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Angelus: As the sower Jesus performs a spiritual radiography of our heart

(Vatican Radio) During his Angelus address on Sunday to the pilgrims and tourists who braved the heat in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis recalled the Gospel reading of the day, the famous parable of the sower. 

Listen to our report:

The Pope explained that the sower is Jesus, but the parable itself, the Pope went on to say concerns us, as it speaks of the soil and not the sower.

The Holy Father noted that “Jesus performs, so to speak, a "spiritual radiography" of our heart”, which is the ground upon which the seed of the Word falls. Our heart, he added, "is like the soil, it can be good when the Word bears fruit, but it can also be hard, and waterproof."

Pope Francis also described how in between these forms of soil, there are two types of land.  The first, he said, is a stony ground where the seed cannot put down deep roots. This, the Pope added, “is the superficial heart that welcomes the Lord, wants to pray, love and testify, but does not persevere..."

The Holy Father continued, then “there is the thorny ground, full of rocks that suffocate the good plants." This form of soil, he said, was the world seduced by wealth and greed, adding that the rocks were the vices that inhabit a person’s heart.

With the Lord’s help, underlined Pope Francis, we can reclaim the land in the form of confession and prayer that removes the stones and thorns and purifies our hearts.

During his address the Holy Father remembered the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, who is celebrated on July 16th.

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope endorses campaign to put 'Laudato Sì' into action

(Vatican Radio) Following the 2nd anniversary of the publication of his encyclical “Laudato Sì – On Care of our Common Home”, Pope Francis has endorsed a pledge campaign that aims to mobilize at least 1 million people to directly engage in turning the encyclical’s message into action. 

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Organized and promoted by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the pledge  calls on those who sign to answer the call of Laudato Sì by praying with and for creation, living more simply, and advocating to protect our common home.

The "Laudato Sì Pledge campaign" has received support from Church leaders from around the globe including Cardinal Turkson, Cardinal Tagle, Cardinal Ribat, Cardinal Cupich and Cardinal Marx. It has also garnered the support of major environmental leaders.

Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, said, "We are grateful and inspired by Pope Francis' endorsement of the Laudato Si' Pledge. With 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, we have a critical role to play in tackling climate change and the wider ecological crisis. Pope Francis has already changed the discussion around climate change and this pledge is inviting us to put the Church's teachings into action and answer the urgent call for strong political action and lifestyle change put forth in Laudato Si'."

The Pope's endorsement adds to the momentum of recent Catholic climate action: Pope Francis requested that Angela Merkel uplift the Paris climate accord during the G20 summit, several Catholic organizations recently divested from fossil fuels, GCCM joined other Christian groups calling on governments to take strong action before the G7 last month and the Movement’s Executive Director joined other scientific, political and faith leaders in publishing a letter in Nature Magazine pushing the G20 to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to catechists: Be creative

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to an International Catechetical Symposium which is taking place this week at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires, and has as its theme “blessed are those who believe”.

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In the message to the symposium, the Holy Father points out that “being a catechist is a vocation of service in the Church, that has been received as a gift from the Lord and must in turn be transmitted.”

He goes on to say that the catechist walks with Christ, therefore is not a person who starts from his own ideas and tastes. He or she  looks for the Lord and that searching makes their heart burn.

Pope Francis also notes in his message that the role of the catechist is a creative one because this person seeks different ways and means to announce the good news of Christ. The Pope adds that “this quest to make Jesus known as supreme beauty leads us to find new signs and forms for the transmission of the faith.”

The means may be different, the Holy Father underlines, “but the important thing is to keep in mind the style of Jesus, who adapted to the people around him in order to bring them the love of God.”

The Pope continues that, it is necessary to know how to "change" and adapt, in order to transmit God’s message even though the message itself is always the same.

Finally, Pope Francis encourages catechists taking part in the symposium to be joyful messengers, guardians of good and beauty who shine in the faithful life of the missionary disciple.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to beatify a bishop and a priest in Colombia

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will beatify two martyred Colombian clerics when he travels to visit their South American nation in September.

The director of the Holy See Press office, Greg Burke, said that Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca and Father Pedro Ramirez Ramos will be beatified on September 8th during an open-air Mass in the city of Villavicencio presided over by the Pope.  

Linda Bordoni reports:

It was thanks to Bishop Jaramillo’s work of evangelization and promotion of the local Church in a vast territory where contraband and drug trafficking were rampant that development was made possible. Jaramillo was taken hostage in 1989 by armed bandits some 800 kilometers east of Bogota, and found dead the following day, shot with four bullets to the head.

Francis also recognized the martyrdom of Father Pedro Ramirez who was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948 when guerrilla factions set upon him as he sought refuge in his parish church. He refused to flee and abandon the people so the insurgents destroyed the door of the building, seized him and accused him of hiding weapons in the adjacent convent. They killed him on April 10 and impeded the faithful from giving a Christian burial to his mortal remains for some ten days. To this day, Father Pedro is known in Colombia as “the martyr of Armero.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to make his first apostolic visit to Colombia from 6 to 11 September, visiting the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena.

The journey is a pastoral one but is widely expected to further cement the peace accords signed by the government and the FARC rebel group aimed at putting an end to five decaded of civil conflict. The country’s second largest guerrilla group – the ELN – is also currently holding peace negotiations in neighboring Ecuador.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia. Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as its new Chief of Office. Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican. Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged. The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church. Among its responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process was streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things. Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia. Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm. Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set. These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since many curial officials were been named by Benedict before his resignation. While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions. The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage. The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015. Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit. When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February. In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.” Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period. “No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case. The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.” They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Father Giacomo Morandi promoted to CDF secretary

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Father Giacomo Morandi secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Italian priest had been a subsecretary in the dicastery since 2015. Fr. Morandi was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere July 18; the date of his episcopal consecration has yet to be determined. He was born in Modena in 1965, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola in 1990, at the age of 24. Fr. Morandi obtained a licentiate in biblical sciences from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1992, and a licentiate and doctorate in the theology of evangelization from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2008. He has taught scripture at several institutions. In the Modena-Nonantola archdiocese he has served as a pastor, episcopal vicar for catechesis, evangelization, and culture, archpriest of the cathedral chapter, and vicar general. Since October 2015 Fr. Morandi has served as subsecretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Morandi's promotion from within the congregation fills the vacancy left by the July 1 appointment of Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., as the office's prefect. Archbishop Ladaria had in turn taken the place of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whose five-year term in the post had expired, and which was not renewed.

Corruption trial of former Vatican hospital officials begins

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after Vatican City charged a priest and a laywoman in the second “Vatileaks” trial, it has begun a legal process against two laymen accused of misallocating funds from the Vatican-owned children's hospital, Bambino Gesu. The hearing, which began at 10 a.m. inside the Vatican July 18, focused on charges brought against the former president and treasurer, respectively, of Bambino Gesù, Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina. The Vatican announced July 13 it was charging the two with illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of  more than 422,000 euro ($480,000) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, emeritus Secretary of State, lives. The alleged crime is said to have been carried out between November 2013 and May 28, 2014, and to have benefited the construction firm of Italian businessman Gianantonio Bandera, which was carrying out the renovations. Profiti and Spina were summoned to appear before the court by a June 16, 2017, decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, with the first hearing set for July 18. During the hearing, Profiti and Spina were accompanied by their lawyers: Antonello Basi for Profiti, and Alfredo Ottaviano for Spina. The judicial board was made up of Paolo Papanti Pelletier, president, Venerando Marano, judge, and Carlo Bonzano, judge. The office of the Promoter of Justice was represented by the promoter himself, Gian Piero Milano, and by an added promoter, Roberto Zannotti. After the charge was read, the lawyers made an initial request that journalists be removed from the courtroom due to noise and pressure put on the defendants from their affirmation or dissatisfaction with the proceedings, suggesting that in the future, they be placed in a separate room to watch a live stream of the hearing. Milano refused the request, insisting it is a public hearing, and that public interest itself demands that the process be public. A second objection the lawyers brought, but which was also immediately dismissed, was that the Vatican had no jurisdiction over the case, since the headquarters of Bambino Gesu is located in a piazza that is not Vatican-owned, and because the money was sent to England. However, both Milano and the tribunal affirmed that the offense happened the moment the transfer was made, and since it was done through an APSA account, it was therefore a Vatican offense. APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, oversees the Vatican's real estate and investments. Ottaviani and Basi also argued that the defendants are not public officials, given their work for the Vatican. However, it was ruled that in the Vatican's statutes and laws, the definition of a public official does, in fact, include the responsibilities of Profiti and Spina. The lawyers also requested that in future proceedings, all witnesses be called on the same day in order to avoid influence and pressure from the media, which was agreed on by everyone.   Finally, at the request of the witnesses, a letter that in some way involves Cardinal Bertone was added to the trial documents. Although the nature and contents of the letter are unknown, Ottaviani held that it was essential to the trial process, asking the tribunal permission to quote it as a testimony of the emeritus Secretary of State. Milano agreed, saying, “if needed, it will be discussed.” The hearing closed by setting the dates for the next one: Sept. 7-9. Among those present at the hearing from the public was Jeffrey Lena, legal adviser to the Holy See. The Vatican reported it was conducting an investigation into this matter in 2016 after documents published in the “Vatileaks 2” scandal implicated there may have been an illicit transfer of funds from the hospital’s foundation. Earlier this month, the Vatican held a press conference on the hospital to confirm that though it has had problems in the past, the Vatican has worked to resolve them. The operations of the Bambino Gesù Hospital had come under scrutiny after a report by the Associated Press, which examined the hospital’s operations under its 2008-2015 administration, finding among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had subpar standards of care.   In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery, and risk of infection due to overcrowding. After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved. “For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, said at the July 4 press conference. The Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope's Hospital.” While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.

Vatican commission agrees to disagree on Cardinal Stepinac

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A commission of Catholic and Orthodox leaders tasked with examining the wartime record of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac concluded their final session last week, agreeing to disagree about the Croatian cardinal’s cause for canonization. The Secretariat of the Holy See prepared a joint statement, adopted by both sides, at the conclusion of the commission’s sixth and final round of meetings at the Vatican July 12-13. The document states that the opinions of either side remain unchanged, but also acknowledges that ultimately the competency for approval of the cardinal’s cause falls under Pope Francis. “It has come to the conclusion that various events, speeches, writings, silences, and views are still subject to different interpretations. In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the interpretations that were predominantly given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent,” it states. It included their thanks to Pope Francis for establishing the commission, which he did in May 2016 after receiving a letter from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, who stated his opposition to the cardinal's canonization. They also expressed their gratitude for the atmosphere of the discussions which allowed “full freedom of expression.” “From the commencement of the commission's work, the members were aware that the process of canonization of Cardinal Stepinac was in the exclusive competence of the Pope. They also admit that each Church has its own criteria for the canonization process,” it continued. The Secretariat of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accepted the outcome of the commission, which was led by Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. With the conclusion of the commission, the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is fully open. The proper requisites in place, it is in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and then will go to Pope Francis for approval. It is believed the announcement of his canonization could take place soon. Cardinal Stepinac, who is hailed as a hero in Croatia, has been a target of decades-long communist smears and disinformation. Despite this, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II in October 1998. Many in the Serbian Orthodox community are deeply skeptical of the cardinal's wartime record. Though one researcher of the period says the facts counter false claims about the beatified cardinal's record. “What you have is a false narrative created by Soviet agents,” Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak told CNA/EWTN News in 2016. Cardinal Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960 at the age of 61. In Yugoslavia during the Second World War, the pro-Nazi Ustashe movement came to power under leader Ante Pavelic after the Axis occupied the country. “Stepinac's sermons against the Ustashe were so strong. They prohibited them from being published, because they were so strong against the Ustashe,” Rychlak said. Instead, his words were secretly printed and circulated and occasionally broadcast over the radio. He also severely condemned the Ustashe’s destruction of Zagreb’s main synagogue in 1941 and in an October 1943 homily, the archbishop condemned notions of racial superiority. In 1946, Stepinac was put on trial for allegedly collaborating with the Ustashe’s crimes. The trial drew critical coverage from Western media like Time and Newsweek and protests from those who saw it as a show trial. Archbishop Stepinac was denied effective representation and only met with his attorney for an hour before the trial. The government’s witnesses were told what to say, and the archbishop was not allowed to cross-examine them. In 1953, Pope Pius XII made him a cardinal, although he was never allowed travel to the Holy See to be officially elevated. He died in 1960 of an alleged blood disorder, which was said to have been caused by the conditions he endured in jail. Recent tests of his remains by Vatican investigators show evidence he was also poisoned. In June 2011 Pope Benedict XVI praised Cardinal Stepinac as a courageous defender of those oppressed by the Ustashe, including Serbs, Jews and gypsies. He said the cardinal stood against “the dictatorship of communism, where he again fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, the true humanity that is dependent on the presence of God.”

Benedict XVI: Cardinal Meisner died a 'cheerful' man

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2017 / 09:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter sent for the funeral of the late Cardinal Joachim Meisner, retired Pope Benedict XVI praised the prelate as a passionate pastor, who died a happy man at peace with the Lord and his will for the universal Church. “What particularly impressed me in my last conversations with the now deceased Cardinal was the serene cheerfulness, the inner joy and the confidence at which he had arrived,” Benedict said in the letter, read aloud by Archbishop Georg Ganswein at the prelate's July 15 funeral in Cologne. Benedict, who had known Meisner personally, noted that the late prelate, a “passionate shepherd and pastor,” had found it difficult to leave his post in Cologne upon retirement, especially at a time when the Church needs persuasive priests “who resist the dictatorship of the Zeitgeist and who live and think the faith with complete determination.” “However, what moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live all the more deeply with the conviction, that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when sometimes the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.” Cardinal Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, died July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany, at the age of 83. His funeral was celebrated July 15 in the cathedral of Cologne. Archbishop of Cologne from 1989-2014, he retired with the permission of Pope Francis in February 2014, at the age of 80, the same year his age made him ineligible to vote in a conclave. Meisner, alongside Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Leo Burke, submitted five "dubia," or doubts, about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia to Pope Francis on Sept. 19, 2016. The letter, made public in November, asked for clarification on Chapter 8 of the document, which touches on the reception of communion for divorced and remarried couples. In May, the four – dubbed the "dubia cardinals" – sent a letter to the Pope requesting a private audience to discuss the content of the "dubia," since they have not yet received a response. Cardinal Meisner, considered a leading conservative Catholic figure in Germany, stood in contrast to other German prelates who have propagated one of the more liberal interpretations of Chapter 8 of the post-synodal document. In his letter, Benedict said that when he first received the news of Cardinal Meisners death, he couldn't believe it, as they had spoken over the phone the day before. In the conversation, Benedict recalled that Meisner was “audibly grateful” to be on vacation, and to have participated in the beatification ceremony of Bishop Teofilius Matulionis – a Lithuanian priest who was consecrated a bishop in secret during Soviet persecution, and who spent the majority of his episcopate in prison before being poisoned by the USSR – the day before. For Benedict, Meisner's whole life “was ingrained both with a love for the churches of the neighboring countries to the East, who had suffered under Communist persecution, as well as an appreciation for their holding fast amidst the suffering of those times.” “Thus it is probably no coincidence that the final visit of his life was dedicated to a Confessor of the Faith from those lands.” In addition to the beatification and the state of peace he had attained before his death, Benedict said there were two specific reasons the cardinal was so cheerful in his final years. For one, “he repeatedly told me how it profoundly delighted him to see young people, especially young men, experience the grace of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession – the gift of having truly found that life which only God can give them,” Benedict said. The second thing he cited for putting the cardinal in “a joyful mood” was the “quiet growth of Eucharistic Adoration.” Benedict recalled how at World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, Meisner was adament that there be adoration, and a space for “ a silence in which only the Lord speaks to the hearts.” While some of those in the field of pastoral and liturgical work thought it would be impossible or even “obsolete” to accomplish with such a large group of people, arguing that the Lord desires to be received and not looked at, what happened proved them wrong. It became abundantly clear, Benedict said, “that you can not eat this bread like it were just some food, and that 'receiving' the Lord in the Eucharistic Sacrament makes demands upon every dimension  of our existence – that to receive necessarily also means to adore.” This became “an interior event, one that remained, not only for the Cardinal, unforgettable. This moment remained ever present, like a great light, within him.” Benedict concluded his letter noting how on the morning he died, Cardinal Meisner was found in his room with his breviary on his lap. “He had died whilst in prayer, his gaze fixed on the Lord, in conversation with the Lord,” Benedict said, adding that “the manner of death which was granted to him yet again shows how he lived: gaze fixed to the Lord and conversing with the Lord.”

Jesus not only sows the seed, he’ll pull the thorns, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2017 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis said that in the parable of the seed and the sower Jesus invites us to reclaim the ‘soil’ of our hearts by bringing to him, in prayer and Confession, the stones and thorns in need of healing. "Jesus invites us today to look inward: to give thanks for our good ground and to work on the ground not yet good,” he said July 16. "Let us ask ourselves if our heart is open to welcome with faith the seed of the Word of God. Let us ask ourselves if the rocks of laziness are still large and numerous within us; we identify and we call by name the brambles of our vices." "We find the courage to make a beautiful reclamation of the land, bringing to the Lord in Confession and in prayer our stones and our stumps. In doing so, Jesus, a good sower, will be happy to do an extra work: to purify our hearts, removing the stones and thorns that stifle his Word.” Pope Francis addressed the crowds in St. Peter's Square before leading the Angelus Sunday, reflecting on the day's Gospel of the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds. When Jesus used parables, he noted, as in today's Gospel, he uses simple language and imagery from everyday life to help explain the mystery of the Kingdom of God in terms that can "easily be understood by everyone." "That's why they listened willingly and appreciated his message that came straight to their heart." In the parable, we know that Jesus is the sower, and in this image he doesn't impose, but proposes, the Pope said. He throws the seed, attracting us not by conquering us, but by giving himself to us. And this seed, "how can it bear fruit?" he asked. "If we welcome him." "Therefore the parable concerns above all us: it speaks, in fact, of the soil rather than of the sower. Jesus performs, so to speak, a 'spiritual radiography' of our heart, which is the ground upon which the seed of the Word falls.” “Our heart, like soil, can be good and then the Word brings so much fruit, but it can also be hard, impermeable. This happens when we hear the Word, but it bounces off of us just like on a road: it does not enter,” he said. He pointed out that between the good soil and the road of asphalt or 'sanpietrini' – the name of the rounded cobblestones that can be found in St. Peter's Square and around Rome – there are two intermediate terrains: the stony and the thorny. In the stony ground the seed germinates, but doesn't put down deep roots, the Pope said. "So is the superficial heart that welcomes the Lord, wants to pray, love and testify, but does not persevere, tends to wear and never "takes off". It is a thick heart, where the rocks of laziness prevail over the good land, where love is inconsistent and passable." What do the thorns in the thorny ground represent? "'The world's concern and the seduction of wealth', so Jesus says explicitly," he said. We all have these brambles in our hearts, such as making idols out of worldly wealth or power, or only living for ourselves. "You need to tear them away, otherwise the Word will not bear fruit, Francis emphasized. July 16 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Pope concluded his message by saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "unsurpassed in welcoming the Word of God and putting it into practice." May she help you "to purify your heart and preserve the presence of the Lord."

Pope: Caring for creation means caring for your brother and sister

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2017 / 07:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Friday sent a message to an international congress on care for our common home in the context of large cities, reminding participants that caring for the environment ultimately means having responsibility for our fellow man. “We see an indifference to our common home and, unfortunately, to so many tragedies and needs that hit our brothers and sisters. This passivity demonstrates the ‘loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow-men on which all civil society is founded’ (‘Laudato Si’ 25).” “Each territory and government should encourage responsible ways of acting in its citizens so that, with inventiveness, they can interact and favor the creation of a more habitable and healthier house,” the Pope said. “Placing on each one the little that corresponds to him in his responsibility, much will be achieved.” Pope Francis sent his letter, dated June 12, to participants in an international congress about his 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” and the challenges of those dwelling in large cities. The July 13-15 congress, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was organized by the foundation "Antoni Gaudi for Great Cities" of Barcelona in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro. In the message, Pope Francis pointed to references made in “Laudato Si” about the particular needs of people who live in large cities. These needs, he explained, need to be met with “three Rs:” respect, responsibility and relationship. “Respect is the fundamental attitude that man must have with creation. We have received it as a precious gift and we must strive for future generations to continue to admire and enjoy it,” he said. Moreover, we must teach the next generation to have this care and respect for creation as well. In St. Francis of Assisi's “ Canticle of the Creatures” the saint wrote: “Praised be my Lord, for the sister of water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.” “These adjectives,” the Pope explained, “express the beauty and importance of this element, which is indispensable for life.” Just like other elements of our earth, clean and drinkable water points to God’s love of his creatures, he continued, and societies have an obligation to guarantee safe water for everyone, because when water is not given the respect and attention it requires, it becomes a source of disease and a danger to society. “It is a duty of all to create in society an awareness of respect for our environment; this benefits us and future generations,” Francis said. “We cannot sit idly by when we notice a serious decrease in air quality or an increase in the production of waste that is not properly treated. These realities are the result of an irresponsible way of manipulating creation and call us to exercise an active responsibility for the good of all.” The Pope noted that in both rural areas and large cities there is a growing lack of relationship. You see this in cities especially, he said, where you have a busy flow of people in and out. Regardless of the causes, this can help to create a more multicultural society, fostering wealth and social and personal growth. But it can also make the society more closed and suspicious of each other. “The lack of roots and the isolation of some people are forms of poverty, which can degenerate into ghettos and lead to violence and injustice. Instead, man is called to love and to be loved, establishing bonds of belonging and bonds of unity among all his fellow men,” he urged. A practical way to do this is through the formation of groups in schools or parishes – communities that help build communion, a sense of belonging, and a network of support. “It is important for society to work together in a political, educational and religious context to create warmer human relationships, to break the walls that isolate and marginalize,” he concluded. “Please, I ask you to pray for me; and I beg the Lord to bless you.”

Jesuit publication slams perceived evangelical-Catholic coalition in US

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2017 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An analysis piece published Thursday in La Civilta Cattolica discusses what it calls a “surprising” and unfortunate alliance between conservative Catholics and evangelicals in the U.S. on issues such as immigration – suggesting the two are in direct opposition to Pope Francis' message of mercy. The article, published online July 13, is co-authored by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of the Jesuit publication, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Presbyterian pastor who is editor in chief of the Argentine edition of L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper. Both men are regarded as confidantes of Pope Francis. La Civilta Cattolica is also seen as a mouthpiece of sorts for the Holy See, as its text is revised and approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State before it is published. Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa start from the US motto, In God We Trust, saying that for some this “is a simple declaration of faith,” but for others it is “the synthesis of a problematic fusion between religion and state, faith and politics, religious values and economy.” The authors hold that in recent decades American politics have been shaped by “religion, political Manichaeism and a cult of the apocalypse.” They cite President George W. Bush's speaking of the “axis of evil” and the US' duty to “free the world from evil” as an example of what they call “a Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil.” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa trace these to the evangelical-fundamentalist movement which becan in the early 20th century, and tie them to the consideration of the US as “a nation blessed by God.” “They do not hesitate to base the economic growth of the country on a literal adherence to the Bible,” they write. “Over more recent years this current of thought has been fed by the stigmatization of enemies who are often 'demonized.'” Fundamentalism has developed an exegesis which decontextualizes the Old Testament without being “guided by the incisive look, full of love, of Jesus in the Gospels,” they write, adding that “within this narrative, whatever pushes toward conflict is not off limits.” “Another interesting aspect is the relationship with creation of these religious groups that are composed mainly of whites from the deep American South,” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa state. “There is a sort of 'anesthetic' with regard to ecological disasters and problems generated by climate change. They profess 'dominionism' and consider ecologists as people who are against the Christian faith.” Ecological problems are regarded by fundamentalists as signs of the apocalypse, they write, which “confirm their non-allegorical understanding of the final figures of the Book of Revelation and their apocalyptic hope in a 'new heaven and a new earth.'” The authors find a prophetic formula to this worldview, characterizing it as charged to “fight the threats to American Christian values and prepare for the imminent justice of an Armageddon, a final showdown between Good and Evil, between God and Satan.” They also cite Rousas Rushdoony, a 20th century Protestant pastor, in this regard, and point to what they describe as his influence on Steve Bannon, who is chief strategist in the Trump administration. Rushdoony supports, they say, the subjection of public norms to religious morals and a “theocratic necessity” which “submit(s) the state to the Bible with a logic that is no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism.” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa then treat of the prosperity gospel and the rhetoric of religious liberty, first citing Norman Vincent Peale, another 20th century Protestant pastor. Peale authored The Power of Positive Thinking and was close to President Donald Trump, as well as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In the section treating of the prosperity gospel, they also speak about “a particular form of proclamation of the defense of 'religious liberty.'” “The erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism,” they write. “But we must avoid its defense coming in the fundamentalist terms of a 'religion in total freedom,' perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.” Next, the authors describe what they call a “fundamentalist ecumenism” developing between evangelical fundamentalists and “Catholic Integralists”, who they say are “brought together by the same desire for religious influence in the political sphere.” They note that some Catholics “express themselves in ways that until recently were unknown in their tradition and using tones much closer to Evangelicals … Both Evangelical and Catholic Integralists condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.” For Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa, “the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.” They describe this as a paradoxical “ecumenism of hate” which contrasts with Pope Francis' “ecumenism that moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges. This presence of opposing ecumenisms – and their contrasting perceptions of the faith and visions of the world where religions have irreconcilable roles – is perhaps the least known and most dramatic aspect of the spread of Integralist fundamentalism.” “Here we can understand why the pontiff is so committed to working against 'walls' and any kind of 'war of religion.'” In the article, Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa argue that “(t)he religious element should never be confused with the political one.” “Confusing spiritual power with temporal power means subjecting one to the other…There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends,” they say. As an example, they point to the “shocking rhetoric” of Church Militant, a website formerly known as Real Catholic TV, which changed its name to in 2012 after being told by the Archdiocese of Detroit that it did not have permission to describe itself as “Catholic.” Church Militant and its founder Michael Vorris are known for their controversial positions. Vorris has claimed on one of his programs that only faithful Catholics should be allowed to vote. In 2011, Vorris was banned from speaking at any facility owned by the Diocese of Scranton, Penn. Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa noted that the group portrayed the U.S. elections as a “spiritual war,” creating “a close analogy between Donald Trump and Emperor Constantine, and between Hilary Clinton and Diocletian.” By suggesting that Trump’s victory could be attributed to the prayers of Americans, Church Militant portrayed “a divine election,” they said. “This warlike and militant approach seems most attractive and evocative to a certain public, especially given that the victory of Constantine – it was presumed impossible for him to beat Maxentius and the Roman establishment.” A truly Christian theopolitical plan would be eschatological, they said. “And this is why the diplomacy of the Holy See wants to establish direct and fluid relations with the superpowers, without entering into pre-constituted networks of alliances and influence.” In contrast, Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa say, Pope Francis “radically rejects the idea of activating a Kingdom of God on earth as was at the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and similar political and institutional forms, including at the level of a ‘party’.” They also warn that fear of chaos and a breakdown of order is what “underlies the persuasive temptation for a spurious alliance between politics and religious fundamentalism.” Political success becomes assured by “exaggerating disorder” and “agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism,” they write. At this point, religion becomes “a guarantor of order.” Pope Francis, however, is fighting against “the manipulation of this season of anxiety and insecurity,” they say. The Pope “gives no theological-political legitimacy to terrorists, avoiding any reduction of Islam to Islamic terrorism. Nor does he give it to those who postulate and want a ‘holy war’ or to build barrier-fences crowned with barbed wire.” “(T)he Christian roots of a people are never to be understood in an ethnic way,” Fr. Spadaro and Figueroa write. “Triumphalist, arrogant and vindictive ethnicism is actually the opposite of Christianity.”  

Former president, treasurer of Vatican hospital charged with misuse of funds

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2017 / 06:22 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Thursday that an investigation involving the former president and treasurer of the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome will proceed to trial before the Vatican court. The former president, Giuseppe Profiti, and former treasurer, Massimo Spina, have been charged with the illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of 422,005.16 euros ($480,600.58) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone lives. The crime is said to have been carried out during the period of November 2013-May 28, 2014 and to have benefited the construction firm of Italian businessman Gianantonio Bandera, which was carrying out the renovations on the apartment. Profiti and Spina were summoned to appear before the court by a June 16, 2017 decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Dalla Torre. The first hearing will take place July 18. The Vatican reported it was conducting an investigation into this matter in 2016 after documents were published implicating that there may have been the illicit transfer of funds from the hospital’s foundation. Just over one week ago, the Vatican held a press conference on the hospital to confirm that though it has had problems in the past, the Vatican has worked to resolve them. The operations of the Bambino Gesù Hospital had come under scrutiny after a report by the Associated Press, which examined the hospital’s operations under its previous 2008-2015 administration, finding among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had some subpar standards of care.   In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery and risk of infection due to overcrowding. After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved. “For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said at the July 4 press conference. The hospital Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope's Hospital.” While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.