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Pope Francis turns his thoughts to Mexico during Audience

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday invited the people of Mexico to sing the ‘Guadalupana,’ a traditional hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe, for the suffering of the nation’s people.

The Holy Father’s remarks came during his greetings to Spanish-speaking pilgrims at the weekly General Audience.

“Pray for all those who suffer for any reason or who feel abandoned, so that looking at the Crucified, they are able to discover and feel the comfort and forgiveness of Christ, the Face of the Father’s Mercy,” Pope Francis said.

The murder of three priests has made headlines in Mexico, and Pope Francis sent a telegram strongly condemning the “brutal attacks.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis offers condolences after death of Shimon Peres

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Israel upon learning of the death of their former President, Shimon Peres. He died on Wednesday at the age of 93.

“I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President's tireless efforts in favour of peace,” Pope Francis said.

On June 8, 2014, Pope Francis hosted the historic prayer meeting in the Vatican Gardens with then-President Peres and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting came just weeks after Peres welcomed him to Israel during the Holy Father’s May 2014 trip to the Holy Land. The two men had previously met on April 30, 2013, at the Vatican.

Pope Francis met with Peres again at the Vatican in September of 2014, two months after he left office. The two men met for the last time on June 20, this year.

 “As the State of Israel mourns Mr Peres, I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples,” –  Pope Francis continued in his telegram – “In this way, his legacy will truly be honoured and the common good for which he so diligently laboured will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace. With the assurance of my prayers for all who grieve, especially for the Peres family, I invoke the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.”


The full text of the telegram of Pope Francis is below


His Excellency Reuven Rivlin President of the State of Israel

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of His Excellency Shimon Peres, and I wish to convey to you and to all the people of Israel my heartfelt condolences. I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President's tireless efforts in favour of peace. As the State of Israel mourns Mr Peres, I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples. In this way, his legacy will truly be honoured and the common good for which he so diligently laboured will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace. With the assurance of my prayers for all who grieve, especially for the Peres family, I invoke the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.


(from Vatican Radio)

Pope greets pilgrims from earthquake-hit Ascoli Piceno diocese

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis greeted the faithful from the Italian dioceses of Ascoli Piceno, Otranto, and Nonantola who are on pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee of Mercy, at the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience.

The Holy Father greeted Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole and the faithful of his Diocese of Ascoli Piceno, which was hard-hit by a 6.1-magnitude earthquake near the town of Pescara del Tronto.

Recovery efforts in the region continue to be hampered by aftershocks.

He also greeted the faithful from the Archdiocese of Otranto and their Archbishop Donato Negro, as well as the faithful from the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “your pilgrimage for the Holy Year expresses a sense of communion with the universal Church and makes you witnesses of mercy in your local Churches.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Catechesis at the General Audience: Forgiveness on the Cross

(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about “Forgiveness on the Cross.”

Below, please find the English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis for the weekly General Audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Jesus’ words during His Passion culminate in forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).  For the good thief, these are not mere words, for Jesus truly forgives him.  For the bad thief, however, it is inconceivable that the Messiah would remain on the Cross and not save Himself.  But it is precisely by remaining on the Cross that Jesus offers salvation to every person regardless of their situation.  This Jubilee Year is a time of grace and mercy for all, the good and the bad, those in health and those who suffer.  It is a time to remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf. Rm 8:39).  To all those sick in hospital, who live within the walls of a prison, or who are trapped by war, we are called to look to Christ Crucified on the Cross, who is God with us, who remains with us on the Cross and who offers Himself as our Saviour.  The good thief helps us to understand how we should approach God: with awe and not fear, with respect for God’s power and infinite goodness.  When we approach Him in this way, we entrust ourselves to His mercy, even in the darkest of moments.  For God is always with us sinners, and He loves us even to death on the Cross.  Let us see in the good thief a model of confidence in the Lord and, like him, let us call upon Jesus’ name and ask Him to remember us in Paradise.

Greetings to pilgrims:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States of America.  I extend a special welcome to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered here for the Ordination to the Diaconate to be celebrated tomorrow.  May God bless you all!

(from Vatican Radio)

Details of Pope Francis' visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

(Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighbouring republic of Armenia last June.


The Pope is scheduled to leave the Vatican on Friday morning, headed for the Georgian capital Tbilisi. His first encounter there will be with the president, with government authorities and representatives of civil society gathered at the imposing presidential palace. From there he goes on to meet the country’s Orthodox leader Patriarch Elia, who was also on hand for Pope John Paul II’s visit to the newly independent nation back in 1999.

The final event on Friday will be a visit to the Syro-Chaldean church of St Simon the Tanner, one of three different rites making up the small Catholic community in the former Soviet nation. The pope will join Syro-Chaldean bishops from around the world there to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq.

Pope Francis begins the following day with Mass at a stadium in Tbilisi named after one of Georgia’s most famous footballers. Significantly, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate will also be present at the Mass, a sign of growing friendship despite the many doctrinal difficulties that continue to divide leaders of the two Churches.

In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at one of the two Catholic parishes in the capital, before greeting several hundred disabled and vulnerable people being cared for by members of the Camilian order.  The Pope’s final event in Georgia will be a visit to the patriarchal cathedral in the nearby ancient city of Mtshketa, listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

On the final day of the trip, Pope Francis flies from Tbilisi to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where he’ll celebrate Mass for the tiny Catholic community at the only parish church run by the Salesian order. In the afternoon he’ll make a courtesy visit to the president and meet the region’s Muslim leader, Sheik  Allashukur Pashazade, before taking part in an interfaith encounter with representatives of all the other religious communities in the country.

(from Vatican Radio)

Memory of Shimon Peres should inspire peace efforts, Pope says

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2016 / 08:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Upon learning about the death of Shimon Peres Wednesday, Pope Francis sent a telegram offering his condolences and his appreciation for the former president of Israel's tireless efforts for peace and the common good. “As the State of Israel mourns Mr. Peres,” the Pope wrote, “I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples.” In the Sept. 28 telegram, sent to current President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, the pontiff expressed hope that the work which Peres, 93, began during his lifetime will continue. “I fondly recall my time with Mr. Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President's tireless efforts in favor of peace,” he said. Pope Francis met with the former president and prime minister at the Vatican on several occasions, the most recent being June 20. On June 8, 2014, Pope Francis met with then-Israeli President Peres and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I in the gardens of the Vatican for a meeting of prayer, “Invocation for Peace.” At this meeting, Peres made a heart-felt appeal for peace, saying, “I come to call for peace between nations.” He acknowledged that “peace does not come easy.” Even if peace “seems distant,” the then-Israeli president continued, “we must pursue it to bring it close.” “We are commanded to pursue peace,” he emphasized. Peres expressed his belief that “if we pursue peace with determination, with faith, we will reach it.” He recalled that in his life, he had seen both peace and warfare. He said he would never forget the devastation caused by war. “We owe it to our children” to seek peace, he stressed. The Pope and Peres also met a month earlier in 2014, on May 26, when Pope Francis expressed his hope that Jerusalem would be a true 'city of peace,' and Peres echoed this commitment. “May Jerusalem be truly the City of Peace! May her identity and her sacred character, her universal religious and cultural significance shine forth as a treasure for all mankind,” Pope Francis said in the garden of the then-president's residence. First elected to Israeli parliament in 1959, Peres would go on to serve three times as prime minister, and once as president. Peres developed Israel’s nuclear program in the 1950s. He also ordered a major bombing campaign against Lebanon in retaliation for Hezbollah shelling in northern Israel in 1996. However, he was also known for his peace efforts, playing a major role in the Oslo peace accords and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create peace between Israel and Palestine. He had initially approved the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. However, he later shifted his view, saying that the settlements were a hindrance on the road to peace. In his telegram today, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Peres' death and conveyed to President Rivlin and to all the people of Israel his “heartfelt condolences,” and prayers for all who grieve. Pope Francis also invoked the divine blessing upon the nation of Israel. Using Peres' life as inspiration, the Pope said, “In this way, his legacy will truly be honored and the common good for which he so diligently labored will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace.”    

God’s mercy overcomes human desperation, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2016 / 04:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that Jesus’ salvific mission reaches its culmination on the Cross in his conversation with the two thieves crucified with him, showing that God’s mercy goes beyond the desperation of human suffering, responding to it with mercy and forgiveness. When the bad thief cries out to Jesus on the Cross, telling him “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us,” this act “bears witness to the anguish of man in front of the mystery of death and the tragic awareness that only God can be the liberating answer,” the Pope said Sept. 28. As he dies on the Cross alongside two criminals, Jesus confirms God’s salvation “can reach any man in any condition, even the most negative and painful.” Because of this, Francis said the ongoing Jubilee of Mercy is a time of grace and of mercy “for all, good and evil, those who are healthy and those who suffer. The good and the bad...because the Church is mercy!” “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!” he said, and directed his words to all who are “nailed to a hospital bed, who live closed in a prison, to those who are trapped in war,” telling them: “look to the Crucifix; God is with you, he remains with you on the Cross and offers himself to all as the Savior.” Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience, giving special greetings to the American seminarians in Rome who will be ordained deacons Thursday and their families. He continued his ongoing catechesis on mercy, telling attendees that when Jesus forgives those nailing him to the Cross, saying “Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do,” his words “culminate in forgiveness...Jesus forgives.” When confronted with the opposite attitudes of the two thieves he is crucified with, Jesus hears the first one insult him, the Pope said, but explained that this offense was “driven by desperation” caused by suffering. Jesus’ forgiveness, he said, bears witness to the fact that “he who has done terrible things in life has the ability to be forgiven.” The second criminal, known as the “Good Thief,” provides a model of true repentance and “a catechesis focused on learning to ask Jesus for forgiveness,” Francis said. In telling the second criminal “have you no fear of God?” the good thief reveals “the starting point of repentance: fear of the Lord.” Pope Francis stressed that Fear of the Lord is “not being afraid of God, but that respect that one must give to God because he is God.” “The good thief calls attention to the fundamental attitude which opens to trust in God: the awareness of his omnipotence and of his infinite goodness,” he said, noting that “this is the trusting respect which helps to make space for God and to entrust oneself to his mercy, even in the thickest darkness.” Francis pointed to the “tenderness” and “humanity” of the good thief in asking Jesus to remember him, explaining that it’s necessary for the human being to know they are not abandoned, and that God is always close. Jesus’ response that “today you will be with me in paradise,” shows that even a man condemned to death “becomes a model of Christianity who entrusts himself to Jesus.” It is while Jesus hangs on the Cross that his salvation culminates, the Pope said, noting that his promise to the good thief “reveals the fulfillment of his mission: to save sinners.” “On the cross, the final act confirms the final realization of his saving plan. From the beginning to the end he proved himself to be mercy, the definitive and unrepeatable love of the Father,” he said. “Jesus is truly the face of the mercy of the Father,” Francis said, and, closing his address, noted how the good thief called Jesus by name, and led pilgrims in repeating the name of Jesus three times as a short prayer. After his address, Francis turned his thoughts to the ongoing conflict in “the beloved and martyred Syria.” Upon hearing of continued airstrikes in Aleppo, he voiced his “deep sorrow and lively concern” over the fact that innocent children, elderly, sick and youth continue to lose their lives in the bombings. He assured his spiritual closeness to those suffering, and renewed his appeal for everyone to commit themselves to protecting civilians, “which is a committed and urgent obligation.” Francis also issued an appeal “to the consciences” of those responsible for the bombings, saying “they must answer before God” for their actions.

From homeless to meeting the Pope – a story of inspiration

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Tanya Cangelosi never imagined that she would one day be bringing homeless people on pilgrimages to Rome. And Shyla Montoya never thought that she would someday go on a pilgrimage to Rome. But earlier this month, that is exactly what they did. And what’s more, the pair was even able to meet Pope Francis. On Sept. 7, in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis stopped to speak with the two women after giving his usual Wednesday General Audience. Cangelosi, who started her own homeless ministry in Denver, handed him a collage she had made with photos of “our homeless kids,” as she calls them. Pope Francis held the photo: “he didn't just hand it off, he really looked at it,” Cangelosi said. Montoya is the third person from the homeless community selected to go on pilgrimage to Rome through Denver Homeless Ministries (DHM). The first was Clarissa “Glitterbear” Salazar in 2014 and the second was Derrick Yearout – known as “Tree” on the streets. That she would take homeless people on pilgrimage to Rome was the “furthest thing from my mind,” Cangelosi told CNA. As an organization committed to providing awareness of homeless persons in the Denver community and providing opportunities to serve them as both equals and friends, DHM offers the pilgrimage as a way to inspire those committed to bettering their lives. According to Cangelosi, however, the effects of the trip aren't always seen right away. “Maybe things don't make a difference for 3 or 4 years down the line,” she said. Sometimes it needs time to sink in, and that's okay. “It's the hardest thing I've done in my life,” she said. “I just do what the Lord asks me.” Montoya, 22, said she was pleased to meet the Pope, and that for her, the trip to Rome was not just for herself. She uploaded pictures to social media throughout the pilgrimage for all of her friends – who she calls her street “family” – following along back in Denver, Colorado. The trip was “not just for me,” Montoya said. “That's really important for me. I would bring everybody (along) if I had the chance.” Growing up, Montoya never knew her father, and went back-and-forth between living with her birth mother and great-grandparents until she was six, when her mother died. After that she was raised by her great-grandparents. When she was 14, her great-grandfather died, and heartbroken, she ran away from home. She lived in a group home for a while. Eventually, when she wanted to return home, she wasn't allowed to because of her great-grandmother's age. So she was put into the foster care system. She eventually ran away again and lived by couch hopping until she went back to the group home. She got back in touch with her family, and her great-grandmother – who she calls “mama” – inspired her to go back to school. But when she was 18 and her great-grandmother died, she, in her own words, “relapsed,” didn't go to school, and fell into a “depression.” “I started stealing. Eventually, I lost everything – again. I still had my apartment, but I didn't know how to survive,” she wrote in a statement prior to the Rome pilgrimage. “Struggling for food and clothes, and drinking a lot, I was lost. But something hit me. The Holy Spirit, I think. Something made me completely stop doing all the bad things I was doing.” “I started going to school. One step at a time, I picked everything up, piece by piece.” Montoya, now age 22, has an apartment and said she loves her job working at Auntie Anne's pretzel shop. Starting next year, she plans to study social work at a college in New York City through a program that helps pay for higher education for those who grew up in foster care. She said she has dreamed of living in New York City ever since she was a little girl. Going to Rome, on the other hand, “never crossed my mind.” “Not a day goes by that I don't reminisce on the past,” she said. “With every struggle that I faced and that I am facing today, I'm not negative about life. I always have a smile on my face and it's rare when I don't believe that everything happens for a reason.” Despite the challenges to this year's Rome pilgrimage, Cangelosi said God's “calling me to do it again next year.” In the meantime, though, Montoya said she is grateful for the experiences she's had in life, if only because she's learned from them. Everything “definitely made me open my eyes and appreciate life and everyone who walks in it,” she said. “Because even though sometimes I may not like them, I always remind myself that the sky isn't the limit because there's footprints on the moon.”  

Pope Francis: Feeling hopeless? Don't drink - pray!

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 02:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Feelings of spiritual desolation, or a lack of will to live, should be combated with prayer, not with sleeping pills or alcohol – things that only distract us from the problem – Pope Francis said Tuesday. “We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not,” the Pope said in a homily Sept. 27. We need to “understand what goes on in our hearts.” Offered on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the Pope said Mass at Casa Santa Marta for the Vincentian Sisters the Daughters of Charity, who serve at the house. In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's first reading, which is from the Book of Job, saying “Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live.” “‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?” the Pope asked. Instead of giving in to this despair, or trying to distract ourselves from our problems by taking sleeping pills or drinking “one, two, three or four glasses” of alcohol, which “do not help,” Francis said we should pray. “It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength!” Pope Francis stated. “Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments.” Quoting the day's Psalm, he said to pray, “Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.” “This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments,” the Pope continued. “This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.” Pope Francis emphasized that spiritual desolation is something that happens to everyone and said that the first step is to recognize within ourselves when we are having these moments of hopelessness or when we don't understand why something is happening. And then, he said, “we must pray to the Lord like today's reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. 'Let my prayer come before you, Lord.'” Offering advice for when we encounter a person who is suffering or experiencing a sense of desolation, the Pope said we should be silent; “but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses. And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.” Francis' homily concluded with his asking the Lord for the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation, and also the grace “to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”

Pope taps parish priest as new bishop of Lubbock

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 07:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has named Msgr. Robert Milner Coerver, a parish priest from the Diocese of Dallas, as the new bishop-elect for Lubbock, Texas. Msgr. Coerver, pastor of St. Rita Parish in Dallas, will be taking over for Bishop Plácido Rodríguez, who has been leading the diocese since 1994, but who will now retire after having reached the normal age limit of 75. Born June 6, 1954, in Dallas, Msgr. Coerver grew up as part of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish before beginning his studies in philosophy at Dallas’ Holy Trinity Seminary. He was then sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome to study theology, where he was also enrolled in courses at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Pontifical Gregorian University. The bishop-elect was ordained a priest June 27, 1980, for the diocese of Dallas, and in 1981 received a Licentiate in Spiritual Theology from the Gregorian University. Later, in 1990, he obtained a Masters’ degree in Counseling and Guidance from Texas A & M University – Commerce, formerly known as East Texas State University. After his ordination, Msgr. Coerver served as assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Dallas as well as St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Plano until 1985. For the next 11 years he served as a spiritual director at Holy Trinity Seminary on the campus of the University of Dallas. In 1996 he moved fulltime into diocesan ministry, serving as a spirituality consultant for various programs in the diocese. In July 1997, he was appointed Director of the Office of Sacramental Life for the diocese, and in 2003 was named Director of Priestly Life and Ministry. He was given the title “Chaplain to His Holiness” by St. John Paul II in 2004, allowing him to be addressed as “Monsignor,” rather than “Father.” On March 16, 2005, Msgr. Coerver was named as pastoral administrator of Our Lady of the Lake Church in Rockwall, Texas. One year later he was named pastor of the parish, where he served until 2010, when he was appointed to his current position as pastor of St. Rita Parish in Dallas. Since 2008, Msgr. Coerver has also served as a member and Chairman of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Dallas. Details on the day and time of his episcopal ordination have yet to be announced.

For the Council of Cardinals, curia reform is an experiment in flexibility

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- How does Pope Francis carry forward the reform of the Roman Curia? Gradually, step by step, by trial and error, according to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, who serves as secretary of the Council of Cardinals.   Bishop Semeraro delivered his evaluation of the work of the Council of Cardinals in a lengthy article for the Italian Catholic monthly “Il Regno,” published Sept. 19. There, the bishop provided the criteria that led the Council of Cardinals to their suggested reform of the Roman Curia. The keywords to understand the reforming method are pastoral conversion, decentralization, and subsidiarity. Curia reform is already underway, the bishop said. There is unusual flexibility in the new management of the Vatican departments, known as dicasteries. At present, the newest dicasteries’ rules are approved on an experimental basis but without a time limit. Usually the Church places a time limit on experimental rules. This decision allows adjustments and improvements as soon as any are needed. Bishop Semeraro linked the Council of Cardinals’ actions to the “needs for a pastoral conversion” that Pope Francis stated in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.   The bishop reviewed Pope Francis’ instructions that established the Secretariat for Communications, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and the Dicastery for Integral Human development. According to Bishop Semeraro, these show that Curia reform has a twofold meaning. “First of all,” the bishop said, “the reform wants to make the Curia relevant to the current times, to better meet the needs of men and women.” Secondly, the reform aims at “making the Roman Curia more compliant to its task, that is, collaborating with the ministry of the successor of Peter.” For Bishop Semeraro, the diverse backgrounds of the cardinals on the Pope’s advisory council bring much experience to their task. He considered the demographics of the Council of Cardinals. Five are diocesan bishops from India, Europe, Africa, and North and South America. Two are bishops emeriti, one of whom currently heads a Vatican dicastery. There are two cardinals who have served as apostolic nuncios. Of these, one is now Secretary of State and the other is president of the Vatican City State Administration.   How often does the Council of Cardinals meet? To date, the council has gathered 16 times, usually for three consecutive days and with two meetings per day. That makes a total of 93 meetings.   The council started to consider a reform based on Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.   Bishop Semeraro explained that the council made a systematic reading of Pastor Bonus, starting from the section about the Vatican Secretariat of State and continuing with the descriptions of congregations and pontifical councils. At first, the cardinals made a general overview and then went more in depth into topic.   “Some of the issues needed more and more meetings of reflection. When the study was finalized, the council made some specific proposal to the Holy Father,” Bishop Semeraro recounted.   At the Vatican, the traditional method is to study a general juridical and ecclesiological setting first in order to make concrete decisions afterward. The Council of Cardinals is doing exactly the opposite, operating by trial and error.   Bishop Semeraro noted that there was an early proposal to establish a moderator of the curia to coordinate the functions of the Roman Curia, a role that already exists in the separate administration of the Diocese of Rome. The council then suggested that Pope Francis drop the proposal.   The reform in general aims at reorganizing the Roman Curia. While the different names of congregations and political councils might suggest categories of two separate and unequal classes, this is not the case.   “The different names are about a different exercise of their power,” Bishop Semeraro explained. To avoid this impression, he added, the new dicasteries are labeled simply as “dicasteries,” since this terminology already is considered a synonym for both congregations and pontifical councils at the Vatican.   Bishop Semeraro also explained the rationale behind the establishment of the two new dicasteries on Laity, Family and Life and on Integral Human Development.   The Laity, Family and Life dicastery is born out of the need “to consider and value with ever more awareness the status of lay people within the Catholic Church.”   The cardinals wanted to emphasize the role of the laity with an institutional response in the Church’s administration, a response on a par to the consideration given to bishops, priests and religious brothers and sisters.   After that, the cardinals also thought that family could be properly linked to laity, and consequently to life. The proposal aimed “to keep these issues united in the Church’s organization and pastoral work,” Bishop Semeraro said. Similarly, the Pope wanted to name a dicastery for Integral Human Development from the merging of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants, and Healthcare Workers and the human development-focused Pontifical Council Cor Unum, given the goals of Catholic social teaching.   This way, the dicastery works to avoid a situation in which major social principles remain “mere general indications that do not question anyone.” Bishop Semeraro noted that the Pope himself wanted to take over temporarily the responsibility for the office of migrants and refugees. This choice underscores a specific focus on the world emergency, while his desire for temporary responsibility might be read “as a hope that this emergency will soon be solved.”

Body of third priest kidnapped in Mexico found

Vatican City, Sep 26, 2016 / 07:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Less than a week after two Catholic priests in Mexico were found murdered after having been abducted from their parishes, the body of a third slain priest, Fr. José Alfredo López Guillén, has been found. Fr. López Guillén, pastor of Janamuato in Mexico’s central state of Michoacan, was taken from the rectory of his parish by unknown persons Monday, Sept. 19. His car had been found overturned on a road nearby. According to a message written on the archdiocese’s Facebook page, the priest had been killed several days before his lifeless body was found near the town of near Puruandiro. His abduction occurred on the same day that authorities found the lifeless bodies of previously-kidnapped Fathers Alejo Nabor Jiménez Juárez and José Alfredo Juárez de la Cruz, in the Diocese of Papantla, in Veracruz state. According to the Catholic Multi Media Center, 15 priests have been killed in Mexico in less than four years. The majority of the killings have taken place in areas plagued by drug violence, which continues to terrorize country and frequently targets priests, since the Catholic Church is one of the most vocal in speaking out against cartel crimes and activities. Pope Francis, who has often condemned drug related crime and violence in Mexico, voiced his closeness to the country’s bishops in his Sunday Angelus address. He offered his support to the commitment of the Church and of civil society in Mexico to “in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention throughout the world.” “I also assure of my prayer for the dear Mexican people, so that the violence which has in these days also affected some priests, ceases.” In a video posted on YouTube Sept. 22, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia, capital of Michoacan and one of the most troubled cities in Mexico, said that “after sharing in the enormous pain over the murder of two young priests in the Diocese of Papantla in Veracruz, today we are suffering anguish firsthand over the disappearance, the kidnapping of one of our priests.” The cardinal offered prayers for the kidnapped priest and asked that the captors would “respect his person and his life, so that he can return soon to the exercise of his ministry.” “We join in prayer for his family members and parishioners who are going through this distressing time,” he said, and prayed for peace, for respect for life, and for the conversion “of those who dedicate themselves to doing evil.” “Our community suffers the death, the anguish of any one of our faithful. In this case, it's a good man, dedicated to doing good and who is peaceful. This barbarity is in no way justifiable, I ask for your prayers.”

Pope Francis: The truth can't be forced on people

Vatican City, Sep 25, 2016 / 07:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- God is shared with the world through love and authentic relationships, not by forcing the truth on people, Pope Francis said Sunday. “God is proclaimed through the encounter between persons, with care for their history and their journey. Because the Lord is not an idea, but a living person,” the Pope said in his homily at the Mass for the Jubilee of Catechists Sept. 25. “His message is passed on through simple and authentic testimony, by listening and welcoming, with joy which radiates outward.” Referencing St. Paul's first letter to Timothy, Pope Francis called the Resurrection the “beating heart which gives life to everything.” “The Lord Jesus is risen, the Lord Jesus loves you, and he has given his life for you; risen and alive, he is close to you and waits for you every day. We must never forget this.” Nothing is more important than the fact that the Lord is risen, the centerpiece of our faith, he explained. But we cannot keep it to ourselves. “We are called always to live out and proclaim the newness of the Lord’s love: 'Jesus truly loves you, just as you are. Give him space: in spite of the disappointments and wounds in your life, give him the chance to love you. He will not disappoint you,'” Francis said. “It is by loving that the God-who-is-Love is proclaimed to the world: not by the power of convincing, never by imposing the truth, no less by growing fixated on some religious or moral obligation,” he continued. In the day's Gospel, a rich man doesn't notice the poor Lazarus outside the door to his house, his spiritual blindness and worldliness are like a black hole that “swallows up what is good, which extinguishes love, because it consumes everything in its very self.” “Today’s callousness causes chasms to be dug that can never be crossed,” Francis said. “And we have fallen, at this time, into the sickness of indifference, selfishness and worldliness.” The Lord asks us, today, to meet and help all of the Lazaruses we encounter. We cannot delegate to others, “saying: 'I will help you tomorrow; I have no time today, I’ll help you tomorrow.' This is a sin,” he said. “The time taken to help others is time given to Jesus; it is love that remains: it is our treasure in heaven, which we earn here on earth.” After Mass, the Pope led pilgrims in the Angelus, and expressed his solidarity with the bishops of Mexico in supporting the efforts of the Church in favor of family and life. On Saturday an estimated 215,000 people marched through the streets of Mexico City to oppose President Enrique Pena Nieto's push to legalize same-sex marriage. Pope Francis also offered his prayers for the Mexican people in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of two priests whose bodies were found Sept. 19 – the same day a third priest was kidnapped. The Pope also spoke of the beatification of Engelmar Unzeitig, a German priest killed in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, and greeted all of the deaf people present on the “World Day of the Deaf,” encouraging them to do their part to make the world better.  

Love can be only response to evil, Pope tells attack survivors

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2016 / 09:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the face of the devil's assaults, we must respond as God would, promoting respect for others and extending love and forgiveness to those who have harmed us, Pope Francis said in a Saturday audience with survivors of the terror attack in Nice, France in July. “When the temptation to turn in on themselves, or to answer hatred with hatred and violence with violence is great, authentic conversion of heart is necessary,” he said Sept. 24. “This is the message that the Gospel of Jesus addressed to all of us.” Pope Francis received the nearly 1,000 survivors of the July 14 attack in Nice in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican. After his speech he greeted them each one by one. Eighty-six people were killed and over 400 were wounded in the Nice terror attack in July after a Tunisian man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, intentionally drove a large truck through the crowded seafront Promenade des Anglais. The crowds had been celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the day of France’s independence and is traditionally the country’s biggest public holiday. “I wish to share your pain, a pain that becomes even stronger when I think of the children, even entire families, whose lives have been torn suddenly and dramatically. To each of you I assure my compassion, my closeness and my prayer,” the Pope told those gathered. “The Church remains near and accompanies you with great mercies,” he said. “With its presence next to you in these moments so heavy to deal with, she asks the Lord to come to your aid and to put in your hearts feelings of peace and brotherhood.” In his speech, Pope Francis praised all those who went to the aid of the wounded, the victims, and their families, after the attack, both Catholic and organizations of other religions. “I am glad to see that among you interreligious relations are very much alive, and this can only help to alleviate the hurt of these dramatic events,” he said. “In fact, establish a sincere dialogue and fraternal relations among all, particularly among those who confess one and merciful God, it is an urgent priority that those responsible, both political and religious, should seek to encourage and which everyone is called to implement around him.” Pope Francis also met with the Hospital Sisters of Mercy Sept. 24, praising them for their dedication to serving the sick and dying, regardless of race or religion. “In front of the weakness of the disease can be no distinctions of social status, race, language and culture; Everybody grows weak and we must trust the other,” he said. “You dedicated your life above all to the service of brothers and sisters who are in hospitals, who thanks to your presence and professionalism will feel better supported in the disease,” the Pope said. “And to do this there is no need for long speeches: a caress, a kiss, stand by in silence, a smile.” “On that hospital bed always lies Jesus, present in the person who is suffering, and it is he who asks for help from each of you.”

The Vatican is changing how it verifies miracles

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2016 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Changes to the regulations for confirming alleged miracles during the causes of saints aim to preserve the scientific rigor of the examination and maintain its distinction from matters of theology, it was announced Friday. The changes, which were approved by Pope Francis Aug. 24, were announced by the Vatican Sept. 23. They concern the professional secrecy of the proceedings regarding presumed miracles and hold that a supermajority of two-thirds (five out of seven, or four out of six) of the votes from members of the Medical Board must be positive for the cause to continue to the next step. Previously, only a simple majority of medical experts acknowleding a supernatural healing was required. The changes also stipulate that the medical experts will receive their remuneration only through bank transfer – not cash. “The purpose of the Regulation can be none other than the good of the Causes, which can never neglect the historical and scientific truth of the alleged miracles,” Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, wrote regarding the changes. “Just as it is necessary for the legal checks to be complete, convergent and reliable, it is also necessary that their study be performed with serenity, objectivity and sure competence by highly specialised medical experts.” “This Regulation obviously concerns only the good functioning of the Medical Board, whose task appears increasingly delicate, demanding and, thanks be to God, appreciated both inside and outside the Church.” Archbishop Bartolucci added, “Always the Church is convinced that miracles of the saints is the 'finger of God,' which ratifies, so to say, the human judgement of their holiness of life.” “This vision is part of the mind of the Church and has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the ordinary magisterium to the pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It is historically certain that miracles are always a decisive argument for the canonization of Servants of God,” he stated. The new wording is based on the regulations approved by Blessed Paul VI in 1976. The drafting of the new regulations was done by a special commission which began its work in September 2015. Besides the new requirements of a qualified majority and professional secrecy on the part of those involved, the president of the Medical Board is limited to one term and one reappointment (a total of 10 years in the position). Nor can a case be re-examined more than three times, and when a re-examination is made, there must be a nine persons on the Medical Board. Also, it is now the Under-Secretary of the Council who will undertake the functions previously under the rapporteur, who had been responsible for reporting on the proceedings of the meetings. In addition to the changes introduced, there were also adjustments made to procedural language. Since the 12th and 13th centuries the Church has continually revised the regulations under which a miracle is confirmed in cases of causes for beatification or canonization. The 1917 Code of Canon Law established access of the miracle to theologians only after the alleged miracle had been studied and verified by two expert doctors, aside from issues of philosophical and religious consideration. “And even today it is so: the scientific aspect remains distinct from the theological,” Archbishop Bartolucci affirmed. “Miracles are not marginal events of the Gospel or the causes of saints. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God in word and with 'messianic signs,' that he worked to make clear his identity and credibility to its mission and also to anticipate the final news of the redeemed world,” Archbishop Bartolucci said. “The same is true for saints,” he said. “Miracles, that they receive through their intercession, are a sign of God's presence in history and, at the same time, are the confirmation of their former high holiness, expressed first of all in the exercise of heroic Christian virtues or martyrdom.”