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Seven 20th-century Romanian bishops declared martyrs

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis declared Tuesday the martyrdom of seven Greek-Catholic bishops killed by the communist regime in Romania in the mid-20th century. Bishops Valeriu Traian Frentiu, Vasile Aftenie, Ioan Suciu, Tito Livio Chinezu, Ioan Balan, Alexandru Rusu, and Iuliu Hossu were declared to have been killed “in hatred of the faith” between 1950 and 1970, during the Soviet occupation of Romania and the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. Each of the bishops was arrested and held in prisons and camps until he died, often from isolation, cold, hunger, disease, or hard manual labor. Most were never tried or convicted and were buried in unmarked graves, without religious services.   A year before his death, Bishop Iuliu Hossu was named a cardinal “in pectore.” After spending years in isolation, he died in a hospital in Bucharest in 1970. His last words were: “My struggle is over, yours continues.” In addition to imprisonment and isolation, Bishop Vasile Aftenie was tortured at the Interior Ministry, later dying from his wounds May 10, 1950. After meeting March 19 with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope Francis gave his approval for the publication of the decrees of martyrdom of the seven bishops, and of another seven people on the path to sainthood. The pope approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Maria Emilia Riquelme y Zayas, foundress of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Blessed Immaculate Virgin Mary (1847-1940), who will now be called ‘blessed.’ He also recognized the martyrdom of Italian missionary Alfredo Cremonesi, a religious priest of the Pontifical Institute for External Missionaries, who was born in Italy and killed in Burma in 1953. The Servants of God declared to have heroic virtue, and who can now be called ‘venerable,’ are: Francesco Maria Di Francia, priest and founder of the Congregation of Capuchin Sisters of the Sacred Heart (1853-1913); Maria Hueber, foundress of the Congregation of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis (1653-1705); Maria Teresa Camera, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Pieta (1818-1894); Maria Teresa Gabrieli, co-foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor - Palazzolo Institute (1837-1908); and Giovanna Francesca of the Holy Spirit, foundress of the Institute of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Word Incarnate (1888-1984).

Cardinal Barbarin remains archbishop, takes leave-of-absence

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2019 / 09:25 am (CNA).- French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin will remain the Archbishop of Lyon, the Vatican announced Tuesday. According to a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis has not accepted the cardinal's resignation, though Barbarin has stepped back from the day-to-day leadership of the diocese. Barbarin was convicted by a French tribunal on March 7 on charges of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse committed by a priest of his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and plans to appeal the verdict. Barbarin met with Pope Francis March 18 to submit his resignation as archbishop. Papal spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said March 19 that Francis chose to not accept the resignation of Barbarin as Archbishop of Lyon but, aware of the “difficulties” of the archdiocese at the present moment, “left Cardinal Barbarin free to make the best decision for the diocese.” According to Gisotti, Barbarin has decided to “retire for a time,” leaving the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lyon in charge during his absence. In a statement on the Lyon archdiocesan website March 19, the cardinal said the pope did not want to accept his resignation, “invoking the presumption of innocence.” “At his suggestion and because the Church of Lyon has been suffering for three years, I decided to retreat for a while and leave the leadership of the diocese to the vicar general moderator, Father Yves Baumgarten,” he said. “The Holy See is keen to reiterate its closeness to the victims of abuse, to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Lyon and of the whole Church of France who are experiencing a particularly painful moment,” Gisotti’s statement concluded. French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. The trial of Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report instances of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early ‘90s. In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him. Allegations against Preynat became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case, the Guardian reports. Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015. The priest will face his own trial later this year. Barbarin’s trial and conviction comes as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Poland, and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

Pope Francis: 'Christianity without tenderness does not work'

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2019 / 01:17 pm (CNA).- Meeting with representatives of a charismatic group dedicated to caring for the sick, Pope Francis on Monday emphasized the need for tenderness as the natural Christian response to human suffering. The word “tenderness,” Pope Francis warned, is “a word that today risks being dropped from the dictionary.” “We must take it up again and put it into practice anew. Christianity without tenderness does not work. Tenderness is a properly Christian attitude: it is also the very marrow of our encounter with people who suffer,” he said. The pope met March 18 with men and women religious from the Camillian Charismatic Family. Founded by St. Camillus de Lellis in the late 1500s, the Camillians around the world serve the sick, with an emphasis on the poor and dying. Pope Francis praised those present for their work of “loving and generous donation to the sick, carrying out a precious mission, in the Church and in society, alongside the suffering.” He encouraged members of the Camillian family to always remember that their charism of mercy toward the sick is a gift from the Holy Spirit, meant to be shared with others. Charisms, he said, “always have a transitive character: they are orientated towards others. Over the years, you have made efforts to incarnate your charism faithfully, translating it into a multitude of apostolic works and in pastoral service to the benefit of suffering humanity throughout the world.” St. Camillus de Lellis initially founded an order of men, at a time when active consecrated life for women “had not yet matured,” Pope Francis noted. Two congregations for women were created in the 19th century, and secular institutes were established in the 20th century. These developments, the pope said, “have given completeness to the expression of the charism of mercy towards the sick, enriching it with the distinctly feminine qualities of love and of care.” He offered prayers that Mary, Health of the Sick might especially guide and accompany the consecrated women, teaching them maternal dedication and tenderness. Together, Pope Francis said, these different Camillian groups make up “a single constellation, that is, a ‘charismatic family’ composed of men and women religious, secular consecrated persons and lay faithful.” “None of these realities is the sole custodian or single holder of the charism, but each receives it as a gift and interprets it and updates it according to his or her specific vocation, in different historical and geographical contexts,” he said. In this way, the different ecclesial bodies all work together “[t]o witness in every time and place Christ’s merciful love towards the sick.” “At the centre there remains the original charism, as a perennial source of light and inspiration, which is understood and embodied dynamically in the various forms.” Looking forward, Pope Francis urged the Camillians to be open to new apostolates, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He instructed them “always to cultivate communion among you, in that synodal style that I have proposed to all the Church, listening to each other and everyone listening to the Holy Spirit, to value the contribution that every single situation offers to the single Family, so as to express more fully the multiple potentialities that the charisma includes.” Through fidelity to their founder, and by listening to and accompanying those experiencing poverty and suffering today, the pope said, the Camillians “will know how to make light shine, always new, on the gift received; and many young people the world over will be able to feel attracted by and to join with you, to continue to bear witness to God’s tenderness.”

Pope Francis calls for 'gestures of peace' in wake of mosque attacks

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2019 / 06:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis called for gestures of peace to oppose hatred and violence Sunday in the wake of attacks on two mosques in New Zealand. “To the grief for the wars and the conflicts that continue to afflict humanity, we have added that for the victims of the horrible attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” Pope Francis said March 17. The pope asked all gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus prayer to join him in a moment of silent prayer for “our Muslim brothers” who were killed in New Zealand, and said that he will continue to pray the dead, the wounded, and their families. A total of 50 people were killed in Friday’s shooting, and 34 of the injured remain in Christchurch Hospital. Reflecting on the necessity and meaning of suffering, the pope said, “Each of us has his own cross. The Lord shows us at the end of our journey -- which is the Resurrection -- the beauty of carrying our own cross.” “The Transfiguration of Christ shows us the Christian perspective of suffering,” Pope Francis said. “It is a necessary, but transitory passage.” “By showing his glory, Jesus assures us that the cross, the trials, the difficulties in which we struggle have their solution and will be overcome in Easter,” he said. The pope explained that in Christ’s Transfiguration, Jesus granted his disciples Peter, James, and John a foretaste of the Resurrection shortly before his crucifixion. “Jesus knew that they would not accept this reality - the reality of the cross, the reality of Jesus' death,” Francis said. “And so he wants to prepare them to bear the scandal of the passion and death of the cross, so that they will know that this is the way through which the Heavenly Father will bring his Son to glory, raising him from the dead.” “And this will also be the path of the disciples: no one comes to eternal life except by following Jesus, bringing his own cross into earthly life,” he added. Pope Francis recommended taking more time for prayer and moments of recollection during the Lenten season to allow Christ’s “light to pervade and radiate in our lives.” Through “prayer in Christ and in the Holy Spirit” a person can be transformed from within and “can illumine others and the surrounding world,” he said. “The Virgin Mary teaches us to stay with Jesus even when we do not understand Him and do not understand His ways. Because only by remaining with Him will we see His glory,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis joins international community in mourning after New Zealand attacks

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2019 / 08:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis mourned “senseless acts of violence” against innocent life after the New Zealand mosque attacks. On Friday, at least forty-nine people were killed in attacks on two mosques in the city of Christchurch.   The pope assured all New Zealanders, in particular the Muslim community, of “his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks,” in a telegram sent on his behalf by the Vatican Secretary of State March 15.   New Zealand officials say that one man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, and two other aremed suspects have been taken into police custody. The attacks centered on the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand Friday afternoon.   One of the attackers broadcast the murders live on Facebook. The police also found two explosive devices attached to his vehicle.   The attack took place during Friday prayer at the mosques. At least 48 people were injured in addition to the 49 confirmed dead.   “Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength upon the nation,” it stated.   Pope Francis said he will continue to pray for “the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy.”   The attacks have prompted an outpouring of condolences and solidarity across the international community.   On Friday morning, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the attacks during a press briefing in Washington, DC.   “I offer my personal condolences to the nation of New Zealand in the wake of the grotesque mosques attacks in Christchurch,” Pompeo said.   “The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and their families today. The United States condemns this hateful assault and we pledge our unwavering solidarity with the government and people of New Zealand in this hour of darkness.”

German bishops announce 'synodal process' on celibacy, sexual morality

Munich, Germany, Mar 14, 2019 / 05:27 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising has announced that the Catholic Church in Germany is embarking on a "binding synodal process" to tackle what he says are the three key issues arising from the clerical abuse crisis: priestly celibacy, the Church's teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power. Speaking at the conclusion of the plenary session of the German bishops’ conference on Thursday, Marx told reporters that the bishops had unanimously decided these three topics would be subject to a process of "synodal progression" that could lead to a binding, but as yet undetermined, outcome. "The Church needs synodal progress," the president of the German bishops' conference asserted. "Pope Francis encourages this." The German bishops held their plenary session in the German town of Lingen from March 11 to 14. Addressing journalists on the final day, Marx said the Church's teaching on sexual morality has yet to account for significant recent discoveries from theology and the humanities. Also, he said, the significance of sexuality to personhood has not yet received sufficient attention from the Church. Bishops “feel we often are unable to speak on questions of present-day sexual behavior," Marx said. The cardinal also said that the German bishops appreciate priestly celibacy as an "expression of the religious bond to God" and do not simply want to give up on it. But to what extent celibacy should always be an element of priestly witness is a question "we will determine" through the "synodal process," Marx told the press. Furthermore, Marx said clerical abuse of power constitutes a betrayal of the trust of people in need of stability and religious orientation. Therefore, the "synodal process" would be charged with identifying what measures must be taken to achieve "the necessary reduction of [clerical] power." The establishment of ecclesiastical administrative courts is one such step for which the bishops will in the near future draft a proposal. As a first step on the proposed synodal path, Marx announced that the German bishops have decided to set up three preparatory working groups. The working group on "clerical power" is headed by Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer, the working group on "sexual morality" will be headed by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück. The working group on "the priest's way of life," which will focus on celibacy, will be moderated by Bishop Felix Genn of Münster. Interim reports are expected from all three by Sept. 13. Referring to the German bishops' four year "Würzburg Synod" from 1971 to 1975, which was charged with an implementation of the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, Marx affirmed that the Church in Germany is "not starting at zero" in a synodal process, given the Würzburg experience, and various consultation processes undertaken by the German bishops in recent years. The "synodal process" will involve consultations with the "Central Committee of German Catholics," a lay organization that closely cooperates with the bishops' conference, and will draw on outside experts.    

Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels dies at the age of 85

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2019 / 09:16 am (CNA).- Cardinal Godfried Danneels died Thursday at the age of 85 in his native Belgium. Danneels served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and leader of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference for more than thirty years. In later life, Danneels was widely recognized as an influential member of the college of cardinals and an at times controversial figure. “This zealous pastor served the Church with dedication not only in his diocese but also at the national level as President of the Conference of Bishops of Belgium, while being a member of various Roman Dicasteries,” Pope Francis wrote March 14 in a telegram to the bishops of Belgium expressing his condolences. “Attentive to the challenges of the contemporary Church, Cardinal Danneels took an active part in various Synods of Bishops, including those of 2014 and 2015 on the family. He has just been reminded of God at this time of purification and of walking toward the Resurrection of the Lord,” Francis said. Considered among the more progressive churchmen of his generation, Danneels was an enthusiastic supporter of the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican Council II. He was also a prominent advocate for decentralized Church governance and interreligious dialogue. As leader of the Church in Belgium, the cardinal was an established figure in national life, keeping close company with politicians and members of the royal family. He was sometimes criticized for his apparent willingness to embrace secular-liberal politics, once controversially describing same-sex marriage as a “positive development” in Belgium. In recent years, accusations of mismanagement and cover-up of clerical sexual abuse cast a shadow over his past leadership of the church in Belgium. Danneels was at the center of a national scandal when the Belgian newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad published transcripts of a recording in which he appeared to pressure a victim of sexual abuse to remain silent. The victim had been abused by his uncle, Belgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, beginning at the age of 5. When the victim met with Danneels to report the abuse and insist on his uncle’s removal from office, the cardinal told the man that Vangheluwe would retire in a few months. “I don’t think you’d do yourself or [your uncle] a favor by shouting this from the rooftops,” Danneels was recorded saying. The cardinal denied that he intended any cover-up. Danneels was born June 4, 1933 in Kanegem, diocese of Bruges, and grew up in a family of six in West Flanders. Ordained in 1957, Danneels went on to teach theology at the Flemish Catholic University of Louvain as a professor for ten years, after earning a doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome. Danneels was appointed as the bishop of Antwerp by Pope Paul VI in 1977, became archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in 1980, and created cardinal by Pope John Paul II three years later. After his retirement in 2010, Danneels would infrequently speak in public. In 2013, Danneels stood next to the newly elected Pope Francis on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis later invited Danneels to attend the two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the family as a special delegate. In a 2015 authorized biography of the cardinal, Danneels was listed as being part of a group of cardinals who coordinated efforts ahead of the conclave that elected Pope Francis. The funeral for Cardinal Danneels will take place in the Cathedral of St. Rombouts in Mechelen, and will be celebrated by the current Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels Cardinal Jozef De Kesel. In a March 14 statement announcing the death, Cardinal Kesel recognized Danneels’ years of service, “We are very grateful to Cardinal Danneels. For many years he has exercised shepherding in the Church in a period of fundamental changes in Church and society.” “He has experienced trials, and in the end he was greatly weakened and exhausted. We continue to thank him gratefully. May he rest in God's peace,” he said.

Vatican spokesmen: Pope Francis’ seventh year will be ‘synodal’

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2019 / 10:15 am (CNA).- On the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election Wednesday, the Vatican's chief spokesman said Francis will continue to lead the Church as a synodal “field hospital” in the year ahead.   Pope Francis “has a vision of an ‘outgoing’ Church and a ‘field hospital’ Church,” Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office told Vatican Media March 13.   “The outgoing Church presupposes that you walk … and ‘synodal’ means walking together,” he continued.   Gisotti connected Pope Francis’ vision of the Church, from the beginning of his pontificate, as a field hospital to the Vatican’s recent sex abuse summit on the protection of minors.   “With the meeting on the protection of minors we have seen a Church that has the courage to bind the wounds of women and men of our time,” Gisotti said.   The Vatican spokesman reaffirmed that last month’s Vatican summit necessitated concrete follow-up on the global issue of the protection of minors. This next phase will include the publication of a motu proprio, a handbook from the Congregation on the Doctrine of Faith with a series of regulations, and a task force with experts that can consult bishops’ conferences on the issue of child protection.   “Many had some doubts that it was appropriate to hold this meeting, while the Pope in this regard showed courage and also, in my opinion, a prophetic courage, because for the first time - in the face of a terrible scandal that puts at risk not only the credibility, but in some respects the very mission of the Church - he convoked all the presidents of the episcopates,” Gisotti said.   Vatican Media Editor Andrea Tornielli also said that pope’s sixth year will be “marked at the beginning and the end by two ‘synodal’ events,” the Vatican sex abuse summit and the special Synod on the Amazon respectively.   “But a look at the past year cannot ignore the re-emergence of the abuse scandal and the internal divisions that led the former nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò last August to publicly demand the resignation of the Pope for the management of the McCarrick case, just as Francis celebrated the Eucharist with thousands of families in Dublin proposing the beauty and value of Christian marriage,” Tornielli wrote in an Italian editorial on the eve of the pope’s anniversary.   “The Church, as Pope Francis reminds us today, is not self-sufficient precisely because she too recognizes herself as a beggar asking for healing, in need of mercy and forgiveness from her Lord and she bears witness to the Gospel to many wounded men and women of our time,” he said.   “Perhaps never before as in the troubled year just gone by, the sixth of his pontificate, has the Pope who presents himself as ‘a forgiven sinner,’ testified to this essential and most relevant fact of the Christian faith,” he continued.   The pope spent the sixth anniversary of his election as the 265th successor of St. Peter on a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman curia, held outside of Vatican City.   At the retreat Wednesday, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told Pope Francis and 64 members of the Roman curia that “we are asking that the Lord be your light, support and comfort in your task of confirming your brethren in faith, of being the foundation of unity, and of showing everyone the way that leads to heaven.”

Argentine bishop under investigation for sex abuse attending pope’s Lenten retreat

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2019 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Argentine Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, under a Vatican investigation for sexual abuse of seminarians and other sexual misconduct, is attending Pope Francis’ annual Lenten spiritual exercises with other curia officials this week. According to a report from Christopher Altieri of the Catholic Herald, Zanchetta confirmed by phone that he is attending the retreat, which began in the afternoon March 10 at a retreat house outside Rome. The bishop is on a leave of absence from APSA while under investigation. The current Bishop of Orán is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding the allegations against Zanchetta, which will be sent to the Congregation for Bishops, and ultimately be judged by Pope Francis personally. The pope’s annual Lenten spiritual exercises are taking place March 10-15 at the Casa del Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town situated about 16 miles outside Rome on Lake Albano. The retreat is traditionally attended by the pope and senior members of the Roman Curia, particularly department heads. This year’s retreat is being led by Benedictine abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni. He will give meditations on the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world. After resigning as bishop of Orán in August 2017, Zanchetta, was appointed by Pope Francis in December 2017 to a position created for him within the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican’s assets and real estate holdings. The Vatican has twice insisted it knew nothing about abuse reports against Zanchetta until the fall of 2018, though media investigations suggest that Pope Francis knew about the allegations in 2015, two years before he gave Zanchetta a Vatican job. Zanchetta was reported to the Vatican in 2015 and 2017 when he was discovered in lewd sexual photographs on his cellphone, and suspected of sexual abusing of seminarians. Documents published Feb. 21 by The Tribune, a newspaper in the Salta region of Argentina, purport to show that the Vatican received a complaint about Zanchetta in 2015 and that Pope Francis had spoken to Zanchetta after the complaint was filed. The documents also claim that Zanchetta failed to register and report the sale of two church properties worth millions of dollars. The documents seem to confirm earlier reporting by the Associated Press. Zanchetta also faces a judicial complaint of sexual abuse in Argentina that was recently made public. Fr. Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general in the diocese of Orán, told the Associated Press that the Vatican received complaints against Zanchetta in both 2015 and 2017, but that the 2015 complaint against Zanchetta was not issued as an official canonical complaint. According to The Tribune’s report, one of the Zanchetta’s secretaries alerted authorities after accidentally finding sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s cell phone. The complaint says that some of the images depict “young people” having sex in addition to lewd images of Zanchetta. The report says three of Zanchetta’s vicars general and two monsignors made a formal internal complaint before the Argentinian nunciature in 2016, alleging inappropriate behavior with seminarians, such as encouraging them to drink alcohol and favoring the more “graceful” (attractive) among them. Pope Francis summoned Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015. The pope appeared to have accepted Zanchetta’s excuse that his cell phone had been hacked, and dismissed the allegations. The 2017 internal accusation, which The Tribune says alleged more explicit abuse by Zanchetta of seminarians, resulted in Zanchetta’s exit from the diocese, though Zanchetta said he was resigning for health reasons. The Vatican did not open an investigation at that time. Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis, who appointed him bishop of Orán in 2013. Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s “manipulation.” Vatican Press Office spokesman Alessandro Gisotti in January “resolutely” repeated a Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta to his position at APSA. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018. When asked at a Feb. 24 press conference about Zachetta’s case, Gisotti reiterated that an investigation is ongoing.  

Pope Francis: Martyred seminarians provide a witness for priests, bishops

Vatican City, Mar 10, 2019 / 07:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that the nine Spanish seminarian martyrs beatified this weekend provide a witness to priests and bishops to remain pure and generous. Blessed Ángel Cuartas Cristóbal and eight of his seminary classmates were martyred amid the "Red Terror" persecution of the Church during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s in which more than 6,800 clergy or religious were killed. "These young aspirants to the priesthood loved the Lord so much as to follow Him on the way of the Cross. Their heroic witness helps seminarians, priests, and bishops to remain pure and generous, faithfully serving the Lord and the holy people of God," Pope Francis said March 10. In the martyrs’ beatification Mass in Oviedo, Spain the day prior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Saints expressed a similar sentiment. “With the sanctity of their lives, the newly beatified speak above all to the Church of today. With their blood, the have made the Church great and have given splendor to the priesthood,” Becciu said. “We are all troubled by the scandals that seem to have no end and that disfigure the face of the Bride of Christ. We need seminarians, priests, consecrated persons, generous pastors like these martyrs of Oviedo,” the cardinal continued. “We need honest and irreproachable priests who bring souls to God and do not cause suffering to the Church and disturb the people of God,” he said. In his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. After fasting for forty days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. The three desert temptations to turn a stone into bread, to rule over all of the kingdoms on earth, and to tempt God’s providence by jumping from the highest point in Jerusalem indicate “three roads that the world continually proposes, promising great success,” Francis said. These three paths are the road of greed, the road of human glory, and the road of “instrumentalization of God,” he explained. “These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion of being able to achieve success and happiness. But, in reality … they separate us from God because they are the work of Satan,” Francis said. “This is always the insidious logic of the devil. He starts from the natural and legitimate need to eat, to live, to be fulfilled, to be happy, and pushes us to believe that all of this is possible without God, even against Him,” he said. Pope Francis explained that “the remedies” for these three temptations are also threefold: the interior life, faith in God, and the certainty of God’s love. “Let us therefore take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to experience the consoling presence of God in our lives,” he said. Pope Francis asked for prayers as he and the Roman curia begin their annual Lenten spiritual exercises this week. On Sunday evening, the pope will depart by bus for the town of Ariccia, where he will spend a week in prayer and reflection led by Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni. “May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, an icon of fidelity to God, sustain us on our journey, helping us always to reject evil and to welcome good,” Pope Francis said.