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Pope Francis: Discover the beauty of prayer in adoration

Vatican City, Aug 18, 2019 / 05:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that prayer in adoration of God and service to others spreads the fire of God’s love, changing the world one heart at a time. “I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to exercise it often,” Pope Francis said Aug. 18. Adoration of God in prayer is necessary to allow the fire of love that Jesus brought to the earth to envelop our entire existence, the pope explained. In his Angelus address, the pope reflected upon this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus says to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” “These words are intended to help the disciples to abandon any attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure to welcome the fire of God's love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us, ‘has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,’” Pope Francis said. “Jesus reveals to his friends, and also to us, his most ardent desire: to bring to earth the fire of the Father's love, which kindles life and through which man is saved,” he said. The Gospel is a limitless fire that saves and changes the world beginning with a change inside the heart of each person, Francis said. For this, he explained, it is necessary to adore God and serve others. “It is a question of not living in a hypocritical way, but of being willing to pay the price for coherent choices - this is the attitude that each of us should look for in life: consistency - paying the price to be consistent with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said. “It is good to say that we are Christians, but above all we must be Christians in concrete situations, bearing witness to the Gospel which is essentially love for God and for our brothers,” he said. Pope Francis pointed to the example of communities and groups of young people who dedicate their summers to service to others. The pope said that he admires those who devote themselves to the service of the sick, the poor, and people with disabilities. “To live according to the spirit of the Gospel it is necessary that, in the face of ever new needs that are looming in the world, there are disciples of Christ who know how to respond with new initiatives of charity,” he said. “May Mary Most Holy help us to let our hearts be purified by the fire brought by Jesus and to spread it with our lives through decisive and courageous choices,” Pope Francis said.

International scholars express concerns about John Paul II Institute

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A group of 49 academics from universities around the world has asked the administrators of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome to reinstate several faculty members recently dismissed from the institute. Contributors to the recently completed Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità, an interdisciplinary academic tome on sex, love, and fertility, expressed their view in an Aug. 3 letter to administrators of the institute. The project, which involved scholars from multiple specializations, was coordinated by recently dismissed John Paul II Institute professor Fr. Jose Noriega. The scholars said that their work on the project was “a very fruitful and professional scientific collaboration which has highlighted to us the outstanding academic profile of your institute as well as the great scientific and editorial competence of the main curator of the Dizionario, Professor José Noriega.” “It is therefore with great distress that we learned the news about the sudden dismissals of two full professors, José Noriega and Livio Melina, together with other colleagues: Maria Luisa Di Pietro, Stanisław Grygiel, Monika Grygiel, Przemysław Kwiatkowski, and Vittorina Marini. All of them are scholars of outstanding international reputation and some of them have equally collaborated with us at the Dizionario,” they wrote. “We cannot see any convincing reason – academic, doctrinal or disciplinary – which justifies their dismissal.” “If your institute wants to maintain its high academic profile and international reputation, we ask you to revoke these dismissals and to reassume the aforementioned scholars among the faculty of your Institute,” the scholars concluded. The letter comes during a period of controversy at the institute. Last month, new statutes were approved for the institute, in response to a 2017 announcement that Pope Francis would legally refound the Institute, and broaden its academic curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences. After the new statutes designed to implement that vision were approved, students, alumni, and faculty raised concerns about the role of faculty members in the institute’s new governing structure, about the reduction of theology courses and the elimination of some theology disciplines, and about the dismissal of some faculty members, including Msgr. Livio Melina and Noriega. Faculty members have told CNA they do not object to the pope’s desire to expand the school’s mission or approach, but say that the administrators responsible for implementing that mission have acted unfairly. More than 250 students and alumni of Rome’s John Paul II Institute have signed a letter expressing their concern about the school’s new statutes, and the dismissal of Noriega and Melina. The letter expresses concern that current students will not be able to complete the academic programs in which they are currently enrolled, and the faculty dismissals have taken place without due process. On July 31, Fr. Jose Granados, the Institute’s vice-president, told CNA that “the identity of the Institute is seriously threatened,” and called for administrators to resume discussion with faculty members about the approach to implementing Pope Francis’ call for an expansion of the school’s approach. Earlier in July, the Institute’s president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, told Vatican News that that although some students have raised concerns about the Institute's direction, others “have already written expressing confidence in the renewal and expansion of research and training in theological-pastoral and anthropological-cultural fields,” at the Institute. Sequeri lamented the controversy surrounding changes to the Institute’s identity. “The polemics, more or less malicious, that in this regard, try to involve the many students that look with trust to the project of a truly 'Catholic' knowledge and formation, obviously cultivate other interests. They are not the ones of John Paul II, not the ones of Pope Francis, not the ones of the Institute." Among the signatories to the letter are John Crosby, a professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Ignacio de Ribera-Martin, an assistant professor at the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America; and Tracey Rowland, the St John Paul II Research Chair in Theology at Australia’s University of Notre Dame, Australia and member of the International Theological Commission.        

Pope Francis gives thousands of rosaries to Christians in Syria

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis announced Thursday that he is giving 6,000 blessed rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria as a sign of his closeness on the Marian Feast of the Assumption. “Prayer made with faith is powerful! We continue to pray the rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world,” Pope Francis said Aug. 15 in his Angelus message for the Assumption of Mary. The pope blessed the rosaries made by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, and said that the Syrian families that lost someone because of the war are close to his heart. “The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a call for everyone, especially for those who are afflicted by doubts and sadness,” Pope Francis said. “Today we look at Mary and we see the goal. We see that a creature was assumed to the glory of Jesus, the Risen Christ.” The Feast of the Assumption, commemorating the end of Mary’s earthly life and assumption into heaven, is a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass. “Mary is assumed in heaven; small and humble, she receives the highest glory first. She, who is a human creature, one of us, reaches eternity in soul and body. And she awaits us there, like a mother waiting for her children to return home,” Francis said. “Every time we take the rosary into our hands and pray with it, we take a step towards the great goal of life,” he said. Pope Francis said that Mary exalts in the greatness in the Lord and invites everyone to raise their eyes to the great things that the Lord accomplished in her. “Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God must be placed first, because he alone is great,” he said. Mary, as every mother, wants the best for her children, the pope explained. He said that Mary tells each person: “You are precious in the eyes of God; you are not made for the small fulfillment of the world, but for the great joys of heaven.” “Let us be attracted by true beauty, let us not be sucked into the smallness of life, but choose the greatness of heaven,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: In times of suffering, know that you are never alone

Vatican City, Aug 13, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis wrote a heartfelt letter Tuesday to an Italian community still suffering one year after a bridge collapse. His message: “Know that you are not alone.” “Jesus passed before us through suffering and death. He has taken upon us all our sufferings. He was despised, humiliated, beaten, nailed to the cross and brutally killed. God's response to our pain was closeness, a presence that accompanies us, that does not leave us alone,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter published Aug. 13. Pope Francis’ letter was published in a local newspaper in Genoa to mark the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Morandi Bridge, which killed 43 people. “Jesus made himself like us, and for this reason, we have Him next to us, to cry with us in the most difficult moments of our lives. We look to Him, we entrust our questions to Him, our pain, our anger,” the pope continued. “Today I want to tell you one thing first of all: know that you are not alone. Know that you are never alone. Know that God our Father has answered our cries and our questions, not with words, but with a presence that accompanies us, that of His Son,” Francis said. “I would also like to tell you that Jesus on the cross was not alone,” he said. “Beneath that scaffold was his mother, Mary. Stabat Mater, Mary was under the cross, to share the suffering of the Son.” “We are not alone, we have a Mother who from Heaven looks at us with love and is close to us. Let us cling to her and say to her: ‘Mother,’ as child does when it is afraid and wants to be comforted and reassured,” he added. Pope Francis said that the collapse of the Morandi Bridge inflicted a wound on the heart of Genoa, and encouraged solidarity with the local Catholic community. “The more we are aware of our weakness, of the precariousness of our human condition, the more we rediscover the beauty of human relationships, of the bonds that unite us, like families, communities, civil society,” he said. “I know that even after a great tragedy that has hurt your families and your city, you have been able to respond, to get up, to look forward,” he said. “Don't lose hope, don't let it be stolen! Continue to stand by those most affected.” “We are men and women full of defects and weaknesses, but we have a Merciful Father to whom we can turn, a crucified and Risen Son who walks with us, the Holy Spirit who assists and accompanies us. We have a Mother in Heaven who continues to spread her mantle over us without ever abandoning us,” Pope Francis said. “I would also like to tell you that you are not alone because the Christian community … is with you and shares your sufferings and your difficulties,” he said.

Pope Francis prays for monsoon victims in India

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered prayers and condolences Monday for the victims of monsoon flooding in southern India that has left more than 150 people dead. “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in the monsoons of recent days in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat … His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram on the pope’s behalf Aug.12. According to local government reports, 152 people are confirmed dead and another 17 missing in India after days of heavy rains. The Vatican Secretary of State said Pope Francis is praying for the relief efforts underway, mindful of all those who have lost homes and livelihood. More than 400,000 people were displaced by the floods and mudslides, according to the Associated Press. Many have taken refuge in relief camps set up in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. “Upon the nation he [Pope Francis] willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and perseverance,” Parolin said. Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh also experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks. Landslides in Myanmar killed 53 people and damaged more than 4,000 homes since Aug. 9, according to their government.  The monsoon season in Southeast Asia typically stretches from June until September. Last summer, flooding in India left nearly 400 people dead and 1 million displaced.

Pope Francis: War is always a loss for all humanity

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2019 / 09:14 am (CNA).- Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions Sunday with a message urging the protection of life and human dignity in armed conflicts. “Let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all humanity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 11 after his Angelus prayer. The Geneva Conventions are “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at the protection of civilians and prisoners in times of war,” Francis said. Signed amid the aftermath of World War II on August 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions expanded international humanitarian law for the protection of civilian populations during war and further defined protocols for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, as well as for the wounded and the sick. Pope Francis urged the particular importance of protecting unarmed populations and civil structures today, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, and refugee camps. Last month the pope spoke out after an airstrike hit a migrant detention center amid the armed conflict in Libya, killing more than 50 people. “The international community cannot tolerate such serious facts,” Francis said July 7. Hospitals and schools also became targets during the Syrian civil war. More than 300 healthcare facilities in Syria were attacked in the conflict by 2018, according to Physicians for Human Rights. Pope Francis said that he hopes that the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions will help countries today to be more “aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts.” “We are invited, that is, to live an authentic and mature faith, capable of illuminating the many ‘nights of life,’” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address. The pope explained that “the lamp of faith needs to be constantly nourished with meeting Jesus heart to heart in prayer and listening to His Word.” “True faith opens our hearts to others and spurs us towards concrete communion with our brothers, especially those in need,” Pope Francis said. “The thought of our final encounter with the Father, rich in mercy, fills us with hope, and spurs us to a constant commitment to our sanctification and to build a more just and fraternal world,” he said.  

Pope Francis: Ordination of married men 'absolutely not' main theme of Amazon synod

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2019 / 06:38 am (CNA).- The ordination to the priesthood of mature, married men, sometimes called viri probati, is among the topics to be addressed at October’s Amazon synod but is “absolutely not” one of the principle themes of the meeting, Pope Francis said. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, published Aug. 9, Pope Francis said the possibility of ordaining viri probati is “absolutely not” among the main topics and is “simply a number of the Instrumentum Laboris.” “The important themes,” the pope stated, “will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing.” Instrumentum Laboris is the name given to the working document published ahead of a synod. The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region was published in June and opened the door for a discussion of the ordination of mature, married men. In the working document, the discussion of viri probati is listed as a suggestion for “new ministries” alongside the promotion of vocations among indigenous and identifying “the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women.” “Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people… even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life,” one section of paragraph 129 states. The Amazon synod will be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27. In the Aug. 9 interview, Pope Francis warned that a synod “is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is another thing.” “It comes from the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit.” The pope also called the Amazon synod the “son” of  Laudato Si, adding that those who have not read his 2015 encyclical on the environment “will never understand the Synod on the Amazon.” Laudato Si, he added, is “not a green encyclial, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a 'green' reality, the care of creation.” Francis said he chose to hold a synod specifically on the Amazon because of its “decisive contribution to the survival of the planet” through its production of oxygen and biodiverse vegetable and animal life. Threats to the Amazon region and its safeguarding derive “from economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of society,” he argued, stating that policy should work to reduce corruption and take responsibility for actions which harm the environment.

True wealth is found in Jesus Christ, not money, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2019 / 04:26 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday criticized those who give more consideration to money than the sacraments or helping others find true wealth – a relationship with Jesus Christ. “How many times do I think of this when I see some parishes where it is thought that money is more important than the sacraments! Please! A poor Church: let us ask the Lord for this,” the pope said Aug. 7. The Gospel teaches to not put trust in financial resources, but in “the true wealth” that is a relationship with Jesus Christ, he said. “We are indeed – as St. Paul would say – ‘poor, but capable of enriching many; as people who have nothing and instead possess everything.’” “And we, each of us, what do we own? What is our wealth, our treasure? What can we make others rich with?” he asked. “Our all is the Gospel, which manifests the power of the name of Jesus who performs wonders.” “Here the portrait of the Church appears, which sees those in difficulty, does not close its eyes, knows how to look humanity in the face to create meaningful relationships, bridges of friendship and solidarity instead of barriers,” he said. After a month-long break from general audiences, Pope Francis resumed his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, reflecting on the book’s first account of disciples performing a miraculous healing. In the episode, Peter and John are going to the temple to pray when they encounter a crippled man who had been carried to sit outside the gate called “the Beautiful Gate” to beg for alms. Francis explained that at that time, people with physical disabilities were not allowed to offer sacrifices inside the temple, or even to enter, because it was believed their infirmity was due to their sin or sins of their parents. As Peter and John entered the temple, they saw the man and Peter said, “look at us.” The crippled man looked back at the disciples, then Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.” Then Peter took him by the hand and raised him up. The man, crippled from birth, “leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.” “This is the ‘art of accompaniment,’” Pope Francis said. “This [is what] the two disciples do with the cripple. They see him, they say look at us, they give a hand, they help him rise, and they heal him.” “This is what Jesus does for all of us,” he added. “When we are in bad moments, in moments of sin, in moments of sadness. We say to Jesus: Look at me. I am here. And we take Jesus’ hand and we let ourselves be raised.” The goal should be a Church “which knows how to take by the hand and accompany to lift, not to condemn,” he said, adding that “Jesus always, always holds out his hand, always trying to lift, to make people heal, to be happy, to meet God.”  

Iraqi patriarch to Pope Francis: Chaldean Church is 'a church of martyrs'

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2019 / 08:40 am (CNA).- The Chaldean Catholic Church is a Church of martyrs, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Babylon told Pope Francis this week. “Our Chaldean church, since the early centuries, was a missionary church which announced the gospel reaching as far as China, and gave so many martyrs and continues to give today,” Sako wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to the pope. “It has always been a church of martyrs throughout its history.” Sako, who was elevated to cardinal last year, wrote that Muslim citizens of Iraq are also suffering and losing their lives. “We hope that our common suffering is a sign of hope for a better future,” he noted. “The Chaldean Church, like the other Eastern churches, despite the small number, are a great sign for the universal Church and for other Christians in their commitment to life.” The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church since 2013, Sako wrote to Pope Francis at the start of the church’s annual ordinary synod. Lay people are participating in the synod for the first time. A representative of each diocese is in attendance for the first two days of the week-long synod, Sako wrote. In his letter, Sako also expressed his gratitude for Pope Francis’ prayers and closeness to Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and noted the strong desire of Christians for a papal visit to Iraq. “We welcomed with joy the news of your visit to Iraq. Your presence among us is a great support and encouragement, especially in these circumstances. We are looking forward to it,” he said. Though Pope Francis said in June he would like to visit Iraq in 2020, there has not been any communication that a papal trip to that region is being planned currently. Aug. 6 marks the fifth anniversary of the day on which the Islamic State took control of Iraq’s Nineveh Plains. In August 2014, the Nineveh Plain was overtaken by the Islamic State, forcing tens of thousands into exile and displacement. The Nineveh Plain territory lies between the city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Once the area was taken by the Islamic State, minorities such as Christians were forced to choose between persecution, conversion, or fleeing to autonomous Kurdish-controlled regions nearby. In the fall of 2016, two years after the Islamic State claimed the Nineveh territory, Iraqi forces made considerable military gains and liberated the Nineveh Plain. Many scattered families were able to return to their towns. Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq – where Mosul and Bashiqa are located – since the first century. However, since the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Christians have been fleeing the region. The Islamic State takeover of Mosul drove Christians from the area for the first time in almost two millennia. In an interview Tuesday with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Bashir Warda of Erbil said 125,000 Christians lost their homes and businesses in the wake of the Islamic State’s takeover. “Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future,” the archbishop told ACN. “This was an exceptional situation, but not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over 1,400 years,” he said. “With each successive cycle,” he added, “the number of Christians falls away, till today we are at the point of extinction.”  

McCarrick's grooming tactics shown in letters to seminarians and abuse victims

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2019 / 08:14 am (CNA).- Letters from Theodore McCarrick to his abuse victims were published Tuesday by the Associated Press, in advance of a promised Vatican report on a Church investigation into the life of the former bishop. “I just wanted to say thank you for coming on Friday evening. I really enjoyed our night. You’re a great kid and I know the Lord will continue to bless you. You are very much in my prayers,” McCarrick wrote in 1987 letter to a seminarian in his diocese after the former bishop had reportedly groped him. “We have an almost full house, and by tomorrow the couches and maybe the floor will be taken — but we would have made room even for a big guy like you,” McCarrick wrote in another letter to the same seminarian. “I’m sorry you weren’t able to come. It would have been good to have a visit with you. If you have some time in October during the break, some of the sems might be coming away for a couple of days fishing with me. Let me know if you’re interested,” McCarrick wrote in the undated letter, apparently written from one of the ex-bishop’s trips with his seminarians. McCarrick went on to advise the seminarian, whom he had touched inappropriately, “Don’t let the work-load overwhelm you and please make sure that you take the time to keep in shape. A little exercise will go a long way to clear the head and keep your feet on the ground.” AP reported that this unnamed seminarian “wrote to another bishop” about the inappropriate touching and that he had seen McCarrick engage in sexual activity with other seminarians during a fishing trip. The letters did not include information about correspondence with other bishops or curial officials indicating what they knew of McCarrick’s behavior, something hoped for in the forthcoming Vatican report. The Vatican announced in October that Pope Francis ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick. The results of that review have not, to date, been released. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said May 29 that the Vatican was still investigating the documentation concerning McCarrick and will issue a declaration upon the investigation’s completion. McCarrick is alleged to have engaged in sexually coercive and abusive misconduct with seminarians and priests for decades, inviting seminarians to sleep in his bed during weekend trips to his New Jersey beach house. He was found guilty in a canonical process of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power,” according to a Feb. 16 Vatican communique. McCarrick’s letters include repeated invitations to call him, and details of his international travel schedule. In one August 1987 letter written on Admirals Club letterhead on a flight to Warsaw, McCarrick wrote, “I just wanted to tell you how glad I am that we had the chance to get together this summer. It wasn’t as often as I would have liked, but I know how ‘social’ my nephew is!” “You stick with your uncle and you’ll really meet interesting people,” McCarrick wrote later in the letter. AP also reported on McCarrick’s postcards and letters sent to two other alleged victims, including postcards sent to James Grein, who says he was serially sexually abused by McCarrick beginning at age 11. Grein testified Dec. 27 in a canonical deposition conducted by officials of the Archdiocese of New York as a part of the Vatican investigation regarding McCarrick’s history of sexual abuse and misconduct. To Rev. Desmond Rossi, a Newark seminarian on sabbatical in 1987 while McCarrick was archbishop, he wrote,  “You’re still very much part of the family,” in a letter AP reported on, but chose not to publish. In 1989, Rossi moved to another diocese after he said McCarrick was inappropriately close and touched his leg in a meeting. Pope Francis laicized Theodore McCarrick on Jan. 11. The former cardinal now longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death After his dismissal from the clerical state, McCarrick continues to reside at a Franciscan friary in Kansas.