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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 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.


Walk in another's shoes, Pope encourages in interview

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 22:29

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 09:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview published Tuesday, Pope Francis spoke about what it means to care for and be present to the people in our communities – whether they are widows, orphans, migrants, or the homeless – and why this is important.

“It is very tiring to wear the shoes of others,” he said, “because often we are slaves of our selfishness. On one level we can say that people prefer to mind their own problems without wanting to see the suffering or the difficulty of another.”

“There is another level, however. To wear the shoes of others means to have a great capacity to comprehend, to understand the circumstance and difficult situations.”

The Pope’s latest interview was published Feb. 28 in “Scarp de tenis,” a monthly periodical supported by Caritas Ambrosiana and Caritas Italiana. Based out of Milan, Italy, Caritas Ambrosiana interviewed Francis ahead of his planned trip to the diocese on March 25.

We all need understanding, companionship, and advice, the Pope noted. This is why even though it is difficult, we should try to put ourselves in another’s place and to understand what they are going through. To do so means to perform acts of service with humility and magnanimity.

In the case of migrants and refugees, Francis said that they are fleeing wars or famines that are often in part our fault, because we have exploited their land but not invested in it in a helpful way.

“They have the right to emigrate and are entitled to be welcomed and helped,” he said.

Regarding how many migrants a country should accept, he said that governmental leaders should practice the virtue of prudence: accommodating, in regards to numbers, however many they reasonably can.

It can be even more important, however, to not just reflect on how many we can accept, but how we will help them integrate into their new country, the Pope said, continuing his recent emphasis on the importance of integration for migrants.

“To integrate means to enter the life of the country, respect the law of the country, respect the culture of the country but also to enforce their own culture and their own cultural riches,” he said. “Integration is a very difficult job.”

“Each country then has to see what number it can accommodate. It cannot be upheld if there is no possibility of integration.”

Like migrants, “integration” is something we should also try to achieve for the poor and homeless, he said. This is why we must do more than simply “toss the poor only some change.”

“Certainly it is not easy to integrate a homeless person, because each of them has a special story. For this we have to get close to each other, find ways to help them and give them a hand.”

It is always right to help, even more so to look into the person’s eyes and touch their hands while we do so, he said.

“There are many arguments to justify yourself when you do not give alms,” he acknowledged, such as the question of whether the person will spend the money on alcohol.  

Rather than worrying about this, the Pope advised, “ask yourself what you do in secret? What ‘happiness’ do you search for in secret?”  

“Unlike him, you are more fortunate, with a house, a wife, children, that tells you ‘Take care of him.’”

Pope Francis told a story about how while he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, there was a family and a couple who lived on the streets outside of his office. “Someone said to me: ‘They soil the Curia,’ but the dirt is inside.”

“I think you have to talk to people with great humanity, not as if they had to repay a debt and not treating them as if they were poor dogs,” he said.

Francis said that among the poor, he has seen much greater solidarity than in other areas of cities. Even though there are more problems, “often the poor are more loyal to each other, because they feel that they need each other.”

“I found more selfishness in other neighborhoods,” he continued.

Asked what he expects to see in Milan when he goes to visit, Francis said he wasn’t sure, since he’s only been to the city once, and only for a few hours, back in the 1970s. “I expect to meet so many people. This is my greatest expectation,” he said, “Yes, I expect to find so many people.”

He said that is the only thing that he misses greatly from being in Buenos Aires: “the ability to go out and go through the street. I like to go on a visit to the parishes and meet people.”  


Priest: We need to praise what is good, true in the Muslim faith

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 19:02

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Not only is there a good deal in common between Muslims and Christians, but Catholics are called to respect and work together with those who practice the Muslim faith in recognition of truth and goodness they do possess, said Islam scholar Fr. Thomas Michel.

Fr. Michel, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology and worked under Pope John Paul II as head of the Vatican Office for Relations with Muslims, told CNA that Benedict XVI, like both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, have all repeated the same message regarding Muslims – that of the Second Vatican Council.

“The document Nostrae aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”

The major “common point” between Christianity and Islam, Fr. Michel said, is that both faiths believe in the existence of only one God, and that both are trying to do what this one God wants.

Therefore, “how can we be enemies with people who are also, like us, trying to worship the one God?” he said. “Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we've seen that part of our work as Christians is to be in dialogue with people of other faiths.”

“And this means not only talking to them and listening to them, but it also means cooperating with them, working together with them for good.”

This dialogue, Fr. Michel emphasized, isn’t just about making peace with each other, although that is important, but is about “the kind of world we live in” and how that makes it important that we all come to know each other better.

Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past, and “what we have to do now is work together for the common good.”

The document Nostrae aetate is the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions from the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

Fr. Michel referenced a part of the document that says that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

“The Church, therefore,” it continues, “exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”

Four ways we can collaborate with Muslims or those of other faiths, Fr. Michel said, is by together working to build peace, and to promote social justice, “true human values,” and “true human freedom.”

A Jesuit, Fr. Thomas Michel has lived and worked among Muslims himself for many years, particularly in Turkey. He first went to Indonesia, joining the order’s Indonesia Province, in 1969.

Fr. Michel worked in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II from 1981-1994 as head of the Office for Relations with Muslims. From 2013-2016 he taught religious studies at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar.

For 2016-2017, Fr. Michel joined the teaching staff at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome, where he gave a lecture Feb. 23.

His lecture on Contemporary Islam, titled “A Christian Encounter with Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur,” gave a Christian analysis of the Risale-i Nur Collection, an interpretation on the Qur’an written by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi between the 1910s and 1950s in Turkey.

Summing up the teachings in what is a 6,000 page collection, Fr. Michel told CNA that Nursi “was trying to help Muslims live their faith in a lively way in modern terms.”

“He said you don't have to live in the past, you don't have to have nostalgia for earlier times.” The idea Nursi tried to convey, Fr. Michel explained, is that modernity is not the enemy of faith, “but a patient in need of the spiritual medicine faith provides.”

Nursi said, according to Fr. Michel, that “our enemies aren’t this group of people or that group of people.” Instead, he said our enemies are ignorance, poverty and disunity. And these are not only the enemies of Muslims, but of everyone.

Fr. Michel said that Nursi taught that to fight these common enemies everyone must work together, using both faith and reason.

According to Fr. Michel, there are somewhere around 5-12 million people who try to live the Qur’an according to the teachings of Nursi, depending on how you measure the level of commitment.

The majority of these Muslims are in Turkey, but some can be found in central Asia, places in Europe and even in the U.S. It isn’t a formal movement per se, but some people devote their lives to studying Nursi’s teachings and others try to study it in the midst of living their normal lives, he said.

If worried about Islamic extremists or that the Muslim religion will overwhelm Christian values in Western society, Fr. Michel said to try to remember that in the case of refugees, they “want the same things that normal Americans want.”

They want “to raise their children to be good God-fearing people, and to have a life, to have a job, to enjoy simple enjoyments. They're no different than we are,” he said.

He said that in his experience, those who have negative attitudes about Muslims have only experienced the religion through TV or the newspaper, but that those “who know Muslims…have a very different attitude.”

“I've lived among thousands of Muslims…The people that I've lived with in many different countries, they go from birth to death, and from children to grandchildren, and there's no violence in their lives,” he said.

“The average Muslim sees Islam as a religion of peace.”

Surgeon and father among sainthood causes moving forward

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 00:03

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2017 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis recognized on Monday the heroic virtue of eight persons on the path to canonization, including an Italian surgeon and father of eight who suffered from several painful diseases throughout his life.

The Pope met Feb. 27 with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, giving his approval for the causes to move forward.

Among them is Italian Victor Trancanelli. Born in 1944, he studied and became a talented surgeon before marrying his wife Lia. Together they had one natural son and adopted seven more children over the course of their marriage.

One month before the birth of their son, Diego, Victor developed ulcerative colitis and widespread peritonitis, which created the need for a permanent ileostomy. Only his wife and a few medical colleagues were aware of the ileostomy, which he bore with patience and without complaining.

Always thinking of the sick, after a year he was healthy enough to return to his work as a surgeon.

In the 1980s, he fell in love with Holy Scripture and with the Jewish roots of the Faith, working at the St. Martin Ecumenical Center. During that time, Victor, his wife, and a few friends started the association which is still running, “Alle Querce di Mamre,” to help women and children in difficult situations.

After another serious illness, he died June 24, 1998, at the age of 54. It is said that shortly before his death he gathered his wife and children around him, and said: “For this it is worth living.”

“Even if I had become, who knows who, if I had money in the bank, owned many houses, what would I bring with me now? What have I brought before God? Now I bring the love that we have given.”

Another cause moving forward is that of Fr. Titus Zeman, a priest of the Salesian order who was born in 1915 in Bratislava, Slovakia. He moved to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University for a period before being ordained in 1940.

He returned to his home country, but in 1950 the Communist regime in then-Czechoslovakia prohibited religious orders, deporting religious men and women to concentration camps. Fr. Zeman organized for young men in the Salesians to travel secretly to Turin, Italy to complete their studies for the priesthood.

He was eventually captured and endured a severe trial, where they called him a traitor and a spy of the Vatican. Narrowly missing the death penalty, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in 1964 after 12 years, enduring torture and other deprivation.

Severely weakened by the treatment during his imprisonment, he died only five years later on Jan. 8, 1969. He is considered to have died a martyr for the faith.

Fr. Zeman is known to have said: “Even if I lost my life, I would not consider it wasted, knowing that at least one of those that I helped has become a priest in my place.”

Following an increasing number of canonizations of laypeople in the last few years, another lay person whose cause has moved forward is Pietro Herrero Rubio, who lived 1904-1978.

The other causes are of the Bishop Ottavio Ortiz Arrieta of Chachapoyas (1878-1958); Jesuit priest Antonio Repiso Martínez de Orbe, founder of the Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Pastor (1856-1929); Antonio Provolo, a diocesan priest and founder of both the Society and the Congregation of Mary for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (1801-1842); Maria of Mercy Cabezas Terrero, foundress of the Religious Institute of the Missionary Workers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1911-1993); and Sr. Lucia of the Immaculate (Maria Ripamonti), a member of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Charity (1909-1954).  

Humility is the first step to unity, Pope tells Catholics, Anglicans

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 00:31

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Sunday visit to Rome’s Anglican parish of All Saints, Pope Francis voiced gratitude for the good relations Catholics and Anglicans now enjoy, and said that on the path toward full communion, humility has to be the point of departure.

“(Humility) is not only a beautiful virtue, but a question of identity,” the Pope said in his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican parish of All Saints.

He noted that in evangelizing the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul had to “grapple” with the fact that relations with the community weren’t always good. But when faced the question of how to carry out the task despite ongoing tensions, “where does he begin? With humility.”

“Paul sees himself as a servant, proclaiming not himself but Christ Jesus the Lord. And he carries out this service, this ministry according to the mercy shown him,” he said, adding that this ministry is done “not on the basis of his ability, nor by relying on his own strength, but by trusting that God is watching over him and sustaining his weakness with mercy.”

To become humble, he said, “means drawing attention away from oneself, recognizing one’s dependence on God as a beggar of mercy: this is the starting point so that God may work in us.”

Francis then quoted a former president of the World Council of Churches, who described Christian evangelization as “a beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.”

“I believe Saint Paul would approve,” he said, because “he grasped the fact that he was fed by mercy and that his priority was to share his bread with others: the joy of being loved by the Lord, and of loving him.”

Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of both Catholic and Anglican faithful during his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican church of All Saints, which marked the first time a Roman Pontiff has set foot in an Anglican parish inside his own diocese of Rome.

This visit coincided with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City, and consisted of a short choral Evensong service, during which the Pope blessed and dedicated an icon of “St. Savior” commissioned for the occasion.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Jesus, <a href="">#PopeFrancis</a> said, seems to ask &quot;Are you ready to leave evrythng frm your past for me? Do you want to make my love known, my mercy?&quot; <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) <a href="">February 26, 2017</a></blockquote>
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During the ceremony, the symbolic “twinning” of All Saints Anglican Church with the Catholic parish of “Ognissanti” – the only Catholic parish in Rome dedicated to All Saints – also took place, forming strong ecumenical ties between the two.

Ognissanti is the parish where Bl. Paul VI, on March 7, 1965, celebrated the first Mass in Italian following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

After his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by the church's pastor, Rev. Johnathan Boardman, and Rev. Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe.

In his greeting, Innes thanked Pope Francis for his “global leadership, and for the particular inspiration you have been to those of us in the Anglican Communion,” particularly when it comes to the issues of the poor, migrants, refugees, and human trafficking.

“Within Europe and our diocese, you have challenged members of the European Union to rediscover their Christian heritage and values. Your published work speaks far beyond Rome in addressing difficult ethical issues that face us all,” he said.

Innes voiced his hope and prayer that the Pope’s visit would be “one more small step in further strengthening the unity between our churches and in celebrating the deep bonds of Anglican Roman Catholic friendship that we already enjoy.”

After singing Evensong, Pope Francis gave a homily, during which he noted that “a great deal has changed” both in Rome and in the world since the parish’s founding 200 years ago.

“In the course of these two centuries, much has also changed between Anglicans and Catholics,” he said, noting that while in the past the Churches viewed each other “with suspicion and hostility,” today we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism.”

Francis pointed to the icon he blessed, noting that when looking at it, Jesus “to call out to us, to make an appeal to us: ‘Are you ready to leave everything from your past for me? Do you want to make my love known, my mercy?’”

“His gaze of divine mercy is the source of the whole Christian ministry,” the Pope said, and turned to the ministry of St. Paul, particularly in the community of Corinth.

As the Apostle’s letters show, he “did not always have an easy relationship” with the community in Corinth, the Pope said, noting that at one point there was even “a painful visit” during which “heated words” were exchanged in writing.

But by living his ministry in light of the mercy that he’s received, St. Paul “does not give up in the face of divisions, but devotes himself to reconciliation,” Francis observed, explaining that Christians of different confessions must have the same attitude.

“When we, the community of baptized Christians, find ourselves confronted with disagreements and turn towards the merciful face of Christ to overcome it, it is reassuring to know that we are doing as Saint Paul did in one of the very first Christian communities,” he said.

The Pope then noted how at perhaps the most difficult moment St. Paul had with the community in Corinth, the Apostle cancelled a trip he was planning to make, and renounced the gifts he would have received.

However, while there were certainly tensions in their relationship, “these did not have the final word,” Francis said, explaining that the two communities eventually reconciled and the Christians in Corinth eventually helped St. Paul in his ministry to the poor and needy.

“Solid communion grows and is built up when people work together for those in need,” he said, adding that “through a united witness to charity, the merciful face of Jesus is made visible in our city.”

Pope Francis then voiced his gratitude that after “centuries of mutual mistrust,” Catholics and Anglicans can now “recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work also in others.”

“We thank the Lord that among Christians the desire has grown for greater closeness, which is manifested in our praying together and in our common witness to the Gospel, above all in our various forms of service,” he said.

Although the path to full communion can at times seem “slow and uncertain,” the Pope said the two communities ought to be encouraged by his visit to the Anglican parish and the joint prayer.

The visit, he said, “is a grace and also a responsibility: the responsibility of strengthening our ties, to the praise of Christ, in service of the Gospel and of this city.”

Francis closed his homily encouraging both Catholics and Anglicans to work together “to become ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, always more liberated from our respective prejudices from the past and ever more desirous to pray for and with others.”

After his homily, Pope Francis took three questions from the congregation on the state of Catholic-Anglican relations today, his approach to relations versus that of his direct predecessor Benedict XVI and what Catholics and Anglicans can learn from the “creativity” of Churches in the global south, specifically Africa and Asia.

In his answer to the first question, the Pope noted that despite a turbulent past, relations between Catholics and Anglicans today “are good. We see each other as brothers.” He added that monasteries and the communion of Saints are two particular “strengths” the Churches have in common.

He also stressed the importance of not taking certain moments of history out of context and using them as ammo to damage current relations, saying “a historic fact must be read in the hermeneutic of that moment, not in another hermeneutic.”

In the second question it was asked if Pope Francis, by emphasizing a strategy of “walking and working” together toward unity was perhaps the opposite of Benedict XVI, who at one point warned that collaboration in social action shouldn’t take priority over theological matters.

Francis responded to the question with a joke told to him by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, that while the different Churches work together on other things, the theologians “can go to an island” and have their discussions there.

Theological questions are important, he said, noting that there are “many things in which we still don’t agree.”

But having this discussion “can’t be done in a laboratory, it has to be done walking,” he said, explaining that “we are on a journey.”

It’s important to have these theological discussions, “but in the meantime we help each other” though acts of charity such as serving the poor, migrants and refugees, he said, adding that “you can’t have ecumenical dialogue that is have to do it walking.”

When responding to the third question, Pope Francis noted that “young Churches” in Africa and Asia do have “a different vitality because they are different and they look for ways to express themselves differently.”

However, the “older Churches” in European countries, also have their own benefits, he said, noting that they have had time to “mature” and deepen in many things, including theological and ecumenical questions.

The Pope acknowledged that young Churches “have more creativity,” just as the European Church did when it began, and said there is “a strong need” for the two – old and young – to collaborate together.

As an example, he revealed that he is considering a trip to South Sudan sometime this year, and explained that the idea came from a recent visit the heads of three major Christian churches in the country to Rome.

In October Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba traveled to Rome alongside ev. 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, to explain the dire situation of their country, and their joint collaboration in working to quell the effects of the crisis.

Pope Francis noted that during his Oct. 27, 2016,  meeting with the three, they invited him to come, but told him “don’t do it alone,” and requested that he make the trip alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion.

He said the trip hasn’t been confirmed since situation on the ground is so risky, but assured that it’s “being studied,” because each of the Churches there “have the will to work for peace” together.

The Pope ended his answer to the question with the suggestion that, given the benefits of both the “old” and “young” Churches throughout the world, there be an exchange set up where priests from Europe travel to the “younger Churches” for a pastoral experience, rather than it always being the other way around.

“It would do us well,” he said, “You learn a lot.”