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Pope Francis: Message for World Mission Sunday

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 20:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has issued his Message for World Mission Sunday, 2017, which is focused on  Mission at the Heart of the Christian Faith . World Mission Sunday is marked each year in October, and this year is on October 22nd.  Please find the full text of the Holy Father's Message, below... ********************************************************* Mission at the heart of the Christian faith Dear Brothers and Sisters, Once again this year, World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, “the very first and greatest evangelizer” (PAUL VI,  Evangelii Nuntiandi , 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This Day invites us to reflect anew on the  mission at the heart of the Christian faith .  The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away.  So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent.  What is the  basis  of our mission?  What is the  heart  of our mission?  What are the  essential approaches  we need to take in carrying out our mission? Mission and the transformative power of the Gospel of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life 1. The Church’s mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel.  The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offers new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf.  Jn  14:6).  He is the  Way  who invites us to follow him with confidence and courage.  In following Jesus as our  Way , we experience  Truth  and receive his  Life , which is fullness of communion with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  That life sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love. 2. God the Father desires this existential transformation of his sons and daughters, a transformation that finds expression in worship in spirit and truth (cf.  Jn  4:23-24), through a life guided by the Holy Spirit in imitation of Jesus the Son to the glory of God the Father. “The glory of God is the living man” (IRENAEUS,  Adversus Haereses  IV, 20, 7).  The preaching of the Gospel thus becomes a vital and effective word that accomplishes what it proclaims (cf.  Is  55:10-11): Jesus Christ, who constantly takes flesh in every human situation (cf.  Jn  1:14). Mission and the  kairos  of Christ 3. The Church’s mission, then, is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching.  Many movements throughout the world inspire high ideals or ways to live a meaningful life.  Through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the  kairos , the favourable time of salvation.  Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth.  “His resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up.  It is an irresistible force” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 276). 4. Let us never forget that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (BENEDICT XVI,  Deus Caritas Est , 1).  The Gospel is a Person who continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.  Through  Baptism , the Gospel becomes a source of new life, freed of the dominion of sin, enlightened and transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Through  Confirmation , it becomes a fortifying anointing that, through the same Spirit, points out new ways and strategies for witness and accompaniment.  Through the  Eucharist , it becomes food for new life, a “medicine of immortality” (IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH,  Ad Ephesios , 20, 2). 5. The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the  Good Samaritan , caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as  Good Shepherd , constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.  Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel.  I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed.  I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord.   For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage.  We can think too of countless testimonies to how the Gospel helps to overcome narrowness, conflict, racism, tribalism, and to promote everywhere, and among all, reconciliation, fraternity, and sharing. Mission inspires a spirituality of constant exodus, pilgrimage, and exile 6. The Church’s mission is enlivened by a spirituality of  constant exodus .  We are challenged “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 20).  The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a  constant pilgrimage  across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice.  The Church’s mission inspires a sense of  constant exile , to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of Heaven. 7.  Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom.  A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, his crucified and glorious Body.  That is why we should prefer “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” ( ibid ., 49). Young people, the hope of mission 8. Young people are the hope of mission.  The person of Jesus Christ and the Good News he proclaimed continue to attract many young people.  They seek ways to put themselves with courage and enthusiasm at the service of humanity.  “There are many young people who offer their solidarity in the face of the evils of the world and engage in various forms of militancy and volunteering...  How beautiful it is to see that young people are ‘street preachers’, joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!” ( ibid ., 106).  The next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in 2018 on the theme  Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment , represents a providential opportunity to involve young people in the shared missionary responsibility that needs their rich imagination and creativity. The service of the Pontifical Mission Societies 9. The Pontifical Mission Societies are a precious means of awakening in every Christian community a desire to reach beyond its own confines and security in order to proclaim the Gospel to all.  In them, thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone.  World Mission Day, promoted by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization. Carrying out our mission with Mary, Mother of Evangelization 10. Dear brothers and sisters, in carrying out our mission, let us draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization.  Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith.  May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own “yes”, conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time.  May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death.  May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman. From the Vatican, 4 June 2017 Solemnity of Pentecost (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: homily for Pentecost, 2017

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 19:02
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in St. Peter’s Square. Below, please find the full text of his homily in its official English translation ************************************ Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Solemnity of Pentecost 4 June 2017 Today concludes the Easter season, the fifty days that, from Jesus’ resurrection to Pentecost, are marked in a particular way by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is in fact the Easter Gift par excellence.  He is the Creator Spirit, who constantly brings about new things.  Today’s readings show us two of those new things.  In the first reading, the Spirit makes of the disciples a new people ; in the Gospel, he creates in the disciples a new heart . A new people .  On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down from heaven, in the form of “divided tongues, as of fire… [that] rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages” ( Acts 2:3-4).  This is how the word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first he rests on each and then brings all of them together in fellowship.  To each he gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity.  In other words, the same Spirit creates diversity and unity , and in this way forms a new, diverse and unified people: the universal Church.   First, in a way both creative and unexpected, he generates diversity, for in every age he causes new and varied charisms to blossom.  Then he brings about unity: he joins together, gathers and restores harmony: “By his presence and his activity, the Spirit draws into unity spirits that are distinct and separate among themselves” (CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA, Commentary on the Gospel of John , XI, 11).  He does so in a way that effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference . For this to happen, we need to avoid two recurrent temptations .  The first temptation seeks diversity without unity .  This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others, or always in the right.  When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church.  We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit.  We become Christians of the “right” or the “left”, before being on the side of Jesus, unbending guardians of the past or the avant-garde of the future before being humble and grateful children of the Church.  The result is diversity without unity.  The opposite temptation is that of seeking unity without diversity .  Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike.  Unity ends up being homogeneity and no longer freedom.  But, as Saint Paul says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” ( 2 Cor 3:17). So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive his unity, a glance that, leaving personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church.  It is to accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion.  It is also to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared. Now we come to the second new thing brought by the Spirit: a new heart .  When the risen Jesus first appears to his disciples, he says to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” ( Jn 20:22-23).  Jesus does not condemn them for having denied and abandoned him during his passion, but instead grants them the spirit of forgiveness.  The Spirit is the first gift of the risen Lord, and is given above all for the forgiveness of sins.  Here we see the beginning of the Church, the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness .  Because forgiveness is gift to the highest degree; it is the greatest love of all.  It preserves unity despite everything, prevents collapse, and consolidates and strengthens.  Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh.  Forgiveness gives hope; without forgiveness, the Church is not built up. The spirit of forgiveness resolves everything in harmony, and leads us to reject every other way: the way of hasty judgement, the cul-de-sac of closing every door, the one-way street criticizing others.  Instead, the Spirit bids us take the two-way street of forgiveness received and given, of divine mercy that becomes love of neighbour, of charity as “the sole criterion by which everything must be done or not done, changed or not changed” (ISAAC OF STELLA, Or. 31).  Let us ask for the grace to make more beautiful the countenance of our Mother the Church, letting ourselves be renewed by forgiveness and self-correction.  Only then will we be able to correct others in charity. The Holy Spirit is the fire of love burning in the Church and in our hearts, even though we often cover him with the ash of our sins.  Let us ask him: “Spirit of God, Lord, who dwell in my heart and in the heart of the Church, guiding and shaping her in diversity, come!  Like water, we need you to live.  Come down upon us anew, teach us unity, renew our hearts and teach us to love as you love us, to forgive as you forgive us.  Amen”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: prayers for victims of London terror attacks

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 18:50
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the Saturday evening terror attacks in London, as well as for the families of the victims. The prayers of the Holy Father came at the end of Mass on Pentecost Sunday, during the course of remarks to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, as they prepared to pray the Regina coeli with him. “May the Holy Spirit grant peace to the whole world,” Pope Francis prayed, “may He heal the wounds of war and of terrorism, which even this [Saturday] night, in London, struck innocent civilians: let us pray for the victims and their families.” Seven people are dead and 48 others are injured in London after a van drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, after which the occupants of the vehicle emerged and began stabbing people in Borough Market. Witness reports say the assailants cried, “This is for Allah,” as they stabbed their victims repeatedly. Armed police shot and killed the three attackers. (from Vatican Radio)...

Children from earthquake-stricken central Italy visit Pope

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 22:10
(Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican a number of young children from the towns Norcia, Cascia, Accumoli, Amatrice, Arquata del Tronto, and Acquasanta – communities that were devastated by a series of earthquakes that struck central Italy last year. The children had come to Rome aboard a special “Children’s Train” especially to meet with the Holy Father. In the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis conversed familiarly with the children. “They tell me I have to speak, but I like to listen!” he said, inviting them to tell him their stories. He called several of the children to himself so he could ask them questions and listen to their responses. The Pope asked them about the effects of the earthquake, and how the children were responding in the wake of the catastrophe. After speaking individually with more than a dozen boys and girls, Pope Francis offered a word of instruction. “What you’ve gone through is truly ugly,” he said, “because it’s a disaster, and disasters wound the soul.” But, he told them, “the Lord helps us to start again!”: “Do you trust in the Lord?” the Pope asked them. “Yes!” they replied. “Are you sure?” “Yes!” “And also in the Madonna?” “Yes!” “And now, if we have faith, let us thank the Madonna for the good things she has given us in this disaster: Hail Mary…” After leading the children in the Hail Mary, the Holy Father told the children, ‘One of the things that Jesus likes best, one of the words that the Lord likes best, is the word “thank you very much.’” He thanked them for their visit.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis greets Evangelical Leaders

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 21:25
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday morning met with Evangelical leaders who are in Rome for the Vigil of Pentecost. In a brief words of greeting, the Holy Father thanked them for their work for the unity of Christians, “which the Lord wants.” “Let us walk together,” he said, “let us help the poor together, let us perform acts of charity together, let us work for education together.” At the same time, he said, theologians can do their part and help in the effort for Christian unity. “But we are always on the journey, never stopping, never stopping… and together,” he said. Pope Francis concluded his remarks by asking all those present to pray together, “as brothers,” the Our Father, each in his own language.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Pont. Mission Societies: fidelity key to renewal

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 19:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies on Saturday. A main focus of the week-long Assembly has been the Extraordinary Missionary Month scheduled for October 2019 to commemorate the centenary of the promulgation of the encyclical Maximum illud , by which Pope Benedict XV sought to give a new élan to Catholic missionary endeavor in the wake of World War I’s devastation. The Missionary Month is also aimed at promoting the missionary commitment of the Church in line with Pope Francis’ own 2013 missionary Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium . In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered to the roughly 170 participants on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis focused on the need to cultivate personal habits of life conducive to holiness, and to practice an openness and docility toward the Holy Spirit, in order to discern new paths and channels by which the more efficaciously to communicate the Good News of our salvation in the One Divine Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. “Renewal requires conversion,” said Pope Francis, “it requires living the mission as a permanent opportunity to proclaim Christ, to bring people to meet Him through [personal] witness and bringing others to participate in our personal encounter with Him.” The Holy Father went on to express the hope that the spiritual and material assistance to the Churches that the Pontifical Mission Societies give will make those Churches ever more solidly founded on the Gospel and On the baptismal involvement of all the faithful – laymen and clergy alike – in the Church's one and only mission: “[T]o make God’s love close to every man, especially to those most in need of His mercy.” Pope Francis went on to pray that the Extraordinary Month of Prayer and Reflection on Mission as First Evangelization might serve this renewal of ecclesial faith, “that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, Lord and Spouse of his Church, be ever at work in His Church.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Uganda Martyrs were ordinary people

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 17:30
The Uganda Martyrs Day celebration has taken place at Uganda’s Namugongo shrine. According to Uganda’s Daily Monitor Newspaper, by 8 am all the pavilions where pilgrims sit were already full even though people were still trying to make the security clearances to get inside the shrine for the Mass.  Some pilgrims arrived at the shrine six days ago in order to have an assured place at the arena. Uganda’s Bishop of Hoima Diocese, Vincent Kirabo whose Diocese is hosting this year's Martyrs’ day was the principal celebrant at the Holy Mass. Speaking during Mass, monitored on Uganda’s NTV Youtube live stream , the Bishop invited the faithful to be faithful witnesses to the message of Christ just as the martyrs were. “The Uganda Martyrs were ordinary people with admirable human qualities ... because of these qualities the were leaders at the Kabaka’s palace,” the Bishop said. He told the faithful that there is documented evidence that as Catechumens, the martyrs would sometimes forgo sleep at night to go the house of the White Father Missionaries to learn the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Bishop also announced that documents for the beatification of the White Father missionaries, that is Fr. ‘Mapeera’ Lourdel and Brother Amans who ministered to the Uganda Martyrs had been submitted to the Vatican. The country’s Vice President Edward Ssekandi is the guest of honour and was expected to give a speech later in the day.                      Uganda’s Martyrs Day, which falls on 3 June, every year commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, who were burnt to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920, by Pope Benedict XV, and on 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised them as Saints. (Emailo:engafrica@vatiradio.va) (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope answers childrens' questions about suffering and growing up

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 22:04
(Vatican Radio) Why does God let children suffer? How can kids change the world? And how can they overcome their fear of growing up? Those were the soul-searching questions that three children asked Pope Francis on Friday during a meeting with members of an organisation for middle school students called ‘I Cavalieri’ or The Knights. The colourful encounter included young knights from all over Italy, along with groups from Spain, Portugal, France and Switzerland, plus others linked up online from Latin America. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:  After lots of lively singing and cheering, a young girl named Marta asked a first question about how to overcome her fear of moving to high school and saying goodbye to all her current friends. The Pope told her that life is a continual round of big and small ‘hellos and goodbyes’. We grow up, he said, by making new friends and letting go of old ones. Don't be frightened, he said, but try to see it as a challenge. Don’t worry about what’s behind the wall, but imagine instead a horizon you can see in the countryside and try to always move forward towards your new horizons . A second child, Giulio, asked the Pope how young people can help change the world for the better . Getting the kids to shout out answers, Pope Francis asked what happens if they have two sweets and a friend comes to call? And if they only have one sweet? Do you put it in your pocket and eat it later? Or do you share what you have with others? Show me your hands, he instructed the kids: are they closed and selfish, or open and generous? Our hands are a symbol for our hearts, he said, and only open, generous hearts can change the world . If you have a friend at school that you don’t like, the Pope went on, don’t go and gossip about that person with others, because that shows you have a closed heart. If someone insults you, don’t insult them back, but try and change the world with small, every day, acts of generosity and solidarity . Jesus taught us to pray for our friends and our enemies, for those who make us suffer, he said, just as Our Father in heaven makes the sun shine upon good and bad people. Finally a young Bulgarian boy, Tanio, told the Pope how he’d been abandoned in an orphanage and adopted by Italian parents at five years old. His new mum died a year later, leaving his dad and grandparents to look after him. Now his grandparents have died too, so he asked the Pope: How can we believe that God loves us when we lose people in this way? Pope Francis confessed that he too asks the same question when he visits sick children in hospital. How can we believe in God’s love when we see kids suffer from hunger in some parts of the world, while so much food is wasted in other places? There are simply no words to answer these questions , he told his young audience. The only explanation you may find is in the love of those who support and care for you. God doesn’t answer my questions either, he admitted, but when I look at the Cross and remember that God let his own Son suffer, I know that there must be a sense to it somewhere. I can’t explain it to you, he said, but you may find it on your own. Remember, he concluded, there are questions and situations in life which cannot be explained, yet the love of God is always there , and people around you can help you feel his presence in your life.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis' prayer intention for June: Eliminate arms trade

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 20:52
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has released his video message accompanying his monthly prayer intention for June. This month’s intention is for the elimination of the arms trade. The text of the video message reads: "It is an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time, promote or permit the arms trade. Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade and so that the merchants of death get rich? Let us put an end to this situation. Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people." The Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer  developed the "Pope Video" initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity. (from Vatican Radio)...

All set for the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 20:20
Last minutes preparations are in full swing for the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration due Saturday, 3 June at Namugongo Catholic Shrine. The Chairperson of the Organising Committee, Dr Kiiza Aliba, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Department of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, said that preparations are at the final stage with 95 percent of the work complete. “We only need some additional touches on technical aspects which will be finalised today, 2 June. So far we have already received thousands of pilgrims from within and outside the country, and more are still registering. We expect the Shrine to be flooded with millions of pilgrims by Saturday morning,” Aliba said. The Uganda Martyrs Day celebration usually attracts millions of enthusiastic pilgrims from across the world. The majority of these pilgrims often come to the shrine on foot as a demonstration of their faith. Others, use various means of transport to reach Namugongo shrine. Last year, Tanzania had the largest contingent of registered pilgrims (4,961) from the East African Community member countries besides hosts Uganda. Kenya had at least 4,000 registered pilgrims while 800 came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 300 from Rwanda, 712 from Burundi, and 105 from South Sudan. Other international Pilgrims also came from the United States of America (7), Nigeria (117), Mexico (4), Malawi (100), Italy, Zambia, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. The annual celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, who were burnt to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920, by Pope Benedict XV and on 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised them Saints. In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918 and were beatified by John Paul II on October 20, 2002. Meanwhile, the Catholic faithful across Uganda will on Friday conclude a novena to the Uganda Martyrs. The nine-days of prayer started on Thursday, 25 May. Hundreds of pilgrims have also participated in the second ‘Walk of Faith pilgrimage’ which took place on Saturday 27 May. The ‘Walk of Faith’ pilgrimage was introduced in 2016 as part of the Uganda Martyrs celebrations. The walk started from Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine to St. Matia Mulumba Parish in Old Kampala, where St. Matia Mulumba (one of the Catholic martyrs) was killed. Uganda’s Diocese of Hoima will animate the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration under the theme, “Stand Firm in Faith That We Have Been Taught” (Colossians 2:7). A total budget of US$ 166,064 (Ugandan Shillings 597million) has been allocated for the preparation of this year’s event. (Jacinta W. Odongo/ Media Officer, Uganda Episcopal Conference) Email: engafrica@vatiradio.va       (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis holds audience with president of Latvia

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 20:07
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday met with Raimonds Vējonis, President of the Republic of Latvia, and his wife, Iveta Vejone, in a private audience in the Vatican. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said, "During the cordial discussions, appreciation was expressed for the cordial bilateral relations and the positive contribution of the Catholic Church to Latvian society. Attention then turned to themes of common interest, such as the acceptance of migrants and the prospects for the future of the European project, focusing on the regional context." Mr. Vējonis then met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass: ‘Shepherd the people of God with humility’

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 18:47
(Vatican Radio)  Jesus entrusted his sheep to Peter, the most sinful of the remaining eleven apostles, and invited him to shepherd the People of God with humility and love, despite his mistakes and sins. That was Pope Francis’ message at Mass on Friday morning in the Casa Santa Marta. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: Pope Francis commented on the Gospel of the day (Jn 21:15-19), in which the Risen Jesus converses with Peter on the lake shore where he had first been called. The Pope said it was a calm, serene dialogue between friends and took place in the atmosphere of the Resurrection. In that event, Jesus entrusts his sheep to Peter, asking him three times if he loved him. “Jesus,” the Pope said, “chose the most sinful from among the apostles. The others escaped but Peter denied him: ‘I don’t know him.’ And Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ Jesus chose the worst sinner.” Shepherd the People of God with humility, despite mistakes The Holy Father said Jesus’ choice to choose the most sinful of the remaining eleven apostles to shepherd the People of God with love “makes us think”. “Do not shepherd with your head held high,” he said, “like a conqueror. No, shepherd with humility, with love, as Jesus did. This is the mission which Jesus gives to Peter. Yes, with sins and mistakes. In affirmation of this, right after this dialogue Peter slips up, makes a mistake, and is tempted by curiosity to say to the Lord, ‘But this other disciple, where will he go, what will he do?’ But with love, in the midst of his mistakes and sins… with love: ‘Because these sheep are not your sheep but mine,’ says the Lord. ‘Love. If you are my friend, you must be a friend to these.’” Peter chooses to be crucified with his head down Pope Francis then recalled how Peter denied Jesus before the High Priest’s servant and how Jesus looked at him in that moment, he who had just denied his Lord. But, he said, the apostle who is “courageous in denying is capable also of bitter tears”. “After an entire life spent in service of the Lord,” the Pope said, “his life ended like his Lord’s: on the cross. But he does not boast: ‘I end as did my Lord!’ Rather he asks, ‘Please, put me on the cross with my head down, so that at the very least it is seen that I am not the Lord but a servant.’ This is what we can learn from this beautiful, serene, friendly, and modest dialogue: We hold our heads high for the dignity that God gives us, but we lower our head, knowing that we are sinners and that the only Lord is Jesus; we are servants.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends condolences for death of Cardinal Husar

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 21:10
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram his condolences on the death of His Beatitude, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč. The telegram is addressed to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Cardinal Husar’s successor as head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The UGCC is the largest of the sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches, with more than 4.5 million faithful. In the telegram, signed by the Pope himself, the Holy Father describes Cardinal Husar as a zealous pastor, and recalled “his tenacious faithfulness to Christ, despite the hardships and persecutions against the Church, as well as his fruitful apostolic activity to promote the organization of Greek Catholic faithful, descendants of families forced to leave western Ukraine, and his efforts to find new ways for dialogue and collaboration with the Orthodox churches.” Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ telegram of condolences for the death of His Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč I have learned of the departure of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus of Kyiv-Halyč, and I raise fervent prayers to God that He may grant eternal repose to this zealous pastor. I unite spiritually with the faithful of this diocesan community where he exercised his pastoral ministry, endeavouring with care to serve the rebirth of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. I remember his tenacious faithfulness to Christ, despite the hardships and persecutions against the Church, as well as his fruitful apostolic activity to promote the organization of Greek Catholic faithful, descendants of families forced to leave western Ukraine, and his efforts to find new ways for dialogue and collaboration with the Orthodox churches. In expressing my condolences to the relatives of the departed cardinal, to the clergy and to those who were aided by his episcopal ministry, I wholeheartedly impart a consoling apostolic blessing, as a sign of faith and Christian hope in the risen Lord. Franciscus pp. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets with Dragan Čović in private audience

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 20:57
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience Dragan Čović, Croatian Member of the Collegial Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. A statement from the Holy See Press Office said, "During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good bilateral relations, consolidated by the Basic Agreement of 2006, and the parties considered the situation of the country, the challenges it finds itself facing and its European aspirations, with an exchange of views on themes of interest such as peace, reconciliation, interreligious dialogue and the presence of the Catholic community in the country." It went on to say they also spoke about "various situations in currently international political affairs, with special reference to the regional context". Mr. Čović subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to Clergy Plenary: prayer key to mission

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 19:47
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Clergy on Thursday. The Plenary Assembly opened on May 30 th , with a packed schedule that included the introduction, consideration, and discussion of several major documents, one of which was the draft text of an Instruction “On some questions regarding the parish, the ministry of the parish priest, the grouping (It. raggruppamento ) of parishes within the diocese, and some possible configurations of pastoral care” in light of Canon 517 , which deals with ways of organizing and managing parishes under circumstances in which there is a critical shortage of priests. Clergy Plenary in brief The Plenary Assembly was also slated to consider texts on subjects ranging from the rules regarding the incardination of clerics who are members of public associations of clergy, to the figure and role of the exorcist in diocesan ministry. Pope Francis focused his remarks on the recently promulgated document on priestly formation: the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis . Pope Francis to Clergy: allure of vocation and demands of priestly service Here, the Holy Father’s reflection turned on a two-pronged lynchpin: the allure of the priestly vocation and the demanding path of priestly ministry for which formation must prepare the one who is called. “It is necessary to admit that often young people are judged in a somewhat superficial way,” Pope Francis said, “and too easily they are labeled as a ‘liquid’ generation, devoid of passions and ideals.” While there certainly are some young people who are fragile, disoriented, fragmented or infected by the culture of consumerism and individualism, “[T]his must not prevent us from recognizing that young people are capable of ‘firmly’ betting on life and playing with generosity; of looking to the future and thus being an antidote to the resignation and loss of hope that marks our society; of being creative and imaginative, courageous in changing, magnanimous when it comes to spending themselves for others or for ideals such as solidarity, justice and peace.” “With all their limitations,” said Pope Francis, “[such young people] remain even today a resource.” The life of prayer was the key Pope Francis indicated to young priests, who might be concerned with regard to the management of the tension between the poles of the allure of the priestly vocation and the demands of the way of priestly service. Prayer the key “Pray tirelessly,” Pope Francis said, “because we can be ‘fishers of men’ only if we first recognize that we have been ‘fished’ by the tenderness of the Lord. Our vocation began when, abandoning the land of our individualism and personal projects, we walked on the ‘holy journey’ by handing ourselves over to the Love that sought us in the night and the Voice that made our heart quick.” “So,” he continued, “like the fishermen of Galilee, we left our nets to grab those that the Master delivered us. If we do not keep close to Him, our fishing will not be successful.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope on St Paul: model of preaching, persecution and prayer

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 19:32
(Vatican Radio) The life of St Paul, characterised by preaching, persecutions and prayer, can be a model for all Christians today. That was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily at his Santa Marta Mass on Thursday morning. Philippa Hitchen reports: Reflecting on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis described St Paul as the ultimate action man. It’s hard to imagine him, relaxing under a beach umbrella, he said, because he was always on the go and rarely to be found sat in front of a desk. Passion for preaching Instead, the Pope said, St Paul was driven by a passion for preaching and was always on the move, announcing Jesus Christ to the world. This passion for preaching led to a second characteristic of the apostle’s life which was the persecutions he suffered at the hands of the religious leaders of his day. But the Pope noted how Paul was inspired by the Spirit and was able to sow divisions between the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the Resurrection and the Pharisees, who did.   Resisting persecution Speaking in front of the Sanhedrin, Paul said: "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead." Immediately an argument broke out, the Pope noted, because these custodians of the Law were all divided in their beliefs. They had lost their faith, he said, because they had transformed their laws and doctrine into ideologies. Man of prayer The third aspect of Paul’s life, which Pope Francis spoke about was that of prayer, of his intimate relationship with the Lord. Alongside this tireless mission of preaching to the ends of the earth and struggling against his persecutors, Paul displays a mystic dimension of his encounter with the Risen Christ, whom he first met on the road to Damascus. Paul’s strength, the Pope said, comes from being a man of prayer who constantly seeks and encounters the Lord. Pope Francis concluded with a wish that we too may be given the grace to learn these three attitudes of preaching, of resisting persecution and of encountering Christ through prayer. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: The family, Europe's most precious treasure

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 18:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received in audience on Thursday members of the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations or (FAFCE). The federation was meeting the Pope on the occasion of its 20th Anniversary. FAFCE represents Catholic family associations from 14 European countries and has participatory status with the Council of Europe. Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s interview with the President of the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations, Antoine Renard who spoke earlier this week about this important anniversary and the challenges facing the family today. In his prepared words to those gathered for this anniversary, Pope Francis said that the family was Europe’s most precious treasure. He continued by saying that families were not “museum pieces, but through them, the gift is made concrete in mutual commitment and generous openness to children, but also in service to society.”  Families, the Pope added, “are thus a kind of leaven that helps to make the world more humane and more fraternal, where no one feels rejected or abandoned.” Crises in the family During his speech Pope Francis noted that, “crises of different types are presently springing up in Europe, not least in the institution of the family.”  But, he said, “crises are incentives to work harder and better, with trust and hope.” The Holy Father noted four crises in particular that are affecting Europe at the present time, highlighting demographics, migration, employment and education.  He stressed that “these crises might find positive outcomes precisely in the culture of encounter, if different social, economic and political actors were to join in shaping policies supportive of families.”  In conclusion, the Holy Father said that families had much to learn from the wisdom of their elders. With this wisdom he underlined, “your service to the sacredness of life takes concrete form in the covenant between generations and in service to all, especially those most in need,... in defending the right to life of the unborn who have no voice, and in ensuring dignified living conditions for the elderly."              (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis extends condolences to victims of Kabul bombing

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 23:44
(Vatican Radio) In a telegram signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to all those affected by the bombing carried out in the diplomatic zone of Kabul on Wednesday. Below, please find the full text of the telegram, addressed to Afghanistan's ambassador to Italy: Having learned with sadness of the abhorrent attack in Kabul and of the many dead and seriously injured, Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt condolences to all affected by this brutal act of violence. His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty, and assures the people of Afghanistan of his continued prayers for peace. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Albanian bishops: Work for more priestly vocations

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 22:23
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Albanian bishops to “work more intensely for vocations” and to be attentive to the dangers of a materialistic society. Speaking to the Albanian Bishops Conference on their ad limina visit, the Pope also asked them to form young people in Christian values to help them influence society for the better. Among the bishops was the Maltese Dominican Archbishop George Frendo, recently appointed to the Archdiocese of Tiranë-Durrës. Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Klaudia Bumci, the Archbishop said the prelates expressed concerns to Pope Francis about the financial situation of the Church in Albania which is “very poor”. Archbishop Frendo also spoke to the Pope of his worry about numbers of priests in his diocese. “We have the largest number of Catholics now – 150,000,” he said. “But in this big diocese I only have 30 priests. I have started making my pastoral visits and it’s really painful for me when I go to certain villages when the people tell me ‘Please, send us a priest’. But I cannot. We have a big shortage of priests.” Archbishop Frendo said that Pope Francis told the bishops to work at promoting vocations. “Sometimes it’s only a word of encouragement that is lacking,” the Archbishop added. Speaking about the Pope’s second priority of accompanying young people, Archbishop Frendo said: “We not only have to inform our youths but form them with that Christian spirit which will enable them in the future to influence more the Albanian society.” He said the Church needs young people to be more present in hospitals, universities, and political life. “Thirdly the Pope told us to pay attention, to be aware of what he called a worldly spirit, because it is quite easy for us to be influenced by a materialistic society, a consumerist society.” Instead, “we are to be always living images of the poor, Jesus Christ.” At the end of the ad limina audience, the bishops gave the Pope two books on the lives of the Blessed Albanian martyrs and an image of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Pope Francis urged all members of the Bishops Conference to “walk with hope, dreaming, and looking to the future.” Click here to listen to Archbishop George Frendo's interview with Vatican Radio’s Klaudia Bumci: (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Audience: Hope pushes us onward

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 19:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on Christian Hope at Wednesday’s General Audience, taking as his starting point a reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Rom 15, 13-14: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I myself am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another. The Holy Father said that in light of the upcoming feast of Pentecost, “we cannot fail to speak of the relationship between Christian hope and the Holy Spirit.” Hope, he said, quoting the Letter to the Hebrews, can be compared to an anchor, but also to a sail; like an anchor it gives us security, but like a sail it pushes us forward. Pope Francis focused on the words “God of hope,” saying that God is not simply the object of hope; He also makes us “joyful in hope,” giving us here and now the joy of hoping, not just the hope of having joy in the future. This joy comes from knowing that we are made sons of God, and His heirs. Repeating a constant theme in his preaching, the Pope said that “hope does not disappoint,” because the Spirit is within us, always pushing us onward. But, he continued, the Holy Spirit does not simply give us hope. He also makes us capable of being “sowers of hope.” A Christian can spread bitterness and hopelessness, but one who does that is not a good Christian. Quoting Blessed John Henry Newman, the Pope said we must be “consolers” in the image of the Spirit, always ready to help those most in need. The Spirit, he said, also gives hope to all of creation, and this impels us to respect the world God has created. Pope Francis concluded his reflection by pointing once again to the Solemnity of Pentecost, the “birthday of the Church.” He prayed that the feast may find us united in prayer, with Mary, the Mother and Jesus and our Mother; and prayed, too, that the gift of the Spirit might make us abound in hope.  (from Vatican Radio)...

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