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Pope returns to Vatican after Spiritual Exercises

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 18:26
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican after having concluded the Spiritual Exercises. On Friday morning, before leaving Arricia – where the retreat was taking place – the Holy Father celebrated Mass for Syria. He also sent €100,000 to the poor of Aleppo, thanks to a contribution of the Roman Curia. The donation will be made by the Office of Papal Charities, the Elemosineria Apostolica (Apostolic Almoner). On Friday evening, Pope Francis will travel to the Vicariate of Rome where he will meet with the prefects of the Diocese. The meeting, a normal part of the life of the local Church, will be strictly private.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to Die Zeit: 'I too have moments of emptiness'

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 15:02
(Vatican Radio) “I too know moments of emptiness.” In an interview for German newsweekly Die Zeit, Pope Francis spoke about the “spiritual dark moments” in his own life, times when he has said, “Lord, I don’t understand this.” Asked about how the faithful can help when people experience crises of faith, the Holy Father said, “One cannot grow without crises: in human life, the same thing happens. Even biological growth is a crisis, no? The crisis of a child who becomes an adult. And faith is the same.” Pope Francis’ admission of his own doubts was perhaps the most striking moment in the interview with Die Ziet’s editor-in-chief, Giovanni di Lorenzo. “Faith is a gift,” the Pope said when asked how one returns to the faith. One cannot recover one’s faith on one’s own, but must ask it from God: “I ask, and He responds. Sooner or later, eh? But at times, you have to wait, in a crisis.” The conversation covered a wide range of topics, from the Pope’s devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots; to the vocations crisis (“optional celibacy is not the solution); to the question of whether men are intrinsically good or evil. The Pontiff spoke once again about what he has called the “Third World War,” being waged piecemeal, drawing attention to ongoing conflicts in Africa, Ukraine, Asia, Iraq, and elsewhere. He spoke, too, about contemporary currents of populism, warning against “a messianism” that always lurks behind such phenomena. Current events in the Church, including criticisms of Pope Francis, were also touched on in the interview. “I will make a confession about this, a sincere one,” he said. “From the moment I was elected Pope I have never lost my peace. I understand that someone might not like [my] way of acting, and I even justify it: there are so many ways of thinking; it is licit, it is human, and it is even a richness.” In particular, he complimented the “cultured” Roman dialect used in notorious posters that appeared in Rome, accusing the Pope of not being merciful. “It’s good that you can laugh at these things,” his interviewer said, to which Pope Francis responded, “But of course! [It’s] one of the things I pray for each day, with the prayer of St Thomas More: I ask for a sense of humour.” The conversation ended with a discussion of possible future travels, with the Holy Father confirming his plans to visit India, Bangladesh and Colombia, as well as Fatima in Portugal. He said, however, that a hoped-for trip to South Sudan might not be possible after all. Pope Francis concluded the interview with an apology: “I’m sorry if I haven’t met your expectations… Pray for me!” Listen to Christopher Wells' report:  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis begins Lenten Spiritual Exercises

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 00:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and members of the Vatican Curia travelled on Sunday afternoon to the "Casa del Divin Maestro,” a retreat centre in Ariccia, located in the Alban hills just outside Rome. They are taking part in the week-long Curial Spiritual Exercises . Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:   The Pope himself reminded the faithful of his annual retreat after praying the Angelus in St Peter’s Square and asked them for prayers for himself and for his collaborators. Each day will include moments of prayer, meditation, and Eucharistic adoration. At the heart of this year’s meditations is the theme of the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.  The spiritual exercises will be led by Franciscan Friar Giulio Michelini. The exercises are traditionally conducted during the first week of Lent, and as always, all the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s General Audience, are suspended. The participants will return to the Vatican on Friday. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: ‘consult the Bible as often as your cellphone’

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 20:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday called on Christians to consult the Bible with the same frequency as they might consult their cellphones for messages.  Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?” The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.  Clearly, Francis said, the comparison between the Bible and the cellphone is paradoxical, but it induces us to reflect. “If we always carried God’s Word in our hearts, no temptation would distance us from the Father, and no obstacle would take us off the path towards good” he said. He pointed out that in this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus’s forty days in the desert and of how he was tempted by the devil. With his temptations, the Pope said, Satan wanted to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humbleness – because he knew that this was the way to conquer evil – and he wanted him to take the false shortcut towards glory and success. “But the devil’s poisonous darts are all ‘blocked’ by Jesus with the shield provided by God’s Word” he said, pointing out that Jesus never uses his own words but only God’s Word, and thus, filled with the force of the Holy Spirit, he victoriously crosses the desert. Pope Francis invited all Christians to follow in Jesus’ footsteps during the forty days of Lent and to confront the spiritual battle against evil with the strength of God’s Word. “That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said. Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”           (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican publishes consolidated financial statement for 2015

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 19:33
(Vatican Radio) A communiqué released on Saturday by the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy provides a synopsis of the Annual Accounts of the Holy See, Vatican City State and Related Entities for 2015. Please find the full text of the communiqué below:   The Holy See recorded a deficit of Euros 12.4 million in 2015. The main sources of income for 2015, in addition to investments, include the contributions made pursuant to Canon 1271 of the Code of Canon Law (Euros 24 million) and the contribution from the Institute of Works of Religion (Euros 50 million). As in previous years, the most significant expense for the Holy See is the cost of personnel. The Governatorato of the Vatican City State indicates a surplus of Euros 59.9 million for 2015, largely due to continued revenue from the cultural activities, especially those linked to the Museums. The 2015 Annual Accounts represent the first set of financial information prepared following the Vatican Financial Management Policies (VFMP), approved by Pope Francis on 24 October 2014, which are based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). The Secretariat for the Economy informed the Council for the Economy that the journey towards a full implementation of the VFMP is firmly underway and highlighted that, however, a few more years will be necessary for this process to be completed and a full audit to be performed. The 2015 Annual Accounts represent an important step for the economic reforms and along the journey towards new policies, which are progressing well. The Council for the Economy noted the unaudited 2015 Consolidated Annual Accounts during this transition period. The adoption of the VFMP greatly benefits the Holy See and the Vatican City State in enhancing quality and transparency of the financial information and increasing discipline in the financial reporting and control systems. Following the recommendation of the Council for the Economy in November of 2016, the Holy Father took note of the 2015 Consolidated Annual Accounts. Important progress has been made in the budgeting process. The 2017 Budget has been presented, for the first time prior to the start of the new calendar year, to the Council for the Economy, which recommended its approval. This will allow further control on reviewing expenses, through the monitoring of actual performances against approved financial plans. The Council for the Economy thanked the Secretariat for the Economy for the strong commitment in implementing the economic reforms approved by the Holy Father. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis calls for renewal of sacred music tradition

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 17:58
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received the participants in a major international conference on sacred music, a half-century after the promulgation of the Conciliar document, Musicam sacram on music in the sacred liturgy. Over 400 people taking part in the gathering organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture around the theme: Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram, met in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace to hear the Holy Father. Click below to hear our report “Certainly,” said Pope Francis, “the encounter with modernity and the introduction of [vernacular] tongues into the Liturgy stirred up many problems: of musical languages, forms and genres.” The Holy father went on to say, “Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.” The Pope encouraged the various actors in the field of liturgical music – from composers, conductors, musicians and choristers, to liturgical animators – to do their best to contribute to the renewal of sacred music and liturgical chant, especially as far as the quality of sacred music is concerned. “To facilitate this process,” Pope Francis said, “we need to promote proper musical education, especially for those who are preparing to become priests – in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas, and with an ecumenical attitude.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican releases Pope's liturgical calendar for March, April

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 23:19
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff on Friday published the calendar of liturgical celebrations at which Pope Francis will preside during March and April of 2017.  The list includes the Masses to be celebrated during the Holy Father's pastoral visits to Milan on March 25 and Carpi on April 2, as well as other events surrounding Holy Week and Easter. Please find below the full list: MARCH Friday 17: at 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential celebration. Saturday 25: Solemnity of the Assumption of the Lord. Pastoral visit to Milan. APRIL Sunday 2: Fifth Sunday of Lent. Pastoral visit to Carpi. Sunday 9: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord: At 10 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, commemoration of the entry of the Lord in Jerusalem, and Holy Mass. Thursday 13: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass. Friday 14: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord. At 9.15 p.m. at the Colosseum, Rome: Via Crucis (Way of the Cross). Saturday 15: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter vigil. Sunday 16: Easter Sunday. At 10 a.m., in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass. At midday, from the Central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican workshop on ‘Twitter Diplomacy at Holy See’

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 23:07
(Vatican Radio)  A one-day workshop was held on Friday in the Vatican on ‘Twitter Diplomacy at the Holy See’. The event was hosted by the Vatican Secretariat for Communications (SPC), in conjunction with the British Embassy to the Holy See. Participants in the workshop included Britain’s Ambassadors to the Holy See, Sally Axworthy, and to Austria, Leigh Turner, along with Hungary’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg, and Professor Giovanni Maria Vian, Director of the Osservatore Romano. Pope Francis touches minds and hearts on social networks “Where people are, the Church is. This is why the Pope is present on Twitter and Instagram .” That was the explanation given by the SPC’s Secretary, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz. The event brought together diplomats and other personalities who, in the Vatican and the Church, seek to spread the message of the Gospel through social media, especially on Twitter. Workshop participants shared their experiences and the ways in which communications have changed after the spread of social networks – even at the institutional level. Participants gave particular attention to the positive role offered by Pope Francis daily through his account @Pontifex , which is followed by more than 32 million people in 9 languages. They called the Pope a leader on social networks, because he knows how to touch minds and hearts through his interventions on important themes for all people, believers and non-believers alike. Digital media holds an ever more important role in diplomacy Sally Axworthy, Britain’s Ambassador to the Holy See, told Alessandro Gisotti after the event that the digital dimension is assuming an ever greater role in diplomacy. She said there are many points on which, even via Twitter, that the Holy See and international diplomacy can find a way to collaborate. Ms. Axworthy also underlined that, as Pope Francis has eloquently shown, social networks can help reach an extremely wide public on themes of common interest. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to receive European Union heads of State

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 22:09
(Vatican Radio)  The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, said Friday that Pope Francis will hold an audience with the heads of State and government of the European Union on March 24, 2017. The EU leaders will be in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Their audience with Pope Francis is to take place in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace on the eve of a summit marking the EU’s founding treaty. The Holy Father previously addressed EU leaders last May at his acceptance speech for the Charlemagne prize for promoting European unity . (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: true fasting is helping others

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 20:11
(Vatican Radio) True fasting is helping your neighbour; while false fasting mixes religiosity with dirty deals and the bribes of vanity. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday. Listen to Christopher Wells' report:  The readings of the day speak about fasting; that is, the Pope explained, “about the penance that we are called to do in this time of Lent,” in order to draw closer to the Lord. God delights in the “contrite heart,” the Psalm says, “the heart of one who feels himself a sinner, who knows he is a sinner.” In the first Reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God rebukes the false religiosity of the hypocrites who fast, while at the same time carrying out their own pursuits, oppressing their workers, “striking with wicked claw”: on the one hand, doing penance, while on the other being unjust, making “dirty deals.” The Lord calls us, instead, to a true fast, where we are attentive to our neighbour: “On the other hand there is a fasting that is ‘hypocritical’ – it’s the word that Jesus uses so often – a fast that makes you see yourself as just, or makes you feel just, but in the meantime I have practiced iniquities, I am not just, I exploit the people. “‘But,’ [someone might say,] ‘ I am generous, I give a good offering to the Church.’ “‘But tell me,’ [one might answer,] ‘ do you pay a just wage to your help? Do you pay your employees under the table? Or, as the law demands, [enough] so that they are able to feed their children?’” Pope Francis told the story of an event that happened immediately after the second World War to Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, when he was a missionary in Japan. A rich businessman gave him a donation for his evangelical activities, but brought with him a photographer and a journalist. The envelope contained just ten dollars: “This is the same as what we do when we do not pay a just wage to our people. We take from our penances, from our acts of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving… we take a bribe: the bribe of vanity, the bribe of being seen. And that is not authentic, that is hypocrisy. So when Jesus says, ‘When you pray, do it in secret; when you give alms, don’t sound a trumpet; when you fast do not be sad,” it is the same as if He had said: ‘Please, when you do a good work, don’t take the bribe of this good work, it is only for the Father.’” He quoted the passage from Isaiah where the Lord tells the hypocrites about true fasting – words, the Pope said, that seem to be spoken to us today: “‘This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.’ “Let us think on these words, let us think in our own hearts, how do we fast, pray, give alms? And it would help us to think about how we would feel about a man who, after a meal that cost 200 euros, for example, returns home and sees someone hungry, and doesn’t look at him and keeps walking. It would do us good to think about that.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope speaks to Rome parish priests on ‘progress of faith’

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 19:23
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest. He spoke to them about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment. In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.” Growth in faith He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”. Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.” To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.” Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”. “Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.” He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”. “The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never brought one anywhere meaningful.” Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.” “Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which hopes to see into the future.” Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”. He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.” He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Ideological faith adores a 'disincarnate' god

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 18:09
(Vatican Radio) The compass of the Christian directs him to follow Christ crucified, not a disincarnate god, but God made flesh, Who bears in Himself the wounds of our brothers. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. The invitation to be converted resounds strongly at the beginning of Lent. And the liturgy of the day, Pope Francis said, places this exhortation in the context of three realities: man, God, and the journey. The reality of man is that of choosing between good and evil: God has made us free, the choice is ours,” the Pope said, but He does not leave it to us alone; rather, he points out the path of goodness with the Commandments. Then there is the reality of God: “for the disciples, it was difficult to understand” the path of the Cross of Jesus. “Because God has taken all of human reality, except sin. There is no God without Christ. A God without Christ, ‘disincarnate,’ is a god that is not real”: “The reality of God is God made Christ, for us. To save us. And when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the wounds of the Lord, we distance ourselves also from love, from the charity [carità] of God, from salvation and going along an ideological street from God, far away: [This] is not God who came to us and made Himself close to us to save us, and died for us. This [God made Christ for us, to save us] is the reality of God.” The Pope cited the dialogue between an agnostic and a believer, recorded by a French writer of the last century: “The agnostic of good will asked the believer, ‘But how can I… for me, the problem is how Christ is God: I can’t understand this. How is Christ God?’ And the believer responded, ‘Eh, for me this is not a problem. The problem would be if God would not have been made Christ.’ This is the reality of God: God made Christ, God made flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy. The wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ, they are the wounds of God, because God is made Christ. The second reality. We cannot live Lent without this reality. We must convert, not to an abstract God, but to the concrete God who is made Christ.” Finally, there is the third reality, that of the journey. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”: “The reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as He did, taking up the daily crosses and denying oneself in order to follow Christ. Not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants; following Jesus. And He says that on this street we lose our life, in order to gain it back later; it is a continual loss of life, loss of doing what I want, loss of comforts, being always on the path of Jesus who was at the service of others, [who was] was in adoration of God. That is the right path.” “The only sure path,” Pope Francis concluded, “is following Christ crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three realities – man, God, and the journey – “are the compass of the Christian, which will not allow us to take the wrong path.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass: Full Text

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 23:38
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome. In his homily, the Holy Father said Lent is a path that "leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God's children." Click here to see a report on the Pope's Mass. Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's homily: “Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13).  The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name.  No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16).  All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13). We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father.  In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy.  Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.  Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life.  The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust.  True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so.  He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts.  The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history. The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt.  We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility. Lent is the time for saying no.  No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality.  Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most.  Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good.  Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion. Lent is a time for remembering.  It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us.  What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew?  Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning. Lent is the time to start breathing again.  It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity.  It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do.  It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us.  Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: learn from indigenous peoples how to care for creation

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 21:39
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has joined his voice to those taking part in Brazil’s “Fraternity Campaign,” an annual Lenten Campaign organized by the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops. This year’s campaign focusses on the theme "Brazilian biomes and the defense of life" with the motto from Genesis: “Cultivate and keep creation.” Brazil has one of the most significant bio diversities in the world, and its territory is divided into 6 natural biomes, each with its own set of fauna, flora and soil, with specific social and cultural manifestations of its population. The 2017 Fraternity Campaign is dedicated to the appreciation and protection of these biomes.  In his message addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters in Brazil”, Pope Francis speaks of the generosity of the Creator towards Brazil in giving it “a diversity of ecosystems of extraordinary beauty.” Unfortunately, the Pope said, the Brazilian land also carries “the signs of aggression towards creation and the deterioration of nature”. He said the Church in Brazil not only provides a prophetic voice for the care and respect of the environment and attention towards the poor, but highlights the need to tackle the ecological challenges and problems as well as pinpointing their causes and possible solutions. Pope Francis recalled that amongst the many initiatives promoted by the Church, as far back as 1979, the Lenten Fraternity Campaign shone the spotlight on environmental issues. He also noted that we cannot not consider the effects environmental degradation, the current model for development and the culture of waste are having on the lives of people. “This Campaign invites us to contemplate, admire, give thanks and respect the diversity of nature manifested in Brazil’s different ecosystems which are a true gift of God” he said. Pointing out that environmental degradation is one of the greatest challenges we face because it is always accompanied by social injustice, the Pope pointed to indigenous peoples as an example of “how cohabitation with creation can be respectful, fruitful and merciful”. It is necessary, he said, to learn from these peoples how to relate to nature in the quest for a sustainable model “that can be a valid alternative to the race for profit that exhausts natural resources and damages the dignity of peoples”. “Every year, the Pope concluded, the Fraternity Campaign takes place during Lent: it is an invitation to live the spirituality of Easter with deepened awareness”.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: ‘we do not go to heaven in a carriage’

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 17:48
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday inviting the faithful to renew their hope in Christ’s promises and their commitment to follow Him ever more closely. He was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience . Pointing out that on Ash Wednesday we enter the liturgical time of Lent, Pope Francis said this time of penitence  and mortification is actually a journey of hope as it is directs us on the path towards Resurrection, and help us renew our Baptismal identity.  To better understand what this means, he said, we must refer to the fundamental experience of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.   The Scriptures, the Pope said, tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and that difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But, he said, the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses. Their journey, he explained, was undertaken ‘in hope’, and in this sense “it is an ‘exodus’ out of slavery and into freedom. “Every step, every effort, every test, every fall and every recovery has a sense within God’s design for salvation, as He wants life – not death – and joy – not pain – for His people” he said.        The Pope said Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.  He said that by following Christ along the way of the Cross, we share in his victory over sin and death;  he explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. “This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything” he said. The Pope went on to highlight that it doesn’t mean “he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage.” That is not how it works. He explained that our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation. With a heart open to this horizon, the Pope concluded, let us enter into Lent feeling that we belong to the holy people of God: “may we begin our journey of hope with joy.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis gives interview to 'homeless' magazine

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 20:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given a wide-ranging interview to an Italian magazine run by homeless persons. The interview was published on 28 February in the magazine called “Scarp de’ tenis” (“Sneakers”). The magazine also functions as a social project, as most of the staff is homeless, suffers difficult personal situations or forms of social exclusion. For most contributors, the magazine is an important source of income. “Scarp de’ tenis” entered into partnership with the Italian arm of the Vatican’s charity organization, Caritas, in 2008. In the interview, Pope Francis was asked to explain his recent initiatives for refugees, such as providing accommodation in the Vatican. In his reply, the Pope explained how the initiative to welcome the homeless had inspired parishes throughout Rome to join the effort. “Here in the Vatican there are two parishes, and both are housing Syrian families. Many parishes in Rome have also opened their doors and others, which don’t have a house for priests, have offered to pay rent for families in need, for a full year” he said.  Throughout the interview the Pope often referred to the idea of walking in each others shoes. According to the Pope, to walk in the other’s shoes is a way to escape our own egoism: “In the shoes of the other, we learn to have a great capacity for understanding, for getting to know difficult situations.”  The Pope maintains that words alone are not enough, what is needed, he said, is the “Greatness” to walk in the shoes of the other: “How often I have met a person who, after having searched for Christian comfort, be they a layman, a priest, a sister or a bishop, they tell me ‘they listened to me, but didn’t understand me.’” During the interview, the Pope also joked about people’s attitudes concerning giving money to those who live on the streets. “There are many arguments which justify why we should not give these alms: ‘I give money and he just spends it on a glass of wine!’ A glass of wine is his only happiness in life!” joked Pope Francis.  There was also a lesson in generosity within the interview. The Pope told a story from his time in Buenos Aires, of a mother with five children. While the father was at work and the rest of the family ate lunch, a homeless man called in to ask for food. Rather than letting the children give away their father’s dinner for that evening, the mother taught the children to give away some of their own food: “If we wish to give, we must give what is ours!” insisted the Pope.  Regarding the question of limiting numbers of refugee and migrants who arrive in a particular place, the Pope first reminded his readers that many of those arriving are fleeing from war or hunger. All of us in this world, says the Pope, are part of this situation and need to find ways to help and benefit those around us. According to him, this responsibility is especially true of governments and the Pope used the example of the work of the Saint Egidio community (that has established humanitarian corridors for groups of vulnerable migrants) in order to make his point. Regarding the 13 refugees who arrived from Lesbos, the Pope pointed out that the families have integrated well into society, with the children being enrolled in schools and their parents having found work. This, according to Pope Francis, is an example of immigrants wanting to fit into and contribute to a new country, and achieving that desire.  To further underline his point, the Pope highlighted the case of Sweden, where almost 10% of the population, including the Minister for Culture, are immigrants. During his own life, in the difficult years of the military dictatorship in Argentina, the Pope often looked to the Swedish as a positive example of integration.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: 'true Christians have cheerful faces and eyes full of joy'

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 20:10
(Vatican Radio)  As we head into the Lenten season, Pope Francis has invited the faithful to reflect on the relationship between God and money.He was speaking on Tuesday during morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta . We cannot serve two masters so we must choose between God and money. Speaking about the message of the Gospel readings in these days leading up to the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis said we are called to reflect on the relationship between God and money. In Monday’s reading, he noted, the rich young man wanted to follow the Lord, but his wealth led him to follow money instead. Jesus’ words in this story worry the disciples, as he tells them it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In today’s reading from St Mark’s Gospel, the Pope said, we see Peter asking the Lord what will happen to them as they have given up everything to follow him. “It’s almost as if Peter is passing Jesus the bill,” Pope Francis exclaimed. Peter didn’t know what to say: the young man has gone his way, but what about us? Pope Francis said Jesus’ reply is clear: I tell you there is no-one who has given up everything and has not received everything. You will receive everything, with that overflowing measure with which God gives his gifts. The Pope repeats the Gospel words: “there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come”. The Lord is incapable of giving less than everything, the Pope said: when he gives us something, he gives all of himself. Yet there is a word in this reading, he continued, which gives us cause for reflection: in this present age we receive a hundred times more houses and brothers, together with persecutions. The Pope said this means entering into a different way of thinking, a different way of behaving. Jesus gives everything of himself, because the fullness of God is a fullness emptied out on the Cross. This is the gift of God, the Pope insisted, a fullness which is emptied out. This is also the Christian’s way of being, to seek and receive a fullness which is emptied out and to follow on that path, which is not easy, he stressed. How to we recognize that we are following this path of giving everything in order to receive everything, he asked? The words of the first reading of the day tell us to “pay homage to the Lord, and do not spare your freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy”. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. A cheerful face and eyes full of joy, the Pope said, these are the signs that we’re following this path of all and nothing, of fullness emptied out. The rich young man’s face fell and he became very sad, because he was not capable of receiving and welcoming this fullness emptied out, but the saints and Peter were able to receive it. Amid all their trials and difficulties, they had cheerful faces and hearts full of joy. Pope concluded by recalling the Chilean saint Alberto Hurtado who worked with the poor amidst such difficulty, persecution and suffering, yet his words were ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’. May he teach us to follow this difficult path of all and nothing, of Christ’s fullness emptied out and to be able to say at all times ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’     (from Vatican Radio)...

Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 22:48
On Monday, Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes: MARTYRDOM - Servant of God Tito Zeman, Slovakian professed priest of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco (1915-1969). HEROIC VIRTUES - Servant of God Octavio Ortiz Arrieta, Peruvian bishop, of the Salesians of St. John Bosco (1878-1958); - Servant of God Antonio Provolo, Italian diocesan priest, founder of the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mutes, and the Sisters of the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mute (1801-1842); - Servant of God Antonio Repiso Martínez de Orbe, Mexican professed priest of the Society of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Shepherd (1856-1929); - Servant of God María de las Mercedes Cabezas Terrera, Spanish founder of the Missionary Workers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1911-1993); - Servant of God Lucia of the Immaculate Conception (née Maria Ripamonti), Italian professed religious of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity (1909-1954); - Servant of God Pedro Herrero Rubio, Spanish layperson (1904-1978); - Servant of God Vittorio Trancanelli, Italian layperson and father (1944-1998). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis ‘studying possibility’ of South Sudan visit

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 16:34
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has said his staff is “studying the possibility” of a visit to South Sudan. He said the reason was that “the Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic” bishops of South Sudan had come to ask him: “Please, come to South Sudan, even for a day, but don’t come alone, come with Justin Welby”, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. “We are looking at whether it is possible, or if the situation down there is too dangerous. But we have to do it, because they – the three [Christian communities] – together desire peace, and they are working together for peace.” The Holy Father’s words came during his Sunday visit to Rome’s All Saints Anglican Church in a question-and-answer session. He was responding to a question from an Anglican seminarian from Nigeria, who had asked the Pope about the vitality of churches in the Southern Hemisphere. Pope Francis said those churches are young and therefore have a certain vitality due to their youthfulness. He also told an anecdote about Blessed Paul VI to show that “ecumenism is often easier in young churches”. “When Blessed Paul VI beatified the Ugandan martyrs – a young Church – among the martyrs were catechists, all were young, while some were Catholics and others Anglican, and all were martyred by the same king in hate for the faith, because they refused to follow the dirty proposals of the king. And Paul VI was embarrassed, saying: ‘I should beatify both groups; they are both martyrs.’ But in that moment of the Catholic Church, such a thing was not possible.” Responding to another question about ecumenical relations between the churches, Pope Francis said, “The relationship between Catholics and Anglicans today is good; we care for each other like brothers!” He then gave two examples of common ground: saints and the monastic life. “We have a common tradition of the saints… Never, never in the two Churches, have the two traditions renounced the saints: Christians who lived the Christian witness until that point. This is important.” “There is another thing that has kept up a strong connection between our religious traditions: [male and female] monks, monasteries. And monks, both Catholic and Anglican, are a great spiritual strength of our traditions.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope visits All Saints Anglican Church

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 00:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has paid a visit to All Saints Anglican Church in the heart of Rome. This afternoon the Pope presided over an evensong service with the bishop of the Anglican Diocese in Europe Robert Innes. Whilst at the Church the Holy Father also answered questions from the congregation. Responding to one question the Holy Father said a visit to South Sudan was being studied at the moment. He also said there was the possiblity that he would be accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The Pope also blessed a newly commissioned icon of Christ the Saviour. It’s the first time a pope has visited an Anglican church in Rome and it comes as part of All Saints’ 200th anniversary celebrations. Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen followed events and spoke to Lydia O'Kane from All Saints Church.  Listen:  (from Vatican Radio)...

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