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Papal official invites homeless people to tour of Sistine Chapel and dinner


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The papal almoner, an archbishop who distributes charitable aid from Pope Francis, planned a special afternoon for about 150 homeless people: a walk through the Vatican Gardens, a visit to the Vatican Museums, private time in the Sistine Chapel and dinner in the museums’ cafeteria. Read more »

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Vatican Letter: Pope prepares encyclical on ecology as a pro-life, pro-poor issue


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church supports the efforts of scientists to study the causes and effects of climate change and insists governments and businesses must get serious about specific commitments for protecting the environment. Read more »

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Sept. 21, 1953: Pope Francis recalls experiencing mercy as a teen


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ decision to convoke a special Holy Year of Mercy has its roots in the event that led a teen-age Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the priesthood.

Pope Francis has recounted the story several times in the past two years. On one occasion early in his pontificate, he told members of Catholic lay movements about his faith journey, particularly the importance of growing up Catholic and the influence of his grandmother. Then he said: Read more »

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Pope tells Neapolitans, ‘Don’t give up hope’

March 23rd, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Hope is the first act of resistance to evil, Pope Francis told the people of Naples as he pleaded for respect for the dignity of immigrants, jobs for the unemployed and the conversion of the city’s notorious mafia families.

Pope Francis greets the crowd lining the waterfront after leading an outdoor meeting with youth in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd lining the waterfront after leading an outdoor meeting with youth in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Gospel teaches that the truly blessed are the poor in spirit, the nonviolent, the meek, those who work for peace and justice. This is the force that will change the world,” the pope said March 21 as he celebrated Mass in Naples’ iconic Piazza del Plebiscito.

“Dear Neapolitans,” he said in his homily, “don’t let anyone steal your hope. Don’t give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income. … React firmly against organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak with the cynical sale of drugs and other crimes. Don’t let anyone steal your hope.”

Pope Francis’ 10-hour visit began with a brief stop for prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii and included a visit to a notoriously rough periphery neighborhood, Mass in the center of town, lunch at a local prison, a meeting with priests and religious, a visit with the sick and a seaside gathering with young people and the elderly.

As he was being driven along the waterfront at the end of the day, the crowd lining the road made way for a pizza maker. Although the popemobile did not stop, it slowed down enough for the flour-covered artisan to hand his pie to the pope. The Vatican did not release information on the pizza’s final fate.

During his morning meeting with residents of the city’s Scampia neighborhood, an area of poverty and degradation, an immigrant woman from the Philippines asked the pope to please remind people that immigrants are children of God.

“Have we reached the point where that’s necessary?” the pope asked the crowd. “Are migrants second-class humans?”

“They are like us, children of God,” he said. What is more, they are reminders that this world is not the permanent home of anyone and that “we are all migrants (moving) toward another homeland.”

“We are all children of God,” he said, “beloved children, desired children, saved children. Think about that. ”

The pope also insisted, loudly and repeatedly, that high unemployment rates, especially among youths, were a detriment to society and a failure of the current economic system and public policies.

The problem is not simply the poverty joblessness creates, he said, but the way it robs people of dignity and of hope for the future. “When one is unable to earn his daily bread, he loses his dignity,” the pope said.

“Tell me,” the pope told the crowd in Scampia, “if we close the door on migrants, if we take away the jobs and dignity of people,” what will happen? Corruption “is a temptation, it’s a slide,” he said.

Everyone has within them the possibility of being corrupted, of paying someone under the table or looking for easy cash, he said.

“Corruption stinks” like a decaying animal corpse, he said. “A corrupt society stinks. A Christian who allows corruption is not a Christian. He stinks, understand?”

Later, addressing mafia members and other criminals during his homily at Mass, the pope said: “Humbly, as a brother, I repeat: Convert to love and justice. Let yourself be found by God’s mercy.”

“The tears of the mothers of Naples, mixed with those of Mary our heavenly mother,” also are pleading for the corrupt to change their ways, he said. “These tears can melt the hardness of your hearts and lead everyone back to the path of goodness.”

After Mass, Pope Francis went to a local prison, where he had lunch with about 100 prisoners, who had been chosen by lottery. They reportedly included 10 people from a prison block set aside for inmates who are homosexual, transgender or HIV-positive.

Although he had prepared a speech for the inmates and prison staff, the pope set it aside and spoke informally, telling the prisoners that everyone has made mistakes, but the important thing is to make amends, get up and try to live a better life.

The first saint in Christianity, he said, was a condemned thief, the one who was crucified alongside Jesus and asked him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response to him was, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Ending the day with young people and the elderly, the pope admitted to being “really tired” by the day’s busy schedule.

He joked with a woman identified only as Erminia, who told him she was 95 years old.

“If you are 95, I’m Napoleon,” he told her.

Pope Francis denounced the “hidden euthanasia” of withholding medicine from the aged, “not giving them care, making their lives sad” and allowing them to die alone.

He told people with elderly parents to make an examination of conscience about how often they phone or visit their parents, and he told everyone to remember that when it comes to how they treat the aged, “you will reap what you sow!”

Angelo and Caterina Russo, who direct the Naples archdiocesan family life office, asked the pope’s advice for dealing with the current crisis in marriage and family life.

Pope Francis said, “I don’t have the recipe” for changing the situation, but he is convinced that October’s world Synod of Bishops on the family could be a start for the church. He also denounced “gender theory” for undermining marriage by creating confusion about what it means to be a man or woman.

Without a solid upbringing and education in the meaning of love, marriage and family life, he said, even the best marriage preparation courses cannot create a Catholic husband and wife. It is not “like a language course: You’ll be spouses in eight lessons,” he said.

And, as he frequently does, he told married couples it is natural to fight, even throw things, but it is important never to end the day angry.

“Plates can fly,” he said. “Have you broken a few?” he asked the Russos, who have been married 31 years.

“Plastic,” Angelo said before Caterina explained, “We used plastic plates at the beginning.”


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Pope’s day in Naples: Saint’s blood liquefies, cloistered sisters ‘break free’


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At the end of Pope Francis’ spontaneity-filled meeting with priests, seminarians and religious in the cathedral of Naples, the vial of dried blood of the city’s patron saint appeared to miraculously liquefy.

After Pope Francis blessed the congregation with the reliquary holding the vial, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples announced, “As a sign that St. Januarius loves the pope, who is Neapolitan like us, the blood is already half liquefied.”

Nuns greet Pope Francis during his meeting with religious at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Nuns greet Pope Francis during his meeting with religious at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, March 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The thousands of people present in the cathedral applauded, but the pope insisted on taking the microphone. “The bishop said the blood is half liquefied,” he said. “It means the saint loves us halfway; we must all convert a bit more, so that he would love us more.”

The blood of the fourth-century martyr is Naples’ most precious relic. The townspeople gauge the saints’ pleasure with them by awaiting the blood’s liquefaction three times a year: in the spring during celebrations of the feast of the transfer of the saint’s relics to Naples; Sept. 19, his feast day; and Dec. 16, the local feast commemorating the averting of a threatened eruption of Mount Vesuvius through the intervention of the saint.

When Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2007 and the blood did not liquefy, Msgr. Vincenzo de Gregorio, custodian of the relic, told reporters the miracle had never occurred when a pope visited on a day other than the feast day.

Entering the cathedral, Pope Francis’ white cassock and his arms were yanked repeatedly by priests, seminarians and nuns wanting to touch him or attract his attention.

Calmed reigned briefly after the pope reached the altar, but then Cardinal Sepe told the pope that, in accordance with canon law, he had given formal permission for the nuns in Naples’ seven cloistered convents to go out for the day.

The nuns, who had been seated in the sanctuary, broke free, running to the pope, surrounding him, hugging him, kissing his ring and piling gifts on his lap.

“Sisters, sisters, not now, later!” the cardinal shouted over the microphone to no avail. “Look what I have done,” he said, exasperated. “And these are the cloistered ones, imagine what the non-cloistered ones are like! Ay. They’re going to eat him alive.”

When order was restored, Pope Francis stood with several sheets of paper and told the congregation, “I prepared a speech, but speeches are boring.” So, he put the papers aside, sat down and began talking about how Jesus must be at the center of a consecrated person’s life, about life in community, about poverty and mercy.

“The center of your life must be Jesus,” he said. Too often, people, including priests and religious, have a difficulty with a superior or a confrere and that problem becomes the real center of their lives, robbing them and their witness of joy.

Addressing seminarians, he said, “if you do not have Jesus at the center, delay your ordination. If you are not sure Jesus is the center of your life, wait a while in order to be sure.”

Money definitely cannot be the center of the life of a priest or nun, he said. Even a diocesan priest, who does not take vows of poverty, must make sure “his heart is not there” in money.

The pope told the story of a religious woman he knew in Argentina who was so concerned about raising money for her school that she subconsciously preferred the company of people with money. One day, in the faculty room, she fainted. In the teachers’ attempt to revive her, the pope said, one suggested putting “a 100 peso note” under her nose to revive her, “but the poor woman was already dead and this was the last word said about her when no one knew if she had died or not.”


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Pope recognizes miracle needed to declare the Little Flower’s parents saints


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved a miracle so that, for the first time, a married couple can be canonized together.

The canonization ceremony for Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, is likely to take place during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October.

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, are pictured in a combination photo created from images provided by the Sanctuary of Lisieux in France. Pope Francis is expected to canonize the couple during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October. (CNS photo/courtesy of Sanctuary of Lisieux)

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, are pictured in a combination photo created from images provided by the Sanctuary of Lisieux in France. Pope Francis is expected to canonize the couple during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October. (CNS photo/courtesy of Sanctuary of Lisieux)

Pope Francis signed the decree March 18, the Vatican said, although it provided no details about the miraculous cure said to have taken place through the couple’s intercession.

However, the promoters of the sainthood cause said the miracle being studied involves a little girl in the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain. Born prematurely and with multiple life-threatening complications, Carmen suffered a major brain hemorrhage, which could have caused irreversible damage. Her parents prayed for the Martins’ intercession. The little girl survived and is healthy.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes had said in late February that “thanks be to God, in October two spouses, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, will be canonized.”

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin were married in 1858. The couple had nine children, but four of them died in infancy. The five who survived, including St. Therese,all entered religious life. Zelie Martin died of cancer in 1877, at the age of 45; her husband died when he was 70 in 1894.

The couple was beatified in 2008. They are believed to be the first parents of a saint to be beatified, highlighting the important role parents play in their children’s human and spiritual upbringing.

The next step toward canonization is for the pope to hold a consistory with cardinals present in Rome to announce the decision to proceed with the ceremony during the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25. A Vatican official said that meeting probably would be in June.

Before opening the October 2014 meeting of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis venerated the relics of St. Therese, her parents and another couple, Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi; the relics were brought to Rome specifically for prayers during the bishops’ discussions about family life.


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Pope’s morning homily: God loves us, has dreams for us


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God’s dreams for his people are the dreams of a lover for his beloved; they are dreams of building a future together that is filled with joy, Pope Francis said.

“Have you ever thought this? ‘The Lord dreams about me. He thinks of me. I am in the mind and heart of the Lord,’” the pope said March 16 during his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta where he lives.

The Lord does not just dream about his creatures, the pope said. “He makes plans: ‘We’ll build homes, plant vineyards, eat together.’”

Focusing on the day’s first reading, an account from Isaiah about God promising his people he will make a new heaven and a new earth, a place where there will always be rejoicing and happiness, the pope said the reading shows how “the Lord dreams. He has his dreams, his dreams for us.”

The language is remarkably similar to how an engaged couple dreams of their future: “When we’re together, when we’re married … ,” Pope Francis said.

God’s plans, he said, are those that “only someone in love would make.”

The fact that God “is in love with us,” he said, is something that “I don’t think any theologian could explain. It cannot be explained. One only can think about it, hear it and weep for joy.”

To believe in God, to have faith, “is to make space for God’s love and power,” he said. God’s power is not a destructive power, but “the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and wants to rejoice with me. This is faith. This is what it means to believe: Make room for the Lord to come and change me.”

Pope Francis also spoke about God’s love March 15 when he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer at midday with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

He focused on the Gospel passage John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

“This is the simplest expression that summarizes the entire Gospel, the whole faith (and) all of theology,” the pope said. “God loves us with a free and boundless love.”

The cross of Christ, he said, is the supreme proof of God’s love, a love that embraces mercy and offers it to all.

In the Sunday reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the pope noted, the apostle tells the people that God “is ‘rich in mercy,’ never forget this, he is rich in mercy.”

“In the passion and death of his son, he has given us the proof of all proofs: he came to suffer and die for us. So great is God’s mercy, he loves us, he forgives us. God forgives all and forgives always.”


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Pope Francis announces a ‘Holy Year of Mercy’ — Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016



Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.”

“No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I frequently have thought about how the church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy,” he said during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016.

Pope Francis gestures as he preaches during a Lenten penance service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 13. During the service the pope announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as he preaches during a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 13. During the service the pope announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The biblical theme of the year, he said, will be “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” an admonition that applies “especially to confessors,” the pope said with a smile.

Traditionally, every 25 years the popes proclaim a holy year, which features special celebrations and pilgrimages, strong calls for conversion and repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God’s grace through the sacraments, especially confession. Extraordinary holy years, like the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent, but offer the same opportunities for spiritual growth.

The doors of the church “are wide open so that all those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness,” Pope Francis said at the penance service, which featured individual confessions. It was part of a worldwide celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord,” in which Catholic churches were staying open for prayer, eucharistic adoration and confession.

At each of the dozens of confessionals in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as in simple chairs scattered along the walls, priests welcomed people to the sacrament. The pope removed his liturgical vestments and went to confession before putting on a purple stole and hearing the confessions of others.

“God never ceases to demonstrate the richness of his mercy over the course of centuries,” the pope said in his homily, which preceded the confessions. God touches people’s hearts with his grace, filling them with repentance and a desire to “experience his love.”

“Being touched by the tenderness of his hand,” people should not be afraid to approach a priest and confess their sins, he said. In the confessional, one has “the certainty of being welcomed in the name of God and understood, despite our misery.”

“The greater the sin, the greater the love, which the church must express toward those who convert,” Pope Francis said.

The Gospel reading at the penance service was the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Every time one goes to confession, the pope said, “we feel the same compassionate gaze of Jesus” that she did.

Jesus’ love, he said, allowed her to draw near, to demonstrate her repentance and to show her love for him. “Every gesture of this woman speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakable certainty in her life, that of having been forgiven.”

“Love and forgiveness are simultaneous” in the story of each person, just as in the story of the sinful woman, he said. “God forgave her for much — for everything — because he loved her much.”

Through Jesus, the pope said, God took the woman’s sins and “threw them over his shoulder, he no longer remembers them.”

Jesus’ encounter with the woman took place in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Unlike the woman, the pope said, Simon “isn’t able to find the path of love. He remains stopped at the threshold of formality. He is not able to take the next step to encounter Jesus, who brings salvation.”

The Pharisee is concerned only with following God’s law, with justice, which is a mistake, the pope said. “His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth and prevents him from understanding who his guest is.”

Jesus scolds Simon, pointing out how the “sinful woman” has shown nothing but love and repentance, the pope said. “Jesus’ rebuke pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when dealing with a person. We are called to look deeper, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity the personal is capable of.”

Pope Francis said he asked the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to coordinate preparations for the Holy Year so that it would be “a new stage in the church’s journey in fulfilling its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person.”



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Doctrinal chief says bishops must be accountable in abuse prevention


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Bishops of dioceses around the world have an obligation to work to prevent clerical sexual abuse and to ensure that priests in their dioceses do not commit acts of abuse, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“If, unfortunately, these crimes are verified, they fall under the exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, however, always needs the assistance and collaboration of ordinaries and well-prepared canonists to act effectively and prudently,” he said in a speech at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, printed what it described as “ample excerpts” from the speech March 12.

The cardinal spoke during a March 9-10 special course at the university looking specifically at “crimes against the sacrament of penance.” However, he spoke in general about the crimes the church defines as “more grave delicts,” which includes the sexual abuse of minors.

The ordinaries of dioceses and their collaborators, he said, “have the obligation to prevent and to be vigilant in order to avoid the commission of such crimes.”

In early February, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said the commission had drawn up recommendations for Pope Francis aimed at making bishops and superiors of religious orders accountable for following church norms regarding child protection and the handling of allegations of abuse made against a priest.

In the speech excerpted by the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal Muller said that in the past 15 years the church has faced “a serious challenge in which the credibility of its teaching has been placed in doubt because of certain actions, the ‘graviora delicta’ (more grave crimes), on the part of some of its sons and by the lack of a response to confront it.”

“It is not enough for us to say that it is a matter of lies sown by enemies of the church, who nevertheless profit from the circumstances,” Cardinal Muller said.

“The obligation to seek justice in the cases of the ‘graviora delicta’ can in no way be considered opposed to the obligations of charity or mercy,” he said. “Neither charity as the highest virtue consistent with love of God and one’s neighbor, nor mercy as the inclination of compassion and assistance for the misery of others, can be true if they are introduced on the basis of injustice.”

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Two years after his election: Pope Francis talks about his papacy and the future


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis went out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, he said he did not prepare what he was going to say, but “I felt deeply that a minister needs the blessing of God, but also of his people.” Read more »

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