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Pope reflects on Lord's Prayer in Angelus address

(Vatican Radio) In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis focused on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, from the day’s Gospel.

When the Apostles asked the Lord to teach them to pray, Jesus responded, “When you pray, say ‘Father…’” This word, “Father,” the Pope said, is the “secret” of the prayer of Jesus – “it is the key that He Himself gives us so that we too can enter into that relationship of confidential dialogue with the Father.”

Moving on to the various petitions addressed to God in the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis said the first two petitions, “hallowed be Thy Name,” and “Thy kingdom come” are associated with the name “Father.” Jesus’ prayer – and thus Christian prayer – consists first of all in making room for God, allowing Him to act in our lives.

St Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer than continues with three more petitions, which express our fundamental needs: for bread, for forgiveness, and for help in temptations. We ask in prayer for bread which is necessary, not superfluous; we ask, in the first place, for forgiveness of our own sins, so that we might be capable of “concrete acts of fraternal reconciliation”; and we ask that we might not be lead into temptation, because we know we are weak, “always exposed to the snares of wickedness and of corruption.”

The two parables following the Lord’s Prayer teach us “to have full confidence in God, who is Father.” God does not need our prayer to discover what we need, or to be convinced to give it to us. Rather, Pope Francis said, we pray so that our faith and patience might be strengthened, so that we might “struggle” together with God for those things that are most important and necessary.

And that which is most important, but which, the Pope said, we almost never ask for, is the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit helps us to live well, to live with wisdom and love, doing the will of God. “What a beautiful prayer it would be,” Pope Francis said, if in the coming week, “each one of us would ask of the Father, “Father, give me the Holy Spirit.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Telegram for victims of Munich attack

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the victims of the attack that took place in Munich on Friday.

In a telegram addressed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Pope Francis “shares in the pain of the survivors and expresses to them his closeness in suffering,” and “entrusts the departed, in prayer, to the mercy of God.”

The Pope also thanked emergency service personnel and security forces for “their attentive and generous service.”

Cardinal Parolin concluded the telegram with the Pope’s prayer that Christ “the Lord of Life,” might “give comfort and consolation to all.”

Here is the full text of the telegram sent to Cardinal Reinhard Marx:

His Eminence Cardinal Reinhard Marx Archbishop of Munich and Freising

Pope Francis has noted with consternation the news of the terrible act of violence which occurred in Munich, in which several persons, mostly young people, were killed, and many others were gravely wounded. His Holiness shares in the pain of the survivors and expresses to them his closeness in suffering. He entrusts the departed in prayer to the mercy of God. He expresses his deep sympathy to all those who were wounded in this attack, and thanks the rescue service personnel and the security forces for their attentive and generous service. Pope Francis beseeches Christ, the Lord of Life, to give comfort and consolation to all, and imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of hope.

(from Vatican Radio)

US prepares for World Youth Day

(Vatican Radio) Young people across the US are preparing for the trip of a lifetime when they travel to World Youth Day in Krakow. Over 30,000  pilgrims from the United States alone have fully registered to travel to the event which will be presided over by Pope Francis.

Paul Jarzembowski, is World Youth Day USA national coordinator for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, He told Lydia O’Kane that the response has been incredible for the event.


“We have more pilgrims going from the United States to this World Youth Day than we’ve had to any other World Youth Day outside of North America, so I have to think that there is something about recapturing that spirit with St John Paul II, with the Jubilee of Mercy, with being able to encounter Pope Francis whom many of our young people are following through social media, the news and the read his writings… so I think all of that put together is getting people excited…”

But he also points out that although there are many young people going from the United States, there are those who will not be fortunate enough to attend the celebrations in Poland due to different circumstances. With that in mind, the national coordinator explains that even by staying at home young people will get a real chance to experience World Youth Day.

“We have in different cities across the United States, there are going to be gatherings… and then of course people can celebrate in their own home parishes and we’re hearing reports of perhaps one parish getting together with their young people throughout that week, each night gathering their young people to follow what’s happening in Krakow that day…”

For Paul Jarzembowski, he is hoping that World Youth Day in Krakow will an opportunity for young people to come back to the United States, not just sharing the Gospel but sharing it with a sense of mercy and compassion.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to contemplative nuns: The Church needs you!

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday published a new Apostolic Constitution, Vultum Dei quaerere (Seeking the Face of God), On Women’s Contemplative Life.

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

The promotion of an adequate formation; the centrality of prayer and of the word of God, especially in lectio divina; specific criteria for the autonomy of contemplative communities; and membership of monasteries within federations are some of the main points addressed by Pope Francis in the new Apostolic Constitution.

In the introduction to Vultum Dei quaerere, Pope Francis explains the motivation behind the document, noting the journey the Church has undergone, and “the rapid progress of human history,” in the fifty years since the Second Vatican Council. From that starting point, the Pope points out the need “to weave a dialogue” with contemporary society, while preserving the “fundational values” of contemplative life – silence, attentive listening, the call to an interior life, stability. Through these values, the Pope says, contemplative life “can and must challenge the contemporary mindset.”

The document is introduced by a broad discussion of the importance of nuns and the contemplative life for the Church and the world. Addressing contemplative sisters, the Pope asks, “Without you what would the Church be like, or those living on the fringes of humanity and ministering in the outposts of evangelization?” The Church, he says, “greatly esteems your life of complete self-giving.  The Church counts on your prayers and on your self-sacrifice to bring today’s men and women to the good news of the Gospel.  The Church needs you!”

The bulk of the document is taken up with a reflection on twelve themes calling for discernment and renewed norms. Among these, Pope Francis calls special attention to the need for adequate formation, to prayer, and to the centrality of the Word of God.

The new document concludes with a series of fourteen articles that set the Pope’s reflections in juridical terms, notably with regard to formation and vocational discernment; the exercise of authority within communities; the autonomy of the various communities; and their relationships to one another – especially in federations. The final article establishes that the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life will be responsible for issuing new regulations with regard to the indications of the Apostolic Constitution.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope's envoy in South Sudan in pursuit of peace-building

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a special envoy to South Sudan to urge for an end to violence in the country and to help establish dialogue and trust between the warring parties.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, travelled to the capital Juba this week to give support to the Archbishop and to meet with the country’s leaders.

He carried with him a letter from the Pope for President Salva Kiir and one for Vice President Riek Machar who are historic enemies and represent the different ethnic groups.

For almost a year, South Sudan has been trying to emerge from a civil war caused by political rivalry between the Vice President and the President.  Violent clashes across the city have left tens of thousands of people dead since December 2013 and a recent flare-up of fighting has caused more casualties, scores of displaced people and a serious humanitarian crisis.

Although a cease-fire is currently in effect in Juba, the threat of more violence continues to loom large.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni asked Cardinal Turkson to illustrate the current situation and talk about the Church’s effort to push forward a peaceful process.


Cardinal Peter Turkson says he arrived in Juba last Sunday early enough to celebrate Mass with the faithful, the Archbishop, the priests and the religious.

“To put it mildly: the situation is tough” he says.

He says the violence which flared on the 5th anniversary of the country’s independence recurs intermittently between the warring forces causing a lot of deaths. 

And, he explained, it is also very hard on the civilian population who flee the violence to save their lives leaving their homes to be looted. occupied or destroyed.

“A lot of the women and children and even boys have sought refuge in Churches and in schools – and that is where they live – and the priests and brothers and nuns try to take care of them as best as they can” he says.

But Turkson says the situation is desperate and security levels are low.

He says the authorities he has met with have promised to do their best to put a programme of reform on course towards elections in 2018. 

Turkson explains that the process has been derailed by recent events but the President maintains the course can be resumed.

“We brought them the greetings of the Pope, his solidarity, two letters he had addressed to the President and to the Vice President – the two protagonists of the conflict” he says.

The Cardinal says his own effort was “to try to get them to come together at some point, to see if we could facilitate a reconciliation, to help them build some trust and confidence in each other”.

Turkson also speaks of the urgent need for help and says he has already contacted Cor Unum in Rome to see what assistance can be organized in terms of medication.

He explains that the displaced population is living in the open and in classrooms and are victims of mosquito bites so there is malaria, dysentery, “there’s even talk about cholera in some areas”.

“So there’s a need for medication and there’s a need for food supplies” he says.

Cardinal Turkson concludes expressing his hope that upon his return to Rome later this week it will be possible to send some concrete aid back to the archbishop “as a help from the side of the Holy See”.








(from Vatican Radio)

Pope prays for pilgrims en route to Krakow for WYD

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2016 / 10:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has asked for prayers as he, and all the pilgrims attending this year's World Youth Day, prepare to make their way to Krakow, Poland for the international event. The Pope, who leaves Wednesday, said Sunday that he is traveling to Krakow in order “to encounter these boys and girls,” as well as “to celebrate with them and for them the Jubilee of Mercy, through the intercession of St. John Paul II.” “I ask you to accompany us with prayer,” the pontiff said to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square during his weekly Angelus address. Francis also expressed his gratitude towards all those working to welcome the pilgrims coming to Poland for the international event, along with the many bishops, priests, religious, and laity. He then turned his thoughts to the many people who cannot attend WYD in person, but who will follow the event through means of communication. “We will all be united in prayer.” The 31st World Youth Day is being hosted in Krakow, Poland – the birthplace of its founder, St. John Paul II – from July 25-31. Pope Francis himself will take part in the international gathering starting July 28. Before leading the crowds in the Angelus prayer, the Pope delivered a reflection on the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus teaches his followers how to pray to the Father. The word “father” is the “secret” of Jesus' prayer, the pontiff said. “It is the key which he himself gives is in order that even we can enter into that relationship of confidential dialogue with the Father.” The “Our Father” allows God to “manifest his holiness in us,” and advance “his reign,” making it possible for him to exercise his “loving lordship in our lives,” he explained. The prayer taught by Jesus addresses three basic human needs – “bread, forgiveness, and help in temptations” – none of which we can live without, the pontiff said. Beginning with the “bread,” Francis explained how it is “the bread of pilgrims,” adding that “it is neither horded up nor wasted.” Forgiveness, meanwhile, is above all else “that which we receive from God,” he said.  It is the “awareness of being sinners, forgiven by infinite divine mercy,” which allows us to make  “concrete gestures of fraternal reconciliation.” Without this awareness of being a forgiven sinner, a person “can never make a gesture of forgiveness or reconciliation,” the Pope said. Such an act “begins from the heart,” and the feeling of being a forgiven sinner. Finally, the expression “lead us not into temptation,” he said, “expresses the awareness of our condition, always exposed to the dangers of evil and corruption.” “We all know what a temptation is,” the pontiff remarked, off-the-cuff. Francis went on to reference the two parables also given in the Gospel reading. The first parable is about one friend asking another for a loaf of bread; even though he may refuse at first, he will eventually respond if his friend is persistent. The second points to the analogy between a father, who knows what is good to give his children, and God the father. Both of these parables “want to teach us to have complete faith in God, who is Father,” the Pope said. “He knows our needs better than we do, but wants us to present them with audacity and insistence, since this is our way of participating in his work of salvation.” Finally, the pontiff stressed the importance of the Holy Spirit in living well,” and in doing “the will of God.” He encouraged the crowds to pray over the coming week: “Father, give me the Holy Spirit.” For her part, Mary proves with her very existence that “everything is enlivened by the Holy Spirit,” Francis said. She helps us “pray to the Father, united to Jesus, to live not in a worldly way, but according to the Gospel, guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Pope responds to violence in Munich and Kabul with call for more prayer

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2016 / 06:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis responded to recent acts of violence in Germany and Afghanistan, expressing his closeness to the families of the victims, and stressing the importance of prayer in the face of threats against “safety and peace.” “At this time, our spirit is once more shaken by the sad news relating to the deplorable acts of terrorism and violence which have caused suffering and death,” the Pope said in an appeal after the weekly Angelus at the Vatican. In his July 24 address, the Pontiff spoke in reference to “the dramatic events in Munich, Germany, and Kabul, Afghanistan, where the lives of numerous innocent people have been lost.” “I am near to the families of the victims and the wounded,” he said. “I invite you to join in my prayer, in order that the Lord may inspire all good and fraternal resolutions.” In the face of seemingly “insurmountable” difficulties, and dark “prospects of safety and peace,” the Pope said, our prayer should be “all the more persistent.” At least 80 people were killed and 230 people wounded after two explosions struck the Afghan city of Kabul on Saturday, Reuters reports. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, which hit the capital city's Shi'ite Hazara minority. The July 23 attack on Kabul is the latest in a string of attacks worldwide attributed to ISIS. Among the most recent attacks include an axe attack on a train in Würzburg, Germany last Monday, in which several passengers were critically wounded. The previous week, 84 people were killed in Nice, France when a Tunisian man intentionally drove a large truck through a crowded beach street at high speed during a Bastille Day celebration. Pope Francis further responded to the attack in Munich, expressing his condolences to the local archbishop in a telegram early Sunday morning. At least nine people were killed and more than 30 injured on Friday evening after an 18-year-old gunman – who reports have named Ali David Sonboly – opened fire at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich. Police believe the teenager had no known ties to the Islamic State, but he was reportedly inspired by Anders Behring Breivik, the mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, according to the BBC. The Pope learned “with dismay” of the attack in Munich, which included the killing of young people, according to the telegram addressed to the archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx and signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. “His Holiness shares in the suffering of the survivors, and he expresses his closeness to them,” and he “prayerfully entrusts the departed to God's mercy,” the telegram reads. In the message, the pontiff expressed his sympathy to all those affected by the incident, and his gratitude towards rescue workers for their “generous and caring commitment.” “Pope Francis prays that Christ, the Lord of life, may give everyone comfort and consolation,” the telegram reads, “and he imparts to the his Apostolic blessing as a pledge of hope.”

Pope shakes up cloisters with new norms focused on prayer, centralization

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2016 / 06:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Amid modern challenges emerging from a culture which provides increasingly easier access to outside distractions, Pope Francis has issued new norms for women’s cloistered communities, which place a special emphasis on prayer and the centralization of communities.   “Dear contemplative sisters, without you what would the Church be like, or those living on the fringes of humanity and ministering in the outposts of evangelization?” the Pope said in a new Apostolic Constitution, published July 22.   The Church, he said, “greatly esteems your life of complete self-giving. The Church counts on your prayers and on your self-sacrifice to bring today’s men and women to the good news of the Gospel. The Church needs you!”   However, he also cautioned that the “silent and recollected peace of mind and heart” lived in contemplative live “can meet with subtle temptations.”   The most serious of these, he said, is what the Desert Fathers called “the midday devil,” referring to “the temptation to listlessness, mere routine, lack of enthusiasm and paralyzing lethargy.”   He also cautioned against the temptations presented by the current digital culture, which “has a decisive influence in shaping our thoughts and the way we relate to the world and, in particular, to other people.”   “Contemplative communities are not immune from this cultural climate,” he said, and while recognizing the benefits of media and communications, particularly in the process of formation, urged a “prudent discernment” aimed at ensuring these means are truly put at the service of the community, “and do not become occasions for wasting time or escaping from the demands of fraternal life in community.”   The new norms also encourage communities of the same spirituality, such as Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, etc., to centralize into one federation, however, the specifics of these federations haven’t yet been defined.   Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” or “Seek the Face of God” on cloistered women religious was signed June 29, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and was released July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.   An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree to be issued by a Pope, and is addressed to the public. They typically focus on solemn matters of the Church such as the promulgation of laws or definitive teachings.   In Vultum Dei Quaerere, the Pope said that contemplative monastic life, which is mainly composed of women, is a “signpost” and reminder of life’s ultimate meaning. Contemplative life, he said, is “a priceless and indispensable gift which the Holy Spirit continues to raise up in the Church.”   However, as a means of assisting contemplative women to “attain the goal of their specific vocation” amid the rapid changes in modern society and the temptations that come with them, he issued new norms on 12 areas of discernment and renewal for consecrated life, particularly the monastic tradition.   These areas are: formation, prayer, the Word of God, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, fraternal life in community, autonomy, federations, the cloister, work, silence, communications media and asceticism.   In the 21-page document, consisting of 37 articles, Pope Francis offered a reflection on each of the points, explaining the nature of each and why they are essential for the life and vocation of contemplative women religious.   In light of these reflections, Pope Francis established that, in reference to canon 20 of the Code of Canon Law and with the publication and promulgation of the constitution, any canons in the Code of Canon law which directly contradict the articles of the new constitution “are derogated,” meaning canceled.   More specifically, he said the articles containing norms and dispositions found in Pius XII’s 1950 Apostolic Constitution “Sponsa Christi,” the Statuta Generalia Monialium, the Congregation for Religious’ 1950 “Instruction Inter Praeclara,”  the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life’s 1999 Instruction “Verbi Sponsa” on the contemplative life and enclosure of nuns, are also derogated.   The new norms will be drafted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which will eventually result in amendments made to Canon Law which reflect the wishes the Pope voiced in the constitution.   In order to help in the drafting of the norms, Francis provided a series of points based on his reflections on each of the 12 themes, which serve as a guideline for what the new norms will consist of.   In these guidelines, he established that individual monasteries “are to give special attention to ongoing formation,” which he said “is the foundation for every stage of formation, beginning with initial formation.”   He said that to ensure this ongoing formation, federations of religious communities will promote a greater cooperation between monasteries “through the exchange of formational materials and the use of digital means of communication,” though he urged the “due discretion” in using these means.   Monasteries, he said, “are to pay special attention to vocational and spiritual discernment, ensuring that candidates receive personalized guidance,” and must ensure that “ample time” is set aside for the initial formation process.   While establishing international and multicultural communities is good and a sign of the universality of the community’s charism, Francis stressed that “the recruitment of candidates from other countries solely for the sake of ensuring the survival of a monastery is to be absolutely avoided.”   In order to ensure this doesn’t happen, “certain criteria are to be determined,” he said. He also stipulated that to ensure “a high quality of formation,” monasteries should promote common houses for initial formation.   Since prayer “is the heart of contemplative life,” Pope Francis also established that “each monastery is to review its daily horarium (schedule) to see if it is centered on the Lord.”   Community celebrations, he said, should also be reviewed “to see if they constitute an authentic and vital encounter with the Lord.”   He placed special emphasis on the use of “lectio divina,” traditional form of Benedictine prayer that focuses on the prayerful and contemplative reading of scripture.   Each community, he said, “is to establish fitting times and means for respecting this requirement of reading and listening, ruminatio (pondering), prayer, contemplation and sharing of the sacred Scriptures.”   Francis also stressed the importance of sharing the “transforming experience” of God’s Word with priests, deacons, other consecrated and laity, and insisted that each monastery determine how this “spiritual outreach” can be achieved.   The guidelines offered by the Pope also stressed that in addition to “carefully preparing its Eucharistic celebrations,” each monastery must “set aside appropriate times for Eucharistic adoration, also inviting the faithful of the local Church to take part.”   He noted that particular attention must also be given to the selection of chaplains, confessors and spiritual directors.   The daily schedule for each community must also include “suitable moments of silence, in order to foster a climate of prayer and contemplation.”   In terms of autonomy, Francis stressed that juridical autonomy must be matched with “a genuine autonomy of life” entailing a certain number of sisters with “the vitality needed to practice and spread the charism, a real capacity to provide for formation and governance, dignity and quality of liturgical, fraternal and spiritual life, sign value and participation in life of the local Church, self-sufficiency and a suitably appointed monastery building.”   Pope Francis also stipulated that at least initially, “all monasteries are to be part of a federation.” These federation, he said, can be established not only on a geographical basis, but also on “an affinity of spirit and traditions.” If “for some special reason” a monastery can’t join a federation, permission to remain outside of it will be sought from the Holy See.   The specifics, he added, will be in the norms drafted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who will determine the responsibilities of the federation’s president and council.   Francis also specified that even if some monasteries receive a small income, it doesn’t mean they are “exempted from the obligation of labor.”   He also required that each monastery, in its plan for community life, find a “fitting means” of expressing the ascetic discipline of monastic life in order to make it “more prophetic and credible.”   Once each individual institute has adapted the articles of their constitutions or rules to the new regulations laid out in Vultum Dei Quaerere, they must be submitted to the Holy See for approval.   During the July 22 presentation of the constitution, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo O.F.M., secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, told journalists that the constitution was “a gift” from Pope Francis to the Church.   The process started two years ago with a questionnaire the congregation sent to cloistered communities around the world, he said, explaining that the answers they got back were “rich” and useful, so a synthesis was compiled and given to the competent authorities so that the constitution could eventually be written.   He said there are no plans to issue a similar constitution for cloistered male religious, given the fact that the majority of contemplative communities are composed of women.   Although there is a vocational crisis throughout across the globe, the archbishop noted that there are 4,000 contemplative communities in the world, with the highest numbers being “in Italy and Spain.”    Carmelites “singularly possess…the most numerous” contemplative community in the Church, he said, noting that others such as Benedictines, Dominicans, and Augustinians are also high in number.

Mary Magdalene – 'Apostle to the Apostles' – gets upgraded feast day

Vatican City, Jul 22, 2016 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faithful to the wish of Pope Francis, a new decree has bumped the liturgical celebration honoring St. Mary Magdalene from a memorial to a feast, putting her on par with the apostles. The reason, according to Archbishop Arthur Roche, is that she “has the honor to be the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection.” “She is the witness to the risen Christ and announces the message of the Lord’s resurrection just like the rest of the Apostles,” he said, explaining that for this reason “it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast as that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar.” Archbishop Roche is secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He issued a letter on the decision June 10, the same day as the decree officiating the decision was published. Calling Mary Magdalene “an example and model for all women in the Church,” the archbishop said she had a special mission, to which the new rank of feast does justice. The decree, dated June 3 and published in Latin, was signed by both Archbishop Roche and the congregation’s president, Cardinal Robert Sarah. It says Mary Magdalene can be seen as “the paradigm of the ministry of women in the Church.” On the Church’s liturgical calendar, saints are honored with either a “memorial” a “feast,” or a “solemnity.” Solemnities rank the highest, with feasts coming in second and memorials in third. While there are 15 other memorials on Mary Magdalene’s July 22 feast, hers was the only obligatory one to celebrate. Now, after being elevated to the level of a feast, the celebration bears a more significant weight. For example, when Mass is celebrated on her feast day, rather than using the normal formula for a daily Mass, as is done with memorials, the Gloria will be sung and special prayers dedicated specifically to Mary Magdalene will be offered, which only happens on feasts and solemnities. In his letter, Archbishop Roche said that given the current ecclesial context, the decision to honor Mary Magdalene with a feast “seeks to reflect more deeply upon the dignity of women, on the new evangelization and on the greatness of the mystery of God’s Mercy.” As the first person to see the empty tomb, to hear the truth about the Lord’s resurrection from Jesus himself, and as the first person to announce this message to the apostles, Mary “is an example of a true and authentic evangelizer.” While some have imagined Mary Magdalene as either a prostitute or the wife of Jesus, Western Christianity since the time of St. Gregory the Great has traditionally identified her with three women in the New Testament: the sinful woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with fragrant oils and washes them with her tears; Mary of Magdala; and Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany. While opinions vary on just exactly who she was, Archbishop Roche said that “what is certain is that Mary Magdalene was part of the group of Jesus’ disciples, she accompanied him to the foot of the Cross and, in the garden where she met him at the tomb, was the first witness of Divine Mercy.” Pope Francis’ decision to elevate her memorial to a feast during the Jubilee of Mercy, he said, was done in order to emphasize the importance of this woman, “who so loved Christ and was so greatly loved by Christ.” Noting how Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness to the Risen Christ and the first to announce his resurrection to the apostles, Archbishop Roche hailed her as “the Apostle to the Apostles” – a phrase coined by St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Mary Magdalene, the archbishop said, “announces to the apostles what in turn they will announce to the whole world.” This article was originally published on CNA June 10, 2016.

Pope Francis to meet Holocaust survivors during Auschwitz visit

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2016 / 01:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Though rumors have been floating for some time, the Vatican confirmed that the Pope will meet with 10 Holocaust survivors during his upcoming visit to Auschwitz while in Poland for World Youth Day. After arriving to Auschwitz and passing under the arch of the main entrance on foot, Francis will be taken by car to Block 11, where he will be welcomed by Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, as well as the 10 survivors. The Pope “will individually meet” with each of the survivors, “the last of whom will be given a candle,” Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists July 20. One of the survivors, he noted, is 101 years old and is hosting a group of pilgrims who are traveling to Krakow to participate in WYD. In addition to the survivors, Francis will also meet with 25 “Righteous among the Nations” from all over the world. The phrase is an honorific title bestowed by the State of Israel on non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews during the Nazi extermination. An example of one of these people is Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist, spy, Nazi party member and protagonist of the award-winning film “Schindler’s List” who is estimated to have saved the lives of some 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Fr. Lombardi spoke to journalists during a July 20 news briefing on the Pope’s July 27-31 trip to Poland, during which he is scheduled to visit Poland’s historic shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and Krakow’s Shrine of Divine Mercy in addition to his visit to Auschwitz and the WYD events. In his comments to journalists, Fr. Lombardi confirmed that Pope Francis will not give a speech at Auschwitz, nor will he celebrate a public Mass. Instead, he will say Mass in private, and will sit in silence in the death camp where an estimated 1 million people lost their lives. “At Auschwitz the Pope won’t say anything, but will have a moment of silent pain, of compassion, of tears.” He noted how two martyr Saints were among those who died in the camp: St. Maximillian Kolbe, who was killed after offering to take the place of another man condemned to death, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein. “It’s interesting,” the spokesman said, that July 29 marks the day of the Pope’s visit to Auschwitz, but is also the day of “the condemnation to death of Kolbe; it’s the 75th anniversary of the day in which he was condemned to death.” After praying in silence at Block 11, Pope Francis will then sign the Book of Honor at the camp, “and these will be the only words that we’ll have from the Pope at Auschwitz,” Fr. Lombardi said, explaining that the visit is expected to last “a few hours.” Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, president of the Polish bishop's conference, told CNA that Francis' decision to remain in silence at Auschwitz is deeply meaningful. “In the world there are two very parallel places. The first is the Wailing Wall and the second is the wailing place. The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and the wailing place in Auschwitz-Birkenau in the German Nazi concentration camp,” he said. The Pope’s decision to toss his speech, then, “shows that the Pope has this in his heart: wailing in the place where so many victims perished.” To do this “is very important for the Jewish people,” as well as for Poles, many of whom lost family members in the camp, he said, noting that his own grandfather was a prisoner who escaped, and that Poland’s Prime Minister lost some of her family there. “So personally I feel very linked and I am very grateful personally that the Holy Father is going to visit the death camp.” Again referring to the Pope’s silence, Fr. Rytel-Andrianik noted that Poland’s chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich, “said that this is a very good thing because after the death of his sons, Aaron (from the Bible) was in silence.” “There is an expression in the Bible “vayidom Aharon” (the silence of Aaron) so he was in silence. And the Holy Father will do the same thing in Auschwitz.” According to Fr. Lombardi, Pope Francis is expected to give “a demanding speech” to youth during the WYD Via Crucis, which he will attend the evening of July 29 after having visited Auschwitz that morning.   He will stay in the archbishop’s residence of Krakow throughout the trip, appearing each night from the balcony to greet pilgrims gathered below. The act is an imitation of St. John Paul II, who did the same each time he visited as Pope.

Pope Francis is ready for World Youth Day – are you?

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2016 / 09:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Even though World Youth Day doesn't start until next week, thousands of pilgrims from throughout the world are already descending on Krakow ahead of the official event. In a July 19 video message Pope Francis sent his greetings to the youth of Poland and the world who will attend the largest recurring gathering of youth in the Catholic Church. “I look forward to meeting the young people from throughout the world gathered in Kraków and having the opportunity to meet the beloved Polish nation,” he said. “My entire visit will be inspired by Mercy during this Jubilee Year, and by the grateful and blessed memory of Saint John Paul II, who instituted the World Youth Days and was the guide of the Polish people in its recent historic journey towards freedom.” St. John Paul II, who was from Poland, established World Youth Day in 1985; the first event was held in Rome in 1986. Since then it has occurred in various cities throughout the world, typically every three years. Krakow and the rest of Poland are important places of pilgrimage during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It was in a convent chapel in Krakow where St. Faustina of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy received visions and messages from Jesus about his divine mercy, which she would compile in a diary that would become the book “Diary of St. Faustina: Divine Mercy in my Soul.” Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Krakow July 30. In his video message, Pope Francis thanked the pilgrims for their preparation for the trip and for their prayers, and said he is looking forward to seeing pilgrims from throughout the world. “I am very anxious to meet you and to offer the world a new sign of harmony, a mosaic of different faces, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy.” He also had a particular greeting for the Polish youth upon his first visit as Pope to their country. “For me, it is a great gift of the Lord to visit you. You are a nation that throughout its history has experienced so many trials, some particularly difficult, and has persevered through the power of faith, upheld by the maternal hands of the Virgin Mary. I am certain that my pilgrimage to the shrine of Czestochowa will immerse me in this proven faith and do me so much good,” he said. During his visit, the Pope will also symbolically present families at the event with copies of Amoris laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on love in the family. “The moral and spiritual ‘health’ of a nation is seen in its families. That is why Saint John Paul II showed such great concern for engaged couples, young married couples and families. Continue along this road!” the Pope said. World Youth Day officially kicks off July 25 and lasts through July 31, with Pope Francis arriving July 27. It will be Pope Francis’ second World Youth Day during his pontificate. The Pope closed his video by asking pilgrims to continue to pray for the event. “Dear brothers and sisters, I send you this message as a pledge of my affection. Let us keep close to one another in prayer. I look forward to seeing you in Poland!”

Doubts arise after alleged photo of Fr. Tom surfaces

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2016 / 06:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a photo supposedly showing Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped in Yemen in March, emerged on social media, sources close to the priest say there are strong reasons to doubt the image's authenticity. “I have checked with a confrere with (the) Yemen experience and very close to Fr. Tom who shares my doubts about the authenticity of the photo,” a credible source close to the situation but who preferred to remain anonymous told CNA July 20. “We simply do not have any verified news about (it), although I am convinced that Fr. Tom is alive.” The comments come after a photo portraying an unshaven, tired-looking Indian man was published to Facebook, claiming that it was Fr. Tom and that an “entreaty,” or “plea” would be uploaded soon, according to Indian news agency The News Minute. The agency reports that while this is the first such photo has been published and while it isn't clear who posted it, a relative of Fr Tom’s, Augustine, said many within the family have studied the photo, and believe it to be authentic. However, CNA’s source said that since Fr Tom’s disappearance his Facebook account “has been hacked, most probably by the kidnappers.” “It is now used to send such messages in order to make pressure,” the source said, voicing their belief that while the photo might not be authentic, they are confident Fr. Tom is alive. Fr. Uzhunnalil, an Indian national, was abducted March 4 when four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including four Missionary of Charity sisters. During Holy Week, unsubstantiated rumors spread on social media that ISIS had captured Fr. Tom and were planning his torture and crucifixion on Good Friday, however, they were largely based on inaccurate information. On March 28, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) wrote a letter to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, urging the Indian government to take greater efforts in locating the priest and for further information to clarify his whereabouts and to quell the rumors of crucifixion. The minister then met with the CBCI and announced that the rumors of crucifixion were “baseless,” that Fr. Tom was still alive and that the government was “adopting all possible means” for the quick and safe release of Fr. Tom. In May she again voiced her confidence that Fr. Tom is “safe and that the "last efforts (are being made to) ensure his release.” According to The News Minute, Augustine said the Indian government has found it difficult to hold talks, and is unsure who to speak with since Yemen has no stable government. He said that he didn't think Fr Tom was taken by the Islamic State, but likely a smaller group. The details, however, remain unclear.

Pope Francis marries young deaf couple at Casa Santa Marta

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2016 / 06:21 am (CNA).- Pope Francis does not ordinarily celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony. But on July 9, he made an exception for a young Italian deaf couple, who were married in the chapel at his residence, Casa Santa Marta. Teodoro Pisciottani and Paulina Szczepanska received the rare blessing of being united in marriage by the Holy Father, an unforgettable story that they will one day be able to tell to their children. Teodoro and Paulina are the president and vice-president, respectively, of the Padua chapter of the Deaf Youth Committee of Italy. Additionally, Paulina is the daughter of a Vatican employee.   #PopeFrancis presides over the sacrament of Matrimony at Casa Santa Marta (9 Jul) — Guido Marini Fanpage (@guidomarini_fan) July 17, 2016   According to Italian news site, this is the first wedding that Francis has celebrated at Casa Santa Marta, the residence where he lives, which is administered by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The chapel at Casa Santa Marta is where Pope Francis normally presides at daily Mass, Monday through Saturday. Those Masses are not currently celebrated, due to the summer break.  

Pope leads prayers for victims of Nice attack

Vatican City, Jul 17, 2016 / 06:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis led the crowds in St. Peter's Square in prayers for the victims of Thursday's attack in Nice which left more than 80 people dead, including ten children. “The pain of the massacre is alive in our hearts,” the Pope said during his post-Angelus address for July 17, during which he lamented the loss of “many innocent lives, even children,” who were “mowed down” during the attack.   The pontiff expressed his closeness to “every family, and to the entire French nation, which is in mourning.” “May God, the good Father, welcome all the victims in his peace, sustain the wounded, and comfort their families,” he said. Francis also prayed that “every plan for terror and death” might be dispersed to prevent anyone from spilling “his brother's blood.” In off-script remarks, he then extended “a fatherly and brotherly embrace to all the inhabitants of Nice, and all of the French nation.” Finally, the Pope invited the crowds to take part in a moment of prayerful silence, keeping in mind especially the victims and families of the massacre, before leading them in the recitation of the Hail Mary.   84 people were killed and dozens were wounded on July 14 after a Tunisian man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, intentionally drove a large truck through the crowded seafront Promenade des Anglais in the French city of Nice, the BBC reports. The crowds had been celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the day of France’s independence and is traditionally the country’s biggest public holiday. Thursday's massacre is the third major terrorist attack to strike France in less than two years, and the second deadliest. On Nov. 13, 2015, nearly 130 people were killed in a series of attacks throughout Paris. In January of that same year, a total of 12 people were killed in the French capital after terrorists stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. Before leading the crowds in the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis offered his reflections on the day's Gospel account of Jesus being welcomed into the home of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. In the account, Martha complains to Jesus that Mary has left her with all the busywork, to which he responds that Mary, who has been listening to him, has “chosen the better part.” In her “bustling” about to make sure Jesus was fed and cared for, Martha risked forgetting “the most important thing,” the Pope said: “the presence of the guest, who in this instance was Jesus.” It is not enough for a guest to be “simply served, fed, and taken care of in every way,” the pontiff said. “Above all, he needs to be listened to.” Since a guest is a person, with his own thoughts and feelings, it does not do for the hostess be so busy with serving that neither of them speak, he said. Rather, the guest should feel as though he is part of the family. Jesus' response to Martha in this scene – that Mary had “chosen the better part” -- “finds its full meaning in reference to listening” to his word, Francis explained. This applies, for instance, to prayer. “If we go to pray, for example, before the Crucifix, and we speak, speak, speak, and then leave, we don't listen to Jesus!” the pontiff said. “We do not allow him to speak to our hearts.” “Listen: this is the key word. Do not forget!” Francis went on to reflect on hospitality as a “work of mercy,” a “human and Christian virtue” which runs the risk of being neglected in today's world. Whether it is among institutions which care for the sick and marginalized, or among families, it can happen that it is easier to provide services than it is to “listen and welcome,” he said. “We are always busy and have no time to listen,” Francis said. The Pope challenged those in the crowd to reflect on whether they take time to listen to their spouses, their children, their grandparents, the elderly, etc. “I ask you to learn to listen, and to dedicate more time,” the pontiff said. “In the ability to listen, there are the roots of peace.”

As reforms roll out, Pope Francis proves a man of his word

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2016 / 03:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several recent appointments by Pope Francis to Vatican departments show that his reform of the Roman Curia is in tune with what he's said from the beginning about his vision for the Church. When we look at what Francis has preached about since practically his first day in office, three biggies come to mind: a Church that's less clerical, has a stronger lay involvement and a greater presence of women. With his decision this week to appoint several lay persons to important Vatican posts, among whom are Americans Greg Burke and Kim Daniels, as well as Spaniard Paloma Garcia Ovejero, Francis has made good on his intentions. On Monday it was announced that Pope Francis had appointed Burke as the new director for the Holy See Press Office, with Garcia Ovejero as his number two. After the retirement of what's considered to be the “old guard,” the new appointments represent a shift from traditional standards. While previously there has typically been a priest and an Italian in the mix, now it's two laypeople in charge, both of whom are non-Italians.   Also worthy of note is that just two days later the Pope scored more points with the laity by nominating Daniels, a high profile U.S. religious freedom and pro-life advocate, to this Secretariat for Communications alongside German professor Markus Schächter and Spanish psychologist Leticia Soberón Mainero. The appointments are significant because while laity have always been named as consultors to pontifical councils and congregations, Daniels, Schächter and Soberón were appointed members. Under St. John Paul II's 1988 apostolic constitution Pastor bonus – which regulates and defines responsibilities, duties and the composition of the offices of the Roman Curia but is being reconsidered in Francis' reform – membership to councils and congregations was exclusive to cardinals and bishops. As Garcia Ovejero put it shortly after her appointment was announced, the Pope's decision to appoint her and Burke was “coherent with what he preached from the beginning.” Garcia Ovejera, the first woman to ever be appointed to the position of Vice Director of the Holy See Press Office, said that to have two laypersons working in a man-woman duo for the press office was “a logical choice.” Pope Francis, she said, “is coherent with his words and with his vision of the Church. A Church that goes out, a Church that’s not clerical, which all of us feel a part of and feel responsible in announcing the Gospel. The mission is to announce the Gospel.” If we take a look at what Francis has said from the beginning, we see that Garcia Ovejero is right. Clericalism Getting rid of the notion that the Church, and the Vatican in particular, is divided into the classes of commoners versus a higher “spiritual elite” has been a priority for Francis even during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In a 2011 interview with a Catholic Argentinian news agency, then-cardinal Bergoglio warned against the temptation of priests to “clericalize the laity” and to “infect them with our own disease” without realizing it. “We cannot fall into that trap – it is a sinful complicity,” he said. This is an idea he has pushed with full force since the beginning of his pontificate. In his first major event after being elected as Successor of Peter in 2013, Pope Francis told a group of Argentine youth during WYD in Rio de Janiero that he hoped “for a mess ... that the Church takes to the streets. That we defend ourselves from comfort, that we defend ourselves from clericalism.” He has consistently spoken out about the issue since, most recently in an April 26, 2016, letter to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in which he skewered the clerical mentality on the continent as “one of the greatest distortions” facing the local Church. “We'd do well to recall that the Church is not an elite (group of) priests, of consecrated people, of bishops but all of us make up the faithful and Holy People of God,” he said, explaining that it's “illogical and even impossible for us as pastors to believe that we have the monopoly on solutions for the numerous challenges thrown up by contemporary life.” Given his recent appointments, Francis is following through and letting his words become actions by allowing the laity to have more space in decision-making posts in the Vatican. Laity Coupled with Francis' desire to suppress a clericalist attitude has been his great push to have a stronger, louder lay voice within the Church. In the same 2011 interview with the Argentine agency, Bergoglio said that the reform that’s needed in the Church is “neither to clericalize nor ask to be clericalized,” but to encourage laypeople to embrace their role, evangelizing in everyday life within their families, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. This idea has been present since the Pope first began his reform by establishing the Council of Cardinals as an advisory body on Church governance and reform. During the council’s first round of meetings in October 2013, the topic of the laity came up as one of the most urgent issues to address. In a press briefing after the conclusion of the meetings, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said the council planned “to give more specific attention” to the laity, so that so that issues surrounding them could be “properly and effectively recognized and followed by the governance of the Church.” During the October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, Pope Francis announced his decision to establish a new Vatican department dedicated to Laity, Family and Life, set to go into effect Sept. 1, 2016. While explaining the structure of the new department, he made it clear that the members would include not only consecrated persons, but also laypeople, both men and women, who work in different fields from around the world. Though it’s not yet certain who will head the new office, the Pope has said on previous occasions that a department dedicated to the topics of family and the laity could be headed by either a married couple or a lay individual. His decision to put two laypeople in charge of the Holy See Press Office, then, shows that he means what he says, and that as his reform continues to move forward, he won’t be shy in breaking away from traditional structural compositions. This is also evident in Francis’ appointment of Daniels, Schächter and Soberón, which, strictly speaking, breaks with the outline that has since 1988 governed the Curial structure. However, while the rules of Pastor Bonus remain intact, a whole new set of guidelines is expected to come out of Pope Francis’ reform. Women The fact that Garcia Ovejero is the first woman – and a laywoman for that matter – to ever be appointed as deputy spokesperson for the Holy See is a prime example of what Pope Francis has asked for several times in calling for a more “incisive” feminine presence in the Church. He first garnered headlines for the phrase in a 2014 address to Italy’s members of the “Centro Italiano Femminile,” telling them that “I hope that more spaces are widened for a feminine presence in the Church that is more widespread and incisive.” It was the Pope himself who widened that space mere months later with the September 2014, appointment of four women to the International Theological Commission. Women now comprise 16 percent of the Commission’s members, which is a greater representation than they’ve ever had before. In April of that year Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, revealed that his department was looking for another secretary after the former had been reassigned. He recalled that in a conversation with Pope Francis, the pontiff gave the green light for the position to be filled by a woman. However, the position remains empty as the office prepares to merge with several others to form a larger dicastery as part of the ongoing reform. Typically the position of secretary has always been filled by a man, with one modern exception being the 2012 appointment of Flaminia Giovanelli as the undersecretary for council for Justice and Peace, making her the highest ranking laywoman in the Roman Curia and the first laywoman to hold the position of undersecretary.   Before Giovanelli's appointment under Benedict XVI, only one other woman, Sr. Enrica Rosanna, had ever held the position. A religious of Maria Auxiliatrix, Sr. Enrica served as undersecretary of the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life from 2004-2011. “I think we are at a point of seeing (a different model)…a springtime for new forms of leadership…in the Church,” Turkson had said, but cautioned that while the role of women is increasing in the life of the Church, it's a process that “takes time.” However, given the course Francis is taking, it appears that the time is now – or that the process has at least accelerated under his leadership. In a 2015 address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, Francis said that women “know how to incarnate the tender face of God, his mercy, which translates into availability to give time more than to occupy spaces, to welcome instead of excluding.” So overall, while Pope Francis has often said that his reform won’t be a quick process, but will rather be carried out over a period of several years, we’re already starting to get a clearer picture of what the process will look like. And if this past week is any indication, we can see Francis' vision beginning to unfold, showing a Church that truly “goes out” and is open to the “newness” of the Holy Spirit. As a man who follows through on what he says, Pope Francis, we can see, is doing what he was elected to do.