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Pope: No revenge, pray for those who wrong you

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday afternoon made a visit to the parish of Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus in the suburbs of Rome. During Mass, he stressed, that the path to holiness was forgiveness and prayer and that revenge and resentment has no place in the Christian life.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report

Sunday afternoon was an away day for Pope Francis. He made a visit to the Roman parish of Saint Maria Josefa in Ponte di Nona in the east of the city. After greeting parishioners and meeting with a group of children, the Pope celebrated Mass telling the congregation present, never to go down the road of revenge or resentment. Instead, he said, “pray for those who want to do evil: this prevents wars and brings peace.” It is also, the Pope added, the “Christian path to holiness.”

Drawing from the readings of the day, Pope Francis spoke about the path to perfection, holiness and sainthood. Jesus, the Holy Father said, explained concretely in the Gospel the necessary tools that are needed to travel this road. He said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I tell you not to resist evil.” That, the Pope stressed means, no revenge. If I have a heart full of resentment and want revenge, he continued, that takes away my holiness.

Someone saying, “you did this to me and you will pay for this”, is not the language of a  Christian. Instead, Pope Francis underlined, God tells us to pray for those who slander us.

The Pope went on to say that the great wars we see in the news and in newspapers about the massacre of people, of children is the same hatred that you have in your heart for a certain relative.

“To forgive from the heart”. This Pope Francis said, was the road of "sanctity."

If God “is merciful, holy and perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like him”. This, the Pope observed is “sanctity”: a man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized, become holy. The “Christian life is simple”, he said .

Prayer, observed the Holy Father  is “an antidote against hatred, against wars.” If someone doesn’t  like you, pray for them, because powerful prayer, stressed Pope Francis, overcomes evil and brings peace.

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Christ's law of love overcomes law of retaliation

(Vatican Radio) During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis said the day’s Gospel – part of the Sermon on the Mount, from the Gospel of Saint Matthew – is one of the Biblical passages that best expresses the Christian “revolution.”

In the day’s Gospel reading, he said, “Christ shows the path of true justice, through the law of love that overcomes that of retaliation, that is, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.” Jesus, he continued, does not ask His disciples simply to bear evils patiently, but to return good for evil: “Only in this way can the chains of evil be broken, and things can truly change.”

Pope Francis notes that for Jesus, the refusal to return evil for evil goes so far as to sometimes involve giving up a legitimate right: turning the other cheek, or giving up one’s cloak, or making other sacrifices. But, he said, “this renunciation doesn’t mean that the needs of justice should be ignored or contradicted; on the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, represents a superior realization of justice.”

Jesus, the Pope said, wants to teach us the distinction between justice and vengeance: “We are allowed to ask for justice; it is our duty to practice justice. On the other hand, we are forbidden to revenge ourselves or to encourage vengeance in any way, insofar as it is an expression of hatred or of violence.”

In fact, Christ’s law of love calls on us to love even our enemies. This, Pope Francis said, should not be seen as an approval of their wicked actions, but as “an invitation to a higher perspective, like that of the heavenly Father, who makes His sun to rise on the wicked and the good.” Even our enemies, the Pope explained, are human persons, created in the image of God – even if that image is sometimes obscured by evil acts. Christ calls us to respond to our enemies with goodness, inspired by love.

Before leading the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed that the Virgin Mary might help us follow “this demanding path” set out by Jesus, “which truly exalts human dignity, and makes us live as children of our Father Who is in heaven.” The Holy Father prayed that Mary might help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and to be artisans of communion and of fraternity in our daily life.”

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Open hearts with the Gospel message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday  received the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception who are in Rome for their General Chapter, telling them to open hearts with the Gospel message.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report

The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception was founded, in 1673, in Poland and works in 26 countries around the world.

In prepared remarks to the participants of the Congregation’s General Chapter on Saturday, Pope Francis told them that the example of their founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who was canonized last year, was both the light and guide of their walk and fully understood the meaning of being a disciple of Christ.

In this perspective, the Pope said, “your service of the Word is the witness of the Risen Christ, that you have encountered on your path…” adding, that they were called to spread the Gospel message wherever they are sent.

The Pope also underlined that Christian witness requires engagement with and for the poor, noting it was a commitment that has characterized the Congregation.

The Holy Father encouraged the Marian Fathers to  keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and the humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel, along with the works of mercy and prayers for the souls of the faithfully departed.

He continued by saying that “the great challenge of inculturation asks you today to announce the Good News in languages ​​and ways understandable to the men and women of our time, involved in rapid social and cultural transformation processes.

The horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to bear witness to the Gospel message, without distinction, the Pope said “constitute the vast field of your apostolate.” Many people, the Holy Father observed, “are still waiting to know Jesus, the one Redeemer of man.”

Such an urgent mission, Pope Francis underlined, “requires personal and community conversion. Only fully open hearts to the action of Grace”, he said, “are able to interpret the signs of the times and to seize the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.”

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends message to popular movements meeting in California

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to hundreds of faith and community leaders taking part in a regional meeting of popular movements in Modesto, California, in the United States.

The encounter, taking place from February 16th to 18th, has been organised with the support of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the U.S. Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the National Network of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO).

Philippa Hitchen reports: 

We must become good neighbours to any person in need. That was Pope Francis’ message to the leaders of popular movements that are working for structural changes in society to promote greater social, economic and racial justice.

Reflecting on the current global crisis, driven by what he called the “invisible tyranny of money”, the Pope said we must find opportunities to respond with compassion to those suffering most from the violence, corruption and injustice in our societies.

The god of money leaves people by the wayside

Speaking of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis said  an economic system that has the god of money at its center can act with the same brutality as the robbers in that story. While we try to ignore the injuries it causes, he said, the suffering is televised live yet “nothing is done systematically to heal the wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside”

Shifting blame for society's ills

But Pope Francis told the leaders of grassroots organizations that “the system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong”. When it can no longer be denied, he said, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating peoples’ fear, insecurity and indignation in order to shift the responsibility onto a “non-neighbour” who can be blamed for society’s ills.

Follow the example of the Good Samaritan

We must follow the examples of the Samaritan and the innkeeper, the Pope said, by providing practical support for those suffering in body and spirit. He urged the popular movements to persevere in combatting the ecological crisis and in standing alongside migrants or those who are branded as criminals or terrorists.

No people is criminal, no religion is terrorist

No people is criminal and no religion is terrorist, he insisted, adding that there are fundamentalists and violent individuals in all peoples and religions. With intolerant generalisations, he said, they become stronger, feeding on hate and xenophobia, but by confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

Please find below the full English language text of Pope Francis’ message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

            First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your effort in replicating on a national level the work being developed in the World Meetings of Popular Movements. By way of this letter, I want to encourage and strengthen each one of you, your organizations, and all who strive with you for “Land, Work and Housing,” the three T’s in Spanish: Tierra, Trabajo y Techo. I congratulate you for all that you are doing.

            I would like to thank the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its chairman Bishop David Talley, and the host Bishops Stephen Blaire, Armando Ochoa and Jaime Soto, for the wholehearted support they have offered to this meeting. Thank you, Cardinal Peter Turkson, for your continued support of popular movements from the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. It makes me very happy to see you working together towards social justice! How I wish that such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses, because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism, and intolerance. 

            I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network and the organizations promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for “People Improving Communities through Organizing”. What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements: to work locally, side by side with your neighbors, organizing among yourselves, to make your communities thrive. 

            A few months ago in Rome, we talked at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements about walls and fear, about bridges and love.  Without wanting to repeat myself, these issues do challenge our deepest values.

            We know that none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”  

            As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is “a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”  These are signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable time: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point—the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved—will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements. 

            We should be neither paralyzed by fear nor shackled within the conflict. We have to acknowledge the danger but also the opportunity that every crisis brings in order to advance to a successful synthesis. In the Chinese language, which expresses the ancestral wisdom of that great people, the word “crisis” is comprised of two ideograms: Wēi, which represents “danger”, and Jī, which represents “opportunity”.

            The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus. Herein lies the danger, the dehumanization. But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.

            The question that the lawyer asked Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) echoes in our ears today: “Who is my neighbor?” Who is that other whom we are to love as we love ourselves? Maybe the questioner expects a comfortable response in order to carry on with his life: “My relatives? My compatriots? My co-religionists? ...” Maybe he wants Jesus to excuse us from the obligation of loving pagans or foreigners who at that time were considered unclean. This man wants a clear rule that allows him to classify others as “neighbor” and “non-neighbor”, as those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.

           Jesus responds with a parable which features two figures belonging to the elite of the day and a third figure, considered a foreigner, a pagan and unclean: the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come upon a dying man, whom robbers have attacked, stripped and abandoned. In such situations the Law of the Lord imposes the duty to offer assistance, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry. However, unlike these elite figures, the Samaritan stopped. Why him? As a Samaritan he was looked down upon, no one would have counted on him, and in any case he would have had his own commitments and things to do—yet when he saw the injured man, he did not pass by like the other two who were linked to the Temple, but “he saw him and had compassion on him” (v. 33). The Samaritan acts with true mercy: he binds up the man's wounds, transports him to an inn, personally takes care of him, and provides for his upkeep. All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment, but rather means taking care of the other to the point of personally paying for him. It means committing oneself to take all the necessary steps so as to “draw near to” the other to the point of identifying with him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the Lord’s Commandment.    

            The economic system that has the god of money at its center, and that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries that to a criminal degree have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way with the pretence of innocence. Under the guise of what is politically correct or ideologically fashionable, one looks at those who suffer without touching them. But they are televised live; they are talked about in euphemisms and with apparent tolerance, but nothing is done systematically to heal the social wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside. This hypocritical attitude, so different from that of the Samaritan, manifests an absence of true commitment to humanity.

            Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor”. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity.

            Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan. And then also become like the innkeeper at the end of the parable to whom the Samaritan entrusts the person who is suffering. Who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations. It is us, it is you, to whom the Lord Jesus daily entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue pouring out all of his immeasurable mercy and salvation upon them. Here are the roots of the authentic humanity that resists the dehumanization that wears the livery of indifference, hypocrisy, or intolerance.

            I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice and share two reflections in this regard.

            First, the ecological crisis is real. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”  Science is not the only form of knowledge, it is true. It is also true that science is not necessarily “neutral”—many times it conceals ideological views or economic interests. However, we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature. I make my own everything that concerns us as Catholics. Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.

            The other is a reflection that I shared at our most recent World Meeting of Popular Movements, and I feel is important to say it again: no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”  There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

            I ask you for meekness and resolve to defend these principles. I ask you not to barter them lightly or apply them superficially. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us give everything of ourselves: where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, let us sow unity; where there is error, let us sow truth.  

            Please know that I pray for you, that I pray with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany and bless you. May He shower you with his love and protect you. I ask you to please pray for me too, and to carry on.

Vatican City, 10 February 2017   

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: to love your enemies, prayer is a game-changer

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 01:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to holiness and sainthood, Pope Francis said, requires imitating Christ by loving our enemies and praying for those who wrong us even when it is difficult. “It’s true, God the Father is merciful,” he said Feb. 19. “And you? Are you merciful, are you merciful with the people who have hurt you? Or who do not love you?” “If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like Him,” he continued. “This is holiness. A man and a woman who do this deserve to be canonized: they become saints. So simple is the Christian life.” Pope Francis gave his homily during Mass at the parish of Santa Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, where he visited Sunday. Before Mass he visited with young people, the sick, families and those in charge of the parish’s Caritas organization. He also heard the confessions of four parishioners. This was the Pope’s 13th visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome during his pontificate, and the second in just a little over a month. In his homily, the pontiff reflected on the way of holiness. This path cannot be followed if we harbor resentment or wish to exact revenge against someone. Quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the Pope said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Pray for the one who hurts me?” the Pope asked. “Yes,” he answered, “because it changes lives.” If we think it is impossible, then pray, the Pope said. Pray every day for the grace to forgive and the grace to love. The Gospel is simple, he said. “This advice: ‘Be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.’ And then: ‘You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’,” the Pope remarked. Forgiveness and prayer are the way to do this. “This is the way of holiness,” he said. “If all men and women of the world learned this, there would be no wars, there would not be.” Wars begin “in bitterness, rancor, the desire for revenge, to make someone pay. But that destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighborhoods, destroys so much,” he said. For Pope Francis, this is why we must pray always for the grace not to hold grudges and for “the grace to pray for our enemies, to pray for the people that do not love us, the grace of peace.” If we make this our daily prayer, the Pope continued, even just praying one prayer a day for our enemies, this is how we will “win” and make progress “on the path of holiness and perfection.” In the end, “evil is overcome by good,” he said, and “sin is won with generosity.” “Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against wars, these wars that start at home, which start in the neighborhood, which begin in families,” he said. The Pope said if he knows that someone wants to hurt him and does not love him, “I pray especially for him.” “Pray for there to be peace,” he said.

Pope prays for victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After leading the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence and war around the world, particularly the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Iraq, asking pilgrims to offer a moment of silence before leading them in praying the ‘Hail Mary.’ “I think, in particular, of the dear people of Pakistan and Iraq, hit by cruel terrorist acts in recent days,” the Pope said Feb. 19. “We pray for the victims, the wounded and the families. Let us pray fervently that every heart hardened by hatred is converted to peace, according to the will of God.” A suicide bomber reportedly loyal to the Islamic State attacked devotees at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, more than 90 miles northwest of Hyderabad, Feb. 16. In addition to the more than 80 killed in the attack, some 250 were wounded. The same day, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood shortly before sunset, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 60 others, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry. In his message after the Angelus, Pope Francis also highlighted the ongoing violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that he feels a strong sorrow for the victims, especially child soldiers, which he called “a tragedy.” “I strongly feel sorrow for the victims,” he said, “especially for the many children torn from their families and school to be used as soldiers.” “I assure you of my closeness and my prayer, for religious and humanitarian personnel working in that difficult region; and renew an urgent appeal to the conscience and responsibility of national authorities and the international community, so that you take appropriate and timely decisions in order to help these brothers and sisters.” Before leading the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which comes from Matthew. In it, Jesus tells his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.” In this way, “Jesus shows the way of true justice through the law of love that surpasses that of retaliation.” This is how we can “break the chain of evil, and really change things,” Francis said. “Evil is in fact a ‘vacuum’ of good,” he said, which can only be filled with good, not with another evil, “another void.” However, this doesn’t mean we are ignoring or contradicting justice, the Pope emphasized. “On the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, is a greater realization of justice.” “What Jesus wants to teach us is the distinction we have to make between justice and revenge,” he said. “Distinguish between justice and revenge. Revenge is never right.” We are allowed to seek justice – and it is our duty to do so – he explained, but to take revenge is to incite hatred and violence, which is always wrong. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also tells his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This does not mean that Jesus in any way endorses the wrongdoing or evil, Francis said. It should be understood as “an invitation to a higher perspective.” This is the same higher perspective that God the Father has, he noted, who “causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” No matter what, the Pope continued, our enemies, are in fact still human people, “created in God’s image,” although at the present time they may be tarnished by sin or error. Francis said that it’s important to remember that our “enemies” may not just be people who are different from us or who live far away, but that in many cases we can speak about even ourselves as enemies, especially to those we come into conflict with on a regular basis, such as our neighbors and family members. An enemy is anyone who commits a wrong against us, but “to all of them we are called to respond with good…inspired by love,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus on this difficult path,” he concluded, “which really enhances human dignity and makes us live as children of our Father who is in heaven.” “Help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and so to be artisans of communion and artisans of brotherhood in our daily lives.”

Want to reach humanity? Be open to God's grace, Pope says

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Christian mission today means facing new challenges with simplicity, holiness, and openness to God, Pope Francis told an audience with the Marian Fathers on Saturday. “Many still await knowledge of Jesus, the sole Redeemer of man, and many situations of injustice and moral and material hardship challenge believers,” the Pope said Feb. 18. “Such an urgent mission requires conversion at personal and community levels. Only hearts that are fully open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs of the times and to hear the calls of humanity in need of hope and peace.” The Pope told the Marian Fathers that their apostolate is a “vast field” constituted by “the urgent need” to bear witness to the gospel before everyone without distinctions.  The Pope received members of the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday morning in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall. The congregation, present in 20 countries, is holding its general chapter in Rome from Feb. 5-25. The Pope encouraged their reflections to be done in fidelity with their founder’s charism and their spiritual heritage while also having “a heart and mind open to the new needs of the people.” “It is true, we must go ahead towards the new needs, the new challenges, but remember: we cannot go ahead without memory,” Pope Francis said. “It is a continual tension. If I want to go ahead without memory of the past, of the history of the founders, the great figures and also the sins of the congregation, I cannot do so.” The Marian Fathers was founded by St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary in Poland in 1673. He was canonized in 2016. Pope Francis told the congregation’s members that their service to God’s word is “witness to the Risen Christ, whom you have met on your journey and whom, with your style of life, you are called to take wherever the Church sends you.” “Christian witness also requires commitment to and with the poor, a commitment that has characterized your Institute since the beginning,” the Pope continued. “I encourage you to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel with language understandable to them, with works of mercy and prayer for the souls of the departed.” The Pope stressed the importance of simplicity as a spiritual foundation. “We are not princes, sons of princes or counts or barons: we are simple people, of the people. And for this reason we draw close with this simplicity to the simple people and those who suffer the most: the sick, children, the abandoned elderly, the poor … all of them,” he said. “And this poverty is at the heart of the Gospel: it is the poverty of Jesus, not sociological poverty, but that of Jesus.” Pope Francis invoked the example of Blessed George Matulaitis, a member of the congregation who became Bishop of Vilnius in Lithuania. He was beatified in 1987. The Pope praised his writings for showing “the total dedication to the Church and to man.” He praised the congregation’s initiatives to spread its charism to poor countries, especially those in Africa and Asia. “The great challenge of enculturation requires that today you proclaim the Good News using languages and methods comprehensible to the men of our time, involved in processes of rapid social and cultural change,” the Pope said. The pontiff asked the Marian Fathers to show courage in their service to Jesus Christ and the Church. He said that God can draw great things out of smallness and unworthiness. “Our smallness is in fact the seed, that then germinates, grows; the Lord waters it, and in this way it goes ahead,” the Pope said. “But the sense of smallness is that first impulse towards trust in the power of God. Go, go ahead on this road.” Pope Francis prayed for the congregation’s journey of faith and growth.

Muslim refugee hails Pope Francis as the example of religion

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nur Essa, a Muslim Syrian woman whose family was brought to Rome from Lesbos by Pope Francis last April, said that the openness he has shown to those of different faiths has deeply impressed her. “For me, I was surprised,” she told CNA. “(He is) very open to all of the cultures, all of the religions, and he sets an example for all the religious people in the world, because he uses religion to serve the human being.” Essa, 31, has met the Pope on several occasions, most recently during the Pope's visit Feb. 17th to Roma Tre University, a public research university in Rome where she currently studies. She was one of four students of the university to ask the Pope a question, which he answered during his visit. Essa's question was about the integration of immigrants in Italy: what they must do to integrate into their host country, but also what the rights of the immigrant are. Before this, Essa and her husband and their little boy met Pope Francis when he brought them to Rome April 16th, 2016, along with two other Syrian refugee families who had been staying in a camp on the Island of Lesbos. She said that the Pope greeted them and blessed her son. Essa also had an opportunity to speak with him at length when they were invited to be guests at a lunch Aug. 11th at the Vatican, which Essa said was an “honor.” “He's very, very modest, a very simple man, a very real human being,” she said.   Essa has both an undergraduate degree and a master's in microbiology, and is studying biology at Roma Tre. She said that she and her husband are both from the city of Damascus in Syria and chose to flee the country because her husband had been asked to join the military service there. They went from Damascus to Turkey, and then from Turkey to Greece, where they stayed in a refugee camp for one month before they were fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the families the Pope brought back to Rome. Pope Francis visited Roma Tre University at the request of the Dean of the university, who wanted to invite a public figure for the university's 25th anniversary. According to Fr. John D'Orazio, who is a Catholic chaplain assigned to the university by the Diocese of Rome, the last pope to make a formal visit was St. John Paul II for the university’s 10th anniversary in 2002. The chaplaincy just finished constructing its first Catholic chapel for students nearby to the university, something they've been wanting to do for a long time, Fr. D'Orazio said. He said that although students don't live on campus, they still try “to create opportunities for students to meet together” and to reflect on their Catholic faith and “what it means for them in their own studies and in being citizens in today’s world and in society.” It's a very diverse campus, he said, with students of no faith or of different religions, including Muslim students. “I think it's very interesting and beautiful to be a chaplain inside of a state university,” he said, “because it means creating dialogue, creating collaboration.” “It's almost like mission work, because you're working in a place where there are all kinds of different people, different backgrounds, different points of view. So it's a good place to create bridges,” he said. “Pope Francis talks a lot about creating bridges and not walls. And I think that also the chaplaincy in a state university is all about creating bridges of dialogue and collaboration.”

Integration key to quelling fear of migrants, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 08:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” university, stressing to students the importance of dialogue, listening and integration in putting an end to the fear that can at times be generated in the face of welcoming new migrants.    “Migrations are not a danger, they are a challenge to grow,” the Pope said Feb. 17, adding that “it’s important to think well about the problem of migrants today, because there’s a migratory phenomenon that’s so strong.” “How must migrants be received? How must they be welcomed?” he asked, stressing that first, they must be viewed “as human brothers and sisters. They are men and women like us.” Second, “every country must see how many they are able to welcome,” he said, noting that while it’s true that a country shouldn’t take on more than they have the capacity to handle, each one must play their part. However, part of welcoming, he said, means “to integrate. That is, to receive these people and try to integrate them so they can learn the language, look for a job, a house, integration.” Pope Francis spoke to students during a morning visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” University, which has a school for Economics and Business Studies, with departments for architecture, economics, philosophy, communications, law, engineering, language and culture, math and physics, political science, business and humanities. After arriving and greeting the rector of the university, Professor Mario Panizza, as well as the university’s General Director and Vice Rector, the Pope listened to questions posed by four students at studying in different fields, and responded with a lengthy, off-the-cuff speech. One of the questions was posed by Nour Essa, a Syrian refugee who fled to Lesbos with her husband and young son. After spending a month in a refugee camp, they were selected to be among the 12 refugees who flew back to Rome with Pope Francis after his April 16, 2016, visit to the island. Now, almost a year later, Essa has learned Italian and is completing her studies in Agriculture and Microbiology. She asked the Pope how to overcome the fear that welcoming so many migrants into Europe will destroy its cultural identity. In his response to Essa’s question, the Pope stressed the importance of accompanying new migrants in a process of integration, and pointed to the fact that within three days of arriving in Italy, the children who came back with him from Lesbos were already in school. When three months later he invited 21 Syrian children to join him for lunch at the Vatican, they all “spoke Italian,” Francis said. “The older ones a bit less, but they all spoke it. They went to school and learned it. This is integration.” He noted that the majority of migrants who came back that day have both a job and a person to help them integrate into the culture by providing “open doors” to find work, school and housing, voicing his desire for more organizations dedicated to helping in the process of integration. On the point of the fear of losing one’s cultural identity by welcoming so many migrants, the Pope said he often asks himself “how many invasions has Europe had since the beginning? Europe was made from invasions, migrants...it was made like this in an artisanal way.” Migrants, he said, bring their own culture which is “a richness for us,” but must also receive part of the culture they come to so that a real “exchange of cultures” takes place. “Yes, there is fear, but the fear is not only of migrants,” but of those who commit crimes, he said, and, pointing to the bombing of an airport and subway in Belgium last year, noted that the persons who carried out the attacks “were Belgians, born in Belgium.” They were the children of migrants, but migrants that had been “ghettoized,” rather than integrated, he said, explaining that fostering respect for one another can “take away” this fear of different cultures. In addition to responding to Essa’s question, Pope Francis also took questions from three other students studying in different fields at the university. The students were Roman-born Niccolo Romano, who asked about how universities can work maintain their “communis patria,” or “common homeland” for all; Giulia Trifilio, who asked the Pope what “medicine” is needed in order to combat violent acts in the world; and Riccardo Zucchetti, who asked how students can work to constructively build society in an increasingly changing and globalized world. In response to Trifilio’s question on how to put an end to the violent acts humanity at times seems prone to throughout the world, the Pope spoke about the importance of language and “the tone” that’s frequently used, even in casual conversations. Whether at home or on the street, many people today “yell,” he said, explaining that unfortunately “there is also violence” in the way people express themselves. He also pointed to the arbitrary greetings between even family members, who in a morning rush pass by with a quick, yet meaningless “hey” while on the way out the door. Even these seemingly small things, he said, “make violence” because they make the other person “anonymous,” taking away their name. “There’s a person in front of us with a name, but I greet you like you are a thing,” he said, noting that this starts at the interpersonal level, but “grows and grows and grows and becomes global.” “No one can deny that we are at war. This is a third world war in pieces,” Francis said, adding that “we need to lower the tone a bit; to speak less and listen more.” As a remedy, the Pope suggested the ability to listen and receive what the other person is saying as the first “medicine” to take, with dialogue as a second. “Dialogue draws near, not only to the person, but hearts. It makes friendship. It makes social friendship,” he said, adding that where there is no dialogue, “there is violence.” “I spoke of war. It’s true, we are at war, but wars don’t start there, they start in your heart, in our hearts, when I am not able to open myself to others, to respect others, to speak with others, to dialogue with others, war starts there.” This must also be practiced at the university level, he said, explaining that a university must be a place where discussion takes place among students, professors and groups. If this doesn’t happen, “it isn’t a university.” Pope Francis cautioned against what he termed as “university of the elite,” or the so-called “ideological universities” where students go, are taught one line of thinking, and then prepared “to make an agenda of this ideology” in society. “That is not a university,” he said. “I go to university to learn, yes, but to learn to live the truth, to seek the truth, to seek goodness, to live beauty and seek beauty. This is done together on a university path that never finishes.” In response to the question about building up society amid rapid changes and increasing globalization, the Pope said an important lesson that has to be learned is to “take like as it comes.” With so many changes mean there is a great need for flexibility, he said, using the example of being ready to catch a ball from whatever direction it comes in. He also emphasized the importance of unity, which is “totally different than uniformity.” Unity, he said, means “to be one among differences. Unity in diversity.” Since we are living in “an age of globalization,” Francis said it would be “a mistake” to think of globalization like a ball in which each point is equally far from the center. If organized this way, “everything is uniform” and there is no differences, he said, but stressed that “this uniformity is the destruction of unity, because it takes away the possibility of being different.” On the rapid pace of communications in modern society, Pope Francis recognized that “an acceleration” is taking place, and pointed to the rule of the Law of Gravity, that as an object falls faster as it nears its destination. “Today communications are like this with the danger of not having the time to stop oneself, to think, to reflect, and this is important, to get used to communicating, but without the sensation of ‘rapidity,’” he said. At times communication goes so fast that it “can become liquid, without consistency,” so the challenge is one of “transforming this liquidity into concreteness,” Francis said, explaining that same concept also goes for the economy. Using “concreteness” as his keyword for the point, the Pope said the “drama of today’s economy” is that there is a liquid economy, which leads to “a liquid society” with a high rate of unemployment. Francis pointed to several European countries as examples and, without naming them, noted that specifically youth unemployment rates in several vary from 40-60 percent. “I ask you the question: our dear mother Europe, the identity of Europe, how can one think that developed countries have youth unemployment so strong?” he said, explaining that the numbers are evidence that “this liquidity of the economy takes the concreteness of work, and takes the culture of work because one can’t work.” In the absence of work, youth “don’t know what to do” and in the end fall into addictions or suicide, he said, adding that according to what he’s heard, “the true statistics of youth suicide are not published. The publish something, but it’s not the true statistics.” Some youth even fall into terrorist groups, telling themselves “at least I have something to do that gives meaning to my life,” the Pope observed, adding that “it’s terrible.” In order to solve the problems created by this type of “liquid economy,” concreteness is needed, he said, “otherwise it can’t be done.” Universities must be the place in which this happens, he said, telling the students that “in the dialogue among you, also look for solutions to propose. The real problems against this liquid culture.”

Why Pope Francis cheers for the Special Olympics

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 01:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis received a delegation from the Special Olympics on Thursday, reflecting on the power of the event to spread joy and hope. The Pope suggested that joy is at the heart of all sports: “the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day.” “Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event – for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves – we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!” the Pope said. “We can learn from you to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.” The Special Olympics World Winter Games will take place in the Austrian state of Styria in March. Pope Francis received the delegation at Clementine Hall Feb. 16. The delegation included athletes, organizers, and other representatives, including Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl of Graz-Seckau, whose diocese covers the state of Styria. Pope Francis told them sports help to spread “a culture of encounter and solidarity.” “Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” he said. “You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.” “Every life is precious, every person is a gift and inclusion enriches every community and society,” the Pope continued. “This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.” “Sport is good for the body and the soul, and allows us to improve the quality of our lives,” he said. “The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden.” Pope Francis praised the athletes’ dedication and cited the Special Olympics athlete’s oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” “The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be a wonderful moment in your lives,” he told the delegation. “I wish you joyful days together, and time with friends from around the world. I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, and upon you, your families, and all participants, I invoke divine blessings. And, please, pray for me too.”

War begins in the heart and ends in the world, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis warned in his homily Thursday that envy, greed, and hate in the heart will breed war, violence, and murder in the world.   “War begins in here and finishes out there. The news we see in the papers or on television… Today so many people die, and that seed of war, which breeds envy, jealousy, and greed in my heart, is the same – grown up, become a tree – as the bomb which falls on a hospital, on a school, and kills children,” said the Pope in a reflection of the damage of war during morning Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta Feb. 16. Drawing from the story in Genesis of the dove returning to Noah after the flood, the Pope said God gave the rainbow and the dove to demonstrate his promise and desire for peace to reign in the world among every people. But he said the signs also represent how fragile peace can be. He said the dove is “a sign of what God desired after the flood: peace, that is, that all would live in peace…The dove and the rainbow are fragile. The rainbow is beautiful after a storm, but then a cloud comes and it disappears.” God’s covenant is strong, but our commitment to it is weak, he said in reference to the example of Cain and Abel. “The Covenant which God makes is strong, but we accept it in weakness. God makes peace with us but it is not easy to care for peace. It is a daily task, because within each of us is that seed of original sin, that is, the spirit of Cain which – for envy, jealousy, greed, and the desire to dominate – leads to war.” Pope Francis maintained that the responsibility of peace falls on every person; that we “are our brothers’ keeper, and when there is blood spilt, there is sin, and God will demand an accounting… of the blood of our brothers and sisters who are suffering war.” “In today’s world there is blood being spilt. Today the world is at war. Many brothers and sisters are dying, even innocent people, because the great and powerful want a larger slice of the earth; they want a little more power, or they want to make a little more money on arms trafficking,” he said, citing the current proxy wars and conflicts fueled by weapon dealers. Every man is a delegate of peace and has an obligation to ensure less blood is spilled in the future, he said referring to how war first festers in homes with families and friends. “How do I care for peace in my heart, in my interior, and in my family? Care for peace; not only care for it but make it with your hands every day. Just so will we succeed in spreading it throughout the whole world.” Pope Francis gave a childhood story in which his mother and their neighbor rejoiced at the end of a war; how both woman cried tears of joy while sirens in their Argentine town declared peace. He concluded the homily with a prayer for a grace of peace in our daily lives. “May the Lord give us the grace to say: ‘War is finished...War is finished in my heart; war is finished in my family; war is finished in my neighborhood; war is finished in my workplace; war is finished in the world.’ In this way shall the dove, rainbow, and Covenant be strengthened.”

Cardinal Burke sent to Guam to oversee sex abuse trial

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-   The Vatican has sent Cardinal Raymond Burke to Guam to act as presiding judge at the trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was removed from office in June 2016 following allegations of child sex abuse.   Cardinal Burke is a canon lawyer and former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See's highest court. He currently serves as the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, where he has clashed with the Holy See over the removal of the Grand Chancellor of the Knights. He is also one of four cardinals who signed the controversial dubia, a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify parts of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.   Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), appointed Cardinal Burke to the Guam trial.   Archbishop Apuron has denied the allegations against him and has not been criminally charged. Most of the allegations involve sexual abuse of altar boys in the 1970s.   On Thursday, the AP reported that one of Archbishop Apuron’s accusers refused to appear before the Vatican court, despite a request from Cardinal Burke for testimony. Attorney David Lujan, representing former altar boy Roland Sondia, told the AP that the proceedings were "worse" than he had expected because he wasn't allowed to be present to advise his client, who was to have been "questioned by the prosecutor, who is a priest, and Archbishop Apuron's lawyer, who is a priest, and a presider who is Cardinal Burke, and a notary who is also a priest."   "We felt it wasn't in my client's best interest to be in that position," he said. He said Sondia may submit a written declaration instead.   Many of the allegations against Archbishop Apuron became public last year, after full-page ads sponsored by Concerned Catholics of Guam encouraged anyone who had been abused by clergy to come forward, according to reports from Pacific Daily News.   Following the new allegations, the Archdiocese created a new Task Force for the Protection of Minors and a new Victims Support group to aid in the counseling and support of victims and their families.   “The Church on Guam has a duty and desire to render pastoral care to all of its faithful, most especially those who have been severely wounded by those holding trusted positions in our Archdiocese. We are strengthening our work in this area and pledge to provide a safe environment for all children and all people entrusted in our care,” the Archdiocese said in a November statement.   In November 2016, Pope Francis appointmented Detroit Bishop Michael Jude Byrnes as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana. He replaced Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, who was sent to Guam by the Vatican in June to temporarily replace Apuron.   Archbishop Apuron is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, a group within the Church that has also clashed with other Catholics on the island over the past few years.   Besides sexual allegations, Archbishop Apuron has also been accused of mishandling control over the island’s seminary, reportedly using it as a Neocatechumenal seminary rather than a diocesan seminary, which led to the withdrawal of all Samoan students. Guam’s Carmelite nuns also relocated to California last year over issues with Apuron.   Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific, with a population of 165,124. Approximately 85 percent of the island’s citizens identify as Catholic.

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 04:42 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. This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 27, 2016.

In latest round of meetings, papal advisors cover court, bishop selection

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met for the 18th time this week to continue discussion on reforming the Roman Curia, focusing on how new bishops are chosen and the streamlining of several offices, including the Vatican tribunals. According to a Feb. 15 Vatican communique, after opening their meetings with a declaration of support for Pope Francis and his reform efforts, the cardinals “have begun to examine the ‘Diaconia of Justice,’” and so dedicated a good chunk of this week’s meetings to the three Vatican tribunals. The tribunals are the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. In a nutshell, the Apostolic Penitentiary is the court in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura, as it’s called, functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage annulment cases are judged. In addition to the tribunals, the cardinals also dedicated a portion of the discussion to “the process for selecting candidates for the episcopate,” a topic that’s been on the table for some time. Each of the nine members of the council were present for the entirety of the Feb. 13-15 round of meetings, with the addition of Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, who gave an update on his dicastery’s work. In keeping with their custom, the cardinals concelebrated Mass with the Pope in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse the first two days of the meeting. As usual, Pope Francis was present for the majority of the sessions apart from Monday morning, when he met the Costa Rican bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, and Wednesday morning, during which he participated in the weekly general audience. The cardinals, in addition to speaking about the tribunals and bishop selection, continued to discuss points brought up during the last round of meetings, including the possible restructuring of the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fides) and Oriental Churches and the Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Cardinal Pell gave a presentation on work of Secretariat for the Economy and the continuing reform of Vatican finances, giving special emphasis to “the formation of personnel and human resources.” Msgr. Vigano offered his presentation on communications Monday afternoon, focusing at length on the consolidation of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center. It was noted in the Vatican communique that on this point, several meetings have already taken place with the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for the Economy, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) and the Labor Office. Mention was also made of the plan to “restructure radio frequencies” and of a new policy for social how to handle social media. A brief reflection was also given on a project for reforming the Vatican Publishing House. Before discussion began, however, the cardinals kicked off the first day of meetings by issuing a statement reaffirming their support for Pope Francis and his work after the pontiff received some harsh blowback for his reform in the days preceding the gathering. On Monday Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga greeted the Pope on behalf of the group at the start of their first session, thanking Francis for his Dec. 22 address to the Roman Curia and acknowledging “his encouragement and direction for the work of the council.” “In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium,” it added. The statement came out just over a week after posters criticizing the Pope were plastered on walls of the city center of Rome Feb. 4. Days later, a spoof of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was sent to cardinals and bishops in the Curia claiming the Pope had finally answered the five “dubia” submitted to him by four prelates in September, responding both “yes and no” to each. In a Feb. 15 briefing with journalists on the winners of the International “Economy and Society” Prize of the Vatican’s Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice foundation, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference and a member of the Pope’s “Council of Nine,” spoke about the issue. When asked about the reason for issuing the statement, Marx said the intention was not to create a “great drama,” but rather to voice their support. “It was time to repeat that we are supporting the Pope” and walking beside him, Marx said, adding that the statement seems to have been “well-accepted.” “We have discussion in the Church, normal discussions, tensions, it will always be like this,” he said, but explained that “at a time like this” when such vocal and public opposition has been voiced, “loyalty to the Pope is substantial” to the Catholic faith. Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council, also called “the Council of Nine,” serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia. Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive.” The council of cardinals will conclude its last session Wednesday evening, and is set to meet again April 24-26 to continue discussion on moving forward in reforming curial structures.