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Pope: ‘Christian life is a daily struggle against temptation’

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday invited the faithful to let themselves be drawn by Jesus pointing out that Christian life is a daily struggle against temptation.

Speaking during the homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope warned against the temptations that lead us down the wrong path.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Referring to the Gospel reading of the day, Pope Francis said Jesus came to destroy the influence of evil on our hearts.

Recounting the passage from the Gospel of Mark that tells of  how large numbers of people followed Jesus with enthusiasm, the Pope posed the question: ‘why were the crowds attracted?’

The Gospel, he said, tells us that some were sick and wanted to be healed but there were also people who liked listening to Jesus because he touched their hearts. This was because, he explained, the Father drew people to Jesus.

So much so, Francis said, Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. And he said He too was moved because he saw these people as sheep without a shepherd, and thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit the Father was drawing them to the Lord.

And, the Pope emphasized,  the reason for which so many people were attracted by Jesus Christ was nothing to do with Apologetics.

Commenting upon the end of the Gospel passage which says ‘whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God"’, Francis said that whenever we try to approach God, the unclean spirits try to prevent us from doing so, and “wage a war against us.”

Those, he said, who feel they are very Catholic and never have temptations, must pray because they are on the wrong path.

“A Christian life without temptations is not Christian, he said: it is ideological, it is Gnostic, but it is not Christian”.

When the Father draws people to Jesus, Pope Francis explained, there is an opposite force that causes conflict.

“That’s why St Paul speaks of Christian life as a struggle: a daily struggle. A fight!” he said: That’s why Jesus came: “to destroy Satan's empire, the empire of evil”.

He came to destroy its influence in our hearts, the Pope said. So while the Father is attracting you to Jesus, the spirit of evil is seeking to destroy that attraction.

The Pope concluded with the exhortation to fight on and feel the heart that struggles for the victory of Jesus.

"May the Lord give us the grace to know how to discern what is going on in our hearts and to choose the right path upon which the Father draws us to Jesus” he said.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Luther’s intention was to renew the Church, not divide her

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday said that “the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her”.

Speaking to members of an Ecumenical Delegation from Finland who are in the Vatican to take part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Pope recalled his visit to Sweden last October and said that the “gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together.”

The Pope ended his speech with off-the-cuff remarks thanking the bishop leading the delegation for having brought his grandchildren to the audience and pointing out that  "we need the simplicity of children: they will show us the path that leads to Jesus Christ."

The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place from 18 to 25 January focussing on a theme selected on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us”.

The celebration concludes with Vespers, presided over by Pope Francis, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on January 25th.

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address to the members of the Ecumenical Delegation from Finland:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,          I joyfully welcome all of you, members of the Ecumenical Delegation, who have come as pilgrims from Finland to Rome on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henrik.  I thank the Lutheran Bishop of Turku for his kind words.  For more than thirty years, it has been a fine custom for your pilgrimage to take place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which calls us to draw closer to one another anew through conversion.  True ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer.  If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another.  During these days let us pray more fervently to the Holy Spirit so that we may experience this conversion which makes reconciliation possible.

    On this path, we Catholics and Lutherans, from several countries, together with various communities sharing our ecumenical journey, reached a significant step when, on 31 October last, we gathered together in Lund, Sweden, to commemorate through common prayer the beginning of the Reformation.  This joint commemoration of the Reformation was important on both the human and theological-spiritual levels.  After fifty years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on.  For this we are grateful.  At the same time we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults.  In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her.  The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together.   

    In preparing the common commemoration of the Reformation, Catholics and Lutherans noted with greater awareness that theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation and that it is advanced through steadfast commitment.  Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to  full and visible unity.  I pray to the Lord that he may bestow his blessing on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is working diligently towards a common sacramental understanding of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry.

    Therefore 2017, the commemorative year of the Reformation, represents for Catholics and Lutherans a privileged occasion to live the faith more authentically, in order to rediscover the Gospel together, and to seek and witness to Christ with renewed vigour.  At the conclusion of the day of commemoration in Lund, and looking to the future, we drew inspiration from our common witness to faith before the world, when we committed ourselves to jointly assisting those who suffer, who are in need, and who face persecution and violence.  In doing so, as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather united on the journey towards full communion.

    I am pleased to recall also that this year the Christians of Finland celebrate the centenary of the Finnish Ecumenical Council, which is an important instrument in promoting communion of faith and life among you.

    Finally, in 2017 your homeland, Finland, will celebrate one hundred years as an independent State.  May this anniversary encourage all the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – as did Saint Henrik so zealously – offering a witness of faith to the world today and putting that faith into practice through concrete acts of service, fraternity and sharing. 

    In the hope that your pilgrimage may contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world, and that the common witness of faith, hope and love may bear abundant fruit through Saint Henrik’s intercession, I willingly invoke God’s grace and blessing upon you all.  



(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Audience: We look with hope to unity not division

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Wednesday that Christian Unity and reconciliation are possible. He was speaking during his weekly General Audience in the Paul the VI hall where he also continued his catechesis on Christian hope.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report

We look more 'to that' which unites us rather than that which 'divides us”. Those were Pope Francis’ words on Wednesday during his weekly General Audience as he recalled this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Inviting Christians to pray for this week and also recalling his visit to Lund in Sweden to Commemorate the Reformation, the Pope said “we continue the journey together to deepen our communion and to give it more and more a 'visible form.”

In Europe, the Holy Father stressed, this common faith in Christ is like a green thread of hope” adding that, “communion, unity and reconciliation 'are possible.”

As Christians, he said, “we are responsible for  'this message and we have to bear witness to it with our lives.”

The Pope made the comments while greeting an Ecumenical delegation from Germany.

Also during his audience and continuing his catechesis on Christian hope, Pope Francis reflected on the story of the prophet Jonah, who sought to flee from a difficult mission entrusted to him by the Lord. 

He said that, “when the ship that Jonah had boarded was tossed by a storm, the pagan sailors asked him, as a man of God, to pray that they might escape sure death. 

The Pope noted that, “the story reminds us of the link between hope and prayer.” 

Anguish in the face of death, he added,  “often makes us recognize our human frailty and our need to pray for salvation.” 

The Holy Father explained that Jonah prays on behalf of the sailors and as a result, “the sailors come to acknowledge the true God.”

He also underlined that “as the paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection makes clear, death itself can be, for each of us, an invitation to hope and an encounter in prayer with the God of our salvation.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Christians are not 'parked' but rather courageous

(Vatican Radio) Be courageous Christians, anchored in hope and capable of enduring dark moments. This was the forceful invitation of Pope Francis at the morning Mass on Tuesday at the Casa Santa Marta. Lazy Christians, on the other hand, are stationary, the Pope said, and for them, the Church is a good parking spot.

The life of a Christian is a “courageous life,” Pope Francis said in his homily, which he based on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The zeal spoken of in the reading, the courage to go forward, ought to be our attitude toward life, like the attitude of those who train for victory in the arena. But the Letter also speaks of the laziness that is the opposite of courage. “Living in the fridge,” the Pope summarized, “so that everything stays the same”:

“Lazy Christians, Christians who do not have the will to go forward, Christians who don’t fight to make things change, new things, the things that would do good for everyone, if these things would change. They are lazy, “parked” Christians: they have found in the Church a good place to park. And when I say Christians, I’m talking about laity, priests, bishops… Everyone. But there are parked Christians! For them the Church is a parking place that protects life, and they go forward with all the insurance possible. But these stationary Christians, they make me think of something the grandparents told us as children: beware of still water, that which doesn’t flow, it is the first to go bad.”

Be anchored in hope, and able to endure in difficult moments

What makes Christians courageous is hope, while the “lazy Christians” don’t have hope, they are in retirement, the Pope said. It is beautiful to go into retirement after many years of work, but, he warned, “spending your whole life in retirement is ugly!” Hope, on the other hand, is the anchor that we cling to in order to keep fighting, even in difficult moments:

“This is today’s message: hope, that hope that doesn’t disappoint, that goes beyond. And he [the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews] says: a hope that ‘is a sure and firm anchor for our life.’ Hope is the anchor: We threw it, and we are clinging to the cord, but there, but going there. This is our hope. There’s no thinking: ‘Yes, but, there is heaven, ah, how beautiful, I’m staying…’ No. Hope is struggling, holding onto the rope, in order to arrive there. In the struggle of everyday, hope is a virtue of horizons, not of closure! Perhaps it is the virtue that is least understood, but it is the strongest. Hope: living in hope, living on hope, always looking forward with courage. ‘Yes, Father – anyone of you might say to me – but there are ugly moments, where everything seems dark, what should I do?’ Hold onto the rope, and endure.”

Parked Christians look only at themselves, they are selfish

“Life does not come to any of us wrapped up like a gift,” Pope Francis noted; rather, we need courage to go forward and to endure.  Courageous Christians might make mistakes, “but we all make mistakes,” the Pope said. “Those who go forward make mistakes, while those who are stationary seem to not make mistakes.” And when “you can’t walk because everything is dark, everything is closed,” you need to endure, to persevere.

Finally, Pope Francis invited us to ask ourselves if we are closed Christians, or Christians of the horizons; and if in ugly moments we are capable of enduring, with the knowledge that hope does not disappoint – “Because I know,” he said, “that God does not disappoint”:

“Let us ask ourselves the question: How am I? How is my life of faith? Is it a life of horizons, of hope, of courage, of going forward; or a lukewarm life that doesn’t even know to endure ugly moments? And that the Lord might give us the grace, as we have requested in the Collect [Opening Prayer], to overcome our selfishness, because parked Christians, stationary Christians, are selfish. They look only at themselves, they don’t raise their heads to look at Him. May the Lord give us this grace.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: The Christian life requires fighting against Satan

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2017 / 12:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke Thursday about the struggles inherent to the Christian life, and how temptation, while a normal part of trying to live virtuously, must be fought adamantly. “That’s why St. Paul speaks of Christian life as a struggle: a daily struggle. A fight!” he said Jan. 19. “That’s why Jesus came: ‘to destroy Satan's empire, the empire of evil.’” In his homily at Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflected on how the day's Gospel from St. Mark talks about crowds of people following Jesus. “Why were the crowds attracted?” the Pope asked. In the Gospels it tells us that some are sick and want to be healed, he said. There were also some who liked to listen to Jesus’ preaching. But another answer is that they followed the Lord because the Father always leads us to his Son. Jesus was moved by these people he saw as sheep without a shepherd, Francis said, these people who are being led to him by the Holy Spirit. “May the Lord give us the grace to know how to discern what is going on in our hearts and to choose the right path upon which the Father draws us to Jesus.” Commenting on the end of the Gospel, the Pope quoted the passage that says, “Whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, 'you are the Son of God.’” Frequently, when we try to approach God, “unclean spirits” try to stop us, he said, and “wage a war against us” through the temptation to sin. But this temptation is an ordinary part of living a Christian life, he said. “A Christian life without temptations is not Christian. It is ideological, it is Gnostic, but it is not Christian.”  

Conversion is a prerequisite to ecumenism, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2017 / 03:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Pope Francis, personal conversion is pretty much the key to the Church’s success in all of her activities, from Church governance to pastoral work, from Curial reform to evangelization and dialogue. He reiterated this point in a Jan. 19 speech to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, telling them that “true ecumenism is based on a shared conversion to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer.” “If we draw close to him, we draw close also to one another,” he said, and pointed to his trip to Sweden last fall for a joint-commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Francis noted that at one of the ecumenical events held during his visit both Catholics and Lutherans recognized that Martin Luther’s original intention “was to renew the Church, not divide her.” “The gathering there gave us the courage and strength, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to look ahead to the ecumenical journey that we are called to walk together,” he said, and urged members of the delegation to pray fervently “so that we may experience this conversion which makes reconciliation possible.” Pope Francis spoke to members of the Ecumenical Delegation of the Lutheran Church of Finland who traveled to Rome for their annual pilgrimage marking the feast of St. Henrik, the country’s patron. The delegation traditionally makes the pilgrimage during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year runs Jan. 18-25 and holds the theme “Love of Christ pushes us toward reconciliation.” In his speech, Francis said the joint-commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden was important “on both the human and theological-spiritual levels.” After 50 years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, “we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on,” he said, and voiced his gratitude. However, at the same time “we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults,” he said, pointing to the current divisions among Christians. Francis also said, as illustrated during his trip to Sweden, “theological dialogue remains essential for reconciliation” among Christians, Catholics and Lutherans in particular, but noted that this dialogue has already “advanced through steadfast commitment.” “Thus, in that communion of harmony which permits the Holy Spirit to act, we will be able to find further convergence on points of doctrine and the moral teaching of the Church, and will be able to draw ever closer to full and visible unity,” he said. He prayed particularly for the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland, which is currently “working diligently” to find “a common sacramental understanding” of the Church, the Eucharist and ecclesial ministry. Given the steps that have already been taken and those that are being made now, the Pope said the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to focus on the Gospel and to seek Christ together “with renewed vigor.” He encouraged the delegation to make a similar commitment to the one made between the Catholic and Lutheran delegations in Sweden, promising to work together to serve the poor, needy and those who suffer persecution and violence. By doing this, “as Christians we are no longer divided, but rather united on the journey toward full communion,” Pope Francis said. He noted how 2017 also marks Finland’s 100th anniversary as an independent State, and prayed that the milestone would “encourage all the Christians of your country to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – as did Saint Henrik so zealously.” Francis closed his address praying that the delegation’s pilgrimage would “contribute to further strengthening the good cooperation between Orthodox, Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and in the world.”

Pope Francis: prayer is an act of hope that leads us to God

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2017 / 04:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said hope in salvation is what leads us to turn to the Lord in prayer, trusting in faith particularly in moments when we are faced with the fear generated by death or injury. “Prayer brings you forward in hope and when things get dark, there needs to be more prayer! Then, there will be more hope,” the Pope said Jan. 18. Continuing his catechesis on the topic of Christian hope, the Pope reflected on the story of the Prophet Jonah and how his obedience, even if it came after he initially tried to run away from God’s request, helped to bring others to God through prayer. The passage from the Book of the Prophet Jonah, read during the general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, centered on when Jonah is in the boat trying to flee Nineveh. A dangerous storm develops, and the “pagan” sailors begin to fear for their lives. In the passage, it says they began to pray, each to his own god, and the captain of the ship woke Jonah, pleading with him to pray to his God to save their lives. “The reaction of these ‘pagans’ is the right reaction before death, because that’s when the man has a full experience of his own frailty and of his need for salvation. The instinctive horror of dying reveals the need for hope in the God of life,” Francis said. Too often and easily we don’t turn to God when we are in need, he said, because we are worried it will just be a prayer based on self-interest, and therefore “imperfect.” “But God knows our weakness, knows that we remember him for help, and with the indulgent smile of a father responds graciously,” Pope Francis reassured. In the end, when Jonah confesses the truth – that he was running away from the Lord – his witness of faith and his sacrifice of being thrown into the sea lead the sailors to pray to the one, true God. “Hope, which had led them to pray not to die, reveals an even more powerful person and a reality that goes well beyond what they hoped: not only do they not perish in the storm, but it opens them to the recognition of the one true Lord of heaven and of earth,” the Pope said. In his greetings to pilgrims in different languages after his catechesis, Pope Francis noted that Jan. 18 marks the first day of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which runs through Jan. 18-25. In his comments to German-speaking pilgrims specifically, he recalled his recent trip to Sweden for a joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Recalling the joint ecumenical prayer said Oct. 31, he said “the Gospel of Christ is at the center of our lives and unites people who speak different languages, live in different countries and live the faith in different communities.” “In the spirit of the joint commemoration of the Reformation, we look more at what unites us what divides us, and we continue our journey together to deepen our communion and give her an increasingly visible form,” he said. When it comes to Europe, “this common faith in Christ is like a green thread of hope; we belong to each other.” “Communion, reconciliation and unity are possible,” he said, adding that “as Christians, we have a responsibility to this message and we have to bear witness with our lives. May God bless this desire for union and guard all the people walking on the path to unity.” To close the weeklong event Pope Francis will preside over Second Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall Jan. 25 to mark the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Representatives from the different Churches and ecclesial communities in Rome will take part in the prayer, which is also open for the clergy and faithful of Rome.

Cardinal Pell's office dismisses attacks as opposition to reform

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2017 / 12:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In reaction to a new book claiming that Pope Francis has in fact done little to combat clerical sex abuse, and that Cardinal George Pell is implicated, the Australian cardinal's office has dismissed the claims as motivated by opposition to reform. “These most recent attacks on the Vatican, economic reforms and Cardinal George Pell are not only regurgitating false claims but appear to have a more sinister intent,” read a Jan. 15 statement from the office of Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. “Those opposed to the reforms and threatened by the progress in establishing transparency and addressing illegalities and malpractice have long used lies, smears and public attacks as diversionary tactics.” A new book by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi called Lussaria, or “Lust”, details claims that under Pope Francis, the Vatican has failed to adequately address sex abuse committed by clerics. The book will be release in Italian on Thursday. According to the Guardian, “In some of the twenty cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests in Italy in 2016, Fittipaldi writes, priests have been convicted of abuse without the church taking any canonical action against them.” The Washington Post writes that Fittipaldi “claims to have unearthed documents showing Pell also sought to financially aid priests who had been jailed on pedophilia charges.” Cardinal Pell, 75, has already faced allegations from investigators that while in Australia he had been negligent when informed of child sexual abuse, bribed a victim, moved a known abuser from parish to parish, and had himself committed sexual abuse of minors. The cardinal has adamantly denied committing sexual abuse and covering up the abuse of other priests, but he has expressed regret for failing to take more action against abusive priests in the 1970s and '80s. He was a bishop in Australia from 1987 until 2014, when he was called to Rome to head up Pope Francis' efforts at reforming Vatican finances. These efforts have met some resistance. The statement issued by Cardinal Pell's office characterized Fittipaldi's claims as an instance of this resistance: “As the full impact of the Holy Father's economic reforms now start to bite, articles seeking to discredit the Holy Father and those leading the reforms are unfortunately, to be expected. They should be recognised for such.” It called Fittipaldi's work “a particularly shoddy and dated piece which merely restates false allegations against the Cardinal in a blatant attempt to blacken his name and reputation.” “These matters have already been thoroughly reviewed by relevant civil authorities and it is clear from the detailed analysis that Cardinal Pell has never been a party to cover ups and protection of pedophiles and other offenders,” the statement continued. “There have been no adverse findings against Cardinal Pell by the Royal Commission in Australia in regards to these matters.” It added that “Cardinal Pell was among the first leaders in the Church to confront this evil and take tangible steps to assist to survivors. His commitment to supporting survivors and ensuring safe and proper protocols are in place remains firm.” “The ongoing reporting of false allegations to underscore ulterior motives is not only harmful to the Church but survivors as well,” the statement concluded. Fittipaldi has previously run afoul of Vatican officials. Another of his books was a subject of the “Vatileaks 2” trial held last year. Vatican City held an eight-month trial weighing the guilt of five individuals in the leaking and disseminating of confidential financial documents, sentencing a Vatican official and a laywoman for the crime. The journalists charged in the trial were Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi. It was ruled that the journalists could not be indicted, since what they were accused of – exerting pressure on Vatican officials to obtain private documents for them – falls outside Vatican City jurisdiction. Among the cases detailed in Lussaria is that of Fr. Mauro Inzoli, who was found guilty of child sex abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and laicized in 2012. But in 2014 he was allowed to again exercise his priesthood, albeit under the conditions of “a life of prayer and humble discretion.” In 2016, Fr. Inzoli was convicted on eight counts of abuse by Italian civil authorities.

Vatican unwavering in ongoing row with Knights of Malta

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2017 / 09:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the latest development in an ongoing feud between the Vatican and the Knights of Malta, the Holy See has issued a statement affirming their support for the Order and their work, but saying they expect full cooperation with an investigation into the dismissal of the Knights’ former Grand Chancellor. “In relation to the events of recent weeks concerning the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Holy See wishes to reiterate its support and encouragement for the commendable work that members and volunteers carry out in various parts of the world,” a Jan. 17 statement from the Vatican read. However, it is for the “support and advancement” of the Order’s essential mission in service of the poor, sick, and the defense of the faith that the Holy See voiced a reaffirmation of “its confidence” in the five member group appointed by Pope Francis “to inform him about the present crisis of the Central Direction of the Order.” The Vatican said it also “rejects, based on the documentation in its possession, any attempt to discredit these members of the group and their work.” The line refers to recent reports that in the past few days the Knights have voiced their intention to launch an inquiry into the Vatican’s investigative group on the grounds that they have a “conflict of interest,” citing links between certain group members to a fund in Geneva. The statement is the latest move in what has turned out to be a heated feud between the Knights of Malta and the Vatican over the ousting of the Order’s former Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, in early December. Shortly after Boeselager was dismissed the Knights released a Dec. 13 statement saying his removal was due to the “subsequent concealment … from the Grand Magistry” of “severe problems which occurred during [his] tenure as Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta.” Since then it has come to be known that the problem cited refers to when the Order's charity branch, under Boeselager’s watch, had inadvertently been involved in distributing condoms in Burma to prevent HIV. In comments to CNA, the Order’s Communications Director confirmed that while the Burmese incident was part of why Boeselager was asked to resign, the full list of reasons is “more complex.” However, he did not reveal what the full motivations were, saying “the reasons for the dismissal are confidential.” The Vatican announced Dec. 22 that Pope Francis had formed a group of five senior officials shortly after the forced resignation to investigate the matter. Members of the group include Archbishop Silvestro Tomasi, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., Jacques de Liedekerke, Marc Odendall, and Marwan Sehnaoui. In response, the Knights issued a Jan. 10 statement defending their decision, calling Boeselager’s dismissal “an internal act of governance,” making the group established by the Holy See to investigate the decision is “legally irrelevant” given the Order’s sovereignty. The Order voiced both their refusal to cooperate in the investigation as well as their encouragement for members questioned by the Vatican group to not take a stance other than that of the Grand Magistry. “Considering the legal irrelevance of this group and of its findings relating to the legal structure of the Order of Malta, the Order has decided that it should not cooperate with it,” they said in their Jan. 10 statement, insisting this refusal is meant to protect the Order’s sovereignty against “initiatives which claim to be directed at objectively (and, therefore – quite apart from its intentions – reveals it to be legally irrelevant) questioning or even limiting said Sovereignty.” They also charged that depositions individual members might give to the Vatican’s investigative group “cannot, in their terms and judgments, be in contradiction, directly or indirectly,” with the decision to remove Boeselager from his position. However, despite the ongoing tensions, the Vatican in their Jan. 17 statement said the Holy See “counts on the complete cooperation of all in this sensitive stage.” In addition, it said the Holy See “awaits the report of the above-mentioned group in order to adopt, within its area of competence, the most fitting decisions for the good of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and of the Church.”

Pope sends condolences to Kyrgyz town devastated by plane crash

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2017 / 10:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Monday sent a telegram to survivors of a cargo plane crash in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, expressing his sorrow for all those who died and sending his prayers for the rescue efforts. “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic crash of a cargo plane near Bishkek, Pope Francis sends his condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, particularly in Manas, and commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of almighty God,” the Jan. 16 telegram stated. “In praying for the search and rescue efforts, his holiness invokes upon the nation the divine blessings of strength and consolation,” it continued, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis. At least 37 people were killed Monday after a Turkish cargo plane crashed into the village of Dacha-Suu, 16 miles northwest of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, while trying to land at the airport which serves Bishkek. The plane, traveling from Hong Kong to Istanbul, was scheduled for a stopover at the Manas airport, according to airport officials in Bishkek, the AP reports. The plane crashed at 7:40am local time, destroying half of the village, including 15 homes and dozens of buildings, some of which burst into flames after being hit by debris from the plane. The four members of the flight’s crew were among those who died. Another 15 people, including six children, were hospitalized, according to the health ministry. The reason for the crash is still unknown. Though there was fog at the airport the morning of Jan. 16, the weather conditions were not considered critical, the AP reports. The Kyrgyz deputy prime minister said that “according to preliminary information, the plane crashed due to a pilot error,” the BBC reports. Kyrgyzstan has declared Tuesday a day of national mourning.

If you're tempted to gossip, 'bite your tongue,' Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2017 / 11:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Sunday traveled to a parish on the outskirts of Rome where he visited a priest suffering from a severe form of ALS and celebrated Mass, warning parishioners, as he often does, of the harm gossiping does to a community. When we read the Gospels, we see that “we have a lot of sins,” including betrayal and jealousy, “but there is one I don’t find: they weren’t gossipers, they didn’t talk bad about others, they didn’t speak badly about each other. No,” the Pope said Jan. 15. “In this, they were good. They didn’t pluck at each other,” he said, lamenting how often the sin of gossip, “to remove the skin from one another, to talk behind their backs, to believe yourself better than others while talking badly in secret,” is present in parish communities. However, “in the Gospel they didn’t do this,” he said, adding that if they want to have a “perfect parish” it doesn’t mean not sinning, but rather eliminating the sin of gossip. Pope Francis traveled to the Santa Maria, a Setteville parish on the outskirts of Rome, near Tivoli. The primary reason for the visit was to see ailing Fr. Giuseppe Berardino, 50, who has been suffering from a severe form of ALS for two years. Francis arrived to the parish around 3:30 p.m. where he was greeted by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of Rome, Guerino di Tora, Auxiliary Bishop of the northern sector of Rome, the parish priest Fr. Luigi Tedoldi, and the associate pastor Fr. Leonel Alehandro Torres Lara. After his arrival, the Pope went directly to visit with Fr. Berardino, who first arrived at the parish nearly 14 years ago as a Redemptoris Mater seminarian. He was ordained a deacon at the parish, which was followed by his priestly ordination in 2003, according to a communique from the Vicariate of Rome. Fr. Berardino had worked closely with the youth before falling ill after taking a fall at a summer camp, which led to the onset of his illness and its rapid progression. Given the severity of his current state, 20 couples from the parish alternate in shifts to help him on the weekends when the nurses are off. Before celebrating Mass, Francis also met with different members of the parish, including a group of 30 members of the community who are sick, parish workers, priests and seminarians, 40 couples who baptized their children in 2016, and a group of around 220 youth aged 13-18, who asked the Pope a few questions. The Pope then heard four confessions in the parish sacristy before celebrating Mass, the penitents being the father of a sick child, a recently-confirmed youth, and a couple who help to assist Fr. Berardino. In his homily, Francis turned to the day’s Gospel from John, noting that the Apostles who followed Jesus after John the Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus “is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” were only able to encounter Jesus thanks to John‘s witness. “This is how it happens in our lives,” he said, explaining that being a Christian is more than just following the Commandments or obeying all the rules. Being a Christian “above all means bearing witness to Jesus,” he said, adding that this is what the Apostles did when they went throughout the world, even testifying through their martyrdom. “Testimony and martyrdom, they are the same. You give witness in the small things, and some of them become big, giving one’s life in martyrdom like the Apostles.” The Apostles didn’t “take a course” on how to become a witness or study at a university, but they “they felt the Spirit inside and they followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were faithful to this.” However, even though they were faithful, they were still sinners, he said, adding that this goes for “all of them,” and not just Judas. Even the Apostles were envious and jealous of each other, he said, pointing to the Gospel scene where they fought about who was first among them, and when James and John had their mother come to Jesus and ask that they sit at his right and at his left. The Apostles were even “traitors, because when Jesus was taken they all left, they hid, they were afraid,” including Peter, the first Pope, who denied Jesus publicly. However, despite their sins they were still able to bear witness because what they testified to was “the salvation Jesus brings, and all of them, with this salvation, were converted. They allowed themselves to be saved.” “To be a witness doesn’t mean to be a Saint,” but rather recognizing that “I’m a sinner, but Jesus is the Lord, and I bear witness to him. I try to do good every day, to correct my life, to go on the right path.” While the Apostles had many sins, Pope Francis noted that the only one they didn’t have is to gossip and speak badly about each other. When it comes to parish life, he said that “we are all sinners, but one community,” and where there are gossipers, “a gossiping community is incapable of giving witness.” “I would say only this: do you want a perfect parish? Then no gossiping, no! If you have something to say to someone say it to their face, or to the pastor, but not among you,” he said, explaining that what destroys a community, “like a worm, is gossip, from behind.” He then invited parishioners to make a commitment to hold their tongues whenever they feel tempted to gossip, because “a parish where there is no gossip is a perfect parish. It’s parish of sinners, yes, but of witnesses, and this is the witness given by the first Christians.” “Start with this,” he said, and prayed that God would give them the gift and grace “to never speak about each other behind your backs.”

Pope points to Mother Cabrini as prime model in caring for migrants

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2017 / 05:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis pointed to St. Frances Cabrini as an example of how to treat foreigners, calling her a “courageous” woman who knew how to bring God’s love to those who were lonely and in hardship. After praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 15, Pope Francis sent a special greeting to members of different ethnic communities gathered who had gathered in honor of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. “I wish that you can live peacefully in the towns that welcome you, respecting their laws and traditions and, at the same time, maintaining the values of your cultures of origin,” the Pope said, adding that “the meeting of different cultures is always an enrichment for all!” Speaking to those who work directly with migrants, the Pope thanked them for the welcome and accompaniment they provide to newcomers, and encouraged them to continue their efforts “always remembering the example of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini,” who is remembered in a special way this year, which marks the centenary of her death. “This courageous Sister dedicated her life to bringing the love of Christ to those who were far from their homeland and families,” he said, adding that her witness can help us learn “to take care of our foreign brother, in whom Jesus is present, often suffering, rejected and humiliated.” St. Cabrini, more commonly known as “Mother Cabrini,” was an Italian missionary who spent much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States. Though she had a deathly fear of water and drowning, she crossed the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times in service of the Church and the people she was assisting. After arriving to the U.S. she wasted no time getting to work, and traveled not only overseas, but also throughout the U.S. setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants. Eventually, St. Frances became a naturalized U.S. citizen. She died in 1917 and was canonized in 1946, just before a new wave of immigrants began to arrive in the U.S. Due to her tireless service to struggling foreigners, she was named patron of immigrants. Announced Oct. 13, the theme for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless,” and is meant to draw attention to the plight of the many children who suffer due to various forms of slavery and exploitation. Speaking of the theme, Pope Francis said these “small brothers and sisters of ours, especially those who are unaccompanied, are exposed to so much danger.” Because of this, we must “adopt every possible measure in order to guarantee child migrants protection and defense, as well as their integration.” In his address before the Angelus, the Pope focused on the day’s Gospel passage from John in which John the Baptist, in seeing Jesus come toward him, says “behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” With these words John is bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, he said, and recounting the scene, noted how until that moment John had been preaching the coming of the Messiah and encouraging his followers to repent, since the time was nearly at hand. Then the moment arrives when Jesus “presents himself on the bank of the river, in the midst of the people, sinners – like each of us,” Francis said, noting that this was Jesus’ first public act since leaving his home in Nazareth. When the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove as the voice of the Father proclaims that he is his beloved Son, John recognizes it as the sign that he’s been waiting for, and that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. John, he said, was “baffled,” because the Messiah was manifested in what for him was “an unthinkable way: in the midst of sinners, baptized like them, rather, for them.” “But the Holy Spirit illuminates John and makes him understand that this is how God’s justice is fulfilled, how his design of salvation is fulfilled.” Jesus is the Messiah, showing himself not with “the power of this world,” but rather “as the Lamb of God who takes upon himself and takes away the sins of the world.” Francis then explained that his reason for making such a lengthy, detailed reflection on the passage is because “it’s decisive!” “It’s decisive for our faith and it’s decisive also for the mission of the Church,” he said, explaining that in every age the Church “is called to do what John the Baptist did: to show Jesus to the people.” When during Mass the priest presents the bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ to the people, this act “act represents the entire mission of the Church, which does not announce herself, but announces Christ; does not bring herself, but brings Christ.” This, Pope Francis said, is because “it is he and only he who saves his people from sin, frees them and guides them to the land of life and freedom.”

Pope Francis baptizes babies from earthquake zones in Italy

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2017 / 01:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis baptized 13 babies from areas where devastating earthquakes struck Italy last year.  The baptism took place in the chapel of the Santa Marta house, where the Pope resides.  Italy was struck with a series of fatal and destructive earthquakes last summer and fall.  The first struck the town and nearby areas of Amatrice, Italy in August. It measured in at a magnitude of 6.2 and killed as many as 290 people throughout the region, and left several hundred others injured. The next earthquakes hit in October, in a region just 50 miles north of where the first quake had occurred. A magnitude 5.5 quake, and another, measuring at a magnitude of 6.1, struck the region of Visso, Italy within just hours of each other on October 26. One man died of a heart attack as a result of the earthquakes.  Just days later, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake leveled the 13th century Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. Two women died of sudden heart attacks during this earthquake.  Earlier this month, Pope Francis held an audience with survivors from the earthquake zones.  “The pain is great...the wounds of the heart are there,” the Pope told the thousands of people gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for the Jan. 5 audience. The Pope told the victims that they needed true hope in Christ, not mere shallow optimism, to begin the rebuilding process. “Yes for hope, but no for optimism...Today hope is needed to rebuild, which is done with your hands.” He also told the people not to lose the ability to dream in the process of rebuilding, urging them to have “the courage to dream one more time” as they move forward.

Cardinal O’Malley appointed to Vatican office for Doctrine of the Faith

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2017 / 10:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday it was announced that Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has yet another reason to come to Rome, with his appointment as the newest member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Already a member of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals and President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, O’Malley’s appointment to the CDF, announced in a Jan. 14 communique from the Vatican, adds yet another major role to the list of duties he is accumulating.  Headed by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the CDF is also home to a new judicial section established by the Pope last June to handle cases of “abuse of office” on the part of a bishop or religious superior accused of being negligent in handling instances of child sexual abuse.  O’Malley was tapped to be one of the Pope’s cardinal-advisors when Francis established the Council of Cardinals, who conceived and proposed the new judicial section, in 2013.  Just a few months later he was asked to head up the Commission for Minors, assisted by Msgr. Bob Oliver, who had previously served the Archdiocese of Boston as assistant to the moderator of the Curia for Canonical Affairs. O’Malley’s addition to the CDF, then, is evidence of just how much confidence the Pope has in him. Considered “papabile” by many, meaning he is viewed as a candidate to be the next Pope, O’Malley speaks fluent Spanish and brings with him years of experience in dealing with the issues of sex abuse and immigration, both of which have been major priorities for Pope Francis.  Born in Lakewood, Ohio in 1944, the cardinal studied at both the St. Fidelis Seminary and the Capuchin College in Washington D.C. before making his profession with the Capuchin Order of the Franciscans in 1965. He was ordained a priest five years later. After his ordination, O’Malley went on to earn a master’s degree in religious education and a doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese literature from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., where he taught from 1969-1973. He then began serving as Executive Director of the El Centro Catolico Hispanico in the Washington Archdiocese before eventually being named as Episcopal Vicar for the Hispanic, Portuguese and Haitian communities in the diocese. In addition to his role as Episcopal Vicar, the cardinal also served as director of the archdiocese’s Office of Social Ministry in 1978.  This position, combined with his experience as Episcopal Vicar, is what sparked O’Malley’s passion and commitment to the issues of social justice and the care of immigrants, particularly those who had just arrived to the United States.  One illustration of the challenges new migrants often face was shared by O’Malley the 2013 Knights of Columbus convention in San Antonio – a diocese that is no stranger to the issue of immigration.  O’Malley, who was a keynote speaker, shared the story of counseling an immigrant who had left his wife and six children in their home country and traveled to the United States in order to make money to send home to support his family. The man had come to O’Malley in desperation after receiving a letter from his wife accusing him of abandoning her and their children. He explained that he didn’t understand his wife’s letter, because every paycheck he got he immediately put into what he thought was a mailbox to send to his family. However, O’Malley shared that when he asked the man which mailbox he had used, the man pointed to a blue bin that was in fact a trash can, leaving the cardinal at a loss for words as to how to tell the man where his hard-earned money had really gone. It was experiences like this that inspired the passion he shares with the Shepherd of the Catholic Church, for those struggling to integrate into new cultures. O’Malley was later appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 1984, and in 1985 he was named diocesan bishop of the Caribbean diocese. Just seven years later, John Paul II appointed him as the sixth bishop of Fall River.  He was then appointed by John Paul II to the Special Assembly for Oceana of the 1998 Synod of Bishops, and served as Apostolic Visitator for several seminaries in Central America and the Caribbean.  In 2002 he was named as Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., whose previous bishop had resigned six months earlier after admitting he had abused minors. Less than a year later, in July 2003, he was named Archbishop of Boston, just after a broader scope of the Church’s sex abuse crisis had been uncovered by media. Benedict XVI elevated him to the cardinalate in 2006, at the same time naming him as a member of the Vatican Congregations for Clergy and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  After the immediate aftermath of the clerical abuse crisis in Boston had largely passed, toward the late 2000s, O’Malley began focusing on needs within the diocese. He implemented plans to conserve parish resources, launched a campaign for Catholic schools aimed at strengthening and expanding those that already existed, and stabilized the archdiocese’s pension systems for both clergy and lay-employees. He also placed a strong emphasis on vocations and outreach to youth, which was reflected in his expansion of the archdiocese’s use of Internet and social media, through which they encouraged participation in gatherings such as World Youth Days and the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. In addition to his growing number of responsibilities in the Vatican, Cardinal O’Malley is also an active member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and former chairman of their Committee for Pro-Life Activities. Other significant roles he has held include head of the Commission for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, as well as being a member of the USCCB Administrative Board, a member of the committees on Migration and Pro-Life Activities and the subcommittees for the Church in Africa and the Church in Latin America. The list of committees and commissions O’Malley has served on extends even further, including several from his years as bishop: Missions (he was chairman); Priestly Formation; Hispanic Affairs and Migration. He has also served on the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services, the Association for the Development of the Catholic University of Portugal and the board of trustees at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.