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Pope: Don't be afraid to call on the Father – he won't abandon you

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 16:43

Vatican City, Jun 7, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith is that we have a God we are taught to call ‘Father’ – a father who never leaves us and who we can call on in prayer at any moment.

“The entire mystery of Christian prayer is summed up here, in this word: to have the courage to call God by the name of Father,” the Pope said June 7.

He pointed to Chapter 11 of the Gospel of Luke, in which the evangelist provides a somewhat shortened version of the “Our Father” prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and which begins with the simple invocation: “Father.”

The fatherhood of God, which Francis called “the source of our hope,” formed the basis of his general audience catechesis. Addressing crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope  immediately recalled the parable of the “merciful father,” also known as the Prodigal Son.

The father in this story, he said, does not punish his son for his arrogance, but still gives him his share of the inheritance, later welcoming him back home even after he had squandered it.

“The father does not apply the criteria of human justice,” the Pope said, “but first he feels the need to forgive, and with his embrace makes the child understand that in all that long absence he missed him; he is painfully missed by his father's love.”

“God is Father, Jesus says, but not in the human way, because there is no father in this world who would behave like the protagonist of this parable,” the Pope said, adding “What an unfathomable mystery is a God that nourishes this kind of love towards his children!”

However, despite this familiarity, to call God by the name of “Father” is not necessarily something we merit or understand, he said. In fact, sometimes it seems like we should use only the highest titles to address God, because it would be more respectful of his divinity.

“Instead, invoking him as ‘Father’ puts us in a relationship of trust with Him, as a child who turns to his dad, knowing he is loved and cared for by him,” Francis said, adding that despite the grand mystery and greatness of God, which can often make us feel small, we are not afraid.

This concept isn't easy “to welcome in our human soul,” he said, noting that even the women who after the Resurrection first found the angel and the empty tomb of Jesus ran away, “because they were filled with fright and astonishment.”

“But Jesus reveals to us that God is a good Father, and He tells us, ‘Do not be afraid,'” Francis said, adding that perhaps this is the reason the Apostle Paul doesn’t translate into Greek the Aramaic word, “abba.”  

This phrase, he said, is “a term more intimate than ‘father,’” and is sometimes translated as “papa” or “daddy.”

Going on, Pope Francis said the Gospel reveals to us that no matter what, God the Father is there for us. When we need help, Jesus tells us to turn to the Father with confidence, never closing ourselves off, or becoming resigned, he said.

“All of our necessities, from the most obvious and every day – such as food, health and work, to being forgiven and sustained in temptations – are not the mirror of our solitude: there is a Father who is always there looking with love, and who surely does not abandon us,” he said.

The Pope concluded by making a proposal to the crowd before leading them in praying the ‘Our Father.’

“Each of us has so many problems and needs,” he said. “Let us think a little, in silence, about these problems and these needs. And all together, with confidence and hope, we pray, Our Father...”

Pope Francis warns against flattery and deceit

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 02:24

Vatican City, Jun 6, 2017 / 02:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that truthfulness is the weapon against the temptation of hypocrisy, which destroys the community with lies and flattery.

“The hypocrite is capable of destroying a community. While speaking gently, he ruinously judges a person. He is a killer,” said the Pope during his homily at Mass June 6 at the chapel of the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel passage in which the Pharisees and Herodians, who tried to ensnare Christ with his words, began by flattery.

“The hypocrite always uses language to flatter,” said the Pope, explaining that they will exaggerate the truth, “feeding into one’s vanity.”

He continued to the say that hypocrites are two-faced, and “the language of hypocrisy is the language of deceit, it is the same language the serpent used with Eve.”

He gave an example of a priest he met who “drank up all the flattery,” and he said that flattery is initiated by bad intentions. He said the Pharisees were trying to hide their true intentions, hoping to test Christ by asking him, “is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

However, he said reality and truth are the tools to combat such hypocrisy, and it is Christ who exposes a lie with reality.

“Jesus always responds to hypocrites and ideologists with reality: ‘this is the reality; everything else is either hypocrisy or ideology.’”

He continued to say that “the reality was that the coin carried the image of Caesar.”

Hypocrisy not only destroys community, but he said it also “tears to pieces the personality and the soul of a person.”

Pope Francis ended his homily asking the Lord to strengthen a commitment to truth by the members of the Church.

“Let us ask the Lord to guard us from this vice, to help us be truthful, and if this is not possible to keep silent – but never to be a hypocrite.”

Imams, religious leaders voice 'utter disgust' after London attack

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 17:30

Vatican City, Jun 6, 2017 / 05:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 130 imams and religious leaders throughout the UK have joined voices in strongly condemning recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, calling the acts “cold-blooded murders.”

In a joint statement issued June 5, the imams and other religious leaders said they condemn the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London “in the strongest terms possible.”

Coming from a range of backgrounds across the UK, the signatories said that in “feeling the pain the rest of the nation feels, we have come together to express our shock and utter disgust at these cold-blooded murders.”

In an unprecedented move, the imams who signed the statement also declared that they will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer for the attackers.

Signatories urged fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw the privilege of the prayer because of the “indefensible actions” of the perpetrators, which are “completely at odds with the lofty teachings of Islam.”

Seven people were killed and 48 others injured in London the night of June 3 when three men drove a van into a crowd of people on London Bridge around 10 p.m. local time. The men then went on a stabbing spree in nearby Borough Market, where people were enjoying a night out at restaurants and pubs.

The three men reportedly shouted “this is for Allah” during the attack. The three attackers were shot dead by police within eight minutes of the first emergency call.

According to police, 12 more people have been arrested in connection to the attacks.

Saturday's assault marked the third terror attack in the UK in three months. In March a separate car and knife attack in Westminster left five people dead, and a bombing at an Ariana Grade concert in Manchester May 22, killed 22 people, most of whom were youth.

Such “ruthless violence” is never acceptable, the declaration read, but especially during Ramadan, when Muslims around the world are focused on “prayer, charity and the cultivation of good character.”

This only serves to demonstrate how “utterly misguided and distant the terrorists are” from the Islamic faith, the signatories said, adding that the “reprehensible actions” of the attackers has neither religious legitimacy nor their sympathy.

“Alongside our friends and neighbors, we mourn this attack on our home, society and people, and feel pain for the suffering of the victims and their families,” they said, and prayed “that the perpetrators be judged in accordance with the gravity of their crimes in the hereafter.”

“Their acts and willful dismissal of our religious principles alienates them from any association with our community for whom the inviolability of every human life is the founding principle,” they said, quoting the Qaran.

The signatories also commended the actions of the police and emergency personnel for their courage and “rapid response” the night of the attack.

Closing their statement, the faith leaders said they are praying “for peace and unity, and for all the victims of terror both at home and across the globe, who are targeted, irrespective of their faith.”

Dialogue with Islam, promote the family, Pope urges Consolata Missionaries

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 03:47

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday challenged the Consolata Missionaries to give a “new impetus” to their missions work, including by inculturation of the Gospel, promoting family values, and dialogue with Islam.

“It will be above all your apostolic fervour that will sustain the Christian communities entrusted to you, especially those that have been recently founded,” the Pope said June 5 to the Consolata Missionaries who were gathered at Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

“In the effort of the re-qualification of the style of missionary service, it will be necessary to favour certain significant elements, such as sensitivity to inculturation of the Gospel, and the choice of simple and poor forms of presence among the people. Special attention is due to dialogue with Islam, commitment to the promotion of the dignity of women and family values, and sensitivity to the themes of justice and peace.”

The Consolata Missionaries are a community of religious priests and sisters consecrated to God for the evangelization of peoples, especially wherever the Gospel is not yet known. The communities, founded by the Blessed Giuseppe Allamano in 1901, are holding their 13th General Chapter in Rome this month.

Pope Francis urged the Consolata Missionaries to further their charism and reignite their zeal for evangelization by how they encounter the culture and the mercy of God. He said they must follow the example of Blessed Guiseppe, whose faithfulness was identified by how he used his gifts to evangelize and his dedication to sharing the gospel to all people regardless of race or nationality.

“Let yourselves be continually challenged by the concrete realities with which you come into contact and seek to offer in appropriate ways the witness of charity that the Spirit infuses in your hearts.”

He told the community they are called “to project yourselves with renewed zeal in the work of evangelization, in view of pastoral urgencies and new forms of poverty. While I joyfully thank the Lord for the good that you are doing in the world, I would like to urge you to carry out a careful discernment on the situation of the peoples among whom you perform your evangelizing work.”

He urged them to “never tire of bringing comfort” to those whose lives “are often marked by great poverty and acute suffering”, as in much of Africa and Latin America as an example.

Applauding the fruitfulness of the Consolata Missionaries, he identified the sacrifices made by the order’s men and women, to the point of death: “May their evangelical choice, without reserve, illuminate your missionary effort and be of encouragement for you all to continue with renewed generosity on your special mission in the Church,” he said.

In order to move forward in this mission with renewed generosity, Pope Francis said the Consolata Missionaries must have an increasing awareness of God’s mercy.

“It is necessary to live communion with God with increasingly awareness of the Lord’s mercy that we receive. It is much more important to be aware of how much we are loved by God, than of how we love Him ourselves!”
We should consider first of all the “priority of the gratuitous and merciful love of God,” he said, experiencing “our commitment and our effort as a response.”

“We have a great need always to rediscover the love and mercy of the Lord to develop our familiarity with God. Consecrated persons, inasmuch as they make an effort to conform more perfectly to Christ, are most of all, familiar with God, intimate with Him, those who interact with the Lord with full freedom, and with spontaneity, but also with astonishment at the wonders He performs.”

Religious life can thus “become a journey of the progressive rediscovery of divine mercy, facilitating the imitation of the virtues of Christ and His attitudes … to then bear witness to them to all those you encounter in your pastoral service.”

Invoking the intercession of the Blessed Mother, Pope Francis ended his address with hope that their consecrated lives and the guidelines which will be developed in the General Chapters may lead to a greater encounter with Christ's love, the source of consolation for all humanity.

Pope dedicates June to praying for an end to the arms trade

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 19:42

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2017 / 07:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has been a consistent and vocal personality in condemning the arms trade and urging world leaders to do the same, and he raised his voice on the issue again in his latest prayer video.

Published June 2, the video begins showing two world leaders sitting at a table to sign a join-accord, exchanging copies of the agreement to sign while Pope Francis says that “it's an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade.”

“Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich?” he asks, as images of explosions and gunfire interchange with frames of the leaders shaking hands dripping with blood.

“Let us put an end to this situation,” he said. “Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people.”

The topic is one Pope Francis has spoken out about since the beginning of his pontificate, and which he continues to bring up in any relevant occasion.

In fact, the first line of the video is taken almost verbatim from the Pope's May 2014 speech to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See who presented him with their credentials.

In the speech, Francis spoke about peace, saying “everyone talks about peace (and) everyone claims to want it, (but) the proliferation of weapons of every type leads in the opposite direction.”

He said the arms trade both complicates and distances us from finding solutions to conflicts, especially because “it takes place to a great extent outside the boundaries of the law,” and urged the new ambassadors to work toward eradicating the proliferation of weapons.

The Pope was also outspoken about the topic during his September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, in which he emphasized that Christians must ask “why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”

“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” he said.

Last July, in a video message promoting peace in Syria, he lamented that “while the people suffer, incredible quantities of money are being spent to supply weapons to fighters.”

Some of the arms suppliers “are also among those that talk of peace,” he said. “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”

In his Jan. 22 , 2017, speech to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, he said part of the peace-building process means eradicating the causes of violence and injustice, one of which is the “deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry,” particularly nuclear weapons.

Coincidentally, the Pope's prayer video was published just days before six countries decided to cut diplomatic ties with the Middle-Eastern country of Qatar over it's alleged support or terrorism.

On Monday it was announced that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over the terrorism problem, giving Qatari ambassadors just a few days to leave their countries.

The move was made over allegations that Qatar is backing Islamist groups such as ISIS and AL-Qaeda, providing financial support despite recently joining the U.S.-led coalition against IS. Part of the decision also arose from concern that Qatar is getting too cozy with Iran, the growing regional rival of Saudi Arabia and which presents a significant nuclear threat.

What progress will actually come from the decision to cut ties is unknown, especially since Saudi Arabia itself has also been accused by many neighboring countries of financially supporting ISIS. So while the long-term effects of the decision remain to be seen, the move seems to make Francis' prayer intention all the more timely.

His prayer videos first launched during the Jubilee of Mercy and are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer. They are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.

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.

The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted, youth, women and a swath of other relevant topics in the world today.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are for everyone, Pope Francis says

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 23:04

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2017 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis said that the grace of the Holy Spirit is for everyone – something we must keep in mind as we continue to walk the path toward Christian unity through prayer and good works.

“Share with everyone in the Church Baptism in the Holy Spirit, praise the Lord without ceasing, walk together with Christians of different Churches and Christian communities in prayer and action for the most needy,” Pope Francis said June 3.

The grace of the Holy Spirit “is for the whole Church, not just for some, and none of us is the ‘master’ and all the others the servants. No. We are all serving this current of grace.”

Pope Francis addressed around 50,000 members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement during an ecumenical prayer vigil inside Rome’s Circus Maximus on June 3. The vigil was part of five days of celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the movement.

The May 31-June 4 jubilee was organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

Saturday night’s meeting with Pope Francis, on the eve of Pentecost, was preceded by praise and worship music, readings and testimonies. Papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. also gave a meditation. On stage were leaders of the Charismatic Renewal and representatives of Evangelical, Pentecostal and other Christian churches.

During the encounter, the Pope reminded those present that they are in a privileged place for working toward Christian unity, something for which they should never stop striving.

The most precious gift we have all received, he explained, is our Baptism. “And now the Spirit leads us on the path of conversion that goes through the whole Christian world…”

Additionally, praising God should be accompanied by serving those in need.

“To serve the poorest and the sick, this is what the Church and the Pope are expecting from you, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but from all of you, everyone, all of you who have entered this current of grace!”

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movement is the perfect time, he said, to stop and reflect.

“And I would say to you: It is time to move forward with more force, leaving behind us the dust of time we have left to accumulate, giving thanks for what we have received and facing the new with faith in the action of the Holy Spirit!”

Today, he said, we are gathered in an open-air space, because we are not afraid and because our hearts are open to the promises of the Father. Together, we all profess that “Jesus is Lord.”

People may have come from many different parts of the world, but in the Holy Spirit, we are united, “to announce together the love of the Father for all his children! To announce the Good News to all peoples! To show that peace is possible.”

Showing to the world that peace is possible isn’t always so easy, the Pope continued, “but in the name of Jesus we can prove with our testimony that peace is possible!”

“Jubilee, cheerfulness, joy, fruit of the same action of the Holy Spirit! The Christian either experiences joy in his heart or there is something that does not work. The joy of announcing the Good News of the Gospel!”

Francis also commented on the unity found in the “ecumenism of blood,” a phrase he has used before, in speaking about the number of Christian martyrs there are today. When Christians are killed for their faith, he said, they aren’t asked, “Are you Orthodox? Are you a Catholic? Are you evangelical? Are you Lutheran? Are you a Calvinist?”

“Today, it is more urgent than ever before, the unity of Christians, united by the Holy Spirit, in prayer and action for the weak. Walk together, work together. Love each other,” he said.

“And now we are here and we are many!” he continued. “We have come together to pray together to ask for the coming of the Holy Ghost over each of us to go out into the streets of the city and the world to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”


Pope on Pentecost: Division isn’t from the Holy Spirit

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 17:54

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2017 / 05:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis said that division doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit, who forms the universal Church with both unity and diversity – and we must pray to resist the temptation to encourage division.

The Holy Spirit creates diversity in unity, Pope Francis said June 4, because in every time and place he gives and nurtures different charisms and graces. And he does so in a way that “effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference.”

But there are two temptations we must avoid in order to receive these graces, he warned. One is the temptation to seek diversity without unity, which is what happens when we take sides or get locked in our own way of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than other people or always in the right.

“When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church,” he said. “We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. We become Christians of the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’ before being on the side of Jesus.”

Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Spirit during the celebration of Mass for around 60,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for the Solemnity of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, which fell on June 4 this year.

He explained that another common temptation people can fall into is the opposite: to seek unity without diversity. This makes unity into uniformity: “everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike.”

This kind of unity takes away freedom, Francis said. “But, as Saint Paul says, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor 3:17).”

“So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive his unity, a glance that, leaving personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church,” he continued.

Making this prayer, then we can “accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion.”

We should also pray, he went on, “to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared.”

Pope Francis explained how the Holy Spirit is a “Creator Spirit,” constantly bringing about new things. The readings for Mass, he said, show us two new things in particular that the Spirit creates.

“In the first reading, the Spirit makes of the disciples a new people; in the Gospel, he creates in the disciples a new heart.”

The first is a new people. “On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down from heaven, in the form of ‘divided tongues, as of fire... [that] rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages’ (Acts 2:3-4).”

“This is how the word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first he rests on each and then brings all of them together in fellowship. To each he gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity,” the Pope said.

The second thing the Holy Spirit renews is the heart. The first gift of Jesus after his resurrection is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all, he gives the disciples the ability to forgive sins, saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (Jn 20:22-23).”

“Here we see the beginning of the Church,” he said, “the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness.”

Forgiveness is “the greatest love of all,” Pope Francis said, saying that it preserves unity and prevents collapse. It consolidates and strengthens.

“Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh. Forgiveness gives hope; without forgiveness, the Church is not built up.”

Embracing a spirit of forgiveness helps us to resolve problems with harmony, rejecting other ways, such as hasty judgment and criticism of others. Let us as ask for the grace to make Our Holy Mother Church more beautiful with a renewed spirit of forgiveness and self-correction, he said.

Only after we do this, he explained, will we “be able to correct others in charity.”

“The Holy Spirit is the fire of love burning in the Church and in our hearts, even though we often cover him with the ash of our sins,” the Pope concluded.

“Let us ask him: ‘Spirit of God, Lord, who dwell in my heart and in the heart of the Church, guiding and shaping her in diversity, come! Like water, we need you to live. Come down upon us anew, teach us unity, renew our hearts and teach us to love as you love us, to forgive as you forgive us. Amen.’”

Humanity urgently needs the Gospel, Pope says for World Mission Day 2017

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 16:20

Vatican City, Jun 4, 2017 / 04:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for World Mission Day, Pope Francis said that the Church needs to spread the Gospel, caring for the spiritual wounds of people who desperately need the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said June 4.

“Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”

The Pope’s message was published by the Vatican on June 4, the Solemnity of Pentecost; a few months ahead of the Church’s celebration of World Mission Day, which will take place October 22, 2017.

“Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel,” the Pope continued, such as those of recent martyrs and those for whom it is difficult to even go to Mass or receive the Eucharist.

The Pope mentioned, for example, “the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed.”

“I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda,” he said also, “where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’ as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord.”

“For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage.”

In his message, Francis pointed out that the Church is missionary by nature, “otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away.”

Because of this, we must ask ourselves certain questions about our responsibility as Christians and believers, especially in a world “marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent.”

The questions the Pope proposed we ask ourselves are: “What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?”

One essential, Francis said, is that Church’s mission in the world be constantly invigorated by a spirituality of “exodus” and “pilgrimage;” that we are called to go forth into the world, past our own comfort zones, in order to reach people on the peripheries.

“The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice,” he explained.

“The Church’s mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Taking part in the missionary aspect of the Church reminds us that the Church isn’t our end goal in itself, he said, but an instrument for bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven.

And part of the Kingdom of Heaven is spreading the message of the Gospel of Christ, also called the “Good News,” he said, because it is filled with a contagious joy, the offer of a new life in Christ, who through the Holy Spirit becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life.

And it is this life that “sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love.”

God desires our “existential transformation,” the Pope continued, guided by the Holy Spirit, which finds expression in worship and in an imitation of Jesus.

Francis went on to explain what this means for the mission of the Church, which he said is not about spreading a “religious ideology” or a “lofty ethical teaching.”

Instead, “through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the Kairos, the favorable time of salvation.”

“Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth.”

Quoting from the words of Benedict XVI in “Deus Caritas Est,” Francis said that Christianity is an encounter with a Person, not an “ethical choice or lofty idea.”

And through the Sacraments of the Church, this Person “continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.”

The Pope mentioned the important role of both young people and the Pontifical Mission Societies in serving humanity “with courage and enthusiasm.”

In the Pontifical Mission Societies, “thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone,” he said.

The celebration of World Mission Day in October, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, “is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”    

Finally, Francis said, in carrying out her mission, the Church must draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization.

“Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith. May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own ‘yes,’ conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time,” he concluded.

“May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death. May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman."

Francis declares future month of prayer for missionary work

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 23:23

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis agreed to dedicate the month of October 2019 to reflection and prayer for the missionary work of the Church.

“To renew the ardor and passion, the spiritual engine of the apostolic activity of innumerable saints and missionary martyrs, I very much welcomed your proposal… to announce an extraordinary time of prayer and reflection on the Ad gentes mission,” Pope Francis said during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, met with the Pope at 11 a.m. on June in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

The Pope made the announcement for the extraordinary month based on a proposal by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to dedicate time to pray and reflect on Ad gentes, a Second Vatican Council decree on the missionary activity of the Church, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 7, 1965.

Francis said that he hopes the month will be a promising time of prayer and reflection on the testimony of missionary saints and martyrs, the Bible and theology, as well as catechesis and charitable missionary work towards the evangelization of the Church.

This taking place: the Church may “once again find the freshness and ardor of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord,” going out to “evangelize the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy.”

The month of October 2019 was chosen because of its proximity to the centenary anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter, Maximum Illud, which was published on Nov. 30, 1919.

“In this most important document of his Magisterium about the mission,” Pope Francis said, Pope Benedict XV remembers “the necessity of the sanctity of life to the apostolate's effectiveness.”

“Therefore he recommends an ever stronger union with Christ and a more convivial and joyful engagement in his divine passion to proclaim the Gospel to all, loving and using mercy for all.”

This, Francis highlighted, is even more essential for the Church’s mission today. In fact, he said - quoting from Maximum Illud - men and women “distinguished by zeal and holiness” are needed for the mission more and more.

Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi: “Evangelizing, the Church begins with evangelizing herself,” the Pope pointed out.

This renewal requires a personal conversion, he said, “living the mission as a permanent opportunity to announce Christ,” meeting him and helping others to have a personal encounter with him too.

Responsible for material and spiritual assistance to churches around the world, the Pope said that he hopes the aid of the Mission Societies will make the churches “more and more based on the Gospel and on the baptismal involvement of all the faithful, laymen and clerics.”

Because “the Church's only mission,” he continued, is “to make God's love close to every man, especially to those most in need of his mercy.”

“The Extraordinary Month of Prayer and Reflection on Mission as First Evangelization will serve this renewal of ecclesial faith so that the Easter of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, Lord and Spouse of his Church, will always and ever work.”

Concluding his meeting, the Pope gave his blessing on the eve of the Solemnity of Pentecost, asking the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church, to give her motherly intercession.

“May the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, the holy martyrs Carlo Lwanga and his companions, Blessed Paul Manna, never cease to pray to God for all of us, his missionaries,” he said.

Francis declares future month of prayer for missionary work

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 23:23

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis agreed to dedicate the month of October 2019 to reflection and prayer for the missionary work of the Church.

“To renew the ardor and passion, the spiritual engine of the apostolic activity of innumerable saints and missionary martyrs, I very much welcomed your proposal… to announce an extraordinary time of prayer and reflection on the Ad gentes mission,” Pope Francis said during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, met with the Pope at 11 a.m. on June in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

The Pope made the announcement for the extraordinary month based on a proposal by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to dedicate time to pray and reflect on Ad gentes, a Second Vatican Council decree on the missionary activity of the Church, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 7, 1965.

Francis said that he hopes the month will be a promising time of prayer and reflection on the testimony of missionary saints and martyrs, the Bible and theology, as well as catechesis and charitable missionary work towards the evangelization of the Church.

This taking place: the Church may “once again find the freshness and ardor of the first love for the crucified and risen Lord,” going out to “evangelize the world with credibility and evangelical efficacy.”

The month of October 2019 was chosen because of its proximity to the centenary anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic letter, Maximum Illud, which was published on Nov. 30, 1919.

“In this most important document of his Magisterium about the mission,” Pope Francis said, Pope Benedict XV remembers “the necessity of the sanctity of life to the apostolate's effectiveness.”

“Therefore he recommends an ever stronger union with Christ and a more convivial and joyful engagement in his divine passion to proclaim the Gospel to all, loving and using mercy for all.”

This, Francis highlighted, is even more essential for the Church’s mission today. In fact, he said - quoting from Maximum Illud - men and women “distinguished by zeal and holiness” are needed for the mission more and more.

Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi: “Evangelizing, the Church begins with evangelizing herself,” the Pope pointed out.

This renewal requires a personal conversion, he said, “living the mission as a permanent opportunity to announce Christ,” meeting him and helping others to have a personal encounter with him too.

Responsible for material and spiritual assistance to churches around the world, the Pope said that he hopes the aid of the Mission Societies will make the churches “more and more based on the Gospel and on the baptismal involvement of all the faithful, laymen and clerics.”

Because “the Church's only mission,” he continued, is “to make God's love close to every man, especially to those most in need of his mercy.”

“The Extraordinary Month of Prayer and Reflection on Mission as First Evangelization will serve this renewal of ecclesial faith so that the Easter of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, Lord and Spouse of his Church, will always and ever work.”

Concluding his meeting, the Pope gave his blessing on the eve of the Solemnity of Pentecost, asking the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church, to give her motherly intercession.

“May the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, the holy martyrs Carlo Lwanga and his companions, Blessed Paul Manna, never cease to pray to God for all of us, his missionaries,” he said.

Pope hears testimonies of earthquake children, asks them to trust in Jesus

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 21:06

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2017 / 09:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis met with 400 children from towns hit by earthquakes in central Italy, telling them that during times of tragedy and natural disasters, we must deepen our trust in the Lord, who helps us.

“What you have experienced is a bad thing because it is a calamity,” Pope Francis told the children June 3.

“Is it true or not? It's a calamity. And calamities wound the soul. But the Lord helps us to recover.”

The Pope met with the school-age children at the Vatican as part of the fifth edition of the “Children's Train” initiative, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture’s “Court of Gentiles” and Trenitalia, the Italian train company which sponsored the children’s train ride from Rome’s main station, Termini, to a station inside the Vatican.

Sitting in the atrium outside the Pope Paul VI hall, Francis led the children in an informal exchange which included random comments from one child about visiting the beach later with her mother, sister and cousin and another about being hungry for lunch.

“Do you trust in the Lord, or not?” the Pope asked them, as they sat on the floor, holding balloons they received on the train.

“Yes!” the children responded, Pope Francis asking again, “Are you sure?” to which they enthusiastically responded: “Yes!”

“And also in Our Lady?” the Pope continued, saying “and now, if we trust, we thank Our Lady for the good things that she has given us in this calamity.” The Pope then led them in praying the Hail Mary.

At the beginning of the meeting, Francis had said: “Boys and girls, they tell me I have to talk. But I like to listen! You, do you want to talk?”

He listened carefully while a few children offered some brief testimony about their experiences during the earthquake, which hit parts of central Italy on August 24, 2016 and resulted in nearly 300 deaths.

One boy from the town of Norcia, one of the most severely-hit, shared how after the earthquakes, they couldn’t return to their school building, but had to hold school in tents for a period of time. Only after March of this year being able to return to a normal schedule and building.

The Pope told each child “good job,” after hearing their testimony.

“One of the things that Jesus likes most, one of the words that most pleases the Lord,” the Pope told the young boys and girls, “are the words ‘Thank you very much.’"

He thanked them all for their visit and for remembering the “bad time” with him.

“Was the train nice?” he asked. “Yup!” the children responded in a group.

“Are you hungry?” he continued. The answer was again: “Yes!”

“Have you heard? They are hungry,” the Pope concluded to the parents and chaperones. “Goodbye, thank you!” he said smiling.

Pope Francis to honor two priests who lived ahead of their times

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 04:04

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2017 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- With a visit to the tombs of Father Lorenzo Milani and Father Primo Mazzolari this June, Pope Francis will pay homage to two historic Italians who aimed to change their society for the better.

Both Fr. Milani and Fr. Mazzolari combined their social advocacy with a profound devotion and obedience to the Church.

Both priests have been wrongly portrayed as “anti-clerical” priests. Their writings have often been misquoted in order to make them appear to dissent from the Church. However, they always obeyed any restriction the Church placed upon them, and they never preached outside of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Mazzolari believed that a parish priest was called to be a reference point for the community, and also called to work for the re-evangelization of Christianity. He clearly describes this approach in his book “La Bella Avventura,” or “The Beautiful Journey.”

Fr. Milani had a similar approach, which he applied by teaching poor children about the social doctrine of the Church. At a time of increasing communist influence in the region, he declared that “only the Gospel” would be his guide.

Pope Francis’ June 20 visit will start in the small municipality of Bozzolo in Lombardy, where Fr. Mazzolari is buried.

There, he will deliver a short commemorative speech. Then, he will go to the even smaller municipality of Barbiana in South Tyrol, where Fr. Milani lived. He will meet with some former students of the priest’s “people’s school.”

Father Primo Mazzolari was born in 1890 in a village close to Cremona, in Northern Italy. He entered the seminary in 1902, at the age of 11. Soon after being ordained a priest a decade later in 1912, he found himself discerning how to react to the First World War. He was originally in favor of Italy’s entry into the war. He worked as a military chaplain, but the war experience changed his mind. He became a strong pacifist.

He distinguished himself as an anti-fascist under Italy’s fascist regime. After Italy signed an armistice with Allied forces in 1943, he became an active member of the Italian Resistance against the Nazi occupation.

With the end of the Second World War, he developed a strong social commitment. He founded and edited the bi-monthly magazine “Adesso,” whose name means “Now.”

The magazine was shut down in 1951 under order of the Congregation of the Holy Office, which later became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That same year, the Holy Office barred the priest from preaching outside of his diocese.

At the time, pre-Vatican II, many of the social advocacy topics covered by “Adesso”  were seen as controversial. In addition, the regent of the Pontifical Household wrote a book describing the publication as “combative.”

Within a year, “Adesso” was reopened, but Fr. Mazzolari was then ordered not to write about social issues. As was his response to every request from Church authorities, he obeyed.

The Mazzolari Foundation is dedicated to the priest’s legacy. Fr. Bruno Bignami, the foundation’s current president, met with Pope Francis at the end of April.

Fr. Bignami gave the Pope one of Fr. Mazzolari’s books and an issue of the foundation’s magazine, which included an article that emphasized the links between Fr. Mazzolari and Fr. Milani.

One of Fr. Mazzolari’s books, “You Shall Not Kill,” underscored a “preferential option for non-violence” which should be expressed in “a strong movement of Christian resistance against war,” Fr. Bignami said. These issues are echoed in Pope Francis’ latest message for the World Day of Peace.

Late in his life, Fr. Mazzolari met Pope St. John XXIII, who called him “the trumpet of the Holy Spirit.” Bl. Paul VI was known to voice appreciation for the priest after his death.

Historians recognize that Fr. Mazzolari had an impulsive personality, and was so bold that his words were hardly welcomed at first. He nevertheless humbly accepted the restrictions issued against him by the Holy Office from 1934 to 1960, though he always noted that he was never sanctioned for doctrinal issues. He died in 1959.

The cause for his beatification was started in 2013, and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints took up his case in 2015.

Equally faithful and impulsive was Fr. Milani.

Pope Francis lauded the priest in an April 23 video message for a presentation of Fr. Milani’s complete works.

Fr. Milani came from a wealthy family of staunch secularists, and converted to Catholicism in his youth. Ordained a priest in 1947, he had his first experience of parish life in the Church of San Donato near Florence. Then he was appointed parish priest of Barbiana, a small village in the Tuscany mountains, in December 1954. It was there that he began his commitment to the education of the poor.

A few days after his arrival, he gathered the youth in a “people’s school” originally created outside the official Italian educational system. In 1956, he organized a high school that offered training in industrial trades.

In 1958, he published the book “Pastoral Experiences,” in which he offered an analysis of the Church of the time. He offered his own explanation of the increasing divide between the Church and the Italian people.

The book bore the imprimatur of Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, then-Archbishop of Florence, authorizing its publication. Its foreword was written by Bishop Giuseppe d’Avack of Camerino. Nevertheless, the Holy Office ordered the book removed from circulation, determining that although it did not contain doctrinal errors, reading it was “deemed not opportune.”

The prohibition was formally removed  in 2014 by Pope Francis – at the request of Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Fr. Milani’s old diocese – allowing “Pastoral Experience” to be reprinted without express ecclesiastical authorization.

Fr. Milani carried on with his educational project for the poor. In 1965, he again faced controversy when he wrote an open letter to Tuscany’s military chaplains.

The priest strongly criticized the chaplains’ statement that claimed that Christian conscientious objection was “strange to the Christian commandment of love and an expression of cowardice.”

The priest’s strong defense of Christian objection to war and military service was declared “a crime against the state” by political authorities, and Fr. Milani was tried for defending a crime. He was declared not guilty at his first trial but found guilty by the appeals court. He died of leukemia in 1967, before he faced sentencing.

Fr. Milani also co-authored a book with his boys and girls in Barbiana. The book, titled “Letter to A Professor,” expressed the need for more efforts to provide poor children with equal educational opportunities. The book has been translated to more than 40 languages.

As Pope Francis noted, Fr. Milani wrote: “I will never revolt against the Church, because I need for my sins to be forgiven several times a week, and I do not know where to seek this forgiveness if I left the Church.”


Pope Francis: I am always joyful when I see young priests

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 20:54

Vatican City, Jun 1, 2017 / 08:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis spoke with the Vatican department in charge of priests, saying he is always happy when he sees young priests, because they are important for Christ and represent the youthful face of the Church.

“I am always joyful when I meet young priests, because in them I see the youth of the Church,” the Pope said June 1.

He pointed to various young biblical figures, such as David, who was not presented by his father as a potential king because of his young age, and the prophet Jeremiah, who thought that he was too young for the mission the Lord entrusted to him.

Speaking directly to young priests, Francis said “you are chosen, you are dear to the Lord! God looks at you with the tenderness of a Father and, after making your heart fall in love, will not let your steps waver.”

“You are important in his eyes and he has confidence that you will be at the height of the mission to which you have been called,” he said, stressing that it’s important for young priests to find pastors and bishops “who encourage them in this perspective, and not only wait for them because there is need for a replacement and to fill empty places!”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Congregation for Clergy currently participating in their plenary assembly.

The gathering takes place just six months after the promulgation of the congregation’s new “Ratio Fundamentalis,” the Vatican's document on priestly formation, which was released Dec. 7, 2016.

This document, Francis said, “speaks of integral formation, capable of including all aspects of life; and so it indicates the path to form the missionary disciple. A fascinating and demanding path.”

In reflecting on the fascinating and demanding aspects of this path, the Pope said he immediately thought of young priests, who “live the joy of the beginning of ministry and, together, feel the weight.”

A young priest, he said, “lives between the enthusiasm of the first projects and the anxiety of apostolic fatigue, in which they immerse themselves with a certain fear, which is a sign of wisdom.”

While the joy and strength of his recent anointing is acutely felt, the new priest’s shoulders gradually become “burdened” by the weight of the responsibility of his various pastoral commitments and the expectations of his flock, the Pope observed.

“How does a young priest live all this? What does he carry in his heart? What does he need so that his feet, which run to bring the joyful announcement of the Gospel, are not paralyzed in front of the fear of the first difficulties?” the Pope asked.

He noted that young people today are frequently judged “a bit superficially, and are too easily labeled as a ‘liquid’ generation, deprived of passions and ideals.”

While there are certainly youth who are fragile, disoriented and “infected by the culture of consumerism and individualism,” this doesn’t mean that youth capable of generous service and involvement don’t exist, Francis said.

“With all their limits, they are always a resource,” he said, and urged participants to ask themselves how they, in their parishes, view young priests.

Turning again to the new Ratio, which speaks of the priest as “a missionary disciple in permanent formation,” Pope Francis underlined three attitudes he said are key for any priest, but especially those who are just beginning their ministry.

These attitudes, he said, are: to pray without ceasing, to always walk and to share with your heart.  

Consistent prayer is essential in the life of a priest “because we can be fishers of men only if we first recognize that we have been ‘caught’ by the tenderness of the Lord,” he said.

Like the fishermen of Galilee who dropped their nets and followed Jesus, priests have also left behind their own personal plans in order to take up their own nets and “catch” the faithful entrusted to them, the Pope said, adding that “if we are not strictly linked to (the Lord), our fishing will never be successful.”

To live in harmony in prayer, work and rest “represents a precious resource to face apostolic fatigues,” Francis said, stressing that “every day we need to stop ourselves, putting ourselves in a position to listen to the Word of God and to pause in front of the tabernacle.”

He also touched on the need to listen to one’s body, “which is a good doctor,” and which tells us when we’ve reached the limit.

On the need to always keep walking, the Pope said this is important because a priest never really “arrives,” but remains a disciple, a pilgrim “overlooking the threshold of the ministry of God and the holy ground of the people entrusted to him.”

A priest, Pope Francis said, can never “feel satisfied” or let go of a certain “healthy apprehension that makes him stretch out his hands to the Lord” in order to be trained and fulfilled.

He told priests to always “be open to the surprises of God,” adding that with this openness to what is new, young priests especially “can be creative in evangelization, frequenting with discernment the new places of communication, where faces, stories and the questions of people are met, developing the ability to socialize, to relate and to announce the faith.”

Finally, Francis pointed to the need to share with one’s heart, because “priestly life is not a bureaucratic office nor a collection of religious or liturgical practices to get through.”

Priests, he said, carry in their own flesh “the joys and anguish of the people,” spending time with them and listening “in order to heal the wounds of others, and offering the tenderness of the Father to all.”

New priests have a prime opportunity to live this experience by sharing with youth and teens, Francis said, explaining that this means being with them “not only as a friend among others, but as the one who knows how to share their life with his heart, to listen to their questions and participate concretely in the different ups and downs of their lives.”

“Youth don’t need a professional on the sacred or a hero who, from above and from the outside, responds to their questions,” he said. “Rather, they are attracted by whoever sincerely commits their lives, supporting them with respect and listening to them with love.”

To genuinely share their experiences “means having a heart full of passion and compassion, above all toward youth,” the Pope said, adding that these three qualities imply the priestly life is lived by “looking up and thinking big.”

“It’s not an easy task, but one can full trust in the Lord, because He always precedes us on the journey!” he said, and asked for Mary’s intercession and guidance.

Vatican soccer champs dedicate victory to Coptic Christians

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 04:00

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Upon winning the Vatican's annual soccer championship last week, the victorious team honored Christians in Egypt who have faced increasingly brutal persecution in recent years.

“I would like to dedicate this trophy to our friends from the Coptic Church,” said Deacon Sama Joan Romeo of Cameroon, the team captain of the Urban Lions.

Catholic seminarians and clergy drew soccer teams from the pontifical universities and colleges of Rome May 27 for the 13th annual Clericus Cup competition.

The competition's press officer, Felice Alborghetti, said the competition should be considered a “world cup” because players from five continents and 66 countries are on the teams, which went through four qualifying rounds to reach the finals.

“In the final we have at least 20 countries (represented),” he told the EWTN news show Vaticano. “There are a lot of Europeans, Spaniards, Rumanians, Germans, a Croatian and a Hungarian player.”

African players are  heavily represented on the team from the Pontifical Urban University, nicknamed “The Lions of Africa.” They hail from countries including Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania and Botswana.

“All the world is playing in the field, not so much to highlight the word of soccer, as that of the Gospel,” Alborghetti said.

Over 400 players competed, but the May 27 finals came down to two teams: one from the Pontifical Gregorian University, called “Gregoriana,” the other from the  Pontifical Urban University, the “Urban Lions.”

Classmates and fans of the teams gathered to show support in the bleachers around a field in view of St. Peter's Basilica. Some wore painted faces and played guitars. The rectors of both schools cheered on their teams.

Monsignor Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, reflected on the nature of the competition.
“We're very committed to supporting our own team,” he told Vaticano. “Our university is trying to give thorough training programs, with a global and academic reach – which is very important to us – but also human and spiritual training and sport is part of this thorough approach.”

The players have also “sacrificed a lot to be here,” said Monsignor Vincenzo Viva, rector of the Urban College. “We mustn't forget that it’s the exam period now at the university, so they've really made a great effort.”   

Amid the festivities, the final match of 2017 began with a serious moment of prayer. Then the opening whistle blew.

The Urban Lions took advantage, scoring the first goal. With high passions, the bleachers roared. There were fouls and penalties. Then a corner kick led to a second goal for the Urban Lions.

They took the match, and the Clericus Cup, with a 2-0 win.

“We came here and we knew we could win because last year we almost won the cup, and anyway it was a great match and a match of brotherhood,” said Antonio, an Angolan a seminarian from the Urban College. “This is the joy of being here and taking part in all this.”

Pour Porbumbi, a Kenyan seminarian at the same college, noted the fans' effort to sing and sing so that their team could play well.

Deacon Sama Joan Romeo added that the team is “not playing for honor or for any glory, we are just playing for friendship, for fraternity for our spiritual goals.”

The win marks the third time the Urban College's team has won a Clericus Cup.

Pope Francis condemns 'abhorrent' Kabul attack

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 18:35

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 06:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a major suicide bomb tore through a busy neighborhood in Kabul, killing at least 80 people, Pope Francis condemned the ‘brutal’ act, offering his prayers for the victims and for peace in the country.

“Having learned with sadness of the abhorrent attack in Kabul and of the many dead and seriously injured, Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt condolences to all affected by this brutal act of violence,” a May 31 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.

Pope Francis, he said, “commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and assures the people of Afghanistan of his continued prayers for peace.”

The Pope’s letter, addressed to Afghani ambassador to Italy, was sent hours after a suicide bomb exploded in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul, Afghanistan, killing some 80 people and wounding nearly 300 others, according to CNN.

Hidden in a water delivery truck, the bomb exploded near the German Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace in one of the busiest areas in town. A major local cell phone company and a popular TV station, as well as several large shops and supermarkets, were in close vicinity, making the likelihood of a high number of civilian casualties a guarantee.

The BBC’s Afghan driver Mohammed Nazir, who spent four years with the broadcaster and had a young family, was among the casualties. According to the BBC, four of their journalists were also injured in the attack, but are expected to live.

According to CNN, the Taliban in a statement denied responsibility for the attack, despite the fact they have been gaining territory in the area. As of now, group has yet claimed responsibility.

Wednesday’s bombing took place just four days after 29 Christians were gunned down in buses by militants wearing masks and military uniforms.

Claimed by the Islamic State, the attack targeted Christians en route to St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Minya, Egypt, and was the latest in a string of attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt.  

A similar attack took place in Kabul in July 1016, when twin explosions went off during a demonstration by members of Afghanistan’s mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, who had been protesting the planned route of a multi-million-dollar powerline.

At least 80 people were killed and 230 people wounded in the explosions, which were claimed by the Islamic State.

Pope: A good Christian spreads hope – not bitterness

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:54

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 05:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit has the power to fill us with the hope of Christ, in turn making us Christians vessels that bring hope to others, rather than bitterness or desperation.

“The Holy Spirit makes us not only able to hope, but also to be sowers of hope, that we too are, like him and thanks to him – the “paraclete” – consolers and defenders of our brothers, sowers of hope,” Pope Francis said May 31.

“A Christian can sow bitterness, can sow perplexity, and this is not Christian,” he said, adding: “whoever does this is not a good Christian. Sow hope: sow the oil of hope, sow the fragrance of hope, and not the vinegar of bitterness and hopelessness.”
Francis continued his reflections on the virtue of hope during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, this time centering on the role of the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the Feast of Pentecost.

Hope is simultaneously, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Hebrews, like an anchor and a sail, the Pope said. “If the anchor is what gives the boat safety and keeps it ‘anchored’ between the waves of the sea, the sail, instead, is what makes it proceed and advance on the waters.”

“Hope is really like a sail; it collects the wind of the Holy Spirit and transforms it into a driving force pushing the boat, depending on the case, offshore or to shore,” he explained.

“The Spirit is the wind that drives us forward, that keeps us on the road, makes us hear pilgrims and strangers, and does not allow us to sit and become a ‘sedentary’ people.”

This is why hope does not disappoint: “because there is the Holy Spirit within us that pushes us forward, always!” he said.

It’s also because of the Holy Spirit that we have the ability to rest in hope, and have hope even “against all hope,” as St. Paul says in Romans, the Pope continued.  

To illustrate his point, Francis pointed to Abraham’s obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and to the Virgin Mary as she stood at the foot of the cross of her son, Jesus, as examples of this supernatural hope.

It is possible to have this kind of “invincible” hope, he said, because the Holy Spirit helps us to recognize that we are children and heirs of God.

Again pointing to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Francis noted that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

“The expression ‘God of hope’ does not just mean that God is the object of our hope, that is, the one we hope to reach one day in eternal life; it also means that God is the one who already makes us hope, indeed, makes us ‘happy in hope,’” he said.

According to a popular saying, “as long as there is life, there is hope.” While this is true, the Pope said that the opposite is also true: “As long as there is hope, there is life. Men need hope to live.”  

Quoting from a speech of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, Francis said: “Educated by our own suffering, by our own sorrow, indeed by our own sins, we will have a mind and heart practiced in every work of love towards those that have need.”

“We will be, in measure of our capacity, consolers in the image of the Paraclete,” the Pope said. “That is, the Holy Spirit, and in all the senses that this word implies: advocates, helpers, comforters. Our words and our counsel, our way of acting, our voice, our gaze, will be gentle and peaceful.”

“Brothers and sisters, the coming feast of Pentecost – which is the birthday of the Church, eh? –  we find ourselves together in prayer, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of us,” he said in conclusion.

“And the gift of the Holy Spirit makes us abound in hope,” he said, but explained that there is more: the Holy Spirit “makes us ‘waste’ hope with all those who are most needy, the most discarded and with all those who need it.”

South Korean president seeks Pope's support in reconciliation efforts

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 12:29

Vatican City, May 31, 2017 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the eve of President Trump’s visit to the Holy See, the newly elected president of South Korea sent a special envoy to ask for Vatican support in efforts to foster reconciliation in the Korean peninsula.

Bishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong, archbishop of Gwangju and president of the Korean Bishops Conference, served as South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s special envoy for a one-week mission.

He was able to meet with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, on May 23, and to talk briefly with Pope Francis at the end of morning Mass in Domus Sanctae Marthae on May 26.

“I was sent by the president to ask the Holy Father for his support in the reconciliation process between North and South Korea, and I hope the Vatican can act as a mediator,” he told CNA.

He added that the mediation “could be the same as the mediation made during the restoration of relations between Cuba and the Unites States.”

Bishop Kim said that one of the main goals of the mission is to ask the Holy See to facilitate the opening of relations between North Korea and the United States, which “would help Korea in the path toward reconciliation” with the South, as at the moment “North Korea has not the trust of Western countries.”

The bishop stressed that “dialogue is the only way. North Korea is trying to show its military strength, but we have to keep engaging in dialogue. If North Korea becomes open to dialogue, tensions in the Korean peninsula will drop.”

Bishop Kim said that the meeting with Cardinal Parolin was scheduled to be only 15 minutes, but lasted instead 45 minutes.

“Cardinal Parolin,” he underscored, “wanted to know in depth the situation in South Korea and the relations with the North. He agreed that dialogue is the only way out.”

The meeting with Pope Francis was just a short greeting at the end of the morning Mass. It lasted about five minutes, and Bishop Kim briefed the Holy Father on the Korean situation. “The Pope seemed very interested to get the details,” he said.

According to the bishop, “the Catholic Church is a reference point in South Korea. For any issue of national interest, they look at the Catholic Church, and look for the Church’s statements and recommendations.”

Bishop Kim is familiar with the situation inside North Korea, and has able to travel across the border a number of times. He will be in the North again next week as part of a delegation of seven South Korean religious leaders invited by Pyongyang to a meeting.

“There is the wish for North Korea to allow Catholics to travel to the South, and let South Korean priests to meet the communities in the North,” he explained.

“The Holy See has always been on the side of Korea in the difficult moments of its history, and we hope this will happen again. If we achieve peace between North and South Korea, we state as from now our commitment to work for peace in East Asia and, on a larger scale, for peace in the world. We want to be a tool for peace.”


Pope Francis: A shepherd must freely follow the Spirit

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 04:53

Vatican City, May 30, 2017 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday urged priests and bishops not to be afraid to “step down completely” from their assignment when they are called to a new duty.

“All shepherds have to step down. There comes a moment where the Lord says ‘go to another place, come here, go there, come to me.’ And it’s one of the steps that a shepherd must take,” he said during his homily May 30 at the chapel of the Vatican's Santa Marta residence.

The shepherd must “be prepared to step down in the correct way, not still hanging on to his position,” he said.

In the first reading of the Mass, St. Paul addresses the Church leaders in Ephesus. The Pope said Paul left the Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, following the Holy Spirit’s call.

The Pope highlighted what he called the three “apostolic attitudes” demonstrated by St. Paul during a council with the priests of Ephesus, and he urged the faithful to pray that priests, bishops, and the Pope would live their lives accordingly.

The first attitude involves never turning back, and guiding the Church without compromise.

The second is obedience to the Spirit and the recognition that the life of a shepherd is a “journey,” always open to the voice of God.

St. Paul left Ephesus “because he had nothing of his own, he had not wrongly taken control of his sheep. He had served them … this is a shepherd without compromises who is now a shepherd on a journey.”

The third attitude involves the acknowledgement that “I am not the center of history. Whether it’s large history or small history, I am not the center, I am a servant.”

“With this most beautiful example, let us pray for our shepherds, for our parish priests, our bishops,” Pope Francis exhorted. “Let us pray for our shepherds.”

Vatican: South Sudan not on Pope's itinerary for 2017

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 18:25

Vatican City, May 30, 2017 / 06:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed that while Pope Francis had voiced his desire to travel to South Sudan for an ecumenical visit alongside Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, it won’t be happening this year.

The trip is still being considered, just “not this year,” Burke told journalists May 30. He did not elaborate on when the visit, which had been tentatively planned for October, might take place.

Francis had hoped to travel to the war-torn country to promote peace, after making a similar effort during his 2015 visit to the Central African Republic.

Although Burke didn’t cite specific reasons for the postponement of the Pope’s visit to South Sudan, various Italian media outlets have reported that the decision was made due to security concerns.

The Pope previously voiced his intention to visit South Sudan alongside Anglican Primate and Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The trip would have marked the first time Catholic and Anglican leaders made such a trip together.

The idea was likely the fruit of a meeting the Pope had with ecumenical leaders from South Sudan last fall, when Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of Juba traveled to Rome together with Rev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan.

The three of them met with Pope Francis Oct. 27, 2016, to discuss the desperate situation of the country with Pope Francis. During the visit, they not only highlighted their joint collaboration in seeking to alleviate the effects of the crisis, but they also invited the Pope for a formal visit.

Arranged by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Vatican’s dicastery for Integral Human Development, the meeting focused largely on current tensions dividing Sudanese people, and the collaboration of different Christian denominations in promoting reconciliation and the common good.

Sudan has been the scene of nearly continuous civil war since it gained independence in 1956. Many of the initial problems were caused by corruption in the government, which led to the political, economic, and religious marginalization of the country’s peripheries.

South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, but has been torn by a civil war since December 2013, between the state forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – and opposition forces, as well as sectarian conflict.

A peace agreement was eventually signed, but was broken by violence in the summer of 2016, prompting the South Sudan Council of Churches to publicly condemn the violence and pray for peace. A ceasefire was then ordered by President Kiir and then-Vice President Machar in July.

Machar, the former rebel leader, ended up fleeing the country. However, despite this, violent fighting in the country has continued.

In comments to CNA after their meeting with the Pope in 2016, Archbishop Loro emphasized the joint ecumenical effort of Christian Churches in South Sudan, saying “all are Christian religions and we are perfectly together.”

Different Christian communities have always spoken about the situation of the country together, and because of this it was “perfectly in place” that the three of them would come to the Vatican together to voice concerns surrounding the state of their country.

“We are together and we are really speaking one voice and one language” to raise awareness of the humanitarian, political and social crisis of the country both locally and internationally, the archbishop said.

Should Francis ever go to South Sudan, Loro said the Pope would visit as “a religious leader” whose presence “would have a great impact and would be very welcome by us and by civil society, and it would be a great help for us.”

As far as international visits go, the only other confirmed trip on the Pope’s calendar is his Sept. 6-11 visit to Colombia. Pope Francis has also spoken about a possible trip to India and Bangladesh toward the end of 2017, however, it has not yet been confirmed.

Here's what Pope Francis and Justin Trudeau talked about

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 22:40

Vatican City, May 29, 2017 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a private audience which focused on religious freedom as well as reconciliation with native people of Canada.

According to a brief May 29 communique from the Vatican, Pope Francis and Prime Minister Trudeau conversed on the topics of integration and reconciliation with indigenous people, as well as religious liberty and current ethical issues.

In their 36-minute meeting which the Vatican described as “cordial,” they touched on the positive bilateral relations between the Holy See and Canada, “along with the contribution of the Catholic Church to the social life of the country.”

Afterward “in the light of the results of the recent G7 summit, attention turned to various matters of an international nature, with special attention to the Middle East and areas of conflict,” the communique stated.

During the visit, Trudeau extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country of Canada, during which time he could bring the Church’s apology for harm done to indigenous people in Canada in the mid-19th through 20th centuries when 150,000 children from native tribes were forced to undergo “enculturation” to the state through attendance at residential schools.

Some 6,000 children died in the schools and though they were state-owned, a number were managed by Catholics. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008-2015, called for action on 94 points, one of which was an apology from the Catholic Church.

In 2009, Benedict XVI did apologize for the Church’s participation in the system during a meeting with the head of the Canadian National Assembly, Phil Fontaine, showing “his pain and anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church,” adding that “acts of abuse can never be tolerated by society.”

The Prime Minister's spokesman, Cameron Ahmad, said Trudeau’s main agenda for the conversation with Francis was reiterating the open invitation to the Pope to come to Canada and for “reconciliation” with the indigenous communities on this point.

Ahmad also said that other important topics for Trudeau included the climate, religious and ethnic diversity – such as interreligious dialogue – and immigration.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope gave Trudeau a medallion symbolizing forgiveness, joy and mutual acceptance. It also references the scripture passage from Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Francis also gave him a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”

Along with the three customary documents, the Pope also gave the prime minister a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, which he signed, just like the one he gave to U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting last week.

For his part, Trudeau gifted Francis a copy of “Relations de Jesuits du Canada,” a rare 6-volume edition that documents the Jesuits’ reports on Canadian territory, and a Jesuit vocabulary in a special edition.

The meeting was not Trudeau’s first visit to the Vatican. A Catholic, he met St. John Paul II in 1980 during the papal meeting of his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with the pope.  
Afterward, Trudeau met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Absent from Trudeau’s agenda for the audience were any topics related to life-issues, particularly that of euthanasia. Assisted suicide was legalized by the federal government in Canada on June 17, 2016. It now falls to the local provinces to reform the medical system to be in conformity with the new laws.

Canadian bishops from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec met with Pope Francis recently for their ad limina visits in April and the beginning of May. During the meetings the bishops all expressed concerns regarding the threat to freedom of conscience in relation to euthanasia’s legalization.