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Pope Francis visits Genoa's Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital

“Faith works primarily through charity and without it, it is dead. So I encourage you to carry out your delicate work motivated by charity", said Pope Francis  to the staff members of  “Giannini Gaslini” Pediatric Hospital during his day long visit to the Italian city of Genoa on Saturday.  

The Pope said that he couldn’t miss this visit where children are cared for, because the suffering of children is certainly something very difficult to accept. And added that  it is there that the Lord called him to be,  though briefly, close to the children and their relatives.  "Often and again I ask myself: 'Why do children suffer?', and I don't find any explantion," the Pope said.  "I only look at the crucifix and stand still there." 

Pope Francis commended the devoted service of the hospital staff, the President of the Foundation, the Archbishop of Genoa, physicians, paramedics,  the various specialized staff, as well as the Cappucchin Friars Minor and all those who assist and help the children with love and dedication and said that they in fact also need their  gestures of friendship, of  understanding, of affection and paternal and maternal support.

This institute is an act of love of Senator Gerolamo  Gaslini he said who in honour of his daughter who died of a tender age had founded the hospital by sacrificing all he had: companies, establishments, property, money, and even his home. This is why this hospital is known and appreciated in Italy and around the world and has a special role of continuing to be a symbol of generosity and solidarity he said.   In founding of the Hospital he observed, Gaslini said: "It is my firm will that this Institute has the Catholic faith as its foundation and guide [...] that it ferments every activity and comforts every pain." The pope called them to  often think of the "good Samaritan" of the Gospel- attentive to the needs of their small patients, accepting tenderly  their fragility, and seeing the Lord in them. Whoever serves the sick with love serves Jesus who opens the Kingdom of Heaven he affirmed.

The Pope hoped that the Hospital, faithful to its mission, will continue its appreciated work of care and research through the generous and disinterested contribution and contribute to all categories and at all levels. He concluded assuring the staff, patients and their relatives of his prayer and blessings.

Earlier on Wednesday linking-up live via telephone to a parish radio in Genova that broadcasts a Wednesday weekly programme especially dedicated to the children’s hospital, Pope Francis told the little patients that it is with joy that he is preparing to be with them.

"Istituto Giannina Gaslini" is a tertiary level pediatric hospital affiliated to the University of Genoa and  is considered one of the foremost children’s hospitals in Europe and is formally recognized as a Scientific Institute for Research, Hospitalization and Healthcare.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Genovese clergy: creative fidelity key to mission

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the bishops, priests, religious and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Genoa and the whole region of Liguria on Saturday, during the course of a one-day pastoral visit.

The questions from clergy and religious came from two secular priests, Don Andrea Carcasole and Don Pasquale Revello: the President of the Italian Union of Women Religious Superiors for the Liguria Region; and  Fr. Andrea Caruso, O.F.M. Cap.

Their queries focused on the search for ways to maintain hope and nourish the interior life of faith in today’s frenetic world – and the Holy Father’s responses centered on the imitation of Christ, the fostering of a sense of fraternity among the clergy and of genuine diocesan ecclesial unity, and the cultivation of a rich, mission-focused interior life of prayer.

“What we want,” said Pope Francis, “is pastoral conversion, missionary conversion.”

The Pope also condemned the practice – diffuse in Latin America and at one time not too long ago present also in Italy and other places, of encouraging poor young women to join a religious congregation as novices – often in order to shore up diminishing numbers – and then to abandon the girls and young women for whom religious life is not their calling.

“It is a scandal,” said Pope Francis.

“Work [to foster vocations – (It. lavoro vocazionale)] is difficult, but we must do it,” he said. “It is a challenge,” Pope Francis continued. “We need to be creative.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis in Genoa: Work essential to human flourishing

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis began an intense day-long pastoral visit to Genoa on Saturday morning, with a meeting with workers, management, industrialists, union leaders and representatives of unemployed persons at the ILVA steel works in the city.

World of Labour

Pope Francis’ meeting with the world of labour included four questions regarding the issues ranging from the challenges of ossified and unresponsive bureaucracy to the dehumanizing effects of technology and large forces on the workplace and the labour market: one each from a worker, an entrepreneur, a business-owner, and a union representative.

Right and Duty to Work for All

In each of his responses, Pope Francis focused on the primacy of the human person over the reality and rights of labour and capital, insisting that only a correct vision of human nature can inform and direct our efforts to build a just and harmonious society.

The Pope also insisted forcefully on work as something given to man in the order of creation, and essential to genuine human flourishing.

“It is necessary, therefore, to look fearlessly and a sense of responsibility on the technological transformations of the economy and of life, he said, “without resigning ourselves to the ideology that seems to be gaining a foothold wherever one looks, which envisions a world in which only a half or maybe two-thirds of employable people actually work, and the others maintained with a welfare cheque.”

“It must be clear,” Pope Francis continued, “that the true objective to reach is not ‘income for all’ but ‘work for all’.”

Also on the Agenda

With a departure at 7AM, the schedule of the visit to the northern Italian port city on the Ligurian coast included five other major appointments, in addition to the meeting with the “world of labour”:

With the Bishops, priests, seminarians, and religious of Liguria, along with lay curial collaborators and representatives of other religious confessions at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo; An encounter with young people attached to the Diocesan Mission at the Marian Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia; Lunch at the sanctuary with a number of poor and homeless persons, refugees, and prisoners; A moment with children from the various departments of the Giannina Gaslini Pediatric Hospital; Solemn Mass at the Piazzale Kennedy, named for the first Catholic President of the United States.

We will be brining you coverage of the trip throughout the day.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: condolences for murder of Coptic Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, expressing condolences over the murder of dozens of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and condemning the killings as "[a] senseless act of hatred."

As many as 10 gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians on pilgrimage to the monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor some 140km from the capital, Cairo, killing at least 28 of them and injuring some 23 others.

Many of the victims were women and children.

In the telegram, signed by the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis promises prayers for the deceased and for their loved ones, as well as for the whole people of Egypt. Please find the full text of the telegram, below...

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

His Excellency Abdel Fattah Al Sisi President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Cairo

Deeply saddened to learn of the barbaric attack in central Egypt and of the tragic loss of life and injury caused by this senseless act of hatred, Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this violent outrage.  Mindful in a particular way of those children who have lost their lives, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty.  He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope urges sisters to be 'missionaries without frontiers'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity who are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome this month. The theme of their assembly is focused on the need “to give oneself completely to God, to be completely given to one’s neighbour: missionary disciples and joyful witnesses to charity in the suburbs of the world”.

Listen to our report:

In his words to the sisters, Pope Francis noted that their institute, founded by Don Luigi Orione, is dedicated to caring especially for the poor and most marginalized members of society.

Thanking them for the work they do, the Pope urged them to be "missionaries without frontiers", bringing God’s love and mercy to all they meet.

Be bold and creative

Missionaries, he said, are called to be bold and creative people, capable of rethinking “the goals, structure, style and method” of their mission. We are living, he stressed, in a time when “it is necessary to rethink everything in light of what the Spirit is asking us”.

Be free from all ties

Pope Francis said missionaries are also called to be free and able to live with nothing but the word of the Lord to sustain them. He urged the sisters to free themselves from all material or emotional ties which hinder them from setting out on their missionary journey.

Be led by the Spirit

As missionaries, he continued, you are called to be filled with the Spirit, letting yourselves be guided as you bring the Gospel to the most unlikely places.

Be prophets of mercy

Finally, Pope Francis told the sisters they are called to be prophets of mercy, letting themselves be provoked by the call for help from so many situations of pain and suffering. Together with the other institutes founded by Don Orione, he urged them to work together in a spirit of encounter and cooperation as they share God’s love and forgiveness with all who are searching for Him in today’s world.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Jesus journeys with us even in bad times

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has told pilgrims that God walks with us always, “even in the most painful moments” of our lives as he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Pope Francis continued his series of reflections on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience shortly after his meeting with US president Donald Trump. The Pope spoke about the disciples’ meeting with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, in Luke’s Gospel, as “a journey of hope”.  He told pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square that Christians today are a bit like those two disciples: so often we find ourselves “a step away from happiness” but then experience sadness and disappointment.

The Pope said Jesus’ accompaniment of the two disciples shows a “therapy of hope” which “gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises”. Hope, the Pope said, is “never a small price” to pay and always involves defeats and sufferings. However, walking with the disciples in a discreet way, he said, Jesus is able to rekindle their hope. Pope Francis explained that it was only when the disciples witnessed Jesus breaking the bread that he is revealed to them as the Risen Lord, who is present in their midst. This, the Pope said, “shows us the importance of the Eucharist in which, like the bread, Jesus ‘breaks our lives’ and offers them to others”. Noting how the disciples return to Jerusalem after their encounter with the Risen Lord to proclaim the good news, the Pope said that “we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope, based on God’s unfailing love.” “All of us,” the pope said, have had difficult and dark times, when there is “just a wall in front” of us. But “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm our hearts and say, "Go forward, I'm with you. Go forward.”

Listen to Richard Marsden’s report here:

 

(from Vatican Radio)

In Genoa, Pope challenges workers, religious and youth

Vatican City, May 27, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis paid a visit to the Italian diocese of Genoa, where he had lengthy Q&A sessions with youth, the city’s working class, and their bishops, priests and religious, challenging them and offering antidotes to modern problems.   After landing just around 8a.m. local time May 27, the Pope was greeted by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who just finished his term as president of the Italian Bishops Conference. He was replaced by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia.   Once he left the airport, Francis immediately went to a warehouse where he met with the city’s workers. Afterward, he met the diocese’s bishops, priests and religious at the city’s cathedral before heading to a special shrine where he spoke with youth. In each of the meetings Pope Francis responded to questions, taking his time to respond well to each of their concerns.   After the meetings, he is slated to eat lunch with the poor, refugees and prisoners before greeting sick children at the Pediatric Gianna Gaslini Hospital. The Pope made a phone call to the hospital earlier this week to tell the children that he was coming to see them, and assured them that Jesus is always with us difficult moments. Established in 1931, the hospital is linked to the University of Genoa and is considered as one of the most prestigious children’s hospitals in Europe. It has formally recognized as a scientific institute for research, hospitalization and healthcare. After greeting the children, Pope Francis will head to the city’s Kennedy Square to celebrate Mass before returning to Rome. Workers In his audience with the workforce, Francis responded to four questions: one from an entrepreneur, the head of a company, who asked for a word of encouragement in his responsibilities; two questions from workers on how to recover from the economic crisis and how to avoid careerism and foster fraternity, and one question from an unemployed woman who asked how to stay strong despite challenges of not having consistent work. In his responses, Francis said that in the world today, work today is “at risk,” because “it’s a world where work isn’t considered with the dignity it has and gives.” Work, he said, “is a human priority,” and because of this, “it’s a Christian priority, and also a priority of the Pope!” Speaking inside a warehouse, the Pope said he wanted to meet with them there because the Church is where the people are, “in your places of work, in the places where you are.” In his response to the first question, the Pope said, “there is no good economy without good businessmen,” adding that they are “the figure of a good economy,” since society functions well when there are honest and caring people in charge. He cautioned against the temptation to do one’s work well just because they get paid to do it, saying this mentality is an injustice to the working system, “because it negates the dignity of work, which begins with working for dignity, for honor.” On the other hand, a good boss “knows his workers, because he works beside them, with them,” the Pope said. “Let’s not forget that a businessman above all must be a worker. If he doesn’t have this sense of the dignity of work, he won’t be a good businessman.” The Pope then warned against the temptation to solve problems in a company by firing people, explaining that a person who does this “is not a businessman, he is a commercialist. Today he sells his employees, tomorrow he sells his own dignity.” “A sickness of the economy is the progressive transformation of workers into speculators, profiteers,” he said, adding that “workers must absolutely not be confused with profiteers,” because they are different things. Profiteers, he said, “eat” people, leaving the economy abstract and “without a face.” In addition, laws intended to help the honest then end up penalizing the honest and profiting the corrupt. He also warned the workers against competition in the workplace, calling it “an anthropological and Christian error,” as well as an “economic error,” since it forces people to work against each other. Too much competition destroys the “fabric of trust” that binds every organization, he said, noting that when a crisis arrives, “the company implodes” because there is no longer a sense of collegiality uniting it. Francis then issued a stern warning against the “non-virtue” of meritocracy, referring to the political philosophy that power ought to be invested in individuals solely based on their abilities and talents. This attitude “denatures” the human being and creates inequality, he said, explaining that under this mentality the poor are faulted for their disadvantage and the rich are “exonerated.” On the economic crisis, Francis noted that with unemployment, there often come illegal contracts and inhumane working conditions. He noted that many people are forced into working 11 hours a day for just 800 euro a month, or they are paid illegally under the table with no contract or benefits. In these cases, work becomes about survival, he said, noting that while this is part of is, work is about “much, much more,” because by working, “we become more human,” since we participate in God’s act of creation. “Work is man’s friend, and man is work’s friend,” he said, explaining that there are few joys greater than what one experiences in a good and healthy workplace, and there are fewer sorrows than when one work harms, exploits or even “kills” people. He pointed to the societal paradox that there is an increasing number of people who are unemployed but want to work, and that there are fewer and fewer people who work too much and want time off. This is based on the logic of consumption, Francis said, calling it “an idol of our time” that eventually leads us to worship “pure pleasure,” rather than appreciating the value of “fatigue and sweat,” which are the backbone of work. Bishops, Priests and Religious Pope Francis opened his nearly 2-hour conversation with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians by leading them in a moment of silent prayer for the victims of yesterday’s attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, that killed 28. After then reciting a Hail Mary for the deceased, the wounded and their families, the Pope took four questions on how to maintain a good spiritual life daily, how to keep the charism of an order fresh as time passes, how to foster priestly brotherhood and what to do about the current vocational crisis. When it comes to having a good spiritual life, the Pope said two things are essential: a constant encounter with God through prayer, and being close to the people. He noted that the world today is constantly “in a hurry,” and that it’s often difficult to take time to be with people and listen to their problems and concerns. But this doesn’t mean being inactive, he said, adding that “I am afraid of static priests.” Priests who are obsessed with structure and organization are better “businessman” than pastors, he said, noting that they might pray and celebrate Mass, Jesus himself was “always a man on the street,” in the midst of his people and “open to the surprises of God.” There’s a certain tension between these two extremes, he said, but urged consecrated people to “not be afraid of this tension,” because it’s a sign of “vitality” and movement. He told priests to be flexible in their prayer, always seeking a true encounter with God, and urged them to allow themselves to “get worn out be the people,” and not to “defend your own tranquility,” since Jesus himself prioritized relationships with the people, yet always set aside time to be with his Father. When it comes to fostering a stronger sense of brotherhood among priests, the Pope said that first of all this means letting go of “that image of the priest who knows everything,” and who doesn’t need the input of others. Self-sufficiency does a lot of harm to a consecrated person, he said, and asked the priests and religious how many times during a meeting they stop paying attention to what a fellow brother or sister is saying, and let their minds to “into orbit” with other things. Even if what the other person says isn’t necessarily of immediate interest, it’s important to pay attention, he said, explaining that each person “is a richness.” He told them to look for moments to pray together, go for lunch or play sports together, which all help to form stronger ties. He also warned against “murmuring” and “jealousy,” noting that at times when he reviews information collected on possible candidates for bishops, “you find true calumny or opinions that could be serious calumny but which devalue the priest.” To speak poorly of a brother is to “betray” him, Francis said, and warned, as he often does, about the dangers of gossip and the importance of forgiveness. When it comes to keep charisms fresh, the Pope emphasized the importance of staying attached to the concrete realities of a diocese or project. While a congregation might be “universal” in the sense that it has houses throughout the world, the “concreteness” of involvement in the helps give the order “roots,” allowing it to stay remain and also to grow as they see different needs come up. On the vocational crisis, Francis immediately pointed out the low birthrate in Europe, particularly Italy, saying the lack of vocations is also tied to the “demographic problem” that people don’t want to get married or have children. “If there are no young men and women, there are no vocations,” he said, explaining that while this is not the only reason for the crisis, it’s something that must be kept in mind.   He also stressed the importance of looking critically at what is happening in the world and posing the question: “what is the Lord asking right now?” “The vocational crisis is affecting the entire Church,” including the priesthood, religious life and even marriage, he said, noting that many young couples don’t want to commit themselves to the vocation of marriage, but instead prefer to cohabitate. Give the widespread nature of the crisis, “it’s a time to ask ourselves, to ask the Lord, what must we do? What must we change?” he said, adding that “to face the problems is necessary, (but) to learn from problems is obligatory.” His words have a special resonance given that the next Synod of Bishops, set to take place in October 2018, will address the topic: “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.” Francis cautioned against the temptation of “conquest” when it comes to filling empty convents and seminaries, stressing that true vocational work “is hard, but we must do it.” “It’s a challenge, but we must be creative,” he said, and emphasized the importance of bearing personal witness through the living of one’s own vocation, which “is key” to showing youth how rewarding a life offered for Christ and others can be. Youth In a meeting with youth at Genoa’s Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard, he also took questions from four youth, two boys and two girls, telling them he wouldn’t give them “pre-made answers,” but personal answers.   In their questions, the youth asked how to be a missionary in the face modern challenges; how to go beyond modern distractions and love those in difficulty and crisis around us; how to have a strong prayer and spiritual life, and how to have sincere relationships in a culture of indifference. Francis said that being a missionary above all “means letting yourself be transformed by the Lord. “Normally when we live these activities, we are joyful when things go well, and this is good, but there is another transformation that you don’t see, it’s hidden and is born in the lives of all of us,” he said, adding that to be a missionary “allows us to learn how to look, how to see with new eyes.” He told the youth to stop being “tourists,” many of whom come to the city and take pictures of everything, but “don’t look at anything.” “To look at life with the eyes of tourists is superficial...it means I don’t touch reality, I don’t see things as they are,” he said, noting that going on mission helps us to go beyond the superficial and “draw near to the heart of another...and it destroys hypocrisy.” For adults, but especially for youth to have this attitude, “is suicide. Understand? It’s suicide,” he said, stressing that accepting Jesus’ invitation to me a missionary helps us to look at each other in the eye and purifies us from seeing the Church divided into the “good” and the “bad.” He said that to respond to the needs of people in difficulty – the poor, migrants, homeless and unemployed – we must first of all “love them. We can’t do anything without love.” No matter how many projects we set up or are involved in, it’s useless without love he said, explaining that whenever he can he likes to ask people, when they give to the poor, if they “touch the hand of the person” they give to, or if they pull back immediately. Love, he said, is the ability to take hold of the “dirty hand” and to look at people in situations of drugs, poverty and hardship, and to say that “for me, you are Jesus.” Pope Francis said focusing on the person who has been wounded and excluded, rather than their situation, is part of “the madness of the faith,” and of the announcement of Jesus. He told the youth to never ignore people or “make the person into an adjective,” calling them a “drunk,” because they are a person with a name. “Never make people into adjectives!” he said, adding that “God is the only one who can judge, and he will do it in the Final Judgement for each one of us.” Giving advice for how to have a strong spiritual life, the Pope tied the his answer to the city’s link with boaters and sailors, telling them that if they want to be a good disciple, “you need the same heart as a navigator: a horizon and courage.” “If you don’t have a horizon...you will never be a good missionary,” he said, and warned against the distractions new media technologies bring. “You have the opportunity to know everything with new technologies, but these information technologies make you fall into a canal many times, because instead of informing us, the saturate us,” he said, adding that when you are saturated, the horizon “gets closer and closer” and soon “you have a wall in front of you.” When this happens, the horizon is lost as is the ability to contemplate, he said, and told the youth to take time to contemplate and make good decisions, instead of eating whatever is put in front of them. He also urged the youth to question what has become almost routine in today’s “normal culture,” using smoking as an example. Instead of just accepting that this is normal, he told them to ask themselves: “is this normal, or is this not normal?” and to “have courage to seek the truth.” At the close of his meeting with youth, Francis offered a special greeting to prisoners of watching the meeting via television before heading to lunch with poor, refugees, homeless and prisoners from Genoa.

Francis calls Don Orione Sisters to be 'missionaries without borders'

Vatican City, May 26, 2017 / 11:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity on Friday, Pope Francis spoke to them about their charism for evangelization, especially to the poor, encouraging them to be joyful in their mission. “You are called, and are by vocation, 'missionaries'; that is, evangelizers, and at the same time you are at the service of the poor. Sisters, be missionaries without borders,” the Pope said May 26 at the Vatican's Consistory Hall. “To all, but especially to the poor, in whom you are called to recognize the flesh of Christ, bring the joy of the Gospel that is Jesus Himself. To all, show the beauty of God's love manifested in the merciful face of Christ. With this beauty fill the hearts of those you encounter. Closeness, encounter, dialogue, and accompaniment are your missionary approach. And do not let yourselves be robbed of the joy of evangelization.” The Little Missionary Sisters of Charity are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome throughout the month of May. They are also known as the Don Orione Sisters, after their founder, St. Luigi Orione. The Italian priest founded the order in 1915 to perform works of charity among the poor, orphans, the aged, and the handicapped. Pope Francis thanked the sisters for their apostolate “in the various activities of youth ministry, in schools, in homes for the elderly, in the little 'Cottolengo' institutes, in catechesis and oratories, with new forms of poverty, and in all places where Divine Providence has placed you.” Mission and service “help you overcome the risks of self-referentiality, of limiting yourselves to survival and self-defensive rigidity” and “make you take on the dynamics of exodus and giving, of coming out of yourselves, of walking and sowing,” he reflected. “For all these purposes, it is vital to nurture communion with the Lord” in prayer, he added. “In the Church, mission is born of the encounter with Christ … The centre of the Church’s mission is Jesus. As His disciples, you are called to be women who work assiduously to transcend, projecting towards the encounter with the Master and the culture in which you live.” Missionaries must be “bold and creative,” the Pope said. “The convenient criterion of 'it has always been the case' is not valid. It is not valid. Think of the aims, the structures, the style and the methods of your mission.” “We are living in a time when we need to rethink everything in the light of what the Spirit asks us,” Pope Francis maintained. “This demands a special look at the recipients of the mission and reality itself: the look of Jesus, which is the look of the Good Shepherd; a gaze that does not judge, but which grasps the presence of the Lord in history; a gaze of closeness, to contemplate, to be moved, and to stay with the other as often as necessary; a deep look of faith; a respectful gaze, full of compassion, that heals, frees, and comforts.” This gaze “will make you courageous and creative and will help you always to be in search of new ways to bring the Good News that is Christ to all.” He also said that missionary must be free, “without anything of his or her own. I never tire of repeating that comfort, lethargy and worldliness are forces that prevent the missionary from 'going out', 'starting out' and moving on, and ultimately sharing the gift of the Gospel. The missionary can not walk with the heart full of things (comfort), an empty heart (lethargy) or in search of things extraneous to the glory of God (worldliness).” “The missionary is a person who is free of all these ballasts and chains; a person who lives without anything of his own, only for the Lord and His Gospel; a person who lives on a constant path of personal conversion and works without rest towards pastoral conversion.” A missionary must also be “inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Who reminds the disciples of all that Jesus said to them, Who teaches them, Who bear witness to Jesus and leads the disciples, in turn, to bear witness to Him. The missionary is asked to be a person obedient to the Spirit, to follow His movement.” This obedience should lead them “to become capable of perceiving the presence of Jesus in so many people discarded by society,” he said. “You too, dear sisters, be in this sense spiritual people, let yourselves be led, driven and guided by the Spirit.” Pope Francis said a missionary's spirituality must be based on Christ, the Word of God, and on the liturgy. A 'holistic' spirituality, involving the whole person in its various dimensions, based on complementarity, integrating and incorporating. It allows you to be daughters of heaven and daughters of the earth, mystical and prophetic, disciples and witnesses at the same time.” “Finally, the missionary is required to be a prophet of mercy … Your charism of service to the poor demands that you exercise the prophecy of mercy, that is, to be people centred on God and on the crucified of this world. Let yourselves be provoked by the cry of help from so many situations of pain and suffering. As prophets of mercy, announce the Father’s forgiveness and embrace, a source of joy, serenity and peace.” “Along with the other institutes and movements founded by Don Orione, you form a family. I encourage you to walk the paths of collaboration with all the members of this rich charismatic family … Cultivate between you the spirit of encounter, the spirit of family and cooperation.” Francis concluded by offering the Visitation as “an example for your mission and for your service to the poor.” “Like the Virgin Mary, go on your way, in haste – not the rush of the world, but that of God – and, full of the joy that dwells in your heart, sing your Magnificat. Sing the love of God for every creature. Announce to today’s men and women that God is love and can fill the heart of those who seek Him and who let themselves be encountered by Him.”  

Pope taps Bishop Angelo de Donatis as new Vicar of Rome

Vatican City, May 26, 2017 / 04:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday the Vatican announced that Bishop Angelo de Donatis had been chosen by Pope Francis as the new Vicar of Rome, who will oversee the administrative needs of the Roman diocese, including its clergy. In addition to naming him Vicar of Rome, Francis also named Donatis an archbishop, according to the May 26 Vatican communique on the announcement.  He will be taking over for Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who has held the position since 2008, under Benedict XVI. Currently also a member of the Council for the Economy established by Pope Francis in 2014, Vallini previously served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2004 until his appointment as Vicar of Rome. Bishop Donatis was born in Casarano, in the Nardo-Gallipoli province of Italy, in 1954 and served as a priest for the diocese until the early 1980s, when he was incardinated as a priest in Rome. Well known and loved among Romans and expats alike, Donatis was appointed an auxiliary bishop for Rome by Pope Francis in 2015. While the Pope is the official Bishop of Rome, the Cardinal Vicar is hand-picked by the Pope after consulting with priests, bishops and cardinals who serve in and around Rome, and is charged with the spiritual administration of the diocese. According to canon law, every Catholic diocese must have at least one or more vicar generals, however, the Vicar of Rome serves more as a “de facto” bishop due to the Pope’s heavy workload with his various responsibilities and commitments.   The man who holds the position also serves as the Archpriest for the papal Basilica of St. John Lateran. A decree instituted by Pope Paul IV in 1558 also holds that the Vicar of Rome must be a cardinal. Since Pope Francis has already named him as an archbishop, it's likely Donatis could be added to the list of 5 prelates who will get a red hat during the June 28 consistory.  There is also a Vicar General for the Vatican City State, who is the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and is charged with looking after the spiritual needs of the small country. This position is currently held by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was tapped for the role by Benedict XVI in 2005. Donatis, after working in various parishes throughout Rome, was in 1990 named Director of the Office of the Clergy for the Diocese of Rome, a position he held until 1996. He was then named as Spiritual Director at the Pontifical Roman Seminary. Since 2003 he has served as the parish priest for St. Mark the Evangelist parish, located near Rome’s famous Piazza Venezia, and was also named the Assistant for the diocese of Rome’s National Association for the Family of Clergy. In 2014 Pope Francis selected Donatis to preach the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia during their weeklong retreat in Ariccia. A year later he was named auxiliary bishop. After the conclusion of their spiritual exercises in 2014, Pope Francis thanked Donatis for accompanying the Curia and for planting “the seed of the Word of God” in their hearts. “The Lord will seed the rain and that seed will grow and bear fruit,” he said, but added, “we must also thank the sower, no? Because you were the sower and you know how to do it!” Donatis was ordained a bishop by Pope Francis himself, who during the liturgy connected the ordination to the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy, which at the time was still a month away. “At the beginning of the year of Mercy I ask you as a brother to be merciful,” Francis said, adding that “the world needs mercy so much. Teach priests and seminarians the path of mercy; with words, but also with your attitude.” “The mercy of the Father which is always placed in the heart, never hurts anyone,” he said, adding that “this is what I wish for you: mercy.” Donatis chose as his episcopal motto the phrase: “Nihil Caritate dulcius,” meaning “Nothing is sweeter than love.” His coat of arms includes a shield bearing the image of the lion of St. Mark the Evangelist at the top right, named for the parish he has led since 2003, on top of the color red, symbolizing both blood and love. Below the shield is a pomegranate – the fruit that in the Bible is a symbol of the blood poured out by Christ and the martyrs. The background of the image is silver in reference to the purity and transparency of the Virgin Mary, to whom Donatis entrusted his episcopal ministry.

Pope Francis: Even in the darkest moments, Jesus walks with us

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 08:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that no matter what trials we might face, we have hope because Jesus is always by our side, just like he was for the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “All of us, in our lives, have had difficult, dark times; moments in which we have walked sad, thoughtful, without horizons and (with) only a wall in front,” Pope Francis said May 24. However, even in these moments “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm the heart and say, ‘Go ahead, I'm with you. Go ahead,’” the Pope said, adding that “the secret of the road leading to Emmaus is all here: even through unfavorable appearances, we continue to be loved.” The Pope met with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, immediately following his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Francis said that no matter what, God always wants the best for us and “will walk with us.” “Even in the most painful moments, even in the worst moments, even in moments of defeat: the Lord is there. And this is our hope. Let's go ahead with that hope! Because he is next to us and walks with us always!” The Pope reflected on hope as it is found in the story of Christ’s appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they feel sad, discouraged and defeated because Jesus has been killed, but they do not yet know about his Resurrection. All of their hopes from before the crucifixion have been shattered, but this is because they “cultivated only human hope,” Francis said. It is on this scene that Jesus appears. “This scenario – the road – had already been important in the accounts of the Gospels,” he explained, but “now it will become even more, as they begin to recount the story of the Church.” This encounter of Jesus with the disciples seems “fortuitous,” he said, in the way it resembles the many times we are carrying our own crosses or burdens of sorrow and disappointment. But Jesus joins them, even though they do not recognize him, and he begins what Pope Francis called a “therapy of hope.” The first step in this therapy, he said, is to “ask and listen: our God is not an intrusive God. Even though he already knows the reason for the disappointment of those two, he leaves them time to be able to gauge the depth of the bitterness that he has undergone.” Then, listening to their words, we hear “a chorus of human existence: ‘We hoped, but…We hoped, but….’” “How much sadness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in each person's life!” the Pope said, noting that “we are all a bit like those two disciples.” “How many times in life we hoped, how many times we felt a step away from happiness, and then we found ourselves disappointed,” he reflected. “But Jesus walks with all discouraged people who go forward with head down. And walking with them, in a subtle way, he succeeds in returning hope.” When he does speak to them, Jesus does it first through the Scriptures. In the Bible, you will not find stories of “easy heroism, thunderous campaigns of conquest,” the Pope said. “True hope is never cheap: it always goes through defeats.” In fact, Francis said, Jesus models this for us by not being the kind of leader that drags his people to victory by violently destroying his opponents. Instead, he takes a position of disdain himself. Later that same night, when the disciples have invited him to eat dinner with them, they recognize him when he breaks the bread, repeating the gesture of the first Eucharist. “In this series of gestures, is there not the whole story of Jesus? And is there not, in every Eucharist, the sign of what the Church must be? Jesus takes us, blesses us, ‘breaks’ our lives – because there is no love without sacrifice – and offers it to others, offers it to everyone.” Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is quick, he said, but in it we find “the fate of the Church.” “He tells us that the Christian community is not locked up in a fortified citadel, but walks in its most vital environment; namely, the road. And there it meets people, with their hopes and their disappointments, sometimes heavy.” “The Church listens to the stories of everyone, as they emerge from the depths of personal conscience, in order then to offer the Word of Life, the testimony of love, faithful love to the end,” he concluded. “And then, the hearts of people return to burning hope.”

Pope Francis, Trump hold landmark first meeting (Updated)

Vatican City, May 24, 2017 / 02:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican Wednesday in a friendly encounter which included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience. According to a May 24 Vatican communique, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience." The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican May 24, at 8:30 a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. Trump arrived to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. He is also set to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26 before returning to the U.S. President Trump arrived to the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15 a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard. After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Archbishop Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace. Scenes as @POTUS & @FLOTUS arrive at the #Vatican to meet #PopeFrancis this morning. (pc @dibanezgut / CNA.) pic.twitter.com/Z1xCDhCySB — Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) May 24, 2017 Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Pope Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honor.” Smiling, Francis explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump. After the cameras left, the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present. During the "cordial discussions," the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that it may be "engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants," a Vatican communique on the meeting said. Pope Francis and President Trump also exchanged views "on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities." After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis and Trump. There were 12 people in the president's entourage, including his wife Melania and his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom are advisors in his administration. Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster, and Louis Bono, American Chargé d'Affaires ad interim to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich us officially approved as ambassador.   Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.” In addition to the customary gift of these three documents, Francis also gave President Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them. The Pope also gifted the U.S. president with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.” #PopeFrancis says his desire is that @POTUS be "an olive tree of peace." See the full exchange:@cnalive @EWTN pic.twitter.com/GEa11kf0o2 — Alan Holdren (@AlanHoldren) May 24, 2017 On his part, President Trump gifted Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them, I hope you do." Members of the delegation each received a medal and a rosary from the pontiff. When greeting Francis, First Lady Melania told him that she would afterward be visiting the hospital. Joking, the Pope asked her if they had given her potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, to eat, to which she responded, “yes, potica,” as they both laughed. Departing with a handshake, Trump said to Francis: "Thank you, thank you, I won't forget what you said." The Trump family visiting the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica this morning. Copyright “L’Osservatore Romano” pic.twitter.com/zT2oyHqr0f — Alan Holdren (@AlanHoldren) May 24, 2017 After meeting with Pope Francis, Trump met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, as is customary for heads of state. Pope Francis went immediately to begin the Wednesday general audience with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. After the meeting, First Lady Melania paid a visit to the Vatican-owned Pediatric hospital Bambino Gesu, also known as the “Pope’s hospital.” Bambino Gesu sits next to the Pontifical North American College on top of Rome’s Gianicolo hill, and is among the most important pediatric hospitals in the world. Founded in 1869 by the Duchess Arabella Salviati, the hospital was donated to Pius XI in 1924, with the aim of giving it a more stable future. At the same time, Trump’s daughter and high-profile adviser, Ivanka, made her way to the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to oppose human trafficking. The Sant’Egidio Community is often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, in particular. Ivanka is participating in each of the seven days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, and was also present for the public portion of his meeting with Francis. Before leaving with her father on his first international tour, Ivanka hosted an anti-human trafficking roundtable discussion at the White House May 17. During her meeting with Sant’Egidio, she is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue. This article was updated at 12:12 p.m. local time in Rome with information from the official Vatican communique.

Pope Francis to nuns: Your joy can change the world

Vatican City, May 23, 2017 / 11:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Women who are consecrated to God live “the prophecy of joy,” and this authentic joy is their most credible witness, Pope Francis told leaders of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master on Monday. “The world today is in need of this: that joy that arises from the encounter with Christ in a life of personal and community prayer, in daily listening to the Word, in the encounter with brothers and sisters, in a happy fraternal life in the community, including fragility, and in the embrace of the flesh of Christ in the poor. Prophets of a joy that is born of feeling loved and therefore forgiven,” he said May 22. “Joy is a beautiful reality in the life of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us,” he said, adding “authentic joy, not self-referential or complacent, is the most credible witness of a full life.” The Pope addressed an audience of sisters gathered in Rome in recent weeks for the 9th General Chapter of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. The general chapter has elected its new superior general and other leaders. He emphasized his point about joy, saying “this joy that fills your hearts and manifests itself on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries, participating in the joy of the Church, that is evangelization.” “But to do this there must be a true joy, not counterfeit joy. Do not falsify joy. Evangelization, when you are convinced that Jesus is the Good News, is joy and gladness for all. This joy drives away the cancer of resignation, fruit of the lethargy that withers the soul,” he added. He voiced hope that the sisters’ lives shall bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the master of diversity and unity. He encouraged them “to tirelessly weave unity in legitimate differences, taking account also of the fact that you are present in different countries and cultures.” Pope Francis advocated a cultivation of care and reciprocal acceptance; practicing fraternal correction and respect for weaker sisters, and “banishing from the community all divisions, envy, gossip; saying this with frankness and charity.” The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master were founded in Italy 1924 by Blessed Fr. Giacomo Alberione and Mother Scholastica. The Pope noted the sisters’ mission of “bringing to the men and women of our time the Gospel,” particularly through liturgical service and caring for priests. He encouraged them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms and “to combat any form of self-centeredness.” “It is ugly when a consecrated man or woman is self-centered, always looking at him or herself in the mirror. It is ugly,” he said. He also encouraged them to show the fruits of communion with “the men and women of our time.” “Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of the men and women of today, we find important indications for our discipleship of Christ,” the Pope said. He encouraged the general chapter to listen to the sisters of the congregation and to contemporary men and women. “Never tire of exercising continually the art of listening and sharing,” he said. “In this time of great challenges, which demand of consecrated people creative fidelity, impassioned research, listening and sharing are more important than ever before, if we want our life to be fully meaningful for ourselves and for the people we meet.” Pope Francis said this practice requires “a climate of discernment, to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to Him.” “Before us there opens up a world of possibilities,” he said. “The culture in which we are immersed presents all of them as valid, all of them as good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of ‘zapping’ and, at times, a culture of death, we must increase our habit of discernment.” He encouraged the sisters to ask two questions at both the personal and community level: “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want us to do?” The Pope warned against the dangers of a spirit of resignation, suggesting that the devil might tempt them by citing their small numbers or their few vocations and otherwise do what he can to make them have long faces. “I encourage you also to be prophets of hope, with eyes turned to the future, where the Spirit pushes you, to continue to do great things with you,” he said. “The hope that does not disappoint is not based on numbers or works, but on Him, for Whom nothing is impossible” “With this trust and this strength I repeat to you: do not join the prophets of misfortune, who do great damage to the Church and to consecrated life; do not give in to the temptation of torpor – like the Apostles in Gethsemane – and desperation,” he said. “Awaken the world, illuminate the future! Always with a smile, with joy, with hope,” the Pope concluded. “May Mary our Mother protect you with her gaze, and the Lord bless you, show you His Face, and grant you peace and mercy.”  

Manchester bishop: There is 'no justification' for horrific attack (Updated)

Manchester, United Kingdom, May 23, 2017 / 04:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After what has been deemed a terrorist attack killed 22 people – mostly youth – at a theater in Manchester Monday night, local Bishop John Arnold condemned the act, saying there is no justification for such violence. “The citizens of Manchester and members of the Catholic community are united in condemning the attack on the crowds at the Arena. Such an attack can have no justification,” Bishop Arnold said in a May 23 statement via the diocese’s Twitter account.   In a series of tweets, he thanked the emergency services “for their prompt and speedy response which saved lives. We join in prayer for all those who have died and for the injured and their families and all affected by this tragedy.” The bishop stressed that “we must all commit to working together, to help the victims and their families and to build and strengthen our community solidarity.” Bishop Arnold, who oversees the Salford diocese that includes Manchester, made his statement in response to an attack which took place at Manchester Arena Monday night at the end of a concert by American pop artist Ariana Grande, who is popular among teens. A bomb exploded in the foyer of the arena May 22 around 10:30 p.m. local time, as concertgoers were beginning to leave. At least 22 are dead, including children, and almost 60 are injured, according to reports. The lone attacker was also killed in the blast, police say. He is believed to have been carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated to cause the explosion, according to Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, although authorities have not yet confirmed any concrete link between the attacker and the terror group. In a May 23 telegram addressed to victims and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester.” The Pope voiced his “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence,” and praised the “tremendous efforts” of the emergency responders and security, offering his prayers for the wounded and those who died. “Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families,” the Pope invoked God’s blessings “of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.” Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London, sent a letter to Bishop Arnold May 23 expressing his condolences for the attack. “It was with great sorrow that I heard the media reports of last night's atrocity, in Manchester,” he said. “May God welcome into His merciful presence all who have died. May God turn the hearts of all who commit evil to a true understanding of His desire and intention for humanity.” “I assure you, and all those you serve, of the prayers and condolences of your brother bishops in England and Wales,” he said, adding that “We, too, mourn this loss of life. We pray for the eternal repose of all who have died.” The Diocese of Salford announced that Bishop Arnold would say a special Mass for the victims May 23 at 12:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, which is the Catholic Mother Church of Greater Manchester. Another Mass will be held at the Salford cathedral at 7 p.m. local time. In a May 23 statement immediately following a meeting of the government's emergency committee, Cobra, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the bombing “a callous terrorist attack” that targeted “some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families and friends of all those affected,” she said, noting that the attack is “among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom.” “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people,” May continued, but said the arena attack stands out “for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.” Although he’s traveling abroad, U.S. President Donald Trump said during a joint appearance with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday, that the “wicked ideology” of terrorism “must be obliterated.” “I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack, and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims.” “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life,” he added. “I won't call them monsters, because they would like that term, they would think that's a great name. I will call them, from now on, losers, because that's what they are.” The attack is the worst Britain has seen since a bombing on the London transport network on July 7, 2005 killed 52 people.   This article was updated at 2:00 p.m. local time in Rome with comments from a telegram sent by Pope Francis.

Pope Francis' newest cardinals show a global Church

Vatican City, May 22, 2017 / 03:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Only seven months after Pope Francis’ last consistory, he will create five new cardinals in June. He continues a pattern of finding cardinals at the peripheries of the world, from dioceses which have not traditionally had a cardinal. The next consistory will take place June 28. In this new batch Pope Francis has confirmed his preference for dioceses that are not traditional sees for a cardinal. For instance, this is the first time a bishop from El Salvador, Sweden, Mali, and Laos will receive a red hat. The Pope’s choice of Bishop Louis Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Vicar Apostolic of Paksé, reveals his particular interest in Laos. Laos, a one-party communist republic averse to religion, is one of the few countries lacking full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.   However, in recent years the Laotian government has been showing a greater openness to the international community, and also to the religious sentiment of its mostly Buddhist population. There are only 45,000 Catholics in Laos, less than one percent of the 7 million Laotians. Laos has no dioceses: there are only three apostolic vicariates with 22 priests and 11 religious priests. Three new priests were ordained in the country in 2016, and two more will be ordained this year. The beatification of Italian missionary Mario Borzaga, of the Laotian priest Joseph Thao Thien and 14 companions martyred in 1960 gave more impetus to the Laotian “baby Church,” to use Bishop Mangkhanekhoun's words. The beatification Mass took place in Vientiane on Dec. 11, 2016, with the participation of over 7,000 faithful. The government’s permission for the public celebration was considered a sign that the Laotian government is changing its hostile attitude towards religion. Meanwhile, the Holy See is trying to establish full diplomatic ties with the country in order to better protect the Catholic flock. In Mali, the red biretta for Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamao can also be read through diplomatic lense. Archbishop Zerbo has strongly committed to the ongoing dialogue for reconciliation in his country. In 2012, Al-Qaeda exploited a rebellion carried out by ethnic Tuaregs and tried to take control of the central government. Ever since, Mali has been living in a constant political crisis that has turned into a refugee crisis. His elevation as cardinal will give Archbishop Zerbo more weight in the peace talks. After his trip to Sweden late last year, Pope Francis also named as cardinal Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm. Bishop Arborelius, a convert from Lutheranism, is the first Swedish-born Catholic bishop in the country since the Lutheran Reformation. In El Salvador, Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, is the first auxiliary bishop ever to be appointed a cardinal while the bishop in charge of his archdiocese remains but a bishop. His red biretta may be considered a reward for his service to El Salvador in his more than 30 years as auxiliary bishop, especially during the difficult years of the 1980-1992 civil war. In contrast to other cardinals-to-be, the red hat for Archbishop Juan José Omella Omella is not a dramatic departure from tradition, as Barcelona is traditionally a see with a cardinal. Archbishop Omella’s predecessor, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, turned 80 on Apr. 29. The announcement that Archbishop Omella will be created a cardinal comes only two days after the new presidency of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference met with Pope Francis in a private audience in Rome. The Spanish Bishops’ Conference gathered for its general assembly in Madrid on March 15. Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez was re-elected as president for a second three-year mandate by a strong majority. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia and former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was elected vice-president. In the race for the presidency, Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid, got four votes, while Archbishop Omella got just one vote. By naming Archbishop Omella a cardinal, the Pope might want to show the Spanish Bishops’ Conference the men in whom he places his trust. The two Spaniards, Cardinal Osoro Sierra, appointed by Pope Francis as Archbishop of Madrid, and Archbishop Omella will have gotten their red hats in back to back consistories only seven months apart. All of the new cardinals are below 80, so they all have the right to vote in a conclave to elect a Pope. Sweden’s Bishop Anders Arborelius is the youngest, as he will turn 68 in September, while Bishop Rosa is the oldest, about to turn 75. In the last consistory, 13 out of 17 new red hats were given to bishops or archbishops below the age of 80. Church rules set the maximum number of cardinal electors in a conclave at 120. With the five new cardinals, Pope Francis has the increased the number of voting cardinals to 121, exceeding the limit by one. The five new cardinals also slightly re-shape the composition of the College of Cardinals. After the June 28 consistory, Europe will be represented by 53 voting cardinals, compared with 51 at present. Central America’s voting cardinals will increase to five from four. Africa and Asia combined will have 15 cardinals in a prospective conclave, an increase of one. Other regions’ number of cardinal electors is unchanged: North America still has 17 voting cardinals, South America has 12, and Oceania four. Up to now, Pope Francis has created 61 cardinals: 49 voting cardinals, and 12 non-voting. The college of voting cardinals is completed by 52 cardinals created by Benedict XVI, and 20 by St. John Paul II.

What common ground could Trump and Pope Francis find?

Vatican City, May 22, 2017 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Francis was asked last week about his upcoming meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump, he made headlines for answering that he always tries to look for common ground. Given that they have vocally disagreed on prominent issues in the past, what will the areas of shared agreement be? The two are set to meet at the Vatican Wednesday, May 24, at 8:30 a.m., before Pope Francis' weekly general audience. President Trump arrives to Italy May 23 after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip, which lasts nine days. He will also attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and a G7 summit in Sicily on May 26. Perhaps the most prominent area of disagreement between Trump and Francis is immigration. During a Feb. 18, 2016, in-flight press conference, the Pope was asked to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand, particularly his threat to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pope Francis responded saying “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” However, he also said that he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate. One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States. After the fact, then-Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy: bridge-building. During Trump’s time in office so far, U.S. bishops – who have Francis’ full backing on the issue – have been critical of Trump’s moves on immigration, criticizing the “ban” he implemented in his first week in office halting refugee admissions for 120 days – indefinitely for Syrian refugees – and temporarily banning visa permissions for people seeking entry to the United States from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Trump and Francis also have very divergent opinions on climate change. Francis insisted on the need to protect creation in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, saying problems such as global warming are caused by human activity. The Pope gave his full support of the Paris Climate deal in 2015, sending Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 summit as his personal delegate to the gathering. Trump later threatened to back out of the deal, but delayed the process until after the G7 summit he’ll be participating in this week. While there will certainly be these and other points the two disagree on, there are several issues – other than their shared disregard for formal protocol – that could actually bring the two together. These, to name a few, could be: pro-life issues, above all defense of the unborn; religious freedom, particularly for Christians in the Middle East; and the push for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since his campaign days, Trump has identified himself as pro-life, and even gave a shout-out to the Jan. 27 March for Life in Washington D.C. in a clip of an interview with David Muir of ABC. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence became the first vice president to participate in the event, giving a keynote speech that stressed the “sanctity of life.” Pro-life issues are likely to be at least one strong point of union for Trump and Francis, who has often spoken out against abortion and other concerns such as euthanasia, calling them in one audience in 2014 “sins against God.” He has also encouraged the use of conscientious objection based on religious convictions, at one point describing it as “a basic human right.” When it comes to the Trump administration, the pro-life issue remains a big issue for many U.S. Catholics, who praised the president’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibits U.S. funding of non-government organizations that either promote or perform abortions through family-planning funds. Trump was also lauded for his appointment of Niel Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left when Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last year. Gorsuch has been praised not only for his pro-life stance, but also for his commitment to religious freedom. Pope Francis and Trump are also likely to share concern for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Both Trump and Francis have called for greater solidarity and protection of persecuted Christians. Francis has repeatedly spoken out on modern persecution, saying there are more martyrs today than in the early Church, with the “ecumenism of blood” having become a watermark phrase of his pontificate. Trump himself said during his campaign that protecting persecuted Christians would be a priority. As evidence of this intent, at a May 11 summit on persecuted Christians U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, “We’re with you, we stand with you,” and assured of both his and Trump’s prayers. As with any political figure, questions still loom as to how much Trump will actually do, especially if differing political opinions get in the way. But overall, the topic will likely be a point of agreement and collaboration with the Vatican. And while Trump’s previous rhetoric on Islam is something Francis would likely hastily disagree with, a recent shift in the president’s tone is something the Pope would certainly welcome.   During his election campaign, Trump called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and voicing his opinion that “Islam hates us.” However, so far Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims has cooled during his first international trip abroad. In his May 21 speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Ridyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump avoided the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” referring instead to “the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.” “The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country and, frankly, for their families and for their children,” Trump said, speaking to leaders from more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries. The choice is “between two futures,” and “it is a choice America cannot make for you,” he said, adding that “a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.” He said he didn’t come to “lecture,” but to seek an end to terrorism and the beginning of peace in the Middle East region, noting that roughly 95 percent of terrorist victims are themselves Muslim. The president said he wants a partnership with people who share the same “interests and values” as the U.S., calling Islam one of the “great faiths” with an “ancient heritage” that has served as the “cradle of civilization.” In addition, Trump said the problem of terrorism is not “a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it...This is a battle between good and evil.” The U.S. president’s more moderate tone on Islam, and indeed his unprecedented praise of some aspects of Muslim culture, is something Pope Francis would likely appreciate. The Pope has on multiple occasions warned against “Islamophobia,” insisting that not all Muslims are terrorist. However, while the two might have new-found common ground in terms of how they refer to the Muslim community, at least in the public sphere, Francis will likely take issue with the weapons deal signed by Trump and Saudi King Salman. The deal guarantees the Middle Eastern powerhouse some $350 billion in weapons over the next 10 years, with $110 billion going into effect immediately. Francis has consistently called for an end to the arms trade, criticizing nations that sell weapons to warring countries in order to keep the conflicts going that line their own pockets. The Pope has used almost countless occasions to insist for an end to this “scourge.”   Saudi Arabia has also been criticized by many other Middle Eastern nations for funding ISIS, most directly through weapons sales. But regardless of the deal, terrorism is sure to be one of the key topics discussed, and if Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia is an indication of how he intends to address the issue from here on out, the two just might be able agree on this point. After leaving Saudi Arabia, Trump flew to Israel for an official visit in a bid to cement Israeli ties and help move forward on a peace deal with Palestine. After arriving this morning, he voiced hopes to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin of a broader peace deal in the region. “You have a great opportunity right now. Great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East. People have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing. I think we're going to start see things starting to happen,” he told Rivlin. In a speech to Israeli Prime Minister on the tarmac, Trump said: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way.” In a previous encounter, Trump had asked Netenyahu to “hold off” on building more settlements in order help give space to further peace discussions in the region. Earlier this month Trump met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, telling him that when it comes to a deal that pleases both parties, “we will get it done.” The commitment to a two-state solution has been a longstanding priority for the Vatican, which was reinforced during a recent 2015 agreement between Palestine and the Holy See to promote religious freedom in the area. Trump himself, however, has said his administration is not married to the idea of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict, deviating from previous administrations on the issue. While the Vatican and Trump might not agree on what exactly a peace deal looks like, it’s likely to be a shared concern. Another topic that could be a point of union between the Pope and the president is human trafficking; not necessarily because Trump himself has been a hardliner on the issue, but more likely because the president’s daughter and high-profile adviser Ivanka Trump has made a commitment to it. It is in this capacity that she is participating in each of the nine days of Trump’s first trip abroad as president, including the public portion of his meeting with Francis. While in Italy, Ivanka is also set to meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio, a group often praised by Pope Francis for their work with the poor and refugees, to discuss putting an end to human trafficking. During the meeting, the Ivanka is expected to meet with several women who are victims of trafficking, and discuss various ways in which the Church and the U.S. government can collaborate on the issue. So while there are clearly many areas in which Pope Francis and Trump diverge, the meeting will likely find both men seeking to find common ground. Francis himself during his May 13 press conference refrained from making a premature evaluation of Trump, saying “I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this.” When the two finally meet, “things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.” Peace and friendship are things that can’t be forced, he said, explaining that they take daily effort and are “handcrafted.” “Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together,” he said. Even if someone thinks differently, “be very sincere,” and respectful. 

Man builds replica of St. Peter's Square with 36,000 toothpicks

Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum, the Statue of Liberty, the Taj Mahal; are just some of the universal monuments that a Colombian teacher makes to scale out of little wooden sticks (toothpicks). One of his recent works is Saint Peter's Square and he dreams of showing it to Pope Francis during the visit the pontiff will make to this country in September. Alberto Antonio Cruz Serna has been building models with toothpicks since he was 12. He currently resides in the town of Puerto Berrio, in the Antioquia district teaches natural science to high school students at the Antonio Nariño Educational Institution, and has built more than 200 artistic creations with his own unique style. Among his works there are also small-scale replicas of Catholic buildings such as Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Puerto Berrio and Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican. Cruz, who is the father of five children, has displayed his works in a number of cities in Colombia, such as Medellín and Barrancabermeja. He has also won several awards. “What motivates me to build these works of art in toothpicks is the challenge of it. The structure is spectacular. It's not like the wood you cut and set in place. Here it's about joining stick to stick, seeing the lengths and making shapes. The degree of difficulty makes it more interesting,” the 59-year-old teacher told CNA. Cruz revealed that he has never visited the monuments he has reproduced with toothpicks. Nor has he studied architecture or design. He just does research on the Internet and in books on every detail of the artwork he wants to reproduce. His tools? A nail clipper and special wood glue. Cruz commented that his motivation for building the replica of Saint Peter's Square was that in late 2015, he learned that Pope Francis might be visiting Colombia. The Vatican would later confirm the trip, which is scheduled for this September. The construction of the artwork took 17 months. Cruz spent about five hours a day on the project. On weekends, he worked almost all day.  The Saint Peter's Square model was made of more than 36,000 toothpicks. It measures about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide. Cruz said that one of the most beautiful characteristics of St. Peter's Square are the columns because “they are like arms that welcome Catholics from all parts of the world each time that the Pope celebrates a Mass or appears. The shape of the plaza is like a hug.” While he was working on this structure, Cruz also made a reproduction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum. Regarding the pontiff's visit to his country, Cruz said that “we Colombians are waiting for the moment when the pope visits. It is critical to the process we are going through (as a nation).” He added that the Pope is important to him because “I'm Catholic, my family is too. And so, who would not want to meet the Pope? If he is the closest representative of God that we have on Earth? For Catholics, who would not want to be at his side? Cruz said that he would like to display the model of St. Peter's Square and the other works of art in Medellin during Pope Francis' apostolic visit. “My dream is that wherever the Holy Father is, I'd be nearby with my artwork and so he could take a look at them…That is the dream I want to fulfill. So he would be with me for just a few seconds.” The teacher hopes that the Antioquia political and religious authorities will take an interest in his work and he will have the opportunity to display them. “I'll keep on persevering and knocking on doors,” he said. Cruz said that the governor of Antioquia will soon be visiting the school where he teaches, and he will take advantage of the occasion to show him the Saint Peter's Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Roman Coliseum. His upcoming projects include the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Las Lajas, and Notre Dame Cathedral.