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Pope Francis prays for China invoking Mary Help of Christians

Vatican City, May 22, 2019 / 03:56 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday asked Our Lady Help of Christians to intercede for Chinese Catholics, whom he said continue to believe and hope amid trials. “Dear faithful in China, our Heavenly Mother will help you all to be witnesses of charity and fraternity, keeping you always united in the communion of the universal Church,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square May 22 following his weekly Wednesday audience. The pope expressed his closeness and affection for all Catholics in China ahead of Friday’s feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a Marian devotion particularly venerated in Shanghai’s Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan. Pope Benedict XVI established the custom of praying for China on the Marian feast in 2007, and composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan for the occasion. This year Pope Francis’ prayer for unity with Chinese Catholics has added significance following the signing of a provisional agreement between Beijing and the Holy See in September 2018. While the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement have not been made public, Vatican officials have said that the pact was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The Chinese Communist Party government has continued to persecute Chinese Catholics and other religious believers following the agreement by demolishing Marian shrines and forbidding religious practice for anyone under the age of 18. Pope Francis offered his blessing for Catholics in China, whom he said “continue to believe, hope, and love” amid “daily labors and trials.” The pope concluded Wednesday the weekly catechesis he has provided on the Our Father prayer since 2018. He said that the Gospels describe how Jesus lived out the Our Father prayer throughout his life. “For example, on the night of Gethsemane Jesus prays in this way, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will,’” he said. “How can we fail to recognize in this prayer, however brief, a trace of the Our Father?” Pope Francis said. Pope Francis said that the Holy Spirit is at the center of Christian prayer found in the New Testament. “The Holy Spirit makes us capable of praying as children of God,” he said.  “A Christian can pray in every situation,” Pope Francis said. “And to the Father we never cease to tell of our brothers and sisters in humanity, because none of them, especially the poor, remain without a consolation and a portion of love.”

Pope Francis: Bishops who do not know their priests weaken the Church

Vatican City, May 21, 2019 / 04:08 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Monday that each bishop has a duty to have a strong, close relationship with his priests with a firm warning that episcopal aloofness and favoritism weakens the mission of the Church. “The relationship between us bishops and our priests is, unquestionably, one of the most vital issues in the life of the Church, it is the backbone on which the diocesan community is based,” Pope Francis told Italian bishops gathered at the Vatican for their annual meeting May 20-23. “Unfortunately, some bishops are struggling to establish acceptable relationships with their priests, thus risking the ruin of their mission and even weakening the mission of the Church itself,” he said. Pope Francis said that bishops need to understand that at this time many priests feel continually under attack because of the crimes of others in the priesthood, and they need encouragement during this difficult time. “This requires, first of all, closeness to our priests, who need to find the bishop's door and his heart always open,” he said. The pope warned the Italian bishops that hierarchical communion “collapses when it is infected by any form of personal power or self-gratification,” but in turn is strengthened by “a spirit of total abandonment and service to the people of God.” Francis also stressed that bishops must not “fall into the temptation to approach only the sympathetic priests or flatterers” or to “hand over all responsibilities to available priests or ‘climbers.’” In addition to the importance of the relationship between bishops and priests, Pope Francis outlined two other priorities for the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) assembly taking place in the Vatican’s synod hall this week: synodality and the implementation of a more streamlined annulment process announced in 2015. “The success of the reform necessarily passes through a conversion of structures and people; and therefore we do not allow the economic interests of some lawyers or the fear of losing the power of some judicial vicars to hold back or delay the reform,” he said. The pope concluded his speech by calling on the bishops to be a spiritual father to each of their priests by taking an interest and finding time to listen to everyone, so that each priest feels valued and encouraged by his bishop. “If a bishop receives the call of a priest, answer within the day, at most the next day, so that that priest will know that he has a father,” Pope Francis recommended. “The solid relationship between the Bishop and his priests is based on the unconditional love witnessed by Jesus on the cross, which represents the only real rule of behavior for bishops and priests,” Pope Francis said. “It is also based on mutual respect that manifests fidelity to Christ, love for the Church, adherence to the Good News.”

French bishops’ conference to hear testimonies from children of priests

Vatican City, May 20, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- French bishops will meet with the children of priests in June to hear their testimonies of hidden suffering. Monsignor Olivier Ribadeu Dumas, secretary of the French bishops’ conference, confirmed that three members of the French association Children of Silence will share their stories June 13 at the Bishops Conference of France headquarters in Paris, Le Monde reported. The president of Children of Silence, Anne-Marie Jarzac, called the June meeting a welcome step. Jarzac met previously with Msgr. Dumas and Father Emmanuel Coquet in February in preparation for the June testimony. “It was a very moving moment,” Jarzac told Le Monde. “For the first time, we felt that the Church opened its doors to us, that there was no more denial, but a listening and an awareness of what we have lived.” Jarzac is the daughter of a priest and a nun. She leads the French association for children of priests with more than 50 members. In February 2019, the Vatican confirmed the existence of an internal document from the Congregation of Clergy outlining criteria on the protection of children of priests. “Notes concerning the practice of the Congregation for the Clergy with regard to clerics with children” is a template document used to aid individual bishops dealing with these cases. In many cases involving priestly paternity, priests either request dispensation or are dismissed from the clerical state because of the parental responsibility and obligation owed to the child. “Each case is examined on its merits and its own particular circumstances,” Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, told L'Osservatore Romano in an interview Feb. 27. Stella also noted that exceptions to the loss of the clerical state are rare. “The child’s well-being and care of the child must be at the centre of attention for the Church, so that the child does not lack, not only the necessities of life, but especially the educative role and the affection of a father,” Cardinal Stella said. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy also responded to claims that the existence of children of priests somehow undermines the value of priestly celibacy in the Church. “The fact that some priests have experienced relationships and have brought children into the world does not affect the theme of priestly celibacy, which represents a precious gift for the Latin church, the ever-present value of which has been expressed by the recent Popes, from St. Paul VI to Pope Francis,” he said.

Pope: Christ's love helps us love those 'on the other side'

Vatican City, May 19, 2019 / 05:56 am (CNA).- The boundless love with which Jesus Christ loves each and every person is the same love Catholics are compelled to show their “enemies,” Pope Francis said Sunday. Speaking during his address before the recitation of the Regina Coeli prayer May 19, the pope asked people to answer a question in their hearts: “Am I capable of loving my enemies?” “We all have people – I do not know if they are enemies – but that do not agree with us, who are ‘on the other side,’” he said. “Or does anyone have people who hurt them,” he added, urging people to ask themselves: “Am I capable of loving those people? That man, that woman who hurt me, who offended me? Am I able to forgive him?” It is the love of Jesus for us that makes the act of loving and forgiving others possible, he said, reflecting on the moment at the Last Supper, when, after washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus gives them a “new” commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Jesus loved us first,” Pope Francis said. “He loved us despite our frailties, our limitations and our human weaknesses. It was He who made us become worthy of his love that knows no limits and never ends.” “The love that is manifested in the cross of Christ and that He calls us to live is the only force that transforms our heart of stone into a heart of flesh,” he stated. “The only force capable of transforming our heart is the love of Jesus, if we also love with this love.” “And this love makes us capable of loving our enemies and forgiving those who have offended us.” Francis noted that the commandment to love one another, when Jesus gave it, was not novel, but that what made it “new” was the part which says, “as I have loved you.” Speaking shortly before his Crucifixion and death, Jesus showed his disciples the origin and example of the kind of love people are called to give. “The novelty is all in the love of Jesus Christ, the one with which he gave his life for us. It is a question of the love of God, universal, without conditions and without limits, which finds its apex on the cross.” “In that moment of extreme lowering, in that moment of abandonment to the Father, the Son of God has shown and given to the world the fullness of love,” he said. May the Virgin Mary, the pope prayed, “help us, with her maternal intercession, to welcome from her Son Jesus the gift of his commandment, and from the Holy Spirit the strength to practice it in everyday life.”  

Pope Francis: Wasting food shows a lack of concern for others

Vatican City, May 18, 2019 / 10:16 am (CNA).- In a meeting with members of the Federation of European Food Banks Saturday, Pope Francis warned against food waste, which he said shows a lack of concern for others. “Fighting against the terrible scourge of hunger means also fighting waste. Waste reveals an indifference towards things and towards those who go without. Wastefulness is the crudest form of discarding,” he said May 18. “To throw food away means to throw people away,” the pope added. “It is scandalous today not to notice how precious food is as a good, and how so much good ends up so badly.” Francis noted that in today’s complex world, it is also important that the good done by charitable organizations is “done well,” and is not “the fruit of improvisation.” Doing good “requires intelligence, the capacity for planning and continuity. It needs an integrated vision, of persons who stand together: it is difficult to do good while not caring for each other,” he said. Even good initiatives guided by good intentions can get trapped by “extended bureaucracy, excessive administrative costs, or become forms of welfare that do not lead to authentic development,” he noted. “Wasting what is good is a nasty habit that can insinuate itself anywhere, even in charitable works.” The pope also emphasized the importance of actions over words: “It is always easy to speak about others; it is much harder to give to others, and yet this is what matters.” Food banks, he said, are good at taking what is “thrown into the vicious cycle of waste” and inserting it into a “virtuous circle” of good use instead. The pope went on to speak about the economy, which he said has a “profound need” of working to the advantage of all, and especially those who are disadvantaged. “It is good to see languages, beliefs, traditions and different approaches converging, not for self-interest, but rather to give dignity to others,” he said. Noting the modern world’s connectivity and rapid pace, he decried the “frenetic scramble for money” which leaves people with an increasing interior frailty, disorientation, and loss of meaning. He added: “What I care about is an economy that is more humane, that has a soul, and not a reckless machine that crushes human beings.” “We must find a cure,” he urged, by “supporting what is good and taking up paths of solidarity, being constructive.” “We must come together to relaunch what is good, knowing full well that, even if evil is at large in the world, with God’s help and the good will of so many like yourselves, the world can be a better place,” he said.   “We need to support those who wish to change things for the better; we need to encourage models of growth based on social equality, on the dignity of human persons, on families, on the future of young people, on respect for the environment.”

Humility should be the foundation of media work, pope tells journalists

Vatican City, May 18, 2019 / 07:08 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told journalists Saturday that their profession has a great responsibility, the foundation of which should be humility. “Humility is an essential virtue for spiritual life; but I would say that it can also be a fundamental element of your profession,” the pope said May 18. He affirmed that there are other important qualities of a journalist, such as professionalism, writing skill, and ability to investigate and ask the right questions, but added that, “still, humility can be the cornerstone of your activity.” “Yours is an indispensable role, and this also gives you a great responsibility,” he continued. “It asks of you a particular care for the words you use in your articles, for the images you transmit in your services, for everything you share on social media.” Pope Francis added that, “humble journalists does not mean mediocre, but rather aware that through an article, a tweet, a live television or radio program, you can do good, but also, if you are not careful and scrupulous, evil to others and sometimes to entire communities.” The pope spoke about humility in journalism during a meeting with around 400 members of the Association of Foreign Press in Italy, at the end of which he gave out copies of the book, “Comunicare il Bene,” (“Communicate the good”) which compiles some of his words to journalists over the last six years. In his speech the pope acknowledged “how difficult and how much humility the search for truth requires,” saying, “I therefore urge you to work according to truth and justice, so that communication is really a tool to build, not to destroy...” He also gave advice on the importance of humility, showing in what ways it helps a journalist to do his or her job well. For example, he said it is humility which drives someone to look deeper than the first, easy solution to a question. If a mistake is made, it should always be rectified, he advised, especially in a time when, through the internet, false information is easily spread. He also warned media professionals to resist the temptation to publish something which has been insufficiently verified. Humility, he continued, also helps journalists to not be slaves to haste, but to take the necessary time to understand something well. Another quality of a humble journalist is seeking to know all the facts before relating them or commenting on them, he said, and as St. Francis de Sales once said, to use words carefully, “as the surgeon uses the scalpel.” Pope Francis also urged those in media to work to bring to light the circumstances of those who have been rejected, excluded, and discriminated against. “You and your work are needed to help not to forget many situations of suffering, which often do not have the light of the spotlight, or they have it for a moment and then return to the darkness of indifference,” he said. Thanking journalists for their work, which if done in service, “becomes a mission,” the pope said they help people to not forget the lives “suffocated before they are even born” or those that, when born, suffer from hunger, hardship, war, persecution, or abuse. He encouraged journalists to tell those stories, but to also tell the stories of people who sacrifice themselves, even heroically, to help others. “Please continue to tell even that part of reality that thanks to God is still the most widespread: the reality of those who do not surrender to indifference, of those who do not flee before injustice, but build patiently in silence,” he said. Pope Francis called these stories “a submerged ocean of good that deserves to be known and that gives strength to our hope.” He assured the journalists, many of whom are secular, of the Church’s esteem for them, “even when you put your finger in the wound, and perhaps the wound is in the ecclesial community.” He also quoted Pope St. John Paul II in a meeting with the same association in 1988, when he said: “The Church is on your side. Be Christian or not, in the Church you will always find the right esteem for your work and the recognition of freedom of the press.”

Signatura: Geissler 'acquittal' came after formal process

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The Vatican announced Friday that a former Curial official accused of sexual solicitation in the confessional was found not guilty after a penal process at the Church’s highest canonical court. Previous reports had indicated that the allegations were investigated by the Vatican, but had not indicated that the matter was resolved by a formal judicial process. Fr. Hermann Geissler, 53, is a member of Familia spiritualis Opus (FSO), informally known as “Das Werk.” The priest served as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1993 until Jan. 29. Geissler stepped down from his position after a former member of “Das Werk,” Doris Wagner, claimed last year in a lengthy piece in the German newspaper DIE ZIET that she had been sexually harassed in the confessional by a member of the religious community she then belonged to, identified in the article as “Hermann G.” Geissler has maintained his innocence since the allegations first . The solicitation of a sin against the sixth commandment within the context of confession is considered in the Church law to be a “grave delict,” or offense, for which a priest can be dismissed from the clerical state. A communique issued May 17 by the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura said that after an administrative penal process, a five-judge panel “issued the decree of acquittal of the accused,” because the allegation was not “proven with due moral certainty.” That release clarifies a May 16 release from Geissler’s religious community, which said that a decision was made at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, “after a preliminary investigation according to Canon 1717,” that the “above-mentioned case does not constitute a delict.” The “preliminary investigation” is the canonical process that precedes a formal trial. An administrative penal process, by contrast, is a kind of expedited canonical trial, at which judges hear evidence and arguments regarding an allegation, without all of the formal requirements of an ordinary trial. The Signatura’s release clarifies that Geisler was in fact subject to formal charges, for which he was found not guilty. The administrative penal process is the same canonical procedure that was used earlier this year to try former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick was found guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults, and of sexual solicitation in the sacrament of penance. Geissler is well known as a theologian and a scholar of Bl. John Henry Newman. His religious community has not yet announced what next he will do.

Pope offers words of encouragement to African missionaries

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis spoke to African-based missionaries gathered at the Vatican on Friday, applauding their efforts to show compassion to the continent’s most vulnerable. The Society of African Missions was received by the pope at the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The order has been in Rome for its General Chapter, taking place at the Vatican from April 30 to May 24. The theme of this year’s meeting is “A family faithful to its missionary charism in today’s complex and changing context.” The pope commended the order’s dedication to its communal life, which he said leads to greater acts of charity toward the suffering victims on the “peripheries” of society, especially in the rural populations where the Christian faith is fragile. “Faithful to your roots, you are called, as a family and since you are a family, to bear witness to the risen Christ through the love that unites you to one another, and with the radiant joy of an authentic fraternal life,” he said. “Evangelization is always carried out by a community that acts ‘by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others,’” he further added, quoting Evangelii gaudium. The Society of African Missions was founded in 1856 by Servant of God Melchior de Marion Brésillac and its first superior general Fr. Augustin Planque. The order seeks to provide the people of Africa with spiritual and physical nourishment including education, interreligious dialogue, and aid to displaced people. The pope applauded the order for continuing to follow in the footsteps of its founders, with members even placing themselves in dangerous situations to advance the Gospel. He pointed to the example of an Italian priest, a member of the order, who was kidnapped last September by unknown gunmen in Niger. The pope promised to pray for the priest, who is still believed to be in captivity. “I would like to join in your prayer for your brother Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, kidnapped for several months in Niger, and to assure the concern and attention of the Holy See regarding this worrying situation.” He challenged the members to undergo greater conversion, immersing themselves into charitable works, reflections on scripture, and the sacraments. This dedication to the spiritual life will lead its members to find Christ in the work they do and further embrace their commitment to the vulnerable, he said. “I also encourage you to persevere in your commitment, in close collaboration with members of other religions and institutions, at the service of children and the most fragile people, victims of war, disease, and human trafficking,” he said. “Because the option for the least, for those that society rejects and sets aside, is a sign that concretely manifests the presence and solicitude of the merciful Christ.” Concluding his address, Pope Francis invoked the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the group may witness the faith with a renewed zeal, listening to the Holy Spirit for opportunities to extend beyond the familiar and to new paths of evangelization. “I encourage you to persevere, with renewed enthusiasm and dynamism, on the path travelled by the Society of African Missions and which has produced many fruits of conversion to Christ,” he said. “With this hope, I entrust your missionary family to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, asking her to support your efforts.”

Pope Francis tells medical professionals to defend life

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Friday encouraged medical professionals to defend and promote life, highlighting the practice of conscientious objection in today’s healthcare environment. “Defend and promote life, starting from those who are most defenseless or in need of assistance because they are sick, or elderly, or marginalized,” Pope Francis said May 17. The pope met with the Italian Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers in Vatican’s apostolic palace and encouraged their commitment to pro-life healthcare. The pope stressed that just because a medical technique is technologically possible does not mean it is necessarily ethical. “Any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be evaluated carefully to see if it actually respects life and human dignity,” he said. “The practice of conscientious objection … can be a sign for the healthcare environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients and their families,” he explained. Francis said that in extreme cases where human life is endangered, conscientious objection based on one’s ethical convictions should be sought with respect and humility in order to prevent understandings. “Always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours,” he advised. Pope Francis critiqued the “corporatization” of healthcare systems today, commenting that healthcare workers must treat patients as people, not numbers. “Its corporatization … has fundamentally changed the approach to illness and to the patient himself with its preference for efficiency often preceding attention to the person, who needs to be understood, listened to and accompanied, as much as he needs a correct diagnosis and effective treatment,” Francis said. He said that this corporatization also has an effect on medical workers leading to “burnout,” with many struggling to cope with long work shifts and a stressful working environment. To guard against these pressures, Francis emphasized the importance of prayer and prioritizing one’s own spiritual life, commenting that this is what sustained the many dedicated saints who served the sick with love. “To keep your spirit alive, I urge you to be faithful to prayer and to nourish yourselves with the Word of God: always with the Gospel in your pocket,” the pope advised. “Healing, among other things, passes not only from the body, but also from the spirit.”

The next World Meeting of Families will focus on holiness in married vocation

Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 03:38 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Friday that the next World Meeting of Families will focus on the vocation of married life as a path to holiness with a particular emphasis on Amoris Laetitia. The 2021 World Meeting of Families will be held in Rome June 23-27 with the official theme selected by Pope Francis, “Family Love: a vocation and a path to holiness,” the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life announced May 17. “The meeting proposes a rereading of Amoris Laetitia in the light of the call to holiness spoken of in Gaudete et Exsultate,” according to the announcement. “Conjugal and family love reveals the precious gift of a life together where communion is nourished and a culture of individualism, consumption and waste is averted,” it continued. The next World Meeting of Families will mark the fifth anniversary of Amoris Laetitia -- Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family. The theme of the meeting seeks to examine family life through the lens of holiness, “the most attractive face of the Church,” as described by the 2018 exhoration Gaudete et Exsultate. The meeting announcement quotes Amoris Laetitia’s section on Love in Marriage, which states: “The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that ‘gaze’ which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves.”   The World Meeting of Families, established by St. Pope John Paul II in 1994, takes place once every three years in a different country, most recently in Ireland in 2018. The 2021 meeting will be the third time World Meeting of Families will be hosted in Rome. “As marriage and family shape a concrete experience of love, they demonstrate the great significance of human relationships in which joys and struggles are shared in the unfolding of daily life as people are led towards an encounter with God,” the announcement states. “This journey, when lived with fidelity and perseverance, strengthens love and enables the vocation to holiness that is possessed by each individual person and expressed in conjugal and family relationships.”