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Pope prays for victims of attack on Coptic church in Egypt

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 16:16

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 15:48

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishops seek input from youth ahead of 2018 synod

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 04:09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope to youth: The Church needs to hear your voice

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 01:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media need to tell the whole story on immigration, Pope Francis says

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 17:56

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2017 / 05:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Friday that when it comes to solving the immigration crisis, the media needs to stop perpetuating negative stereotypes and explain the big picture, shedding light on the causes behind migration.

“The mass media should be driven by the need to explain the different aspects of migration, also making the public aware of the causes of this phenomenon,” he said in an interview published April 7.

“The violation of human rights, the violent conflict in the social unrest, lack of basic necessities, natural disasters and those caused by man: all this must be told clearly to allow the right knowledge of the migration phenomenon and, therefore, the right approach.”

The Pope’s comments were made in a new interview with the Italian magazine, LibertàCivili, published every two months by the Italian Ministry for Internal Affairs.

In the interview, Francis slammed those in media who perpetuate negative stereotypes about migrants and refugees, especially when based on misinformation.

“How many times do you hear them speak of ‘illegal’ as a synonym for migrant. This is incorrect; it is information that starts from an incorrect basis and that pushes the public to develop a negative opinion,” he said.

This points to the media’s obsession with sensationalism and negative stories which grab the public’s attention, he explained. We always hear about any bad thing that an immigrant or refugee does, but it’s a “rare piece of news” that focuses on the good stories about them.

Good information is the kind that can “break down the walls of fear and indifference,” he continued. Only when the media, through images and stories, presents the human aspect, can we move beyond the stereotypes and the fear, and really encounter and welcome other people.

For Christians, “the peaceful integration of people of different cultures” is a reflection of the Church’s catholicity, or universality, since “ethnic and cultural diversity is a dimension of the Church’s life, which in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to everyone,” he said.

If handled humanely, migration offers an opportunity for encounter and growth for everyone, Francis continued.

“We must not lose the sense of fraternal responsibility. The defense of human beings knows no barriers; we are all united in wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman, child forced to abandon their land. There is no difference of belief that can stand against this will, indeed.”

Europe and other parts of the world at a “critical juncture” when it comes to migration and the management of migration policies, the Pope said. Leaders need “foresight and cohesion” as well as a “vigilant respect for fundamental human rights” to create policies that end the causes of forced migration.

Repeating what he often says about these policies, the Pope emphasized that there must be international cooperation on the issue that respects both the country welcoming and those being welcomed, and that those coming to the new country respect the laws, customs and traditions of the country they now reside in.

Likewise, European and other countries should remember how they have also experienced both immigration and emigration “the hard way.”

“How difficult was it after the war for millions of Europeans who left often with the whole family and crossed the ocean to land in South America or the United States!” he said.

“It was not an easy experience even for them. They suffered the burden of being regarded as strangers, they came from far away and without any knowledge of the local language. It was not an easy integration process.”

On January 1st of this year, Pope Francis formed a new Migrants and Refugees Section under the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. He did this, he said, because “the millions of migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking need special care.”

Reflecting the strong emphasis he’s placed on this issue of migration throughout his pontificate, Francis has put himself in charge of this section, “at least for a time,” he said.

“The main mission of the Section is to support the Church and pastors – locally, regionally and internationally – in accompanying people at every stage of the migration process,” he said.

The Pope said that for him, he thinks especially of people fleeing conflict, persecution, natural or man-made disasters, as well as trafficked-persons and those in exploitative situations, especially migrant workers, women, adolescents, and children.

As in the past, migrants are an “enrichment for our society,” he said. “We have much to learn from the past; it is important to act with awareness, without stirring up fear of foreigners.”

Pope Francis will visit a prison on Holy Thursday

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 00:32

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will wash the feet of prison inmates and say Mass at their penitentiary.

The Pope will visit Paliano prison south of Rome the afternoon of April 13. He will make a private visit and say the Mass of the Last Supper, Vatican Radio reports.

For Holy Thursday in 2013, just after becoming Pope, Francis visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center in Rome and celebrated Mass there. This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed.

At the time, liturgical law permitted only men's feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.

In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women's feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass.

The decision was made in concert with Pope Francis.

In a letter to the congregation's prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Pope Francis wrote: “For some time I have been reflecting on the rite of the washing of the feet, which forms part of the Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the intention of improving the ways in which it is put into practice, so that we fully express the meaning of the gesture made by Jesus in the Upper Room, his gift of self until the end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity.”

The Roman Missal's text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers”, while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers”.

Many parishes around the world had already been including women in the ritual for years; the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship made the practice licit.

In 2014, Pope Francis said the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

In 2015 he visited Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday Mass.

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

Catholic Church grows as Americas, Europe trail in priestly vocations

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 23:20

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 11:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to Vatican statistics released Thursday, the Church in the Americas lags behind globally when it comes to the number of seminarians per number of Catholics.

In 2015, the Americas had 53.6 seminarians per one million Catholics, trailing just behind Europe with 65.0 seminarians per million Catholics. This is in comparison to Asia's 245.7 and Africa’s 130.6 seminarians per million Catholics.

The Americas' low seminarian rate occurs despite the continent’s hold on the highest percentage of baptized Catholics in the world – 49 percent.

These and other statistics, released by the Vatican April 6, are contained within the 2017 Pontifical Yearbook, and the 2015 “Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae.” These volumes, compiled by the Central Office of Church Statistics and edited by the Vatican Press, are being distributed in bookstores now.

In terms of clergy, although the number of bishops grew relative to the number of Catholics, globally, the number of priests declined in 2015, in contrast to an upward trend from 2010-2014.

According to the report, the decline is largely attributable to the geographical areas of Europe and North America.

The percentage of priests in the world did increase by 0.83 percent between 2015 and 2010. With priests, Africa and Asia show a sustained growth dynamic, while the Americas remained almost stationary in that period. Europe and Oceania recorded negative rates of growth.

If considered with regard to the relationship between the size of the geographic areas and the rest of the world it shows that the relative weight of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America, all grew from 2010-2015, while Oceania and Middle East Asia remained stationary.

North America and Europe declined in the same period, which explains why the world-wide decline in priests in 2015 is largely attributable to these two areas.

Overall, Catholics grew globally from 1.272 billion in 2014 to 1.285 in 2015 – representing almost 18 percent of the population.

This “confirms the positive trend in the number of Catholics in the world, especially in the African continent, whose relative weight continues to increase over time,” the report states.

The significance of the Catholic Church in Africa continues to be confirmed as the number of baptized Catholics in the continent grew from 15.5 to 17.3 percent of all Catholics globally.

The growth in Catholics in the Americas and Asia is also important – up 6.7 percent in America and 9.1 percent in Asia – although these numbers fit with overall demographic development in the two continents, according to the report.

On the other hand, Europe’s contribution to the world’s Catholics made a sharp decline from 23.8 percent in 2010 to 22.8 in 2015.

In the period from 2010-2015, there was also a significant growth in the number of bishops, deacons, lay missionaries and catechists, although this is in contrast to a decline in professed religious brothers and sisters.

The priestly vocation crisis is particularly critical in America, the report noted, where the ratio between Catholics and priests exceeds 5,000 Catholics per priest. The ratio in Europe is weakened, with 1,595 Catholics per priest, though this is the most positive ratio in absolute terms.

In Asia the situation improved slightly, from 2,269 to 2,185 Catholics per priest, and Africa is stable with around 5,000 Catholics per priest.

After reaching a peak in 2011, the overall number of seminarians has undergone a gradual decline. Africa is the only continent not to experience this decline, making it the region with the greatest potential in the vocation crisis, the report explained.

Priest who met three saints named auxiliary bishop of Seattle

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 19:48

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 07:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has chosen Msgr. Daniel H. Mueggenborg, a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Over the course of his life, Msgr. Mueggenborg has met St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, as well as served Mass for Fr. Stanley Rother, the first recognized martyr to have been born in the United States.  

The Vatican announced his appointment April 6. He will join Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, a fellow auxiliary bishop, under Archbishop of Seattle J. Peter Sartain.

Bishop-elect Mueggenborg, 55, was born in Okarche, Okla. on April 15, 1962. Growing up he participated in Boy Scouts of America, eventually receiving the Eagle Scout Award.

One early event in his life, which impacted him greatly, he said, was meeting Fr. Stanley Rother, a native of Oklahoma who was martyred while working as a missionary in Guatemala and will be beatified in Oklahoma City in September.

According to an auto-biography on the website of the parish where he serves, Christ the King in Tulsa, during his first year of college in 1981, Msgr. Mueggenborg was asked to serve at Mass for the anniversary celebration of an aunt and uncle, which he agreed to, but only “reluctantly.”

The priest saying Mass turned out to be Fr. Rother. Though he did not know who he was at the time, “it turned out to be one of the most pivotal decisions of my life,” he said.

“I was captivated by the deep spiritual presence that surrounded” Fr. Rother, Bishop-elect Mueggenborg wrote. “There was a spirit of profound peace and love that filled the room when he entered.”

“He possessed the qualities of character that I desired most yet had not found in my secular pursuits of college life. As a result of that Mass I began allowing myself to once again consider the possibility of becoming a priest.”

After graduating with his Bachelors of Science in Geology from Oklahoma State University in 1984, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana. After one year, he was appointed by his bishop to continue his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Other adventures during his college and seminary years includes two missionary trips, one to Tanzania in Africa, where he had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

After his ordination to the diaconate, Pope John Paul II invited the new transitional deacons from the North American College, with their parents, to an audience with him at the Vatican – a moment he will never forget – Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said.  

“The influence of Saint John Paul II on my life as a Catholic and as a priest cannot be overestimated. The Holy Father gave witness of what a courageous priest does when he creatively carries out his ministry in face of obstacles and oppression.”

During his time in Rome, Mueggenborg also became very involved with the Missionaries of Charity, which is how he met St. Teresa of Calcutta. Though it started as just a weekly commitment of one hour at their soup kitchen, his time volunteering with them eventually increased to much more.

After his ordination to the priesthood on June 14, 1989, he was asked to serve as a chaplain for their small convent at San Gregorio in Rome. Mother Teresa was present at three of the Masses that year, he wrote in the biography. After one of the Masses, she came to the sacristy and then joined Bishop-elect Mueggenborg and a classmate for breakfast.

“It was a remarkable experience to be in the presence of a woman who radiated the very presence of Christ,” he said.

Bishop-elect Mueggenborg received a License in Biblical Theology in 1990 and returned to Tulsa. He served as parochial vicar and pastor at various parishes in the diocese, as well as chaplain of Bishop Kelly High School and Saint Philip Neri Newman Center at the University of Tulsa.

In 2005 he returned to Rome to serve as the Assistant Director of Formation at the Pontifical North American College, and then as Vice Rector of the college, from 2006-2011.

Since 2011 he has been pastor of Christ the King Parish in Tulsa, a member of the diocesan priests and financial councils and a member of the Board of Governors of the diocesan chapter of Caritas.

In addition to English, he speaks Spanish and Italian.

He is the second priest from the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma to be appointed bishop recently, after Oklahoma native Msgr. Peter Wells was made a bishop in 2016, Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa wrote in a statement on the diocese’s website.

“These appointments are a great statement of confidence from the Holy Father for the Church in Eastern Oklahoma, and the appointment of Msgr. Mueggenborg will only strengthen our communion with the universal Church,” he said.

“We congratulate Msgr. Mueggenborg on his appointment and knowing we will miss him, we wish him a fruitful ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle.”

Vatican approves special Fatima feast day for the Traditional Latin Mass

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 18:02

Vatican City, Apr 6, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican office which governs the use of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite has given priests permission to say a special Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima this year, noting the importance of the apparition's centenary.

In an April 5 decree the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei gave permission for any priest of the Latin Rite to celebrate a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 13, 2017 – the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal.

The decision was made because “many of the Christian faithful who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite have a particular and fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima” and out of a wish “to encourage the devotion of the faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima,” according to a translation of the decree made by Gregory DiPippo, editor of New Liturgical Movement.

The permission is significant because in the extraordinary form, May 13 is the third class feast of St. Robert Bellarmine – which means Our Lady of Fatima cannot normally be celebrated.

In the ordinary form, meanwhile, May 13 is already an optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima.

If a Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart is celebrated on May 13 in the extraordinary form, it may include a commemoration of St. Robert Bellarmine, as per the rubrics of the Roman Missal of 1962.

The Marian apparitions at Fatima are among the most famous of Mary's appearances. On May 13, 1917, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto – age 9 and 7 – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were taking their sheep to graze when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary.

After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary then appeared to the children on the 13th of every month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer.

Francisco and Jacinta died in 1919 and 1920, respectively, and were beatified in 2000. The path to their canonization was opened in March, when a second miracle attributed to their intercession was recognized by the Pope.

Lucia became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005. Her cause for beatification is open.

In 1930, the Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Blessed Paul VI in 1967, and later by St. John Paul II and by Benedict XVI.

St. John Paul II had a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. After a harrowing assassination attempt in 1981, he credited his survival to her miraculous intervention. As a sign of his gratitude, he placed the bullet from the failed assassination in her crown.

Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to the Fatima shrine for the centenary of the apparition next month.

He will visit the chapel of the apparitions and bless candles there on May 12. The following day, he will say Mass in the square before the shrine and greet the sick. He is also scheduled to meet with Portugal's bishops, president, and prime minister.

Pope Francis challenges young people in April prayer video

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 01:51

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2017 / 01:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people are the subject of Pope Francis’ universal prayer intention for April, and in his prayer video presenting the petition, the pontiff challenges them to “be the protagonists of change.”

Released April 4, the video opens with Pope Francis saying, “I know that you, young people, don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads.”

“I know that you aim high. Is that true, or am I wrong?” he asks.

As the video continues, a young woman is shown packing a backpack and heading out into the world. “Don’t leave it to others to be the protagonists of change,” Francis says.

“You, young people, are the ones who hold the future. I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world.”

“It is a challenge, yes it is, do you accept it?” he asks, as the video shows the young woman working with others to safely help refugees, wearing orange life vests and packed tightly in a life boat, safely onto a larger boat.

“Pray with me that young people may respond generously to their own vocation and mobilize for the great causes of the world,” the Pope concludes.

The Pope’s intention for April corresponds with the diocesan-level “World Youth Day,” which takes place on April 9 this year.

World Youth Days are held internationally every two or three years, and take place at the diocesan level during all other years. The last international World Youth Day was in Krakow, Poland in 2016. The next will take place in Panama in January 2019.

Pope Francis also released a video March 21 in anticipation of this year’s World Youth Day, telling youth that like the Virgin Mary, they are needed, and they should not be afraid to leave their mark on the world.

“Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history, your history and that of many others,” he said in the message.

“The Church and society need you,” he emphasized.

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 Jesuit-run global prayer network has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

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

The Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center.


Dialogue is essential, Pope Francis tells British Muslim leaders

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 23:56

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2017 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met Wednesday with a delegation of Muslim leaders from Great Britain along with Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster to promote dialogue and collaboration following the deadly attack in London last month.

During the private meeting at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall April 5, Pope Francis said the most important job everyone has in this moment is to listen to each other.

“I like to think that the most important work that we must do among us today, in humanity, is the work ‘of the ear:’ to listen to each other,” he stated. “To listen to each other, without rushing to answer.”

Following the audience with Francis, the group also met with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

The meetings at the Vatican were organized following an attack on London’s Palace of Westminster March 22.

According to the Guardian, four people were killed in the attack, including the police officer who was stabbed and one man believed to be the assailant. About 20 others were reported injured, some severely.

Wednesday’s delegation consisted of Muhammad Shahid Raza, chairman of the British Muslim Forum; Ali Raza Rizvi, president of Majilis e Uluma Europe; Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, director of the General Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society; and Ibrahim Mogra, co-chair of the Christian Muslim Forum.

“The ability to listen, this is so important,” the Pope said during the meeting. “It's interesting: when people have this capacity to listen, they speak in a low tone, calmly... Instead, when they do not have this, they speak loudly and shout as well.”

“Between brothers, all of us need to talk, to listen to each other and speak slowly, calmly, to search for the way together. And when you listen and speak, you are already on the way,” he said.

According to a statement from the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Nichols said they were all “deeply moved” to meet with the Pope.

“We draw great inspiration from his leadership and his encouragement to walk together on the road of profound spiritual dialogue.”

“I also hope that this moment will help the voice of authentic Islam to be heard clearly. We look forward to our continuing promotion of collaboration at a local level at the service of all in society,” he continued.

Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza called the meeting “a historic moment,” bringing together Christians and Muslims in “unity and solidarity for peace.”

“I could see the sincerity and love in his eyes as he offered words of encouragement to all of us as we came together in unity,” said Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi. “This is an important meeting offering hope for everyone, regardless of religion.”

“There is a common humanity to all of us. Some seek to divide people, religions, east versus west, but there is no east or west; there is just our common humanity as we seek a peaceful future for all based on justice and compassion.”

Pope Francis sent a letter the day following the London attack expressing his sorrow and solidarity for the victims and their families, and entrusting them and the nation to God’s mercy.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy,” a March 23 letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read.

The Pope commended the souls of those who died “to the loving mercy of Almighty God,” and prayed for “divine strength and peace upon their grieving families,” while assuring of his prayer for the entire nation.

Pope Francis condemns deadly attacks in Syria, Russia

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 17:47

Vatican City, Apr 5, 2017 / 05:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis expressed his horror at a chemical weapon attack in the province of Idlib in Syria on Tuesday, also expressing his sorrow for the victims of an attack April 3 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“We witness, horrified, the latest events in Syria,” the Pope said April 5. “I strongly deplore the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday in the province of Idlib, where dozens of civilians were killed, including many children.”

“I pray for the victims and their families, and I appeal to the conscience of those who have political responsibility, locally and internationally, so that this tragedy may come to an end and relief be brought to that beloved population who for too long have been devastated by war,” he continued.

Francis also offered encouragement to those who, even in a time of insecurity and discomfort, are working to bring help to the people of that region.

Reports differ, but at least 70 people, including children, were killed April 4 after being exposed to a toxic gas said to have been dropped from warplanes, the Guardian reports. At least another 100 people are being treated in hospitals in the region. Hours after the initial attack, one hospital treating the injured was also hit.

This attack followed one day after a bomb exploded between two metro stops in St. Petersburg, killing 14 people and injuring dozens more. Authorities have determined the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber originally from the central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan, CNN reports.

Another explosive device was later found in the metro system and safely disabled.

Pope Francis said Wednesday that his thoughts go out to all those involved in the serious attack. “I entrust to God's mercy those who have tragically died, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all those who suffer because of this tragic event,” he said.

The Pope’s appeal followed his usual Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he spoke about what it means to accept suffering in our lives, uniting it with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross.

St. Peter tells us it is better to suffer “for doing good...than for doing evil,” Francis said. “He does not mean that it is good to suffer, but that, when we suffer for the good, we are in communion with the Lord, who consented to suffer and be placed on the cross for our salvation.”

“When then we too, in smaller or larger situations in our lives, accept to suffer for the good,” he continued, “it is as if we sow around us seeds of the resurrection, seeds of life, making shine in the darkness the light of Easter.”

This is why the Apostle urges us to not return “evil with evil,” he said, but instead to always wish the other person well.

“This blessing is not a formality, is not only a sign of courtesy, but is a great gift that we ourselves have receive and have to ability to share with others,” he said. “It is the proclamation of God, an immense love, that does not end, it never fails, and which constitutes the very foundation of our hope.”

Every time we suffer “for righteousness,” we become an “instrument of peace,” the Pope said. This is why the Apostle Peter calls us “blessed” for doing so.

St. Peter also tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,” but this hope is not just a concept or a feeling, but a person, Pope Francis said.

Because “Christ is risen,” we recognize that he is not only alive, but present in us and in our brothers and sisters, as well, he said. This means that we must be Christ’s visible signs on earth, taking him as our model of how to live and learning to always act as he would act.

We must “emanate” the gentleness of Christ, always showing respect towards others, forgiving those who hurt us, the Pope said.

“Yes, because that is what Jesus did, and continues to do through those who make room for him in their hearts and in their lives, aware that evil does not win with evil, but with humility, mercy and meekness."

Charles and Camilla meet Pope Francis, tour Vatican archives

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 02:02

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2017 / 02:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, met Pope Francis Tuesday at the Vatican, shortly after the British prince had received the Renaissance Man of the Year award for his philanthropic work.

Charles, 68, is heir to the British throne, and in recent years has drawn attention to the plight of Christians in the Middle East and to his own country's Christian heritage.

During the April 4 meeting the Pope and the royal couple discussed topics of mutual interest and exchanged gifts, a release from the British Embassy to the Holy See. Pope Francis gave them a bronze sculpture of an olive branch, while they presented him with food from their private residence, Highgrove House, to be distributed to the poor and homeless.


The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are received by His Holiness Pope Francis in Vatican City. #RoyalVisitHolySee @Pontifex

— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) April 4, 2017  

Following the papal audience, Charles and a British diplomat met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, to discuss environmental issues, as well as officials from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Charles and Camilla also visited the Vatican Library and Secret Archives, and met at the Venerable English College with Britons working at the Holy See.

The royal visit to the Vatican marked the conclusion to the couple's visit to the continent.

They visited a Commonwealth cemetery in Vicenza commemorating the First World War, the earthquake-stricken city of Amatrice, and charities helping trafficked persons and the poor.

This was their first meeting with Pope Francis. They encountered Benedict XVI in 2009, and Charles met St. John Paul II with his first wife, Diana, at the Vatican in 1985.

For Francis, human development is about 'integrating body and soul'

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 23:41

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2017 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis spoke about what an ‘integral human development’ looks like, saying that development must include the whole person, both physically and spiritually.

“Development does not consist in having the regulation of more and more goods, for just a material well-being,” he said April 4. “Integrating body and soul also means that no development work can really achieve its purpose if it does not respect the place where God is present to us and speaks to our hearts.”

In Christ “God and man are not divided and separated. God became man to make of human life, both personal and social, a concrete path to salvation,” he reflected.

“So the manifestation of God in Christ – including his acts of healing, liberation, and reconciliation that we are called to propose to the many injured by the roadside – shows the way and the mode of service that the Church intends to offer to the world,” he explained.

“In this sense, the very concept of the person, born and matured in Christianity, helps to pursue a fully human development.”

Pope Francis spoke April 4 in the Vatican's Synod Hall to participants in a conference hosted by the
Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The April 3-4 conference, held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, on the development of peoples, aimed to discuss the question: “who is man?”

“What does that mean, today and in the near future, integral development, i.e. development of every person and of the whole man?” Pope Francis asked, borrowing the words of his predecessor in Populorum Progressio.

Specifically, Francis said, in the use of the word “integrate,” we can find “a fundamental orientation for the new dicastery,” which was established Jan. 1 of this year.

One major integration that has largely been lost, he said, is that of community and the individual. Especially in the West, we have “exalted the individual until they become like an island, as if one can be happy alone,” he said.

On the other hand, there are “ideological views and political powers have crushed the person,” he said, taking away their personal liberty.

But “the self and the community are not in competition with each other,” he said. They should work together, because it is only within the context of authentic relationships that the “self is able to mature.”

“This applies even more to the family, which is the first cell of society and where we learn to live together,” he said.

The Pope said another form of integration we can improve is the solidarity between those who have too much and those who have nothing.

In considering social integration, we must remember that “everyone has a contribution to offer the whole of society,” he said, “no one is excluded from making something for the good of all. This is both a right and a duty.”

He said another essential aspect for this improved development is integration of the different systems: the economy, finance, labor, culture, family life, and religion.

“None of them can be free-standing and none of them can be excluded from a concept of integral human development,” he said, this is taking “into account that human life is like an orchestra that sounds good if the different instruments agree and follow a score shared by all.”

“The Church never tires of offering this wisdom and her work to the world, in the awareness that integral development is the way of goodness that the human family is called to tread,” the Pope concluded.

“I encourage you to pursue this action with patience and perseverance, trusting that the Lord is with us.”

Pope Francis creates path for SSPX priests to validly celebrate marriages

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 17:53

Vatican City, Apr 4, 2017 / 05:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis approved a way for the Church to recognize marriages celebrated by priests of the Society of St. Pius X, which before now were not considered valid by Church authorities.

Through a letter published April 4, the Pope has given diocesan bishops, or other local ordinaries, the authorization to grant priests of the SSPX the ability to licitly and validly celebrate the marriages of faithful belonging to the Society.

The authorization is granted under the condition that a diocesan, or otherwise fully regular priest, is delegated to hear and receive the consent of the parties during the marriage rite itself, which can then be followed by the celebration of the liturgy by a priest of the Society.

Francis approved this authorization following a proposal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” as a way to ensure the validity and lawfulness of the Sacrament and to “reassure the conscience of the faithful,” the commission’s letter explains.

“Despite the objective persistence of the canonical irregularity in which for the time being the Society of St. Pius X finds itself, the Holy Father…has decided to authorize Local Ordinaries the possibility to grant faculties for the celebration of marriages of faithful who follow the pastoral activity of the Society,” the letter states.

If the first provision is not possible, or if no priests of the diocese are able to receive the consent of those marrying, then the Local Ordinary, most commonly the bishop of the area, may then grant the priest of the Society presiding over the Mass the necessary faculties to receive the consent in the marriage rite.

In this case, the priest of the Society is obliged to then send the relevant documents to the Diocesan Curia as soon as possible.

Signed by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the congregation, and by Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the commission, it explained the effort as part of the Church’s ongoing initiatives “to bring the Society of St. Pius X into full communion.”

The most recent of these initiatives was the September 2015 announcement by Pope Francis that the faithful would be able to validly and licitly receive absolution from priests of the SSPX during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This ability was later extended indefinitely by Francis in his apostolic letter “Misericordia et misera” published Nov. 20, 2016.

The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church after the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

The illicit consecrations resulted in the excommunication of the bishops involved. The excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI and since then negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the Society and the Vatican.

In remitting the excommunications, Benedict noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

The biggest obstacles for the Society's reconciliation have been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II's declaration Dignitatis humanae as well as the declaration Nostra aetate, which it claims contradict previous Catholic teaching.

ISIS captive among new refugees welcomed by Pope Francis

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 23:23

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has taken in three new Syrian families, some members of which were ISIS prisoners before gaining freedom and fleeing the country.

According to an April 3 Vatican communique, the families – two of whom are Christian – took the place of the families welcomed by the Vatican last year, who with the help of various organizations have now become independent, and have moved out of their Vatican apartments.

The decision to welcome them was made in response to the Pope's Sept. 6, 2015, appeal for all European parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines to house one refugee family. At the time, the Pope said the two Vatican parishes – St. Peter's Basilica and St. Anne's parish – would also be hosting one family each.

St. Peter's Basilica provided an apartment for an Eritrean family, consisting of a mother and her five children.

The family hosted by St. Anne's parish was a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children, who fled from the Syrian capital of Damascus and arrived in Italy the same day Pope Francis made his appeal.

Both families had made their way to Greece, their homes having been bombed, and made it to Italy with the help of the “Humanitarian Corridors” project run by the Sant'Egidio Community and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy to provide refugees safe passage without risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Numbering 13 people in total, the new families taking their place arrived at different times: one in February 2016 and two in March of this year.

Of the two families who arrived in March, both suffered “kidnapping and other types of discrimination” because of their Christian faith.

The first family is composed of a mother and her two adolescent children, their grandmother, an aunt and another Syrian woman who lives with them.

The second family consists of a young couple and their newborn daughter, Stella, who was born two weeks ago in the apartment they are now living in.

According to the communique, the mother had been a prisoner of ISIS for “several months,” but now, after arriving in Italy, “has again found peace.”

The third family, who arrived to Italy in February 2016, is Muslim and consists of parents and their two daughters, the eldest of whom is ill.

However, the family has begun a process of integration in which both children attend school and their mother is enrolled in a graduate course for Intercultural Mediators,entering just a few days ago a program for career training.

To date some 70 families, including those hosted by the Vatican, have arrived to Rome with the help of the Humanitarian Corridors project, totaling 145 people between them.

Apart from the assurance of a warm welcome through various parishes, communities and associations, the families are accompanied after arriving by volunteers, who help them in the integration process, beginning with learning the Italian language.

In addition to the families hosted by the Vatican, an additional 21 Syrian refugees – who came back with the Pope after his 2016 trip to Lesbos – receive economic assistance from the Holy See, and in some cases are hosted by religious or private families.

ISIS captive among new refugees welcomed by Pope Francis

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 23:23

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2017 / 11:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has taken in three new Syrian families, some members of which were ISIS prisoners before gaining freedom and fleeing the country.

According to an April 3 Vatican communique, the families – two of whom are Christian – took the place of the families welcomed by the Vatican last year, who with the help of various organizations have now become independent, and have moved out of their Vatican apartments.

The decision to welcome them was made in response to the Pope's Sept. 6, 2015, appeal for all European parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines to house one refugee family. At the time, the Pope said the two Vatican parishes – St. Peter's Basilica and St. Anne's parish – would also be hosting one family each.

St. Peter's Basilica provided an apartment for an Eritrean family, consisting of a mother and her five children.

The family hosted by St. Anne's parish was a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children, who fled from the Syrian capital of Damascus and arrived in Italy the same day Pope Francis made his appeal.

Both families had made their way to Greece, their homes having been bombed, and made it to Italy with the help of the “Humanitarian Corridors” project run by the Sant'Egidio Community and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy to provide refugees safe passage without risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

Numbering 13 people in total, the new families taking their place arrived at different times: one in February 2016 and two in March of this year.

Of the two families who arrived in March, both suffered “kidnapping and other types of discrimination” because of their Christian faith.

The first family is composed of a mother and her two adolescent children, their grandmother, an aunt and another Syrian woman who lives with them.

The second family consists of a young couple and their newborn daughter, Stella, who was born two weeks ago in the apartment they are now living in.

According to the communique, the mother had been a prisoner of ISIS for “several months,” but now, after arriving in Italy, “has again found peace.”

The third family, who arrived to Italy in February 2016, is Muslim and consists of parents and their two daughters, the eldest of whom is ill.

However, the family has begun a process of integration in which both children attend school and their mother is enrolled in a graduate course for Intercultural Mediators,entering just a few days ago a program for career training.

To date some 70 families, including those hosted by the Vatican, have arrived to Rome with the help of the Humanitarian Corridors project, totaling 145 people between them.

Apart from the assurance of a warm welcome through various parishes, communities and associations, the families are accompanied after arriving by volunteers, who help them in the integration process, beginning with learning the Italian language.

In addition to the families hosted by the Vatican, an additional 21 Syrian refugees – who came back with the Pope after his 2016 trip to Lesbos – receive economic assistance from the Holy See, and in some cases are hosted by religious or private families.

Even in tragedy, God’s love remains, Pope tells earthquake victims

Sun, 04/02/2017 - 21:41

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2017 / 09:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Sunday Pope Francis encouraged people from earthquake-damaged communities to continue the process of rebuilding with courage and strength, never losing hope in God’s steadfast love.

“You have endeavored to face, with an evangelical spirit, the precarious situation caused by the earthquake,” Francis said April 2, “recognizing and accepting in the painful events the mysterious presence of a Father who is always loving even in the toughest trials.”

Though you may think that the wounds have healed, the scars may persist for a lifetime, he said. “Remain firm in your intent not to give in to discouragement at the difficulties that still remain.”

Pope Francis met April 2 with people affected by earthquakes in the northern region of Italy in May 2012. The meeting took place at the end of his day trip to the northern Italian town of Carpi, where he celebrated Mass and had a private meeting with priests, seminarians and religious.

He then traveled by car to the town of Mirandola to speak to people from earthquake-struck communities. The meeting took place in a square outside of the town’s Cathedral, which is being rebuilt after experiencing significant damage from a quake.

Before speaking, Francis went into the church to say a prayer and lay flowers on the altar, which he said were “in memory of those who died in the earthquake.”

Afterwards, the Pope went by car to the Parish of St. James in the nearby village of Roncole to place flowers and pay homage at a monument in memory of the victims of the earthquake.

The two 2012 earthquakes, which occurred May 20 and May 29, killed 27 people and caused widespread damage to the area. The Pope’s visit to northern Italy was intended as a sign of encouragement during the rebuilding process.

“I think of the discomfort that you have endured: the wounds to houses, to productive activities, to the churches and other monuments, rich in history and art and a symbol of the spirituality and civilization of a people,” he said.

“But I think especially of the inner wounds: the suffering of those who have lost their loved ones and those who have seen dispersed among them the sacrifices of an entire lifetime.”

In two weeks we will celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, Francis noted, praying that the strength of the Risen Lord will sustain them and give them hope as they continue to restore and rebuild their communities.

“Indeed, much has been done in the work of reconstruction,” he said, “but it is more important than ever to make a strong commitment to also recover historical centers: they are places of historical memory and are essential areas of social and ecclesial life.”

“My wish is that there is never less fortitude, hope, and the qualities of industriousness that will set you apart.”

Observing that he stood in front of their cathedral, Pope Francis said that the church was “a symbol of the faith and tradition of the area,” asking those present to join him in offering a prayer for the victims of the earthquake and their families, and for those still in precarious situations.

“May the Lord make each of you feel his support!” he said.

“Today I am among you to strengthen the affection of the whole Church and to testify to each of you my closeness and my encouragement for the journey that remains to be done in the reconstruction.”

Pope: Don’t dwell on suffering, let Jesus heal you

Sun, 04/02/2017 - 16:42

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2017 / 04:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis said that each of us carries some kind of tomb inside our heart, whether from sin or suffering, and we can either stay bogged down in misery, focusing only on ourselves, or we can allow Jesus to come into that place and heal it. 

“In front of the big ‘why’ of life we have two paths,” the Pope said April 2, “to stay to watch gloomily the tombs of yesterday and of today, or to bring Jesus to our tombs.”

“Yes, because each of us has a small tomb, some area that is a little bit dead inside the heart: a wound, an injury suffered or done (to us), a bitterness that does not let up, remorse that returns, a sin that you cannot overcome.”

“We identify these today, our little tombs we have inside and invite Jesus there,” he said.

Francis presided over Mass Sunday in the northern Italian town of Carpi, where he was making a day trip.

Often, the Pope said, we can be tempted to hide our weaknesses and sins from God, dwelling on them. “It's strange, but often we prefer to be alone in the dark caves that we have inside,” he said.

“Instead, invite Jesus; we are tempted to always look to ourselves, brooding and sinking in anguish, licking our wounds, rather than going to him, who says, ‘Come to me you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”

Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel which tells the story of Lazarus’ death, the sorrow of Jesus, and the miracle of Lazarus’ raising.

“Even Jesus is shaken by the dramatic mystery of the loss of a loved one,” he said. But in the midst of this suffering, he also shows us how to act. “Despite suffering himself, Jesus was not carried away by anxiety.”

Jesus didn’t try to escape the suffering, but he also didn’t get bogged down in pessimism or gloom, Francis said. Instead, he brings hope, proclaiming: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he die, shall live.”

“So he says: ‘Take away the stone’ and to Lazarus shouts loudly: ‘Come out!’”

This is what Jesus also says to us: “Get up, get up!” the Pope said.

“In following Jesus we learn not to tie our lives close to the problems that tangle: there will always be problems always, and, when we solve one, promptly another one arrives,” he pointed out.

What we can do, however, is tie ourselves to the one thing that is stable and unchanging – Jesus, he continued. “With him joy dwells in the heart, hope is reborn, pain is transformed into peace, fear into confidence, proof of the gift of love.”

We have to decide which path to take, he said: “the side of the tomb or the side of Jesus.” It doesn’t matter how heavy our past sins, shame or hurt may be, with Christ’s grace, we can roll away the stone that is keeping him from our hearts.

“This is a favorable time to remove our sin, our attachment to worldly vanity, the pride that stops us the soul,” he said.

“Visited and freed by Jesus, we ask for the grace to be witnesses of life in this world that is thirsty, witnesses that arouse and raise the hope of God in hearts weary and weighed down by sadness.”

He concluded: “Our announcement is the joy of the living Lord, who still says, as in Ezekiel: 'Behold, I will open your graves, I will make you get up out of your graves, O my people.’”

Immediately following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in the Angelus, praying for people in the region of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he said there continue to be reports of deadly armed clashes.

The violence has also caused displacement and affected people and property, he said, including causing damage to schools, hospitals and churches.

“I assure you of my closeness to this nation and urge you all to pray for peace so that the hearts of the architects of such crimes do not remain slaves of hatred and violence, which always…destroys.”

He also prayed for victims of a mudslide in Colombia on Saturday, which has killed more than 230 people, according to the New York Times.

The Pope also said he is following what is happening in the countries of Venezuela and Paraguay. “I pray for those people, so dear to me, and I urge everyone to persevere tirelessly, avoiding any violence in the search for political solutions.”

Francis concluded by thanking everyone for being there at Mass, especially the sick and the suffering who were present, as well as those who helped with the Mass. He also blessed four stones which will be used to form cornerstones of four new diocesan buildings being erected.

Pope Francis says Catholic shrines are a key place for evangelization

Sun, 04/02/2017 - 13:24

Vatican City, Apr 2, 2017 / 01:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis moved the responsibility for Catholic shrines to be under the Congregation for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, stating that shrines, as sacred places, are especially suitable to conversion and the strengthening of faith.

April 1 the Pope issued the edict – called a motu proprio – formally moving the competency of shrines from the Congregation for Clergy to the Vatican department on the New Evangelization.

“The large influx of pilgrims, the humble and simple prayer of God's people alternating in the liturgical celebrations, the fulfillment of so many graces that many believers certify that they have received and the natural beauty of these places allow you to see how the shrines…express an irreplaceable opportunity for evangelization in our time,” Francis states in the letter.

According to the document, titled “Ecclesia in Sanctuarium,” the tasks of the congregation will include: the establishment of new national and international shrines, studying and implementing measures for promoting their role in evangelization, and promoting systematic pastoral care of the shrines and specific training for those who operate them.

They will also be in charge of the promotion of national and international meetings to promote communal pastoral renewal and pilgrimages to various shrines, spiritual guidance for pilgrims, and “cultural and artistic enhancement of the Shrines according to the via pulchritudinis (way of beauty) as a particular mode of evangelization of the Church,” Pope Francis said.

Shrines and other places of pilgrimage “despite the crisis of faith that invests the contemporary world, are still perceived as sacred spaces to which pilgrims go to find a moment of rest, silence and contemplation in the often hectic life of today,” the letter continues.

“A hidden desire creates for many a nostalgia for God; and shrines can be a real refuge to rediscover themselves and regain the necessary strength for their conversion.”

People have made pilgrimages to holy sites since the first century, the Pope said, and even today, in every part of the world, they remain “a distinctive sign of the simple and humble faith of believers.”

The shrine is a “sacred place,” where the celebration of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, as well as the witness of charity, “express the great commitment of the Church for evangelization; and therefore it stands as a genuine place of evangelization…” he stated.

The proclamation, which was signed by Pope Francis on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, goes into effect 15 days from its publication.