov. 19, 1947, in southern Maryland, the Campbell was raised in D.C. and was interested in the priesthood as a child, but never committed to entering the seminary.

After high school he attended and graduated from Howard University in 1969 and later received a master’s degree in banking from the University of Virginia, working in the retail banking industry in the Washington-Baltimore area until taking an early retirement in 2002.

He was an active Catholic both in parishes and the broader Washington-area community, serving as a lector and usher and as a member on the Pastoral and Finance Councils at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart.

An encounter with a homeless man in December 1995, prompted him to reflect on his relationship with Jesus, and as a result he entered the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program in 1999. He entered the seminary in January 2002, and was ordained a priest May 26, 2007.

Since his ordination, bishop-elect Campbell has been parochial vicar and pastor at several parishes. He said in a video interview for the Archdiocese of Washington that “the Lord himself has bestowed upon me through the Holy Father,” a great honor by the appointment.

“The only thing I was looking forward to doing in answering our Lord's call is to be a priest for his people. To love and serve those who he's called me to,” he continued.

“And if he's calling me to serve on a larger scale than a parish, as a bishop, then I know I will have his grace, his direction, and his love to help me do so. So, outside of that, what it will entail, I will find out.”

For women, Vatican's new female advisory group 'a good start'

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 16:02

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new advisory group for the Pontifical Council for Culture is being hailed as the beginning of a greater representation of women in leadership at the Vatican.  

On March 7 the Council presented their 37-member “Women's Consultation Group,” which they established in 2015 as a way to give women a voice in places where it can frequently be lacking in the Vatican.

Member Donna Orsuto, director of the Rome-based Lay Center, called the the group “a good start.”

“I think there are many other ways, or in the future there will be many other ways in which women can be more present, more involved in the Church, especially in the Roman Curia,” she told CNA, “but I think this is a very good start.”

Orsuto voiced her hope that as they carry out their work, the group would be able to “work together...as women, but also with the council.”

“This idea of men and women working together for the good of the Church and society” is key, she said, adding that she’s “very pleased that the focus isn’t just on women and women’s issues.”

Council president Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi said that like many other Vatican departments, “inside of my dicastery, I didn't have any women at the management level. They were only there in an administrative sense as secretaries.”

And while the women who are part of the consultative group aren’t necessarily department managers, the presence of the group serves as a response to “this lack of the presence of women in the Roman Curia.”

Ravasi said he didn’t form the group to recriminate those who were angry about the lack of women, and nor did he want the women to be “a ‘cosmetic’ element in the sense that they were (only) a symbolic presence” or a mere viewpoint on “an only male horizon.”

Instead, the cardinal said he simply wanted “a feminine perspective” over every activity the dicastery does, including official documents.

A woman's viewpoint, he said, “can see beyond our gaze” and offers a perspective that’s different and at times unexpected.

“It's a question about interpretation, of prospective, of analysis, of judgment, above all, and also of proposal,” he said, explaining that the group will participate actively in both the preparation and duration of the council’s next plenary meeting.

Cardinal Ravasi stood beside some 20 of the 37 women who are currently part of the group at its official March 7 presentation. Coming from different cultures and professional backgrounds, the women serve a three-year term and meet three times annually to discuss ideas and possible projects.

Initially started in June 2015, the group was born from the Pontifical Council for Culture's Feb. 5-7 plenary assembly that year, which was dedicated to the theme “La Cultura Femminile,” or, “The Feminine Culture.”

Several women were asked to help prepare for the plenary, and worked in two separate groups with members of the council to organize the event and define specific topics of conversation.

After the plenary, Ravasi decided to establish the group as a permanent entity. He invited the women who prepared the plenary to stay, and reached out to several others from various professions, including ambassadors, journalists, doctors, professors, actresses and teachers, among others.

In their annual meetings, the group focuses their discussion on proposals surrounding the dicastery’s work in the fields of artificial intelligence, neuroscience, sport and human anthropology.

Consuelo Corradi, coordinator of the Women’s Consultation Group and vice rector for research and international relations at the LUMSA University of Rome, told journalists that they waited to present the group because they wanted to be able to show something that was already well established and running.

The theme that links all of the members together, she said, is “the female difference,” because “there’s a perspective from women (and) there’s a way of living human life that’s specific to women.”

“It’s not a theological discourse, what we do inside the group. One can have an ideological discourse on feminine and masculine, but we try to avoid it,” she said. Instead, the women seek to bring their concrete experience as wives, mothers, friends and professionals in order to discuss “universal themes from a feminine perspective.”

Released during the official presentation of the group was their first project – a magazine titled “Cultures and Faith” including contributions from various members of the group in different languages that reflect on a variety of different topics.

Group members from various fields and cultures who attended the presentation – including Irish ambassador to the Holy See Emma Madigan – voiced their hope that the group would provide a platform to generate creative ideas given their professional backgrounds, and to foster greater collaboration with men on important issues.

In her comments to CNA, Orsuto said the variety of backgrounds and expertise of the members is “an enrichment for the Council,” especially given the fact that there were no women in senior positions in the dicastery beforehand.

Since last year’s plenary, the women have had a chance to evaluate various projects of the council and “and give some insight into doing things with a ‘feminine touch,’” she said, explaining that for her, the group is a concrete example of Pope Francis' call for a more “incisive” feminine presence in the Church.

Italian psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Laura Bastianelli touched on the necessity of collaboration between men and women as “a creative process.”  

“We want to set up a process that is really cooperating” with one another, she said. “This is a way to build together, not trying to compete.”

“Competition is not the key to the resolution of solving problems between women and men. It’s a cooperation, so we want to co-create starting from the group in the dicastery and then to print a model that can be replicated.”

Bastianelli said she also sees the establishment of the group as a direct response to Pope Francis’ call for a greater inclusion of women in the life of the Church, and is hoping to use her background in psychology to help shape the council’s projects.

Currently a professor at Salesian university, Bastianelli trains psychotherapists and specializes in youth psychology. She is the founder of an association dedicated to working with youth and preventing diseases in children and young people.

“It’s a big work, it’s very demanding, because there’s a lot to do,” she said, explaining that the consultation group’s magazine includes an article from her on youth culture in which she reflects on difficulties today’s youth face.

Specifically, she delved into the topic of neuroscience and what it says about “the use and abuse of the internet (and) what the impact of these technologies on our youth is.”

“This is a big problem,” she said, explaining that the result of the current expansion of technologies among youth will start to be visible in the coming years.

But in addition to speaking just about the challenges, Bastianelli said she also explored the “richness” of today’s youth, “because we have young people very rich and full of competencies, but they can’t find space and they can’t develop because of many bad influences.”

She also spoke during the 2015 plenary for the Council for Culture, focusing on the topic of “generativity (procreativity) as a symbolic code,” meaning how we generate life without necessarily giving birth.

Bastianelli said her greatest hope for the consultation group is that it would spread to other realities even outside of the Church so the “richness of this experience can be replicated. It’s like leaven.”

Emma Madigan, Irish Ambassador to the Holy See, told CNA that she also hopes to use her diplomatic experience to help foster dialogue and open channels within the Vatican.

As an ambassador, “you want to understand better your interlocutors,” she said, explaining that for a diplomat, “dialogue is a core value and activity.”

“You’re basically furthering the bonds between the two countries, or in this case with a global religion, and seeing what you can bring to the table from your experience,” she said, noting that she has worked in a number of different fields where she’s had to encounter the problems people face on a daily basis.

When it comes to the Vatican, “you’re interacting with priests, dealing pretty much with the pastoral issue. You can understand some of what they’re going through,” she said, explaining that she also tries to present and discuss issues important to Ireland and to share information in order to foster greater mutual understanding.

Madigan said she was invited to join the group by Cardinal Ravasi around the same time as the 2015 plenary when he was thinking of establishing it, and initially had reservations about joining for fear of appearing to advise the Church on what they were doing.

However, since it was specifically working with one dicastery in particular, she said yes, since it speaks to people from all walks of life, including Catholics, non-Catholics and even non-believers.

“That’s something I’m really interested in,” she said, noting that she’s been invited to join “because of my position, but I’ll be representing my own perspective.”

“I do feel it was courageous in bringing this up,” she said, explaining that to have 37 women gather around the same table can get “a bit chaotic,” as each one brings their own experience and contribution.

Madigan said that when she initially came to Rome, she thought she would be the only woman ambassador, but quickly found out that wasn’t the case, and “already it means you’re not the only woman in the room.”

For the Vatican, “it is a leadership that is male, but it is changing,” she said, noting that especially when working with the Vatican, women “naturally gravitate towards other women to be interlocutors, share experiences.”

There is “still plenty of room for growth in this area,” she said, but recognized the group as “a practical example of saying ‘we want a woman’s perspective.’”

While many say that “we value women and want to bring them into the fold,” the group “is actually a practical sign that that’s happening. It’s a beginning. You have to start somewhere.”

St. Louis native 'honored' to be archdiocese's next auxiliary bishop

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 21:54

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2017 / 08:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has chosen Msgr. Mark S. Rivituso, currently the archdiocese’s Vicar General, to be the next auxiliary bishop of St. Louis under Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

“I am profoundly touched by the confidence the Holy Father has placed in me,” he said in a statement March 7. “I have asked him to keep me in his prayers and I have assured him of my prayers, respect, and obedience.”
 
“At the same time I am honored that I can in some way assist Archbishop Carlson in his pastoral service to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”

Rivituso, 55, was born in St. Louis Sept. 20, 1961, the sixth of eight children. As a child he had a close relationship with his grandmother, who was the influence behind his devotion to the Rosary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the St. Louis Review reports.

He told the paper that he had also been an altar server, which is when he “started hearing the call from Jesus to become a priest.”
 
The bishop-elect then attended Catholic grade school and high school in St. Louis, as well as Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary, earning a master’s degree and a licentiate in canon and civil law from St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada.

He was ordained to the priesthood in May 1988, and was given the title “monsignor” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

In addition to serving at various parishes within St. Louis, he was also appointed to the Metropolitan Tribunal staff from 1993-1994 and from 1996-2004. He was also acting associate master of ceremonies to the archbishop from 1997-2008.

In 2011, he was appointed vicar general of the archdiocese, sharing the office with Bishop Edward M. Rice until the bishop’s appointment as head of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri, in 2016.

In his statement, the bishop-elect said he has “a great love for the Church in St. Louis, and relying on the example of the previous auxiliary bishops of St. Louis, who served so faithfully, I, too, look forward to serving the Church in this new role.”

Archbishop Carlson also reflected on the appointment, saying in his own March 7 statement that on behalf of all the clergy, religious, and laity in the archdiocese, “I want to offer our congratulations and thanks to Bishop-elect Rivituso for accepting the Holy Father’s call to continue his service to our local church in this new leadership role as auxiliary bishop.”

Msgr. Rivituso will be ordained a bishop May 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. For his episcopal motto he has chosen the phrase “Caritas Christi Urget Nos,” which means, “The Love of Christ Impels Us.”

Vatican event to highlight key role of women in peace-building

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 06:05

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2017 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- To mark International Women's Day, the Vatican invited women from across the globe to discuss not only their work as peacemakers in a conflict-filled world, but their contributions to the Church as well.

“Women understand, intuitively and by experience, that other people need their attention,” Dr. Scilla Elworthy, co-founder of the organization “Rising Women, Rising World,” told CNA March 6.

This intuition is seen concretely in how women interact with their children, their families and the communities they are a part of, she said. This ability “is what makes them such incredible peacemakers and peacebuilders: that ability to step into the shoes of the other in compassion, and to actually listen.”

“You'll notice that some women have this lovely presence that makes them very alive and very engaged and engaging,” which isn't just the result of their intuition, but also of the five characteristics of what she called “feminine intelligence.”

A term coined by Elworthy and her organization, feminine intelligence, or, as she calls it, “FQ,” is something that represents the specific qualities that stand out in women, but that men can learn through observation and practice.

Defined by Elworthy, “feminine intelligence” first of all consists of compassion, as well as inclusivity, referring to the sense that “no one is left out.”

Another quality is nurturing, which means “looking after (and) caring for” people, she said. Finally, the characteristic that stands out for Elworthy as the most important is the ability to really listen to others.

“We all think we’re good listeners, but most of us are not,” she said, adding that “that’s the greatest gift we can give to another person, is to hear them, and it's the fastest, most effective way to resolve conflicts.”

“To listen to the person we're in conflict with, feed back to them what they've said, check if they've got it right, and then ask them to do the same with us” is one of the most secure ways to end misunderstandings and confrontations, she said.

Elworthy was one of four panelists at a March 6 press conference on the Vatican's annual Voices of Faith (VoF) women's conference, held every year on March 8 to coincide with International Women's Day.

First held in 2014, the VoF conference was established in response to Pope Francis' call to “broaden the space within the Church for a more incisive feminine presence.”

Gathering women from around the world, this year's VoF will take place at the Vatican's Casina Pio IV and will gather women from around the world, including Syria and Burundi, to highlight the role women play in building a culture of peace within a world at conflict.

In her comments to CNA, Elsworthy, who is not Catholic but will be a panelist for a discussion on the topic of “Building Effective Leadership for Peace,” said the unique qualities women have at times risk of being lost in a society which, at various levels, often pushes them to be more like men.

“In corporate life, women are definitely expected to adopt a male, aggressive, competitive (attitude) and it doesn't suit them, they get very stressed,” Elsworthy said, noting that “a lot of them are packing it in, they don't like it.”

Politics is another field that can be “very harsh” for women, she said, explaining that women need to look for what she called a “deep inner power of the feminine,” but which is “not feminism.”

Instead, for Elsworthy this “feminine power” involves the five characteristics of her notion of feminine intelligence as well as “also the ability to self-inspect.”

This, she said, is where religion comes in, “because all the great religious traditions...demand that we spend time every day in silence.”

Also present at the news conference was Marguerite Barankitse, founder of the Maison Shalom foundation, which she established in response to the aftermath of the 1972 and 1993 genocides of both the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Burundi as a means of ending the country’s cycle of violence.

In comments to journalists, Barankitse said that for her, even while the mass killings of Tutsis were taking place in 1993, being a Christian and going to Church “was more important than being Tutsi.”

She recounted that at one point during the genocide she had gone to the archbishop’s house in her village to seek refuge, thinking that because of Christianity’s emphasis on forgiveness, members of her parish community would be more balanced, but instead found that the people were filled with hatred.

After this experience and seeing the prejudice coursing through the country at the time, Barankitse said she decided to become teacher after genocide, because in doing so “I can teach children love and compassion.”

Barankitse said that some 60 percent of her family were killed by Hutus during the genocide, but that instead of retaliating, she wanted to establish the Shalom foundation in order to “create a new generation.”

Chantal Gotz, founder and organizer of VoF, also spoke at the news conference, telling journalists that part of the reason for establishing the organization, in addition to giving women a platform in the Church to highlight their contributions, was to break a somewhat negative image of the Church when it comes to women.

When VoF was founded, she said, a journalist had mentioned to her that while more space needed to be created for women in the Church, particularly when it comes to leadership roles, “we have no idea what Catholic women are doing in the Church.”

“The fact was also that four years ago, the image of the Catholic Church was always viewed in a quite negative way, nothing was highlighted on what is the Church doing in a positive way,” she said, adding that they are hoping to “bring new stories” to light showing what women already do.

Media is key in sharing these stories, she said, explaining that they hope to “highlight the positive, not just in Catholic press, but we also need secular press to spread the message of what women are doing and the great work that they’re already doing.”

Kerry Robinson, founding executive director and global ambassador of the Leadership Roundtable, was also present at the news conference. Founded in 2005 after the sex abuse crisis broke, the roundtable is made up of professionals from various fields and is dedicated to promoting best practices in the fields of management, finances and human resources in the Church.

In her comments to journalists, Robinson said she sees Pope Francis as “a reason to be hopeful” given his emphasis on mercy, the poor and his general closeness to people.

When it comes to women, she said one of the “signature motivations” for work of the roundtable is to ensure that their daughters and other young women have more of a voice and a stronger place in the future.

However, she said the push for women’s priestly ordination (which continues to be advocated for despite the fact that Pope Francis has already definitively closed the door) can be distracting from other initiatives that actually help women.

“The ordination question stops every other creative idea that could be implemented right away and nothing happens,” she said, explaining that “unless we bracket it,” none of the ideas for how to enhance the role of women in the present will be possible.

In her comments, Gotz said that finding ways to highlight the role of women and build them up within the Church is something that everyone should be responsible for, not just Pope Francis.

“We expect a lot from just from one person, from Pope Francis, and he was calling to all of us to bring in ideas of new initiatives,” she said, and pointed to VoF as an example.

The organization has not only enjoyed strong success, but also has the support of the Pope, she said, stressing that “we have to trust and we can support him in bringing in new ideas and not expecting that he has to change all of it by himself.”

Similarly, Barankitse said many wait for Pope Francis to act, “but what are the women doing?”

If we constantly wait for something to come “on a silver platter, we will never get it,” she said, adding that “it’s up to us women to support this extraordinary Pope, who is a blessing for our century, and we stand tall.”

But for Robinson, the discussion limited to just women, but involves the laity as a whole, including lay men, whose presence is also frequently missing from within the Vatican ranks.

She told journalists that as far as the Roundtable goes, it’s primarily a movement “to help the Church leaders, ordained and religious, avail themselves of the talent of laity, and that is very intentionally women and men.”

“That’s really our signature: to recognize that the talent and expertise of lay Catholics is an under-utilized resource that the Church can benefit from.”

In comments to CNA, Robinson said the “diversity” of having men and women work together “is a gift, and often we tend not to ensure that there’s true diversity at the tables of deliberation and decision-making.”

“Leadership Roundtable is about helping Church leaders avail themselves of the talent of laity, whether it’s laity who are CEO’s or captains of industry, or its emerging leaders like the talented young adults who are in colleges all over the world who love the Church and want to continue in a meaningful leadership way,” she said.

She stressed that “in no way would I want just women to be running things,” but instead it ought to be “our collective wisdom and experience that matters. It informs a better discussion and a better outcome.”

However, Robinson said she’s happy to see women “claiming their own” and stepping up in leadership roles in various sectors and professions, but noted that there’s still “a long way to go.”

Particularly in the Catholic Church, she said, opportunities need to be sought which ensure that “women and men together are seen as leaders, contributing to the discussion, being models of faith and excellence for younger generations.”

Do you read the Bible as often as you check your phone? Francis asks

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 18:22

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2017 / 05:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis said if we want to fight against the temptation of sin, we must be familiar with the Word of God – treating the Bible more like how we treat our cellphone.

“During the forty days of Lent, as Christians we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and address the spiritual battle against evil with the power of the Word of God,” he said March 5. “For this you have to become familiar with the Bible, read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it.”

“Someone said: what would happen if we treated the Bible like we treat our cell phone? If we always carried it with us; or at least the small pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims before leading the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, drawing a stark comparison between the attention we give our cellphones and the attention we give Scripture, for example, always taking it with us, and going back if we forget it at home.

“You forget you mobile phone – oh! I do not have it, I go back to look for it; if you read the messages of God contained in the Bible as we read the messages of the phone…” he said.

The Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, which tells about the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Satan.

The episode comes at a specific point, he said, soon after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River but before his public prosecution.

“He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God descended upon Him, the Father from heaven declared him ‘my beloved Son’ (Matt. 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission,” he said.

But first he must go up against the Enemy, Satan, who presents him with three temptations. “By means of this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation – because he knows that in this way evil will be defeated,” the Pope said.

But the Word of God is like a shield against the poisonous arrows of the devil, Francis said. Jesus doesn’t use just any words – he uses the words of God, and in this way, the Son, full of the Holy Spirit, emerges victorious from the desert.”

This is what we must do against the temptations of the devil, the Pope said. The comparison between the Bible and our cellphones “is strange, but sobering.”

“In effect, if we had the Word of God always in our heart, no temptation could turn us away from God and no obstacle could deflect us from the path of goodness,” he stressed. We would know how “to win” against the daily temptations within and around us.

“We would be better able to live a resurrected life in the Spirit, accepting and loving our brothers, especially the most vulnerable and needy, and even our enemies.”

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, “the perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust to his will,” to help us during this Lent to listen to the Word of God in the Bible and “to make a real change of heart,” he concluded.

“And, please, do not forget – do not forget! – What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treat our cellphone. Think about this. The Bible always with us, close to us!”

Pope Francis: Education is key to the renewal of sacred music

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 22:25

Vatican City, Mar 4, 2017 / 09:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Saturday that while liturgical music has often struggled to live up to the quality and beauty the mystery of the Eucharist requires, we can promote its renewal by investing in a solid musical education for clergy and laity.    
 
“Certainly the encounter with modernity and the introduction of the languages spoken in the Liturgy stirred up many problems, of languages, forms, and genres” he said March 4. “Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations.”
 
“For this the various actors in this field, musicians and composers, conductors and singers of choirs, liturgical animators, can make a major contribution to the renewal, especially quality, of sacred music and liturgical chant.”
 
The Pope spoke to participants at the end of an international conference on Sacred Music held March 2-4, titled “Music and the Church: worship and culture 50 years after Musicam sacram.”
 
Organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education in collaboration with the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm, it looked at sacred music 50 years after the Second Vatican Council.
 
“Half a century after the Instruction of Musicam sacrum, the conference wanted to elaborate, in an interdisciplinary and ecumenical perspective, the current relationship between sacred music and contemporary culture,” Francis noted.  
 
“Of great importance, it was also a reflection on the aesthetic and musical education of both the clergy and religious and the laity engaged in the pastoral life, and more directly in the choirs.”
 
The Church has a great responsibility toward liturgical music, the Pope continued, because it deals with the sacred mystery of the Eucharist, and that sacred music, to that order, must balance the past and present in a way that invites full participation and lifts the congregation’s hearts to God.
 
The “dual mission” of the Church, Francis said, “is, on the one hand, to safeguard and promote the rich and varied heritage inherited from the past, using it with balance in mind and avoiding the risk of a nostalgic vision” that becomes a sort of “archaeology.”
 
On the other hand, we have to also ensure that sacred music and liturgical chant don’t ignore “the artistic and musical languages of modernity.”
 
All those responsible for liturgical music, on whatever level, “must know how,” he said, “to embody and translate the Word of God into songs, sounds, harmonies that make the hearts of our peers vibrate, creating even an appropriate emotional climate, that puts in order the faith and raises reception and full participation in the mystery that it celebrates.”
 
“Active and conscious participation” in the liturgy constitutes being able to “enter deeply” into the mystery of God made present in the Eucharist: “thanks in particular to the religious silence and ‘musicality of language with which the Lord speaks to us,’” he quoted his homily at Casa Santa Marta Dec. 12, 2013.
 
Quoting from the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Pope Francis said that “Liturgical action is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song…and with the participation of the people.”
 
He highlighted the document’s emphasis on the importance of “active, conscious, full” participation by the entire faithful, quoting that the “true solemnity of liturgical action does not depend so much from a more ornate form of singing and a more magnificent ceremony than on its worthy and religious celebration.”
 
To promote this requires “a proper musical education…in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas,” he said.
 
Concluding, he thanked all of those who participated in the conference for their commitment to sacred music, and asked for the blessing of the Virgin Mary, “who in the Magnificat sang the merciful holiness of God.”
 
“I encourage you to not lose sight of this important goal: to help the liturgical assembly and the people of God to perceive and participate, with all the senses, physical and spiritual, in the mystery of God.”

Pope Francis is going on retreat – and you can join in

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 19:35

Vatican City, Mar 4, 2017 / 06:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Pope Francis leaves Sunday to begin his annual Lenten retreat, Fr. Giulio Michelini, the priest leading this year’s spiritual exercises, said he hopes Christians around the world will be inspired to join in.

“I will be grateful to all those that are listening to us, that these exercises will be shared by all who believe in Jesus Christ,” Fr. Michelini told CNA. “We can do them together.”

“I know that people will go to work, will go to school, will be busy during these days,” he said, but “we can read the Passion according to Matthew's Gospel, and that can be a way to pray to the Holy Spirit so that the Church will be more united.”

Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia will make their annual five-day spiritual exercises retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a city located some 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, it is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

This year's retreat, which runs March 5-10, will be led by Fr. Giulio Michelini, a Franciscan of the Seraphic Province of the Friars Minor of Umbria.

He said that his preaching for the week will be an in-depth examination and reflection on the Gospel of Matthew, starting with the Last Supper and moving through the Passion to the Resurrection.

“I will try to go deep into the Jesus that the disciples saw and followed,” he said. “So there will be a reflection on the humanity of Jesus,” as well as a meditation on relationships.

Most importantly, the retreat “will be a time of restoration,” Fr. Michelini said. “We will quit working, talking, doing the usual things that the Pope, Bishops and Cardinals, and households do.”

They will pray, and there will be time to walk around the beautiful grounds and lake outside the retreat house, he said, “a time to quit, to stop and to reflect.”

This is the fourth consecutive year the Pope and Curial members have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the pontiff going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago under the pontificate of Paul XI, it was customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome, true to his background as a Jesuit.

This time of Lent, Fr. Michelini said, is a good period to slow down and to reflect on our spiritual lives and how they may be in need of enrichment. “It is helpful to remember that we are only human,” he said. “We need to eat, we need people to help us too.”

“And so the 40 days are a way for us to reflect not only on the poor, but also how we are poor, in a different sense.”

Especially in wealthy Western countries, where we have enough food and money, we don’t necessarily know what it is like to experience need, he said.

“Fasting and praying is not only a way for those who believe to be more in touch with God, and to have the same experience that Jesus did in the desert, but it's also a way to be more human. Because we normally have everything.”

 

Pope Francis seeks silence, reflection on annual retreat

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 22:01

Vatican City, Mar 3, 2017 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia leave Sunday to begin their annual five-day retreat on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius; since 2014, held at the Casa Divin Maestro retreat house.

Casa Divin Maestro, nestled away in the woods on Lake Albano, is just a short distance from the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo in the town of Ariccia, some 16 miles outside of Rome.

One view from the retreat house encompasses the lake and the town of Castel Gandolfo; even the dome of St. Peter's Basilica is visible in the distance.

The peace and serenity of the location reflects the mood Pope Francis wants to set for the entire retreat, Fr. Olinto Crespi told CNA.

“We know that the Pope does not rotate much: room, chapel, dining room. He speaks very little, even at the table. There is always a background of music and he himself stays silent,” he said. It is like “the real exercises of the school of St. Ignatius.”

Head of the household at Casa Divin Maestro, Fr. Crespi is one of five Pauline priests acting as “hosts” of the Holy Father and the Curia during the retreat. They are all “new” he said, so it will be the first time for all of them hosting the Holy Father.

The practice of the Pope going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago under Pope Paul XI. The spiritual exercises were held in the Vatican, but beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

“Doing the exercises in the Vatican, at the time the meditation was given, each prelate went into his office. Therefore the Jesuit Pope wanted the exercises to be made in an atmosphere of recollection and prayer and they will do only the exercises,” Fr. Crespi said.

The five-day long retreat will include preaching on the Gospel of Matthew by Franciscan Fr. Giulio Michelini, selected by the Pope to preach for the occasion.

A typical day during the retreat begins with Mass followed by breakfast, Fr. Crespi said. They will then return to the chapel for the preaching by Fr. Michelini. After lunch they return to the chapel.

While many other groups that hold events at the house will gather in the auditorium, Fr. Crespi said that Pope Francis “wants to be alone in the chapel.”

“And this says further the climate that Francis wants to create,” he said. Even the Pauline Fathers of the retreat house “are asked not to disturb.”

The house has a good telephone line and good Wi-Fi, Fr. Crespi said, so there may be some time for cardinals to do a little work during the week if needed, but “the Pope himself sees very little. He is very reserved.”

Before Francis began going to Casa Divin Maestro for his annual spiritual exercises, the house was not unknown in the Vatican or to cardinals. Fr. Crespi believes that either the Pope heard of the place through word of mouth or perhaps he had even been there himself while still a cardinal.

“Even the Swiss Guards were here for a retreat,” he said. They would go on runs in the woods in the early mornings, which, he joked, “certainly the cardinals do not do.”

 

 

 

How to save biodiversity? Curb wasteful habits, Vatican event says

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 09:02

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference on biodiversity has found that wasteful attitudes when it comes to consumption could be leading to the extinction of certain species, and that changing personal habits and a promoting more equal distribution of the earth’s resources could make the difference.

“We're consuming more than is what available...there's no doubt that in the richer countries in the world, we're wasting an enormous amount and that’s all adding to the total,” Professor Peter Hamilton Raven said March 2.

Part of the reason for this waste, he said, is because “we don't really understand the value of what we're wasting. It appears to be a free commodity, like air, or space or fuel.”

“According to our standard of living we're sucking resources from all over the world,” he said, noting that with the current rate of consumption, half of the world's biodiversity could be extinct by the end of the century.

Based on the science, this hypothesis “is entirely possible if we continue with our greedy and unequal habits,” Raven said, adding that the loss is “something we cannot recover from easily.”

He stressed the importance learning to value the resources available to us, saying that to prevent the loss of biodiversity can't happen “without having exhibited the reverence for life which must be a characteristic of our species.”

Raven, a professor at the Missouri Botanical Garden and research institute, spoke at a news briefing on a Feb. 27-March 1 study week on biological extinction, subtitled “How to Save the Natural World on Which We Depend.”

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the main aim of the gathering was to “review what we know about biological extinction, its causes and the ways in which we might limit its extent,” according to the final March 2 statement released by participants.

Alongside Raven at the briefing was Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Professor Werner Arber, President of the Academy, and Professor Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.

In comments to journalists, Dasgupta echoed Raven’s concern about waste, saying that when it comes to biodiversity, “an enormous proportion of lifeforms are invisible...the microbes, the soil, the decomposers” and critters that we don’t typically think about.  

“If you are only looking at the final goods and services,” he said, “you forget” the resources that go into producing them.

Particularly in urban areas that are more “detached” from the natural world, a person might see an earthworm crawling around on the ground, “but you forget how important they are,” he said, adding that the purpose of the conference was to take a look at some of the invisible organisms that might have gone missing.

For much of mankind, particularly in developed countries, “we think there is an unlimited pool of resources so we can take what we like,” he said, but stressed that this is not the case.

In their final statement, participants concluded that that based on comparisons with the fossil record, the current loss of species rate “is approximately 1,000 times the historical rate, with perhaps a quarter of all species in danger of extinction now and as many as half of them may be gone by the end of the present century.”

Due to man's dependency on living organisms for necessities such as food and medicine to climate and even beauty, these losses “will inflict incalculable damage on our common prospects unless we control them.”

In their discussion, participants said the danger isn’t isolated to the extinction of species, but also effects the how the earth functions in general.

The “enormous increase” in human activity in the past 200 years alone not only threatens various species, but the use of fossil fuels “is putting huge strains on the earth’s capacity to function sustainably,” they said, and citing rising sea levels, higher global temperatures and ocean acidification as examples.

Discussion also focused at length on the topic of inequality, particularly the disparity between rich versus developing countries, linking the issue of poverty to an imbalance in consumption which results in the endangerment of certain species.

Participants argued that the 19 percent of the world's richest people use “well over” half of the world's resources, and because of this, wealthier nations are “substantially responsible for the increase in global warming and, consequently, the decrease in biodiversity.”

On the other hand, they said the world's poor, “who do not enjoy the benefits of fossil fuels, are indirectly responsible for deforestation and some destruction of biodiversity, because their actions take place within a world economic system dominated by demands made by the wealthy, who have much higher overall consumption levels without paying any externalities to conserve global biodiversity.”

Given the vast difference between the rich and the poor on a global plane, participants suggested “wealth redistribution” as one positive action that could be taken.

“Ending extreme poverty, which would cost about $175 billion or less than 1 percent of the combined income of the richest countries in the world, is one major route to protecting our global environment and saving as much biodiversity as possible for the future,” they said, adding that this can be done differently in individual poor regions.

The panel present at the news briefing also addressed the point of population growth, saying conference participants across the board recognized that the loss of biodiversity and the negative effects of climate change don’t have to do with the number of people on the planet, so much as their habits and behavior.

In comments to journalists, Archbishop Sorondo said that throughout the conference, “what was clear is that the population is not the cause of climate change, but it’s the human activity and use of fossil fuels that produces climate change.”

“Consequently the population isn’t the cause, but human activity, which uses those resources,” he said, adding that it’s not a question “of how many human beings, but the activity and use of the materials consumed.”

“So today, to conserve biodiversity and to have an integral environment, this depends on human activity,” he said, and stressed the importance of educating families on the issue.

Dasgupta echoed the statement, encouraging people “not to translate the sustainable output” that nature offers as solely up to human numbers, because a sustainable number of people “depends on the standard of living, the quality of life that we have on average.”

Consumption is a key to this point, he said, adding that the disparity between rich and poor compounds the issue. On this point, “growth doesn’t seem to change the distribution amongst us,” he said, adding that “if the distribution doesn’t change it’s as if you’re becoming richer.”

In his comments, Raven noted that while the earth can’t sustain “an infinite” number of people, “no one really knows the number of people the world will really support.”

But when it comes to the issue of consumption, Raven said a sense of solidarity, “love and charity” ought to guide our actions, encouraging people to not just care about the future of “their own children and grandchildren,” but also “for others.”

Pope Francis' latest prayer video spotlights Christian persecution

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 00:47

Vatican City, Mar 2, 2017 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his prayer video for March, Pope Francis prays for persecuted Christians, asking for the prayers and aid of the whole Church toward those mistreated on the basis of their beliefs.

“How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!” the Pope says in the video.

Released March 2, the video shows people from different countries being photographed as if arrested, then holding up signs reading “Protestant,” “Catholic,” and "Orthodox.”

“They are persecuted and killed because they are Christians,” the Pope says. “Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong.”

The video continues with real footage of destroyed churches in the Middle East, followed by clips of adults and children praying in a church, at home, and at a school, and people packing up food at a food bank, as the Pope asks: “how many of you pray for persecuted Christians?”

“Do it with me, that they may be supported by the prayers and material help of all the Churches and communities.”

An initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and mark the first time the Roman Pontiff’s monthly prayer intentions have been featured on video.

The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.

Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.

According to a report released in January, global persecution of Christians has risen for the fourth year in a row and is on a “rapid rise” in Asia.

The advocacy group Open Doors UK warned in its annual report on Christian persecution, released Jan. 12, that “Persecution levels have been rising rapidly across Asia and the Indian subcontinent, driven by extreme religious nationalism which is often tacitly condoned, and sometimes actively encouraged, by local and national governments.”

Overall persecution of Christians has risen from last year, Open Doors UK noted, stating that “Christians are being killed for their faith in more countries than before.”

“Christians living in these countries need the support of their family, the body of Christ, to help them stand firm in their faith,” they stated.

Pope Francis has a special message this Lent, and here it is

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 22:54

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for Lent 2017, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that they should heed the Scriptures and treat each human person they encounter as a gift.

“Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor,” he said. “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”

Scripture is also a gift, the Pope said in his message, which was released last October to help Catholics across the globe prepare for the 2017 Lenten season.

In his message, Pope Francis reflected on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In that story, a poor man named Lazarus lives on the doorstep of a wealthy man who ignores him. When they die, Lazarus rests in paradise, while the rich man suffers.

Although Lazarus is “practically invisible to the rich man,” Pope Francis said, we should see him as a concrete person, whom God views as a priceless treasure.

“Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift,” the pontiff said. “A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change.”

In this way, the parable invites us to see each person as a blessing, he said, and Lent is a particularly fitting time to open our door to all those in need and the face of Christ in them.

“Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”

Another important lesson from the parable is how sin can blind us, Pope Francis said. He pointed to the rich man’s ostentatious displays of wealth, saying, “In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.”

“Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol,” the Pope warned. “Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.”

“For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego,” the Holy Father warned.

“The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.”

The end of the parable offers an additional lesson, the Pope continued. In the afterlife, the rich man calls out to Abraham from his place of torment. This is the first mention of the fact that he belongs to the people of God, for during his life, “his only God was himself.”

When the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still living, Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them…If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

Thus, we ultimately see that the problem of the rich man is a “failure to heed God’s word,” Pope Francis said. “As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor.”

“The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.”

As we start the journey of Lent, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we have a chance at a new beginning in our own lives, the Pope noted.

“This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord,” he said, adding that Christ waits for us patiently, ready to forgive us when we fall short.

“Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor,” he concluded. “Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”

 

Pope on Ash Wednesday: Feeling suffocated by sin? Let God save you

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 22:43

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 09:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Ash Wednesday Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the bad habits, negativity, and sin present in our lives which cause us to be choked off from the life-giving breath of God – supernatural grace.

“The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope,” he said March 1. “To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.”

Marking the start of the Lenten season, Pope Francis prayed the Stations of the Cross at St. Anselm Church in Rome before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the celebration of Mass, benediction, and the imposition of ashes.

Francis said that as we set out from the church, the mark of the ashes reminds us of our origin: “we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust.”

“True,” he said, “yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so.”

“He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts.”

We get so accustomed to this strangulation, the Pope said, that it becomes normal for us, and we fail to notice that we are breathing air “in which hope has dissipated,” and only “the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility,” remain.

Lent is a time of saying ‘no’ to all of this, he said: “No to the spiritual asphyxia” of indifference, of trivializing life, of excluding people, and of looking for God while ignoring the “wounds of Christ present in the wounds” of others.

“Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most,” he said.

It is also a time to examine our manner of praying, giving alms, and fasting, he said, to be sure that we aren’t doing it for the wrong reason, like to feel good about ourselves.

Instead, Francis said, “Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew?”

Moreover, it is “the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity,” he said.

It isn’t a time to “rend our garments before the evil all around us,” he continued. Instead, we are called to “make room” in our lives “for all the good we are able to do.”

“Lent is a time of compassion,” the Pope concluded, “when, with the Psalmist, we can say: ‘Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit,’ so that by our lives we may declare your praise, and our dust – by the power of your breath of life – may become a ‘dust of love.’”

Abuse survivor resigns from commission for protection of minors

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 19:42

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 06:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the decision of clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins to resign from her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was announced, citing frustrations with “a lack of cooperation” by the Curia as leading factor.

In a March 1 statement coinciding with the announcement of Collins’ resignation, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the commission, voiced “our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the commission.”

“We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the commission,” he said.

A laywoman from Ireland, Collins had been one of two clerical abuse survivors tapped to join the commission when it was established in March 2014, though plans to found it had been announced shortly before, in December 2013.

Of the original nine founding members of the commission, Collins was one of two clerical sex abuse survivors, alongside Peter Saunders from the UK.

However, Sanders was asked to take “a leave of absence” by the other members in February 2016, making Collins the only active abuse survivor serving on the commission until her resignation.

In a March 1 communique announcing her decision, the commission praised Collins as someone who has “consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of the victims/survivors to be a priority for the Church.”

The communique said that in her resignation letter to Pope Francis, she cited her “frustration at a lack of cooperation with the commission by other offices in the Roman Curia” as a reason for stepping down.

However, she has agreed to continue working with the commission “in an educational role” given her “exceptional teaching skills” and the impact of her testimony as an abuse survivor.

Pope Francis, the communique read, accepted her resignation “with deep appreciation for her work” on behalf of other survivors of he has often called the “scourge” of clerical sex abuse.  

In his personal statement, Cardinal O’Malley said that when the commission gathers for their plenary meeting next month they will discuss the concerns that Collins brought up.

He voiced his gratitude to her for her willingness to continue working with the commission, specifically “in the education of church leaders,” including upcoming courses for new bishops and departments of the Holy See.

In comments to CNA, Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is a fellow of member of the commission, said he “can understand and I certainly respect” Collins’ frustration.

“We can only be grateful that she has been with the commission for almost three years now. I think the commission will certainly cherish all that she has done for us and with us,” he said, but noted that “what she describes as resistance within the Curia” was perhaps “too testing” for her.

The message that everyone needs to be on the same page regarding abuse prevention and best practices is something that “has not happed instantaneously, and, honestly, I do not expect it to happen, especially if you look around at the global reality represented in the Catholic Church.”

“(So) I can understand that she is frustrated about that,” he said, and pointed to different perspectives  various cultures take on the issue throughout the world.

“Canonically we're on the same page, but we are not on the same page in regards to attitudes” in terms of “with how much energy, with how much determination we deal with cases of abuse that have happened, and with prevention,” he said.

“If you look into the Church worldwide there are differences that are culturally bound, and, in the wider sense, also politically bound. So this is what is difficult to bear for a survivor.”

Zollner acknowledged that part of this difference in approach is also found within Curia, as mentioned by Collins in her letter of resignation.

“There are, as you can expect in any organization and in any institution, there are pushbacks, there are setbacks,” he said, but clarified that “this is not the Curia” as a whole.

He said they have had invitations to speak at different dicasteries and "we have already received new invitations." Collins herself "says in her statement that she will continue to work with us, so if she thought it was the whole Curia then she would not work in this effort to educate those in the Curia,” the priest added. 

He said part of the “pushback” Collins referred to was likely coming from specific offices or “the persons in the offices.”  He stressed that he has “no idea” as to the specific cases she is referring to, but it could be along these lines.

Regardless of Collins’ resignation, Zollner said that “we need to continue working steadily as we have done.”

“The voice of survivors at the moment is not represented by persons, but certainly by all of the members’ experiences,” he said, noting that all of the members, including O’Malley, have met with survivors on several occasions, “so it’s not that the voice of survivors is not present anymore.”

When asked if the commission was planning to look for more survivor members to join, Zollner said he doubts there will be any changes to the commission’s current composition before the end of their term at the close of 2017, but the topic will likely come up during their plenary meeting next month.

Even before Collins decided to resign, the commission had planned to discuss “the future form and composition of this commission” during the plenary, he said, adding that they will likely have a proposal by March 24, when the plenary begins.

He referred to the testimonies given Thursday by commission members Kathleen McCormack and Sheila Hollins before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse saying the Pontifical commission is underfunded, having the resources of a diocese rather than an organization that operates throughout the globe.

While funding has “always” been a topic of discussion, Zollner said this will likely also be on the table for discussion during their upcoming plenary.

Lent isn’t just about penance – it’s also a time of hope, Pope Francis says

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 18:29

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Ash Wednesday Pope Francis said that while Lent is certainly a time of mortification, it’s also a journey of hope that leads to the joy of Christ’s Resurrection – a journey that requires both daily sacrifice and love.

In his catechesis for the general audience March 1, the Pope likened our journey during the 40 days of Lent to the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert following their “exodus” from slavery in Egypt.

“And these 40 days are also for each of us an exit from slavery, from sin, to freedom, to a meeting with the Resurrected Christ,” he said.

“A path that’s a bit challenging, as is just, because love is challenging, but it’s a path full of hope. In fact, I would say more: the Lenten exodus is the path in which hope itself is formed.”

During their time of wandering, God never forgot his people or his promise to bring them to the Promised Land, Francis said. But even so, in the face of trials on their journey, at times they were tempted to return to Egypt.

“All of us know the temptation to go backwards, right?” he said. “We all know it. But the Lord remains faithful and that poor people, guided by Moses, arrived to the Promised Land. This whole journey is made in hope.”

The Pope explained how the celebration of Passover by Jesus became, in a sense, his exodus, since it was by his subsequent suffering and death that he opened to us the path to heaven.

“To open this road, this passageway, Jesus had to shed his glory, humble himself, make himself obedient to death and to death on the cross. Opening to us the path to eternal life cost him all of his blood, and thanks to him we have been saved from slavery and sin,” he said.

This doesn’t make reaching heaven easy, however. “Our salvation is certainly his gift, but, because it’s a story of love, it requires our ‘yes’ and our participation,” the Pope said, “as shown to us by our Mother Mary and after her all of the Saints.”

“The fatigue of crossing the desert – all the trials, temptations, illusions, mirages – all this is to forge a strong, steadfast hope, on the model of the Virgin Mary, who in the midst of the darkness of the Passion and death of her son continued to believe and hope in his resurrection, in the victory of God’s love.”

As a preparation for Easter, Lent “takes light from the Paschal mystery toward which it is oriented…” So although Christ has gone before us, rejecting all the temptations of the Devil, we have to still do our part, which means returning to the sacraments and allowing ourselves to shed sin and be renewed, the Pope said.

“Each step, each fatigue, each fall and each round, everything has meaning only inside the design of the salvation of God, who wants for his people life and not death, joy and not pain.”

“With a heart open to this horizon, we enter Lent,” he concluded. “Feeling that we are part of the holy people of God, we begin with joy this path of hope.”

Pope Francis: God gives all to those who surrender all

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 05:07

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA).- God pours out all of Himself on His people, said Pope Francis on Tuesday, explaining that God gives everything to those who surrender everything.

“Here is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come,” said the Pope, repeating the words of the Gospel of Mark in his daily homily.

Speaking to those gathered at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope reflected on the rich, young man in the Gospel who leaves saddened after Jesus asks him to give away all his possessions. He said the man wanted to follow Jesus, but chose money as a master above God.

Peter then asks Jesus what will happen to himself and the disciples who have given up everything, and the Pope said “it’s almost as if Peter is passing Jesus the bill.” But Jesus ensures that God’s gift will be overflowing – whoever gives everything will receive everything, because it is impossible for God to give less than everything.

Pope Francis said that when God gives everything, He gives fully of himself. The fullness emptied out on the cross, he explained, is the fullness of God. He said this fullness emptied out is the gift of God, but this Christian way of receiving is not an easy path.

Reiterating the words in Sirach, the Pope offered directions to following the Christian way: “pay homage to the Lord, and do not spare your freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.”

Happiness was removed from the face of the rich man in the Gospel, said the Pope, adding that the man had walked away glum and downtrodden because he was unable to receive the fullness of the cross.

In contrast, Pope Francis concluded, are the examples of the saints who prove their complete receptivity with faces and eyes full of happiness. He repeated the words of the Chilean saint Alberto Hurtado, and asked that we may all receive the grace to repeat “I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy,” even in the face of poverty and suffering.

 

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