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Pope recognizes Fatima children miracle ahead of May visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children - Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs.

The Pope will visit Fatima in Portugal on 12-13 May. Click here to see the schedule of his visit.

During an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the following decrees:

- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Angelo da Acri (né Luca Antonio Falcone), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 19 October 1669 and died 30 October 1739);

- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francisco Marto, born on 11 June 1908 and died on 4 April 1919, and Blessed Jacinta Marto, born 11 March 1910 and died 20 February 1920, children of Fátima;

- the martyrdom of Servants of God José Fernández Sánchez and 32 companions, priests and coadjutor brothers of the Congregation of the Mission, alongside six laypeople of the Association of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war;

- the martyrdom of Servant of God Regina Mariam Vattalil (née Rani Maria), professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, killed in hatred of the faith on 25 February 1995;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniele da Samarate (né Felice Rossini), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 15 June 1876 and died 19 May 1924;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Macrina Raparelli (né Elena), founder of the Congregation of the Basilian Sisters, daughters of Saint Macrina, born 2 April 1893 and died 26 February 1970;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniela Zanetta, layperson, born 15 December 1962 and died 14 April 1986.

The Holy Father also approved the favourable votes of the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops, member of the Congregation, regarding the canonization of the following Blesseds:

- André de Soveral, and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Mateus Moreira, layperson, alongside 27 companions, martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on 16 July 1645 and 3 October 1645;

- Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, adolescent martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: We are "Catholic Atheists" if we have hardened hearts

(Vatican Radio) Listen to the Word of God to avoid the risk of a hardened heart. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. The Pope pointed out that when we turn away from God and are deaf to His Word, we become unfaithful or even “Catholic atheists.”

Pope Francis drew inspiration from the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah to meditate on the importance of listening to the Word of God. “When we do not stop to listen to the voice of the Lord we end up moving away, we turn away from Him, we turn our backs. And if we do not listen to the voice of the Lord, we listen to other voices.”

The Holy Father suggested that if we do not listen to God’s voice, then in the end we listen to the voices of idols. He noted bitterly that eventually, “we become deaf: deaf to the Word of God.”

“And all of us, if we stop a little today and look at our hearts, we will see how many times – how many times! – we close our ears and how many times we have become deaf. And when a people, a community, but we can also say a Christian community, a parish, a diocese, when they close their ears and become deaf to the Word of the Lord, they search for other voices, other lords, and it ends with idols, the idols of the world, the worldliness that society offers. That community distances itself from the living God.”

If the heart hardens, we become “Catholic pagans”, even “Catholic atheists.” As we move away from the Lord, the Pope added, our hearts harden. When someone “does not listen, the heart becomes harder, more closed in on itself, hard and unable to receive anything; not only is it closed: there is a hardness of heart.” That person lives “in that world, that atmosphere that doesn’t do him good. He moves further away from God every day.”

“And these two things – not listening to the Word of God and a hardened heart, closed in on itself – cause infidelity. You lose your sense of fidelity. The Lord says in the First Reading: ‘faithfulness is gone’, and we become unfaithful Catholics, Catholic pagans or, uglier still, Catholic atheists, because we have no reference to the love of the living God. To not listen and to turn our backs – that makes our hearts harden – takes us on the road to infidelity.

The Pope then asked, “This infidelity, how does it end?” He answered by referring to the Gospel passage from St Luke, in which Jesus is accused of healing people through the power of Beelzebul. “It ends in confusion; you do not know where God is or where He is not, you confuse God with the devil.”

His Holiness said we should ask ourselves whether we really listen to the Word of God or whether we harden our hearts. “This is blasphemy. Blasphemy is the final word on this path that begins with not listening, with the hardening of the heart.” This failure to listen and this hardening of the heart “leads to confusion, making you forget fidelity and, ultimately, blaspheming.”

To those who forget the wonder of the first meeting with Jesus, he said: “Each of us can ask ourselves today: ‘Have I stopped listening to the Word of God, taking the Bible in my hands and talking only to myself? Has my heart been hardened? Am I far from the Lord? Have I lost my fidelity to the Lord and do I live with the idols that offer me worldliness every day? Have I lost the joy of the wonder of my first meeting with Jesus?’. Today is a day to listen. ‘O that today you would listen to His voice! Harden not your hearts!’’. We ask for this grace: the grace to listen so that our hearts will not be hardened.”  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: telegram of condolence for London attack

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the terror attack at the House of Parliament in London on Wednesday, in which an attacker killed four people before armed police shot him dead.

Addressed to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the telegram conveys the Holy Father's promises of prayers and spiritual closeness to the grieving families, as well as his spiritual solidarity with the whole people.

Below, please find the full text of the Telegram, in English

******************************************

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.  Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: 'current migration crisis greatest tragedy after WW2'

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.    Speaking on Wednesday to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope also continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

In his appeal, launched after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on 23rd and 24th of March with Churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

And speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

His words come just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. 

In his catechesis meanwhile, Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul which focusses on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement.

They are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours, he said, is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.

He is also a God of encouragement, he continued, who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope.

What’s more, the Pope continued, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so, he concluded, with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.  

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican abuse prevention event 'extremely important' for Church

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 02:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday a Vatican event on the prevention of child abuse narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church's role. Led by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, he told CNA at the March 23 event that Catholic schools are, of course, a very important part of the Church’s and Commission's ministry. There are “60 million children in our care in Catholic schools and so this kind of a conference is extremely important for the ministry of the Church,” O'Malley said. “And we were very gratified that so many cardinals made time to be a part of this.” The seminar was attended by five different cardinals in addition to O'Malley, including Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were also in attendance. Additionally, every Vatican department was represented in some way. Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is also a member of the commission, told CNA that it was a “very successful event, in drawing many high ranking members of the Curia, including a number of cardinals…all the dicasteries represented.” “This is taking shape and the formation that we have offered to dicasteries has also been very fruitful.” Sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, the day-long educational seminar focused on what the local church and institutions are doing to combat abuse of minors specifically in schools and the home.   It included a presentation by Kathleen McCormack, Chair of the PCPM Working Group on Education of Families and Communities, and presentations by representatives from the South American countries of Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, as well as Australia and Italy. One participant, Fr. Luigi Gritti, a graduate of a CCP course on child abuse, told CNA that it was important that South America was a focus of the seminar, since the Western world is usually the focus when discussing this issue. “It tells you that the problem is present and acknowledged by the people, but also that something is being done to address the problem. So I think it's a good development,” he said. The presentations on South America all highlighted the importance of including children: speaking with and listening to them, teaching them about what is safe and appropriate behavior from adults, as well as becoming familiar with the visual and verbal signs that could indicate the occurrence of abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual. The presenters for each country explained the unique cultural challenges they face in preventing abuse and in handling allegations, as well as what policies are currently in place. In the presentation on Australia, Francis Sullivan, CEO of Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said that in the end, the question of why the sex abuse crisis happened in our Church comes down to cultural problems and to corruption. Australia’s sexual abuse crisis has been one of the most shocking and widely known in the Church. Feb. 6, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its final three-week review of how the Catholic Church in Australia has responded to sex abuse allegations. Referencing a quote from Pope Francis where he said that we don’t only need to reform the Church, but also the heart, he said that “child sexual abuse has broken the heart of the Church.” “We have never fully appreciated that the decisions that our leaders made in order to facilitate and cover up (abuse), actually broke the heart of what it means to be Catholic, and we need to go back and fully confront that,” he said. “Let’s not distract Church leaders from recognizing that this is a Church problem. Sure, it might happen in other institutions, sure, it happens in families. But the fact that it happened within the Catholic Church says something about the corruption within our Church… That we are not true to what we are meant to be.” Friday the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors begins their next Plenary Assembly, and one of the central topics will be how to ensure that survivors and victims are always the first priority, O’Malley said in his introductory remarks. “The assembly begins tomorrow and of course that is one of the things we'll be talking about,” he told CNA. A meeting of survivors is planned for June that the commission will also be involved in, he said. Regarding the participation of survivors, Fr. Zollner told CNA that “we need to be informed by survivors and victims, we need to listen to them, and we need to take into account what has been and is their experience.” Other topics at the Plenary Assembly will include how the commission will continue after the mandate concludes at the end of the calendar year, he said, and “we will see what are the structural steps, or the development, we will need so that our journey continues,” he said.

Pope clears way for canonization of Fatima visionaries

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis approved the second and final miracle needed to canonize Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima Marian apparitions. The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three of heroic virtue. In addition, the Pope also approved a positive vote from members of the canonization causes for six martyrs who are already Blessed, but do not yet have a second miracle attributed to them. However, the most significant of the causes approved is that of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the approval of the second miracle, the two may now be canonized Saints. It is likely Pope Francis will preside over their canonization himself while in Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions. Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church. The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima. During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days. In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon. Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920. Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints. In addition to Francisco and Jacinta, the Pope also approved a miracle for Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, allowing for his canonization. Causes for martyrdom approved by the Pope – meaning they can be beatified – include Fr. Giuseppe Maria Fernández Sánchez and his 32 companions, who were priests and coadjutor brothers of Congregation of the Mission, as well as six laypersons from the Association of the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who were killed in hatred of the faith in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Another martyrdom cause approved by the Pope was that of Servant of God Regina Maria Vattalil, a Poor Clare nun killed in hatred of the faith in 1995. The martyrs who were already Blessed but may now be canonized based on the Congregation’s vote are: Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Matteo Moreira, layman, killed in hatred of the Faith in Brazil in 1645, and Cristoforo, Antonio and Giovanni, teenagers, killed in hatred of the Faith in Mexico in 1529. He also declared the heroic virtue of the following people: Daniele da Samarate, a Capuchin priest; Macrina Raparelli, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Basiliane Daughters of St. Macrina; and Daniela Zanetta, a laywoman.

Pope Francis prays for victims of deadly London attack

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After four people died in an apparent terrorist attack in London yesterday, Pope Francis has voiced his sorrow and solidarity for the victims and their families, entrusting them and the nation to God’s mercy. “Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy,” a March 23 letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read. The Pope commended the souls of those who died “to the loving mercy of Almighty God,” and prayed for “divine strength and peace upon their grieving families,” while assuring of his prayer for the entire nation. Francis’ letter comes the day after a deadly March 22 attack on London’s Parliament took the lives of four people. During the attack, a car apparently plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the fence surrounding the Parliament building. The assailant then attempted to enter the Parliament building with a knife, stabbing one police officer before being shot by other officers on the grounds. According to the Guardian, four people were killed, including the police officer who was stabbed and one man believed to be the assailant. About 20 others were reported injured, some severely. Nearby government buildings were placed on lockdown while authorities worked to ensure the safety of the area. Scotland Yard said the attack is being treated “as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise.” The incident marks the first mass-casualty terrorist attack in Britain since the 2005 bomb attack on London that claimed the lives of 52 people when four bombers blew themselves up in the city’s public transportation system. March 22 also marks the one-year anniversary of the Brussels airport bombings that left more than 30 dead and 300 injured. Those bombings were declared the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium's history. The use of a vehicle as a weapon yesterday’s London attack is reminiscent of the methods used last year by terrorists in Nice and Berlin. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, issued a March 23 statement to the priests and parishes of his diocese saying yesterday’s attacks “have shocked us all.” “The kind of violence we have seen all too often in other places has again brought horror and killing to this city,” he said, and urged pastors to lead their people in prayer, particularly for the victims and their families. He offered special prayers for victim Aysha Frade, who was killed by the car on Westminster Bridge and whose two young children attend the diocese’s St. Mary of the Angels Primary School. He also offered special prayers for Frade’s husband and a group of French students who were injured in the attack, as well as police officer Keith Palmer, the officer who died, and his family. “Let our voice be one of prayer, of compassionate solidarity and of calm,” the cardinal said. “All who believe in God, Creator and Father of every person, will echo this voice, for faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a strength and a foundation on which we depend.”

Watch this little girl steal Pope Francis' hat

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA).- A cute moment was captured on camera Wednesday, as a 3-year-old girl “stole” Pope Francis’ zucchetto – or skull cap – at the papal general audience. Little Estella lives in Georgia. She was in Rome with her godfather, Mountain Butorac. Waiting in St. Peter’s Square at the general audience, she was invited by a member of the papal security team to go greet the Pope as he came by. Pope Francis offered the young girl a kiss on the cheek, and she reached up and grabbed his zucchetto. A moment later, she returned the hat to a laughing pontiff. Took my Goddaughter to meet the pope. She stole his hat! pic.twitter.com/SdSorop3uN — Mountain Butorac (@MountainButorac) March 22, 2017 Meanwhile, Butorac captured the incident on his phone camera, and posted it to Twitter, where it quickly received more than 8,000 likes. “It’s exciting!” Butorac told BuzzFeed News. “I’m sure every godparent would love for their godchild to meet the Holy Father. Mine just did and it was not only a special holy moment, but hilarious too!”  

Pope Francis: When we want to give up, God helps us persevere

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said each person must strive to imitate the perseverance and consolation of God, which not only gives us the strength to keep going, but also to help others who are in difficulty. “Perseverance we can also define as patience; it’s the ability to support, to remain faithful, even when the weight seems to become too big, unsustainable, and we are tempted to negatively judge and abandon everything and everyone,” the Pope said March 22. Consolation, on the other hand, “is the grace of knowing how to welcome and show in every situation, even those largely marked by delusion and suffering, the presence and compassionate action of God.” He noted how these two attitudes are highlighted by St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, both in reference to scripture and to God himself, who is “the God of perseverance and consolation.” Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, the Pope continued his catechesis on the virtue of Christian hope, saying the qualities of perseverance and consolation shed light on what having hope really means. Francis noted how in the day’s reading from Romans Chapter 15, St. Paul reminds us that these attitudes are communicated throughout scripture. The Word of God, he said, “leads us to turn our gaze to Jesus, to know him better and to conform ourselves to him, to increasingly become more like him.” By calling the Lord “the God of perseverance and consolation,” the apostle is revealing the nature of God as someone “who always remains faithful to his love for us and takes care of us, covering our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy.” “He’s perseverant in love for us, he never tires of loving us,” he said. Pope Francis then pointed to how in the passage, St. Paul also insists that “we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” While the phrase “we who are strong” could seem presumptuous, the Pope stressed that when understood with the logic of the Gospel, “we know that it’s not like this. Rather, it’s precisely the opposite because our strength doesn’t come from us, but from the Lord.” “Whoever experiences in their own lives the faithful love of God and his consolation is able, even obliged, to be close to his weakest brothers and to take charge of their fragility,” he said. The Pope stressed the importance of doing this “without complacency,” but as “a channel that transmits the gifts of the Lord,” sowing hope to the world. Witnesses of hope “are needed today,” he said, but noted that unfortunately “it’s not so easy” to do. However, Francis cautioned that this lifestyle doesn’t mean dividing the community so that “some are from ‘group A,’ which is the strong, and others ‘group B,’ which is the weak.” Instead, it means having the same attitude toward one another that Christ did, he said, adding that the Word of God “nourishes a hope that is concretely translated in sharing, in reciprocal service.” This reciprocity is essential, he said, because “even those who are strong sooner or later find themselves fragile and in need of comfort from others; and vice versa, in weakness one can always offer a smile or a hand to the brother in difficulty.” But this is only possible “if we put Christ and his Word at the center,” Pope Francis said, and urged faithful to thank God for giving us his Word through scripture. “We never thank God enough for the gift of his Word,” he said, stressing that “it’s there that we become aware of how our hope is not based on our own abilities and our own strength, but on the support of God and on his fidelity and love.” At the end of his audience Pope Francis also gave a shout-out to those participating in the “Watershed” Conference currently taking place in Rome in honor of the U.N. World Water Day, and which is being co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Argentinian Chapter of the Club of Rome. “I am happy that this meeting is taking place,” he said, “for it represents yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance.” The Pope then made an appeal for his “24 hours for the Lord” event, which takes place each year on the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent “I hope that also this year this privileged moment of grace on the Lenten path is lived in many churches in order to experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the Father, and that everyone welcomes and forgives,” he said.

Took my Goddaughter to meet the pope. She stole his hat! pic.twitter.com/SdSorop3uN

— Mountain Butorac (@MountainButorac) March 22, 2017

The Church and society need you, Pope Francis tells youth

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2017 / 02:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis released a video message to youth in advance of the next World Youth Day, to be held in Panama in 2019.  He said that like the Virgin Mary, they are needed, and they should not be afraid to leave their mark on the world.   “Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history, your history and that of many others,” Pope Francis said in the message, released March 21. “The Church and society need you.”   “With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.”   The message, made in advance of the annual diocesan-level “World Youth Day” which takes place on April 9 this year, reflects specifically on the spiritual journey pilgrims will take before reaching Panama, encouraging young people to cultivate a strong friendship with Our Lady, saying they “will not regret it.”   “Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you,” he said.   The theme for the upcoming local World Youth Day is taken from the words of Mary in the Magnificat: “The Mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49).   Mary “recognized the great things that God was accomplishing in her life,” gave thanks for it, and then put it into action, going to help her cousin Elizabeth, the Pope said. She “was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them.”   “Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer,” Francis said.   In anticipation of World Youth Day in Panama January 22-27, 2017, the Pope also released a longer written message to youth, reflecting on themes from the last international World Youth Day in Krakow in July 2016 and on the themes of each year’s meeting leading up to Panama.   Continuing the Marian themes, in 2018 the theme will be “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:49) and in 2019, in Panama, it will be “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), the Pope said.   Francis said that he hopes preparations for World Youth Day in Panama and for the Synod of Bishops in October 2018, “will move forward in tandem,” since the topic of the Synod will be youth, faith and vocational discernment.   At the Synod, “we will talk about how you, as young people, are experiencing the life of faith amid the challenges of our time,” the Pope said. “We will also discuss the question of how you can develop a life project by discerning your personal vocation...”   In discerning the plan God has for our lives, we can look to Mary, who was very young herself, as an example of the gift of faith lived out, he said.   Referencing an address he gave at World Youth Day in Krakow, Francis said to not be afraid, for though we might think, but “I am a sinner, what can I do?” the truth is that “when the Lord calls us, he doesn’t stop at what we are or what we have done.”   “On the contrary, at the very moment that he calls us, he is looking ahead to everything we can do, all the love we are capable of giving.”   How do we prepare to, like Mary, give this love? Pope Francis offered four practical suggestions. One, is to end each day doing an examination of conscience – reflecting on our day, remembering both “the good times and the challenges, what went well and those that went wrong.”   These can also be recorded in a journal if we like and is a good way of noticing what God is doing in our lives, he said.   Another suggestion the Pope made is to spend more time reading the Bible. If you, as young people, want to make your life a “gift for humanity” it is “essential to connect with the historical tradition and the prayer of those who have gone before you,” he said.   Doing lectio divina, a method of prayerfully reading the Bible and applying God’s word to your own life will help to “illumine your steps.”   Thirdly, Francis stressed the importance of going to Mass and frequent reception of the Eucharist, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.   And lastly, he said that young people must speak to and learn from the wisdom of their elders, especially grandparents or other relatives. “Do you realize how extraordinarily enriching the encounter between the young and the elderly can be?” he asked.   “Young people have strength, while the elderly have memory and wisdom.”   “The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their separate ways,” Pope Francis continued.   “The Church is heir to a long tradition which, passed down from generation to generation, is further enriched by the experience of each individual. Your personal history has a place within the greater history of the Church.”   Even young people should be mindful of tradition and the past, he said, though this is not the same as being nostalgic or remaining stuck on a certain period of history as being the best. One of the gifts of youth is questioning and dreaming about the future, he said.   “God came to enlarge the horizons of our life in every direction. He helps us to give due value to the past so as to better build a future of happiness.”   “Many people think that young people are distracted and superficial,” Francis explained. “They are wrong! Still, we should acknowledge our need to reflect on our lives and direct them towards the future.”   “When God touches the heart of a young man or woman, they become capable of doing tremendous things.”

Good Friday Collection to benefit Holy Land Christians

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2017 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Christians in the Middle East continue to suffer innumerable hardships this Lenten season, the Vatican has announced that this year’s Good Friday Collection will benefit Christian communities in the Holy Land. “Once again, from every part of the Church, expressions of solidarity come together effectively in the Good Friday Collection,” stated Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, in a recent press release. “Our sense of communion in the suffering and risen Christ moves us again this year to undertake the important initiative that is the Collection for the Holy Land,” Cardinal Sandri said. This announcement means that in most Catholic parishes around the world, a Good Friday Collection will be taken up to aid Christian parishes and their outreaches in the Holy Land. This initiative has been an annual tradition in the Church since its institution by Blessed Pope Paul VI. According to Blessed Pope Paul VI, the collection was crated “not only for the Holy Places but above all for those pastoral, charitable, educational, and social works which the Church supports in the Holy Land for the welfare of their Christian brethren and of the local communities.” The Catholic communities that will benefit from this aid include the Latin Patriarchal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Franciscan Custody and other jurisdictions, such as the Greek-Melkite, Coptic, Maronite, Syrian, Chaldean, and Armenian churches. These funds will be used to help the parochial schools, hospitals, and community centers in these areas to protect and care for their communities, which often include refugees, asylum-seekers, children, and victims of war. “Living the Christian faith in the Middle East is not at all easy. Especially in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, where Christian communities have experienced an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ individuals are daily pressured to abandon their land or even their faith,” Cardinal Sandri stated. “The unforgettable faces of thousands of children and teens, fleeing violence and persecution in Syria and Iraq, continue to challenge us, even as these young people, thanks to our Collection, are being welcomed by Christian schools and neighboring counties.” While this collection is a one-time offering on Good Friday, the cardinal noted that there are additional ways of aiding Christians in the Middle East outside of the Lenten and Easter seasons. “The small Christian presence in the Middle East has great need of the support and attention of the entire Church. Constant prayer is the first and greatest assistance they seek.” Cardinal Sandri also said that Holy Land pilgrimages are a substantial way to grow the “vitality of the Church in the Holy Land,” and which also boost local economy. “At least 30% of the local community in Jerusalem and in Bethlehem live and work thanks to the presence of pilgrims,” Cardinal Sandri said. The cardinal encouraged individuals to give generously to this year’s Good Friday Collection, pointing to the words of St. Paul: “for God loves a cheerful giver.” “As we prepare for Easter, let us renew our commitment to becoming artisans of peace, praying and working that peace may dwell in the heart of every person, especially our brothers and sisters of the Holy Land and the Middle East.”  

This man was killed for defying Hitler – and now he's been beatified.

Vatican City, Mar 21, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Italian layman Joseph Mayr-Nusser who refused to take the Hitler oath was beatified March 18 in his home town of Bolsano. In 1944, Mayr-Nusser, a Catholic husband and father, refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler after being drafted into the German army. He died on the way to Dachau concentration camp, to which he had been sentenced. On Sunday, Pope Francis said that Blessed Joseph is a model for all laymen and fathers “on account of his great moral and spiritual stature.” Joseph was born on Dec. 27, 1910 to a devout family. Since his family was poor and his older brother Jakob was in seminary studying for the priesthood, Mayr-Nusser didn’t study himself, but worked on the farm and later as the clerk for the Eccel company in Bolzano. At the age of 22 he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an international Catholic volunteer organization dedicated to serving the poor and disadvantaged, in an effort to imitate the charity of the saint. Mayr-Nusser was also involved in Catholic Action, and became head of its division in the Diocese of Trent in 1934. In 1937 he became president of the Bolzano branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, spending a large amount of his time visiting the poor and providing them with both material and spiritual support. When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, Mayr-Nusser joined the anti-Nazi movement “Andreas Hofer Bund.” A few years later, civil war also broke out in Italy following the 1943 ousting of Benito Mussolini from power, which led to the German occupation of the northern half of the country. The Nazi regime had established the “Schutzstaffel,” or “protective squadron.” The regime called not only on local men from Nazi Germany to join the squad, but they also took volunteers and conscripted men from both occupied and non-occupied territories. Mayr-Nusser was among those conscripted from northern Italy, and so in 1944 was enrolled in an SS unit, forcing him to leave his wife and newborn son for training in Prussia. However, when it came time for the SS members to swear an oath to Hitler, Mayr-Nusser refused. According to a fellow comrade, he was “pensive and worried,” but told the general with a “strong voice” that “I cannot take an oath to Hitler in the name of God. I cannot do it because my faith and conscience do not allow it.” Although his friends and tried to convince him to retract his statement and take the oath, Mayr-Nusser refused, believing that Nazi ideals could in no way be reconciled with Christian ethics and values. As a result he was jailed, put on trial and sentenced to death for treason.  He was ordered to march to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was to be shot by firing squad. Dachau held many religious prisoners of Nazi Germany, and became known as the “largest monastery in the world” because of the number of clerics there. The camp housed some 2,700 clergy, roughly 95 percent of whom were Catholic priests from Poland, making it one of the largest residences for priests in the history of the Church. Joseph fell ill with dysentery before he reached Dachau, and died Feb. 24, 1945. When his body was discovered, he had both a Bible and a rosary with him. Mayr-Nusser’s cause for martyrdom was launched by his home diocese of Bolzano in 2005. Pope Francis declared him a martyr in July 2016, paving the way for his beatification.  

Pope Francis' schedule for Fatima visit released

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2017 / 09:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, the Vatican released the official program for Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Portugal in May, where he’ll celebrate the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions and make a brief stop at an air base to meet the country’s president. Francis will likely make a stop at his favorite Roman basilica, Saint Mary Major, sometime before leaving Rome at 2 p.m. May 12. He’ll land at the air base in Monte Real around 4:20 p.m. local time, where he’ll be greeted by an official welcoming ceremony and meet with the president of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, before making his way to Fatima. After his meeting with the president, the Pope is scheduled to stop by the chapel of the air base for a moment of prayer before boarding a helicopter that will take him to the Fatima’s multi-use stadium. From there, he’ll hop inside an open car and drive to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. Once he arrives around 5:30 p.m., Pope Francis will head to the Chapel of the Apparitions inside the sanctuary, where he’ll recite a prayer. He’ll then bless the candles in the chapel and offer a special greeting, marking his first public speech of the trip, before praying the rosary with faithful. The next day, May 13, which marks the first apparition of Mary to the three shepherd children Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, Francis will meet with Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa at the city’s Casa “N.S. do Carmo” hotel-convent. Francis will then head to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima, which sits next to the official Shrine, to say Mass. After the celebration, he’ll greet sick and disabled persons who are present. Lunch will then be served with the Portuguese bishops at the Casa “N.S. do Carmo” before the Pope heads back to the Monte Real air base for his official farewell ceremony. He’s scheduled to leave around 3 p.m. local time, arriving to Rome’s Ciampino airport around 7 p.m. local time. As usual, he’ll likely pay another visit to the basilica of St. Mary Major to pray and leave flowers before heading back to the Vatican. Of all Marian apparitions, those relating to Our Lady of Fatima are among the most famous. On May 13, 1917, siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto – age 9 and 7 – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, took their sheep to graze near the Portuguese town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary. After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary then appeared to the children on the 13th of every month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer. In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. It was visited by Pope Paul VI May 13, 1967, and later by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. St. John Paul II had a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. After a harrowing assassination attempt in 1981, he credited his survival to her miraculous intervention. As a sign of his gratitude, he placed the bullet from the failed assassination in her crown. “Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven. United to Christ, as a priest and victim, I offer my sufferings for the Church and the world,” Pope John Paul II said on that occasion.  

Pope meets Rwandan president, apologizes for Church failure during genocide

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2017 / 08:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a brief meeting with Rwandan president Paul Kagame Monday, Pope Francis voiced his sadness for members of the Church who participated in the 1994 genocide, asking for forgiveness and assuring those who still suffer of his prayer. According to a March 20 Vatican communique, during the meeting, the Pope “conveyed his profound sadness, and that of the Holy See and of the Church, for the genocide against the Tutsi.” “He expressed his solidarity with the victims and with those who continue to suffer the consequences of those tragic event,” it read. In imitation of St. John Paul II’s gesture during the Great Jubilee in 2000, Francis implored God’s forgiveness “for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission.” Pope Francis, in light of a statement published by the Rwandan bishops at the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy asking forgiveness for the failure of the Church and her members, expressed his desire that his own “humble recognition” of the failings of that time, “which, unfortunately, disfigured the face of the Church, may contribute to a purification of memory.” He also voiced his hope that the renewed apology “may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace, witnessing to the concrete possibility of living and working together, once the dignity of the human person and the common good are put at the center.” The genocide began April 7, 1994, after controversy over the plane crash that killed the then-president of Rwanda, a Hutu. In the aftermath, Hutu extremists killed over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. About 57 percent of Rwanda is Catholic, with another 37 percent Protestant or Seventh-Day Adventist. The churches have worked to bring about healing and reconciliation as well. The Pope’s meeting with President Kagame, which lasted around 25 minutes, took place inside the Vatican’s apostolic palace and was conducted in English. During the “cordial” discussion between the two, mention was also made of the good relations between the Church and the State in Rwanda. Specific appreciation was expressed for “the notable path of recovery toward the social, political and economic stabilization of the country.” Likewise, the collaboration between the State and the local Church in working for “national reconciliation and in the consolidation of peace” nationwide was also cited. The two also exchanged views on the political, social and regional situation of Rwanda, with specific attention placed on areas suffering due to conflict and natural problems, including the high number of migrants and refugees in need of support from the international community. After the meeting, Pope Francis greeted the presidential delegation of 9 people, handing each of them a rosary, before exchanging gifts. Francis gave Kagame three books: his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, and his post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” He also gave the president a medal, telling him that “I like to give this work to Heads of State because for me it represents the biblical passage: ‘a desert that becomes a garden,’ so that the countries can also become gardens.” On his part, President Kagame gave the Pope a box with a black and white staff inside, explaining that “it’s a rod used to summon the people,” like a sort of “pastoral” hook. After meeting the Pope, Kagame then met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States.