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Don’t let fear keep you from welcoming the stranger, Pope says

Catholic News Agency - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 17:45

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let this direct how we respond to newcomers in our midst, who should be treated with respect and generosity.

It’s not easy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, especially those very different from us, and this can cause us to have doubts and fears, Francis said Jan. 14.

“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view. Having doubts and fears is not a sin.”

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” he continued. “The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, to encounter the different, to encounter the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Pope Francis gave this homily at a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 104th celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme for this year was: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”

Present at the Mass were immigrants and refugees from around the world who are now part of the Diocese of Rome.

In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 21: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).”

He emphasized that in welcoming the migrant or refugee, we have an opportunity to welcome Jesus.

The communities that receive migrants and refugees aren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. Migrants and refugees themselves, who have just arrived in a new place, also have fears, such as the fear “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination and failure,” the Pope said.

Francis explained how in the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus calls his disciples to “Come, and see,” and how today this invitation is addressed to all of us.

“It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”

Entrusting the world’s migrants and refugees to the care of Mary, Most Holy, the Pope concluded by asking her intercession, that “responding to the supreme commandment of charity and love of neighbor, may we all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

Following the Mass, Pope Francis led the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in the Casa Santa Marta for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

Following the prayer, he announced that “for pastoral reasons,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be moved from Jan. 14, as established by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, to the second Sunday of September. Therefore, the next celebration of the day will take place Sept. 8, 2019, he said.

In his Angelus message the Pope also spoke about the importance of not leaving our knowledge of Jesus to “hearsay,” but how we need to really encounter him “in prayer, in meditation on the Word of God and in the frequenting of the Sacraments.”

“Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a journey of faith and discipleship,” he said.

“We could have many experiences, accomplish many things, establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our lives and make our projects and initiatives fruitful.”

Analysis: Why will Pope Francis visit the Ukrainian parish in Rome?

Catholic News Agency - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 03:00

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- On Jan. 28, Pope Francis will visit the Basilica of Saint Sophia, the Greek Catholic Ukrainian parish in Rome. While there, he will pray in front of the tomb of Bishop Stefan Czmil, who served as a missionary to Argentina, and was a childhood mentor to the young Jorge Bergoglio.
The news of the visit was released today by the Holy See Press Office. Beyond the personal attachment the Pope has for Bishop Czmil, the visit is meant as a pastoral visit and a sign of closeness to the Ukrainian Catholics living in Italy, and in general abroad.
It will be a short visit: the Pope will meet with the Greek Catholic Ukrainian community in the Basilica, and will speak after an address delivered by the Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. After the speech, he will go down to the crypt, for a moment of prayer in front of the tomb of Bishop Czmil, as well as in front of the tomb of Cardinal Slipyi.

St. Sophia was modeled on the designs of medieval Ukrainian churches in Kiev, and is home to about 14,000 Ukrainians living in the Diocese of Rome. Its symbolic importance goes far beyond the Diocese of Rome.

The Church was built in 1963, thanks to a collection launched by the then Archeparch Josip Slipyi, who went to Rome after he had spent 18 years in Soviet prison camps in Siberia and Mordovia.  

The basilica has, for decades, been considered the “home” for Greek Catholic Ukrainians sent into diaspora during Soviet rule.
In 1946, the Soviet authorities convoked a false “Synod” of Lviv, revoking the Union of Brest - the Council that put the Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome – and forced Ukrainian Catholic parishes and eparchies into the hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church survived clandestinely and in exile.
After the “Synod,” the church built in Rome was a welcome point of unity and solidarity for the members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Saint Sophia was consecrated Sep. 28, 1969 by Blessed Paul VI. The Pope wanted to concretely show his own solidarity with the persecuted Church of the Ukraine. Years earlier, in 1963, Paul VI made the decision to move the body of Saint Josaphat, the patron of the Ukrainian Church, under the Altar of Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to symbolize the union between Eastern and Roman rites.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the biggest of the sui iuris Catholic Churches, the eastern ritual Churches in full communion with Rome.
Pope Francis’ presence will strengthen this union with Rome. According to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Community, Pope Francis’ visit is “a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and a way to show closeness with Ukrainian migrants to Italy, who consider Saint Sophia’s Basilica their home, and a link to their native land.”
In fact, Pope Francis’ visit might be considered far more than that, considering the political situation in the Ukraine.
During a speech delivered Jan. 8 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the Pope made a clear mention of the Ukrainian conflict.
The Pope said that “a shared commitment to rebuilding bridges is also urgent in Ukraine,” as  “the year just ended reaped new victims in the conflict that afflicts the country, continuing to bring great suffering to the population, particularly to families who live in areas affected by the war and have lost their loved ones, not infrequently the elderly and children.”
The “forgotten conflict” of the Ukraine has been one of the main focus of the Holy See diplomacy so far. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, visited the country in June 2016. His reports were decisive to launch the program “The Pope for Ukraine,” which began with an extraordinary collection Apr. 24, 2016.
The Holy See has kept a balanced position between the Ukrainian and Russian claims over the territory of Crimea, according to Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of external relations in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. For this reason, the Pope has not yet scheduled a trip to Ukraine, although Eastern Europe is clearly at the center of the Pope’s attention – the Pope will likely travel to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Sep. 2018.
For all of these reasons, Pope Francis’ visit to the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome will also be a sign of pastoral concern toward the Ukrainian people during a time of national difficulty. It is not a political visit, nor it should be treated as one. However, the Pope will give strength to the Ukrainian population who endured diaspora, and to those who face a continuing conflict over eastern Ukraine.

The Pope knows the history of the Greek Catholic Ukrainians thanks to Bishop Czmil, the first Ukrainian Salesian sent on a mission to Argentina. Czmil was very important to Pope Francis, as the Pope himself explained Nov. 9, 2017 to the students of the College St. Josaphat, the Ukrainian seminary in Rome.
The Pope said that “it was Fr. Czmil who taught me how to participate in the Ukrainian rite of the Mass, opening me to a different liturgy.”


Youth to be Vatican’s focus in 2018, Cardinal Parolin says

Catholic News Agency - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 23:17

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2018 / 10:17 am (ACI Prensa).- In an interview published Thursday, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that for the Vatican, the new year will be marked by its attention to the lives of young people ahead of the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

“This year – the year 2018 – will be characterized by a special concentration of the Church’s attention at all levels on the young, then on their expectations, their aspirations, the challenges they face and also on the hopes that they bring with them, as on their weaknesses and fears.”

This approach searches “for a new relationship between the Church and young people, based on a paradigm of responsibility exempt from any paternalism,” said Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in a new interview with Vatican News (formerly called Vatican Radio).

Published Jan. 11, the interview covered the topic of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Youth, Vocation and Discernment, which will take place in October 2018, as well as the World Meeting of Families in August, Amoris laetitia, reform of the Curia, and the Pope’s imminent trip to Chile and Peru.

About the Synod on Youth, Parolin noted the Church’s strong desire to enter into a dialogue with young people that goes both ways.

He referred to the famous line by John F. Kennedy that says, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” explaining that they want to not only help youth, but invite them to contribute to the Church and to the evangelization of the Gospel.

“I believe that at this invitation young people will be able to respond with their generosity and also with their enthusiasm,” he said.

About the Pope’s immanent trip to Chile and Peru, which begins Jan. 15, Parolin said that, as usual, Francis goes as a pastor to meet the local church, which in the two countries is particularly vibrant.

On the other hand, Chile and Peru also face many challenges, one of which is the difficulties experienced by the indigenous people of the Amazon, one of the reasons Francis has called for a Synod on the Pan-Amazon area to take place in 2019.

Another event happening this year is the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which Parolin said he believes will be an important stage “of reflection… of deepening” in the discussions surrounding the controversial encyclical.

The document arose, according to Parolin, from a “new paradigm,” one that Pope Francis is carrying out with “wisdom, with prudence and also with patience,” and which calls for a new attitude, spirit and approach.

Amoris laetitia is the Church’s “embrace” of the family and its problems, especially those encountered in the world today. It is also “a request to help families to collaborate and contribute to the growth of the Church,” he said.

The cardinal also spoke about the Pope’s reform of the Roman Curia, which he emphasized is less about the structural reform through new laws, regulations, etc., but conversion.

“So, to ensure that the Curia – ever more and always better, taking away even those shadows that can hinder this commitment and this mission – can really become an aid to the Pope to proclaim the Gospel, to witness the Gospel, to evangelize the world of today,” he said.

Analysis: The ambassador’s visit to Rome’s American seminary

Catholic News Agency - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 05:00

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- On Jan. 10, Callista Gingrich, the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, was a guest at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. She visited the college to receive a blessing as she embarks upon her work as ambassador, according to sources at the North American College.
News of the event is striking for two reasons.

The first reason is that her visit, and her request for a blessing, stresses the important connection between the work of the North American College as a pastoral center (it is the home to more than 200 U.S. seminarians living and studying in Rome) and the embassy which looks after the diplomatic interests of Americans in relationship with the Holy See.

Given that it is something of an unspoken tradition that the ambassador be a Catholic, the gesture of a new ambassador seeking a private blessing upon her endeavors is both paradoxical and encouraging; a symbol of the role religion can play in public life, informing and affirming public servants without contradicting their work on behalf of the secular state.

The second reason the event is significant is that it demonstrates that a pastoral welcome transcends partisan disagreement. It is all too easy for public servants to be tarred with the broad brush of the government they serve. In the case of President Trump’s administration, there have been a number of issues on which church authorities have voiced clear notes of caution and disagreement. But disagreements between the Trump administration and the US bishops have not severed the pastoral relationships essential to the Church’s mission.

It would be easy to use the occasion of an ambassador’s visit to the North American College as an opportunity to emphasize disagreement or partisan rancor. That Ambassador Gingrich was welcomed as a daughter of the Church shows the sort of personal pastoral attention which Pope Francis has placed at the heart of his papacy, and the maturity to rise above the secular partisan fray. This sort of pastoral maturity benefits everyone involved.

The Church has many occasions where she offers prayers and blessings for Catholics, and non-Catholics who want them, as they serve in public life; Red Masses are a stable feature in many countries at the opening of the judicial year, for example. Public service requires sacrifices, and carries many difficulties for those serving any government. Many Catholics who work in politics especially find that they are, sooner or later, obliged to test their terms of service against their conscience and their faith. Public service requires the constant work of discernment. Where exactly the line is, or can be, drawn between personal faith and public service is under constant scrutiny from the secular world, and is often used to push people of faith out of public life. Yet, as was seen during the confirmation of Judge Amy Barrett, it is often those who have drawn deepest from the Church’s pastoral well who can offer a most measured and dedicated contribution to public life.

Today, the Church prayed that Ambassador Gingrich will find success in her role, and prove an example to those who follow her in it. For Catholics, her visit to the North American College was a meaningful way to begin.

Analysis: What guides Vatican diplomacy?

Catholic News Agency - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 03:00

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- At a traditional new year's meeting between Pope Francis and diplomats to the Vatican, the pope painted a picture of pontifical diplomacy around the globe: An international mission working to secure the common good, an always increasing network of relations, and the certainty of an impartial voice working for peace.

The Pope’s speech sets the basis and the guidelines for the Holy See’s diplomatic activities during the year. If the guidelines are based on concrete issues, then pontifical diplomacy has three main threads —three themes that include all the others.

The first is a commitment to peace; the second is a commitment to human dignity; and the third is a commitment to fight poverty.

In the mind of the Pope, all three seem linked to one another.

The Vatican’s commitment to peace is practiced via the art of mediation, and the Holy See has been a critical participant in the mediation of global conflict for decades. The Vatican’s commitment to human dignity is based on the principle that all people are equal and dignified in the sight of God. And the Church’s commitment to fight poverty is expressed in its diplomatic work for peace, international development, and support for marginalized. On that front, Pope Francis has asked who, in the end, is poorer than an unborn child, or than the forgotten or marginalized elderly.

These three commitments will shape the Holy See’s diplomatic activity for the upcoming year. Within that framework, there are two clear priorities for the diplomatic work of the Holy See in the upcoming year.

The first is advocating for migrants and refugees. The United Nations are finalizing a Global Compact on Migration, that follows the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants issued in September 2016. The Holy See participated in all of the meetings, and presented 20 points of actions on the issue gathered under the four keyworks “welcome, protect, promote and integrate.”

The Pope has made migration a core issue of his pontificate: he established a special section for Migrants and Refugee within the ranks of the Vatican dicastery for the Promotion of the Integral Human Development, and the Pope is personally chairing it. The theme for the World Day of Peace 2018 was “Migrants and Refugees: Seekers of Peace,” underscoring the importance the issue has for the Holy See.

The second diplomatic focus is on peacekeeping. The Holy See is aims to helping and assisting countries in achieving peace.

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, a former papal nuncio now counsellor at the Vatican Dicastery for the Integral Human Development, stressed to CNA that for at least the past 50 years, “peacekeeping and the search for peace have dominated the Holy See’s public interventions.”

The Holy See is working to create a path to peace, Tomasi said, by working on “the formation of a new mentality, thanks to the World Day of Peace; the Holy See’s involvement in discussions on disarmament; and the Holy See’s encouragement to develop effective international institutions.”

How does the Holy See carry on its commitment?

First of all, with its work into the multilateral institutions, namely the United Nations and other global institutions.

The Holy See Mission at the United Nations in New York provided data on the Holy See’s work at the UN during the last year.

The Holy See at the UN in New York delivered 82 interventions, and 10 of them were delivered by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican “foreign ministry,” who led the Holy See’s delegation at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in September.

Archbishop Gallagher also signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for the Holy See and in the name of and behalf of the Holy See.  The Holy See’s  mission noted that “the Holy See was an active participant in negotiations, and was one of the 122 States that voted in favor of the treaty, adopted on July 7, 2017.  The signing took place during the High Level Ceremony for the opening of the signing of the Treaty, in which the Holy See joined more than 40 states in signing the treaty, and was joined by only Thailand in simultaneously ratifying the treaty.”

The Holy See Mission at the UN Office in Geneva, led by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, delivered 48 interventions, participating in many panels on the Global Compact on Migrations. The Holy See Mission in Geneva also represents the Holy See at the International Organization for Migration: the Holy See has been a member state of the IOM since 2012.

Those are only examples of the Holy See’s considerable involvement in multilateral international organizations. It is noteworthy to remember that there is also a Holy See Diplomatic Mission in Vienna, accredited to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to other special organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, to which the Holy See is a member state and founder.

No less important is the Holy See’s Mission at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Pope Francis has personally demonstrated that fighting world hunger is a priority to the Holy See. The Pope has visited the FAO headquarters two times, Nov. 20, 2014 and Oct. 16, 2017, and went to the World Food Program Headquarters June 13, 2016. In addition to that, the Pope symbolically donated $25,000 dollars to the FAO to support the Eastern African populations facing food insecurity and famine.

The Holy See’s diplomatic network of bilateral relations also continues to grow.In 1900, only about 20 countries had diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In 1978 the number was 84; in 2005 it was 174. During Benedict XVI’s pontificate, six new countries were added to the list, and, under the leadership of Pope Francis that number has climbed to 183, with Myanmar, also called Burma, joining the list of states with full diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

There are only 13 States who have no diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

Out of them, 8 have no Vatican envoy: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Maldives and Tuvalu. The Holy See has apostolic delegates, not fully recognized as ambassadors, in four countries: Comoros, Somalia, Brunei and Laos. The Holy See has started negotiations with Vietnam to reach full diplomatic ties, and in 2011 the Holy See appointed the first non-residential Vatican envoy to Hanoi.

The diplomatic efforts of the Holy See are considerable, and, as Pope Francis emphasized, committed to important and deeply Catholic international goals.


Pope taps Colombian bishop to oversee Sodalitium amid ongoing crisis

Catholic News Agency - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 22:00

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. has been appointed papal commissioner for the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society of apostolic life.  

Londoño will oversee the community as they continue a process of reform, following revelations that their founder, Luis Fernando Figari, committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Several former leaders of the community have faced related allegations.

Londoño's appointment was announced in a Jan. 10 communique from the Vatican, which stated that Londoño, the Bishop of Jericó, would carry out his role alongside Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who has served as papal delegate overseeing the SCV's reform process since May 2016.

Tobin will continue to be the group’s liaison with the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and will focus primarily on reforming economic matters. In his role as Commissioner, Londoño will oversee the leadership of order as they continue to reform their governing policies and formation procedures.

In a statement released Jan. 10, the Sodalitium expressed gratitude to Pope Francis and Vatican officials “for following the life of our community with concern.”

“We reiterate our willingness to accept all that is available for the development of our Society. We reaffirm once again our absolute obedience to the Holy Father and Holy Mother Church,” the Sodalitium said.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was established by Figari in 1971 in Peru, and was granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

In addition to founding the SCV, a community of men, Figari also founded the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God, a community of women and an order of women religious. In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru. The current superior general is Alessandro Moroni Llabres.

The community was investigated after the publication of a book in 2015 by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy.

Figari and other former leaders of the community remain the subject of criminal investigations in Peru.

In May 2016 the Pope named Archbishop Tobin as the pontifical delegate charged with overseeing the community's handling of the investigation and their process of reform.

In February of 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

As a result, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

The Vatican made a similar move in the case of the Legionaries of Christ after it was discovered that their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, had been living a double life.

In 2006, with the approval of the Pope, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith imposed upon Maciel “a retired life of prayer and penance, renouncing any form of public ministry.” Due to his advanced age, Maciel was not the subject of a formal canonical trial.
From that point on, Benedict XVI carried out a process of reform for the Legionaries, and in 2010 named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as papal delegate to serve in a role similar to what Londoño will have for the SVC.

After his appointment, De Paolis formed a commission charged with drafting new constitutions for the Legionaries. He completed his mandate in 2014 when the new constitutions were approved by Pope Francis. The cardinal died in September 2017.

No specific time frame was given for Londoño's mandate as Commissioner and it is not yet known what steps he will take, however, he is likely to follow the model set by De Paolis, and step aside when the community has a clear path forward.


Be intentional about silence during Mass, Pope Francis says

Catholic News Agency - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 17:00

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that moments of silence in the Mass should be intentional times of prayer, recollection and communion with God, rather than being viewed as times to just be quiet or not speak.

“Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but (is) the availability to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said Jan. 10.

In silence, then, we discover “the importance of listening to our soul and then opening it to the Lord.”

Continuing his general audience catechesis on the topic of the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the nature of the different moments of silence found within the celebration, especially in the recitation of the collect.

The collect, which is prayed after the Gloria, or if the Gloria is omitted, following the Penitential Act, is a short prayer which goes from praise to supplication, and is generally inspired from the day’s Scripture passages, the Pope said.

This prayer, which varies according to the day and time in which the Mass is being said, begins with the priest saying to the people, “Let us pray,” followed by a brief silence.

“I strongly recommend priests observe this moment of silence, which without wanting to, we risk neglecting,” Francis noted.

In this moment the congregation is exhorted to come together in silence, to become aware of the presence of God, and to bring out, “each one in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass.”

“Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow, and we want to tell the Lord, to invoke his help, to ask that he be near us; we have family members and friends who are ill or who are going through difficult trials; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world.”

“For this we need the brief silence beforehand, that the priest, gathering the intentions of each one, expresses in a loud voice to God, in the name of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making, indeed, a ‘collection’ of individual intentions.”

These silences are written right into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Pope pointed out. There it says that in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, everyone is supposed to spend a moment in recollection.

And in the silences following a reading or the homily, everyone is called to meditate briefly on what they have heard. After Communion they should praise and pray to God in their hearts.

The Gloria, another kind of prayer, is either recited or sung before the collect on Sundays, except during Lent and Advent, and on feasts and solemnities.

Here, “the feelings of praise that run through the hymn are intertwined with the confident pleading of divine benevolence, to end with the Trinitarian doxology, which characterizes the whole liturgical celebration,” he said.

The recitation or singing of the Gloria, the Pope emphasized, “constitutes an opening of the earth to heaven.”

By meditating on the prayers of the Mass, the liturgy can become for us, the Pope concluded, a “true school of prayer.”

Pope Francis gives 2,000 poor, prisoners a day at the circus

Catholic News Agency - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 16:37

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 03:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Tomorrow afternoon some 2,100 of Rome's poor, homeless, refugees, prisoners and volunteers will head to the circus courtesy of Pope Francis in yet another act of charity for those who are less fortunate.

Tickets to the performance were provided through the Papal Almoner's office, which manages the Pope's charities.

The show, announced by the Almoner's office Jan. 10, will take place the afternoon of Thursday Jan. 11, at Rome's Circo Medrano under a large tent put up specifically for the event, which has been dubbed the “Circus of Solidarity” by the organizers.

A makeshift medical station will also be set up with volunteer doctors and nurses available for attendees who want an exam or a check-up. Each participant will also be provided with a sack lunch at the end of the show.

Pope Francis made a similar gesture in January 2016, when he sent 2,000 poor, homeless and migrants to the Rony Roller Circus for a special show that opened with a song written and performed by a Spanish singer who had once been homeless himself.

The Pope frequently speaks of the importance of the performing arts, and has held several audiences for circus performers. During the Jubilee of Mercy, he welcomed some 6,000 of these performers to the Vatican for a special Jubilee weekend in their honor.

In a past general audience, Francis said those who are involved in circus life “create beauty, they are creators of beauty, and this does good for the soul. How much we need beauty!”

Since Pope Francis was elected, his almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, has kept busy with several similar initiatives aimed at both helping and evangelizing Rome's poor and needy through culture.

Showers and a barbershop were installed in the bathrooms of St. Peter's Square in 2015 to help the homeless in the Vatican area to stay clean. They have also been invited to participate in several other initiatives, including concerts, a visit to the Vatican Museums, special lunches during papal events and beach days with a pizza lunch during the summer.

Pope says he will bring message of peace and hope to Chile, Peru

Catholic News Agency - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 00:25

Vatican City, Jan 9, 2018 / 11:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of his visit to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis has said he wants to bring a message of peace and hope to both countries, which he said have been successful in fighting a “culture of waste” through their care for the poor and needy.

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In a Jan. 9 videomessage to both Chile and Peru, Francis told people from each country that “I want to meet with you, to look you in the eyes, to see your faces and be able to experience the closeness of God, his closeness and mercy, which embraces and consoles us.”

Both countries were forged with “determination and commitment,” he said, adding that he thanks God for “the faith and the love for God and for the most needy brothers, especially for the love that you have for those who are discarded by society.”

“The culture of waste increasingly invades us,” he said, explaining that while there, he wants to participate “in your joys and sorrows, your difficulties and your hopes, and tell you that you are not alone, that the Pope is with you, that the entire Church welcomes you, that the Church is looking at you.”

Pope Francis sent his message just days ahead of his departure for Chile and Peru, where he will be Jan. 15-22.

In Chile Pope Francis will visit the capital of Santiago, as well as the cities of Temuco and Iquique. In Peru, he will visit the capital city of Lima, as well as Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

The theme of his time in Chile is “I Give You My Peace,” while that of Peru is “United by Hope.”

In his message Francis touched on both themes, saying he wants the countries to experience “the peace that comes from God, and which is so needed; only he can give it to us.”

The Pope said peace is a gift meant for everyone, and is “the foundation of our coexistence and of society.” This peace, he said, “is sustained in justice and allows us to encounter moments of harmony and communion.”

We must constantly ask for this peace, which comes from the Risen Lord, “drives us to be missionaries, reviving the gift of faith which leads us to encounter, to the communion shared by the same faith celebrated and committed.”

This encounter with the Risen Christ also confirms us in hope, Francis said, explaining that “we do not want to be anchored in the things of this world, our gaze goes far off.” Rather, our eyes should be fixed “on his mercy, which heals our miseries.”

“Only he can give us the thrust to get up and follow,” he said, adding that “we are brothers who go out to meet others in order to confirm each other in the same faith and hope.”

The Pope closed the video entrusting his visit to Mary's intercession and, as usual, asked for prayer, adding that he will be praying for the people of Chile and Peru.

Pope Francis is scheduled to land in Santiago just after 8 p.m. Jan. 15, and has no official events apart from the welcoming ceremony, after which he will head directly the apostolic nunciature.

The next day he'll meet with the country's authorities and diplomatic corps, and will have a private audience with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet before saying Mass. He'll then make a brief visit to a women's prison before meeting with Chile's priests, seminarians, religious, and bishops in the afternoon.

His last activity for the day will be a private visit to a shrine dedicated to St. Alberto Hurtado S.J., where he will meet with the country's Jesuit priests.

On Jan. 17 the Pope will head to Temuco, where he will say Mass and have lunch with around 10 people at the mother house for the Sisters of the Holy Cross order. He'll then head back to Santiago for a meeting with youth and a visit to the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

The next day, his final one in Chile, Francis will go to Iquique in the morning, where he will celebrate Mass and have lunch at the retreat house for the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. He'll then head directly to the Iquique airport, where he'll depart for Lima, Peru.

Francis will land in Lima the evening of Jan. 18, but has no official events scheduled. His first formal appointment will take place Jan. 19, when he travels to Puerto Maldonado to meet with people from the Amazon region.

After this audience, the Pope will meet with the civil population and make a brief visit to the “Little Prince Home,” which houses some 40 at-risk children and youth. He'll then lunch with representatives of Amazon before returning to Lima, where he's scheduled to meet with Peru's authorities and diplomatic corps.

Though he typically meets with the country's authorities and diplomats as his first official engagement during international trips, Pope Francis has on occasion made exceptions.

His decision to meet with people from the Amazon first, then, is a sign of how important the region is to him, both for environmental reasons related to his 2015 encyclical Laudato si', as well as the fact that in 2019 he will be holding a Pan-Amazonian synod to address problems related to the area.

After his meeting with authorities, Pope Francis will hold a private meeting with Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who recently survived an impeachment vote over corruption charges, and will meet with the country's Jesuits.

On Jan. 20, the Pope will head to Trujillo, where he will celebrate Mass and ride through the city's “Buenos Aires” neighborhood, one of the poorest areas in town. Francis will then visit the city's cathedral and afterward will meet with the country's priests, religious, and seminarians.

He will then head back to Lima, where he will start his final day in Peru, Jan. 21, praying the Liturgy of the Hours with a contemplative order before venerating the relics of several Peruvian saints in the city's cathedral.

The Pope will then meet with the country's bishops, pray the Angelus, and say Mass before heading back to Rome, where he is expected to arrive around 2:15 p.m. Jan. 22.

Francis, the Church’s first Latin American Pope, has visited several countries in South and Central America, including Brazil in 2013, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay in 2015, Cuba and Mexico in 2016, and Colombia in 2017.

The last Pope to visit Chile and Peru was St. John Paul II, who made pastoral trips to Peru in 1985 and 1988, and to Chile in 1987.

Vatican releases Pope's liturgical schedule for January, February

Catholic News Agency - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 19:34

Vatican City, Jan 9, 2018 / 06:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Earlier this week the Vatican published Pope Francis’ liturgical schedule for the months of January and February, which include his lineup of celebrations for the start of Lent, which this year begins Feb. 14.

With his trip to Chile and Peru taking place Jan. 15-22, the Pope’s usual schedule of morning Masses at Santa Marta and his Wednesday general audience Jan. 17 will be suspended.

Following his return to Rome, Francis will celebrate Second Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Thursday, Jan. 25. The prayer service will mark the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, as well as the 51st annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The following Sunday, Jan. 28, Pope Francis will celebrate a special Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major for the Feast of the transfer of the icon of Salus Populi Romani.

Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People) is the title of an ancient Byzantine icon of Mary and the Child Jesus, traditionally held to be painted by St. Luke the Evangelist and to have arrived in Rome in the 6th century.

It was first canonically crowned in 1838 by Pope Gregory XVI and a second time in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. It has a long history of devotion by the Roman people, as well as by popes. It resides in the Pauline, also called Borghese, Chapel in St. Mary Major.

Francis has a special devotion to the image. His first visit as pontiff was to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image following his election.

On Feb. 2, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter's Basilica for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

As it will also be the 22nd World Day of Consecrated Life, the Mass will be celebrated with the members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican department which oversees religious orders and congregations and secular institutes.

As is tradition, on Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on Feb. 14, Pope Francis will pray the Stations of the Cross at St. Anselm Church on Rome’s Aventine Hill, before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the celebration of Mass, benediction, and the imposition of ashes.

The following Sunday, Feb. 18, he will begin his annual Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia. The week of spiritual exercises will take place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome.

Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Roman Pontiff going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago under the pontificate of Pius XI, it was customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.

The retreat will conclude Friday, Feb. 23.

Vatican communications see new growth after rebranding

Catholic News Agency - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 17:51

Vatican City, Jan 9, 2018 / 04:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the recent re-branding and consolidation of the Vatican's various media outlets, their different platforms have now reached a total of more than 4 million followers, who receive their daily papal news with a fresh logo.

According to a Jan. 9 communique from the Secretariat for Communications, Vatican media now has an online community of more than 4 million followers between the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram platforms.

The numbers, the secretariat said, are the result of the continuing reform of Vatican communications launched in 2014 by Pope Francis and his nine cardinal advisors who make up the Council of Cardinals, which meets every few months to discuss the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

In order map out what a possible reform of Vatican communications would look like, the Pope in 2014 established an international commission headed by British Lord Chris Patten to study the current process and provide suggestions.

Francis then established the Secretariat for Communications in June 2015, naming Italian Msgr. Dario Vigano as its first head, giving him a mandate to reform Vatican communications with a focus on consolidation and increasing their presence in the digital world.

The secretariat oversees all of the Vatican’s communications offices, including Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography office, the Vatican's Photography Service, and the Vatican publishing house.

During the Council of Cardinals' most recent meeting in December, Vigano unveiled the new logo and design for the Vatican News website, which consolidated the Vatican's former news and radio pages into a new multimedia hub, which features audio, text, video and graphics, available in multiple languages.

With the consolidation of their social media pages, the Vatican has seen a sharp increase in followers in recent months. On Facebook specifically, their page “Vatican News” – recognizable by the new insignia, which is a white Vatican logo with a red background – has more than 3 million followers.

The page is available in six languages, including English, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

On Twitter, the six different language editions for Vatican media have all been unified under the same Twitter handle “@vaticannews”, and a new account, “@radiovaticanaitalia”, has been created to promote and provide information on the activities of Vatican Radio and the multilingual Vatican News channel on Instagram.

The Vatican's YouTube channel, which offers viewers live coverage of the Pope's activities, has also been rebranded with the same new logo and given the “Vatican News” title.

Social media for Vatican News is managed by the Secretariat for Communications' Editorial and Theological-Pastoral departments. The secretariat also manages the Pope's social media accounts in collaboration with the Secretariat of State.

Pope Francis has a high number of followers on his various social media accounts, which include his “@Pontifex” account on Twitter, which has more than 44 million followers in 9 languages, and his “@Franciscus” Instagram account, with more than 5 million followers on its one multilingual channel.

According to Msgr. Vigano, the increased presence of Vatican media on social networks “is one of the effects of the great process of reform of the Vatican media currently under completion.”

The positive result, he said, is thanks in large part to the “great commitment” of their journalists and technical staff.
“As communications professionals, according to the logic of a Church that looks outwards, we are all
called to be among the people,” he said, explaining that in today's context, “this means being present on social networks and the internet with conviction and responsibility.”

For the Vatican, their perspective must be clear, he said, and it must be one which “requires us to focus on the human person, on relationships, the culture of encounter and, only in the last instance, on technology.”

Pope Francis: The world needs stable families, relationships

Catholic News Agency - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 19:44

Vatican City, Jan 8, 2018 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a speech to diplomats on Monday, Pope Francis said that the stability of the family is integral for the future, and that such stability is created when founded upon the faithful and lasting relationship of a man and woman.

“Today fleeting relationships are preferred to the stability of a definitive life project. But a house built on the sand of frail and fickle relationships cannot stand,” the Pope said Jan. 8.

“What is needed instead is a rock on which to build solid foundations. And this rock is precisely that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman, a communion that has an austere and simple beauty, a sacred and inviolable character and a natural role in the social order.”

Therefore, it is urgent, he continued, that government policies support the family, on which “the future and the development of states depend,” and without which future challenges cannot be met.

Pope Francis’ words were addressed to ambassadors and other members of the Diplomatic Corp in a message for the start of the new year.

Currently, the Holy See has diplomatic relations with 183 states, as well as the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, after having established diplomatic ties with Burma – also known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar – in May 2017.

Of these, 89 states maintain embassies to the Holy See in Rome, including the Embassy of South Africa, which was established last year.

In his lengthy speech, which centered on human rights, Pope Francis not only emphasized the importance of the family, but also the right to life, beginning in the womb.

Seventy years after the creation of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s painful to see the many ways the fundamental rights of human beings continue to be violated, he said.

The first among these is the right of every human person to “life, liberty and personal security,” he noted, which are not only frequently destroyed by war and violence, but by even more “subtle means,” such as abortion.

“I think primarily of innocent children discarded even before they are born, unwanted at times simply because they are ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults,” the Pope stated.

This disregard for life and the family has had an immense effect; particularly in those parts of the world experiencing a decline in birth rate, which has led to a true “demographic winter!” he underlined.

The Pope also pointed to the waning birth rate as a sign of societies which are struggling to face present challenges, growing even more fearful of the future.

Discussing the importance of the right to life, Francis also drew attention to the maltreatment of the elderly, who are often seen as a burden, and of women, who repeatedly suffer from violence and oppression.

Defending the right to life also includes “safeguarding the right to health on the part of individuals and families,” he said, as well as “actively striving for peace, universally recognized as one of the supreme values to be sought and defended.”

Commenting on maintaining peace, particularly in the relationships between states, he quoted Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, “Pacem in Terris,” which says that “love, not fear, must dominate the relationships between individuals and between nations.”

In light of this, Francis made note of places which are experiencing difficult moments and in need of special attention, including the Korean peninsula, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, and Ukraine.

He also drew attention to the situation in Venezuela, and the violence in many parts of Africa, especially South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Relations between nations, like all human relationships, “must likewise be harmonized in accordance with the dictates of truth, justice, willing cooperation, and freedom,” Francis stated, quoting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The basic premise of this approach,” he said, “is the recognition of the dignity of the human person.” It is a disregard and contempt for that dignity, he continued, which has resulted in “barbarous acts that have outraged the conscience of mankind.”

Forgetting our baptism is to forget our identity, Pope Francis says

Catholic News Agency - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 17:27

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2018 / 04:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis spoke of the importance of remembering the day of our baptism, which he said is more than just a date on the calendar, but is the moment we receive our Christian identity and are immersed in the grace and forgiveness of God.

“The feast of the Baptism of Jesus invites every Christian to remember their own baptism,” the Pope said Jan. 7, explaining that to forget one's baptism “means exposing oneself to the risk of losing the memory of what the Lord has done for us.”

In the end, we consider the day “only as a fact that happened in the past,” rather than recognizing as the day on which “we became new creatures and are also capable of forgiving and loving whoever offends us and does us harm.”

More than just the day that “sociologically marks the parish register,” the day that we were baptized is the day that “constitutes the demanding identity card of the believer,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which this week falls on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

Prior to praying the Angelus, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inside the Sistine Chapel, during which he baptized 34 babies in commemoration of the special feast day, which he does every year.

In his address, the Pope noted how the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the liturgical Christmas season.

Turning to the day's Gospel, he recalled how those who came to John for baptism recognized their sin and wanted to be cleansed in order to start a new life. Because of this, we understand “the great humility of Jesus,” who did not have sin, but put himself “in line with the penitents, mixed among them to be baptized in the waters of the river.”

By doing this, Jesus what we celebrated at Christmas: his own availability “to immerse himself in the river of humanity, to take upon himself the shortcomings and weaknesses of men, to share with them the desire for freedom and of overcoming everything that distances us from God and makes us strangers to our brothers,” Francis said.

Again pointing to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, he noted how it recounts that Jesus, “when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove.”

The Holy Spirit, who worked at the beginning of creation and guided Moses and the people through the desert, “now descends in fullness on Jesus in order to give him the strength to fulfill his mission in the world.”

“It is the Holy Spirit who is the author of Jesus' baptism,” Pope Francis said. “It is the the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the heart to the truth, the entire truth. It is the Holy Spirit who pushes our lives on the path of charity.”

The Holy Spirit, he said, “is the gift that the Father has made to each one of us on the day of our baptism. It is the Holy Spirit who transmits to us the tenderness of divine forgiveness.”

Francis noted that it is precisely in the moment when the Jesus makes solidarity with sinners that he hears the voice of his Father, “who confirms his identity and mission.”

In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope then asked the pilgrims present if they they know the date of their baptism, since most of them likely received the sacrament when they were children. If the answer is no, he told them to “go home and ask your mom or dad, your grandmother or grandfather, your godmother or godfather,” because it is the day of grace and forgiveness that we should all remember.

He closed his address praying that Mary would intercede so that all Christians “can increasingly understand the gift of baptism and commit themselves to living it with coherency, bearing witness to the love of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis noted how earlier that morning he had “the joy” of baptizing several infants, and prayed that the Mother of God would protect them, “so that, helped by the example of their parents and godparents, they may grow as disciples of the Lord.”

He closed telling pilgrims “don't forget you homework: what is the day of my baptism? On what day was I baptized?” and asked for prayers.

Pope baptizes 34 babies, says faith can't grow without love at home

Catholic News Agency - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 15:52

Vatican City, Jan 7, 2018 / 02:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Keeping with papal tradition, Pope Francis marked the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord by celebrating Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during which he baptized 34 infants, telling parents that love at home is the first requirement of passing on the faith.

“If there is no love at home, if the language of love isn't spoken between mother and father at home, you can't do it,” the Pope said Jan. 7, telling parents to “transmit the faith, but do it with the love of the family, at home.”

He celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel, as he does each year on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, during which he baptizes several infants. This year he administered the Sacrament of Baptism on 34 babies, 16 boys and 18 girls.

In his brief, off-the-cuff homily, the Pope told parents that in baptizing their children, they are making the “first step” in the task of transmitting the faith.

“We need the Holy Spirit to transmit the faith, or else we can't do it,” he said, adding that to transmit the faith “is a grace of the Holy Spirit.”

However, even with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Francis stressed that truly transmitting the faith to one's children “can only be done in love; in the love of the family, of the father and mother, grandmother and grandfather.”

Catechists come later in life to help in transmitting the faith with “ideas and explanations,” he said, but told parents “don't forget this: have love.”

He also told parents to be childlike in their own prayer, saying children communicate in the only way they can, but “it's the language Jesus likes a lot.”

“Jesus advises us to be like them, to speak like them. May your prayers be simple like children,” he said, telling parents that in their own prayer, “say it in your heart like they do” when they cry, and “the Lord will teach you how to be like them, how to speak to them.”

Francis closed his homily telling mothers that if the babies cry and “start to have a concert” because they are uncomfortable or hungry, to breastfeed them without fear or hesitation if it is the latter, “because this is also a language of love.”

After celebrating Mass, the Pope will then make his way to the Apostolic Palace, where he will lead pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, as he does every Sunday.

Pope: Like the Magi, we must leave our comfort zone to find Jesus

Catholic News Agency - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 15:58

Vatican City, Jan 6, 2018 / 02:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked the Feast of the Epiphany Saturday by encouraging faithful to imitate the actions of the Magi, who weren't attached to worldly comforts, but were willing to go out and take risks in order to find Jesus.

“Setting out, the second thing the Magi do, is essential if we are to find Jesus,” the Pope said Jan. 6, on the Feast of the Epiphany.

“His star demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way,” he said. “It demands that we free ourselves from useless burdens and unnecessary extras that only prove a hindrance, and accept unforeseen obstacles along the map of life.”

Jesus, the Pope said, allows himself to be found by those who are looking for him, however, in order to find him ourselves, “we need to get up and go, not sit around but take risks, not stand still, but set out.”

“Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home.”

Francis noted that “setting out” isn't always easy, as can be seen by various characters in the Gospel, including Herod, who organized meetings and sent people to gather information about the royal birth that had been prophesied, but himself “does not budge; he stays locked up in his palace.”

Even the priests and scribes, who had the ancient texts and knew the prophesy, were able to tell Herod exactly where to go, yet made no move themselves.

Their temptation, Francis said, is the same as those who have grown accustomed to being believers: “they can talk at length about the faith they know so well, but will not take a personal risk for the Lord.”

“The Magi, on the other hand, talk little and journey much,” he said. “Ignorant of the truths of faith, they are filled with longing and set out. So the Gospel tells us: they 'came to worship him,' 'they set out; they went in, and fell down and worshiped him; they went back.' They kept moving.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany, which he celebrated inside St. Peter's Basilica. In his homily, the Pope focused on three key actions carried out by the Magi in the day's Gospel: they first saw the star, they set out to follow it, and they then bring gifts to the infant Jesus.

Questioning whether anyone else saw the star that night, Francis observed that “few people raised their eyes to heaven.”

“We often make do with looking at the ground: it’s enough to have our health, a little money and a bit of entertainment,” he said, and wondered aloud if people still dream or long for God and the newness that he brings.

He also asked why, if the star was so bright, no one else had followed it. “Perhaps because the star was not eye-catching, did not shine any brighter than other stars,” he said, noting that Jesus’ star “does not dazzle or overwhelm, but gently invites.”

Asking those present which star they have chosen to follow, Francis noted that some of the stars we choose are bright, but don't point the way.

“So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures when these become our life,” he said, calling them meteors that “blaze momentarily,” but quickly burn out and fade away.

“The Lord’s star, however, may not always overwhelm by its brightness, but it is always there: it takes you by the hand in life and accompanies you. It does not promise material reward, but ensures peace and grants, as it did to the Magi, 'exceedingly great joy.'”

After seeing the star, the Magi then set out and follow it to Bethlehem, he said, explaining that to do so meant taking a risk, which we are all required to do if we want to find Jesus.

“Following Jesus is not a polite etiquette to be observed, but a journey to be undertaken,” he said, adding that if we ourselves want to find Jesus, “we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction and our indolent refusal to ask anything more of life.”

Pope Francis then noted how when the Magi they arrived to Bethlehem, they offered Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, saying the Gospel “becomes real when the journey of life ends in giving.”

“To give freely, for the Lord’s sake, without expecting anything in return: this is the sure sign that we have found Jesus,” he said. “To do good without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you gain nothing thereby, even if it is unpleasant. That is what God wants.”

Jesus, who became small and vulnerable for our sake, also asks us to offer something to “the least of our brothers and sisters,” he said, explaining that these are the people who have nothing to give in return, such as the hungry, the needy, the prisoner, the sick and the stranger.

“We give a gift pleasing to Jesus when we care for a sick person, spend time with a difficult person, help someone for the sake of helping, or forgive someone who has hurt us,” he said, stressing that “these are gifts freely given, and they cannot be lacking in the lives of Christians.”

Francis closed his homily urging those present to look at their hands, which are “so often empty of love,” and to think of a free gift they can give without expecting anything in return. This, he said, “will please the Lord.”

After celebrating Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying the traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square. Speaking from the window of the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, he pointed to the “attentive search” for Jesus made by the Magi, the fear of Herod for losing his power and the indifference of the priests and scribes to the prophesy they see being fulfilled.

Of these attitudes, “we must choose which of the three to assume,” Francis said, explaining that selfishness and the desire to follow human ambitions can make Jesus' coming seem like a threat or an obstacle.

Indifference recognizes the Savior, but prefers to ignore him and live as if he didn't exist, the Pope said, explaining that Christians are called to follow the example of the Magi, who are “ready to be inconvenienced” in order to find Jesus, to adore him and to follow him.

“If we have this attitude, Jesus truly saves us, and we can live a beautiful life, we can grow in faith, hope and love toward God and toward our brothers,” he said, and prayed that Mary would intercede in helping each person to reach Christ, and helping the world to “proceed on the path of justice and peace.”


This article was updated at 12:07p.m. local time with the Pope's words during his Angelus address.

Pope's latest prayer video highlights religious persecution in Asia

Catholic News Agency - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 20:14

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2018 / 07:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has kicked off the new year by shedding light on the plight of persecuted religious minorities in Asia, asking that Catholics join him in praying for these people and for religious freedom in their countries.

The video, released Jan. 5, opens by showing images of different scenery and people in Asia as the Pope, speaking in his native Spanish, says that “in the vastly diversified cultural world of Asia, the Church faces many risks and her task is made more difficult by the fact of her being a minority.”

These risks and challenges, he said, “are shared with other minority religious traditions, with whom we share a desire for wisdom, truth and holiness.”

Images of people from various religious confessions praying and lighting incense are then shown, and chains are placed around their hands.

“When we think of those who are persecuted for their religion, we go beyond differences of rite or confession; we place ourselves on the side of the men and women who fight to avoid renouncing their religious identity,” the Pope said, as the chains are broken.

He closed the video asking faithful to join him in praying “for all of them, so that Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practice their faith in full freedom.”

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The Pope's video for January is the second one in three months to focus on Asia, which holds a special place in his heart.

In his November 2017 video, which which highlighted the diverse ethnic and religious background of the Asian continent, Francis prayed for the Church in Asia, which despite the various challenges associated with being a minority, continues to be a source of peace and dialogue between religions.

Between the two videos dedicated to Asia, the Pope made Nov. 27 – Dec. 2 pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh, both of which have small minority Catholic populations.

In Bangladesh less than three percent of the population is Catholic, and in Burma it’s less than one percent. In addition to being a minority, the Church in these countries is also composed of people from a variety of ethnic minority backgrounds.

The visit to Burma, also called Myanmar, and Bangladesh, marked the Pope's third tour of Asia, the first being a visit to South Korea in 2014, and the second a trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in 2015.

January's video, then, is yet another expression of the Pope's interest and concern for Asia, where the Church is rapidly growing in spite of difficulties.

An initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s prayer videos are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and mark the first time the Roman Pontiff’s monthly prayer intentions have been featured on video.

The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.

Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, universal intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

However, as of last year rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis opted to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention for an urgent or immediate need should one arise.

Parents must be involved in child's education, Pope Francis says

Catholic News Agency - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 19:14

Vatican City, Jan 5, 2018 / 06:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis said education is a family matter, and rather than contradicting one another, parents and teachers must collaborate openly and constructively to form children in core values which enable them to face modern challenges.

Speaking of the relationship between education and the family, the Pope said “everyone knows that this relationship has been in crisis for some time, and in certain cases is completely broken.”

At one point there was a mutual reinforcement between the instructions given by teachers and those given by the parents, however, “today the situation has changed.”

“But we cannot be nostalgic for the past,” Pope Francis said. Rather, we must make careful note of the changes that have affected both the family and schools, and renew our commitment “for a constructive collaboration for the good of children and young people.”

If this synergy no longer occurs in a “natural way,” he said it must be promoted with a planning approach, and if necessary with the contribution of experts in the educational field.

To do this, he stressed the need for “a new 'complicity' between teachers and parents. Above all to renounce thinking like opposing fronts, blaming each other.”

On the contrary, parents and teachers must put themselves in the shoes of the other, “understanding the objective difficulties that one and the other encounter today in education, thus creating greater solidarity.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Italian Association of Catholic Teachers at the conclusion of their national congress, which took place Jan. 3-5 in Rome.

He has stressed the importance of the relationship between parents and their children's teachers before, using examples from his own past experience to drive the point home.

In his speech Friday, Francis also touched on the importance of building a culture of encounter from a young age and spoke of the need for a more solid education in ecology.

He encouraged those present to strive to build a culture of encounter in “an even more extensive and incisive way” than has been done in the past.

This “cultural challenge” is the basis for primary education, when children are still young, he said, explaining that Christian teachers, whether they are in Catholic or state-run schools, “are called to stimulate in the students an openness to the other as a face, as a person, as a brother and sister to know and respect with their story, with their merits and defects, their richness and limits.”

Francis said this also means forming youth who are open to an interested in the reality around them, who are capable of tenderness and free from the “widespread prejudice” which insists that to be worth something, “you must be competitive, aggressive, harsh toward others, especially toward those who are different,  a stranger or whoever in any way is seen as an obstacle to their own affirmation.”

Unfortunately, this is “the air” that children often breathe, he said, adding that the remedy is to make it so that they can breathe “a different air which is healthier, more human.”

To accomplish this, the relationship between teachers and parents “is very important,” he said.

Pope Francis also pointed to what he sees as the need for a greater ecological education, which he said doesn't consist of just a few notions that are taught in the classroom, but instead means educating students in a lifestyle based on care for creation and the common home.

He stressed the need for “a lifestyle that is not schizophrenic,” such as that lived by those who care about animals going extinct but ignore the problems faced by the elderly, or those who defend the Amazon forest but neglect workers' right to a just salary.

“The ecology in which to educate must be integral,” he said, adding that all education “must point to the sense of responsibility: not to transmit slogans that others should implement, but to rouse the taste of experiencing an ecological ethic starting from everyday choices and actions.”

Francis also touched on the importance of making and being part of associations, saying they are a value that shouldn't be underestimated, but must rather be continually cultivated.

“I urge you to renew your will to be and make associations in the memory of the inspiring principles, in reading the signs of the times and with a gaze open to the social and cultural horizon,” he said, and told participants not to be afraid of the challenges and even conflicts that can often arise in lay associations.

Rather than being hidden, these differences must be confronted “with an evangelic style in search of the true good of the association,” he said, explaining that to be an association “is a value and a responsibility, which right now is entrusted to you.”

Pope Francis closed his speech thanking the participants for their presence and their work, and asked for their prayers.

Pope Francis prays for victims of tragic bus accident in Peru

Catholic News Agency - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 18:28

Vatican City, Jan 4, 2018 / 05:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis offered his prayer for the 48 people who died in a massive bus accident in Pasamayo earlier this week, voicing words of comfort to families of the victims and all who were wounded.

In a Jan. 4 telegram, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the painful news of the traffic accident in Pasamayo,” and offered prayers “for the eternal repose of the deceased.”

Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the telegram conveyed Pope Francis' consolation “to the families who weep for such a grievous loss,” and assured of his his spiritual closeness to the wounded.

The telegram closed asking that God would “pour out on all the gifts of spiritual serenity and Christian hope,” and imparting Francis' “heartfelt apostolic blessing” to all those who are affected.

It comes after at least 48 people were killed when a bus collided with a tractor-trailer on a narrow road along Peru's coast Tuesday.

In the accident, which took place in the Peruvian city of Pasamayo, about 43 miles north of Lima, the bus plunged form the highway onto the rocks below, killing the majority of the 57 passengers on board.

Due to its proximity to the cliff and the heavy fog that frequently shrouds visibility, the stretch of highway where the accident happened is often called “the Devil's Curve.”

Numerous people have died in previous accidents on that stretch of highway. In 2015 some 37 people died in an accident involving three buses and a truck, and in 2013 at least 51 of Peru's Quechua indigenous people died when their bus fell from the cliff into a river.

According to the Washington Post, only six people survived Tuesday's incident, and three are still missing.

Fr. Piero Gheddo, envoy to the peripheries, dies at 88

Catholic News Agency - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 08:00

Vatican City, Jan 3, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the Church’s great media missionaries of the 20th century, Fr. Piero Gheddo, died last month at the age of 88. Gheddo died on Dec. 20, after more than half a century of work in Catholic media apostolates.  

An Italian member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Gheddo was the editor of missionary magazines, a founder of communications agencies, and a prolific author, whose books were translated into 30 languages.

In his autobiography, “Special Envoy To the Borders of Faith,”  he wrote: “I do not deny the enormous problems we are enduring, but let us try to read them through God’s lenses... Authentic faith says that the history of humanity, as well as our little personal history and the millenary history of the Church, are in the hands of God.”

Gheddo advocated for the beatification of several missionaries, among them Clemente Vismara, a missionary to Burma, and that of Mario Vergara, a missionary to Laos. In 2006, Bishop Enrico Masseroni of Vercelli began a cause for beatification of Gheddo’s own parents, Rosetta Franzi (1902-1934) and Giovanni Gheddo (1900-1942).

It was obvious to those who knew him that Fr. Gheddo came from a family of deeply Catholic roots.

Born in 1929 in Tronzano Vercellese, in the Piedmont region of Italy, he entered the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in 1942, hoping to follow a vocation to foreign missionary work among non-Christians.

He was ordained a priest in 1953, and hoped to be sent as a missionary to India. Instead, his superiors gave him a post in the missionary media. In 1959, he was appointed editor-in-chief of the magazine Le Missioni Cattoliche.

He took part in the Second Vatican Council while working for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, and helped to draft Ad Gentes, the Second Vatican Council’s decree on missionary work.

He travelled the world as a journalist and media missionary. In Brazil, he became a friend to Archbishop Helder Camara, supporting his work for the poor. Though Camara was an advocate of liberation theology, Gheddo opposed that movement, and the Marxist drift he believed that some Latin American theologians had taken.

In India, he met Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the 1970s, and his reports helped her work to be known around the world.

Despite his skill as a journalist, he stayed faithful to his first passion: proclaiming the Gospel. As he aged, he traveled as long as he could. His last missionary trip was in 2009, when Gheddo was at 80. He went to Bangladesh. It seems to be a providential coincidence that Gheddo died shortly after Pope Francis’ own trip to that country.

Gheddo published stories and articles to end.

As the Church faced a dwindling number of lay and clerical foreign missionaries, Fr. Gheddo wrote that many Catholic missionary apostolates had lost their identity, and forgotten the primacy of proclaiming the Gospel.

When the Italian missionary magazine Ad Gentes shut down in 2014, he wrote a much-discussed analysis of the Church’s missionary identity.

“Until the Second Vatican Council,” he wrote, “there was a clear assertion of our identity: going to encounter of non-Christian people, wherever the Holy See would send us, to announce and witness Christ and His Gospel, which everyone needs. Yes, we also spoke about works of charity, education, health, progress, rights, and justice for the poor and marginalized. But above all was enthusiasm for being called by Jesus to bring Him to people living unaware of the God of Love and Forgiveness.”

On the other hand, nowadays, he wrote, “we missionaries campaign against foreign debt, against arms proliferation, against counterfeit medicines and for public water; today, there is no talk of mission to the public, but about earthly and social or ecological works. Can you tell me how many young boys and girls are enthused and become missionaries after a protest against arms proliferation? None!”

Speaking with CNA, Fr. Gheddo further explained that “the Church is missionary. Everybody must keep in mind the need to go to those who are far away, to evangelize, to bear the Gospel of Christ,” but then lamented that “these topics have almost disappeared from the Church’s public agenda.”

He was never sent to India, where he longed to go as a young priest. But through his work, he became a missionary to the whole world, and a prophetic voice in the heart of the Church.


Pope Francis: Sin separates us from both God and neighbor

Catholic News Agency - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 16:03

Vatican City, Jan 3, 2018 / 03:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis emphasized how sin breaks our relationship with God and with our community, which is why at the beginning of every Mass we pause to recognize our sinfulness and ask for forgiveness.

“Sin severs: Severs the relationship with God and severs the relationship with our brothers, the relationship with family, with society, with the community: Sin always severs, separates, divides,” the Pope said Jan. 3.

The Penitential Rite, at the beginning of Mass, “favors the attitude with which to dispose oneself to worthily celebrate the holy mysteries, that is, recognizing our sins before God and our brothers, recognizing that we are sinners.”

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the topic of the Mass, focusing on the part where we make a general confession, professing to God and brothers that “I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.”

He emphasized how we even confess to “omissions” in deed, which means the times we failed to do good.

“We often feel good because – let’s say – ‘I did not hurt anyone,’” the Pope said. “In reality, it is not enough not to harm our neighbor, we need to choose to do good, seizing the occasions for giving positive testimony that we are disciples of Jesus.”

When we pray the “Confiteor,” as it’s called, we confess to both God and our brothers and sisters that we are fellow sinners. And it helps us to understand how sin not only separates us from God, but also from our fellow human being.

Then, when we make the gesture of beating our breast, repeating the words “through my fault” three times, this also reminds us that we have sinned by our own responsibility and no one else’s.

Out of fear or shame, sometimes we want to accuse others for our sin, he said, but it is good to always confess our sins “with sincerity.”

After this confession of sin, Francis continued, we then turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints and angels to helps us on the path towards full communion with God, “when sin will be definitively annihilated.”

The Pope also mentioned a few other ways we make this penitential act at Mass, such as when we sing the Kyrie eléison, or when we have the sprinkling rite during the Easter season in the memory of our baptism.

He also pointed to the many examples of figures in Holy Scripture who, after having sinned, find the courage to open themselves to the grace and mercy of God, such as King David, the prodigal son, Zaccheus, and the Samaritan woman.  

“To measure ourselves with the fragility of the clay we are kneaded with is an experience that strengthens us,” he continued.

“While making us deal with our weakness, it opens our hearts to invoke the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of the Mass.”