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‘I became a priest to be with people’ — Pope Francis talks about his daily habits, hopes, concerns

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said he wants to be remembered as “a good person who tried to do good. I cannot ask for anything more than that.”

The statement, as well as comments about his life as pope and situations that move him to tears, were part of an interview he gave in late May to “La Voz del Pueblo,” a newspaper from Tres Arroyos, Argentina. The Vatican newspaper printed a translation of the interview May 25. Read more »

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Vatican bank posts increased profits, continues review of accounts

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, showed a large jump in profits in 2014 as it continued to winnow its accounts.

The institute reported a net profit of 69.3 million euros ($75.5 million) in 2014 compared to a 2013 net profit of 2.9 million euros.

The bulk of the profit, 55 million euros, was given to the Holy See for its operating costs.

Releasing its annual report May 25, the institute said the increase “was mainly due to an increase in the net trading income from securities and to a decline in extraordinary operating expenses,” which included the costs of outside consultants.

The consultants were hired to help the institute reform practices and procedures in line with new Vatican regulations and international standards, including those that aim to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Msgr. Battista Ricca, the institute’s prelate, wrote in an introduction to the report that the ban’s purpose “is not to pursue the accumulation of wealth. Rather, it is to honestly and faithfully serve the universal mission of the church by supporting those who work in the vineyards of the Lord, often thanklessly and under dangerous circumstances, to feed, to educate, to heal and to permit the Gospel to be known.”

The annual report said just over half of its account holders are religious orders working around the world. Fourteen percent of the accounts belong to Vatican nunciatures across the globe; 9 percent are held by cardinals, bishops and priests; dioceses account for 8 percent of the clients; and the rest of the account holders are Vatican employees and religious education institutes.

In 2013, the institute tightened its guidelines for who can have or open an account. To comply with those guidelines and with international regulations, the bank undertook a thorough review of all account holders.

Since May 2013, the report said, the institute has ended 4,614 “customer relationships” and was in the process of closing nearly 300 more.

 

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Holy Spirit leads to truth, renews the earth, emboldens, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The power of the Holy Spirit transforms people into bold witnesses of the Gospel, who reach out to others, exercise charity and live in harmony with creation, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful with holy water as he celebrates Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses the faithful with holy water as he celebrates Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Celebrating Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square May 24, the pope spoke of Pentecost as the day the church was born universal but united.

When the Spirit came upon the disciples, Pope Francis told people in the square, “they were completely transformed: fear was replaced by courage, closure gave way to proclamation and every doubt was driven away by faith full of love.”

The day’s first reading, Acts 2:1-11, recounts how people from every land heard the disciples speaking in their own languages, the pope said. “The church was not born isolated, it was born universal — one, catholic — with a precise identity, but open to all.”

The good news of salvation proclaimed by the disciples was meant for the whole world, he said.

“Mother church does not close the door in anyone’s face,” he said. “Not even the biggest sinner’s.”

The tongue of fire resting on the head of each disciple as a sign of the Holy Spirit was “the flame of love that burns away all harshness; it was the language of the Gospel that crosses every border humans make and touches the hearts of the multitude without distinction of language, race or nationality.”

Today, just as on Pentecost, the pope said, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the church and on every follower of Jesus “so that we would leave behind our mediocrity and being closed off, and rather communicate to the whole world the merciful love of the Lord.”

Pope Francis urged Christians to model their lives on the two people beatified May 23: Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador and Italian Consolata Sister Irene Stefani, who worked and died in Kenya.

Referring to Blessed Romero as a “zealous pastor,” Pope Francis said that “following Jesus’ example, he chose to be in the midst of his people, especially the poor and oppressed, even at the cost of his life.”

Blessed Stefani, he said, “served the Kenyan people with joy, mercy and tender compassion.”

“May the heroic example of these blessed ones give rise in each of us to the deep desire to witness to the Gospel with courage and self-sacrifice.”

In his homily at the Pentecost Mass that morning, Pope Francis said the Scriptures assure Christians that the Holy Spirit continues to be at work in the church and in the world doing what Jesus promised the Spirit would do: “he guides us into all the truth, he renews the face of the earth, and he gives us his fruits.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples went from being confused about Jesus’ death and afraid to speak and afraid of being arrested, to being bold announcers of salvation in Jesus, the pope said.

The Spirit made them understand that “the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the living one, the Lord, the redeemer of mankind, the Lord of history and of the world.”

At the same time, the pope said, the Spirit is the one who renews the earth and can renew people’s relationship with it.

“The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same,” he said. “Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the ‘garden’ in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect.”

If people allow themselves to be renewed by the spirit, he said, “we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of sons and daughters in harmony with all creation.”

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to be shared with all, Pope Francis said. “The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul lists them: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’”

God sent the Holy Spirit “so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”

The Spirit cannot be forced on anyone, the pope said. But “closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom, it is a sin.”

“There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism — seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law whom Jesus referred to as hypocrites; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.”

“Strengthened in the Spirit and by these many gifts,” Pope Francis prayed, “may we be able to battle uncompromisingly against sin, to battle uncompromisingly against corruption, which continues to spread in the world day after day (and) devote ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.”

 

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Blessed Oscar Romero was ‘a good priest, a wise bishop and a virtuous man,’ cardinal says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero’s preferential love for the poor “was not ideological, but evangelical,” said Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

The cardinal, who was delegated by Pope Francis to preside over Archbishop Romero’s beatification May 23 in San Salvador, told Vatican Radio the martyred archbishop “was, in fact, a good priest and a wise bishop, but most of all, he was a virtuous man.”

People carry large portraits of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero during a rally in March in San Salvador to pay tribute to the late archbishop, who was assassinated 35 years ago. Archbishop Romero, who wase beatified in San Salvador May 23, has become a symbol of Latin American church leaders' efforts to protect their flocks from the abuses of military dictatorships. (CNS photo/Roberto Escobar, EPA)

People carry large portraits of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero during a rally in March in San Salvador to pay tribute to the late archbishop, who was assassinated 35 years ago. Archbishop Romero, who wase beatified in San Salvador May 23, has become a symbol of Latin American church leaders’ efforts to protect their flocks from the abuses of military dictatorships. (CNS photo/Roberto Escobar, EPA)

“He loved Jesus and adored him in the Eucharist, he loved the church, he venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary and he loved his people,” Cardinal Amato said.

“His martyrdom was not an improvisation,” the cardinal said, “but had a long preparation,” which went all the way back to Archbishop Romero’s preparation for priestly ordination in 1942 when he consecrated his very life to God.

The Vatican Radio reporter asked about what many people refer to as Archbishop Romero’s “conversion” from being rather quiet and focused on internal church affairs to being more outspoken in defense of the poor and the victims of his country’s military dictatorship.

“A change in his life of being a meek and almost timid pastor” was the murder in 1977 of Salvadoran Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, who had left his university position to be a “pastor of the farmworkers, the oppressed and emarginated,” Cardinal Amato said. The murder “was the event that touched the heart of Archbishop Romero, who mourned his priest like a mother would her own child.”

While his public words became much sharper and more focused on the lived reality of his people, he said, “his words were not an incitement to hatred and revenge, but were the heartfelt exhortation of a father to his divided children, calling them to love, forgiveness and agreement.”

For Cardinal Amato, Pope Francis summarized “the priestly and pastoral identity of Romero when he called him ‘bishop and martyr, pastor according to the heart of Christ, evangelizer and father of the poor, heroic witness of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, brotherhood and peace.’”

Archbishop Romero, he said, “is another bright star shining in the American spiritual firmament.”

Citing saints from North, Central and South America, he said there are “many American saints and martyrs who pray to the Lord for their brothers and sisters still on the earthly pilgrimage. Blessed Oscar Romero belongs to this impetuous wind of holiness that still blows over the American continent, a land of love and fidelity to the good news of the Gospel.”

 

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God will judge people on care for the poor and the environment, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The powerful of the earth will face God’s judgment and will be asked to account for how they cared for the poor and how they cared for the environment so that it could produce food for all, Pope Francis said.

“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said May 12 during his homily at a Mass opening the general assembly of Caritas Internationalis.

The network of 164 Catholic charities, who were to welcome Caritas South Sudan as the confederation’s 165th member, was to focus on the theme, “One Human Family, Caring for Creation.” Read more »

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Church needs women’s voices, input, experiences, pope tells religious

May 18th, 2015 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Women can be appointed heads of some offices of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis said, but that will not be enough to “recover the role” women should have in the Catholic Church.

“Women should be promoted,” he said May 16 during an audience with an international group of men and women religious working in the Diocese of Rome. But assigning a certain number of women to leadership positions is “simply functionalism,” he said. Read more »

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Faith is expressed in charity, unity, pope says at canonization Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Declaring four 19th-century women religious saints, Pope Francis said they are models for all Christians of how faith, nourished in prayer, is expressed concretely in acts of charity and the promotion of unity.

The new saints, proclaimed during a Mass May 17 in St. Peter’s Square, included two Palestinians — Sts. Marie-Alphonsine, founder of the Rosary Sisters, and Mary of Jesus Crucified, a Melkite Carmelite — as well as French St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve and Italian St. Maria Cristina Brando. Read more »

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Vatican and Palestine finalize agreement that supports ‘two-state’ solution

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory.

Without fanfare, the Vatican has been referring to the “State of Palestine” at least since January 2013. The “Annuario Pontificio,” the Vatican’s official yearbook, lists a diplomatic relationship with the “State of Palestine.”

A Palestinian Catholic girl carries a crucifix while walking the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday Procession on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 29. On May 15, Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory., (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

A Palestinian Catholic girl carries a crucifix while walking the traditional path that Jesus took on his last entry into Jerusalem during the Palm Sunday Procession on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem March 29. On May 15, Vatican and Palestinian representatives have finalized the text of a formal agreement recognizing freedom of religion in the “State of Palestine” and outlining the rights and obligations of the Catholic Church, its agencies and its personnel in the territory., (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The Vatican, which praised the United Nations’ recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in 2012, said May 13 that the bilateral commission working on the agreement had finalized the text.

“The agreement will be submitted to the respective authorities for approval” and a formal signing ceremony should be held soon, the statement said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to meet Pope Francis May 16, the day before attending a canonization Mass at the Vatican for two new Palestinian saints.

Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states and head of the Vatican delegation at the negotiations, said the Vatican wanted the agreement to “promote the life and activity of the Catholic Church and its recognition on a juridical level.”

The text of the agreement will not be released until it receives top-level approval. However, Msgr. Camilleri described the general contents to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The agreement, he said, expresses hope for an end to Palestinian-Israeli tensions and supports the existence of two separate, independent nations living side by side in security and peace.

The chapter on “freedom of religion and conscience,” he said, is “very elaborate and detailed.”

Other chapters deal with “various aspects of the life and activity of the church in the Palestinian territories: its freedom of action, its personnel and jurisdiction, its personal status, houses of worship, social and charitable activity (and) means of social communication. Finally, a chapter is dedicated to financial and property questions.”

Asked if the agreement could be a model for agreements with other Muslim-majority countries, Msgr. Camilleri said every bilateral treaty deals with the specific situation of the countries involved.

“In this case, because it deals with the presence of the church in the land where Christianity was born, the agreement has a unique value and significance,” he said.

At the same time, though, he said the agreement’s recognition of the church and of religious freedom “could be followed by other countries, including those with a Muslim majority, and demonstrate that such recognition is not incompatible with the fact that the majority of the country’s population belongs to another religion.”

The monsignor said he hoped the agreement would help Palestinians reach the point of seeing “established and recognized an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine that lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors.”

The Vatican, he said, also wants to encourage “the international community, especially the parties most directly interested, in undertaking more decisive action to contribute to reaching a lasting peace and the hoped-for solution of two states.”

 

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In family relations, good manners are no joke, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The closer two people are to each other, the more care is required in respecting the other’s freedom and feelings, Pope Francis said.

Even Jesus knocks at the door of a person’s heart awaiting permission to enter, he said May 13 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis gestures toward the crowd as he  points out a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 13. The pope prayed in front of the statue, present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  The statue is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures toward the crowd as he points out a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 13. The pope prayed in front of the statue, present for the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The statue is a copy of the original in Fatima, Portugal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Intimacy does not authorize you to take everything for granted,” he said, starting a series of audience talks he said would look at the real life of families today.

The audience was held on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The pope began the gathering by praying silently before a statue of Mary and, after a Portuguese aide summarized his talk, the pope asked him to lead the Hail Mary in Portuguese. The aide complied, his voice breaking with emotion at the surprise request.

Pope Francis’ main talk focused on the three phrases he often recommends families use frequently: May I? Thank you. Forgive me.

The words are simple, he said, and hearing the pope advise their frequent use could make someone smile at first. “But when we forget them, it’s no laughing matter, right?”

The three phrases, he said, “open the path to living well in a family, living in peace.” Without them, he said, the family’s foundation develops “cracks that can even make it collapse.”

“Sometimes it seems that we are becoming a civilization of bad manners and dirty words as if they were a sign of emancipation. We hear them so often, even publicly,” he said. “Kindness and an ability to say thank you are almost seen as a sign of weakness.”

Families must work hard to counter that tendency, he said.

“We must be uncompromising in educating people in gratitude and thanksgiving,” the pope said. “If family life ignores this, our social life will lose as well.”

In addition, he said, “for believers, gratitude is at the very heart of faith. A Christian who does not know how to give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language.”

“Listen up, eh,” he told the estimated 25,000 people in the square, and repeated the sentence.

Pope Francis said a “very wise” woman once told him, ‘gratitude is a plant that grows only in the soil of noble souls.’ The nobility of soul, the grace of God, pushes one to give thanks. Gratitude is the flower of a noble soul.”

Asking permission, even to do something that one thinks one has a right to do as a husband, wife, parent, son or daughter is a sign of respect, the pope said, and one that builds trust.

“The more intimate and profound love is,” he said, “the more it requires respect for the other’s freedom and an ability to wait for the other to open the door of his or her heart.”

The most difficult and most important phrase of all, he said, is “forgive me.”

“It’s not for nothing that in the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father, which summarizes all the things essential for our life, we find this expression: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,’” the pope said.

With God and with loved ones, “recognizing one has failed and wanting to restore what was lacking — respect, sincerity, love — makes one worthy of forgiveness,” he said. “That’s how you stop the infection.”

“So many wounds in the family, so many breakups begin with the loss of these precious words: ‘Forgive me,’” he said.

As he has done on many occasions, the pope said that while fights are never a good thing, they are normal, and even if “plates fly” in the heat of the moment, a sincere apology and request for forgiveness, sometimes even just a caress, can restore the peace.

 

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After meeting the pope, Cuban president says he might start praying again

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After spending close to an hour with Pope Francis, Cuban President Raul Castro told reporters he is so impressed by what the pope does and says that he might start praying and could even return to the church.

Pope Francis talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during a private audience at the Vatican May 10. (CNS photo/Gregorio Borgia, Reuters pool)

Pope Francis talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during a private audience at the Vatican May 10. (CNS photo/Gregorio Borgia, Reuters pool)

“I had a very agreeable meeting this morning with Pope Francis. He is a Jesuit, as you well know. I am, too, in a certain sense because I was always in Jesuit schools,” Castro told reporters May 10.

“When the pope comes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses and will do so happily,” the president told reporters at a news conference he held later in the day with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Castro said he left his meeting with the pope “very much struck by his wisdom, his humility and all the virtues that we all know he has.”

“I read all the speeches of the pope,” Castro said, and he told reporters that he already had told Renzi, “if the pope continues to speak this way, sooner or later I could start praying again and return to the Catholic Church. I’m not kidding. I’m a communist, (a member) of the Cuban Communist Party. The party has never admitted believers.”

Today, he said, the country allows people to hold important positions even if they are not members of the party. “It’s a step forward,” he said, although many of the reforms he would like to make are still being implemented.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that during their private meeting in a studio of the Vatican audience hall, Castro thanked Pope Francis for “the active role he played in improving relations between Cuba and the United States of America.”

In December, Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced that their nations were working toward re-establishing official diplomatic relations. Both leaders credited Pope Francis with helping to secure the deal through his letter-writing and by hosting a secret meeting at the Vatican between Cuban and U.S. representatives last fall.

Castro also relayed to the pope the expectations of the Cuban people for his upcoming trip to the nation and outlined how the preparations were going, Father Lombardi said.

During the traditional exchange of gifts, Castro gave Pope Francis a commemorative medal featuring Havana’s cathedral and, in honor of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, a contemporary painting of a cross made up of migrants’ boats with a migrant kneeling before it in prayer.

The Cuban artist known as Kcho, who made the painting, was present at the audience and told Pope Francis he was inspired by the pope’s expressions of concern for the thousands of migrants who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea seeking security and a better life in Europe.

Pope Francis gave Castro a copy of his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” and a large medallion featuring St. Martin of Tours covering a poor man with his cloak. Father Lombardi said Pope Francis told Castro the medallion is a reminder not only of the obligation “to assist and protect the poor, but also to actively promote their dignity.”

 

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