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Heart, mind and touch: Pope Francis shares personal devotion to Mary


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — From Easter to Pentecost, and especially during the Marian month of May, Catholics recite the “Regina Coeli” (“Queen of Heaven”) prayer “with the emotion of children who are happy because their mother is happy” that Jesus has risen from the dead, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary as he celebrates Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome on the feast of All Saints in 2013. The pope is deeply devoted to Mary and often expresses his devotion by praying in front of Marian statues and then gently touching them. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary as he celebrates Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome on the feast of All Saints in 2013. The pope is deeply devoted to Mary and often expresses his devotion by praying in front of Marian statues and then gently touching them. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although his devotion to the Mother of God is profound, it is simple in many ways: Mary is a mother to every believer; Jesus would not leave his followers orphans.

While his connection to Mary clearly is a matter of heart and mind, it is also physical. Whenever Pope Francis passes a statue or icon of Mary, he kisses it or allows his hand to rest tenderly upon it.

Honoring the Mother of God, of course, is a solid part of Catholic tradition and a mainstay in the devotion and teaching of the popes. St. John Paul II’s motto, “Totus Tuus” (“All yours”), and the large M on his coat of arms were just the most graphic elements of a devotion that led to a whole body of teaching about Mary, her role in Catholics’ faith life and the importance of praying the rosary.

Pope Francis would not have an argument with any of St. John Paul’s Marian piety or discourse.

But there are differences.

“The sense of Pope Francis’ devotion to Mary is a little more personal, more intimate” than St. John Paul’s was, said Redemptorist Father Sabatino Majorano, a professor at Rome’s Alphonsianum Institute. Pope Francis expresses “that feeling that exists between a son and his mother, where I think Pope John Paul’s was more that of a subject and his queen.”

The difference, he believes, comes from their roots: Pope Francis’ Latin roots, not just in Argentina, but also from his Italian family, and St. John Paul’s Slavic, Polish culture.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI spoke and wrote less about Mary than his predecessor and successor, but one now-solid Marian custom began in his pontificate: Whether or not it is a Marian feast day, a statue of Mary is placed prominently near the altar at papal liturgies.

Pope Francis’ habit of touching images of Mary is a typical Latin American gesture, one Father Majorano said he saw repeated thousands of times at Brazil’s Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, which is staffed by his brother Redemptorists. “The tactile experience is part of praying. It’s a spirituality that takes flesh, becomes concrete; it is not just an idea or a theory.”

At Mass and other formal liturgical services, Pope Francis uses incense to bless the Marian images. He notices the images and often comments on them.

In Caserta, Italy, last July, Pope Francis celebrated the feast of St. Anne, Mary’s mother. A locally loved statue of St. Anne holding the hand of her little girl, Mary, was placed to the side of the altar.

In his homily, the pope said, “When I was using the incense, I noticed something very beautiful: The statue of St. Anne does not have a crown, but her daughter Mary is crowned. St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a great job.”

Visiting Naples in March, Pope Francis told priests, nuns and seminarians that one way to make sure Jesus is the center of their lives is to ask “his mother to take you to him. A priest, a brother, a nun who does not love Mary, who does not pray to her, I would even say one who does not recite the rosary, well, if you don’t love the mother, the mother will not give you the Son.”

In the same talk, the pope spoke again about how he recently read “The Glories of Mary,” a hefty book written in 1750 by St. Alphonsus Liguori. “In this book, I like reading the stories about Mary that are behind each chapter; in them you see how Mary always leads us to Jesus.”

Father Majorano, an expert in the writings of St. Alphonsus, said he and his confreres were not surprised to hear Pope Francis praising the 265-year-old work of their founder.

The style St. Alphonsus uses to speak of Mary reflects the Latin culture he and the pope share, “warm, written with the heart more than the head, although it is intelligent,” Father Majorano said. “In general, St. Alphonsus in his books shows a great knowledge of patristic works and other church writers; he cites them continually, but this work on Mary is written more with the heart.”

The two focal points of St. Alphonsus’ life, he said, were “the crucifix as an expression of God’s love, not his justice, and Mary. They were the two realities that motivated his preaching and what he proposed in his missions.”

St. Alphonsus focused on Mary’s role as the “Queen of Mercy,” the Redemptorist said. “The basic characteristic he emphasizes is that Mary is God’s welcomer; that is, when we are afraid to approach God because of our sins, she welcomes us and helps us turn to him. So, her mercy is acceptance and her mercy is her ability to intercede for us and her mercy is to always anticipate our needs, like she did at the wedding at Cana.”

In his official proclamation of the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote, “Mary attests that the mercy of the son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the ‘Salve Regina,’ (‘Hail Holy Queen’) a prayer ever ancient and new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes toward us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her son Jesus.”


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Retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 88th birthday


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An inability to dialogue and to accept that God may be doing new things are signs of disobedience to God, Pope Francis said.

Obedience often leads people to a path for their life that is not the one they planned on taking, he said. To obey is “to have the courage to change paths when the Lord asks this of us.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Celebrating Mass April 16 in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis told the small congregation that because it was the 88th birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI, he wanted to offer the Mass for him. “I invite you to pray for him, that the Lord might sustain him and grant him much joy and happiness.”

In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the story in the day’s first Scripture reading, Acts 5:27-33, about Jewish leaders ordering the disciples to stop preaching about Jesus, but the disciples reply: “We must obey God rather than men.”

The Jewish leaders, the pope said, “were doctors, they had studied the history of the people; they studied the prophecies; they studied the law; they knew the whole theology of the people of Israel, the revelation of God, they knew everything, they were doctors and yet they were incapable of recognizing God’s salvation.”

Their “anger and desire to silence those who were preaching the newness of God, that is, that Jesus was risen,” was the clearest sign that they were “not open to the Lord’s voice and to the signs of the Lord in the midst of his people.”

“They were the same ones who paid the guards at the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body had been stolen,” the pope said. “They did all that to avoid opening themselves to God’s voice.”

The leaders, he said, were not simply “hard headed, it wasn’t a simple stubbornness.” The problem, he said, was “hardness of heart.”

People are not born hard hearted, he said; they’ve practiced “closing in on themselves” and refusing to dialogue or listen to others.

“They didn’t know how to dialogue,” not even with God, he said. “They did not know how to pray and hear the Lord’s voice, and they didn’t know how to dialogue with others.”

Their only key for interpreting the law, Pope Francis said, was “to make it more precise. But they were closed to the signs of God in history and were closed to his people, their people. They were closed, closed.”

The tragedy of the doctors of the law, “these theologians of the people of God,” he said, was that “they did not know who to listen and they didn’t know how to dialogue. Dialogue is what you do with God and with your brothers and sisters.”


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Vatican approves new statutes and bylaws for U.S. nuns’ leadership group, ends oversight


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican approved new statutes and bylaws for the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, ending a seven-year process of investigating the group and engaging in dialogue with its officers to ensure greater harmony with church teaching. Read more »

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Pope’s morning homily: Harmony, sharing, patience are signs of Spirit’s presence


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The presence of the Holy Spirit makes Christian communities places of harmony and sharing where wealth is not accumulated, but put at the service of the needy, Pope Francis said.

A Christian community shows it is filled with the Holy Spirit “when it is a community that seeks harmony” and does not allow internal divisions to fester, “when it seeks poverty” and “not the accumulation of riches for itself because wealth is for service,” he said April 14 at his early morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

What’s more, he said, a sure sign of the Spirit’s presence is that community members “do not get angry or feel offended as soon as a difficulty arises,” but they are as patient as Jesus was.

According to Vatican Radio, the pope quoted from the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-37): “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”

While the reading begins by saying, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind,” Pope Francis noted that the problems they faced began rather quickly.

The next chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, he said, describes how a married couple — Ananias and Sapphira — try to fool the community by pretending they are giving all the proceeds from the sale of their property, when they kept some for themselves.

“These are like the patrons or benefactors who approach the church, enter to help, but use the church for their own ends, aren’t they?” he said.

But even bigger troubles are looming, he said. The persecution of Christians begins soon after the Resurrection, just as Jesus foretold.

The clearest sign of the Spirit’s presence among the early Christians, the pope said, was their “patience in enduring: enduring the problems, enduring the difficulties, enduring the malicious gossip and slander, enduring sickness and enduring pain,” especially regarding the death of their loved ones.

As the Easter season continues and Christians prepare to celebrate Pentecost, Pope Francis said “it would do us good to think about our communities, whether they are dioceses, parishes, families or something else, and ask for the grace of harmony, which is more than unity; it’s a harmonious unity.”

Christians also should ask for “the grace of poverty,” which is the ability to manage money and material things with generosity for the common good, and for “the grace of patience,” the pope said.

The Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit gives those gifts not just to individuals, he said, but also to communities.


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With reorganization, cardinals named to Roman Curia offices


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Giving assignments to 15 of the cardinals he created in February, Pope Francis named some of them members of pontifical councils widely expected to be merged with others.

In the months following their induction into the College of Cardinals, those who who are under the age of 80 are named members of various Vatican congregations and councils; while the day-to-day work of Vatican offices is carried out by the staff, the direction and major decisions of the offices are determined by the full membership.

As Pope Francis began another three-day meeting April 13 with his international Council of Cardinals to discuss the reorganization of the Roman Curia, the Vatican published the list of his assignments for the cardinals created in February.

Several of them were assigned to the pontifical councils for justice and peace, Cor Unum, migrants and travelers, and health care ministry — all offices that had been expected to merge into a new Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace.

In February, the entire College of Cardinals was briefed about the Council of Cardinals’ progress, including proposals to create the new charity, justice and peace congregation. They also heard of plans to establish a Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, merging the current pontifical councils for laity and for the family, along with the Pontifical Academy for Life. No new members of the councils for laity or for the family were announced in the slate released April 13.

Among the assignments, Pope Francis named Cardinal John A. Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, to be a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Spanish Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, a theologian and president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, was the only one of the new cardinals named a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The youngest member of the College of Cardinals, Tonga’s 53-year-old Cardinal Soane Mafi, was named a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving.

Portuguese Cardinal Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Lisbon and Thai Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok were named to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.


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Pope says Year of Mercy will be time to heal, to help, to forgive


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Mercy is what makes God perfect and all-powerful, Pope Francis said in his document officially proclaiming the 2015-2016 extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

“If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected,” the pope wrote in “Misericordiae Vultus,” “”The Face of Mercy”), which is the “bull of indiction” calling a Holy Year to begin Dec. 8.

Pope Francis presents a document officially proclaiming the 2015-2016 extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy to a bishop in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 11. The pope handed copies of the document to the archpriests of the major basilicas of Rome and to Vatican officials representing Catholics around the world. (CNS photo/Cristian Gennari)

Pope Francis presents a document officially proclaiming the 2015-2016 extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy to a bishop in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 11. The pope handed copies of the document to the archpriests of the major basilicas of Rome and to Vatican officials representing Catholics around the world. (CNS photo/Cristian Gennari)

Standing in front of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica April 11, Pope Francis handed copies of the document to the archpriests of the major basilicas of Rome and to Vatican officials representing Catholics around the world.

Portions of the 9,300-word proclamation were read aloud before Pope Francis and his aides processed into St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the first vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday.

In his homily at vespers, the pope said he proclaimed the Year of Mercy because “it is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The boundless nature of God’s mercy, his willingness always to forgive anything, has been a constant subject of Pope Francis’ preaching and is explained in detail in the document, which outlines some of the specific projects the pope has in mind for the year.

The Old Testament stories of how God repeatedly offered mercy to his unfaithful people and the New Testament stories of Jesus’ compassion, healing and mercy demonstrate, the pope said, that “the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love,” just like mothers and fathers love their children.

“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” he wrote. “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.”

Nothing in the church’s preaching or witness, he said, can be lacking in mercy.

Pope Francis asked that all dioceses around the world designate a “Door of Mercy” at their cathedral or another special church or shrine, and that every diocese implement the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative on the Friday and Saturday before the fourth week of Lent. In Rome the last two years, the pope has opened the celebration with a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica and churches around the city were open for the next 24 hours for confessions and eucharistic adoration.

The pope said he will designate and send out “Missionaries of Mercy” to preach about mercy; they will be given special authority, he said, “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.” Under church law, those sins involve: a man who directly participated in an abortion and later wants to enter the priesthood; priests who have broken the seal of confession; priests who have offered sacramental absolution to their own sexual partners; desecrating the Eucharist; and making an attempt on the life of the pope. Usually, the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, handles those cases.

And he urged all Catholics to spend more time practicing what traditionally have been called the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works are: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving drink to the thirsty and burying the dead. The spiritual works are: converting sinners, instructing the ignorant, advising the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries and praying for the living and dead.

The date the pope chose to open the year, Dec. 8, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Both dates, he wrote, are related to the Year of Mercy.

Mercy, he said, is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sins.” That bridge was made concrete when God chose Mary to be the mother of his son.

The Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote, is also a way to keep the Second Vatican Council alive. “The walls which too long had made the church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way,” he said. The council recognized “a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.”

The life and action of the church, he said, “is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy,” a mercy that “knows no bounds and extends to everyone without exception.”

While some people try to argue that mercy, even God’s mercy, is limited by the demands of justice, Pope Francis said mercy and justice are “two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love.”

Preaching mercy, he said, is not the same as ignoring sin or withholding correction. Instead, mercy invites repentance and conversion and ensures the sinner that once God forgives a sin, he forgets it.

The pope addressed direct appeals in the document to members of the mafia and other criminal organizations as well as to officials and others involved in corruption. “For their own good, I beg them to change their lives,” he wrote. “I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner.”

“Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal,” he continued. “Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.”

At the same time, Pope Francis wrote, many of those who insist first on God’s justice are like the Pharisees who thought they could save themselves by following the letter of the law, but ended up simply placing “burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father’s mercy.”

“God’s justice is his mercy,” the pope said. “Mercy is not opposed to justice, but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert and believe.”

Recognizing that they have been treated with mercy by God, he said, Christians are obliged to treat others with mercy. In fact, the Gospel says that Christians will be judged by the mercy they show others.

“At times how hard it seems to forgive,” he said. “And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”

Pope Francis also noted that God’s mercy is an important theme in Judaism and Islam, and he urged efforts during the Year of Mercy to increase interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding with followers of both faiths.


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Entering the mystery: Easter cannot be lived fully without humility, pope says

April 6th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To enter Christ’s empty tomb like the disciples and see that he has risen, Christians today also must “bend down,” Pope Francis said in his Easter message.

“Love has triumphed over hatred. Life has conquered death. Light has dispelled the darkness,” he told tens of thousands of rain-drenched pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square April 5.

Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Rain fell and fell hard throughout most of the outdoor Mass. While most people had umbrellas, their flimsy plastic ponchos were no match for the wind and downpour. The ciboria used to distribute Communion to the crowd were covered with plastic wrap, only partially pulled back when the faithful approached.

Still, they stayed for the Mass and for the pope’s solemn Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

Pope Francis did not give a homily during the morning Mass, but his Easter message before the blessing picked up a theme he had begun at the Easter vigil the night before: The mystery of Easter cannot be understood and the Christian faith cannot be lived fully without humility.

“By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation,” Pope Francis said. “This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go toward the things that are above, toward God.”

To enter into the mystery of God’s love, he said, “we need to bend down, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.”

Obviously, he said, that often involves being countercultural. Instead of putting ourselves first, he said, “Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.”

“This is not weakness, but true strength!.” the pope said. “Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.”

As is traditional for the “urbi et orbi” message, Pope Francis offered prayers for an end to war and violence in specific countries, mentioning by name Syria, Iraq, the Holy Land, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Congo, Yemen and Ukraine.

In better news, the pope said, “in hope, we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to” in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The pope prayed that it would be “a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

As he had at every Holy Week and Easter service, Pope Francis offered special prayers for persecuted Christians, asking that “Jesus, the victor over death,” would ease their suffering.

Pope Francis’ Easter celebrations began in the dark of a rainy night April 4 in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica. Hot embers glowed until the Easter fire was lit and with it the paschal candle. As a deacon carried the candle into the church, Pope Francis followed with a large taper.

Although only the pope and the deacon had candles, the basilica was aglow with smartphone and tablet displays as people tried to get photos. However, as the pope neared the front of the basilica, the congregation — mostly nuns, priests, bishops, cardinals and ambassadors close to the altar — was more disciplined and the impact of scattered lit candles grew.

While the pope was busy with the Easter liturgies, he sent Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, out to the city’s train stations, shelters and streets with Easter cards for the homeless. He handed out about 300 envelopes, each of which included an undisclosed amount of money.

During the Easter vigil Mass, Pope Francis baptized, confirmed and gave first Communion to 10 people, who ranged in age from 13 to 66. Four were Italian, three were Albanian and one each came from Cambodia, Kenya and Portugal.

Pope Francis rubbed the chrism oil all over their foreheads and, during the confirmation rite, tenderly gave each one a kiss on the right cheek.

The youngest of the new Catholics, Champa Buceti, a 13-year-old Cambodian, and Francesco Comegna, a 28-year-old Italian, brought up the gifts at the offertory.

As with his “urbi et orbi” message, Pope Francis’ homily during the Easter vigil, which lasted just over two and a half hours, focused on the humility required of Christians.

The only way to enter into the Easter mystery, he said, is with humility, “to come down from the pedestal of our ‘I’ which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness.”

“It is good for us, on this vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women” who went to Jesus’ tomb Easter morning to anoint his body, he said. Entering the tomb is to enter “into the mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.”

“We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about,” he said. “It is more, much more.”

Entering the mystery means being able “to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us.”

To enter the tomb and enter the mystery takes courage, the pope said. It “demands that we not be afraid of reality, that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions.”


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Imitate Jesus’ humility and service, pope says at Palm Sunday Mass


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — From modern-day martyrs to those who quietly care for the sick or elderly, Pope Francis remembered all those who “sacrifice themselves daily,” following Jesus in serving others and giving witness to the Gospel.

In overcoming the daily temptations of power and pride, the pope said at Palm Sunday Mass, Christians can look to those who, “in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others,” whether that be a sick relative, an elderly person or someone with special needs.

Pope Francis carries palm fronds in procession at the start of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries palm fronds in procession at the start of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On a bright, sunny day, about 70,000 people carrying palms and olive branches joined Pope Francis March 29 for the Palm Sunday Mass, the solemn beginning of Holy Week.

Dressed in red vestments, the color of the Passion, Pope Francis remembered “our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time. There are many of them. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way.”

Some 400 young people led the procession into St. Peter’s Square, carrying glossy, deep green palm branches that were taller than the people carrying them. About 80 cardinals and bishops followed, carrying “palmurelli,” pale green palm branches that were woven and braided.

The heart of the Palm Sunday celebration, the pope said in his homily, is a line from the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself. Jesus’ humiliation.”

Humility and humiliation, he said, is “God’s way and the way of Christians,” even though it “constantly amazes and disturbs us. We will never get used to a humble God.”

However, the pope said, the entire history of salvation is filled with examples of God humbling himself to walk with his people and save them, even when they have been unfaithful to him.

“This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation,” he said. “Only in this way will this week be holy for us, too.”

Pope Francis urged Catholics to pay attention to the Bible readings throughout the week, noticing the contempt shown toward Jesus, the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and condemnation, how the disciples run away and how Peter denies knowing him.

“This is God’s way, the way of humility,” he said. “It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.”

The Bible says that in becoming human, Jesus took the form of a slave, the pope noted. Slaves serve others and that is exactly what Jesus did.

“The way of the world” sees humble service as ridiculous and, instead, it proposes “the way of vanity, pride and success,” he said. “The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus, too, during his 40 days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it.”

Pope Francis urged people to draw strength and inspiration for their battle against pride from those who humbly care for others and, especially, from the modern-day martyrs.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis marked the local celebration of World Youth Day and asked Catholic youths around the world to begin now their preparations to celebrate the international World Youth Day with him in Krakow, Poland, in 2016.

“The theme of that large gathering – ‘Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy’ — blends well with the Holy Year of Mercy” that he proclaimed for 2016. “Let yourselves be filled with the Father’s tenderness in order to spread it around you,” the pope said.

He also offered special prayers for the students who were among the victims of the Germanwings airplane crash in the French Alps March 24


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For Easter, pope sends assistance to displaced in Iraq, Nigeria

March 30th, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As Holy Week and Easter approached, Pope Francis wanted to show his ongoing concern for people persecuted and displaced by violence in Iraq and in northern Nigeria.

Although not specifying the amount, the Vatican press office said March 27 that the pope was sending aid money to people seeking shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and to the Nigerian bishops’ conference to assist families in the northern part of the country where the terrorist group Boko Haram has been on a rampage.

In addition, the Vatican said, the people of the Diocese of Rome, “united with their bishop,” Pope Francis, held a special collection and will send “colomba” Easter cakes to the displaced in Iraq.

“In Holy Week,” the Vatican statement said, “these families share with Christ the experience of being unjustly subjected to violence and they participate in the suffering of Christ himself.”

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who visited refugees and displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan last August, will return for Holy Week, the Vatican said. The cardinal is prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former nuncio to Iraq.

“Pope Francis is constantly concerned about the situation of Christian families and other groups who have been the victims of being expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and on the Ninevah Plain,” the Vatican said. Terrorists from Islamic State have been active in the region.

“The pope prays for them and hopes that they soon can return and resume their lives on the land and in the places where, for hundreds of years, they lived and wove relationships of peaceful coexistence with all,” the Vatican statement said.


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Pope Francis greets homeless people during their private tour of Sistine Chapel


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, a group of VIP guests, homeless people who live around the Vatican, were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis.

The 150 visitors had just reached the Sistine Chapel at about 5 p.m. March 26, when Pope Francis walked through the door.

“Welcome,” the pope said. “This is everyone’s house, this is your home. The doors are always open for all.”

A homeless woman walks past a Swiss guard as she enters the Vatican March 26. While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, homeless people were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A homeless woman walks past a Swiss guard as she enters the Vatican March 26. While enjoying a private visit to the Sistine Chapel, homeless people were surprised by a visit from Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The Vatican Museums had closed 90 minutes early to allow the special guests of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, to have the Sistine Chapel to themselves. Accompanied by professional guides, the visitors began their tour in the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museums.

Pope Francis thanked the archbishop for arranging the “little caress” for those who live on the streets of Rome.

“Pray for me. I’m in need of prayers by people like you,” the pope told them. He blessed them saying, “May the Lord protect and help you on the path of life and let you feel his tender, fatherly love.”

The pope greeted each of the guests individually, spending more than 20 minutes with them before they were served dinner in the museums’ cafeteria.

The Vatican press office said Pope Francis asked that no cameras be present during his meeting with the group. After he left, though, the guests posed for a group photo under Michelangelo’s towering wall fresco of “The Last Judgment.”

It was not the only photo taken; several of the guests had cellphones with cameras and they took pictures of one another and of the pope.

Mauro, who speaks Italian and serves a spokesman for a group of Poles who sleep near the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service March 27 that his favorite part of the Vatican Museums was the vintage carriage and car collection.

“I’m passionate about cars and what they have is great,” he said. “I had my picture taken there.”

Mauro said he and his friends always see long lines of tourists waiting to get into the museums, so it was great to see what all the fuss was about. And they didn’t even have to wait in line or deal with a crowd; “it was just us,” he said.

“It’s spectacular,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

The pope’s arrival, Mauro said, “was a big surprise. We applauded. Everyone was so happy.”

Dinner, he said, was an Italian pizza party: prosciutto ham, mozzarella cheese, suppli (stuffed rice balls), pizza, cola and water.

His friend Mario said he could not accept the invitation because he had nowhere to leave Cookie, a 5-month-old puppy he found abandoned in a dumpster. “He’s my baby,” said Mario.

As papal almoner, Archbishop Krajewski distributes charitable aid from Pope Francis and has made a special point of assisting the homeless who live near the Vatican. His office installed and manages the showers near St. Peter’s Basilica and recruited barbers and hairdressers to donate their services on Mondays.


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