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Pope's praise for Polish veterans

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:06
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has paid tribute to Polish military veterans who fought in the 1944 Battle of Montecassino. Former soldiers from the Polish army’s Second Corps who are in Rome for the anniversary of the Second World War battle were greeted by the Pope at the Wednesday General Audience. Pope Francis praised the veterans who “fought for the freedom of your country and for other nations.” He said their efforts and the “sacrifice of life” of their companions had helped bring peace to Europe and the whole world. The Battle of Montecassino involved four allied assaults of German defence posts over a four month period, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties on both sides. (Richard Paul Marsden) (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's missionary plea to nuns

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 21:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged two orders of nuns to renew their commitment in passing on the love of God to others. During his Wednesday General Audience, the Pope greeted Italian communities from the Montfort Missionaries of the Company of Mary and the Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, who are both in Rome for their General Chapters. Greeting the nuns at the end of the audience, Pope Francis said: “I urge them to renew their adhesion to their respective charisms of foundation to transmit the love and mercy of God in today’s ecclesial context.” The Montfort Missionaries follow the example of Saint Louis de Montfort and are dedicated to spreading the Gospel through missions and parish pastoral work. The Perpetual Adorers are devoted to prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament where they offer their lives to God the Father for the Church and the world. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis reflects on Mary Magdalene at General Audience

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 19:06
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on “Christian Hope” at his General Audience on Wednesday, focusing this week on the figure of St Mary Magdalene. The Holy Father’s reflections were based on a passage from the Gospel of St John, which relates how St Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus after His Resurrection. Her visit to Jesus’s tomb, the Pope said, mirrored “the fidelity of so many women” who visit cemeteries to keep alive the memory of those who have passed away. “The most authentic bonds,” he said, “are not broken even by death.” Pope Francis noted that Mary Magdalene’s first visit to the tomb was a disappointment: Seeing the empty tomb, she went to the place the disciples were hiding and told them that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. But although she was sorrowful, she returned to the sepulchre. The Pope continued, “It was while she was standing near the tomb, with eyes filled with tears, that God surprised her in a most unexpected way.” She hardly noticed the two angels who spoke to her, and at first she did not even recognise Jesus, whom she took to be a gardener. Instead, Pope Francis said, “she discovers the most shocking event in human history” only when Jesus “calls her by name.” “How beautiful it is to think that the first apparition of the Risen One – according to the Gospels – should occur in such a personal way!” the Pope said. How beautiful it is “that there is someone who recognizes us, who sees our suffering and disappointment, and is moved for our sake, and calls us by name.” Although many people seek God, he said, the “wonderful reality” is that God has sought us first, and sought each of us personally. “Each one of us,” Pope Francis said, “is a story of the love of God. God calls each of us by name.” When Jesus said Mary’s name, her life was changed. “The Gospels describe Mary’s happiness for us,” the Holy Father said. “The Resurrection of Jesus is not a joy given with an eyedropper, but a cascade, a waterfall that fills our whole life.” Pope Francis called for everyone to reflect on that fact that, even with all the “disappointments and defeats” in our life, “there is a God who is close to us and who calls us by name, who says to us, ‘Arise, don’t cry, because I have come to set you free.’” God, he continued, “is a dreamer: He dreams of the transformation of the world, and has realised it in the mystery of the Resurrection.” Saint Mary Magdalene, who, before she met Jesus, was at the mercy of the evil one, became “the apostle of the new and greatest hope.” Her life was changed because she had “seen the Lord.” Mary’s experience is an example for us, too, whose lives are changed because we have seen the Lord. This, Pope Francis said, “is our strength, and our hope.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Summary of the General Audience

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:32
(Vatican Radio) At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope continued his catechesis on Christian Hope, speaking this week on “Mary Magdalene, Apostle of Hope.” He was reflecting on the reading from the Gospel of St John, chapter 20, verses 15-18a: 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” Below please find the English-language summary of Pope Francis’ catechesis for the General Audience on Wednesday, 17 May 2017: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis on Christian hope, we now reflect on Mary Magdalen as an apostle of the hope brought by the Gospel.  Saint John tells us on Easter morning Mary had gone to the tomb of Jesus; she saw that it was empty, and returned to tell this news to Peter and the other disciples.  Returning to the tomb, yet still not understanding what had happened, Mary encounters the Risen Lord, but does not recognize him until he calls her by name.  This first appearance of Jesus after rising from the dead is thus something intensely personal.  We know that just as he did with Mary Magdalen, so too Jesus calls each of us by name and fills us with joy at his presence.  Our encounter with him brings freedom and opens up new vistas of life; it transforms our world and brings undying hope.  The risen Lord tells Mary not to cling to him, but to go and tell the good news of his resurrection to the others.  Mary Magdalen thus becomes the apostle of Christian hope.  By her prayers, may we be encounter anew the risen Lord, who calls us by name, turns our sorrow into joy, and sends us forth to proclaim by our lives that he is truly risen. Greetings I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Ireland, Swaziland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States of America.  In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.  May the Lord bless you all!   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: football champions must be good role models for young fans

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 19:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged football champions to be models of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity. Speaking to football players, coaches and staff of the Italian football teams, Juventus and Lazio , who are about to dispute the final game of the national “Italy Cup” tournament, the Pope  reminded the football stars of their responsibility as public figures towards their fans, especially the young ones. To the teams that he received in the Vatican, the Pope said: “I would like to reflect, briefly, on the importance of sport and consider the fascination it exerts and the impact of professional football on people, especially young people, towards whom you have a responsibility.” . Pointing out that “champions” are role models for many young fans, the Pope said every match is a test in which they must show balance, self-control, and respect for rules and regulations. “He, who through his behavior, puts all of this into practice, provides a good example for his followers, and this is what I wish for each of you: to be witnesses of loyalty, honesty, harmony and humanity” he said. Unfortunately, the Pope said, episodes of violence do take place at imes in football stadiums, disrupting games and spoiling the healthy enjoyment of spectators. My hope, Pope Francis said to the football champions, is that you may always play a part in keeping sport – sport – and thanks to the commitment of all, be promoters of harmony and cohesion between athletes and the rest of society. Pope Francis concluded the audience wishing those present a “great match”. Juventus and Lazio play the “Italy Cup” Final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday 17 May at 9pm local time.         (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Jesus' peace is real and not the world’s anesthetized peace

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 19:32
(Vatican Radio) True peace is not man-made but a gift of the Holy Spirit.  "A peace without a cross is not the peace of Jesus" for it is only the Lord who can give us peace amidst tribulations.  This was the central message of the homily of Pope Francis at Mass, Tuesday morning, in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.  Developing his homily on the words of Jesus at the Supper in John’s Gospel, "I leave you peace, my peace I give you,” the Holy Father focused on the meaning of the peace given by the Lord.  The day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, he noted, speaks of the many tribulations that Paul and Barnabas experienced in their journeys to proclaim the Gospel. "Is this the peace that Jesus gives us?" the Pope asked, and immediately answered saying Jesus emphasizes that the peace He gives is not the one given by the world. The world wants anesthetized peace to prevent us from seeing the Cross "The peace that the world offers us," the Pope said, "is a peace without tribulations. It offers us an artificial peace "reduced to "tranquility".  It is a peace "that is only concerned about one’s affairs and one’s security, lacking in nothing,” a bit like the peace of the rich Dives in the parable of Lazarus, a tranquility that “shuts” oneself  without seeing "beyond": "The world teaches us the way to anesthetized peace: it anesthetizes us from seeing another reality of life: the Cross.  This is why Paul says that one must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven on the road with many tribulations. But is it possible to obtain peace amidst tribulation?  From our side, no; we are unable to make peace that is tranquility, a psychological peace, our peace, because tribulations are there, whether pain, illness or death.  But the peace that Jesus gives is a gift: it is a gift of the Holy Spirit; and this peace lasts through tribulations and beyond.  It's not a sort of stoicism of the ‘fakir’. No. it’s something else.”  God's peace cannot be bought, without Cross is not real peace According to Pope Francis, God's peace is “a gift that keeps us going." After granting peace to His disciples, Jesus suffers in the Garden of Olives and there "He offers everything to the will of the Father and suffers, but He does not lack God’s consolation".  In fact, the Gospel, says that "an angel appeared to him from heaven to console him": "God's peace is real peace, that enters the reality of life, that does not deny life; that is life. There is suffering, there are the sick people, there are many bad things, there are wars ... but that peace within, which is a gift, is not lost, but goes ahead bearing the Cross and suffering.  Peace without the Cross is not the peace of Jesus: it is a peace that can be bought, that can make. But it does not last; it comes to an end. " Let’s ask for the grace of inner peace, a gift of the Holy Spirit When I get angry, the Pope said, "I lose peace." When my heart is "troubled," "it is because I am not open to the peace of Jesus,” because I am unable to "bear life as it comes, with its crosses and sorrows that accompany it.”  Rather, we must be able to ask for the grace to ask the Lord for his peace: "'We must enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations'. The grace of peace – of not losing that inner peace. Regarding this a saint said, 'The life of the Christian is a journey between the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God' (St. Augustine). May the Lord make us understand well what this peace is which He gives us with the Holy Spirit. " (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends telegram to President of France.

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 19:06
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron. The telegram began with the words “On the occasion of your investiture as the President of the Republic of France, I send you my very cordial wishes for the exercise of your high office, at the service of all your people.” The message went on to say that the Pope prays that France always strives  to “build a more just and fraternal society, drawing on the rich diversity of moral traditions, of which Christianity is one.” The Pope also highlighted those “In danger and at risk of being excluded” and said he prayed that France would continue to promote cooperation and solidarity amongst nations. Before blessing the new president, the Pope also said he prayed “That France continues to promote the search for peace and the common good, respect for life and the defense and dignity of every person and all peoples, both in Europe and throughout the world.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican releases details of Papal Visit to Genoa

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 00:52
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican has released details of Pope Francis upcoming Pastoral Visit to Genoa. The one day visit will begin with an encounter with the “world of labour.” Later he will meet with the Bishops of Liguria, along with the priests, seminarians, and religious of the region; as well as lay curial collaborators, and representatives of other religious confessions at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Pope Francis will than have an opportunity to spend time with young people attached to the Diocesan Mission at the Marian Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia. After lunch at the sanctuary with a number of poor persons, refugees, the homeless, and prisoners, the Holy Father will meet with children from the various departments of the Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital. The Pope’s Pastoral Visit will conclude with Solemn Mass at the Piazzale Kennedy, named for the first Catholic President of the United States.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope entrusts those afflicted by war to Mary, Queen of Peace

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 19:02
(Vatican Radio) Following the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis entrusted “to Mary, the Queen of Peace, the destiny of the peoples afflicted by wars and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East.” Many innocent people, he said, whether Christians, or Muslims, or members of minority groups such as the Yazidis, are “sorely tried,” suffering “tragic violence and discrimination.” The Holy Father assured them of his solidarity and prayer, and at the same time thanked all those committed to assisting them in their need. Pope Francis encouraged all the different communities to continue along the “path of dialogue and reconciliation in order to build a future of respect, security and peace.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

Regina Coeli: Pope reflects on pilgrimage to Fatima

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 18:55
(Vatican Radio) “Let us greet the Virgin of Fatima!” Following his pilgrimage to Fatima, Pope Francis said the Regina Coeli on Sunday, took on “a particular significance, imbued with memory and prophecy for those who view history with the eyes of faith.” Reflecting on his journey, the Pope said, “At Fatima I was immersed in the prayer of the faithful holy People, prayer that for one hundred years has flowed there like a river, for the maternal protection of Mary for the whole world.” The Holy Father focused on the “recollected and contemplative climate” during his pilgrimage. “And at the centre of everything,” he said, “was and is the Risen Lord, present in the midst of His People in the Word and in the Eucharist; present in the midst of the many sick people, who are the protagonists of the liturgical and pastoral life of Fatima, as of every Marian sanctuary.” One of the highlights of Pope Francis pilgrimage was the Solemn Mass on Saturday, when he canonized two of the visionaries of Fatima, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the canonization, the Pope said, “I wanted to propose to the whole Church their example of adhesion to Christ and to evangelical witness… And I also want to propose to the whole Church to have the heart of children.” He said their sanctity is not “a consequence of the apparitions, but of the fidelity and ardour with which they corresponded to the privilege they had received of being able to see the Virgin Mary.” He pointed out that the visionaries, after having seen Mary, frequently said the Rosary, did penance, and offered sacrifices for an end to the war [World War I, which was raging at the time], and for the souls most in need of divine mercy. “In our day, too,” the Pope said, “there is great need of prayer and of penance to implore the grace of conversion,” and an end to the many wars and conflicts in the world today, “which disfigure the face of humanity.” “Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the light that comes from Fatima,” Pope Francis said, before concluding his reflection with a prayer: “May the Immaculate Heart of Mary always be our refuge, our consolation, and the way that leads to Christ.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope visits Saint Mary Major following Fatima pilgrimage

Sun, 05/14/2017 - 18:09
(Vatican Radio) Early Sunday morning, Pope Francis, as is usual following every voyage, went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The Holy Father brought a bouquet of white roses as an offering, which he presented at the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romano. During the visit, Pope Francis remained in prayerful silence before the image of the Virgin for more than twenty minutes. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: a pilgrim of peace and hope in Fatima

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 23:20
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis concluded his pilgrimage to Fatima on Saturday, with a Mass marking the centenary of the Marian apparitions there, which made the place a famous ad beloved place of pilgrimage to millions of faithful from all around the world and across generations. During the Mass, the Holy Father canonised two of the seers of Fatima, declaring Francisco and Jacinta Marto to be saints in heaven. At the end of Mass, the Holy Father led the faithful in a moment of Eucharistic adoration and offered Eucharistic benediction. He also met briefly with a group of sick people, before heading to lunch with the Bishops of Portugal, after which he headed to the papal plane for his flight back to Rome. Our special envoy, Chris Altieri, was in Fatima from start to finish, and sent this overview of this Apostolic pilgrimage. Listen:  ************************************************* Pope Francis presided over Mass for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at the Marian shrine in Fatima on Saturday, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the apparitions of Our Lady there to three small shepherd children. The children were a brother and sister, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia. Starting on May 13th, 1917, and running until October 13th of that same year – the story goes – Our Lady would appear and entrust the three children with several messages and three “secrets”. Those secrets have since been generally understood to regard the conduct of human affairs in the years and decades that followed the bloody middle of 1917, at the beginning of the bloodiest century in world history to date. During the Mass, Pope Francis canonized two of the children, Francisco and Jacinta, declaring them saints in heaven and ordering that they be honoured throughout the whole Church. The canonisation ceremony itself was powerfully moving: before a sea of humanity gathered together for the purpose from every corner of the globe, it was conducted in the local language, Portuguese – a departure from the standard procedure, which uses Latin. About the day, there are a thousand details in which one could get lost: from the glorious and almost constant sunshine that gave the forecasts for the morning the lie - at least for as long as the ceremonies lasted, to the practiced efficiency and cheerfulness of the local people – every May 13th is a big day here – to the patience and even cheerful orderliness of the pilgrims – even and especially the young ones – many of whom had kept their vigil all through the night and into the morning. One thing in the way of local colour was particularly impressive: the votive candles – thousands of them – lining the short walls enclosing the plaza between the basilicas, and left at the feet of the several statues in the plaza itself, which had pierced the night with their gentle, pertinacious glow, and were gone by morning. But why? I mean to ask: details apart, what is the story here? Not to put too fine a point on it: why should we care? Francisco and Jacinta would die within three years of the apparitions, while their cousin, Lucia, went on to join the Discalced Carmelite order and lived a long life of prayerful seclusion, dying in 2005 at the age of 97. So, they never really did anything, at least not as far as the world measures achievement. Still, people have been coming to this place for a century now, to participate in the witness of those shepherd children – and now we know that two of those children are saints in heaven: Francisco and Jacinta, and Sr. Lucia’s cause is open. I’ll tell you one thing they did: they told the truth. Those, who disbelieved the shepherd children in 1917, or sought to protect them from themselves, or simply opposed them, have gone to their reward, and while some of Our Lady’s promises seem arguably to have been kept, and the worst of the consequences against which she warned us seem perhaps to have been averted at least for now, the spectre of war has not ceased, and many nations that once made the Cross of Christ their glory, seem now to have forgotten him and to scoff at His commands. There have always been scoffers, and there always will be, and there’s nothing any of us can do about that. Today’s scoffers are not all yesterday’s scoffers though: and many of those who scoffed at the children while they lived, were converted to repentance and belief by the working of more spectacular wonders. Many more scoffers through the years and decades since, have been converted by the quiet witness of those, who continue to come here. Even the Church was not quick to accept that Francisco and Lucia could be saints: not that they might not be in heaven, but that they had not the psychological maturity to make an act of faith worthy of imitation – or so the argument ran. In this day – our own – in which many people scoff at truth itself, and do not really expect anyone to believe anything – the word of a child or the word of a king – the story of three shepherd children, who witnessed a most extraordinary thing, and told of what they saw and heard as best they could according to the lights God gave them, and despite significant consequences and threats of worse things still, stuck to their story: that is a story worth telling, and one the world needs to hear. It is an appalling choice, and it is one we must make every hour of every day: either we decide that we shall tell the truth, come what may, and expect our fellows to do the same, or there can be no fellowship to speak of. That is the story to which Pope Francis’s pilgrimage has called our attention, before which is the story of the Queen of Heaven who calls us to prayer for the conversion of hearts and for peace on Earth, and beyond which is a future, the details of which are uncertain, but the outcome of which is foretold: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” What happens in the space between is up to us. That’s what we call “a story with legs” in the trade. In Fatima, I’m Chris Altieri. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis blesses the sick following Mass in Fatima

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 19:50
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Mass in Fatima, after a period of Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, Pope Francis gave a special blessing to the sick, who had come to the Shrine to pray to Our Lady. Following the blessing, the Holy Father greeted the sick, reminding them that “whenever we experience a cross,” Jesus “has already been there ahead of us.” He continued, “In His passion, He took upon Himself all our suffering.  Jesus knows the meaning of sorrow and pain.  He understands us, He comforts us and He gives us strength, as He did to Saint Francisco Marto and Saint Jacinta, and to the saints of every time and place.” Pope Francis called on those suffering from illnesses to live their lives as a gift: “Like the shepherd children, tell Our Lady that you want to offer yourselves to God with all your heart.” Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks: Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Sick Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima  13 May 2017 Dear brothers and sisters who are sick, As I said in the homily, the Lord always goes before us.  Whenever we experience a cross, he has already been there ahead of us.  In his passion, he took upon himself all our suffering.  Jesus knows the meaning of sorrow and pain.  He understands us, he comforts us and he gives us strength, as he did to Saint Francisco Marto and Saint Jacinta, and to the saints of every time and place.  I think of the Apostle Peter, in chains in the prison of Jerusalem, as the whole Church prayed for him.  The Lord comforted Peter.  That is the Church’s ministry: the Church asks the Lord to comfort the afflicted like yourselves, and he comforts you, even in ways you cannot see.  He comforts you in the depths of your hearts and he comforts you with the gift of strength. Dear pilgrims, we have before us Jesus hidden yet present in the Eucharist, just as we have Jesus hidden yet present in the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are sick and suffering.  On the altar, we worship the flesh of Jesus; in these our brothers and sisters, we encounter the wounds of Jesus.  The Christian adores Jesus, the Christian seeks Jesus, the Christian can recognize the wounds of Jesus.  Today the Virgin Mary asks all of us the same question that, a hundred years ago, she asked the shepherd children: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God?”  Their answer - “Yes, we do!” – makes us able to understand and imitate their lives.  They lived life, with its share of joy and suffering, as an offering to the Lord. I invite those of you who are sick to live your lives as a gift.  Like the shepherd children, tell Our Lady that you want to offer yourselves to God with all your heart.  Don’t think of yourselves simply as the recipients of charitable solidarity, but feel that you share fully in the Church’s life and mission.  Your silent presence, which is more eloquent than a flood of words, your prayers, the daily offering of your sufferings in union with those of Jesus crucified for the salvation of the world, the patient and even joyful acceptance of your condition – all these are a spiritual resource, an asset to every Christian community.  Do not be ashamed of being a precious treasure of the Church. Jesus will pass close to you in the Blessed Sacrament as a sign of his closeness and love for you.  Entrust to him your sorrows, your sufferings, all your weariness.  Count on the prayer of the Church, which from every corner of the world rises up to heaven for you and with you.  God is our Father, and he will never forget you. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Fatima: Homily for Canonization Mass

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 18:07
(Vatican Radio) The highlight of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Fatima is the canonization Mass this Saturday morning, during which the two shepherd children, Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta are being declared saints in heaven. During his homily the Pope said, "we can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him." Below find the English translation of the Pope's Homily Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Holy Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima  13 May 2017               “[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun”.  So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son.  Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27).  We have a Mother!  “So beautiful a Lady”, as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of 13 March a hundred years ago.  That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady”.  They had seen the Mother of Heaven.  Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her.  The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her.  We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.             Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.  Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell.  Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5).  In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady.  She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her.  According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth.  We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus”.             Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.  As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17).  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake.  Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 2:6).  May this hope guide our lives!  It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.             Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years.  All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope.  We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.             In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat?  And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary?  And all those people praying with him?”  Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me!  I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.  Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.             Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.  In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfillment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia.  We do not want to be a stillborn hope!  Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).  The Lord, who always goes before us, said this and did this.  Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us.  We do not mount the cross to find Jesus.  Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.             With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter.  Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Fatima: a vigil for peace and conversion

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 06:48
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis led hundreds of thousands of pilgrim faithful in the recitation of the Holy Rosary on Friday evening in Fatima, Portugal, where the Holy Father is on pilgrimage to mark the 100 th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to three shepherd children there. After the Rosary, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, celebrated Mass for the faithful. Our own Chris Altieri is in Fatima with Pope Francis, and sent us this report. ******************************************************************* The Pope and the pilgrims offered the Joyful Mysteries: the five decades were offered in different languages, beginning with Arabic and then proceeding to a decade in Spanish and Ukrainian, the third in Italian and Chinese, the fourth in English and French, and the fifth in German and Polish. All throughout the devotion, Pope Francis was seated before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima beneath the canopy that covers the Little Chapel of the Apparitions, where earlier in the day he had left a golden rose in gift: a pilgrim among pilgrims. It is difficult thing to imagine, and perhaps impossible to describe: hundreds of thousands of people gathered to pray in the several tongues of the earth, alternating between near perfect unison of praise and near perfect silence, aided by a choir of exceptional quality. In a world that seems to crave noise and a kind of cookie-cutter nonconformity that is an orchestrated imitation of true liberty and authenticity, here on Friday evening there was a natural and easy concord that betold a deeper unity of spirit than mere art can achieve: people of many nations and tongues gathered together to implore the Queen of Heaven to intercede in our behalf and obtain from her divine Son the gift of peace on Earth. This was a theme on which Cardinal Parolin focused with great intensity in his homily. “A hundred years after the apparitions,” in which Our Lady instructed the shepherd children to tell the world to convert and pray for peace, Cardinal Parolin said, “it is true that, as Pope Francis has observed, ‘for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given, yet for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.  Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts.  Even in places once considered safe, a general sense of fear is felt.  We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths’ ( Address to the Diplomatic Corps , 9 January 2017).” “In the midst of great concern and uncertainty about the future,” asked Cardinal Parolin, “what does Fatima ask of us?  Perseverance in the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, shown daily by the recitation of the Rosary.  And what if, despite our prayers, wars continue?  Even though immediate results may not be evident, let us persevere in prayer.  Prayer is never useless.  Sooner or later, it will bear fruit.” “Prayer,” said Cardinal Parolin, “is capital in the hands of God; he turns it to good account in his own times and ways, which are very different from our own.” In Fatima, with Pope Francis, I’m Chris Altieri (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Fatima: homily of Card. Parolin at vigil Mass

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 06:48
(Vatican Radio) The Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, celebrated Mass for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the great open plaza of the Marian shrine in Fatima on Friday evening, following the recitation of the Holy Rosary with Pope Francis, who is on pilgrimage to the shrine to mark the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady there. Below, please find the full text of the homily Cardinal Parolin prepared for the occasion, in their official English translation... ******************************************************** Homily of Cardinal Pietro Parolin Vigil Mass, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima 12 May 2017 Dear Pilgrims to Fatima, With joy and gratitude, we have gathered at this Shrine that commemorates the apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children.  We join the throngs of pilgrims who in these hundred years have come here to show their trust in the Mother of Heaven.  We are celebrating this Eucharist in honour of her Immaculate Heart.  In the first reading, we heard the people exclaim: “You averted our ruin, walking in the straight path before our God” ( Jdt 13:20).  These words of praise and gratitude were addressed by the city of Bethulia to Judith, their champion, whom “the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth… guided to cut off the head of the leader of our enemies” ( Jdt 13:18).  But they take on their full meaning in the Immaculate Virgin Mary.  Thanks to her offspring – Christ the Lord – she was able to “crush the head” (cf. Gen 3:15) of the “ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world”.  He, in turn, “was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus” ( Rev 12:9.17). As a Mother concerned for the trials of her children, Mary appeared here with a message of consolation and hope for a world at war and for the Church in travail: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph” (Apparition of July, 1917).   In other words: “Trust!  In the end, love and peace will triumph, because God’s mercy is stronger than the power of evil.  What seems impossible to men is possible to God”.  Our Lady also asks us to join in this battle of her divine Son, particularly by the daily recitation of the Rosary for peace in the world.  Even though everything depends on God and his grace, we still need to act as if everything depended on us, by asking the Virgin Mary that the hearts of individuals, the homes of families, the history of peoples and the fraternal soul of all humanity be consecrated to her and placed under her protection and guidance.  She wants people who entrust themselves to her!  “If they do what I tell you, many souls will be saved and have peace” (Apparition of July, 1917).  In the end, what will win the war is a heart: the Heart of the Mother will obtain the victory, at the head of millions of her sons and daughters. This evening, we offer thanks and praise to the Most Holy Trinity for the commitment of so many men and women to this mission of peace entrusted to the Virgin Mother.  From East to West, the love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has won a place in the heart of peoples as a source of hope and consolation.  The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council met in order to renew the face of the Church, and presented itself essentially as the Council of love.  The faithful, the bishops, the Pope did not fail to heed the requests of the Mother of God and of man: the whole world was consecrated to her.  Everywhere groups and communities of believers continue to grow.  Awakening from yesterday’s apathy, they now work to show to the world the true face of Christianity. “If they do what I tell you, they will have peace”.  A hundred years after the apparitions, it is true that, as Pope Francis has observed, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given, yet for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.  Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts.  Even in places once considered safe, a general sense of fear is felt.  We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths” ( Address to the Diplomatic Corps , 9 January 2017).  In the midst of great concern and uncertainty about the future, what does Fatima ask of us?  Perseverance in the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, shown daily by the recitation of the Rosary.  And what if, despite our prayers, wars continue?  Even though immediate results may not be evident, let us persevere in prayer.  Prayer is never useless.  Sooner or later, it will bear fruit.  Prayer is capital in the hands of God; he turns it to good account in his own times and ways, which are very different from our own. Our responsorial psalm was the Canticle of the Magnificat , with its sharp contrast between the “great” story of the nations and their conflicts, the story of the great and powerful with its own chronology and geography of power, and the “little” history of the poor, the humble and the powerless.  The latter are called to work for peace with another force, with other seemingly useless or ineffective means, such as conversion, reparation, and trust.  They are asked to halt the advance of evil by plunging into the ocean of divine Love as resistance – not surrender – to the banality and the inevitability of evil. What must we do?  Let me explain with an example(cf. Eloy Bueno de la Fuente, A Mensagem de Fátima. A misericórdia de Deus: o triunfo do amor nos dramas da história , 2 2014, 235-237).  If someone passes us a counterfeit banknote, a spontaneous and even logical reaction could be to pass it on to somebody else.  This shows us how ready we are to fall into a perverse logic that takes over and makes us spread evil.  If I act according to this logic, my situation changes.  I was an innocent victim when I received the counterfeit banknote, a victim of the evil of others.  But once I decide to pass the counterfeit notes to someone else, I am innocent no longer.  I have been won over by the seductive power of evil, creating a new victim.  I have become an agent of evil, now responsible and guilty.  The alternative is to halt the advance of evil, but that happens only by paying a price, by keeping the counterfeit banknote and thus freeing others from the advance of evil. This is the only reaction that can stop evil and prevail over it.  Human beings win this victory when they are capable of a sacrifice that becomes reparation.  Christ carries it out, thus showing that his way of loving is mercy.  This excess of love can be seen in the cross of Jesus.  He takes on the full weight of the hatred and violence that rain down on him, without responding with insults or threatening revenge.  Instead, he forgives, and thus shows that there is a greater love.  Only he can do this, taking on – as it were – the “counterfeit banknote”.  His death was a victory over the evil unleashed by his tormentors, which all of us are.  Jesus, crucified and risen, is our peace and reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). “You averted our ruin, walking in the straight path before our God”.  Let us pray at this evening vigil as a great pilgrim people, following in the footsteps of the risen Jesus, enlightening one another and helping one another to advance, based on our faith in Christ Jesus.  The Fathers of the Church tell us that Mary conceived Jesus first in faith and then in the flesh, when she said “Yes” to God’s call to her through the angel.  But what took place in a singular way in the Virgin Mother takes place spiritually in us whenever we hear the word of God and put it into practice, as the Gospel says (cf. Lk 11:28).  Imitating Mary’s generosity and courage, let us present our bodies to Jesus so that he can continue to dwell in our midst.  Let us offer him our hands to caress the little ones and the poor, our feet to draw near to our brothers and sisters, our arms to shore up the weak and to work in the Lord’s vineyard, our minds to think and plan in the light of the Gospel, and above all, our hearts to love and make decisions in accordance with God’s will. In this way, may the Virgin Mother shape us, pressing us to her Immaculate Heart, as she did with Lucia, Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta.  On this centenary of the apparitions, with gratitude for the gift which the event, the message and the shrine of Fatima have been throughout the past century, let us join our voices to that of the Virgin Mary: “My soul magnifies the Lord… for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant… his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” ( Lk 1:46-50). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Fatima: greetings at chapel of apparitions

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 04:44
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted pilgrims on Friday evening in Fatima, as they gathered with him for a brief moment of prayerful recollection before the great vigil that would begin with the recitation of the Rosary led by the Holy Father himself. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father's prepared remarks, in their official English translation. ******************************* Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis Vigil at the Chapel of the Apparitions 12 May 2017 Dear Pilgrims to Mary and with Mary! Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace.  Even now, I want to assure all of you who are united with me, here or elsewhere, that you have a special place in my heart.  I feel that Jesus has entrusted you to me (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and I embrace all of you and commend you to Jesus, “especially those most in need” – as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July, 1917).  May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing!  On each of the destitute and outcast robbed of the present, on each of the excluded and abandoned denied a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice refused a past, may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ.  “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” ( Num 6:24-26). This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary.  No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father.  Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary.  With Christ and Mary, we abide in God.  Indeed, “if we want to be Christian, we must be Marian; in a word, we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him” (PAUL VI, Address at the Shine of Our Lady of Bonaria , Cagliari, 24 April 1970).  Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world. Pilgrims with Mary…  But which Mary?  A teacher of the spiritual life , the first to follow Jesus on the “narrow way” of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady “unapproachable” and impossible to imitate?  A woman “blessed because she believed” always and everywhere in God’s words (cf. Lk 1:42.45), or a “plaster statue” from whom we beg favours at little cost?  The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us? Great injustice is done to God’s grace whenever we say that sins are punished by his judgment, without first saying – as the Gospel clearly does – that they are forgiven by his mercy!  Mercy has to be put before judgment and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy.  Obviously, God’s mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment.  He did not deny sin, but redeemed it on the cross.  Hence, in the faith that unites us to the cross of Christ, we are freed of our sins; we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:18).  “Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.  In her, we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong, who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves… This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization” (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium , 288).  With Mary, may each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.  Hand in hand with the Virgin Mother, and under her watchful gaze, may we come to sing with joy the mercies of the Lord, and cry out: “My soul sings to you, Lord!”  The mercy you have shown to all your saints and all your faithful people, you have also shown to me.  Out of the pride of my heart, I went astray, following my own ambitions and interests, without gaining any crown of glory!  My one hope of glory, Lord, is this: that your Mother will take me in her arms, shelter me beneath her mantle, and set me close to your heart.  Amen. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's prayer to the Blessed Virgin of Fatima

Sat, 05/13/2017 - 01:50
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed on Friday in the Little Chapel of the Apparitions in Fatima, entrusting himself, in union with his brothers and sisters, to Our Lady of Immaculate Heart. A golden rose was the personal gift he left at her feet. This is his prayer : The Holy Father: Hail Holy Queen,  Blessed Virgin of Fatima, Lady of Immaculate Heart, our refuge and our way to God! As a pilgrim of the Light that comes to us from your hands, I give thanks to God the Father, who in every time and place  is at work in human history; As a pilgrim of the Peace that, in this place, you proclaim, I give praise to Christ, our peace, and I implore for the world  concord among all peoples; As a pilgrim of the Hope that the Spirit awakens, I come as a prophet and messenger to wash the feet of all,  at the same table that unites us. Refrain (sung by the assembly): Ave O Clemens, Ave O pia! Salve Regina Rosarii Fatimae. Ave O clemens, Ave O pia! Ave O dulcis Virgo Maria! The Holy Father: Hail, Mother of Mercy, Lady robed in white! In this place where, a hundred years ago you made known to all the purposes of God’s mercy, I gaze at your robe of light and, as a bishop robed in white, I call to mind all those who, robed in the splendour of their baptism, desire to live in God and tell the mysteries of Christ in order to obtain peace. Refrain… The Holy Father: Hail, life and sweetness, Hail, our hope, O Pilgrim Virgin, O Universal Queen! In the depths of your being, in your Immaculate Heart, you keep the joys of men and women  as they journey to the Heavenly Homeland. In the depths of your being, in your Immaculate Heart, you keep the sorrows of the human family, as they mourn and weep in this valley of tears. In the depths of your being, in your Immaculate Heart, adorn us with the radiance of the jewels of your crown and make us pilgrims, even as you were a pilgrim. With your virginal smile, enliven the joy of Christ’s Church. With your gaze of sweetness, strengthen the hope of God’s children. With your hands lifted in prayer to the Lord, draw all people together into one human family. Refrain: The Holy Father: O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima! Grant that we may follow the example of Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta, and of all who devote themselves to proclaiming the Gospel. Thus we will follow all paths and everywhere make our pilgrim way;  we will tear down all walls and cross every frontier, as we go out to every periphery, to make known God’s justice and peace. In the joy of the Gospel, we will be the Church robed in white, the whiteness washed in the blood of the Lamb,  blood that today too is shed in the wars tearing our world apart. And so we will be, like you, an image of the column of light that illumines the ways of the world, making God known to all, making known to all that God exists, that God dwells in the midst of his people,  yesterday, today and for all eternity. Refrain… The Holy Father, with all the faithful: Hail, Mother of the Lord, Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima! Blessed among all women, you are the image of the Church robed in paschal light, you are the honour of our people, you are the victory over every assault of evil. Prophecy of the merciful love of the Father, Teacher of the Message of Good News of the Son, Sign of the burning Fire of the Holy Spirit, teach us, in this valley of joys and sorrows, the eternal truths that the Father reveals to the little ones. Show us the strength of your protective mantle. In your Immaculate Heart, be the refuge of sinners and the way that leads to God. In union with my brothers and sisters, in faith, in hope and in love, I entrust myself to you. In union with my brothers and sisters, through you, I consecrate myself to God, O Virgin of the Rosary of Fatima. And at last, enveloped in the Light that comes from your hands, I will give glory to the Lord for ever and ever. Amen. Refrain… (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Fatima: arrival ceremony

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 23:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’s plane touched down at Monte Real Air Base shortly before 4:30pm local time in Portugal . The sky was threatening for much of the afternoon – not in the way it is always threatening a little rain in the height of springtime a thousand feet up and twenty-odd miles off the Atlantic coast – but a serious thunderstorm. Chris Altieri is in Fatima with the Pope. He sent us this report: The crowds at the airport were larger than I expected to see them, not only for the weather, but especially since they were there only to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father, who was not scheduled to deliver any prepared remarks and who in fact visited only privately with the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, and then it was to the chapel at the air base where he landed, to share a moment of prayer with the sick children of service personnel and their families. Pope Francis, you see, is here on pilgrimage. “A pilgrim of hope and peace,” is how he described himself ahead of his departure – and he has asked the faithful all around the world to accompany him with prayers for the success of his pilgrimage. Scores of thousands of people have taken him very much at his word, deciding to join him in Fatima for the celebration of the 100 th anniversary of the first of a series of Marian apparitions to a trio of shepherd children: the now Blessed siblings and soon-to-be Saints Francisco e Jacinta Marto, and their cousin Lucia, who became a Discalced Carmelite and died in 2005. That is the first sign of “success” – at least as such things are measured in worldly measures: people have noticed. One of the fairly constant refrains of Pope Francis’ pontificate has been his encouragement of popular devotion among the faithful: those acts of piety that moviemakers love so much and seem usually to understand so little, which have of late fallen rather away from the fore of the public Catholic mind, but that nevertheless constitute an integral part of Catholic life and an indispensable piece of the Catholic character, wherever the faith has taken hold. We are all very much looking forward to what Pope Francis will say in his public engagements this evening at the Rosary to begin the vigil, and Saturday at the Mass of canonisation. From here on the ground in Fatima, it seems clear that the Holy Father is staking this part of the effort to renew the faith of Europe by counting on the power of the faith to attract, especially when practiced simply and devotedly by the faithful themselves. In Fatima with Pope Francis, I’m Chris Altieri (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Fatima: what the papers are (not) saying

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 17:48
(Vatican Radio) The local papers in Fatima this morning are filled with facts and figures: 12 and one half-thousand people officially signed onto one of the official international pilgrimages; 450 volunteers inside the sanctuary, anywhere from 1 thousand to 2 thousand others throughout the civil parish of Fatima; 600 thousand to 1 million pilgrims from all around the world expected to take part in the centenary celebrations. Those are just a few. The Portuguese government has given employees permission to miss work in order to attend the celebrations, while police, fire, medical, civil protection and a dozen other auxiliary public order services have called in reinforcements from every corner of the country and put them on forced overtime. It’s one of those days I’m glad I never got into human resources and logistics planning. I get paid to stand around and tell you what I see: and what I see is a small town that has grown up roughly on the top of what is not the tallest hill in a hilly region – a small town with a very large and roughly rectangular plaza set smack in the middle of it, dominated by two very different and differently opposing structures – and a small, canopied structure that, from before dawn to well after nightfall, seems to get the lion’s share of attention from a number of people far exceeding the most generous estimations of the local population (given at 11 thousand and change in the latest census for which we have data); people brave chilly wind and driving rain to take a walking turn around a tiny chapel – though I hasten to add that, until this morning – Friday morning, May 12 th , 2017, the eve of the 100 th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children, two of whom are to be declared saints in heaven on Saturday, the anniversary proper – no one has had to brave more than 10 minutes of rain at a stretch. But what’s the story? There are a dozen of them in there: logistics tangles; workers playing hooky; security challenges; infrastructure readiness; even the weather and how it might affect perception , coverage, and participation; national papers asking what the bill will be for the Portuguese taxpayer; human interest stories, from the scouts taking part to the pilgrim grandfathers and grandmothers, to the couple camped out for the past two days to guarantee themselves a good spot, to the weeping for joy, relief and resolution everywhere occurring, day and night, everywhere around us in the plaza of the shrine complex – the entirety of which is dedicated as an area of prayer, by the way, an oasis in the middle of what should be a town bursting with bustle, but refuses to be bothered, however busy – like a chastened Martha about her work. I can tell you what I’ve seen. The scenes from Thursday evening were very affecting to me, for I was seeing them for the first time, though even they must eventually become familiar – and 100 years is long enough to wear in any hat – but several hundred and perhaps several thousand pilgrims singing Marian hymns and waking in torchlight procession really cannot fail to move even the hardest of hard-boiled observers. That, I believe, is the key to Pope Francis’ visit: his confidence in the message of Fatima – at bottom a call to conversion – to reach a world that sorely needs it, and for the Christian faithful to be the carriers of that message into the world, by means of simple acts of pious devotion that have immense power – not to persuade, but to attract.  (from Vatican Radio)...

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