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Pope Francis greets Vatican Observatory conference participants

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 17:22
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday morning greeted participants taking part in a conference organised by the Vatican Observatory entitled "Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities. The conference is taking place from 9-12 May at the Observatory at Castelgandolfo in the Roman Hills. Please find below the English translation of the Pope's words to participants Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to participants at the Conference organized by the Vatican Observatory 12 maggio 2017   Dear friends,             I extend a heartfelt welcome to you all, and I thank Brother Guy Consolmagno for his kind words.             The issues you have been addressing during these days at Castel Gandolfo are of particular interest to the Church, because they have to do with questions that concern us deeply, such as the beginning of the universe and its evolution, and the profound structure of space and time, to name but a few.  It is clear that these questions have a particular relevance for science, philosophy, theology and for the spiritual life.  They represent an arena in which these different disciplines meet and sometimes clash.             As both a Catholic priest and a cosmologist, Mgr Georges Lemaître knew well the creative tension between faith and science, and always defended the clear methodological distinction between the fields of science and theology.   While integrating them in his own life, he viewed them as distinct areas of competence.  That distinction, already present in Saint Thomas Aquinas, avoids a short-circuiting that is as harmful to science as it is to faith.             Before the immensity of space-time, we humans can experience awe and a sense of our own insignificance, as the Psalmist reminds us:  “What is man that you should keep him in mind, the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:5).  As Albert Einstein loved to say: “One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility”.  The existence and intelligibility of the universe are not a result of chaos or mere chance, but of God’s Wisdom, present “at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old”. (Prov 8:22).             I am deeply appreciative of your work, and I encourage you to persevere in your search for truth.  For we ought never to fear truth, nor become trapped in our own preconceived ideas, but welcome new scientific discoveries with an attitude of humility.  As we journey towards the frontiers of human knowledge, it is indeed possible to have an authentic experience of the Lord, one which is capable of filling our hearts.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pilgrims decend on Fatima shrine ahead of Pope's visit

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 15:14
(Vatican Radio) Tens of thousands of pilgrims are preparing to descend on the Marian Shrine of Fatima ahead of Pope Francis' visit later on Friday. The Holy Father is due to fly to Portugal from Rome's Fiumicino Airport this afternoon and is expected to arrive at the air base of Monte Reale at 16.20 local time. Our Correspondent in Fatima, Chris Altieri has been out and about and sends this report on the powerful devotion at this beloved Marian Shrine. Listen:  All throughout the day on Thursday, as afternoon turned to twilight and twilight gave way to evening, and even after night fell, a steady and slowly but visibly increasing stream of pilgrims built. Tens of thousands of pilgrims are now descending on the great square that stretches between the “new sanctuary” – the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity – and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary – both imposing structures of some grace and genius, the former in a decidedly modern style and the latter a harmonious blend of elements established in many architectural traditions and periods, including a bell tower, vaulted ceilings, a colonnade, and more than a dozen pieces of impressive statuary – the centrepiece of which is the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the niche of the tower: it is the work of the Dominican priest-sculptor Thomas McGlynn (a US citizen), crafted according to the indications of the seer and Discalced Carmelite Sister Lucia herself, and paid for by the Catholic faithful of the United States. The story of the statue makes for great reading. It is this reporter’s first time here, though, and the thing that has been the most powerfully affecting particular of the sanctuary complex is the chapel of the apparitions, built on the exact spot of the apparitions in Fatima in 1917. Pilgrims of every age and state of life in the Church – some flush with the exuberance of youth, some filled with gratitude for the graces of a life abundantly blessed, and others, too – people who, to look them in the eyes, have doubtless “seen the elephant” – approach the tiny covered chapel all day long – many of them on their knees – circumambulating the site, pausing, praying, hearing Mass and offering their Rosaries, sometimes singly and in silence, and more often in groups. The most startling thing about it is how there is … nothing strange or starling about it, really: Our Blessed Lady seems to the pilgrims I’ve observed to be a daily companion, familiar, even – their faith is as comfortable as a sturdy old pair of walking shoes, and definitely simple – simple as the Divine nature itself, which Mary carried in her womb, the bottomless secrets of which she, and she alone, has contemplated with such perfect intimacy. Here, though, in this place, one hundred years ago, the sun danced in the sky at the command of the Queen of Heaven, who had come to visit simple shepherd children. It is here that Pope Francis is coming as a pilgrim among pilgrims – and here, we have a powerful interpretative key to the programme of his Pontificate. Time, and tie again, the Holy Father has encouraged popular devotion – those ancient and venerable practices of piety that Catholics can’t quite seem to quit, and everyone else doesn’t seem to “get” – and here, in Fatima, he is coming to recall the attention of the world to the power of a simple prayer. “With Mary, I come as [a] pilgrim in hope and in peace,” Pope Francis has said in the motto of this voyage, which he himself has insisted is a pilgrimage. He is, in other words, trusting the power of popular devotion to move the faithful, and – who knows? – perhaps even move the world once again from the brink of self-destruction. He is also trusting the faithful to be powerful agents of change in the world, precisely by means of the prayerful witness of faith, which opens hearts to the work of charity. In Fatima, awaiting Pope Francis, I’m, Chris Altieri (from Vatican Radio)...

Fatima Centenary: awaiting Pope Francis

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 00:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is just hours away from his departure for Fatima, Portugal, where he will lead celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady there. Our special envoy Chris Altieri is in Fatima, and sent us this report. ******************************************* “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.” That’s sound advice any time one finds oneself about 20 miles from the Atlantic coast at nearly 1,000 ft. elevation. We took rain off and on all morning, as we went from one side of the shrine complex to the other: first getting an unscheduled stop at the Carmel where Pope Francis is to stay the night Friday, then our hunt for our lodgings and then the press centre for accreditation and then the refectory for a quick bite to eat. Cick below to hear our report That’s par for the course on a journey like this – a pilgrimage, really – though I promise to be here from start to finish, God-willing, to bring you all the story – and it is as a pilgrim that Pope Francis is coming to this place in the hills north of Lisbon, where 100 years ago this weekend the Mother of God appeared to shepherd children , in the midst of what was the most costly and destructive conflict yet in human history, to show the whole human race once again the way to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. “With Mary, as a pilgrim of hope and peace I travel to Fatima,” said Pope Francis in a tweet on the eve of his departure. “Let us see in her that everything is God’s gift and He is our strength.” Here, in Fatima, there is an uncanny mixture of constant bustle and tense calm, with groups of pilgrims of every age and state of life in the Church milling about, now completing this devotion, now moving to another – some braving wind and rain to cross the plaza on their knees – others seeking shelter, others heading home – at least for the day. The shrine complex is getting busier by the hour, it seems, with volunteers and the inevitable security checkpoints adding to the bustle. The Rosary of Our Lady, meanwhile, is in the air – quite literally – visibly in the great white sculpture that rises some 80 feet high over the square – and audibly, in the prayers of the pilgrims, whether piped through the public address, or whispered at arm’s length. In Fatima, awaiting Pope Francis, I’m, Chris Altieri (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Christians are always on the go in their journey to meet the Lord

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 19:48
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of every Christian is a journey and a process during which to deepen the faith. Speaking during the homily at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta , the Pope reflected on the liturgical reading of the day in which St. Paul tells the story of Salvation leading up to Jesus. During the course of history, Pope Francis said, many of our conceptions have changed. Slavery, for example, was a practice that was accepted; in time we have come to understand that it is a mortal sin. “God has made himself known throughout history” he said, “His salvation” goes back a long way in time. And he referred to Paul’s preaching in the Acts of the Apostles when he tells the God-fearing children of Israel about the journey of their ancestors from the Exodus from Egypt until the coming of the savior, Jesus. The Pope said salvation has a great and a long history during which the Lord “guided his people in good and in bad moments, in times of freedom and of slavery:  in a journey populated by “saints and by sinners” on the road towards fullness, “towards the encounter with the Lord”. At the end of the journey there is Jesus, he said, however: “it doesn’t end there”. In fact, Francis continued, Jesus gave us the Spirit who allows to “remember and to understand Jesus’ message, and thus, a second journey begins. Slavery and the death penalty were once accepted; today they are considered mortal sins This journey undertaken "to understand, to deepen our understanding of Jesus and to deepen our faith” serves also, Francis explained, “to understand moral teaching, the Commandments.” He pointed out that some things that “once seemed normal and not sinful, are today conceived as mortal sins: "Think of slavery: at school they told us what they did with the slaves taking them from one place and selling them in another…. That is a mortal sin” he said. But that, he said, is what we believe today. Back then it was deemed acceptable because people believed that some did not have a soul. It was necessary, the Pope said, to move on to better understand the faith and to better understand morality.  And reflecting bitterly on the fact that today “there are no slaves”, Pope Francis pointed out there are in fact many more of them…. but at least, he said, we know that to enslave someone is to commit a mortal sin. The same goes for the death penalty: “once it was considered normality; today we say that it is inadmissible” he said. The people of God are always on a journey to deepen their faith The same concept, he added, can be applied to “wars of religion”: as we go ahead deepening our faith and clarifying the dictates of morality "there are saints, the saints we all know, as well as the hidden saints."  The Church, he commented, “is full of hidden saints”, and it is their holiness that will lead us to the “second fullness” when “the Lord will ultimately come to be all in all”. Thus, Pope Francis said "The people of God are always on their way”.  When the people of God stop, he said, “they become like prisoners in a stable, like donkeys”. In that situation they are unable to understand, to go forward, to deepen their faith - and love and faith do not purify their souls. And, he said, there is a third “fullness of the times: ours”. Each of us, the Pope explained, “is on the way to the fullness of our own time. Each of us will reach the moment in which life ends and there we must find the Lord. Each of us is on the go.” “Jesus, he noted, has sent the Holy Spirit to guide us on our way” and he pointed out that the Church today is also on the go. Confession is a step in our journey on the way to meet the Lord Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask themselves whether during confession there is not only the shame for having sinned, but also the understanding that in that moment they are taking a “step forward on the way to the fullness of times”. “To ask God for forgiveness is not something automatic” he said. “It means that I understand that I am on a journey, part of a people that is on a journey” and sooner or later “I will find myself face-to-face with God, who never leaves us alone, but always accompanies us” he said.  And this, the Pope concluded, is the great work of God's mercy. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends video-message ahead of Fatima pilgrimage

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 01:49
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message of greeting to the people of Portugal as he prepares to travel to Fatima on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to three shepherd children on May 13th 1917. In a video-message released just two days before his journey the Pope said that “Just hours from my pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima, I find myself in a state of joyful expectation for our upcoming encounter at the house of the Mother”. I am well aware, he said, of the fact that you would like to welcome me into your homes, into your communities and into your towns as well: “I received your invitation!” However, he continued, “I would have liked to be able to accept that invitation but it is impossible, and I thank you for the understanding with which my decision to keep my visit circumscribed to the Fatima Sanctuary, where I hope to meet you at the feet of the Virgin Mother, has been received”. “It is in my role as universal pastor, Pope Francis said, that I am about to present myself to her and I need to feel you close, physically or spiritually so that we are one heart and one mind”. In his message the Pope also said he is entrusting all Portuguese faithful to Our Lady asking her to “whisper into the ears of each one of them, and assure them that her Immaculate Heart is a refuge and a path leading them to God”. “With Mary, I come as pilgrim in hope and in peace” is the logo of this pilgrimage, Pope Francis said, expressing his joy to learn of the intense preparations that are taking place in view of this “blessed moment.” Inviting all faithful to open their hearts to be able to receive God’s gifts, the Pope thanked all faithful for their prayers for him saying that he is in need of them as he is “a sinner amongst sinners”. “In His name, I come to you with the joy of sharing the Gospel of hope and peace. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you” he said.        (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's message of thanks to Tawadros II following Egypt visit

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 18:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to His Holiness Pope Tawadros II thanking him for his hospitality and for their "moving meeting and common prayer as brothers in Christ", during his recent visit to Egypt. Please find below the Holy Father's message To His Holiness Tawadros II Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark   Dear Brother, After my visit to Egypt and the blessed encounter with Your Holiness in Cairo, and recalling the fourth anniversary of our fraternal meeting in Rome on 10 May 2013, I take this opportunity to offer my prayerful best wishes for your peace and health, as well as my joy and gratitude for the spiritual bonds uniting the See of Peter and the See of Mark. I once more express my profound appreciation for your hospitality and for our moving meeting and common prayer as brothers in Christ.  I am especially grateful that we have strengthened our baptismal unity in the body of Christ by declaring together “that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other”.  Our bonds of fraternity “challenge us to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”. Along this path we are sustained by the powerful intercession and example of the martyrs.  May we continue to advance together on our journey towards the same Eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation. I assure Your Holiness of my continued prayers for you, and for peace in Egypt and the Middle East.  In this Easter season I pray that the Holy Spirit, the strength and tenderness of God, may fill our hearts with his grace and kindle in them the fire of his love.  May the Spirit of peace bestow on us an increase of hope, friendship and harmony. With these sentiments, on this special occasion which has rightly become known as the day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, I exchange with Your Holiness a fraternal embrace of peace in Christ our Lord. From the Vatican, 10 May 2017 (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Audience: Look to Mary, Mother of Hope

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 18:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis during his Wednesday General Audience continued his catechesis on Christian hope, highlighting Mary the Mother of Hope. Listen to this report:  On the eve of his Apostolic visit to Fatima , Pope Francis on Wednesday, described Mary as the Mother of Hope adding that she was a woman of courage, perseverance and obedience. Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said that,  “Our Lady’s experience of motherhood models that of so many mothers in our world.” Mothers who have had to confront the suffering of their children. He went on to say that she courageously accepted her vocation and welcomed the new life entrusted to her.  The Holy Father also noted how despite the trials in her life, she remained always obedient to God. Mary, Pope Francis commented, is with her son until the very end. Her image, he said “standing at the foot of the cross and grieving the death of her innocent Son has inspired artists of every age to present her as a model of persevering hope in God’s promises.” The hope that Our Lady had, underlined the Pope, was the fruit of a life of prayer and daily effort to be conformed to God’s will, and was fulfilled in Jesus’ rising to new life.  We are not orphans, Pope Francis added, “we have a Mother in heaven who is the Holy Mother of God.” Following his catechesis, the Holy Father, greeting Portuguese speaking pilgrims asked for prayers for his upcoming visit to Fatima. He also had words of welcome for a delegation of young Russian priests of the Patriarchate of Moscow who are being hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian unity.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: English summary of General Audience

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 16:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, during which he spoke of Mary the Mother of Hope. Below, please find the official English-language summary of the Holy Father's prepared remarks... Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, we now turn to Mary, Mother of Hope.  Our Lady’s experience of motherhood models that of so many mothers in our world.  Hers is a witness of courage in accepting her vocation and welcoming the new life entrusted to her.  It is also a witness of quiet yet trusting obedience to God’s will amid the trials of life.  The Gospels speak of a certain “eclipse” of Mary during the public ministry of Jesus.  She follows her Son in silence, yet in his passion, when most of the disciples flee, she remains with him to the very end.  The image of Mary standing at the foot of the cross and grieving the death of her innocent Son has inspired artists of every age to present her as a model of persevering hope in God’s promises.  That hope was the fruit of a life of prayer and daily effort to be conformed to God’s will, and was fulfilled in Jesus’ rising to new life.  As Mother of Hope, may Our Lady remain at our side, sustain us by her prayers and guide our steps as we seek to follow her Son every day of our lives. (from Vatican Radio)...

“Let us receive the Holy Spirit with docility!” Pope Francis

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 19:13
(Vatican Radio) “Let us receive the Holy Spirit with docility!” This was Pope Francis’ message during his Tuesday morning homily during Mass celebrated in the Vatican’s Santa Marta residence. Joining the Pope at Mass were the Sisters who work in the Santa Marta residence. They were celebrating the feast day of their founder, Saint Luisa di Marillac. The Pope, continuing to develop the themes he had used in the previous day’s homily, reflected on the early Christians’ docility and openness to the Holy Spirit against the backdrop of the first persecutions of the Christians. “In these past days we have talked about resistance to the Holy Spirit, for which Saint Stephen scolded the doctors of the law. Today the readings speak of an attitude which the opposite namely  for Christians to have docility towards the Holy Spirit” said Pope Francis.  He described how, after Saint Stephen was killed, a widespread persecution broke out against Christians and many of them fled to places like Cyprus, Phoenicia and Antioch. But this persecution gave new opportunities to the Christians, he added.  Noting that until this moment, they had only been preaching to the Jews, the Pope pointed out that some of those Christians who went to Antioch began to preach to the pagans, because they felt that the Holy Spirit was pushing them to do so.  This, he said, showed their docility towards the Spirit. This docility is spoken about in the first letter of Saint James, where he exhorts believers to “Receive the word with docility.”  Pope Francis told the congregation that this means needing to have an open attitude that is not rigid. “The first path in the journey of docility is therefore to receive the Word, which opens the heart. The second path is to know the Word, to know Jesus, who says ‘my sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me’” said the Pope. “Then there is a third path, familiarity with the Word. To always bring the Word with us. To read it, to open our hearts to the Lord, open our hearts to the Spirit who makes us understand the Word.  And the fruit of this, to receive the Word, to understand the Word, to take it with us, to have this familiarity with the Word, is a great fruit! A person who does this displays goodness, kindness, joy, peace, self -control and meekness.” The Pope went on to explain  that this meekness is the attitude that gives us docility towards the Spirit. “But I have to receive the Spirit which brings me the Word with docility. And this docility, by not resisting the Spirit, brings me this way of living, this way of acting. To receive the Word with docility, to know the Word and call to the Spirit to grant us the grace to understand and then to give space for this seed to sprout and grow into this attitude of goodness, meekness, gentleness , peace, charity and self-control.  All this shows  a  Christian attitude” he said.   The Pope also pointed out that it was not the Apostles who preached to the pagans in Antioch, but others whose names we do not know. And when the Apostle Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he saw there the grace of God, resting in hearts that were faithful  to the Lord. “There is the Spirit that guides us to do no wrong, but to receive with the spirit with docility, to know the Spirit in the Word and to live according to the Spirit. And this is the opposite of the resistance for which Stephen scolded the doctors of the law: ‘You always have resisted the Spirit!’ Do we resist the spirit? Do we create resistance? Or do we receive him? With docility: these are the words of James. ‘To receive with docility.’ Resistance is the opposite of docility. Let us call for this grace.” The  Pope concluding his homily by noting that that it was in Antioch that the community of disciples was first given the name Christians.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at Regina coeli: Pray Rosary for peace!

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 19:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called for Catholics to pray the Rosary for peace on Sunday. In remarks to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Regina coeli with him on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Holy Father said, “[I]n this month of May, let us pray the Rosary in particular for peace.” “Please!” he said, “let us pray the Rosary for peace, as the Virgin of Fatima asked us to do.” Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Fatima, in Portugal, this weekend, to lead celebrations marking the 100 th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady there. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis ordains 10 new priests on Good Shepherd Sunday

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 18:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis ordained ten men to the sacred priesthood on Sunday morning, the Fourth Sunday of Easter and “Good Shepherd Sunday” after the Gospel reading of the day, which is also celebrated as the day of prayer for vocations. The Holy Father delivered the standard, prepared “template” homily found in the Roman Ritual for priestly ordinations, with three significant extemporaneous deviations from the text. The first, was a reminder that the priesthood is not a “career” in the usual sense, and ought not be lived as a path to advancement within the Church. “These men have been elected by the Lord Jesus not to make their own way, but to do this [priestly] service.” Pope Francis also broke with the prepared text to say, “Do not give homilies that are too intellectual or elaborate,” he said. “[Be] simple, as Our Lord spoke, who reached hearts.” Pope Francis went on to say, “A presbyter who has perhaps studied much theology and has achieved one or two or three advanced degrees, but has not learned to carry the Cross of Christ, is useless: he will be a good academic, a good professor, but not a priest.” The Holy Father also broke from the prepared text to say, “Please, I ask you in the name of Christ and of the Church to be merciful, always: do not saddle the faithful with burdens they cannot carry (nor ought you so burden yourselves). Jesus reproved the doctors of the law for this, and called them hypocrites.” A concrete work of mercy to which Pope Francis called the ordinands was that of visiting the sick. “One of the tasks,” he said, “perhaps a nuisance, even painful – is to go to visit the sick. Do it, all of you. Yes, it is well that the lay faithful should do it, and deacons, but do not forget to touch the flesh of the suffering Christ in the sick: this sanctifies you, it brings you closer to Christ.” The Holy Father concluded his homily with an appeal to joy. “Be joyful, never sad,” he said. “With the joy of Christ’s service, even in the midst of suffering, misunderstanding, [even] one’s own sins. Have the example of the Good Shepherd ever before your eyes,” the Pope continued, “He did not come to be served, but to serve.” “Please,” Pope Francis said at the last, “do not be ‘lords’, do not be ‘State Clerics’, but shepherds, pastors of the People of God.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis receives Swiss President Leuthard

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 22:27
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, on Saturday morning in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. A communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See says the Pope and the President held cordial discussions, during which the parties emphasized the mutual wish to strengthen the already good relations between the Holy See and Switzerland, and to intensify cooperation between the Catholic Church and the State. The statement from the Press Office goes on to say Pope Francis and President Leuthard discussed various themes of common interest, including the reception of migrants, the challenge of the world of work for the young, the fight against terrorism and commitment to the protection of the environment, as well as the future of Europe. The visit of the President of the Swiss Confederation coincided with the swearing-in of new soldiers of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Greek Melkite Patriarch

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 18:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of the Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham, from his pastoral office. A letter from the Holy Father to the Patriarch-emeritus and all the Melkite bishops explains that His Beatitude presented his resignation during the course of a special audience with the Holy Father in February, and that the Holy Father has decided to accept the resignation. In the letter, Pope Francis thanks the 83 year-old Patriarch-emeritus, “a zealous servant of the People of God, for the generous service to his Church and for keeping the international community’s attention focused on the tragedy of Syria.” The Holy Father goes on to write, “I invoke upon you all the intercession of The Holy Mother of God and willingly give the Apostolic Blessing to our dear Greco-Melkite Church as a sign of grace and encouragement for the future of communion and witness of the Gospel.” Below, please find the full text of the letter, in the original French ***************************** À Sa Béatitude Grégoire III Laham Patriarche d’Antioche des Gréco-melkites et à tous les Évêques de cette Église Béatitude et Vénérables Frères dans le Christ, Dans ma sollicitude pour toutes les Églises, je m’adresse à vous, reconnaissant  pour votre service auprès du Peuple de Dieu et conscient de votre responsabilité de Pasteurs. Depuis la réunion du Synode des Évêques du mois de février dernier, Sa Béatitude, lors de l’audience que je lui ai accordée, m’a présenté spontanément sa renonciation à la charge patriarcale, en me demandant de décider du moment le plus favorable pour l’accepter. Après avoir prié et réfléchi attentivement, je retiens opportun et nécessaire pour le bien de l’Église gréco-melkite d’accueillir aujourd’hui sa renonciation. En remerciant Sa Béatitude, serviteur zélé du Peuple de Dieu, pour les années de service généreux de son Église et pour avoir entretenu l’attention de la communauté internationale sur le drame vécu par la Syrie, j’invoque sur vous tous l’intercession da la Sainte Mère de Dieu et donne volontiers la Bénédiction apostolique à notre chère Église gréco-melkite, comme signe de grâce et d’encouragement pour l’avenir de communion et de témoignage de l’Évangile. Du Vatican, le 6 mai 2017 François *Orientale Lumen has made an English translation . (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope receives President of Swiss Confederation in Audience

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 18:42
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received the president of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard , in audience at the Vatican. President Leuthard subsequently met with Abp Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said, “During the cordial discussions, aside from mentioning the generous service of the Pontifical Swiss Guard on the day of the swearing in of new members, the parties emphasized the mutual wish to further strengthen the existing good relations between the Holy See and Switzerland , and to intensify collaboration between the Catholic Church and the State.” The statement continued, “Various themes of common interest were then considered, such as the future of the European continent, the reception of migrants, the challenge of the world of work for the young, the fight against terrorism and commitment to the protection of the environment.” The Swiss president will be present on Saturday evening at the swearing-in ceremony for new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which will take place in the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis welcomes new Swiss Guards recruits

Sat, 05/06/2017 - 18:23
(Vatican Radio) Each year on May 6, the new recruits for the Pontifical Swiss Guard are sworn in at an impressive, and ancient, ceremony in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The forty new Swiss Guards are the first group of recruits to go through the new model of training, which includes a month of instruction at the famous Swiss Guards’ school at Isone in the canton of Ticino before beginning their courses at the Vatican . Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, the new recruits, with their families and friends, and the other members of the Swiss Guard, were received by Pope Francis at an audience in the Sala Clementina. The presence of so many visitors from Switzerland, the Pope said, “manifests the affection of Swiss Catholics for the Holy See, Christian education, and the good example through which the parents have transmitted to their children the faith, the value of pertaining to the Christian community, and the significance of ecclesial service.” Pope Francis recalled that the ceremony takes place on the anniversary of the Sack of Rome, when 147 Swiss Guards gave their lives to defend the Pope. Today, the Holy Father said, the Swiss Guards “are not called to this heroic offering of your physical life, but to another sacrifice no less arduous: to serve, that is, the power of the faith.” This, he continued, “is an effective barrier to resist the various forces and powers of this world, and above all he who is ‘the prince of this world,’ ‘the father of lies,’ who ‘goes about like a lion, seeking someone to devour.’” The Pope emphasized the importance of spiritual growth for the new Guards during their time in Rome. He invited them to pass their time in the Eternal City “with sincere fraternity, supporting one another in leading an exemplary Christian life that is motivated and sustained by your faith.” He encouraged them to consider themselves “an active part of the great people of God, missionary disciples committed to bearing witness to the Gospel” both in their work and in their free time in Rome. Rome, the Pope said, offers many opportunities for spiritual and cultural growth, which he encouraged the new recruits to take advantage of. He spoke of the example of St Philip Neri, who would help the children he cared for to discover “the traces of the ancient Christian community.” Taking the time “to follow in the footsteps of so many saints who have lived in the City,” Pope Francis said, “will make your time in Rome even more unforgettable and rich in fruit.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope greets Pontifical Roman College on 80th anniversary

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 18:47
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday greeted members of the Pontifical Romanian College or Collegio Pio Romeno on the occasion of its 80th anniversary.  Listen to this report: This Roman Pontifical College has been training seminarians from all over the world for eight decades in the Eternal City and on Friday the Pope on this auspicious occasion had two wishes for those present. The first was to preserve memory and the second, to cultivate hope. Speaking about the former, the Holy Father said that by tuning into ones ecclesial memory which he added, lives through the events that each era presents us with, “you will be helped to overcome dangerous temptations that may arise, such as settling for mediocrity, settling for a normal life; where one jealously guards their own time and their own well-being. The Pope described their College as a place where seminarians train as if they were “in a gym” in order to give their lives for the good of others. On the theme of cultivating hope, Pope Francis said that there was, “so much need to nourish Christian hope, that hope that gives a new outlook, capable of discovering and seeing good, even when it is obscured by evil”. Concluding his address the Pope had a special greeting for those present from the Pontifical College of St. Ephrem, which provides lodgings for those student priests of the Arabic language from all of the Oriental Catholic Churches and who are welcomed by the Pontifical Romanian College (Pio Romeno). The Pope said that, “by meeting you I think of the situation in which there are so many faithful in your lands, many families who are forced to leave their homes in the face of waves of violence and suffering. I want to embrace these brothers and sisters in a special way, together with their Patriarchs and Bishops.”     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope denounces rigid Christians, calls for meekness in the Church

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 18:10
(Vatican Radio) Even now there are people in the Church who use rigidity to cover-up their own sins. That was the warning of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the first Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope focused on the figure of Saint Paul who, from being a rigid persecutor, became a meek and patient proclaimer of the Gospel. “The first time the name ‘Saul’ appears,” he said, “is at the stoning of Stephen.” Saul, he observed, was a “young man, rigid, idealistic,” and he was “convinced” of the rigidity of the law. No to rigid people living a double life in the Church He was rigid, the Pope insisted, but he was “sincere.” Jesus, on the other hand, condemned those who were rigid but “insincere”: “They are rigid people living a double life: They make themselves look good, sincere, but when no one sees them, they do ugly things. On the other hand, this young man was honest. He believed that. I think, when I say this, of the many young people in the Church today who have fallen into the temptation of rigidity. Some are sincere, they are good. We have to pray that the Lord might help them to grow along the path of meekness.” Others, he said, “use rigidity in order to cover over weakness, sin, personality problems; and they use rigidity” to build themselves up at the expense of others. Pope Francis said that in this way, Saul grew even more rigid, to the point where he couldn’t tolerate what he saw as a heresy; and so he began to persecute the Christians. But, the Pope said, parenthetically, at least Saul allowed children to live – nowadays, those who persecute Christians don’t even spare children. Saul then went to Damascus to arrest the Christians in order to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. And on the road to Damascus, he encountered “another Man, who spoke with a language of meekness: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” Saint Paul: From persecutor to evangelizer “This rigid young man, who had become a rigid man – but sincere! – was made a little child, and allowed himself to be led where the Lord called him.” This is “the power of the meekness of the Lord.” Saul, then, having become Paul, proclaimed the Lord to the very end, and suffered for Him: “And so this man preached to others out of his own experience, from one part to another: persecuted, with so many problems, even in the Church, even having to suffer from Christians quarreling among themselves. But he, who had persecuted the Lord with the zeal of the law, said to the Christians, ‘With those same things by which you have drawn away from God, with which you have sinned – with the mind, with the body, with everything – with those same members now you are perfect, you give glory to God.’” Let us pray for those who are rigid, that they may follow the way of meekness of Jesus “There is a dialogue between what is sufficient, rigidity, and meekness,” the Pope said, and this is “the dialogue between a sincere man and Jesus, who speaks to him with sweetness.” And so, he said, “begins the story of this man whom we have known from his youth, in the stoning of Stephen, who would end up betrayed by an internal conflict among Christians.” For some, the life of Saint Paul “is a failure,” like that of Christ: “This is the path of the Christian: to go forward along the path marked out by Jesus: the path of preaching, the path of suffering, the path of the Cross, the path of the resurrection. Today, in a special way, let us pray to Saul for those in the Church who are rigid: for the rigid who are sincere, as he was, who have zeal, but are mistaken. And for the rigid who are hypocrites, those who live a double life, those of whom Jesus said, ‘Do what they say, but not what they do.’ Let us pray today for the rigid.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Myanmar Church welcomes diplomatic relations with the Holy See

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 22:10
Bishop John Hsane Hgyi, the bishop of Pathein diocese of Myanmar has expressed joy over the joint agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar of establishing diplomatic relations, a decision he says is for the positive evolution and for the steps towards change.  The decision came after the meeting in the Vatican held on May 4, between Pope Francis and leader Aung San Suu Kyi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of Burma. The Bishop notes that the  main challenge is to resolve conflicts with ethnic minorities. He hopes all the different ethnic groups can join the May 24 national meeting  in Yangon for the signing of a ceasefire and make it  a real step towards national reconciliation. All peoples in Myanmar and all religions want peace  he says but today the nation needs an effort on behalf of everyone to reach peace. The Catholic Church  expresses the utmost solidarity even with the Rohingya Muslims and  desires solutions that respect human dignity and human rights, according to criteria of peace and justice the Bishop notes. The Catholic Church in Myanmar is observing 2017 as the Year of Peace and the faithful are encouraged to fast, make sacrifices and to raise awareness for peace in the nation.  Currently seminars and conferences are being promoted on the subject of reconciliation in different dioceses and the  collaboration of other religious leaders is sought the Bishop said. The Government spokesperson Zaw Htay commenting on the diplomatic relations said that his country wanted to be part of the international family and that establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican was key to that, given its role as a reference point for all Christians. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Myanmar, Fr. Soe Naing, said the new relationship would do more than merely facilitate direct contacts between the Holy See and Yangon. The need for peace is expressed at all levels.  Cardinal Bo at an interreligious peace conference in Yangon on April 26 reminded his counterparts from other faiths about their moral obligation to build peace and harmony at the grassroots levels in the strife-torn nation.  He said that the wish for peace needs to shine through every word and deed, and solutions must be found through "dialogue and mutual understanding." About one percent of Myanmar’s 51 million people are Catholics where the church has been active for five centuries. The ‎celebrations for ‎the ‎‎500 years ‎of the Church in Myanmar should have taken place in 2011, but the political situation and ‎the lack of ‎true religious freedom then, did not allow for such a nation-wide ‎celebration.‎  Hence the ‎jubilee year ‎was marked from Nov. 24, 2013 to Nov. 23, 2014‎.(Fides)  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's prayer intention for May: Christians in Africa

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 22:10
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is dedicated to  Christians in Africa:  That Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace. The Apostleship of Prayer  has produced the Pope’s Video on this prayer intention. The full text of the Pope’s Video is below: When we look at Africa, we see much more than its great natural richness. We see its joie de vivre, and above all, we see grounds for hope in Africa’s rich intellectual, cultural and religious heritage. But we cannot fail to see the fratricidal wars decimating peoples and destroying these natural and cultural resources. Let us join with our brothers and sisters of this great continent, and pray together that Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at daily Mass: To evangelize, go out, listen, rejoice

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 20:06
(Vatican Radio) The Church should be on its feet and on the journey, listening to the restlessness of the people, and always with joy. That was the message of Pope Francis this morning in the homily for the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. In the first eight chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope said, “there is a summary of the whole history of the Church”: preaching, baptism, conversion, miracles, persecution, joy, but also the ugly sin of those who join themselves to the Church for their own ends, “those benefactors of the Church who in the end cheat the Church,” like Ananias and Sapphira. The Holy Father began his homily with this reflection, then moved on to a consideration of the day’s readings. He first emphasized that the Lord from the beginning accompanied His disciples, confirming the Word with miraculous signs. He never left them alone, not even in the worst moments. Pope Francis the focused on three “words” taken from the day’s first Reading, inviting those present to re-read the passage at home. The first saying was the words of an angel to Philip: “ Get up and go. ” “This,” the Pope said, “is a sign of evangelization”: the vocation, and the great consolation of the Church, is to evangelize. “But in order to evangelize: ‘Get up and go!’ One doesn’t say: ‘Stay seated, calm, in your house’: No! In order to be faithful to the Lord, the Church should always be on its feet and on the journey: ‘Get up and go.’ A Church that does not rise up, that is not on the journey, is sick.” And, the Pope continued, this can cause the Church to be closed in on itself, with many psychological and spiritual traumas – “closed into a little world of gossiping, of things… closed, without horizons.” And so, he said, the Church must “get up and go,” it must be “on its feet and on the journey.” This is how the Church must go about evangelizing. “ Go up and join with that chariot ” – the second message Philip received from the Spirit – was the next expression Pope Francis emphasized. In the chariot was an Ethiopian, a proselyte of the Jewish religion, a eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. As he travelled, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The passage concerns the conversion of a “finance minister,” which, the Pope said, means it was a “great miracle.” The Spirit called Philip to join himself to that man, Pope Francis continued, emphasizing how important it was for the Church to know she must listen to the restlessness in the heart of every man: “All men, all women have a restlessness in their hearts – [they may be] good or bad, but there is a restlessness. Listen to that restlessness. It’s not saying: ‘Go out and proselytise.’ No, no! ‘Go and listen.’ Listening is the second step. The first: ‘Get up and go’; the second: ‘Listen.’ That ability to listen: What do people feel? What does the heart of the people feel? What does it think? But do they think mistaken things? But I want to hear these mistaken things, in order to understand where the restlessness is. We all have this restlessness within. The second step for the Church is to find the restlessness of the people.” It is, then, the Ethiopian himself who, seeing Philip approach, asks who the prophet is speaking about, and asks him to join him in the chariot. And so, the Pope said, Philip began to preach “with meekness.” The restlessness in the heart of that man found an explanation that responded to the hope in his heart. This was possible, Pope Francis continued, “because Philip joined him and listened to him.” While the Ethiopian listened, the Lord was working within him. In this way, the man understood that the Prophet Isaiah was speaking of Jesus. His faith in Jesus then grew to such a point that when they arrived at a place where there was water, he asked to be baptized. “He asked for Baptism because the Lord had worked in his heart,” the Pope said. Then, after he had been baptized, when the Spirit took Philip and bore him away, the eunuch continued on his way, filled with joy. This “ joy of the Christian ,” Pope Francis said, is the third “word” from the Reading. Pope Francis concluded his homily with the hope that the Church would be “on its feet,” “a mother who listens,” and “with the grace of the Holy Spirit … finds the Word to say”: “Mother Church, which gives so many children to the light with this method, we would say – let us use the word – this method which is not proselytistic: it is the method of the witness to obedience. The Church, which tells us today: ‘Rejoice.’ To rejoice; joy.  The joy of being Christian, even in ugly moments. Because after the stoning of Stephen a great persecution arose, and the Christians scattered everywhere, like seed carried on the wind. And it fell to them to preach the Word of Jesus. May the Lord give to all of us the grace to live the Church in this way: on our feet and going out, listening to the restlessness of the people, and always in joy.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

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