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Pope Francis: God’s love can do great things with our littleness

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that the Eucharist exemplifies how God’s love can accomplish great things with very little. “Whatever we have can bear fruit if we give it away – that is what Jesus wants to tell us – and it does not matter whether it is great or small. The Lord does great things with our littleness,” Pope Francis said June 23. “God’s omnipotence is lowly, made up of love alone. And love can accomplish great things with little. The Eucharist teaches us this: for there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread,” the pope said in his homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Pope Francis said that the Eucharist is “the antidote” to the mindset that says, “Sorry, that is not my problem,” or “I have no time, I can’t help you, it’s none of my business.” “Being simple and essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does. It inspires us to give ourselves to others,” he said. Pope Francis celebrated at outdoor evening Mass in Rome’s Casal Bertone neighborhood for the feast of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, according to Italy’s liturgical calendar. A Eucharistic procession through the Roman neighborhood followed the Mass, ending at a homeless shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity. “In our city that hungers for love and care, that suffers from decay and neglect, that contains so many elderly people living alone, families in difficulty, young people struggling to earn their bread and to realize their dreams, the Lord says to each one of you: ‘You yourself give them something to eat,’ Pope Francis said. “You may answer: ‘But I have so little; I am not up to it.’ That is not true; your ‘little’ has great value in the eyes of Jesus, provided that you don’t keep it to yourself,” he added. “You are not alone, for you have the Eucharist, bread for the journey, the bread of Jesus,” he said. The pope called the Eucharist “a school of blessing” and said that through the Mass Catholics are blessed by the Lord and can in turn be a blessing to others as “channels of goodness in the world.” “It is sad to think of how easily people today speak words not of blessing but of contempt and insult,” Pope Francis said. “Sadly, those who shout most and loudest, those angriest, often appeal to others and persuade them. Let us avoid being infected by that arrogance; let us not let ourselves be overcome by bitterness, for we eat the Bread that ‘contains all sweetness within it,’” he continued. “In the presence of the Eucharist, Jesus who becomes bread, this simple bread that contains the entire reality of the Church, let us learn to bless all that we have, to praise God, to bless and not curse all that has led us to this moment, and to speak words of encouragement to others,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: The Eucharist is Jesus alive

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2019 / 05:12 am (CNA).- On the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis said that Jesus gave the Church the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. “Every year the feast of Corpus Christi invites us to renew the wonder and joy for this wonderful gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said at the Angelus prayer June 23. “The Eucharist is the synthesis of the entire existence of Jesus, which was a single act of love for the Father and his brothers,” he said. It is “the sacrament of His Body and His Blood given for the salvation of the world.” The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, meaning the “Body of Christ” in Latin, is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday or, in some countries including the United States and Italy, on the Sunday following that feast. The feast provides an opportunity for the Church to focus on Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, which Pope Francis stressed should be welcomed “with gratitude, not in a passive, habitual way.” “Whenever we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, we must truly renew our ‘amen’ to the Body of Christ,” the pope said, urging that this “amen” should come from the heart. “It is Jesus, it is Jesus who saved me, it is Jesus who comes to give me the strength to live. It is Jesus, Jesus alive,” Francis said of the Eucharist in a departure from his prepared remarks. Pope Francis said that the processions with the Blessed Sacrament that take place around the world in celebration of the Corpus Christi feast are an “expression of the Eucharistic faith of the holy people of God.” “I too will celebrate Mass this evening in the Roman quarter of Casal Bertone, followed by a procession. I invite everyone to participate, even spiritually, through radio and television,” he said. “May Our Lady help us to follow Jesus with faith and love whom we adore in the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis announces Marian theme of World Youth Day 2022 in Lisbon

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2019 / 04:31 am (CNA).- At the conclusion of the International Youth Forum Saturday, Pope Francis announced the theme of World Youth Day 2022 to be held in Lisbon: “Mary arose and went with haste.” “Do not tune out the voice of God, who urges you to arise and follow the paths that he has prepared for you. Like Mary, and in union with her, may you daily bring to others all your joy and love,” Pope Francis told the delegates of the International Youth Forum June 22. Pope Francis said that he desires young people to reflect on this verse taken from St. Luke’s Biblical account of the Virgin Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation, as well as two other Bible verses. “In the two coming years, I would ask you to meditate on these two verses: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’ and ‘Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen,’” the pope said in his meeting with the youth delegates at the Vatican’s apostolic palace. The Portugese capital set to host World Youth Day 2022 is just 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world. In Fatima, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children over the course of 1916 and 1917 with a message of peace and a request for prayer. “We were called to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of the world. You, dear young people, are called to be light in the dark night experienced by so many of your friends who do not yet know the joy of new life in Jesus,” Pope Francis told the International Youth Forum. Pope Francis urged the nearly 250 participants in the International Youth Forum that the more one brings Christ to others, the more one will feel His presence in their lives. The International Youth Forum was organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life June 19-22 to discuss how best to implement ideas from the 2018 Synod of Bishops in young people’s home dioceses around the world. “You are young people in action in a synodal Church, and this is what you have been thinking about and reflecting on during these past days,” Pope Francis said. Pope Francis told the young adults in the forum that he hopes to see “harmonious coordination between our journey towards the Lisbon World Youth Day and our post-synodal journey.” “You need one another, if you are to make a difference in a world increasingly tempted to divisiveness. Only if we journey together, will we be truly strong," he said. "With Christ, the Bread of Life who gives us strength for the journey, let us bring his fire to light up the darkness of this world!” Pope Francis said.

In Naples, Pope Francis calls for theological dialogue with Islam, Judaism

Naples, Italy, Jun 21, 2019 / 06:39 am (CNA).- In Naples Friday Pope Francis delivered a speech calling for theological dialogue with Islam and Judaism in pontifical universities as part of “a theology of dialogue and acceptance.” “Theology students should be educated in dialogue with Judaism and Islam to understand the common roots and differences of our religious identities, and thus contribute more effectively to building a society that values ​​diversity and fosters respect, brotherhood and peaceful coexistence,” Pope Francis said June 21 in front of Naples’ Jesuit-run pontifical Catholic university. “With Muslims we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities; we are called to consider them partners to build a peaceful coexistence, even when there are shocking episodes by fanatical groups, who are enemies of dialogue, like the tragedy of last Easter in Sri Lanka,” he said. Pope Francis’ 30-minute speech in Naples presented his vision of “theology in the context of the Mediterrarean,” an area, he said, of transit, exchange, and historic conflict that is now called to be a bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia. “The multicultural and multi-religious reality of the new Mediterranean is formed … in the dialogue that comes from listening to the people and texts of the great monotheistic religions, and especially in listening to young people,” Francis said. The pope’s message focused on theological study within pontifical universities as outlined in the apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium published in January 2018. Veritatis Gaudium stipulated new norms of governance and education for all institutions that issue ecclesiastical degrees. “In theological faculties and ecclesiastical universities, courses in Arabic and Hebrew language and culture are to be encouraged, as well as mutual understanding between Christian, Jewish and Muslim students,” he said.” “I would say that theology, particularly in this context, is called to be a theology of acceptance,” Pope Francis said. The pope’s one-day trip to Naples is his second visit to Italy’s third largest city as pope. On Francis’ first trip to Naples in March 2015, he denounced the city’s corruption and organized crime. On this trip, Pope Francis praised Naples, as “a special laboratory” for a theology of discernment, mercy, and acceptance in dialogue with different cultures and religions. Pope Francis said that the Church needs theologians open to the inexhaustible novelties of the Spirit, who can escape the self-referential and competitive environment of academia, and act as “men and women of compassion.” The pope also said that the contribution that women are giving and can give to theology is indispensable and must be supported. “Without communion and without compassion, constantly nourished by prayer, theology not only loses the soul, but loses … the ability to interpret reality in a Christian way,” he said. “The first sources of theology, that is, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, are inexhaustible and always fruitful,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: The Holy Spirit unites the Church, despite sin and scandal

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2019 / 03:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that the Holy Spirit unites and grows the Church despite human limitations, sins and scandal. “The Holy Spirit is the creator of communion, the artist of reconciliation … He builds the community of believers by harmonizing the unity of the body and the multiplicity of its members,” Pope Francis said June 19 in St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Spirit “makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limits, sins and any scandal,” he said. Dedicating his Wednesday catechesis to the Acts of the Apostles’ account of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Pope Francis reflected on how the Holy Spirit transformed and strengthened St. Peter. “On the feast of Pentecost, it is Peter who speaks, the rock on which Christ chose to build his Church,” he said. “His word, weak and even capable of denying the Lord, when crossed by the fire of the Spirit gains strength and becomes capable of piercing hearts and moving to conversion.” “God in fact chooses what is weak in the world to confound the strong,” Pope Francis said, quoting St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. “The Church is thus born of the fire of love -- of a ‘fire’ that flares up at Pentecost, which manifests the strength of the Word of the Risen One imbued with the Holy Spirit,” he said. Pope Francis explained that this fire symbolically expresses God’s work of warming, illuminating, and testing hearts, and His care in purifying and revitalizing human works. “The Spirit of God moves hearts to welcome the salvation that passes through a person, Jesus Christ, the One whom men nailed to the wood of the cross and whom God raised from the dead,” the pope said. “As Benedict XVI said, ‘This is Pentecost: Jesus, and through Him, God himself, comes to us and draws us into himself,” he added. “Let us ask the Lord to let us experience a new Pentecost, which expands our hearts and tunes our feelings with those of Christ, so that we proudly proclaim His transforming word and bear witness to the power of love that calls to life all that it encounters,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican quashes rumors of Benedict XVI stroke

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI is not dead and did not recently suffer a stroke, the Vatican confirmed on Tuesday. On Monday, rumors circulated on Twitter and other social media platforms that the Pope Emeritus had suffered a “mild ischemia” - a kind of stroke. “The rumours are false,” Alessandro Gisotti, director ad interim of the Press Office of the Holy See, confirmed to the Catholic Herald on Tuesday. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, called the rumors “fake news,” Edward Pentin reported on Twitter. On multiple occasions over the past several years, Vatican officials have had to quash similar rumors that the small, white-haired nonagenarian is close to death. Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

International Youth Forum meets to continue work of Synod

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 07:45 am (CNA).- Nearly 250 young adults will meet in Rome this week for the International Youth Forum to discuss how best to implement ideas from the 2018 Synod of Bishops in their home dioceses. Citing Pope Francis’ urging in Christus Vivit that “young people themselves are agents of youth ministry,” the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life invited young adults from 109 countries to participate in the forum June 19-22. Isabella McCafferty was selected by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to participate in the International Youth Forum this week. She called Christus Vivit “a constant source of encouragement in my own faith journey and inspired me in my ministry.” “The challenge of course now is how to enable its richness to reach those who need to hear the heart of the document,” McCafferty said June 18. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said he was “grateful” that Pope Francis was continuing the conversations begun at the synod last year and that the forum in Rome was part of an “important dialogue.” Brian Rhude and Brenda Noriega are two of the young adult leaders who have been asked to represent the United State at the forum.   Rhude, a student of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., studied at the Catholic University campus in Rome during the Fall 2018 semester, which coincided with the Synod on Young People. He attended the synod as a media correspondent for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Noriega is the current coordinator of young adult ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino, Ca, and also serves on the USCCB’s National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry. Last year, Noriega was co-leader of the bishop and young adult encounter at the V Encuentro national event held in Texas. All the “youth delegates,” who are between the ages of 18 to 29, will listen to talks and panels on synodality, pastoral ministry, and vocational discernment. They will also meet in groups to consider how to apply the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit to their local youth ministries. Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, a 50-page letter to “all Christian young people,” April 2 following the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment which took place Oct. 3-28. In Christus Vivit Pope Francis addressed the obstacles to faith and personal fulfulment faced by young people today, such as isolation, over-consumption of media, and addiction to drugs and pornography. Do not let the world “rob you of hope and joy, or drug you into becoming a slave to their interests,” Francis said. “You need to realize one basic truth: being young is not only about pursuing fleeting pleasures and superficial achievements. If the years of your youth are to serve their purpose in life, they must be a time of generous commitment, whole-hearted dedication, and sacrifices that are difficult but ultimately fruitful.” On the final day of the International Youth Forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the young participants, after which they will meet Pope Francis. “I think Pope Francis offers a very personal invitation to young people to return to what is most essential: an encounter daily with the love of God and the living person of Christ," McCafferty said.

Amazon Synod to consider possible ordination of married men

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, released Monday, recommends study of the possibility of ordaining married men in remote areas for the priesthood. “Stating that celibacy is a gift for the Church, we ask that, for more remote areas in the region, study of the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous …  they can already have an established and stable family, in order to ensure the sacraments that they accompany and support the Christian life,” paragraph 129 of the document released June 17 states. This opens the door for the discussion of the ordination of viri probati -- a term referring to mature, married men -- during the Special Synod of Bishops from the Pan-Amazonian region to be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27. Canon law for the Latin Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of married men to the priesthood, with limited exceptions regarding the ordination of formerly Anglican and Protestant ecclesial leaders who have converted to Catholicism. The working document, which calls for “a Church with an indigenous face,” further recommends that the synod identify “an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church.” Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary for the Synod of Bishops highlighted the document’s call for new lay ministries. “In this sense, one wonders what official ministry can be conferred to the woman,” Fabene said at a Vatican press conference June 17. He continued, “the document does not speak of the female diaconate, since the pope has already expressed himself on the subject in the Assembly of the Superiors General, declaring that the topic needs further study. In fact, the study commission set up in 2016 did not reach a unanimous opinion on the issue.” The synod working document, entitled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” is divided into three sections on the Amazonian cultures, environmental and economic problems, and pastoral approaches for the Church in the region. Calling for “an integral ecological conversion,” the document touches on the issues of migration, deforestation, urbanization, corruption, health, education, and Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV). The document stresses the importance of inculturation of indigenous cultures in the Catholic faith and the liturgy in the region, starting with engagement with indigenous spiritualities. “It is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught to these peoples over the centuries: faith in God the Father-Mother Creator, the sense of communion and harmony with the earth, the sense of solidarity with one's companions ...  the living relationship with nature and 'Mother Earth,’ the resilience of women,” paragraph 121 of the document states. Recommending that the Church “recognize indigenous spirituality as a source of wealth for the Christian experience,” and the document calls for dialogue with “the Amazonian cosmovision” to be included in formation for religious life. Monsignor Fabene described inculturation in the liturgy in the region as “a better integration of the symbols and celebratory styles of indigenous cultures … taking into account music and dance, languages ​​and native clothes.” “Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform the ancient relations marked by exclusion and discrimination,” paragraph 35 states. In several places, the document refers to “the wounds caused during long periods of colonization.” “For this Pope Francis asked ‘humbly for forgiveness, not only for the offenses of his own Church, but for crimes against indigenous peoples during the conquest of so-called America.’  In this past, the Church has sometimes been complicit in the colonization and this has stifled the prophetic voice of the Gospel,” paragraph 38 states. The document also stresses the importance of having greater respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous populations in the area today. “The Church cannot but worry about the integral salvation of the human person, which involves promoting the culture of indigenous peoples, talking about their vital needs, accompanying movements and joining forces to defend their rights,” paragraph 143 states. The synod document therefore recommends that Catholics in the region, “join the basic social movements, to prophetically announce a program of agrarian justice that promotes a profound agrarian reform, supporting farming organic and agroforestry.” Participants in the special synod of the Amazon will include residential bishops and ordinaries of the nine Pan-Amazonian ecclesiastical territories in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname; the presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences of the Pan-Amazonian Region; members for the Roman Curia; the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM); and the members of the pre-Synodal Council. Upon the working document’s publication June 17, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said: “The image of a Church with an Amazonian face, courageous in its prophetic proclamation of the Gospel in defense of Creation and of indigenous peoples, is the horizon towards which we are walking under the guidance of Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis: Whatever happens, 'hope does not disappoint!'

Camerino, Italy, Jun 16, 2019 / 06:09 am (CNA).- Hope, which is more than mere optimism, gives one a deep-rooted confidence in the love and care of God, no matter what has happened, Pope Francis said Sunday. Hope “does not expire, because it is based on the fidelity of God. The hope of the Spirit is not even optimism. Born deeper, it rekindles at the bottom of the heart the certainty of being precious because loved,” the pope said June 16. “It is a hope that leaves peace and joy inside, regardless of what happens outside. It is a hope that has strong roots, which no storm of life can uproot,” he added. “It is a hope that, says St. Paul, ‘does not disappoint’ – hope does not disappoint! – which gives the strength to overcome all tribulations.” Pope Francis said Mass in Camerino, Italy during a day visit to the Archdiocese of Camerino-San Severino Marche. The area was one of those affected by the earthquakes which struck central Italy in 2016 and 2017. The Mass was said in the square outside the cathedral, which is still under reconstruction after being damaged in the earthquake. In his homily, Francis spoke to those who suffered damage, injury, or loss due to the earthquakes. “When we are troubled or wounded – and you know well what it means to be troubled, wounded – we are led to ‘nest’ around our sadness and our fears,” he said, noting that the Holy Spirit can free people from these “nests.” “The Spirit feeds us with living hope. Invite him. Let us ask him to come to us and he will come near. Come, Comforter Spirit! Come give us some light, give us the sense of this tragedy, give us the hope that does not disappoint. Come, Holy Spirit!” he prayed. The pope also reflected on a line from the day’s Responsorial Psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him...” This question, he said, could come also in the face of “collapsed houses and buildings reduced to rubble.” “What is man ever? What is he, if what you raise can collapse in an instant? What is he if his hope can end in dust?” The truth, Francis said, is that “God remembers us as we are, with our frailties.” “No one is contemptible in his eyes, each has an infinite value for him: we are small under heaven and powerless when the earth trembles, but for God we are more precious than anything.” Before praying the Angelus following Mass, Pope Francis told the people of the diocese he came in order to be near to them and to pray with them, saying, “I pray to the God of hope, so that what is unstable on earth does not shake the certainty we have inside.” God remembers everyone and he can heal the memories of that difficult time, he said. “God helps us to be builders of good, consolers of hearts. Everyone can do a little good, without waiting for others to start.” Entrusting the diocese to the Virgin Mary, he prayed: “May she who animated the first community of Jesus’ disciples with her motherly presence, also help the Church today to give good witness to the Gospel.” Before returning to the Vatican in the afternoon, the pope met with around 200 children who had received their first Holy Communion and with their parents and catechists.  

Vatican’s doctrinal office expected to release document on gender theory

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office is preparing a document which will address Church teaching and the anthropology of the human person in the context of so-called gender theory, according to a Vatican official. According to a source, speaking to CNA on background, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to publish in the coming months a more in-depth theological and anthropological text than the guide that was published by the Congregation for Catholic Education earlier this week. With “Male and Female He Created Them,” issued June 10, the Congregation for Catholic Education did not intend to give a detailed treatment of the topic of gender in all areas, but to provide a guide for those in Catholic school and university environments on how to approach and engage with the advancement of gender theory in contemporary society, the source said. The document focuses on the educational context because it is the congregation’s competency, according to the source, though experts and other Vatican departments were consulted as is ordinary practice. The 31-page text, signed in February by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, was in production for three years, and came about largely due to the requests of bishops on ad limina visits. The source told CNA that the education congregation has heard from a large number of bishops looking for support from the Vatican on the topic of so-called gender theory in the educational environment. Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, stated last year that his department was preparing a document on gender theory. At the time, Zani said the document was expected within one to two months. He spoke at a March 2018 study conference on education and teaching at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Zani said on the same occasion that another “deeper” document on the same topic was in the works at the CDF. Writing for L’Osservatore Romano this week, prefect Versaldi said the document from Catholic Education “traces history, focuses on reasonable meeting points and proposes the Christian anthropological vision.” He criticized an ideology which “induces educational projects and legislative guidelines that promote a personal identity and an affective intimacy radically detached from the biological diversity between male and female.”