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Pope to Deacons: ‘you are called to serve, not to be self-serving’

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday told Deacons from across the globe that they must be generous with their lives and with their time.

“One who serves cannot hoard his free time, he said, he has to give up the idea of being master of his day”  because he knows that his time “is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit.”    The Pope’s words came during the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the conclusion of the Jubilee for Deacons.

Deacons and their families from all around the world were invited to make a pilgrimage to Rome from 27 to 29 May in order to participate in this major gathering on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee year of Mercy. 

Focusing on the fact that Deacons must be good and faithful servants, Pope Francis said: “One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises”.  

And speaking off-the-cuff, the Pope urged those present to have the courage to ignore timetables. He said he is not pleased when he sees a timetable on Church doors and parishes because it means that the doors are not always open, that there is not always a priest, a deacon or a layperson available to receive the people.

“A servant, he said,  knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest”. 

“Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful” he said.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily for the conclusive Mass of the Jubilee for Deacons:

“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10).  We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself.  At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 1:1).  These two terms – apostle and servant – go together.  They can never be separated.  They are like the two sides of a medal.  Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.

    The Lord was the first to show us this.  He, the Word of the Father, who brought us the good news (Is 61:1), indeed, who is the good news (cf. Lk 4:18), became our servant (Phil 2:7).  He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45).  “He became the servant (diakonos) of all”, wrote one of the Church Fathers (Saint Polycarp, Ad Phil. V, 2).  We who proclaim him are called to act as he did.  A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master.  If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him.  Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant.  In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out.  It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus.  His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.

    How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)?  As a first step, we are asked to be available.  A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would.  Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others.  One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day.  He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him.  Only in this way will it bear fruit.  One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises.  A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest.  Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.

Today’s Gospel also speaks to us of service.  It shows us two servants who have much to teach us: the servant of the centurion whom Jesus cures and the centurion himself, who serves the Emperor.  The words used by the centurion to dissuade Jesus from coming to his house are remarkable, and often the very opposite of our own: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (7:6); I did not presume to come to you” (7:7); “I also am a man set under authority” (7:8).  Jesus marvels at these words.  He is struck by the centurion’s great humility, by his meekness.  Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt.  He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house.  Instead, he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss.  He acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).  For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us.  He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve.  These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26).  This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.

After the Apostle Paul and the centurion, today’s readings show us a third servant, the one whom Jesus heals.  The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2).  In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant.  Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve.   Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly.  To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened.  We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15).  Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer.  You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life.  When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.

In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to child travelers: do all the good you can

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received some four hundred children of different ethnicities, cultures and religions – many of them migrants and refugees – who had traveled to Rome from Calabria in southern Italy aboard the “Children’s Train” – the Treno dei Bambini – an annual initiative of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which this year has as its theme, “Carried by waves”: a theme that is designed at once to invoke the often deadly danger of migration, and the hope in the promise of a better future that drives people – along with the threat of torture, slavery and death – to flee their homelands and seek a better life on strange and distant shores.

Click below to hear our full report

The children arrived Saturday at St. Peter’s railway station in the Vatican: their conveyance brining also the pain of the experience of its young passengers – their undeniable suffering, weaved together with the care and affection offered the children by the John XXIII Association, and the work of the “Quattrocanti” Children’s Orchestra of Palermo (in which boys and girls of eight different ethnicities are involved), as well as the initiative of Mary Salvia, principal of a school in Vibo Marina, who brought to Pope Francis the money from her school’s collection for the children of Lesbos and a letter signed by her pupils, which Cardinal Ravasi read to the Pope. “We children promise that we will welcome anyone who arrives in our country: we shall never consider anyone who has a different skin color, or who speaks a different language, or who professes a different religion from ours, a dangerous enemy.”

In an unscripted exchange with the young travelers, Pope Francis focused on the human cost of indifference to the plight of migrants, recounting the story and sharing the words of a rescue worker who brought the Holy Father the life vest of a young migrant who drowned at sea. “He brought me this jacket,” said Pope Francis, “and with tears in his eyes he said to me, ‘Father, I couldn’t do it – there was a little girl on the waves, and I did all I could, but I couldn’t save her: only her life vest was left.’” Then, indicating the Jacket, the Holy Father said, “I do not [tell you this because I] want you to be sad, but [because] you are brave and you [should] know the truth: they are in danger –  many boys and girls, small children, men, women – they are in danger,” he said. “Let us think of this little girl: what was her name? I do not know: a little girl with no name. Each of you give her the name you would like, each in his heart. She is in heaven, she is looking on us.”

A teachable moment among many afforded by the occasion, as was the moment in which one of the Pope’s young visitors asked him what it means “to be Pope”: The Holy Father replied, “[to do] the good that I can do.” He went on to say, “I feel that Jesus called me to this: Jesus wanted me to be a Christian, and a Christian must do [the good he can]; and Jesus also wanted me to be a priest, and a bishop – and a priest and a bishop must do [the good they can]; I feel that Jesus is calling me to do this – that’s what I feel,” he said.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Orionines: Remain with Jesus, and serve the poor

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday greeted members of the Congregation of Don Orione, the Sons of Divine Providence, on the occasion of their 14th General Chapter.

The Congregation takes its inspiration from its founder, St Luigi Orione, whose motto was: “Do good to all; harm no one.” St Luigi Orione is remembered for his commitment to social justice and the service of those in need, a service guided and inspired by the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

In his address to the General Chapter, Pope Francis said, “The whole Church is called to journey with Jesus along the paths of the world, to encounter the humanity of today, which needs, as Don Orione wrote, ‘the bread of the body, and the divine balm of the Faith’.”

To put these words into practice today, the Pope said, the members of the Congregation must keep in mind their identity as “servants of Christ and of the poor.”

“You were called and consecrated by God,” he said, “to remain with Jesus and to serve Him in the poor and in those excluded from society." He called them to vigilance, that their faith “might not become an ideology,” or their charity a mere “philanthropy.”

Pope Francis recalled that, even during the lifetime of Don Orione, the Orionine Fathers were known as “running priests” because they “seemed to be always on the go, in the midst of the people, with the rapid pace of those who care.”

He exhorted them, “with Don Orione, to to not remain enclosed within your particular environment, but to ‘go out’.” 

At the same time, it is important to never “lose sight of the Church” or of their own religious community. Rather, he said, “your heart must be there in your ‘cenaculum’, but then needs to go out to bring the mercy of God to all, without distinction.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis asks kids to join Syrian children in praying for peace

Vatican City, May 29, 2016 / 06:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Millions of children have either been killed, displaced or orphaned as a result of Syria’s ongoing, bloody civil war. Some have witnessed bombings, the death of friends and loved ones, and have been forced to leave their homes and villages, seeking refuge in places where soldiers and gunfire don’t wake them up at night. Hundreds of Syrian children, scarred by five years of civil war, will now be the protagonists in a special June 1 prayer event, which takes place on International Children’s Day and will join together Christians from both Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Syria to pray for peace. Backed by both Catholic and Orthodox leaders in Syria, the event will gather hundreds of children from different denominations, who will lead processions in ravaged cities throughout Syria such as Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Tartus and Marmarita. In a show of support for these children and all those suffering due to the country’s gruesome war, Pope Francis on Sunday gave a shoutout to the event after celebrating Mass for the Jubilee of Deacons, urging children around the world to join their peers in Syria in praying for peace June 1. “This Wednesday, June 1, on the occasion of International Children's Day, the Christian Community of Syria, both Catholic and Orthodox, will participate together in special prayer for peace, which will have children as the protagonists,” the Pope said May 29. “The Syrian children invite children from all over the world to unite with them in their prayer for peace,” he said, and led the deacons and other pilgrims present at the Mass in praying the Angelus. Francis’ promotion of the event fell the day after giving a speech to children, which he centered on the heartbreaking story of a young Syrian girl who drowned at sea in an attempt to reach Europe after fleeing the war with her family. He assured the children that he didn’t want to make them sad, but instead wanted to tell them the truth: “they are in danger – many boys and girls, small children, men, women – they are in danger.” The June 1 prayer event is being promoted by Catholic charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need, who is asking children from schools and parishes throughout the world to join the youth in Syria in praying for a peaceful end to the conflict. In a joint message issued by Syria’s Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs, the leaders said the children will gather and pray so that “peace may come at last.” “The children in our own home country of Syria are the little brothers and sisters of the suffering Child Jesus,” they said. For more than five years these kids have been “dragged through a cruel war, wounded, traumatized or even killed,” they said, explaining that “their tears and their sufferings cry out to heaven.” They noted how Jesus, the God of all creation, chose to become a defenseless child. Often times the Christ Child is portrayed not as a naked infant in a manger, “but as a King, holding in his left hand the globe, representing the world, and with his right hand blessing the whole earth.” Because of this, the June 1 event has been entrusted to the patronage of the Child Jesus, as well as the Catholic image of Infant of Prague and the Orthodox icon of “The Mother of God of the Never Fading Rose,” in which the Blessed Virgin Mary is depicted holding a crowned Christ Child in her arms. The children will carry both of the images with them during the June 1 processions. In their message, the Catholic and Orthodox leaders of Syria asked God to “Protect and save the children of this land! Hear our prayers, now! Delay no longer in granting peace to our land! Look upon the tears of the children; dry the tears of the mothers; let the cries of grief at last fall silent!”   Photo credit: Credit: ZouZou via www.shutterstock.com

Want to be a good servant? Be generous, Pope Francis tells deacons

Vatican City, May 29, 2016 / 03:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis celebrated a special jubilee for deacons, telling them that a good servant is one who forgets themselves, letting go of their own plans and humbly placing their lives at the disposal of those to whom they are called to minister. One of the first steps in becoming “a good and faithful” servant is that “we are asked to be available. A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would,” the Pope said May 29. “One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day,” he said, adding that one who serves “is not a slave to his own agenda,” but rather, is “ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises.” A true servant must train themselves every day to be generous with their lives and their time, realizing that “the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others,” he said. “Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.” Francis spoke to the thousands of deacons and their families present in St. Peter’s Square for a special Mass in honor of the Jubilee for Deacons, which is part of the Pope’s wider Jubilee of Mercy. The mini-jubilee was marked by three days of events beginning with a Friday, May 29, meeting with the deacons and their families during which the topic of deacons as an “Image of Mercy for the Promotion of the New Evangelization” was discussed. Saturday, May 28, the deacons, divided into different language groups, made a pilgrimage through the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. They later visited other parishes deemed “Jubilee churches” around Rome, participating in Eucharistic Adoration and receiving Confession before calling it a night. Francis’ Mass marked the end of the official celebrations for the deacons. In his homily, he said that the terms “apostle” and “servant” can never be separated. “They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus,” he said, noting that Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve,” was the first one to show us this. “A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master,” Francis observed, adding that if we want to follow Jesus, we must first imitate him, becoming a servant to others.   This, he said, “is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.” Pope Francis pointed to the figure of the centurion in the day’s Gospel passage from Luke, who asks Jesus to heal his dying servant. Jesus, he said, is amazed by the centurion’s declaration of faith in saying that “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof,” and “only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Given the centurion’s troubles, he could have been anxious and demanding, using his authority to get what he wanted, the Pope said. Instead, “he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss.” Without even realizing it, the centurion acted like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart,” Francis said, explaining that God, who is love, is always ready to serve us and meet our needs. “This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.” Francis then pointed to the image of the sick servant himself, who serves as a reflection of each one of us. “Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve,” he said, but cautioned that before serving others, we must be healed ourselves first. “To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened,” he said, and encouraged the deacons to ask for the grace to be healed during their daily prayers. “In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.”

Death of refugee girl frames Pope's heartbreaking talk with youth

Vatican City, May 28, 2016 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The story of a young migrant girl who drowned at sea was at the heart of Pope Francis' address to some 400 children who on Saturday had traveled to the Vatican from the southern Italian region of Calabria. Speaking off the cuff to the children who had arrived by the “Treno per Bambini” – “Children's Train” – and who represented various religions, cultures, and ethnicities, the Pope asked them to come up with a name for the unknown girl. “Let us think of this little girl: what was her name? I do not know: a little girl with no name,” the pontiff said, according to Vatican Radio's translation. “Each of you give her the name you would like, each in his heart. She is in heaven, she is looking on us.” Pope Francis told the story of the little girl as it was recounted to him by a rescue worker who had attempted to save the child, only to succeed in saving her lifejacket. “He brought me this jacket,” the pontiff said, showing the life jacket to the children, “and with tears in his eyes he said to me, 'Father, I couldn’t do it – there was a little girl on the waves, and I did all I could, but I couldn’t save her: only her life vest was left.'” “I do not (tell you this because I) want you to be sad, but (because) you are brave and you (should) know the truth: they are in danger –  many boys and girls, small children, men, women – they are in danger,” he said. The annual “Treno per Bambini,” which brings a group of young boys and girls, is an initiative of the Pontifical Council of Culture. The theme of this year's event is “Carried by waves,” which is meant to evoke the image of both danger and hope experienced by migrants, reports Vatican Radio. Among the initiatives involved in the event are the John XXIII Association, and the “Quattrocanti” Children’s Orchestra of Palermo, which brings together boys and girls of eight different ethnicities. The principal of a school in Vibo Marina, Mary Salvia, brought with her to the At the May 28 event Vatican money which had been collected by the school for the children of Lesbos, along with a letter signed by her students. “We children promise that we will welcome anyone who arrives in our country,” said the letter, which was read to Pope Francis by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture: “we shall never consider anyone who has a different skin color, or who speaks a different language, or who professes a different religion from ours, a dangerous enemy.” During the Saturday afternoon encounter with the pontiff, one of the children asked what it means “to be Pope.” He responded: ( do) the good that I can do.” “I feel that Jesus called me to this: Jesus wanted me to be a Christian, and a Christian must do (the good he can),” he said; “and Jesus also wanted me to be a priest, and a bishop – and a priest and a bishop must do (the good they can); I feel that Jesus is calling me to do this – that’s what I feel.”

Pope Francis meets with Singapore's president at the Vatican

Vatican City, May 28, 2016 / 06:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis met with the president of the Republic of Singapore, marking 35 years of diplomatic relations between the Southeast Asian country and the Holy See, and the first ever state visit by a Singaporean president to a Pope. During the visit, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and the pontiff addressed topics relating to “the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the promotion of human rights, stability, justice and peace in south-east Asia,” according to a statement by the Holy See press office. The “cordial discussion” also addressed the “good relations between the Holy See and Singapore,” and the “collaboration between the Church and the State, especially in the educational and social fields,” the statement continues. After the meeting, Pope Francis gave President Tan a medal of peace, explaining how government is about bringing people together. The Pope then presented a copy of his encyclical Laudato, Si' to the president, who in turn thanked the pontiff for speaking out about climate change, saying: “it is a big problem.” The president for his part gave the pontiff an etching of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay nature park, and a book of about the country's exotic flowers. President Tan also met with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, along with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The May 28 meeting at the Vatican comes at the final leg of the president's week-long State Visit, during which he stopped in Rome and Venice. Diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See officially began June 24, 1981 under the pontificate of St. John Paul II. Since 1965, Singapore has also had relations with Italy, one of the first countries to recognize its status of independence.

Pope Francis met with Orionines today. Who are they?

Vatican City, May 27, 2016 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Francis met with the Sons of Divine Providence – also known as the Orionine Fathers – on Friday, he urged them to be faithful to the charism of their founder, St. Luigi Orione. So what is this charism? “Don Orione recommended that you 'seek out and treat the wounds of the people, cure their infirmities, and reach out to them morally and materially: in this way your action would be not only effective, but profoundly Christian and saving,'” Pope Francis reminded the Orionines May 27 at the Vatican's Clementine Hall. The Orionines are gathered in Rome for their 14th General Chapter, at which they elected a new superior general, Father Tarcisio Vieira. The Sons of Divine Providence were founded by St. Luigi Orione in 1893, while he was still a seminarian. St. Orione was born in Italy in 1872, and he was a student at the Valdocco Oratory in Turin, which was operated by St. John Bosco. His motto was “do good to all; harm no one.” When he entered the seminary, St. Orione was inspired by the work of the Salesians, and decided to found his own oratory to educated the poor boys of Tortona. The next year, 1893, he began a boarding school for orphans, from which his religious congregation grew. He was ordained a priest in 1895, and seminarians and priests were gathering around him to form what would become the Sons of Divine Providence. The order was given canonical approval by Bishop Igino Bandi of Tortona in 1903. Their work expanded to operating schools, boarding houses, agricultural schools, and charitable and welfare works across Italy, with several associated congregations being founded, as well. The order expanded to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Palestine, Poland, Rhodes, the United States, England, and Albania, before St. Orione's death in 1940. He was canonized in 2004. There are now approximately 1,000 Orionine priests and brothers serving the poor in 32 countries around the world. “We are all on our way in following Jesus,” Pope Francis told the members of the congregation who were present at the general chapter. “The whole Church is called to follow with Jesus the paths of the world to encounter today's humanity which is in need, as Don Orione wrote, of 'the bread of the body and the divine balsam of faith'. He recalled that St. Orione called them to be “servants of Christ and of the poor,” and that their path in doing this must “always unite the two dimension of your life: the personal and the apostolic.” “You have been called and consecrated by God to remain with Jesus and to serve him in the poor and the excluded of society. In them, you touch and serve the body of Christ and grow in union with him,  always keeping watch to ensure faith does not become ideology, charity is not reduced to philanthropy, and the Church does not end up as an NGO.” The Pope told the Sons of Divine Providence that their being servants of Christ “qualifies all you are and all you do, guaranteeing your apostolic effectiveness and rendering fruitful your service.” He brought up St. Orione's commendation that his community treat the wounds of the people, saying that “I encourage you to follow these directions, which are very true!” “In this way, you will not only imitate Jesus the Good Samaritan, but you will also offer to the people the joy of encountering Jesus and the salvation he brings to all.” Pope Francis reminded the Orionines that “the proclamation of the Gospel, especially in our times, requires great love for the Lord, together with particular initiative. I have heard that while the Founder was still alive, in some places they called you 'the running priests', because they always saw you on the move, amid the people, with the rapid pace of those who care.” “With Don Orione, I too exhort you not to remain enclosed within your particular environment, but to 'go out'. There is a great need for priests and religious who do not stay only in their institutions of charity – necessary though they may be – but who also know how to take to all places, even the most distant, the perfume of Christ's charity.” He urged them, “Never lose sight of the Church, or of your religious community; rather, your heart must be there in your ‘cenacle’, but then you must go out to bring God's mercy to all, without distinction.” The Pope told the Orionines that “your service to the Church will be more effective the more you apply yourselves to care for your personal closeness to Christ and to your spiritual formation. Bearing witness to the beauty of consecration, the good life of religious 'servants of Christ and of the poor', you will set an example to the young. Life generates life, and the holy and content religious inspires new vocations.”

Here's what the next World Meeting of Families will focus on

Vatican City, May 25, 2016 / 12:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- “The Gospel of family, joy for the world.” This is the theme for the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, and it is meant to emphasize the family's role as a stabilizing force in society, said the local archbishop. “The family is not just the object of the attention of the Church,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told journalists at a Vatican press briefing Tuesday. Rather, he said, families have a “vital role” as “real protagonists of renewal and of the transmission of the faith to the coming generations.” This was stressed at the recent Synods of Bishops on the Family, the archbishop said. Families are “active participants in the ministry of the Church,” through “the authenticity of their daily life in the family and in the home.” He continued: “The World Meeting of Families must be an occasion to encourage and sustain families in this task.” “The theme chosen for the World Meeting of Families,” Archbishop Martin explained, “wishes to stress the role of the family within society and the contribution of families to the overall health and stability of society.” The theme for the 9th World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin on August 22-26, 2018, was revealed by the Vatican at a May 24 press briefing. The Irish capital was announced as the site for the international gathering at the most recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia last September. Tuesday's announcement comes less than a year after the October 2015 Synod on the Family, which had been preceded by an extraordinary synod a year earlier on the same topic. Archbishop Martin recounted to journalists what Pope Francis said to him as he entered the Synod Hall last October, on the first day of the gathering of bishops: “Remember, Dublin begins today.” The Irish prelate went on to observe the significance that both Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II chose the family as the topic for the first synods of their papacies, adding that he had attended both gatherings. The new methodology that Pope Francis introduced for the Synod, which involved consultation with families, is an “on-going” process, he remarked. Pope Francis does not consider the World Meeting of Families to be an “isolated event,” Archbishop Martin said, but rather “an event for the entire Church.” The gathering, he said, “belongs within a process of discernment and encouragement, of accompaniment and animation of families,” and “renewal of the Church’s pastoral concern and pastoral care for the family and for families.” The archbishop expressed his hope that the event would also be an “important milestone” in applying the “fruits of the Synodal process and of the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Letitia’.” Although an international event, he said, the World Meeting of Families will be important for the Irish Church and its “strong family culture,” which is nonetheless susceptible to “all the pressures of Western secular culture regarding marriage and the family.” He spoke of the challenges many Irish families face, including “precarious economic situations” and the housing crisis. Archbishop Martin said preparations for the Meeting will be made in Ireland through a “process of catechesis,” based on the Pope's exhortation on the family, beginning 2017. “The Church’s catechetical programs regarding marriage and the family need a complete overhaul in line with what ‘Amoris Laetitia’ sets out,” he said. The 2018 World Meeting of Families will not be Dublin's first international Catholic event in recent years. In 2012, the city was the site of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, was also present at Tuesday's press briefing. “To celebrate the family – which in Europe is suffering in a particularly acute way – is an extraordinary occasion, so that all realities – civil, social, religious, political, economic – can rediscover the centrality and the strength of being the first pillar of peaceful coexistence among diverse (people).” He told journalists that “Christian churches, the great world religions, civil and political society, can rediscover in the 'familial spirit' that common thread which permits them to confront that individualistic dimension which, unfortunately, is involving ever more the religious and civil realities in the world.”  

Pray without ceasing – not just when you want to, Pope says

Vatican City, May 25, 2016 / 06:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, prayer is neither a “magic wand” used to get what we want nor something casual we do only when we feel like it, but is rather the strength that sustains our faith in difficult moments. “Jesus says that we need ‘to pray always, without growing tired,’” the Pope said May 25. What that means is that “it’s not just praying sometimes, when I feel like it. No.” “Everyone experiences moments of fatigue and discouragement, especially when it seems like our prayer seems ineffective,” he said, but assured that “God answers his children promptly, even if it means he does it in times and ways other than what we would like.” Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience. He continued his catechesis on mercy as understood in scripture, focusing on the parable of the unjust judge from the Gospel of Luke. The parable recounts how a dishonest, indifferent judge is swayed by the constant requests of a widow, who insistently pleads for justice. In the end, the judge concedes due to the widow’s frequent appeals. In his speech, the Pope noted now the judge in the parable represents a “powerful persona” responsible for passing judgement according to the Law of Moses. Because of this, “biblical tradition recommended that judges were God-fearing people, trustworthy, impartial and incorruptible,” Francis said, adding in an off-the-cuff comment that “it would do good to listen to this even today!” However, he noted how instead, the judge in the parable neither feared God nor respected other people. “He was an unjust judge, without scruples, who didn’t take the law into account but did whatever he wanted, according to his own interests,” the Pope observed. The widow, on the other hand, was considered to be among the weakest class in society, along with orphans and foreigners. “A poor widow by herself could have been ignored and left without justice, like the orphan, the foreigner, the migrant,” yet when confronted with the indifference of the judge, “the widow resorts to her only weapon: continuing insistently to bother him by presenter her request for justice,” he said. Pope Francis noted that it was precisely because of the widow’s perseverance that she achieved her goal in the end. Even the judge admits that he grants her justice “so that she doesn’t constantly come to pester me,” rather than out of genuine mercy. The Pope stressed that if the widow was able to bend the unjust judge with her “insistent demands,” then “how much more will God, who is a good and just father, ‘make justice for his elect who cry out to him day and night.’” It is because of this that Jesus urges us to pray “without growing tired,” he said, explaining that “prayer is not a magic wand” we wave to get what we want when we want. Rather, prayer “helps us to keep faith in God and to entrust ourselves to him even when we don’t understand his will,” Francis said, and pointed to Jesus as a prime example. He referred to the passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews in which the apostle notes how during Jesus’ earthly life, “he offered prayer and supplication, with loud cries and tears, to God who could save him from death and, because of his full abandonment to (the Father), was heard.” St. Paul didn’t make a mistake on this point, the Pope said, noting that God really did save Jesus from death by giving him full victory over it, “but the path taken to get to it was through death itself!” The same goes for Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, when Jesus, “assaulted by looming anguish,” prays to his Father to deliver him from the “chalice” of his Passion. However, even though Jesus asks for delivery, his prayer “is pervaded by confidence in the Father and he entrusts himself to his (Father’s) will without reserve.” “The object of prayer passes into second place; what is most important above all is his relationship with the Father,” Francis said, and explained that what prayer does is transform one’s desire and “models it according to the will of God, whatever it is, so that whoever prays aspires first of all to union with Him.” Pope Francis concluded his address by pointing to Jesus’ question at the end of the parable: “But the Son of Man, when he comes, will he find faith on earth?” With this question “we are all put on guard,” he said, and stressed that we must never cease praying, even if it doesn’t always “pay out” the way we want. “It’s prayer that preserves faith; without it faith falters!” he said, and prayed for the Lord to grant all “a faith which becomes an unceasing prayer, perseverant, like that of the widow in the parable, a faith nourished by the desire for his coming.” After concluding his address, the Pope offered a special appeal to protect children in honor of International Missing Children’s Day, which was established by U.S. President Ronald Regan in 1983, four years after 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared in New York City. Since then it has been observed internationally every year on May 25. “It is a duty of everyone to protect children, especially those exposed to elevated risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant conduct,” Francis said, and voiced his hope that both civil and religious authorities “might stir consciences and raise awareness, in order to avoid indifference.” He also offered prayers for the more than 160 people killed Monday in coordinated attacks on the cities of Jableh and Tartus in Syria. “I exhort everyone to pray to the merciful Father, to pray to the Madonna, that God might give eternal rest to the victims, and consolation to their families…and might convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction,” the Pope said, and led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary.

From the Vatican, top Sunni imam calls for end to terrorism

Vatican City, May 24, 2016 / 12:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After his historic meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican Monday, Egypt's Grand Imam of al Azhar issued a global appeal to counter terrorism, which he said is “deviant” of true Islam and threatens the both east and west alike. “I come from the Middle East where I live and I suffer, along with others, the consequences of the rivers of blood and cadavers, and there is no logical reason for this catastrophe that we are living day and night,” Imam Ahmed al Tayyeb told Vatican Radio in an interview published May 24. He acknowledged that terrorism exists, but stressed that “Islam has nothing to do with this terrorism, and this applies to Ulama Muslims and to Christians and Muslims in the East.” “Those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence.” Al Tayyeb issued a global appeal asking that the entire world to “close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism.” If the growing problem of terrorism is neglected, it’s not just the east that will pay the price, but “both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen.” When it comes to terrorism in the Middle East, the imam advised that the issue ought not to be presented only as a persecution of Christians because “there are more Muslim than Christian victims, and we all suffer this catastrophe together.” “Therefore this is my appeal to the world and to the free men of the world: to come to an agreement immediately and to intervene to put an end to these rivers of blood,” he said, and cautioned against generalizing an entire religion in light of a deviant few. “We must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers, because in every religion there exists a deviant faction that raises the flag of religion to kill in its name.” The imam’s interview, conducted in Arabic, came after he met Pope Francis during an official visit to the Vatican Monday, May 23, marking seismic leap in Catholic-Muslim relations. Currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Imam of al Azhar is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islam and oversees Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque and the prestigious al-Azhar University attached to it. Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam. Monday’s meeting between the two is widely considered as a thawing of relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas. During the 30 minute encounter the Pope and the Imam focused largely on the commitment of both faithful and authorities of major religions in working for peace, the rejection of violence and terrorism and the protection of Christians in the Middle East given their current state of persecution. In hi interview with Vatican Radio, Al Tayyeb said he was happy to be the first Imam of al Azhar to come to the Vatican and meet with the Pope in “an encounter of discussion and understanding.” His first impression of Pope Francis which he said was “very strong,” was that this is “a man of peace, a man who follows the teaching of Christianity, which is a religion of love and peace.” In following the words and actions of the Pope, “we have seen that he is a man who respects other religions and shows consideration for their followers; he is man who also consecrates his life to serve the poor and the destitute, and who takes responsibility for people in general,” he said. Al Tayyeb also spoke of the importance of role of religious leaders amid modern social ideologies which have failed to both failed make man happy or dissuade him from war and bloodshed. He also outlined a special project at the renown al Azhar University aimed at renewing scholastic texts.  He said the texts are renewed in the sense that “we clarify the Muslim concepts that have been deviated by those who use violence and terrorism, and by armed movements that claim to work for peace.” “We have identified these erroneous concepts,” and have included them as part of their high school and middle school curriculum, he said. In addition to showing the deviant perspective of Islam, the university seeks to help their students understand the true concepts from which terrorists and extremists have deviated. Additionally, the imam explained that the university has established a world observatory which monitors the materials distributed by extremis movements in eight languages, in order to track the “distorted ideas” that deviate youth from true Islam. The material is then corrected and translated into other languages, he said. Al Tayyeb highlighted other efforts being made in this regard at the university before concluding with an expression of appreciation for his meeting with the Pope, as well as his hope for the future of dialogue between Islam and Christianity. He voiced his hope that Muslims and Christians, specifically Al-Azhar and the Vatican, would be able to “relieve human beings wherever they are, regardless of their religion and belief, and to save them from destructive wars, poverty, ignorance and disease.” The full text of Vatican Radio’s interview with Grand Imam Ahmed al Tayyeb can be found here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/05/24/grand_imam_religions_must_work_together_for_peace/1232088

A new public appearance by Benedict XVI? Maybe so, his secretary reveals

Vatican City, May 23, 2016 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Former Pope Benedict XVI could appear in public once again on June 29, the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Speaking after the May 20 presentation of a book dedicated to Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household and private secretary to the retired Pope, said that “there will be another occasion to see the Pope emeritus in public.” “Benedict XVI will celebrate the 65th anniversary of priesthood June 29, and we will see what we will be able to manage…this may present an opportunity to show that Benedict XVI is well.” The Catholic Church celebrates the martyrdom of Peter and Paul on June 29, patron saints of the city of Rome. On this feast, newly created metropolitan archbishops celebrate Mass with the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica and receive the pallium, the primary symbol of their office. Benedict XVI has appeared in public half a dozen times since he stepped down three years ago. He took part in both of Pope Francis’ first two cardinal-creating consistories, held Feb. 22, 2014 and Feb. 14, 2015. He was also present Sept. 27, 2014 at the Festival of Grandparents. He con-celebrated the canonization Mass of John XXIII and John Paul II Apr. 27, 2014, and he took part in Paul VI’s beatification Mass Oct. 19, 2015. He was also the first pilgrim to pass through the Holy Door after Pope Francis at the inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy on Dec. 8, 2015. Pope Francis and Benedict XVI have also had several private meetings, some of them documented with pictures. Pope Francis visited Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo March 23, 2013, and he welcomed the retired pontiff back in the Vatican May 2 of that year. The two Popes together blessed the St. Michael the Archangel statue displayed in the Vatican Gardens July 5, 2013. Pope Francis also went to wish Benedict XVI Christmas greetings Dec. 23, 2013, and the retired Pope in turn had lunch with Pope Francis in Domus Sanctae Marthae Dec. 27, 2013. If Benedict does make a public appearance June 29, it would commemorate a very powerful moment in his life and ministry. Joseph Ratzinger – who would become Benedict XVI – was ordained a priest June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Corbinian in Freising, Germany. Later, in the same cathedral, he recalled the event, speaking off-the-cuff to priests and permanent deacons Sep. 14, 2006. On that occasion, a visibly moved Benedict XVI recounted: “Now that I am back in this cathedral, many memories come to me as I see before me my old companions, and also the young priests who are handing on the message, the torch of the faith. Memories of my ordination, of which Cardinal Wetter has spoken, come to mind.” Looking at the altar, the Pope went on: “Here I lay prostrate, enveloped by the litany of all the saints, by the intercession of all the saints. I realized that on this path we are not alone, that the great multitude of saints walk with us, and the living saints, the faithful of today and tomorrow, sustain us and walk with us. Then came the laying on of hands, and finally Cardinal Faulhaber proclaimed to us: ‘Iam non dico vos servos sed amicos’ –‘I do not call you servants, but friends’; at that moment, I experienced my priestly ordination as an initiation into the community of Jesus’ friends, called to be with him and to proclaim his message.”  

In seismic meeting, Pope Francis embraces top Sunni imam

Vatican City, May 23, 2016 / 10:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib during a meeting at the Vatican, a move which is being seen as a step toward reopening dialogue between Christians and Sunni Muslims. “Our meeting is the message,” the Pope was heard to have said to the imam during the meeting. The pontiff and Al-Tayyib, who is the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, observed the significance of the meeting “within the framework of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam,” said Holy See press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi. They addressed the commitment on the part of authorities and the faithful of major religions alike to toward bringing world peace, “the rejection of violence and terrorism, and the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East and their protection.” Following their 30 minute “very cordial” meeting in the pontiff's private library, Pope Francis presented the iman with a medallion depicting an olive of peace, as well as a copy of his Encyclical “Laudato Si.” Al-Tayyib was joined by a large delegation, which was joined by the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Hatem Seif Elnasr. The imam also met with the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and secretary of that council, Msgr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot. The meeting comes five years after Pope Benedict XVI denounced a New Year's Eve attack which killed 21 people at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, and called for better protection of Christian communities. According to the AP, the Al-Azhar in Cairo put a freeze on talks with the Holy See as a result of Benedict's remarks. However, while the persecution of Christians has increased in the region, steps had recently been taken toward reopening dialogue. In February, a Holy See delegation in Cairo extended an invitation for el-Tayyib to visit the Pope at the Vatican.