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Pope Francis to Church in Americas: bring the balm of Christ's presence

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Video Message to the Church in the Americas, to mark the Jubilee of the Americas, organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Scheduled to take place in Bogota, Colombia, from the 27th to the 30th of August, the theme of the continental Jubilee celebration is taken from Pope Francis’ homily at Mass on May 2nd, 2015, at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he had gone to visit as part of preparations for the canonization of St. Junipero Serra: “May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!”

Click below to hear our report

For the full text of Pope Francis' Mesage, click here

Along with the bishops, priests, religious men and women, and laity of the 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries, delegates from Canada and the United States and representatives of the Holy See are taking part in the Jubilee celebration, which seeks to turn the “Spirit of mercy” that animates this Jubilee Year into genuine and concrete help especially for all those who, in the words of Pope Francis, live on the “existential peripheries” of life.

In his Message, Pope Francis says, “All of us are aware, all of us know that we live in a society that is hurting: no one doubts this.  We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable. But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us and urges us to bring the balm of His presence.”

The schedule of events over the three-day celebration includes a penitential liturgy including time for personal confessions, a reflection on the legacy of holiness found in the American saints, a full day dedicated to Works of Mercy on the American continent, and a public conversation on mercy as the soul of a culture of encounter.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican Sec of State hopes for improved diplomatic relations with China

(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed his ‘hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season in relations between the Apostolic See and China’ in a speech on Saturday at the diocesan seminary in Pordenone, Italy.

The speech – laden with the history of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See – focused on the figure of Cardinal Celso Costantini as a bridge builder.

Born in Castions di Zoppola in 1876 and an honorary citizen of Pordenone and Aquileia, Cardinal Costantini was named the first Apostolic Delegate to China in 1922 until 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

Cardinal Parolin said “Celso Costantini successfully completed a mission of extraordinary importance: he created a ‘bridge’ between Holy See and China, to which Pope Francis pays the utmost attention and, I am sure, also the people and government of China”.

A diary written by Cardinal Celso Costantini, entitled The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal: Celso Costantini's Wartime Diaries, 1938-1947, was kept secret before being published in 2010 and tells some of the story of his assignment in China.

Below is a Vatican Radio English translation of the conclusion portion of Cardinal Parolin’s speech:

In light of these brief reflections on the events surrounding Cardinal Celso Costantini in relation to the vast ‘continent’ that is China, one becomes aware of his singular capacity to ‘build bridges’, that is, his capacities of knowledge, of respect, of encounter, and of dialogue between worlds, very distant, at least in appearance.

Today, as ever, many are the hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season of relations between the Apostolic See and China for the benefit not only of Catholics in the land of Confucius but for the entire country, which boasts of one of the greatest civilizations on Earth. I would dare to say [these relations] would be beneficial even for an ordered, peaceful, and fruitful cohabitation of peoples and nations in a world, like our own, torn by many tensions and conflicts. I consider it important to forcefully underline this idea:  New hopes and good relations with China – including diplomatic ties, if God so wishes! – are neither an end in themselves nor a desire to reach some kind of ‘worldly’ success. They are thought out and pursued – not without fear and trembling because it involves the Church which belongs to God – I repeat, they are pursued only in the measure in which they are ‘ordered’ toward the good of Chinese Catholics, to the good of the entire Chinese people, and to the harmony of the whole society, in favor of world peace.

Pope Francis, as his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XIV before him, knows well the baggage of suffering, of misunderstandings, often of silent martyrdom which the Catholic community in China carries on its shoulders: it is the weight of history! But he also knows, along with external and internal difficulties, how alive is the yearning for full communion with the Successor of Peter, how many advances have been made, how many efforts are made to witness to the love of God and the love of neighbor, especially to the people weakest and most in need, which is the synthesis of all Christianity. [Pope Francis] also knows and encourages, especially in this Jubilee of Mercy, mutual forgiveness, reconciliation between brothers and sisters who have been divided, and the struggle to grow in understanding, collaboration, and love!

We are all called to accompany with caring closeness, respect, humility, and above all prayer this path of the Church in China. It involves writing a new page of history, looking ahead with trust in Divine Providence and healthy realism to insure a future in which Chinese Catholics can feel profoundly Catholic – ever more visibly anchored on the solid rock, which, by the will of Jesus, is Peter – and fully Chinese, without having to deny or diminish all that is true, noble, pure, lovable, honorable (cf. Phil 4,8) of that which their history and their culture has produced and continues to produce. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that nothing is truly human if it does not find an echo in the heart of the disciples of Christ! (cf. GS n.1).

It should be realistically accepted that there is no shortage of problems to be resolved between the Holy See and China and that they can generate, often by their complexity, differing positions and orientations. However, such problems are not completely unlike those positively dealt with 70 years ago. Cardinal Celso Costantini, therefore, remains a source of inspiration and a model of extreme actuality. In this sense, I thank you also because this conference, prepared for you, gave me the occasion to better study the figure and work [of Cardinal Costantini], just as others in this diocese have done and are doing.

On the path which remains to be walked, we commend ourselves with immense trust to Our Lady, invoked under the title “Help of Christians, Auxilium christianorum”. Cardinal Costantini in 1924 crowned her image in Sheshan, near Shanghai.

On 22 May 2016, in light of the liturgical feast of Our Lady venerated in Sheshan, Pope Francis yearned for, in the current Year of Mercy, “an authentic culture of encounter and harmony of all of society, that harmony which the Chinese spirit loves so much” [1]. This spirit finds full consonance in the Bishops of Rome who have always demonstrated maximum consideration, enormous commitment, and unbounded love for the Chinese people.

[1] All’Angelus il Papa ricorda che ogni uomo è un essere in relazione. Orizzonte trinitario. E invita a pregare per il vertice di Istanbul e per la Cina, in L’Osservatore Romano, 23-24 maggio 2016, 7. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope thanks Ventimiglia diocese for care of migrants, refugees

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the bishop of the northern Italian city of Ventimiglia, where scores of migrants and refugees have congregated in the hopes of crossing the nearby border into France.

Listen to Ann Schneible's report:

The Pope’s message, which was published on the diocesan website, comes in response to a letter from Bishop Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia – San Remo, which recounted the situation on the ground.

In the Holy Father’s letter, which was signed 17 August, he expressed his spiritual closeness with “affection and prayer” to the bishop, the entire diocese, and all those who “strive to meet the needs of these people who are escaping war and violence, in search of hope and a peaceful future.”

“I wish so much to thank you for the efforts which this diocesan community is deploying with admirable evangelical charity, establishing human, logistical, and economic resources to support these, our brothers and sisters, who are living an immense tragedy.”

Pope Francis encouraged the bishop, along with the priests, consecrated persons, pastoral workers, and other Church entities to continue with their “generous commitment to welcome and solidarity,” thereby becoming “ever more a ‘Church in exit,’ the joyful herald of the Gospel of mercy and a witness to hope.”

The Pope concluded his message by reiterating his “sincere appreciation” for the fervor of the diocesan community, and assuring them of his prayers, while bestowing on them his apostolic blessing.

(from Vatican Radio)

US Ambassador to Holy See shares his memories of Mother Teresa

(Vatican Radio)  With the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata) drawing near, the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, shared his memories of her and in one anecdote described how she was able to exert her moral influence over the then Reagan Administration. Ambassador Hackett knew and worked closely with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity Order while he served as president of Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See has launched an online exhibit documenting the strong ties Mother Teresa had with the United States. He was interviewed by Susy Hodges.

Listen to the interview with U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Hackett: 

Describing himself as “ecstatic” over Mother Teresa’s canonization, Ambassador Hackett said he felt it was definitely overdue or as he put it, “a long time in coming.” He paid tribute to Mother and the Missionaries of Charity Order she founded, saying she extended “mercy, kindness, concern and compassion to those who have absolutely fallen through society’s cracks” such as people on the streets who are dying or children who have been abandoned. Hackett had earlier described her as a “field hospital” saint, taking the metaphor used one day by Pope Francis at his morning Mass to describe the action of the Church in reaching out to those who are in need.

“A great sense of humour”

Turning to her personality, Hackett disclosed that she had “a great sense of humour” and was adept at “tweaking” people by pricking their consciences when it came to their responsibilities to help the poor and needy. When she did that to him, the ambassador described his reaction:

“You felt like you had got a thunderbolt right through you!” 

Asked to share any special memories or anecdotes about Mother Teresa, Hackett stressed that she “knew how to move the agenda” not just with people like him but also with Presidents and the powerful. As an example, he described one incident where in his earlier post as head of Catholic Relief Services he was in a meeting with leading members of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the time of the “big famine” in Ethiopia during the 1980’s.

Mother Teresa’s letter to President Reagan

He said they were having an “argument” at that meeting about U.S. government plans to cut food donations to the Ethiopian government when somebody brought in a note from (the then) Secretary of State George Schultz saying that "the President wants an answer in half an hour to Mother Teresa’s letter asking President Reagan why he is cutting food to the needy in Ethiopia.” Describing Mother Teresa as “bold”, Hackett said as a result of that intervention, food supplies were NOT cut to Ethiopia and this was an example of her strong moral influence, even when it came to world leaders.  

Hackett spoke about the online exhibit which the U.S. embassy to the Holy See launched on August 26th and which documents the strong ties Blessed Teresa had with the United States. He said the exhibit includes many photos and a four-minute video showing Mother Teresa during some of her frequent visits to the U.S. and explained how Americans, regardless of their faith, always held Mother Teresa in high regard. Hackett said this was very apparent because during her U.S. visits, Catholic Relief Services received “thousands” of requests from people wishing to volunteer their services. 

(from Vatican Radio)

«Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace». Message for the 50th World Day of Peace, the fourth of Pope Francis.

 «Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace». This is the title of the Message for the 50th World Day of Peace (1st january 2017), the fourth of Pope Francis. Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society.

The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences. The Holy Father sums up this situation in the expression: “A Third World War in Pieces”. Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress. Therefore, we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical. Thus, non-violence can acquire a more comprehensive and new meaning. It will not only consist of desire, of moral rejection of violence, barriers, destructive impulses, but also of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.

Such a political method is based on the primacy of law. If the rights and the equal dignity of every person are safeguarded without any discrimination and distinction, then non-violence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts. In this perspective, it becomes important to increasingly recognize not the right of force but the force of right.

With this Message, Pope Francis wants to show a further step, a path of hope, appropriate to today’s historical circumstances. In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict. Within such a perspective the culture and identity of Peoples are respected and the opinion that some are morally superior to others is overcome.

At the same time, however, it does not mean that one Nation can remain indifferent to the tragedies of another. Rather it means a recognition of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.

Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated. Illegal arms trafficking supports not a few world’s conflicts. Non-violence as a political style can and must do much to stem this scourge.


TheWorld Peace Day initiated by Paul VI is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Holy Father's Message is sent to all Foreign Ministries of the world and it indicates the diplomatic concerns of the Holy See during the coming year.

Pope Francis greets Paralympic Committee ahead of Rio games

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday made a special greeting during his General Audience to the members of the International Paralympic Committee and the athletes who are preparing to participate in the next Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which will take place from 7-18 September.

The Holy Father blessed the Paralympic Flag when he was in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in 2013, taking the opportunity to speak about the bonds between evangelisation and the world of sport.

The Vatican is participating in the "Casa Italia Paralimpica in Rio 2016,” which is a meeting place for the Italian delegation at the Paralympic Games.

The Casa Italia is a long-term project – which will involve the collaboration of the Holy See and the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro – to offer practical support to a series of project initiatives, especially involving parasport activities.

(from Vatican Radio)

At Audience, Pope prays Rosary for earthquake victims

(Vatican Radio) In the wake of the powerful earthquake that struck central Italy on Wednesday, Pope Francis at the General Audience postponed his prepared catechesis, and led the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square in the recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.

The Holy Father expressed his “heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness” to all those affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. He said he was deeply saddened upon learning several children were among the dead, and of hearing of the total destruction of the town of Amatrice.

“I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church, who in these moments extends her merciful love, as well as the concern of all of us here in the Piazza," Pope Francis said.

He asked everyone to join him in prayer to Jesus, that the Lord might “console the broken-hearted, and, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace.”

“With Jesus,” Pope Francis concluded, “let our hearts be moved with compassion.”

Below, please find the full text of the Pope’s remarks at the General Audience on Wednesday:

“I had prepared the catechesis for today, as for all Wednesdays during this year of mercy, focusing on the closeness of Jesus. However on hearing of the news of the earthquake that has struck central Italy, and which has devastated entire areas and left many wounded, I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted.

“I also express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid. Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened.

“For this reason, I want to assure all the people of Accumuli, Amatrice, the Diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno, and all the people of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche, of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church, who in these moments extends her merciful love, as well as the concern of all of us here in the Piazza.

“And thanking all the volunteer and rescue personnel who are assisting these people, I ask you to join me in praying to the Lord Jesus, Who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that He may console the broken hearted, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace.

“With Jesus let our hearts be moved with compassion.

“So we will postpone, then, this week’s catechesis until next Wednesday, and I invite you to pray with me a part of the holy Rosary, the sorrowful mysteries.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis tells a fractured world: God's mercy gives hope for change

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 27, 2016 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Just as God trusts us and expects us to change, we must treat others “never based on fear but on the hope God has in our ability to change,” Pope Francis said in Saturday remarks that rejected the despair of a fractured culture.   “Which will it be: hope for change, or fear?” the Pope asked a gathering of Catholic leaders Aug. 27. “The only thing acting out of fear accomplishes is to separate, to divide, to attempt to distinguish with surgical precision one side from the other, to create false security and thus to build walls.”   By contrast, acting on the basis of hope for change and conversion is something that “encourages and incites.”   He said hope “looks to the future, it makes room for opportunity, and it keeps us moving forward.” Fear-based action bespeaks guilt and punishment, while action based on the hope of transformation “bespeaks trusting, learning, getting up, constantly trying to generate new opportunities.”   The Pope’s words came via video message to Bogota, Columbia, where the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy drew participants from all the countries of South America. Over a dozen cardinals and more than 120 bishops registered for the event, as did rectors of national Marian shrines, religious superiors, and directors of associations and new ecclesial communities. The event aims to show the communion of the churches of the Americas. It was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council.   Pope Francis said he was pleased that all the countries of America were taking part. “Given the many attempts to fragment, divide and set our peoples at odds, such events help us to broaden our horizons and to continue our handshake; a great sign that encourages us in hope,” he said.   The Pope repeated his previous lamentations of a fragmented, throwaway culture, a culture that is “tainted by the exclusion of everything that might threaten the interest of a few.”   “A culture that is leaving by the roadside the faces of the elderly, children, ethnic minorities seen as a threat,” he said. “A culture that little by little promotes the comfort of a few and increases the suffering of many others.  A culture that is incapable of accompanying the young in their dreams but sedates them with promises of ethereal happiness and hides the living memory of their elders.  A culture that has squandered the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and has shown itself incapable of caring for the richness of their lands.”   “We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable,” he added. “But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us with one program alone: to treat one another with mercy. To become neighbors to those thousands of defenseless people who walk in our beloved American land by proposing a different way of treating them.”   The Pope’s remarks drew on St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy.   “Paul minces no words: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul considers himself the worst,” the Pope explained. “He is clearly aware of who he is, he does not conceal his past or even his present.  But he describes himself in this way neither to excuse or justify himself, much less to boast of his condition.”   “For all our sins, our limitations, our failings, for all the many times we have fallen, Jesus has looked upon us and drawn near to us.  He has given us his hand and showed us mercy,” he continued. “All of us can think back and remember the many times the Lord looked upon us, drew near and showed us mercy.  All those times that the Lord kept trusting, kept betting on us. “   The Pope encouraged his audience to concentrate on remembering their sin, not their alleged merits, and to grow in “a humble and guilt-free awareness of all those times we turned away from God – we, not someone else, not the person next to us, much less that of our people – and to be once more amazed by God’s mercy.”   Mercy is not simply a beautiful word. It is a concrete act of drawing close to others and making them feel that “the last word has not yet been spoken” in their lives. These people must be treated in such a way “that those who feel crushed by the burden of their sins can feel relieved at being given another chance.”   “Paul’s God starts a movement from heart to hands, the movement of one who is unafraid to draw near, to touch, to caress, without being scandalized, without condemning, without dismissing anyone.  A way of acting that becomes incarnate in people’s lives,” the Pope added.   The way of mercy can seek what is best for the other person “in a way they can understand.”   He noted the action of the merciful father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He said that Christians are sometimes tempted to be scandalized, like the older son in the parable who begrudged his father’s mercy towards his wayward brother.   “We might be scandalized that he did not upbraid him but instead treated him for what he was: a son,” the pontiff continued. Pope Francis suggested this is due to “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” which is “when we forget how the Lord has treated us, when we begin to judge and divide people up.”   “We take on a separatist mindset that, without our realizing it, leads us to fragment our social and communal reality all the more,” he said. “We fragment the present by creating ‘groups’.  Groups of good and bad, saints and sinners.”   What made St. Paul a disciple was “the trust God showed in him despite his many sins.” If we have the best plans, projects and theories about what to do, but lack mercy, “our pastoral work will be cut off midway.”   He questioned whether the bishops teach the path of showing mercy in their pastoral plans, parish structures, seminaries, missionary activity, clergy meetings and theology.   “Today we are asked especially to show mercy to God’s holy and faithful people – they know a lot about being merciful because they have a good memory –, to the people who come to our communities with their sufferings, sorrows and hurts,” the Pope exhorted. “But also to the people who do not come to our communities, yet are wounded by the paths of history and hope to receive mercy.”   “Mercy is learned, because our Father continues to forgive us.  Our peoples already have enough suffering in their lives; they do not need us to add to it,” the Pope said. “To learn to show mercy is to learn from the Master how to become neighbors, unafraid of the outcast and those ‘tainted’ and marked by sin. To learn to hold out our hand to those who have fallen, without being afraid of what people will say. Any treatment lacking mercy, however just it may seem, ends up turning into mistreatment.”   Pope Francis encouraged the Catholic cardinals, bishops, and other leaders to be grateful that God “trusts us to repeat with his people the immense acts of mercy he has shown us.”

The happiest day of Mother Teresa's life

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s been said that saints often come in pairs. Sts. Peter and Paul, Mary and Joseph, Francis and Clare, and Louis and Zelie Martin are just a handful of such saints, coupled together through marriage or friendship. Perhaps the best-known modern saintly pair of friends would be Mother Teresa and John Paul II, whose lives intersected many times during her time as Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and his pontificate. When John Paul II came to visit Mother Teresa’s home in the heart of the slums in Kolkata in 1986, Mother Teresa called it “the happiest day of my life.” When he arrived, Mother Teresa climbed up into the white popemobile and kissed the ring of the Bishop of Rome, who then kissed the top of Mother’s head, a greeting they would exchange almost every time they met. After their warm hello, Mother took John Paul II to her Nirmal Hriday (Sacred Heart) home, a home for the sick and the dying she had founded in the 1950s. Footage of the visit shows Mother Teresa leading John Paul II by the hand to various parts of the home, while he stops to embrace, bless, and greet the patients. He also blessed four corpses, including that of a child. According to reports of the visit from the BBC, the Pope was “visibly moved” by what he saw during his visit, as he helped the nuns feed and care for the sick and the dying. At some points the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw that he found himself speechless in response to Mother Teresa. Afterwards, the Pope gave a short address outside the home, calling Nirmal Hriday “a place that bears witness to the primacy of love.” “When Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples how they could best show their love for him, he said: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Through Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and through the many others who have served here, Jesus has been deeply loved in people whom society often considers ‘the least of our brethren,’” the Pope remarked. “Nirmal Hriday proclaims the profound dignity of every human person. The loving care which is shown here bears witness to the truth that the worth of a human being is not measured by usefulness or talents, by health or sickness, by age or creed or race. Our human dignity comes from God our Creators in whose image we are all made. No amount of privation or suffering can ever remove this dignity, for we are always precious in the eyes of God,” he added. After his address, the Pope greeted the gathered crowds, making a special stop to greet the smiling and singing sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. Besides calling the visit the happiest day of her life, Mother Teresa also added: "It is a wonderful thing for the people, for his touch is the touch of Christ." The two remained close friends, visiting each other several times over the years. After her death in 1997, John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before opening her cause for canonization. At her beatification in 2003, John Paul II praised Mother Teresa’s love for God, shown through her love for the poor. “Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.”

Nonviolent politics to be the focus of next World Day of Peace

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Announced Friday, the theme Pope Francis selected for the 2017 World Day of Peace focuses on nonviolence as a political solution to what he has frequently termed a “piecemeal World War III” being waged throughout the globe. “Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” an Aug. 26 communique from the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace announcing the theme read. “The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences…Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress.” Therefore, “we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical,” the message attached to the theme said. By doing so, non-violence can take on “a more comprehensive and new meaning” composed not only of mere desire or a moral rejection of violence, barriers and destructive impulses, but also “of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.” Titled “Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” the theme for 2017’s World Day of Peace marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration, and the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Instituted by Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year. So far Pope Francis’ messages have focused on themes close to his heart, such as fraternity, an end to slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking, as well as overcoming indifference on both an individual and a political level. His messages for the event have consistently included bold pastoral and political advice for both ecclesial and international leaders, including his push for the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses. In the communique introducing the 2017 theme, it was stressed that nonviolence as a political strategy is “based on the primacy of law.” If the equal rights and dignity of each individual are respected without discrimination, “then non-violence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts.” Pope Francis’ aim in choosing this theme, the statement read, is to show “a path of hope” that’s proportionate to the context of today’s global circumstances. “In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict.” With this perspective in mind, the cultural identity of different peoples will be respected, and the idea that some are “morally superior” to others will be overcome. The statement cautioned that nonviolence isn’t the same as remaining indifferent to tragedies, but rather implies a recognition “of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.” “Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated,” the statement read, adding that illegal arms trafficking supports “not a few world’s conflicts,” and nonviolence as a political style “can and must do much to stem this scourge.”

In rare interview, Benedict XVI names his favorite saints

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Since he resigned from the papacy over three years ago, Benedict XVI rarely gives interviews. In a recent exception, however, the former pontiff took the time to chat not only about his successor, but the saints who've accompanied him throughout his life. In the interview, published Aug. 24 in Italian newspaper La Reppublica, Benedict said he has been serene and happy since his resignation, and that while there were “smaller and larger difficulties” in his pontificate, there were also “many graces” that came from the fact that he wasn’t alone. “From the beginning I was conscious of my limits and I accepted, as I have always sought to do in my life, in a spirit of obedience,” he said. “I realized that all I had to do I couldn’t do alone and so I was almost forced to put myself in the hands of God, to entrust myself to Jesus, to whom, as I gradually wrote my volume on him (Jesus of Nazareth), I felt bound by an old and ever deeper friendship.” Aside from Jesus himself, Benedict said Mary also played a key role in supporting him through the difficulties he faced. Moments when he felt particularly close to her, he said, were when he was “reciting the holy rosary and in the visits to the Marian sanctuaries.” While Jesus and his Holy Mother are certainly first on the list for any Pope to turn to, Benedict also named several individual saints and Fathers of the Church who have played a key role throughout his life and pontificate. He said his “travel companions for life” have always been “St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure,” whom he referred to as “my masters of the Spirit.” The retired pontiff also pointed to his namesake, St. Benedict, whose motto “Prefer nothing to Christ” became “ever more familiar” throughout his time as Bishop of Rome. Finally, and a bit ironically, Benedict said that St. Francis, “the poor man of Assisi,” has been another close companion on his journey. St. Francis, he said, was “the first to intuit that the world is the mirror of the creative love of God, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.” As a side note, while it was Pope Francis who penned the environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015, Benedict XVI had long been referred to as the “Green Pope” for the emphasis he placed on creation. It was he who had solar panels installed on the roof of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, pushing for the small city-state to become a completely carbon-free zone. Benedict said the consolation he received during his pontificate came not just from above, but arrived daily through the letters of “humble and simple people that wanted to inform me that they were close to me, that they prayed for me.” This support, he said, hasn’t stopped, but “has continued even after my resignation, for which I can be only grateful to the Lord and to all those who have expressed and still are manifesting their affection.” Speaking about Pope Francis, Benedict said that obedience to his successor “was never in discussion,” but that since Francis’ election, a feeling of “deep communion and friendship” has arisen between the two. “At the moment of his election I experienced, as many, a spontaneous feeling of gratitude toward Providence,” he said, explaining that after having two Pope’s from Central Europe, “the Lord was turning, so to speak, his gaze to the Universal Church and invited us to a more extensive communion, more Catholic.” Benedict said he was deeply moved by Pope Francis’ “extraordinary human availability to me” from the beginning. He noted how immediately after Francis was elected, the new Pope attempted to call him at his residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery. Having failed to reach him, Francis called again right after greeting faithful from the balcony of St. Peter’s, this time succeeding. Pope Francis “spoke to me with great  warmth,” Benedict recalled, noting that since that day “he has given me the gift of a wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship.” Not only does Francis frequently send “little gifts” and personal letters to Benedict, but he also makes sure to visit his predecessor before embarking on every major trip he takes. “The human benevolence with which he treats me, is for me a special grace of this last phase of my life for which I can only be grateful,” Benedict said. “What he says about availability to other men, are not only words. He puts it into practice with me. May the Lord in turn make him feel his benevolence every day. This I ask the Lord for him.” Benedict’s interview was given to Italian author Elio Guerrero, whose book “Servant of God and Humanity: The biography of Benedict XVI,” will be released Aug. 30 in Italian. Not only does the book include a preface by Pope Francis himself, but it will also feature Guerrero’s entire interview with Benedict XVI. There is currently no date announced for an English publication of the book.

Pope names Mexican-born priest as new auxiliary bishop of Denver

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 07:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, Pope Francis appointed Mexico native Fr. Jorge Rodriguez, former professor and Vice-Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary, as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver. “Father Rodriguez is a passionate pastor and teacher of the faith, and he will serve this archdiocese well in the role of auxiliary bishop,” Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila said in an Aug. 25 press release announcing the priest’s appointment. Fr. Rodriguez, 61, has been pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colo. since 2014, as well as an adjunct professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. The announcement of his appointment as auxiliary bishop came in an Aug. 25 communique from the Vatican. Asked about his first-hand experience with the growing Hispanic Catholic community in Denver, Fr. Rodriguez told “Denver Catholic,” the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, that it is not about numbers so much as it is about their “vitality and live expressions of their Catholic faith.” The challenge, Fr. Rodriguez said, is in helping the Hispanic community integrate into the U.S. Church without losing the values of their cultural and Catholic religious identity. “My experience with this community is that the faithful have a great love for the Eucharist; a tender devotion to the Mother of our Lord, Our Lady of Guadalupe; show sincere support for the Holy Father and the priests; they are very generous in whatever the church needs, and their faith is sincere and uncomplicated,” he said. The bishop-elect was born March 22, 1955, in Mérida, Mexico, in the state of Yucatán, where his family still resides. He joined the Legionaries of Christ after high school and was ordained a priest Dec. 24, 1987. Fr. Rodriguez was awarded a doctorate in Sacred Theology by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1994. He also received a licentiate in philosophy from the same university and a diploma in Mariology from the Marianum in Rome. From 1994-1997, he was dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and taught theology at several different pontifical universities and institutes in the city. The priest first came to Denver in 1999 at the invitation of Archbishop Charles Chaput to teach at the new St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, and to serve as associate pastor of St. Therese Parish in Aurora. He returned to Rome from 2002-2006 to serve as an associate pastor of the Roman parish Stella Maris. Fr. Rodriguez then returned to Denver again to teach at St. John Vianney and from 2007-2014 served as Vice-Rector of the seminary. He was officially placed as a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008. Fr. Rodriguez will be ordained a bishop Nov. 4, likely in Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “I would like the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Denver to know that my only wish is to serve the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to serve them according to this new mission and grace I am about to receive, Fr. Rodriguez said in his interview with Denver Catholic. “It is the Lord’s work and not ours, even less mine. So the best support – and this is what I beg from them – is to keep me in their prayers.”

Life isn't black and white – teach priests to discern the gray, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 04:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with members of the Jesuit order from Poland, Pope Francis said the real life situations of everyday Catholics aren’t black and white, but rather vary on a spectrum of gray. Because of this, he stressed the need for the Church to step up formation when it comes to teaching seminarians about spiritual discernment, cautioning that many priests can’t relate to or accompany the people they counsel, since they haven’t been properly formed. “Future priests need to be formed not with general and abstract ideas, which are (overly) clear and distinct, but this fine discernment of spirits, so that they can help people in their concrete lives,” the Pope said in a speech to Polish Jesuits, published Aug. 25. Seminarians and future priests, he said, “need to truly understand this: in life not everything is black and white, white and black. No! In life shades of gray predominate. We must then teach how to discern within this gray.” Pope Francis met with a group of 28 Polish Jesuits July 30 while in Krakow for World Youth Day, which also coincided with the First Vespers of the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The participants came from two provinces and included two lay collaborators, and were accompanied by the two provincials, the director of Vatican Radio’s Polish site, former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ and Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, director of the Jesuit publication La Civilta’ Cattolica. In the private audience, which lasted about 40 minutes and took place at the Archbishop’s residence in Krakow, the Pope greeted each attendee individually before sitting down to respond to some questions. Since the audience was private, the text of the conversation was not made public, however, the transcript of the conversation was published in the Aug. 25 edition of La Civilta’ Cattolica. The questions posed to the Pope centered on topics such as how to dialogue with youth, what role Jesuit Universities play in the scheme of education, why he himself chose to become a Jesuit and his advice to priests for their future. However, in his typical style, after answering the questions and exchanging some gifts with the Jesuits, Francis decided to add a thought, focusing on the need for better formation in seminaries, particularly when it comes to spiritual discernment. “I ask you to work with the seminarians. Above all give them what we received from the (Spiritual) Exercises: the wisdom of discernment,” the Pope said. He said the Church today “needs to grow in her capacity for spiritual discernment,” noting that in some seminaries, formation plans place too much of an emphasis on educating “in the light of ideas that are overly clear and distinct, and therefore of acting with limits and rigidly defined ‘a priori’ criteria.” By having the rules so clearly defined, the formation turns into a formula of “you must do this, you must not do this,” and doesn’t depend on the “concrete situations” of everyday life, he said. “Therefore seminarians, becoming priests, find difficulty in accompanying the lives of many youth and adults…and many people leave the confessional disappointed.” Francis stressed that this isn’t because “the priest is bad,” but rather comes from the fact that the priest doesn’t have the ability “to discern situations, of accompanying in authentic discernment. He doesn’t have the necessary formation.” The Pope said the art of spiritual direction is “not only a priestly charisma, but also lay,” however, it’s more important for priests to master, since they “need it in their ministry.” Priests “routinely receive the confidences of the consciences of the faithful,” he said, adding that because of this, spiritual discernment needs to be taught “above all to priests, to help them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment.” Francis said pastoral discernment “respects the law,” but can also “go beyond.” Turning to 20th century Jesuit Fr. Hugo Rahner, brother of famous Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, the Pope said Hugo had written that “a Jesuit should be a man of supernatural instinct.” “That is, he should be equipped with a sense of the divine and a sense of the diabolic related to the events of human life and history,” he said. “The Jesuit must therefore be able to discern whether it’s in the field of God or in the field of the devil.” What Hugo wrote, he said, “is bold, it’s truly bold, but this is discernment!”

Coming soon: a meeting between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 12:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, will meet in Rome Oct. 5 to celebrate First Vespers in the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio. Although the meeting hasn’t been made official yet, the news was confirmed to CNA by a high ranking member of the Anglican Communion in Rome. Other sources have since confirmed that the meeting will be held Oct. 5. While the schedule has yet to be completely defined, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby are set to meet amid two busy days in Rome for the Anglican primate. The two will celebrate First Vespers in San Gregorio al Celio Oct. 5. The next day they will have a private meeting that could signal a new phase in ecumenical relations.   Archbishop Welby will likely have a meeting at the Gregorian University and another at the Lay Center, an educational institution based in Rome. The Lay Center welcomes ecumenical students from other Christian churches and ecclesial communities, as well as those from non-Christian religions. Archbishop Welby has already met with Pope Francis twice in the Vatican, the first time being June 14, 2013, and the second June 16, 2014. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Rome falls at the climax of a journey that has witnessed the first Catholic celebration in 450 years at the Royal Chapel of Hampton Court – the Chapel that King Henry VIII confiscated from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who refused to declare annulled the king’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon. The first report of a new meeting between the Pope and the Anglican primate came from one of the Camaldolese monks from the monastery associated with the San Gregorio al Cielo basilica. The location of the papal meeting is highly significant given its historical context for the Anglican community. Father Innocenzo Gargano, a former prior of the monastery, remarked on the visit during a May 19 event on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si.”   The monk noted that the 1450-year-old San Gregorio al Celio had an important link to Britain. From there, Pope Gregory the Great sent the monk Augustine with 40 companions to evangelize the island. Fr. Gargano said this is why Anglicans consider San Gregorio al Celio their “motherhouse.” If the meeting does take place as expected, it will be the fourth between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury to take place in the Basilica San Gregorio al Celio. The first meeting took place in September 1989, when St. John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie met. Later, St. John Paul II welcomed Archbishop John Carey at the basilica in June 2002. Finally, the third and most recent meeting took place when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Vespers at San Gregorio with Archbishop Rowan Williams in March 2012. Archbishop Welby is also expected to be a special guest at the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi Sept. 18-20.  

Pope John Paul I to be honored with museum in northern Italy

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2016 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday a museum dedicated to Pope John Paul I will officially be inaugurated in the hometown of the “Smiling Pope,” whom Pope Francis has often quoted when speaking on the topic of mercy. Though his papal reign is among the shortest in history, summing up to just 33 days, Pope John Paul I was in office long enough to leave a mark. Albino Luciani was born Oct. 17, 1912, in Canale d’Agordo, located in Italy’s northern Veneto region and which sits just over 400 miles from Rome.      At the age of 65, he was elected Bishop of Rome, taking the name Pope John Paul I. He was the first Pope to take a double-name, honoring his two immediate predecessors St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI. However, his reign was short-lived, as he died suddenly after only 33 days in office, presumably from a heart attack. Despite the fact that John Paul I’s papacy is among the shortest in history, it will now be honored with a museum featuring important documents, personal items and objects used by the Pope. Although there’s been a temporary photo exhibit in Canale d’Agordo since 1978, the display has been renovated and expanded for the new museum, which is located in the city’s old town hall and will be officially inaugurated by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin Aug. 26. Called the “Albino Luciani Museum,” the launch date was chosen to coincide with the 38th anniversary of John Paul I’s election to the papacy. Cardinal Parolin, who grew up in the same region, will celebrate Mass in the afternoon before the official inauguration ceremony begins. Concelebrating with him will be the Bishop of Belluno-Feltre, Renato Marangoni, as well as the diocese’s Bishop Emeritus Giuseppe Andrich. Since the papacy of “Papa Luciani” was so short, coupled with the fact that it’s sandwiched between the legacy of giants such as St. John XXII, Bl. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, not many people are familiar with who John Paul I actually was, let alone his homilies and writings. However, he is someone that has consistently shown up in the speeches of his current successor, Pope Francis, who seems to find a certain resonance with the way in which John Paul I spoke about mercy. In his recent book-lengthy interview with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli “The Name of God is Mercy,” Francis quoted each of his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council. However, the one he referred to the most was by far John Paul I. When asked about who he has in mind when speaking about merciful priests, Pope Francis immediately referenced a homily from then-Cardinal Luciani, who used St. Leopold Mandic’s example of a destitute donkey to illustrate what mercy looks like. If a donkey is walking along the road and falls on the cobblestones, one must not “go there with a stick to beat it, poor little thing. It’s already unfortunate enough,” the cardinal had said. Instead, he said a person should take the donkey by the halter and help it up, saying “up, let’s take to the road again…Now we will get back on the road, and we will pay more attention next time.” In his interview, Pope Francis also quoted a 1958 homily by Luciani when was named bishop of Vittorio Veneto. In it, the future Pope said he had been chosen “because the Lord preferred that certain things not be engraved in bronze or marble but in the dust, so that if the writing had remained it would have been clear that the merit was all and only God’s.” Francis marveled to his interviewer how Luciani, as bishop and future Pope, had referred to himself as merely “dust.” He also referred to a general audience given by Luciani after his election as John Paul I, during which the Pope had expressed a strikingly similar opinion to Francis in that true humility comes from the constant awareness of one’s sinfulness. In the audience, which was quoted by Pope Francis in his interview, Luciani said “the Lord loves humility so much that sometimes he permits serious sins. Why? In order that those who committed these sins may, after repenting, remain humble.” Francis noted that a few days later, on separate occasion, John Paul I had insisted that “God hates faults because they are faults. On the other hand, however, in a certain sense he loves faults, since they give him an opportunity to show his mercy and us an opportunity to remain humble and to understand and to sympathize with our neighbors’ faults.” So while Pope John Paul I, declared a “Servant of God” by his successor St. John Paul II in 2003, is likely somewhat unknown to most, it could be said that he was perhaps ahead of his time, and that Pope Francis is carrying his legacy forward. In fact, John Paul I’s cause for canonization is currently being studied by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and could advance before too long. During his homily at Mass in the Belluno cathedral July 20, 2014, Emeritus Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone announced that a document, called the “posisio,” advancing the beatification of John Paul I was ready, and would be given to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that autumn. The beatification process had been stalled because the “positio” had not been completed. The positio is the document that the postulator prepares, presenting the “pros” and “cons” of a person's possible beatification. A miracle has already been attributed to the intercession of John Paul I: the 1992 healing of Giuseppe Denora, from the Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti. Denora was suddenly healed from a malignant tumor in the stomach after seeking the late Pope's intercession. However, the reputed miracle still awaits the approval of both the council of doctors and the council of theologians who work for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Should John Paul I’s cause advance to the next stage, he would then be called “Venerable.”

Vatican wades into sex education for young people

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2016 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican recently rolled out a new sex education course designed to help parents and educators talk to teens about sex and counter messages on social media. The course, published by the Vatican Council for the Family, and called “The Meeting Point: The Adventure of Love,” aims to promote a dialogue between young people and their parents and teachers regarding sexuality. The program was developed as one step toward answering the problem of the deterioration of marriage and the family put forward at the Sept. 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the Oct. 2015 Vatican Synod on the Family. “One of the most delicate tasks that parents have to face in the education of their children is their emotional formation, so they can respond to the most decisive vocation for every human being: the vocation to love,” wrote Archbishop Vincent Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family. “This vocation to love is the fundamental task of parents in the family. In accomplishing their work, they can count on the help of different moral and educational communities: schools and men and women teachers, as well as on the cooperation of the other members of the church community: the parish priests, the catechists and other Christian faithful,” stated the March 21 letter on the program. The project was over-viewed in a presentation by Bishop Carlos Simon Vazquez, Undersecretary to the Pontifical Council for the Family and Dr. Anthony and Celia Crespo at press conferences July 26 and 27 at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow. The course is available on the website in five different languages, including English and Spanish. Bishop Simon said they hope to expand the languages offered in the future. Originally conceived for the classroom, the online program was expanded to be easily accessible to families or other groups. The curriculum consists of six units, with four or five sections each. The student materials include passages from Scripture, elements for discussion and written answers. Each unit section is accompanied by an educator guide and options for supplementary activities, such as film clips with discussion points reinforcing lessons. “Not only the school program is enriched by this project, but also every home, each parish, and each association will have at its disposal a tool to help young people in the important quest for happiness and meaning in their lives,” stated Bishop Simon. Developed in large part by the Spanish Bishops' Conference, the materials are meant to be a response to Pope Francis' call for a renewed and urgent attention to education within the family, as presented in his March 19 letter, Amoris Laeticia (The Joy of Love). “In this context, the Pope clearly speaks in favor of sex education,” said Bishop Simon. He quoted Amoris Laetitia: “It is not easy to approach the issue of sex education in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished. It can only be seen within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving.” Bishop Paglia sees the new Vatican sex education program as a way to counteract the current “cultural, legislative and educational” programs challenging the Christian conception of the body, marriage and sex. With the increased prevalence of media and social networking, teens “are exposed to a variety of information concerning affectivity in general and the exercise of sexuality in particular,” wrote Bishop Paglia. “In many cases, these same young people have no criteria for discerning the truth of good human sexuality from the emotivism introduced in many of today’s channels of information and formation.” The project is unfinished, Bishop Simon noted, emphasizing two developments of the program: the attention that needs to be given to the young themselves and the attention that needs to be given to the teachers as well. “Hopefully the course presented,” the bishop said, “will help young people to experience the joy of love in its full dimension, as the Pope invites those who will form the future families of the world and be the protagonists not only of the adventure of love but of the civilization of love in the coming years.”  

Pope tosses audience speech, prays rosary for victims of Italy quake

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2016 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Instead of giving the usual catechesis during his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis decided to postpone the speech, leading pilgrims in praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for the victims of an earthquake that rocked central Italy earlier that morning. “On hearing the news of the earthquake that has struck central Italy and which has devastated many areas and left many wounded, I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted,” the Pope said Aug. 24. He offered his condolences to all who have lost loved ones, and his expressed his spiritual closeness to those who are “anxious and afraid.” At least 21 people have been killed and countless buried under rubble after an earthquake hit central Italy early Wednesday morning. The original 6.2-magnitude quake hit the town of Norcia, about 65 miles northeast of Rome, at 3:36a.m. with several aftershocks following. According to the BBC, the mayor of Amatrice, one of the worst-hit areas, said “the town is gone.” Officials warn that the death toll will likely continue to rise as rescue efforts move forward. Pope Francis, hearing that the mayor of Amatrice said his town “no longer exists” and learning that many children are also among the dead, said “I am deeply saddened.” “For this reason I want to assure all the people of Accumoli, Amatrice, the diocese of Rieti, Ascoli Piceno and all the people of Lazio, Umbria and Le Marche of the prayers and close solidarity of the entire Church,” he said. The Pope then offered his thanks to all the volunteer and rescue workers assisting in the affected areas, asking Jesus, “who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that he may console the broken hearted, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary bring them peace.” “With Jesus, let our hearts be moved with compassion,” he said, and invited the some 11,000 pilgrims present to join him in praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. In addition to Pope Francis’ appeal to prayer, the Italian Bishop’s Conference (CEI) has already decided to donate 1 million euros to the most urgent relief efforts, and have asked that a special collection take place to help raise more money for the affected areas. In an Aug. 24 communique from the CEI, the bishops said the Church throughout Italy “gathers in prayer for all the victims and expresses her fraternal closeness to the people involved in this tragic event.” The president of the bishop’s conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, launched a national collection for Sept. 18, set to coincide with Italy’s 26th National Eucharistic Congress, inviting all parishes, religious institutes and lay institutions in the country to participate. The funds gathered from the collection will go toward relieving those who lost everything, and is “a fruit of the charity” that will flow from the Eucharistic congress and the participation of all “in the concrete needs of the affected populations.”