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Pope Francis: The Last Supper teaches us three foundational truths

Vatican City, Apr 26, 2018 / 11:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pointing to Jesus’ words during the Last Supper, Pope Francis offered meditations on love, service and humility during his homily at daily Mass on Thursday. The Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel, John 13, which recounts the moments of the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and washed the feet of his disciples. Christ’s actions in these moments, Pope Francis said, teach the Church three “foundational truths.” The first lesson is the commandment of love, which is exemplified in the Eucharist, the pope said April 26. “Love is without limits. Without it, the Church cannot move forward; the Church cannot breathe. Without love, she cannot grow, and is transformed into an empty institution, made up of appearances and actions without fecundity,” the Holy Father said. “In his bodily actions, Jesus tells us how we should love, that is, until the end,” he continued, saying that just as Jesus gave himself “to eat and drink, he tells us to love one another in this way.” The second gesture of washing His disciples’ feet points to another commandment: service. “Washing the feet, he tells us to serve each other in like manner,” the pope reflected. In this gesture of service, he noted, lies the third lesson of humility, because “no servant is greater than his master.” “The awareness is that He is greater than all of us, and that we are servants who cannot go beyond Jesus,” Pope Francis said. “He is the Lord, not us. This is the Lord’s will.” “But beware: no servant is greater than the one who sent him, the master. These blunt words and actions are the foundations of the Church. If we proceed in like fashion with these three points, we shall never fail.” The pope additionally underscored the witnesses of the saints of the Church whose actions radiate what it means to truly serve and who lived “with the awareness of being servants.” Pope Francis ended his homily inviting the faithful gathered to enter into silence, so as to welcome the gaze of the Lord. “Let Jesus’ gaze enter into me. We will feel many things: love, maybe nothing… we might feel trapped there or feel shame,” he said. “But always let Jesus’ gaze in. It is the same gaze with which he looked at his disciples at supper.”

Council of Cardinals prep new constitution for Roman Curia

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 08:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue their discussion of curial reform and to work on the draft of a new apostolic constitution outlining the structure and duties of the Roman Curia. There is no predicted release date for the apostolic constitution, but the drafting and editing “will take some time,” according to an April 25 Vatican communique. When finished, it will be presented to Pope Francis for further consultation and final approval. The major part of this week’s meetings, which took place April 23-25 at the Vatican, were dedicated to re-reading the current draft of the constitution, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a briefing April 25. The Council of Cardinals – who advise the pope on matters of Church governance and reform – also discussed how the Roman Curia can be at the service to the Holy Father and the particular Churches; the pastoral character of curial activity; and the institution and operation of the third section of the Secretary of State, which was established in November to oversee the Holy See’s diplomatic corps. They also conversed on the announcement of the Gospel and the missionary spirit as a perspective that characterizes the activity of the whole Curia. During the meetings, the pope and cardinals received an update on the progress of the reform of the Vatican communications system by Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, secretary and acting prefect of the Secretariat for Communications. Notably, there was no update on the state of the Vatican’s financial reforms, a typical topic of the council’s reunions. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), gave a report on the work of the commission on behalf of children and vulnerable adults, including an explanation of what took place during the PCPM’s recent plenary meeting in Rome. O’Malley also welcomed a group from the United Kingdom, called the “Survivor Advisory Panel,” and reiterated the PCPM’s commitment to begin their work with first listening to victims of sexual abuse and their experiences. All members of the council were present throughout the week except for Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who has been in Australia since last summer facing charges of historical sex abuse. Cardinal Reinhard Marx was absent Monday. As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he holds the weekly general audience. Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia. The council’s next round of meetings will take place June 11-13.

Pope Francis will visit Bari to host ecumenical day of prayer for peace

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 07:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will travel to the Italian town of Bari July 7 for an ecumenical gathering with the heads of other Christian churches to pray for peace in the Middle East. According to the April 25 Vatican communique announcing the visit, the event will primarily be “a day of prayer and reflection on the dramatic situation of the Middle East which afflicts so many brothers and sisters in the faith.” The pope has invited faithful to prepare for the event with prayer and will invite heads of the Christian churches and communities in the region, which is home to several different Catholic and Orthodox rites. Located in Italy's southern Puglia region, Bari is home to the relics of St. Nicholas. Widely known by his more commercialized title of “Santa Claus,” St. Nicholas is one of the most important saints in the Russian Orthodox Church. Pope Francis lent relics of the saint, which consisted of several bone fragments, to Russia last summer in a bid to build further bridges with the Russian Orthodox Church. The relics were sent from Bari to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow from May 22-July 12, 2017, marking the first time in 930 years that a part of St. Nicholas' body left Bari for veneration abroad. While in Russia, the relics were venerated by more than two million Orthodox faithful, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Francis sent the relics after Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a specific request during the historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba in February 2016. Since the Bari encounter in July is designed to be an ecumenical gathering, it is likely that Patriarch Kirill will attend alongside other leaders. It is also likely that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will also attend, given how frequently he and Francis meet. St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087. At the time, the sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where the saint had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century. At the same time that the pope lent the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia, he also lent the relics of St. Philip to Patriarch Bartholomew in Turkey. St. Philip's relics arrived in the Turkish city of Izmir, also known as Smyrna in ancient Greek, May 8, 2017, where they remained for the summer. During his life, St. Philip evangelized the area and was also martyred there. His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century; however, in 2016, they were taken out and underwent an examination. They were then exposed for public veneration. The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is practiced today. Pope Francis himself has often spoken of prayer as a way to build bridges and bring members of different rites and confessions together.

Pope Francis: The Christian life is a battle against evil

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 04:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the temptations encountered in the Christian life, encouraging the faithful not to be discouraged by the struggle, but to be reassured and strengthened by the prayers of the Church. “It is difficult to fight against evil, to escape from its deceptions, to regain strength after a tiring struggle, but we must know that all of Christian life is a battle,” the pope said April 25. “But we must also know that we are not alone, that the Mother Church prays so that her children, regenerated in Baptism, do not succumb to the snares of the evil one. Strengthened by the Risen Lord, who defeated the prince of this world, we too can repeat with the faith of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me,’” he said. At his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis continued his reflections on the sacrament of Baptism – including its power over the evil of sin and the hope that Christians gain through the prayers of others and through membership in the Catholic Church. We know from personal experience how easily, even in the Christian life, we are tempted to separate ourselves from God, “from his will, from communion with him, to fall back into the bonds of worldly seductions,” Francis said. Baptism is not a “magic formula, but a gift of the Holy Spirit,” he continued, emphasizing that it “prepares us, gives us strength for this daily struggle, even the struggle against the devil who – as St. Peter says – like a lion tries to devour us, to destroy us.” Quoting from the Rite of the Baptism of Children, he said the sacrament enables “those who receive it to fight against the spirit of evil, believing that God has sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of Satan and transfer man from darkness into his kingdom of infinite light.” Another important aspect of the sacrament, the pope noted, is that one never goes to the baptismal font to receive Baptism alone, but is always accompanied by the prayers of the entire Church, as can be heard in the litany of the saints. The prayers of the Church are always active, he said, encouraging those present to enter into this prayer, praying for the people of God and for those in need. In the Baptism of adults, following the litany of the saints, the prayer of exorcism and the pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of the catechumens takes place. These are gestures, Francis said, which since ancient times have assured those preparing to be baptized that the prayer of the Church assists them “in the fight against evil, accompanies them on the path of good, helps them to escape the power of sin to pass into the kingdom of divine grace.” This is one reason that, for adult catechumens, the path includes repeated prayers of exorcism pronounced by the priest, he said. These prayers call for the liberation of the person from everything which separates him or her from Christ, preventing intimate union with him. After his catechesis on Baptism, Pope Francis made several comments about the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit, which will take place April 27 in Panmunjeom, the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area. It will be attended by both the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and marks the first inter-Korean summit in eleven years. The intended focus of the summit is the North Korean nuclear weapons program and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The meeting will be a good opportunity to begin a “transparent dialogue and concrete path of reconciliation... in order to guarantee peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the whole world,” the pope said. He assured the Korean people of his personal prayer for peace and the closeness of the whole world, saying, “the Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages all useful and sincere initiatives to build a better future, in the name of meeting and friendship among peoples.” The pope also encouraged those with political responsibilities to be “artisans” of peace, adding that God is the Father of all and the Father of peace, and inviting those present to join him in praying an ‘Our Father’ for the Korean people.

Pope's abuse prevention commission prioritizes survivors, education

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' commission for the protection of minors met in Rome last week to listen to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to discuss abuse prevention education and policy, and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors. According to an April 22 communique from the commission, the first day of their plenary was dedicated to hearing thoughts and testimonies from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, many of them members of the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales. Those who attended voiced appreciation for being listened to, and described the encounter as “empowering.” One of the survivors, according to the communique, voiced hope that their visit would help the commission “develop a wider network of survivors who are willing to advise and support” the commission's work in a similar manner. The commission expressed gratitude to the SAP group for offering their “expertise and experiences” during the plenary, saying their contribution will help the commission “to develop effective ways to integrate the voice of survivors into the life and ministry of the Church.” In comments made in a video statement uploaded by the Center for Child Protection (CCP) April 14, clerical abuse survivor Deborah Kloos, who is not a member of the SAP but met with commission members during the plenary, said the Church needs to pray regularly for victims of clerical sexual abuse. “It is something very important to me that our Catholic Church prays together for people wounded by abuse, because so many were wounded under the roof of the Church,” she said, asking the pope to lead the Church in praying for those who have been abused. The wound of abuse, she said, affects survivors “their entire life and it separates them from the Eucharist.” Kloos, who is originally from Canada, has long lobbied for a day of prayer for the victims of clerical sexual abuse, which Pope Francis has asked bishops' conferences to organize at a local level. After her abuse more than three decades ago, Kloos left the Catholic Church for a period, but eventually came back, and sings in her parish choir. “I feel very connected,” she said in the video, but lamented that “the only thing missing is that I don't hear the Church praying in the prayers of the faithful for those who have been wounded by abuse.” “It's very important and I ask everyone to remember, because if we don't remember and we don't bring it out, then there's no way that healing can occur,” Kloos said. “You don't see the people separated from the Church, but there are thousands of people who don't come to Mass anymore because someone was wounded under the roof of this Church.” During their meeting, the commission also heard presentations on the outcome of the Australian Royal Commission's inquiry into institutional responses to sexual abuse, as well as the role that faith communities play in helping to overcome trauma. On Saturday, April 21, members met with Pope Francis in a private audience. During the encounter, the pope said he intended to confirm the commission's statutes, which had been approved for an experimental period of three years when the commission was established in 2015. Commission members also outlined to the pope their priorities moving forward, which they said can clearly be seen through three specific working groups: working with survivors, education and formation, and prevention guidelines and norms. After meeting Pope Francis on Saturday, the commission closed their plenary Sunday, April 22. No date has yet been announced for their next gathering. The commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. The commission's initial mandate ended in December 2017, and in February of this year the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had reconfirmed some members of the commission, including O'Malley as its president, and that he had also appointed several new members. New members who joined are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr. Arina Gonsalves, RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from the Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr. Jane Bertelsen, FMDM from the U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil. The returning commission members are Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC from Zambia; Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS from South Africa; and Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S. Survivors of clerical sexual abuse are among commission members, however, the names of the survivors have not been made public, leaving it up to them whether they to disclose their experiences.  

Francis shares a sweet treat with Rome's poor for feast of St. George

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- I-scream, you-scream, Pope Francis screamed... 'gelato!' on the feast of his patron saint, George, offering some 3,000 ice creams to homeless individuals served in Caritas soup kitchens and shelters around Rome. Every year the pope's “onomastico,” or name-day, is celebrated as an official holiday in the Vatican. Under Francis, whose baptismal name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the feast is that of St. George, since Jorge is the Spanish equivalent. And with temperatures in Rome finally starting to warm up, Francis decided to cool things down for Monday's feast, asking the papal almoner's office to provide the gelato to the poor and needy served by Catholic charitable organization, Caritas. The papal almoner is Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, who can often be seen mingling with the poor around St. Peter's Basilica. However, the pope himself is also known to be a gelato lover, his favorite flavor being dolce de leche, according to the Vatican cookbook. An Argentine classic, dolce de leche is essentially the Latin American version of caramel, but richer. In the past, other papal gelato favorites included classic Italian flavor 'cassata Siciliana' for retired pontiff Benedict XVI, which is made with chocolate, strawberry and mango ice cream. John Paul II, on the other hand, reportedly indulged in 'marron glacé' gelato from Rome's Gelateria Giolitti, which is ice cream flavored with candied chestnuts. In addition to Monday's sweet treat, Pope Francis often makes similar gestures for Rome's poor, homeless, and sick, whether it's a trip to the circus, a tour of the Vatican museums or a pizza party lunch on his birthday. In the past he has also taken homeless to the beach during the hot summer months, and with temperatures this year expected to exceed the burning weather of 2017, it's possible another outing will take place in the coming months.

Pope Francis to new priests: Be like Jesus the Good Shepherd

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2018 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis ordained 16 men to the priesthood, reminding them to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd in the way they serve the members of their spiritual flock and minister to those who are lost and searching for God. “Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost,” the pope said in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22. “Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ,” he continued, “solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.” The priestly ordination coincided with “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The new priests, who have been studying for the priesthood at different seminaries in the diocese of Rome, come from countries around the world, including Madagascar, Vietnam, Myanmar, Colombia, and San Salvador. As in the past, for his homily Pope Francis used the “ritual homily” from the Italian edition of the “Pontificale Romano,” the Latin Catholic liturgical book containing rites performed by bishops, for the ordination of priests, adding a few of his own thoughts to the text. Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance in particular, Francis urged the men about to be ordained to “not get tired of being merciful. Think of your sins, your miseries that Jesus forgives. Be merciful.” It is “through your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect,” he noted, “because it is joined to the sacrifice of Christ, which for your hands, in the name of the whole Church, is offered bloodlessly on the altar in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.” He pointed out to the 16 men that in their priestly ministries they will be participants “in the mission of Christ, the only Master,” and advised them to read and meditate tirelessly on the Word of God “to teach what you have learned in faith, to live what you have taught.” “[May] your teaching, joy and support to the faithful of Christ be the fragrance of your life,” he continued, “that with word and example you can build the House of God which is the Church.” Following Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional prayer for Easter. In his message after the prayer, the pope drew attention to the current situation in Nicaragua, where there have been violent clashes between police and people participating in anti-government protests, resulting in at least 25 deaths, according to the Guardian. “I express my closeness in prayer to that beloved country, and I join the Bishops in asking that all violence cease, [that they] avoid useless bloodshed and [that] open questions be resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility,” he said. Francis also reflected briefly on the day’s Gospel, where Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” stating that the words of Jesus in this passage cannot be reduced to an emotional suggestion. They have a concrete effect, he said: “Jesus heals through his being a shepherd who gives life. Jesus says to each one: ‘your life is so valuable to me, that to save it I offer all of myself.’” Noting that Jesus also says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me,” the pope said shows us that Jesus desires a personal relationship with each person, one which reflects “the same intimate relationship of love between Him and the Father.” “He is attentive to each of us, knows our heart deeply: he knows our strengths and our faults, the projects we have achieved and the hopes that have been disappointed. But he accepts us as we are, he leads us with love,” he said, and in turn, “we are called to know Jesus.”

Christians must help others meet Jesus, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis said that Christians are called to a mission of leading others to an encounter with Jesus Christ, in order that every person might grow in his or her individual call to holiness.   “The men and women of our time need to meet Jesus Christ: He is the path that leads to the Father; He is the Gospel of hope and love that enables us to go as far as giving ourselves,” the pope said April 21.   “It is a matter of carrying out an itinerary of holiness to respond courageously to the call of Jesus, each according to his own particular charism.”   Quoting from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Pope Francis said: “For a Christian it is not possible to think of his mission on earth without understanding it as a path of holiness, because ‘this is in fact the will of God, your sanctification.’”   This is our mission, he continued. It requires responsibility and joy, generous availability, self-denial, and “trustful abandonment to the divine will.”   Pope Francis spoke about holiness during an encounter with pilgrims from the Italian dioceses of Bologna and Cesena-Sarsina in St. Peter’s Square. The pilgrimage to Rome followed Francis’ own visit to Bologna and Cesena in October 2017.   Quoting from his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, the pope also spoke about the important role of the Eucharist in helping to transform Catholics “into a holy and missionary community.”   The Eucharist, he said, means “thanksgiving” and makes us feel the need for thanksgiving.   “It makes us understand that ‘we are more blessed in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20:35), educates us to give primacy to love, and practice justice in its complete form, which is mercy; to know to give thanks always, even when we receive what is due to us.”   The pope encouraged Christians to proclaim the call to holiness in their communities, since it concerns “every baptized person and every condition of life.”   “In holiness consists the full realization of every aspiration of the human heart. It is a journey that starts from the baptismal font and leads up to Heaven and is carried out day by day by accepting the Gospel in concrete life,” he said.  

Laywomen among new CDF appointees

Vatican City, Apr 21, 2018 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis named five new consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including three female academics and two priests. The women are Dr. Linda Ghisoni, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Michelina Tenance, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; and Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, lecturer of theology at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. The other two new consultors are Fr. Sergio Paolo Bonanni, professor of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Claretian Fr. Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, dean of the Institutum Utriusque Iuris at the Pontifical Lateran University. While a Vatican spokesman was unable to confirm whether laywomen have previously served as consultors, he did confirm for CNA that women have served as staff members at the dicastery. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Vatican department responsible for protecting and promulgating the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is headed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., and consultors include cardinals, bishops, priests, canon lawyers, and lay theologians. One of its newest members, Dr. Linda Ghisoni, has held a position within the Vatican since November 2017, when Pope Francis appointed her a sub-secretary and the head of the section on laity, for the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life. Ghisoni, 52, works as a judge at the First Instance Court of the Vicariate of Rome. In addition to teaching canon law at the Gregorian, she is a professor of law at Roma Tre University. She is from the town of Cortemaggiore in the north of Italy and studied philosophy and theology at the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany. In 1999 she received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and in 2002 she received the diploma of Rotary Attorney at the Studium rotale of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. Since 1997 Ghisoni has held various positions at the Tribunals of First Instance and Appeal of the Vicariate of Rome, including Notary, Defender of the Bond, Auditor and Judge. She has also served as Judicial Counselor at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota from 2002-2009, and Commissioner of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments for the Defense of the marital bond in causes for the dissolution of the marriage “ratum sed non consummatum” (ratified but not consummated). Since November 2011, she has also worked at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. From 2013-2016, she collaborated with the former Pontifical Council for the Laity in the field of specialist laity studies in the Church. She is married and has two daughters. Dr. Michelina Tenace, 63, is from San Marco, Italy and a consecrated woman. After studying philosophy in France, she received a degree in foreign literature from Sapienza University in Rome and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University with a dissertation on Vladimir Soloviev. She now teaches theology at the Gregorian University, including classes on spiritual theology, theological anthropology, the Council of Nicea, and Eastern Churches. She is also a staff member of the Ezio Aletti Study and Research Center, which supports Christian scholars and artists from Eastern Europe. Tenace’s publications include numerous articles, as well as ten books, which have been translated into various languages. She was also named a member of the commission to study the female diaconate by Pope Francis in 2016. Dr. Laetitia Calmeyn, 42, was born in Brussels in 1975 and became a consecrated virgin in the Archdiocese of Paris on June 23, 2013. She has worked as a palliative care nurse, a retreat organizer for youth, and a Catholic religion teacher, among other ministries. Calmeyn received a bachelor’s degree in theology in 2002 from the Institute of Theological Studies in Brussels and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Her dissertation was on theological principles and foundations of morality according to the work of Jesuit Fr. Albert Chapelle. Since 2009 she has been a theology lecturer at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris.

Pope: Without the Eucharist, everything the Church does is vain

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a brief day-trip to two small Italian cities, Pope Francis stressed the centrality of the Eucharist to the life and actions of the Church, saying without Christ's love and self-sacrifice, everything would be done in vanity, since everything Jesus did was for others. “The Eucharist is not a beautiful rite, but it is the most intimate, the most concrete, the most surprising communion that one can imagine with God: a communion of love so real that it takes on the form of eating,” the pope said April 20. The Christian life begins again at each Mass, “where God satiates us with love. Without him, the bread of life, every effort of the Church is vain,” he said, and, quoting deceased local Bishop Antonio Bello, said “works of charity are not enough, unless those works are done with charity.” “If love is lacking in those who do the works, if the source is lacking, if the point of departure is lacking, which is the Eucharist, then every pastoral commitment is merely a whirlwind of things,” rather than an act of service. Pope Francis spoke during Mass in the Italian town of Molfetta. He traveled to the city after making a brief visit to Alessano as part of a half-day trip to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” an Italian bishop whose cause for beatification opened in 2007. In his homily, Francis said whoever receives the Eucharist takes on the face and mentality of the Lord, who is the bread that was broken for us. And this bread, he said, does not “rise with pride,” but is given to others. The person who receives the Eucharist, he said, “ceases to live for themselves, for their own success, to have something or to become someone, but they live for Jesus, as Jesus, which is for others.” Quoting Bishop Bello, Francis said the Eucharist “does not support a sedentary life,” and that without rising from the table, one remains an “unfulfilled sacrament.” He asked those present to question themselves as to how they leave every Mass, and whether or not they go out as “people of communion.” He then emphasized the importance of the Word, which he said is a second element that can be taken from the day's Gospel reading from John, in which the disciples asked themselves “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” after Jesus spoke about the need to eat his flesh in order to obtain salvation. “Many of our words are similar to this,” the pope said, noting that some people might ask: “how can the Gospel solve the problems of the world? What use is it to do good in the midst of so much evil?” By doing this, “we fall into the error of that people, who were paralyzed by discussion about the words of Jesus, rather than ready to welcome the change of life asked by him,” Francis said, adding that these people did not understand that the words of Jesus were the path to life. Jesus, he said, “does not respond according to our calculations and the conveniences of the moment, but with the 'yes' of his whole life. He does not look for our reflections, but our conversion.” Pointing to the conversion of Saul, who later became St. Paul, Pope Francis noted how when Saul was thrown from his horse he was told to rise, go into the city and do what he would be asked. “The first thing to avoid is staying on the ground” or staying “gripped by fear,” he said, stressing that a true apostle of Jesus “cannot simply get along on small satisfactions,” but must always get up and look forward. And, just as Saul was told to go into the city, each Christian is also told to go, rather than staying “closed in your reassured spaces. Risk!” he said. Christian life “must be invested in Jesus and spent for others,” he said, adding that an apostle cannot remain stationary after the resurrection, but must “go out, regardless of the problems and uncertainties.” “We are all called, in whatever situation we find ourselves, to be bearers of paschal hope” and to be “servants of the world, but resurrected, not employed. Without ever complaining, without ever resigning ourselves.” “It's beautiful to be couriers of hope, simple and joyful distributors of the Easter alleluia,” Francis said, and closed his homily praying that the Word of God would free Christians and help them to rise and go forward with courage and humility.