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Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 09:57 am (CNA).- Having a lot of parish initiatives is not the best way to reach people on a deeper level, Pope Francis said Monday, adding that evangelization is about giving a witness to personal encounter with Christ. “Our parishes are invaded by many initiatives, where often, however, it does not affect the lives of people in depth,” he said Nov. 18 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall. Speaking to Catholics who take part in “parish cells,” small, neighborhood-based prayer and study groups in Italy, he said, “you too are entrusted with the task of reviving, especially in this period, the life of our parish communities.” “This will be possible insofar as [parishes] become, above all, a place to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the mystery of his death and resurrection,” he explained. “Only from here can we think that the work of evangelization becomes effective and fruitful, capable of bearing fruit.” He noted that many people, for different reasons, are no longer attending their parish, arguing that “it is therefore urgent that we recover the need for the encounter to reach people where they live and work.” “If we have encountered Christ in our lives, then we cannot just keep it for ourselves. It is crucial that we share this experience also with others; this is the main road to evangelization,” he said. “When the encounter is the fruit of Christian love, it changes lives because it reaches the hearts of people and touches them in depth.” Parish cells are a ministry begun by Msgr. Michael Eivers, an Irish priest who served as a missionary in Nigeria before becoming a parish priest in Miami. Eivers died in 2017 at the age of 87. Parish cells can now be found around the world. The pope urged Catholics to “never tire of following the paths that the Spirit of the Risen Lord” puts before them, including initiatives which allow for a deep witness of Christian discipleship, but he warned against expecting to always see the fruits of one’s evangelical labors. Though it is human to want to see positive outcomes and results, he reminded Catholics that there is no promise from the Lord they will see them. “Jesus did not tell the disciples that they would see the fruits of their work. He only assured that the fruits would endure. This promise also applies to us,” he stated. “Do not hold back any fear of the new, and do not slow down your steps [among] the difficulties that are inevitable in the way of evangelization,” he added. “When one is a missionary disciple, then enthusiasm can never fail!”
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 05:01 am (CNA).- In a video message to the country of Japan Nov. 18, Pope Francis said he prays that the power of nuclear weapons will never again be used in the world. Japan “is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” the pope said in his native Spanish. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history. Using nuclear weapons is immoral.” Pope Francis will be in Japan Nov. 23-26, part of a six-day trip which will begin in Bangkok, Thailand. In addition to Tokyo, the pope will travel to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where he is expected to speak about peace and against the use of nuclear weapons at memorials to the victims of the 1946 atomic bombings. He will also meet with victims of Japan’s “triple disaster,” when a major earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011 triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The theme of the visit to Japan is “protect all life.” In his video message, Francis said “this strong instinct, which resonates in our hearts, to defend the value and dignity of every human person, acquires particular importance in the face of threats to the peaceful coexistence that the world has to face today, especially in armed conflicts.” Pope Francis has been vocal in his opposition to nuclear arms throughout his pontificate. In a message to the United Nations in March 2017, he said their total elimination is both “a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.” Catholics make up less than .5% of people in Japan, a largely secular country where most of the population identifies as Buddhist or Shinto. The pope said cooperation between religions is important for peace, and he hopes his visit will encourage people “on the path of mutual respect and encounter that leads to a safe and lasting peace that does not go back in time.” “Peace is that beautiful, that when it is real, it does not recede: it is defended with teeth,” he said. Francis is also expected to speak about care for the environment while in Japan. He said he wants to promote a protection of life “which includes the earth, our common home,” symbolized in the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms. He will be the second pope to visit both Japan and Thailand. St. John Paul II visited Thailand in 1984 and Japan in 1981. This will be Francis’ 32nd international trip in his over six years as pope. Japan and Thailand will be his seventh foreign trip of 2019, and 10th and 11th countries visited this year.
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 04:48 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Monday that René Brüelhart, president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) has ended a five-year term and Pope Francis has chosen his successor. Brüelhart told Reuters Nov. 18, that he resigned from the position, which has no official term limits. According to the statement from the Holy See press office Nov. 18, Brüelhart’s successor will be announced after the conclusion of Pope Francis’ trip to Thailand and Japan Nov. 20-26. The delay in the nomination is “necessary for the respect of previous official commitments of the person concerned and the resolution of some internal procedures of the Holy See,” Holy See press office director, Matteo Bruni, said in a separate statement. The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee suspicious financial transactions; it is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards. Brüelhart, 47, is a Swiss lawyer. Pope Francis named him the first lay president of the board of directors of the AIF on Nov. 19, 2014. He had served as director of the AIF since 2012. The person designated by Pope Francis to be the next president of AIF is “a figure of high professional profile and accredited competence at an international level,” the Vatican statement reports. “In this way the continuity of the institutional action of the AIF is ensured in this moment of particular commitments at an internal and international level,” it continued. The AIF works alongside other financial entities in the Vatican, including the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy, both of which were established by Pope Francis as part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia. The authority’s 2019 report, released May 21, stated that they continue to catch cases of fraud involving the Vatican City State’s financial institutions, including a case of money laundering. The report showed that there were 56 Suspicious Activity Reports filed with the AIF in 2018, down from 150 in 2017. SARs filed over the last three years have led the AIF to investigate cases of money laundering and financial fraud within Vatican financial entities. The AIF’s director, Tomasso Di Ruzza, was cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated to his position Oct. 23, after he had been among five Vatican employees suspended after an Oct. 1 raid of offices within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and AIF. The Vatican’s Secretary of State is currently at the center of a financial scandal involving a Vatican bank, the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, and millions of euros from misallocated government grants. This story was updated at 5:30am MST.
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2019 / 04:30 am (CNA).- On the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that the poor and most vulnerable can be left behind in the frenetic haste and self-centeredness of the modern world. “How beautiful it would be if the poor could occupy in our hearts the place they have in the heart of God,” Pope Francis said in his homily Nov. 17. “In the frenzy of running, of achieving everything right now, anyone left behind is viewed as a nuisance. And considered disposable. How many elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons are considered useless,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the 3rd annual World Day of the Poor with the theme “the hope of the poor will never be disappointed.” “Amid so many penultimate and passing realities, the Lord wants to remind us today of what is ultimate, what will remain forever. It is love, for ‘God is love,’” he said. Pope Francis warned that there is a great temptation in today’s world to try to know and to do everything “right now” that can cause one to lose sight of what is most important: “We no longer find time for God or for our brother and sister living next door.” “How often do we let ourselves be seduced by a frantic desire to know everything right now, by the itch of curiosity, by the latest sensational or scandalous news, by lurid stories, by the screaming those who shout loudest and angriest, by those who tell us it is ‘now or never,’” Pope Francis said. “To us, these are front page news, but the Lord puts them on the second page,” he said. “That which will never pass away remains on the front page: the living God, infinitely greater than any temple we build for him, and the human person, our neighbor, who is worth more than all the news reports of the world.” The pope explained that the antidote to frantic haste is the Christian virtue of perseverance. “Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbor,” he said. “Let us ask that each of us, and all of us as Church, may persevere in the good and not lose sight of what really counts.” Following the Mass and Angelus prayer, Pope Francis will share a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine in the Paul VI Hall and nearby colleges. A medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square also offered free medical services to those in need in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the medical clinic Nov. 15 and announced the creation of a new 4-story homeless shelter right off the St. Peter’s Square colonnade, which he called “the Palace of the Poor.” The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant'Egidio community, will have two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling. “The poor person who begs for my love leads me straight to God,” Pope Francis said. In his Angelus address, the pope thanked Catholics in dioceses and parishes around the world for their work in solidarity with the poor, which he said gives hope to the most disadvantaged. “The Lord calls us to collaborate in the construction of history, becoming, together with Him, peacemakers and witnesses of hope in a future of salvation and resurrection,” he said. Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. It is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, one week before the Feast of Christ the King. “The poor facilitate our access to heaven: this is why the sense of the faith of God’s People has viewed them as the gatekeepers of heaven,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “Even now, they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church,” he said. “For the poor reveal to us the riches that never grow old, that unite heaven and earth, the riches for which life is truly worth living: the riches of love.”
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Saturday that more women are needed in positions of leadership in the Vatican. “We must move forward to include women in advisory positions, also in government, without fear,” Pope Francis said Nov. 16 in a meeting with the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. “Yes, of course, also as heads of dicasteries,” the pope said, adding that he had considered two women for the appointment last week of the new prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for which Francis ultimately selected Spanish Jesuit Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves. Pope Francis said that it is important to always remember: “The place of women in the Church is not just as functionaries.” “Women’s advice is very important,” he said. “The role of women in ecclesial organization, in the Church, goes further and we must work on this as well because a woman is the image of ‘Mother Church.’” Pope Francis commended the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life for having two women under-secretaries in their leadership. Both women are married with children. The pope told the Vatican dicastery -- created in 2016 to promote the pastoral care of the family and the mission of the lay faithful -- not to “clericize the laity.” He reflected: “So many times it happened in the other diocese [Buenos Aires], a parish priest came and told me: ‘I have a wonderful lay person, he knows how to do everything, everything. Do we make him a deacon?’” Francis lamented that too often he sees permanent deacons become “first-class altar boys or second-class priests” rather than “custodians of service.” “This, on clericalization, is an important point,” he said. With the papal audience, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell concluded its first Plenary Assembly Nov. 13-16 on the identity and mission of the laity in the world. The pope told the dicastery staff to “feel with the heart of the Church,” and to move from thinking from a local perspective to a universal perspective. “The dicastery of which you are a part should, above all else, help the many disciples of Christ to live in daily life in conformity with the baptismal grace they have received,” he said. “There are so many lay faithful in the world who, living their faith with humility and sincerity, become great lights for those who live next to them,” Pope Francis said.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2019 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Vatican Museums opened Thursday an exhibit of recently restored paintings of the Virgin Mary by early Renaissance painter Carlo Crivelli. “The Vatican painting gallery has the privilege of having three large scale paintings by Crivelli,” Vatican Museums’ Curator Guido Cornini told CNA. “Crivelli is a relatively rare artist, so not many collections in the world may claim the presence of a nucleus of more paintings together,” he said. The restorations were made possible by members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, the fundraising branch of the Vatican Museums that started in the United States in 1983. The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See co-hosted the exhibition opening at the Vatican museums in celebration of the 35 years of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Holy See. “U.S. Patrons fund approximately 80 percent of all restoration projects at the Vatican Museums,” U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich said at the exhibit opening Nov. 13. “Through their work, the Patrons ensure that the unique spiritual and cultural mission of the Vatican Museums continues to flourish, and that these works of art endure and inspire millions each year and for generations to come,” she said. Each year the Vatican Museums curators put together a “wish book” of art pieces in the museums that most urgently need restorations. This is then sent to donors, who can commit to funding the restoration of a particular work of art. For the Crivelli pieces, the restoration process consisted of many stages, Cornini explained. “It is more than presenting the painting with a superficial cleaning,” he said. The restorer, diagnostic laboratory, art historian, and/or archeologist must work together to determine the best means of restoration and then execute it in meticulous process that can take over a year. “You have to get through a long ... phase in which more historical information is being gathered both through the archives and compare this with a careful reading of the literature existing on that particular panel painting and then you prepare the proposal of a ‘therapy’ to follow, much like you would do with a medicine," Cornini said. The restoration of the Crivelli paintings involved removing the “over-painting” from previous restorations to recover the original vibrant colors under the surface. Carlo Crivelli (1463-1494) was an early Renaissance painter from Venice, known for his use of gold in the late Gothic style. Crivelli used many of the latest innovations in painting at the time, but on the other hand, his style displays a nostalgia for medieval art, Cornini explained. Perhaps his best known pieces are “The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius” (1486) and “Saint Thomas Aquinas” (1476). The three newly restored pieces of art on display in the exhibit are a five-panel polyptych, “Madonna and Child with Saints” (1481), “Madonna and Child” (1482), and a “Pieta” (1488-1489). “We are blessed with having these three important pictures, which were restored in past months, and we are now able to present them ... with the different histories behind each of them,” Cornini said. The curator added that the three paintings mark the different stages in the development in Crivelli's style. The exhibit, “Crivelli’s gold,” is on display in the Vatican’s Pinacoteca Museum Nov. 14 until Jan. 21, 2020. Rachel Lanz contributed to this report.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Saturday named Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia the next Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. “I hope to be able to fulfill well the new task Pope Francis has entrusted to me, seeking to bring the light of Catholic social teaching to the discussions and debates of the international community,” Caccia said of his appointment Nov. 16. Archbishop Caccia will succeed Archbishop Bernardito Auza, whom Pope Francis appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the Kingdom of Spain and to the Principality of Andorra in October. Caccia has spent nearly 30 years in the Vatican’s diplomatic service working in nunciatures in Tanzania, Lebanon, the Philippines, and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in Rome. Most recently, Caccia has been serving as the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines since September 2017. He studied at the Vatican’s Diplomatic School, the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, where he earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) and at the Pontifical Gregorian University for a a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL). Prior to this, he served three years as a parish priest in his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Milan. Pope Benedict XVI ordained Caccia a bishop in 2009 and named him Apostolic Nuncio in Lebanon. His episcopal motto is “We have believed in the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16). Caccia will arrive in New York to assume his new position as Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations on January 16, 2020. “The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations will greatly benefit from his rich diplomatic experience and impressive priestly and human qualities,” Archbishop Auza said of his successor. “In the two years he has spent in my home country the Philippines, he has endeared himself so deeply to the Filipinos,” he said. Archbishop Caccia will be the seventh Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations since the Holy See became a Permanent Observer State at the UN in 1964. The Holy See’s mission at the United Nations is of key importance for the Holy See’s diplomatic work. It aims to communicate the Catholic Church’s centuries of experience to assist the U.N. in realizing peace, justice, human dignity, and humanitarian cooperation and assistance. “Next year, the United Nations will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its founding,” Caccia said. “I look forward to helping the Holy See assist the United Nations in renewing its commitment to the pillars of its Charter, preventing the scourge of war, defending human dignity and rights, promoting integral development, and fostering respect and implementation of international law and treaties,” he said.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- On a rainy Friday in Rome, Pope Francis popped over to St. Peter’s Square to greet the poor and homeless receiving treatment at a mobile medical clinic this week. A now-annual tradition leading up to the World Day of the Poor, the mobile clinic offers free visits with specialists to Rome's poor and homeless population. During his brief “Mercy Friday” visit to the clinic Nov. 15, which took place around 4:40 p.m., Pope Francis also greeted and thanked the health care workers and doctors who donated their time to the clinic this week. According to a Vatican press release Nov. 15, the health clinic has been seeing hundreds of patients each day, most of whom hear about it through word of mouth. During his visit, Pope Francis was greeted with applause from the patients in the lobby and medical offices. “The Holy Father spoke with everyone; a smile and a word of support for each,” the press release states. He also said a short prayer during the encounter. The services offered include general medicine, cardiology, infectious diseases, gynecology, obstetrics, podiatry, dermatology, rheumatology, and ophthalmology. A laboratory for clinical analysis is also present. Afterward the pope stopped for a few minutes at a new location of the Apostolic charity office, located just outside St. Peter's Square on extra-territorial Vatican property. Pope Francis established the annual World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. This year, the pope will celebrate the third World Day of the Poor with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 17, followed by a lunch at the Vatican with over 1,000 poor and homeless people invited as guests. The theme is taken from Psalm 9: “The hope of the poor shall not perish forever.”
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 10:04 am (CNA).- Among Pope Francis’ scheduled meetings during next week’s visit to Japan and Thailand are a series of encounters with ordinary Catholics, including the sick and disabled, which will mainly take place away from the spotlight. These quiet encounters, especially with those on the margins of society, have become a hallmark for Francis, known for his gestures of humility and love of spending time with ordinary people, removed from cameras and media. Besides meetings with heads of state, which are always reserved in nature, Francis’ trip to Thailand Nov. 20-23 will include personally greeting 40 sick and disabled people, who will be brought to the hall of the St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok Nov. 21. Friday Nov. 22, after Mass with young people in Bangkok’s Cathedral of the Assumption, the pope will also greet 10 employees of the curia of the Church in Thailand. As customary during the pope’s trips, he will also spend time with Thailand’s Jesuits. In Japan, Pope Francis will greet the wife and son of deceased American photojournalist Joe O’Donnell, who photographed the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 and 1946. He will also spend a little time in Tokyo with about 20 young people who take part in the activities of the pontifical foundation Scholas Occurentes, which Pope Francis founded in 2013. The pope’s final morning in Japan, Nov. 26, will be spent at the Catholic Sophia University, where he will celebrate a private early morning Mass with Jesuits in the university chapel. After breakfast, he will visit elderly and ill priests of Japan. According to Vatican statistics, there are about 1,400 diocesan and religious priests in Japan. One symbolic encounter, which could possibly take place in Tokyo, is a greeting between Pope Francis and ex-death row inmate Iwao Hakamada. Hakamada, 83, was released from death row after 48 years. A boxer, he had been convicted in 1966 of a quadruple murder but was released in 2014 when new DNA evidence led to a suspension of his sentence. He is currently awaiting retrial by Japan’s supreme court. Hakamada was baptized in prison on Christmas Eve 1984. His sister wrote to the Vatican in May asking for Francis to meet her brother when in Japan. Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni said Nov. 15 that no meeting between the two is on the program, but that the bishops of Japan have invited Hakamada to take part in Francis’ final Mass in Tokyo Nov. 25. A meeting between the two could take place on the sidelines there, especially fitting as the theme of the pope’s trip in Japan is “Protect all life.” Francis has also been vocal regarding his opposition to the use of the death penalty. In 2018, the Vatican changed the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the issue, calling it “inadmissible.” Both of the pope’s translators for this trip are also personal choices. In Japan, Francis’ interpreter will be an Argentine Jesuit sent to Japan by Pope Francis when he was the Jesuit provincial in Argentina. While in Thailand, the pope will have his second cousin, a Salesian missionary, at his side acting as translator. Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, Pope Francis’ second cousin, has been a missionary in Thailand for over 50 years. Pope Francis’ six-day journey to Asia will focus on the themes of peace, especially nuclear disarmament, dialogue with other religions, and defense of the environment, Bruni said Nov. 15. Another motivation behind the trip is to encourage the small Catholic communities, which in Japan have deep historic roots. In both countries, Catholics make up less than half a percent of the population. In a video message sent Friday to the people of Thailand, Pope Francis said that during his trip he will “have the opportunity to meet with the Catholic community of Thailand to encourage them in faith and in the contribution they make to the whole of society.” “I trust that my visit will contribute to highlighting the importance of interfaith dialogue, mutual understanding and fraternal cooperation, especially in the service of the poor, the needy and in the service of peace: at this moment we need to work so hard for peace,” he added.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- A Vatican delegation traveled to Tehran this week to discuss opportunities for Catholics and Muslims to serve humanity together. “Muslims and Christians, along with all persons of good will who do not profess any particular religion, are called to promote fundamental human rights for everybody, everywhere, at all times,” participants in the interreligious meeting concluded in a final statement released by the Vatican Nov. 15. The interreligious colloquium in Iran focused on shared values found within Shia Islam and Catholicism. The event was organized by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iranian government’s Islamic Culture and Relations Organization. At the end of the colloquium, participants agreed to a final statement of broad support for fundamental human rights, religious freedom, environmental protection, and service to others. “Freedom of conscience and of religion is the cornerstone of the edifice of human rights and therefore should be preserved and promoted,” the final statement of the conference declared. In Iran, Muslim converts to Christianity have suffered persecution and arrest by the Iranian government, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Council for International Religious Freedom. At least 171 Christians were arrested in Iran in 2018, the report found. Among the Iranian participants in the colloquium were Iranian clerics and diplomats: Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Beheshti, Ayatollah Dr. Reza Ramezani, and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoust Abarghouei. Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, co-chaired the colloquium along with Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization. Cardinal Ayuso has degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies, in addition to a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Granada. He previously served as dean of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. Pope Francis named made Ayuso a cardinal in Oct. 2019. The Tehran colloquium was the 11th interreligious dialogue meeting between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization since 1996. The participants decided to hold the next colloquium in Rome in 2021. “Service to others, especially the sick, the poor and the needy, is of capital importance to Christians and Muslims,” the colloquium’s final statement declares. “Serving others witnesses to the universal love of God for all human beings, because He created everyone and everything, and cares for all His creation with the same love.”