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Pope Francis: Angelus catechesis on humility, generosity

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the final Sunday in the month of August and the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In remarks to the pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Square ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel reading of the day, taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke (14:1, 7-14), in which Jesus dines as the guest of a leading Pharisee, and teaches a hard truth about pride and the Kingdom of God and issues a challenge to all present to focus their thoughts and order their actions to the promise of the Resurrection.

As often happens, Jesus taught the Gospel lesson through parables, the first of which regarded the behavior of guests at a banquet:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, “Give your place to this man,” and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

The Second, equally famous lesson regarded the attitude and behavior of the one, who gives the banquet:

When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.  

Remarking the lessons, Pope Francis offered words of praise for the many people who have heeded the call and offer their assistance at shelters and soup kitchens, feeding the hungry and performing many other works of mercy.

“Let us ask the Virgin Mary – who was humble all her life – to lead us every day on the way of humility,” he said, “so that we are capable of making our own gestures of welcome toward and solidarity with the marginalized, seeking nothing in return, so that we might become worthy of the divine reward.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis heralds upcoming Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called attention on Sunday to the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, to be celebrated this coming Thursday, September 1st. A major global ecumenical stewardship initiative, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation began in 1989 under the leadership of the Orthodox Church.

Pope Francis established the Day for the Catholic Church by a letter dated August 6th, 2015, and addressed to Cardinals Peter Turkson and Kurt Koch, respectively the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Click below to hear our report

In the letter, Pope Francis says, “The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will offer individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

Speaking to the faithful following the traditional Angelus prayer on the final Sunday in August, Pope Francis looked forward to the event, saying, “This coming Thursday, September 1st, we will mark the World Day of Prayer for the care of creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and with other Churches,” describing the event as, “an opportunity to strengthen the common commitment to safeguard life, respecting the environment and nature.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Angelus appeal for quake victims in central Italy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to the people of the quake-damaged border area in central Italy where the regions of Latium, Umbria and the Marches meet, renewing his appeal for prayerful and concrete solidarity, and expressing the desire to visit the stricken places as soon as possible.

Addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square following the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said, “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to the inhabitants of Latium, the Marches and Umbria, hard hit by the earthquake in these past days.”

Click below to hear our report

The Holy Father went on to make specific mention of the towns, which suffered the most grievous loss of life and the most extensive damage. “I think in particular the people of Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto, Norcia: again I say to those dear people that the Church shares their suffering and their worries.”

“She prays for the dead and for the survivors,” Pope Francis continued. “The solicitude with which [civil] authorities, police, civil protection and volunteers are operating, shows how important solidarity is in order to overcome such painful trials,” he added.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the Pope concluded, “I hope to come to see you as soon as possible, to bring you in person the comfort of the Faith, the embrace of a father and a brother, and the support of Christian hope.”

Immediately following these words, the Holy Father led all the gathered faithful in praying a Hail Mary for the victims, their families, and for everyone affected by the deadly quake.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to Church in Americas: bring the balm of Christ's presence

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Video Message to the Church in the Americas, to mark the Jubilee of the Americas, organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Latin America (CELAM) and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Scheduled to take place in Bogota, Colombia, from the 27th to the 30th of August, the theme of the continental Jubilee celebration is taken from Pope Francis’ homily at Mass on May 2nd, 2015, at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he had gone to visit as part of preparations for the canonization of St. Junipero Serra: “May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!”

Click below to hear our report

For the full text of Pope Francis' Mesage, click here

Along with the bishops, priests, religious men and women, and laity of the 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries, delegates from Canada and the United States and representatives of the Holy See are taking part in the Jubilee celebration, which seeks to turn the “Spirit of mercy” that animates this Jubilee Year into genuine and concrete help especially for all those who, in the words of Pope Francis, live on the “existential peripheries” of life.

In his Message, Pope Francis says, “All of us are aware, all of us know that we live in a society that is hurting: no one doubts this.  We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable. But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us and urges us to bring the balm of His presence.”

The schedule of events over the three-day celebration includes a penitential liturgy including time for personal confessions, a reflection on the legacy of holiness found in the American saints, a full day dedicated to Works of Mercy on the American continent, and a public conversation on mercy as the soul of a culture of encounter.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican Sec of State hopes for improved diplomatic relations with China

(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed his ‘hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season in relations between the Apostolic See and China’ in a speech on Saturday at the diocesan seminary in Pordenone, Italy.

The speech – laden with the history of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See – focused on the figure of Cardinal Celso Costantini as a bridge builder.

Born in Castions di Zoppola in 1876 and an honorary citizen of Pordenone and Aquileia, Cardinal Costantini was named the first Apostolic Delegate to China in 1922 until 1933 by Pope Pius XI.

Cardinal Parolin said “Celso Costantini successfully completed a mission of extraordinary importance: he created a ‘bridge’ between Holy See and China, to which Pope Francis pays the utmost attention and, I am sure, also the people and government of China”.

A diary written by Cardinal Celso Costantini, entitled The Secrets of a Vatican Cardinal: Celso Costantini's Wartime Diaries, 1938-1947, was kept secret before being published in 2010 and tells some of the story of his assignment in China.

Below is a Vatican Radio English translation of the conclusion portion of Cardinal Parolin’s speech:

In light of these brief reflections on the events surrounding Cardinal Celso Costantini in relation to the vast ‘continent’ that is China, one becomes aware of his singular capacity to ‘build bridges’, that is, his capacities of knowledge, of respect, of encounter, and of dialogue between worlds, very distant, at least in appearance.

Today, as ever, many are the hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season of relations between the Apostolic See and China for the benefit not only of Catholics in the land of Confucius but for the entire country, which boasts of one of the greatest civilizations on Earth. I would dare to say [these relations] would be beneficial even for an ordered, peaceful, and fruitful cohabitation of peoples and nations in a world, like our own, torn by many tensions and conflicts. I consider it important to forcefully underline this idea:  New hopes and good relations with China – including diplomatic ties, if God so wishes! – are neither an end in themselves nor a desire to reach some kind of ‘worldly’ success. They are thought out and pursued – not without fear and trembling because it involves the Church which belongs to God – I repeat, they are pursued only in the measure in which they are ‘ordered’ toward the good of Chinese Catholics, to the good of the entire Chinese people, and to the harmony of the whole society, in favor of world peace.

Pope Francis, as his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XIV before him, knows well the baggage of suffering, of misunderstandings, often of silent martyrdom which the Catholic community in China carries on its shoulders: it is the weight of history! But he also knows, along with external and internal difficulties, how alive is the yearning for full communion with the Successor of Peter, how many advances have been made, how many efforts are made to witness to the love of God and the love of neighbor, especially to the people weakest and most in need, which is the synthesis of all Christianity. [Pope Francis] also knows and encourages, especially in this Jubilee of Mercy, mutual forgiveness, reconciliation between brothers and sisters who have been divided, and the struggle to grow in understanding, collaboration, and love!

We are all called to accompany with caring closeness, respect, humility, and above all prayer this path of the Church in China. It involves writing a new page of history, looking ahead with trust in Divine Providence and healthy realism to insure a future in which Chinese Catholics can feel profoundly Catholic – ever more visibly anchored on the solid rock, which, by the will of Jesus, is Peter – and fully Chinese, without having to deny or diminish all that is true, noble, pure, lovable, honorable (cf. Phil 4,8) of that which their history and their culture has produced and continues to produce. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that nothing is truly human if it does not find an echo in the heart of the disciples of Christ! (cf. GS n.1).

It should be realistically accepted that there is no shortage of problems to be resolved between the Holy See and China and that they can generate, often by their complexity, differing positions and orientations. However, such problems are not completely unlike those positively dealt with 70 years ago. Cardinal Celso Costantini, therefore, remains a source of inspiration and a model of extreme actuality. In this sense, I thank you also because this conference, prepared for you, gave me the occasion to better study the figure and work [of Cardinal Costantini], just as others in this diocese have done and are doing.

On the path which remains to be walked, we commend ourselves with immense trust to Our Lady, invoked under the title “Help of Christians, Auxilium christianorum”. Cardinal Costantini in 1924 crowned her image in Sheshan, near Shanghai.

On 22 May 2016, in light of the liturgical feast of Our Lady venerated in Sheshan, Pope Francis yearned for, in the current Year of Mercy, “an authentic culture of encounter and harmony of all of society, that harmony which the Chinese spirit loves so much” [1]. This spirit finds full consonance in the Bishops of Rome who have always demonstrated maximum consideration, enormous commitment, and unbounded love for the Chinese people.

[1] All’Angelus il Papa ricorda che ogni uomo è un essere in relazione. Orizzonte trinitario. E invita a pregare per il vertice di Istanbul e per la Cina, in L’Osservatore Romano, 23-24 maggio 2016, 7. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope thanks Ventimiglia diocese for care of migrants, refugees

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the bishop of the northern Italian city of Ventimiglia, where scores of migrants and refugees have congregated in the hopes of crossing the nearby border into France.

Listen to Ann Schneible's report:

The Pope’s message, which was published on the diocesan website, comes in response to a letter from Bishop Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia – San Remo, which recounted the situation on the ground.

In the Holy Father’s letter, which was signed 17 August, he expressed his spiritual closeness with “affection and prayer” to the bishop, the entire diocese, and all those who “strive to meet the needs of these people who are escaping war and violence, in search of hope and a peaceful future.”

“I wish so much to thank you for the efforts which this diocesan community is deploying with admirable evangelical charity, establishing human, logistical, and economic resources to support these, our brothers and sisters, who are living an immense tragedy.”

Pope Francis encouraged the bishop, along with the priests, consecrated persons, pastoral workers, and other Church entities to continue with their “generous commitment to welcome and solidarity,” thereby becoming “ever more a ‘Church in exit,’ the joyful herald of the Gospel of mercy and a witness to hope.”

The Pope concluded his message by reiterating his “sincere appreciation” for the fervor of the diocesan community, and assuring them of his prayers, while bestowing on them his apostolic blessing.

(from Vatican Radio)

Open your hearts to those 'defeated by life,' Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2016 / 08:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of the Norcia earthquake, Pope Francis again offered prayers and said he hopes to visit the victims. He also reflected on the gospel call to help the poor.   “Today, Jesus gives a voice to those without a voice and asks each of us an urgent appeal to open our hearts and make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, refugees, those defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and the arrogance of the strongest,” the Pope said during his Angelus message on Sunday.   He discussed the gospel parable of a wedding feast where a guest who takes the highest seat of honor must move to the lowest seat when someone of a higher rank arrives.   “Jesus makes us understand the necessity of choosing the last place, to search the smallness and obscurity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 28.   Pride and vanity are the cause of many evils in the world, the Pope explained. When we lower ourselves, then it is God who lifts us up. He highlighted the duty of Christians to be humble and he warned against seeking the reward of men instead of the reward of eternal life given by God, which is a place “close to his heart.”   The Pope led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary for victims of last week’s central Italy earthquake, saying he hopes to visit them “as soon as possible.”   Pope Francis again expressed his “spiritual closeness” to the dead and survivors of the Aug. 24 quake and said that the Church “shares their suffering and their concerns.”   The death toll from the 6.2-magnitude earthquake has reached at least 281, with more than 200 people rescued from the rubble.   The Pope’s message for the Angelus repeated his frequent call to serve those on the peripheries.   Our hospitality must not be based off of an interest in recognition or receiving something in return, the pontiff said. He quoted Jesus’ words in the Gospel that when giving a banquet “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed because they cannot repay.”   The Pope said that in Sunday’s reading, “Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged of the kingdom of God, and launches the Gospel message that it is important to serve others for love of God.”

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity. It wasn't until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa's spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.   When Mother Teresa's cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa's close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications. Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions. During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary's school in Calcutta. Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.” It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity. “She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.” Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “'I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,'” Fr. Vazhakala related. According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “'I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.'” After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.” Mother Teresa's spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta. This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.” People around the world know about Mother Teresa's visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala. Mother Teresa's motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said. Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted. She said, “I'm not going to sleep in heaven, but I'm going to work harder in another form.” Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

Pope Francis tells a fractured world: God's mercy gives hope for change

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 27, 2016 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Just as God trusts us and expects us to change, we must treat others “never based on fear but on the hope God has in our ability to change,” Pope Francis said in Saturday remarks that rejected the despair of a fractured culture.   “Which will it be: hope for change, or fear?” the Pope asked a gathering of Catholic leaders Aug. 27. “The only thing acting out of fear accomplishes is to separate, to divide, to attempt to distinguish with surgical precision one side from the other, to create false security and thus to build walls.”   By contrast, acting on the basis of hope for change and conversion is something that “encourages and incites.”   He said hope “looks to the future, it makes room for opportunity, and it keeps us moving forward.” Fear-based action bespeaks guilt and punishment, while action based on the hope of transformation “bespeaks trusting, learning, getting up, constantly trying to generate new opportunities.”   The Pope’s words came via video message to Bogota, Columbia, where the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy drew participants from all the countries of South America. Over a dozen cardinals and more than 120 bishops registered for the event, as did rectors of national Marian shrines, religious superiors, and directors of associations and new ecclesial communities. The event aims to show the communion of the churches of the Americas. It was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council.   Pope Francis said he was pleased that all the countries of America were taking part. “Given the many attempts to fragment, divide and set our peoples at odds, such events help us to broaden our horizons and to continue our handshake; a great sign that encourages us in hope,” he said.   The Pope repeated his previous lamentations of a fragmented, throwaway culture, a culture that is “tainted by the exclusion of everything that might threaten the interest of a few.”   “A culture that is leaving by the roadside the faces of the elderly, children, ethnic minorities seen as a threat,” he said. “A culture that little by little promotes the comfort of a few and increases the suffering of many others.  A culture that is incapable of accompanying the young in their dreams but sedates them with promises of ethereal happiness and hides the living memory of their elders.  A culture that has squandered the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and has shown itself incapable of caring for the richness of their lands.”   “We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable,” he added. “But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us with one program alone: to treat one another with mercy. To become neighbors to those thousands of defenseless people who walk in our beloved American land by proposing a different way of treating them.”   The Pope’s remarks drew on St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy.   “Paul minces no words: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul considers himself the worst,” the Pope explained. “He is clearly aware of who he is, he does not conceal his past or even his present.  But he describes himself in this way neither to excuse or justify himself, much less to boast of his condition.”   “For all our sins, our limitations, our failings, for all the many times we have fallen, Jesus has looked upon us and drawn near to us.  He has given us his hand and showed us mercy,” he continued. “All of us can think back and remember the many times the Lord looked upon us, drew near and showed us mercy.  All those times that the Lord kept trusting, kept betting on us. “   The Pope encouraged his audience to concentrate on remembering their sin, not their alleged merits, and to grow in “a humble and guilt-free awareness of all those times we turned away from God – we, not someone else, not the person next to us, much less that of our people – and to be once more amazed by God’s mercy.”   Mercy is not simply a beautiful word. It is a concrete act of drawing close to others and making them feel that “the last word has not yet been spoken” in their lives. These people must be treated in such a way “that those who feel crushed by the burden of their sins can feel relieved at being given another chance.”   “Paul’s God starts a movement from heart to hands, the movement of one who is unafraid to draw near, to touch, to caress, without being scandalized, without condemning, without dismissing anyone.  A way of acting that becomes incarnate in people’s lives,” the Pope added.   The way of mercy can seek what is best for the other person “in a way they can understand.”   He noted the action of the merciful father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He said that Christians are sometimes tempted to be scandalized, like the older son in the parable who begrudged his father’s mercy towards his wayward brother.   “We might be scandalized that he did not upbraid him but instead treated him for what he was: a son,” the pontiff continued. Pope Francis suggested this is due to “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” which is “when we forget how the Lord has treated us, when we begin to judge and divide people up.”   “We take on a separatist mindset that, without our realizing it, leads us to fragment our social and communal reality all the more,” he said. “We fragment the present by creating ‘groups’.  Groups of good and bad, saints and sinners.”   What made St. Paul a disciple was “the trust God showed in him despite his many sins.” If we have the best plans, projects and theories about what to do, but lack mercy, “our pastoral work will be cut off midway.”   He questioned whether the bishops teach the path of showing mercy in their pastoral plans, parish structures, seminaries, missionary activity, clergy meetings and theology.   “Today we are asked especially to show mercy to God’s holy and faithful people – they know a lot about being merciful because they have a good memory –, to the people who come to our communities with their sufferings, sorrows and hurts,” the Pope exhorted. “But also to the people who do not come to our communities, yet are wounded by the paths of history and hope to receive mercy.”   “Mercy is learned, because our Father continues to forgive us.  Our peoples already have enough suffering in their lives; they do not need us to add to it,” the Pope said. “To learn to show mercy is to learn from the Master how to become neighbors, unafraid of the outcast and those ‘tainted’ and marked by sin. To learn to hold out our hand to those who have fallen, without being afraid of what people will say. Any treatment lacking mercy, however just it may seem, ends up turning into mistreatment.”   Pope Francis encouraged the Catholic cardinals, bishops, and other leaders to be grateful that God “trusts us to repeat with his people the immense acts of mercy he has shown us.”

The happiest day of Mother Teresa's life

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s been said that saints often come in pairs. Sts. Peter and Paul, Mary and Joseph, Francis and Clare, and Louis and Zelie Martin are just a handful of such saints, coupled together through marriage or friendship. Perhaps the best-known modern saintly pair of friends would be Mother Teresa and John Paul II, whose lives intersected many times during her time as Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and his pontificate. When John Paul II came to visit Mother Teresa’s home in the heart of the slums in Kolkata in 1986, Mother Teresa called it “the happiest day of my life.” When he arrived, Mother Teresa climbed up into the white popemobile and kissed the ring of the Bishop of Rome, who then kissed the top of Mother’s head, a greeting they would exchange almost every time they met. After their warm hello, Mother took John Paul II to her Nirmal Hriday (Sacred Heart) home, a home for the sick and the dying she had founded in the 1950s. Footage of the visit shows Mother Teresa leading John Paul II by the hand to various parts of the home, while he stops to embrace, bless, and greet the patients. He also blessed four corpses, including that of a child. According to reports of the visit from the BBC, the Pope was “visibly moved” by what he saw during his visit, as he helped the nuns feed and care for the sick and the dying. At some points the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw that he found himself speechless in response to Mother Teresa. Afterwards, the Pope gave a short address outside the home, calling Nirmal Hriday “a place that bears witness to the primacy of love.” “When Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples how they could best show their love for him, he said: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Through Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and through the many others who have served here, Jesus has been deeply loved in people whom society often considers ‘the least of our brethren,’” the Pope remarked. “Nirmal Hriday proclaims the profound dignity of every human person. The loving care which is shown here bears witness to the truth that the worth of a human being is not measured by usefulness or talents, by health or sickness, by age or creed or race. Our human dignity comes from God our Creators in whose image we are all made. No amount of privation or suffering can ever remove this dignity, for we are always precious in the eyes of God,” he added. After his address, the Pope greeted the gathered crowds, making a special stop to greet the smiling and singing sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. Besides calling the visit the happiest day of her life, Mother Teresa also added: "It is a wonderful thing for the people, for his touch is the touch of Christ." The two remained close friends, visiting each other several times over the years. After her death in 1997, John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before opening her cause for canonization. At her beatification in 2003, John Paul II praised Mother Teresa’s love for God, shown through her love for the poor. “Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.”

Nonviolent politics to be the focus of next World Day of Peace

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Announced Friday, the theme Pope Francis selected for the 2017 World Day of Peace focuses on nonviolence as a political solution to what he has frequently termed a “piecemeal World War III” being waged throughout the globe. “Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” an Aug. 26 communique from the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace announcing the theme read. “The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences…Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress.” Therefore, “we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical,” the message attached to the theme said. By doing so, non-violence can take on “a more comprehensive and new meaning” composed not only of mere desire or a moral rejection of violence, barriers and destructive impulses, but also “of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.” Titled “Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” the theme for 2017’s World Day of Peace marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration, and the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Instituted by Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year. So far Pope Francis’ messages have focused on themes close to his heart, such as fraternity, an end to slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking, as well as overcoming indifference on both an individual and a political level. His messages for the event have consistently included bold pastoral and political advice for both ecclesial and international leaders, including his push for the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses. In the communique introducing the 2017 theme, it was stressed that nonviolence as a political strategy is “based on the primacy of law.” If the equal rights and dignity of each individual are respected without discrimination, “then non-violence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts.” Pope Francis’ aim in choosing this theme, the statement read, is to show “a path of hope” that’s proportionate to the context of today’s global circumstances. “In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict.” With this perspective in mind, the cultural identity of different peoples will be respected, and the idea that some are “morally superior” to others will be overcome. The statement cautioned that nonviolence isn’t the same as remaining indifferent to tragedies, but rather implies a recognition “of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.” “Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated,” the statement read, adding that illegal arms trafficking supports “not a few world’s conflicts,” and nonviolence as a political style “can and must do much to stem this scourge.”

In rare interview, Benedict XVI names his favorite saints

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Since he resigned from the papacy over three years ago, Benedict XVI rarely gives interviews. In a recent exception, however, the former pontiff took the time to chat not only about his successor, but the saints who've accompanied him throughout his life. In the interview, published Aug. 24 in Italian newspaper La Reppublica, Benedict said he has been serene and happy since his resignation, and that while there were “smaller and larger difficulties” in his pontificate, there were also “many graces” that came from the fact that he wasn’t alone. “From the beginning I was conscious of my limits and I accepted, as I have always sought to do in my life, in a spirit of obedience,” he said. “I realized that all I had to do I couldn’t do alone and so I was almost forced to put myself in the hands of God, to entrust myself to Jesus, to whom, as I gradually wrote my volume on him (Jesus of Nazareth), I felt bound by an old and ever deeper friendship.” Aside from Jesus himself, Benedict said Mary also played a key role in supporting him through the difficulties he faced. Moments when he felt particularly close to her, he said, were when he was “reciting the holy rosary and in the visits to the Marian sanctuaries.” While Jesus and his Holy Mother are certainly first on the list for any Pope to turn to, Benedict also named several individual saints and Fathers of the Church who have played a key role throughout his life and pontificate. He said his “travel companions for life” have always been “St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure,” whom he referred to as “my masters of the Spirit.” The retired pontiff also pointed to his namesake, St. Benedict, whose motto “Prefer nothing to Christ” became “ever more familiar” throughout his time as Bishop of Rome. Finally, and a bit ironically, Benedict said that St. Francis, “the poor man of Assisi,” has been another close companion on his journey. St. Francis, he said, was “the first to intuit that the world is the mirror of the creative love of God, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.” As a side note, while it was Pope Francis who penned the environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015, Benedict XVI had long been referred to as the “Green Pope” for the emphasis he placed on creation. It was he who had solar panels installed on the roof of the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, pushing for the small city-state to become a completely carbon-free zone. Benedict said the consolation he received during his pontificate came not just from above, but arrived daily through the letters of “humble and simple people that wanted to inform me that they were close to me, that they prayed for me.” This support, he said, hasn’t stopped, but “has continued even after my resignation, for which I can be only grateful to the Lord and to all those who have expressed and still are manifesting their affection.” Speaking about Pope Francis, Benedict said that obedience to his successor “was never in discussion,” but that since Francis’ election, a feeling of “deep communion and friendship” has arisen between the two. “At the moment of his election I experienced, as many, a spontaneous feeling of gratitude toward Providence,” he said, explaining that after having two Pope’s from Central Europe, “the Lord was turning, so to speak, his gaze to the Universal Church and invited us to a more extensive communion, more Catholic.” Benedict said he was deeply moved by Pope Francis’ “extraordinary human availability to me” from the beginning. He noted how immediately after Francis was elected, the new Pope attempted to call him at his residence in the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery. Having failed to reach him, Francis called again right after greeting faithful from the balcony of St. Peter’s, this time succeeding. Pope Francis “spoke to me with great  warmth,” Benedict recalled, noting that since that day “he has given me the gift of a wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship.” Not only does Francis frequently send “little gifts” and personal letters to Benedict, but he also makes sure to visit his predecessor before embarking on every major trip he takes. “The human benevolence with which he treats me, is for me a special grace of this last phase of my life for which I can only be grateful,” Benedict said. “What he says about availability to other men, are not only words. He puts it into practice with me. May the Lord in turn make him feel his benevolence every day. This I ask the Lord for him.” Benedict’s interview was given to Italian author Elio Guerrero, whose book “Servant of God and Humanity: The biography of Benedict XVI,” will be released Aug. 30 in Italian. Not only does the book include a preface by Pope Francis himself, but it will also feature Guerrero’s entire interview with Benedict XVI. There is currently no date announced for an English publication of the book.

Pope names Mexican-born priest as new auxiliary bishop of Denver

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 07:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, Pope Francis appointed Mexico native Fr. Jorge Rodriguez, former professor and Vice-Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary, as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver. “Father Rodriguez is a passionate pastor and teacher of the faith, and he will serve this archdiocese well in the role of auxiliary bishop,” Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila said in an Aug. 25 press release announcing the priest’s appointment. Fr. Rodriguez, 61, has been pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colo. since 2014, as well as an adjunct professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. The announcement of his appointment as auxiliary bishop came in an Aug. 25 communique from the Vatican. Asked about his first-hand experience with the growing Hispanic Catholic community in Denver, Fr. Rodriguez told “Denver Catholic,” the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, that it is not about numbers so much as it is about their “vitality and live expressions of their Catholic faith.” The challenge, Fr. Rodriguez said, is in helping the Hispanic community integrate into the U.S. Church without losing the values of their cultural and Catholic religious identity. “My experience with this community is that the faithful have a great love for the Eucharist; a tender devotion to the Mother of our Lord, Our Lady of Guadalupe; show sincere support for the Holy Father and the priests; they are very generous in whatever the church needs, and their faith is sincere and uncomplicated,” he said. The bishop-elect was born March 22, 1955, in Mérida, Mexico, in the state of Yucatán, where his family still resides. He joined the Legionaries of Christ after high school and was ordained a priest Dec. 24, 1987. Fr. Rodriguez was awarded a doctorate in Sacred Theology by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1994. He also received a licentiate in philosophy from the same university and a diploma in Mariology from the Marianum in Rome. From 1994-1997, he was dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and taught theology at several different pontifical universities and institutes in the city. The priest first came to Denver in 1999 at the invitation of Archbishop Charles Chaput to teach at the new St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, and to serve as associate pastor of St. Therese Parish in Aurora. He returned to Rome from 2002-2006 to serve as an associate pastor of the Roman parish Stella Maris. Fr. Rodriguez then returned to Denver again to teach at St. John Vianney and from 2007-2014 served as Vice-Rector of the seminary. He was officially placed as a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008. Fr. Rodriguez will be ordained a bishop Nov. 4, likely in Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “I would like the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Denver to know that my only wish is to serve the cause of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to serve them according to this new mission and grace I am about to receive, Fr. Rodriguez said in his interview with Denver Catholic. “It is the Lord’s work and not ours, even less mine. So the best support – and this is what I beg from them – is to keep me in their prayers.”

Life isn't black and white – teach priests to discern the gray, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 04:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with members of the Jesuit order from Poland, Pope Francis said the real life situations of everyday Catholics aren’t black and white, but rather vary on a spectrum of gray. Because of this, he stressed the need for the Church to step up formation when it comes to teaching seminarians about spiritual discernment, cautioning that many priests can’t relate to or accompany the people they counsel, since they haven’t been properly formed. “Future priests need to be formed not with general and abstract ideas, which are (overly) clear and distinct, but this fine discernment of spirits, so that they can help people in their concrete lives,” the Pope said in a speech to Polish Jesuits, published Aug. 25. Seminarians and future priests, he said, “need to truly understand this: in life not everything is black and white, white and black. No! In life shades of gray predominate. We must then teach how to discern within this gray.” Pope Francis met with a group of 28 Polish Jesuits July 30 while in Krakow for World Youth Day, which also coincided with the First Vespers of the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The participants came from two provinces and included two lay collaborators, and were accompanied by the two provincials, the director of Vatican Radio’s Polish site, former Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ and Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ, director of the Jesuit publication La Civilta’ Cattolica. In the private audience, which lasted about 40 minutes and took place at the Archbishop’s residence in Krakow, the Pope greeted each attendee individually before sitting down to respond to some questions. Since the audience was private, the text of the conversation was not made public, however, the transcript of the conversation was published in the Aug. 25 edition of La Civilta’ Cattolica. The questions posed to the Pope centered on topics such as how to dialogue with youth, what role Jesuit Universities play in the scheme of education, why he himself chose to become a Jesuit and his advice to priests for their future. However, in his typical style, after answering the questions and exchanging some gifts with the Jesuits, Francis decided to add a thought, focusing on the need for better formation in seminaries, particularly when it comes to spiritual discernment. “I ask you to work with the seminarians. Above all give them what we received from the (Spiritual) Exercises: the wisdom of discernment,” the Pope said. He said the Church today “needs to grow in her capacity for spiritual discernment,” noting that in some seminaries, formation plans place too much of an emphasis on educating “in the light of ideas that are overly clear and distinct, and therefore of acting with limits and rigidly defined ‘a priori’ criteria.” By having the rules so clearly defined, the formation turns into a formula of “you must do this, you must not do this,” and doesn’t depend on the “concrete situations” of everyday life, he said. “Therefore seminarians, becoming priests, find difficulty in accompanying the lives of many youth and adults…and many people leave the confessional disappointed.” Francis stressed that this isn’t because “the priest is bad,” but rather comes from the fact that the priest doesn’t have the ability “to discern situations, of accompanying in authentic discernment. He doesn’t have the necessary formation.” The Pope said the art of spiritual direction is “not only a priestly charisma, but also lay,” however, it’s more important for priests to master, since they “need it in their ministry.” Priests “routinely receive the confidences of the consciences of the faithful,” he said, adding that because of this, spiritual discernment needs to be taught “above all to priests, to help them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment.” Francis said pastoral discernment “respects the law,” but can also “go beyond.” Turning to 20th century Jesuit Fr. Hugo Rahner, brother of famous Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, the Pope said Hugo had written that “a Jesuit should be a man of supernatural instinct.” “That is, he should be equipped with a sense of the divine and a sense of the diabolic related to the events of human life and history,” he said. “The Jesuit must therefore be able to discern whether it’s in the field of God or in the field of the devil.” What Hugo wrote, he said, “is bold, it’s truly bold, but this is discernment!”

Coming soon: a meeting between Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2016 / 12:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the Primate of the Anglican Communion, will meet in Rome Oct. 5 to celebrate First Vespers in the Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio. Although the meeting hasn’t been made official yet, the news was confirmed to CNA by a high ranking member of the Anglican Communion in Rome. Other sources have since confirmed that the meeting will be held Oct. 5. While the schedule has yet to be completely defined, Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby are set to meet amid two busy days in Rome for the Anglican primate. The two will celebrate First Vespers in San Gregorio al Celio Oct. 5. The next day they will have a private meeting that could signal a new phase in ecumenical relations.   Archbishop Welby will likely have a meeting at the Gregorian University and another at the Lay Center, an educational institution based in Rome. The Lay Center welcomes ecumenical students from other Christian churches and ecclesial communities, as well as those from non-Christian religions. Archbishop Welby has already met with Pope Francis twice in the Vatican, the first time being June 14, 2013, and the second June 16, 2014. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Rome falls at the climax of a journey that has witnessed the first Catholic celebration in 450 years at the Royal Chapel of Hampton Court – the Chapel that King Henry VIII confiscated from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who refused to declare annulled the king’s marriage with Catherine of Aragon. The first report of a new meeting between the Pope and the Anglican primate came from one of the Camaldolese monks from the monastery associated with the San Gregorio al Cielo basilica. The location of the papal meeting is highly significant given its historical context for the Anglican community. Father Innocenzo Gargano, a former prior of the monastery, remarked on the visit during a May 19 event on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si.”   The monk noted that the 1450-year-old San Gregorio al Celio had an important link to Britain. From there, Pope Gregory the Great sent the monk Augustine with 40 companions to evangelize the island. Fr. Gargano said this is why Anglicans consider San Gregorio al Celio their “motherhouse.” If the meeting does take place as expected, it will be the fourth between a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury to take place in the Basilica San Gregorio al Celio. The first meeting took place in September 1989, when St. John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie met. Later, St. John Paul II welcomed Archbishop John Carey at the basilica in June 2002. Finally, the third and most recent meeting took place when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Vespers at San Gregorio with Archbishop Rowan Williams in March 2012. Archbishop Welby is also expected to be a special guest at the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi Sept. 18-20.  

Pope John Paul I to be honored with museum in northern Italy

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2016 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday a museum dedicated to Pope John Paul I will officially be inaugurated in the hometown of the “Smiling Pope,” whom Pope Francis has often quoted when speaking on the topic of mercy. Though his papal reign is among the shortest in history, summing up to just 33 days, Pope John Paul I was in office long enough to leave a mark. Albino Luciani was born Oct. 17, 1912, in Canale d’Agordo, located in Italy’s northern Veneto region and which sits just over 400 miles from Rome.      At the age of 65, he was elected Bishop of Rome, taking the name Pope John Paul I. He was the first Pope to take a double-name, honoring his two immediate predecessors St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI. However, his reign was short-lived, as he died suddenly after only 33 days in office, presumably from a heart attack. Despite the fact that John Paul I’s papacy is among the shortest in history, it will now be honored with a museum featuring important documents, personal items and objects used by the Pope. Although there’s been a temporary photo exhibit in Canale d’Agordo since 1978, the display has been renovated and expanded for the new museum, which is located in the city’s old town hall and will be officially inaugurated by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin Aug. 26. Called the “Albino Luciani Museum,” the launch date was chosen to coincide with the 38th anniversary of John Paul I’s election to the papacy. Cardinal Parolin, who grew up in the same region, will celebrate Mass in the afternoon before the official inauguration ceremony begins. Concelebrating with him will be the Bishop of Belluno-Feltre, Renato Marangoni, as well as the diocese’s Bishop Emeritus Giuseppe Andrich. Since the papacy of “Papa Luciani” was so short, coupled with the fact that it’s sandwiched between the legacy of giants such as St. John XXII, Bl. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, not many people are familiar with who John Paul I actually was, let alone his homilies and writings. However, he is someone that has consistently shown up in the speeches of his current successor, Pope Francis, who seems to find a certain resonance with the way in which John Paul I spoke about mercy. In his recent book-lengthy interview with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli “The Name of God is Mercy,” Francis quoted each of his predecessors since the Second Vatican Council. However, the one he referred to the most was by far John Paul I. When asked about who he has in mind when speaking about merciful priests, Pope Francis immediately referenced a homily from then-Cardinal Luciani, who used St. Leopold Mandic’s example of a destitute donkey to illustrate what mercy looks like. If a donkey is walking along the road and falls on the cobblestones, one must not “go there with a stick to beat it, poor little thing. It’s already unfortunate enough,” the cardinal had said. Instead, he said a person should take the donkey by the halter and help it up, saying “up, let’s take to the road again…Now we will get back on the road, and we will pay more attention next time.” In his interview, Pope Francis also quoted a 1958 homily by Luciani when was named bishop of Vittorio Veneto. In it, the future Pope said he had been chosen “because the Lord preferred that certain things not be engraved in bronze or marble but in the dust, so that if the writing had remained it would have been clear that the merit was all and only God’s.” Francis marveled to his interviewer how Luciani, as bishop and future Pope, had referred to himself as merely “dust.” He also referred to a general audience given by Luciani after his election as John Paul I, during which the Pope had expressed a strikingly similar opinion to Francis in that true humility comes from the constant awareness of one’s sinfulness. In the audience, which was quoted by Pope Francis in his interview, Luciani said “the Lord loves humility so much that sometimes he permits serious sins. Why? In order that those who committed these sins may, after repenting, remain humble.” Francis noted that a few days later, on separate occasion, John Paul I had insisted that “God hates faults because they are faults. On the other hand, however, in a certain sense he loves faults, since they give him an opportunity to show his mercy and us an opportunity to remain humble and to understand and to sympathize with our neighbors’ faults.” So while Pope John Paul I, declared a “Servant of God” by his successor St. John Paul II in 2003, is likely somewhat unknown to most, it could be said that he was perhaps ahead of his time, and that Pope Francis is carrying his legacy forward. In fact, John Paul I’s cause for canonization is currently being studied by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and could advance before too long. During his homily at Mass in the Belluno cathedral July 20, 2014, Emeritus Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone announced that a document, called the “posisio,” advancing the beatification of John Paul I was ready, and would be given to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that autumn. The beatification process had been stalled because the “positio” had not been completed. The positio is the document that the postulator prepares, presenting the “pros” and “cons” of a person's possible beatification. A miracle has already been attributed to the intercession of John Paul I: the 1992 healing of Giuseppe Denora, from the Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti. Denora was suddenly healed from a malignant tumor in the stomach after seeking the late Pope's intercession. However, the reputed miracle still awaits the approval of both the council of doctors and the council of theologians who work for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Should John Paul I’s cause advance to the next stage, he would then be called “Venerable.”