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Pope Francis: Tree, creche inspire everyone to love and share

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God did not come to the world with arrogance to impose his might; he offered his powerful love through a fragile child, Pope Francis said.

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter's Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony Dec. 19. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene decorate St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican after a lighting ceremony Dec. 19. New LED lighting was also unveiled on the facade and dome of the basilica during the ceremony. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Christmas tree and Nativity scene are reminders of this mystery of the Incarnation and they both carry “a message of light, hope and love,” he said Dec. 19, meeting the people who donated the centerpieces of the Vatican Christmas decorations.

The Italian city of Verona donated the Nativity scene, and the southern Italian city of Catanzaro donated the 82-foot white spruce tree, which both adorn St. Peter’s Square. The tree was lit and the scene officially unveiled during an early evening ceremony in the square Dec. 19.

Earlier in the day, the pope thanked the delegates for their generosity and highlighted the importance of the Christmas creche and tree for Christians, as they are a sign of how “God made man to save us and the light that Jesus brought to the world with his birth.”

But the Nativity scene and Christmas tree touch the hearts of everyone, “even those who do not believe because they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling all people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity,” he said.

“They are an invitation to unity, harmony and peace; an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God, who did not come with arrogance to impose his might, but offers us his omnipotent love through the fragile person of a child,” he said.

“Let us follow him, the true light, in order to not lose our way and to reflect, in turn, light and warmth upon those who are going through difficult and dark times,” he said.

A choir from Serrastretta near Catanzaro and the band of the Vatican gendarme corps were to provide traditional Christmas music, both sacred and popular, during the lighting ceremony.

After the Christmas lighting, Vatican officials were scheduled to flip the switch for the new 315-bulb LED lighting on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican said the new bulbs should save about 70 percent on the basilica’s lighting bill. A similar system, also set for its first illumination Dec. 19, was installed at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

 

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Pope names second abuse survivor, experts to protection panel

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis expanded his papal commission on child protection to include a second survivor of abuse and more experts from around the world.

The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established one year ago, adds four more women and four men from five continents to the now-17-member body.

The Vatican announced the new members Dec. 17.

One of the new members is Peter Saunders, the chief executive officer of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), which he founded nearly two decades ago in the United Kingdom to help other survivors find support. He was one of six abuse survivors who spoke with Pope Francis in a private meeting at the Vatican July 7.

Also joining the commission are:

• Krysten Winter-Green, an expert in theology, human development, social work and pastoral psychology, who has served in a number of dioceses in the United States. Born in New Zealand, Winter-Green served as Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s chancellor when he was bishop of St. Thomas in the American Virgin Islands, and she also worked for him in Fall River and Boston. According to biographical information provided by the Vatican, her work in the field of child abuse includes “forensics, assessment and treatment of priest and clergy offenders.”

• Bill Kilgallon, national director of the Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, which oversees the church’s response to accusations of abuse against clergy or religious. Before that, Kilgallon was a member of a review team into the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and in 2008, he was appointed as the first chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales, which was responsible for setting policies and procedures for the Catholic Church and monitoring compliance by dioceses and religious congregations.

• Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, the secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. She has served as provincial superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood and had been associate secretary-general secretary of the Pretoria-based bishops’ conference.

• Kathleen McCormack, founder and now retired-director of CatholicCare, which works with Australia’s dioceses, provides essential social services and counseling to those in need. Starting in the 1990s, McCormack also became a vocal advocate for victims of sexual abuse. She helped report priests and perpetrators to the police and urged the church and Catholic organizations implement child protection programs.

• Sister Kayula Lesa, a member of the Religious Sisters of Charity, works at the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia. She has been active in the fight against human trafficking and supporting human rights. She has written on child protection and refugee rights and has served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching.

• Gabriel Dy-Liacco is licensed counselor and an assistant professor at Regent University’s School of Psychology and Counseling in Virginia. Born in the Philippines, Dy-Liacco is “an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counselor for various mental health concerns” including victims and perpetrators of abuse, according to the Vatican.

• Father Luis Manuel Ali Herrera is the head of the department of psychology and a professor of pastoral psychology at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogota, Colombia.

Pope Francis, who has called for zero tolerance and complete accountability for the “despicable” crime of abuse, has said he wants the commission to help the church develop better policies and procedures for protecting minors. The commission is also meant to lay out a pastoral approach to helping victims and prevent future abuse as well as focus on priestly formation, accountability and reaching out to survivors.

The commission is headed by Cardinal O’Malley; the commission secretary is U.S. Father Robert W. Oliver, a Boston priest and canon lawyer who worked on the abuse crisis in the church there.

The new papal commission members join Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clerical abuse, and six, mostly European, experts in mental health, civil and church law, and moral theology.

The next plenary session of the commission will be in the Vatican Feb. 6-8, 2015.

 

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Pope Francis turns 78, begins series of talks on the family

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At his last weekly public audience of 2014, Pope Francis started a series of talks on the family with a reflection on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph as a model for all Christian families.

The pope spoke Dec. 17 after getting cheers, balloons and even a birthday cake as he arrived for the audience that coincided with his 78th birthday. He said his remarks were first of a series in preparation for the October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, which he described as the conclusion of a process begun at the October extraordinary synod on the same subject.

Pope Francis blows out candles on a birthday cake given by a seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 17. The pope turned 78. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blows out candles on a birthday cake given by a seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 17. The pope turned 78. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I have decided to reflect with you, in this year, on the very subject of the family, on this great gift that the Lord has given the world from the start, when he gave Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth,” the pope said.

The series of talks, which the pope announced at the previous week’s audience, Dec. 10, could amount to the most extensive papal teaching on the subject since St. John Paul II gave more than 120 audience talks on human sexuality, later compiled as his “theology of the body.”

If the first installment of Pope Francis’talks is indicative, they will be in his usual conversational and folksy style, in contrast to the philosophical meditations of St. John Paul.

In the talk, delivered a week before Christmas Eve, Pope Francis reflected that God chose to become man not “spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor” but as the son of a “pious and hardworking Israelite family” in a “forlorn village on the periphery of the Roman empire.”

Noting that the Gospels offer no details on Jesus’ youth and upbringing, the pope imagined the Holy Family’s daily life: “The mother cooked, kept house, ironed the shirts, did all the work of a mom. The dad, a carpenter, worked, taught his son to work.”

“It is not difficult to imagine how much moms could learn from Mary’s care for that son, and how much dads could benefit from the example of Joseph, a just man, who devoted his life to supporting and defending his child and wife, his family, in difficult periods. Not to speak of how much the adolescent Jesus might encourage kids to understand the necessity and beauty of cultivating their deepest vocation, and of dreaming big dreams,” Pope Francis said.

“The family of Nazareth calls on us to rediscover the vocation of the family, of every family,” the pope said: “to make love normal instead of hate, to make mutual assistance a common thing, rather than indifference or enmity.”

“This is the great mission of the family: to make a place for Jesus when he comes, to welcome Jesus in the family, in the form of children, husband, wife, grandparents,” he said. “Jesus is there. Welcome him there, that he might grow spiritually in that family.”

Thousands of tango dancers, mostly from Italy, flocked to St. Peter’s Square to wave their white scarves that said “A Tango for Pope Francis” and cheer along with tens of thousands of other people at the audience. Italian tango dancer Cristina Camorani organized a “Street Tango Flashmob” over the Internet, inviting people to what she hoped would become the “Biggest Milonga in the World.”

 

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Vatican report calls U.S. women religious to continued dialogue

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A massive, detailed Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious ended with a call to the women themselves to continue discerning how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders’ founding ideals while facing steeply declining numbers and a rapidly aging membership.

Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, speaks as Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, listens during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. The 5,000 word report summarizes problems and challenges the women see in their communities and thanks them for their service. The visitation was carried out between 2009 and 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, speaks as Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, listens during a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. The 5,000 word report summarizes problems and challenges the women see in their communities and thanks them for their service. The visitation was carried out between 2009 and 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although initially seen by many religious and lay Catholics as a punitive measure, the apostolic visitation concluded with the publication Dec. 16 of a 5,000-word final report summarizing the problems and challenges the women themselves see in their communities and thanking them for their service to the church and to society, especially the poor.

The visitation process, carried out between 2009 and 2012 with detailed questionnaires and on-site visits, mainly by other women religious, “sought to convey the caring support of the church in respectful, sister-to-sister dialogue,” says the final report by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The process attempted to help the Vatican “and the sisters themselves to be more cognizant of their current situation and challenges in order to formulate realistic, effective plans for the future,” said the report, signed by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the congregation for religious, and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary.

In summarizing the results, the congregation called for special attention in several areas, including: formation programs for new members; the personal, liturgical and common prayer life of members; ensuring their spiritual practices and ministries are fully in harmony with church teaching “about God, creation, the Incarnation and redemption” in Christ; strengthening community life, especially for members living on their own or with just one other sister; living their vow of poverty while wisely administering financial resources; and strengthening communion within the church, especially with the bishops and Vatican officials.

The Vatican, the report says, “is well aware that the apostolic visitation was met with apprehension and suspicion by some women religious. This resulted in a refusal, on the part of some institutes, to collaborate fully in the process.”

“While the lack of full cooperation was a painful disappointment for us,” the congregation writes, “we use this present opportunity to invite all religious institutes to accept our willingness to engage in respectful and fruitful dialogue with them.”

“A number of sisters conveyed to the apostolic visitator a desire for greater recognition and support of the contribution of women religious to the church on the part of its pastors,” the report says. “They noted the ongoing need for honest dialogue with bishops and clergy as a means of clarifying their role in the church and strengthening their witness and effectiveness as women faithful to the church’s teaching and mission.”

In addition, it says, “some spoke of their perception of not having enough input into pastoral decisions which affect them or about which they have considerable experience and expertise.”

The current Year of Consecrated Life, the congregation says, should be “a graced opportunity for all of us within the church — religious, clergy and laity — to take those steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation, which will offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion to all.”

The former prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Franc Rode, ordered the visitation in 2008, saying its aim would be to study the community, prayer and apostolic life of the orders to learn why the number of religious women in the United States had declined so sharply since the 1960s.

Almost a year into the study, Cardinal Rode told Vatican Radio that the investigation was a response to concerns, including some expressed by an unnamed “important representative of the U.S. church,” regarding “some irregularities or omissions in American religious life. Most of all, you could say, it involves a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”

As the process began, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of U.S. women religious, questioned what its officials considered a lack of full disclosure about what motivated the visitation.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s investigation of the LCWR, begun in 2008, was a separate process; in 2011, the congregation ordered a reform of the organization, saying “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world.”

At a news conference presenting the report Dec. 16, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life invited both the president of the LCWR and the chairwoman of the smaller U.S. Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to address the media. They were joined by Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican.

The congregation’s final report says that while apostolic visits are “a normal instrument of governance” designed to “assist the group in question to improve the way in which it carries out its mission in the life of the church,” the visitation of U.S. women religious “was unprecedented” in many ways.

“It involved 341 religious institutes of both diocesan and pontifical right, to which approximately 50,000 women religious throughout the United States belong,” the report says. Only communities of cloistered nuns were excluded.

While not news, the report presents striking statistics: “Today, the median age of apostolic women religious in the United States is in the mid- to late-70s. The current number of approximately 50,000 apostolic women religious is a decline of about 125,000 since the mid-1960s, when the numbers of religious in the United States had reached their peak.”

“It is important to note, however, that the very large numbers of religious in the 1960s was a relatively short-term phenomenon that was not typical of the experience of religious life through most of the nation’s history,” the report says. “The steady growth in the number of women religious peaked dramatically from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, after which it began to decline as many of the sisters who had entered during the peak years left religious life, the remaining sisters aged and considerably fewer women joined religious institutes.”

Citing a wide variety of founding principles, ministries and community sizes, the congregation’s final report notes an overall trend of “aging and diminishment” in the number of members.

Most religious communities, it says, “are expending considerable spiritual and material energies in the area of vocation promotion,” but many of them are obtaining results “not commensurate with the expectations and efforts.”

“Vocation and formation personnel interviewed noted that candidates often desire the experience of living in formative communities, and many wish to be externally recognizable as consecrated women,” it says, in an apparent reference to the wearing of traditional habits. “This is a particular challenge in institutes whose current lifestyle does not emphasize these aspects of religious life.”

The congregation’s report does not make specific recommendations other than urging the entire church “to offer fervent prayer for religious vocations” and to ask religious communities to ensure they provide “a solid, theological, human, cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation” for religious life

 

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Morning homily: Self-righteous rebels are doomed, repentant sinners are saved, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Only the repentant heart that is humble, open to correction and trusts completely in God will be saved, Pope Francis said.

Those whose hearts are proud, self-righteous and deaf to God’s voice and correction are doomed, the pope said Dec. 16 at his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta

Pope Francis greets a boy as he arrives to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Rome Dec. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a boy as he arrives to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph Parish in Rome Dec. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

, where he lives.

“The people who are humble, lowly and trust in the Lord, they are the ones who are saved, and this is the way of the church, right? It has to go down this path, not the other one, which doesn’t listen to the voice (of God), doesn’t accept correction and doesn’t trust in the Lord,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The pope’s homily focused on the day’s readings, first from the Book of Zephaniah (3:1-2, 9-13), in which the Lord condemns the “rebellious and polluted” city, which does not hear or trust in God and accepts no correction. God will remove “the proud braggarts” and leave behind “a people humble and lowly,” the reading says. The Gospel reading from St. Matthew (21:28-32) shows Jesus asking the chief priests and elders to decide who is more obedient to God’s will: the son who refuses, but then repents and goes as commanded to work in the vineyard, or the son who agrees right away but does not go.

The two readings, the pope said, talk about judgment, salvation and condemnation.

“When we see a holy people of God that is humble, whose wealth is in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord,” he said, “they are the ones who are saved.”

The Gospel account of the two sons, he said, can be seen today with Christians who declare that they are “pure” just because they go to Mass and receive Communion.

But God wants something more, the pope said. He wants them to honestly open their hearts and courageously lay bare all of their sins.

Even people who generously give their lives in service to others, who work with the poor, help the church, there is still something missing that God wants: a list of their sins, the pope said.

“When we are able to tell the Lord, ‘Lord these are my sins, not the sins of that one or the other, these are mine. They are mine. You take them and that way I will be saved’; when we are able to do this we will be that beautiful people, a humble and lowly people, who trust in the Lord,” the pope said.

Among those invited to attend the morning Mass were the three women religious from the United States who were in Rome for the presentation of a final report ending a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious.

Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitor appointed by the Vatican, told reporters during a news conference about the report that the pope’s morning homily was “an awesome experience.”

She said the pope’s final comments about Jesus asking everyone to “give me your sins; I was very struck by that because we all have our shortcomings, all of our congregations, we’ve all come up short on many aspects in living our fidelity, and I thought that was a beautiful message to all of us.”

The Vatican’s final report calling on the women to discern how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders’ founding ideals was “very pastoral,” she said.

“It challenges each of us, every one of our congregations, to turn all of that over to Jesus so that he can work great things through us, and I think that was the message I received from the Holy Father this morning,” she said.

 

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Pope: Hypocrites stick to harsh judgments and ignore God’s mercy

December 15th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Never condemn others, but if temptation strikes, then condemn yourself because there is bound to be something deserving judgment, Pope Francis said.

May “our hearts be simple, bright with the truth that (the Lord) gives us and that way we can be loving, forgiving, understanding toward others, with a heart wide open to others and merciful,” the pope said Dec. 15 at his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta where he lives.

Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 10. In his talk, the pope reviewed the October extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 10. In his talk, the pope reviewed the October extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Never condemn. If you feel like condemning, condemn yourself, there’s got to be something there, huh?” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

In his homily, the pope talked about hypocrites rigidly adhering to rules while letting their weak hearts be swayed by shifting and selfish interests.

Looking at the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew (21:23-27), the pope said the chief priests and elders who questioned Jesus’ authority were hypocrites.

Their outer appearance made them seem strong, he said, but on the inside, their “hearts are very weak, they didn’t know what to believe in and that is why their life was so regulated on the outside,” he said.

They focused only on slavishly following rules and rituals, and criticized those who did not.

“They weren’t interested in the truth,” he said, they vacillated here and there, seeking only their best interests, letting the wind decide which way to go, like “weather vanes.”

Jesus is the exact opposite: He teaches us that “the Christian must have a strong heart, a firm heart, a heart rooted on the rock, who is Christ.”

With Christ as the guide, one can move forward, but with prudence, deciding how to act according to each situation, but without compromising the heart, the pope said; “you don’t negotiate the rock. The rock is Christ, you do not bargain.”

Jesus never compromised his heart as son of the Father, “but he was so open to the people, looking for ways to help,” while the elders complained “‘our doctrine says that cannot be done.’” They insisted “the discipline is untouchable, it is sacred.”

Pope Francis compared their attitude to the situation when he was a boy and it was forbidden for anyone to have anything to eat or drink before receiving Communion.

“You couldn’t even have a drop of water. Not at all. And you had to make sure you didn’t swallow any water when brushing your teeth. I myself as a boy went to confess that I had received Communion even though I thought a drop of water had gone down” that morning.

“Pope Pius XII freed us from that heavy cross of eucharistic fasting,” he said.

But when the pope changed the rules, there were people who exclaimed, “‘Ah heresy! No! He touched the discipline of the church’; Many Pharisees were scandalized. Many.”

But Pope Pius had done only what Jesus would have, he said. He said Pope Pius saw the people suffering, especially when it was hot, and the priests had to say as many as three Masses all in a row well past noon while fasting.

Pope Francis said that sometimes when he sees a Christian who has a weak heart that is not built on Christ, but they are “so rigid on the outside, I have asked the Lord, ‘Lord, throw a banana peel down in front of them so that they’ll take a nice fall. By feeling the shame of being a sinner they will encounter you, you who are the savior.’”

He said it is only by recognizing ourselves as sinners and feeling that shame of sin that people open their eyes to God, “who forgives us, like the sick who went to the Lord to be healed.”

 

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U.S. asks Vatican for help in relocating Guantanamo detainees

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Vatican counterpart Dec. 15, and asked him to support the Obama administration’s efforts to close the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, met with Kerry for an hour, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador of the Holy See, was also present at the meeting.

Kerry underscored the “commitment of the United States to close the Guantanamo prison and the desire for the Holy See’s support in the search for appropriate humanitarian solutions for the current detainees,” Father Lombardi said.

The main topic of Kerry’s discussion with Cardinal Parolin was the “situation in the Middle East, and the commitment of the United States to avoid a worsening of tensions and an outbreak of violence, as well as the commitment to promoting a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Father Lombardi told reporters.

Kerry was in Rome as one stop of a European tour dedicated largely to reviving peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome later the same day.

Father Lombardi said the two secretaries of state also touched briefly on other subjects, including the civil war in Eastern Ukraine and the Ebola epidemic.

 

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Pope praises Our Lady of Guadalupe as great missionary of ‘our America’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Preceded by a procession of flags from the nations of the Americas and the recitation of the rosary in Spanish, Pope Francis and thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican.

Pope Francis prepares to use incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during her feast day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prepares to use incense to venerate an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during her feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 12. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Argentina-born pope celebrated the Dec. 12 Mass to the sounds and rhythms of many of South America’s indigenous peoples; the principal sung parts of the Mass were from the “Misa Criolla,” composed 50 years ago by the late Ariel Ramirez. His son, Facundo Ramirez, conducted the choir that featured Patricia Sosa, a famous Argentine singer, as well as guitars and traditional instruments from the continent.

With St. Juan Diego’s vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, the pope said, Mary “became the great missionary who brought the Gospel to our America.”

In his homily, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would “continue to accompany, assist and protect our peoples” and that she would “lead all the children who are pilgrims on this earth by the hand to an encounter with her son Jesus Christ.”

“Imploring God’s forgiveness and trusting in his mercy,” the pope prayed that God would help the people of Latin America forge a future of hope, development and opportunity for the poor and suffering, “for the humble, for those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the compassionate, the pure of heart, peacemakers and those persecuted for the sake of Christ’s name.”

Mary’s “Magnificat,” her hymn of praise to God, he said, proclaims that God “overturns ideologies and worldly hierarchies. He raises up the humble, comes to the aid of the poor and the small, and fills with good things, blessings and hope those who trust in his mercy.”

Pope Francis said the day’s reading from Psalm 66, with its “plea for forgiveness and the blessing of the peoples and nations and, at the same time, its joyful praise, expresses the spiritual sense of this Eucharistic celebration” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “for whom devotion extends from Alaska to Patagonia.”

The dark-skinned image of Our Lady of Guadalupe traditionally believed to have been miraculously impressed on Juan Diego’s cloak, the pope said, proclaimed to the indigenous peoples of the Americas “the good news that all its inhabitants shared the dignity of children of God. No more would anyone be a servant, but we are all children of the same Father and brothers and sisters to each other.”

Mary did not just want to visit the Americas, the pope said, the image on the cloak or “tilma” is a sign that “she wanted to remain with them.”

“Through her intercession, the Christian faith began to become the greatest treasure” of the American peoples, Pope Francis said, a treasure “transmitted and demonstrated even today in the baptism of multitudes of people, in the faith, hope and charity of many, in their precious popular piety and in that ethos of the people who show that they know the dignity of the human person, in their passion for justice, in solidarity with the poor and suffering.”

 

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Pope Francis to create new cardinals in February

December 12th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will create new cardinals Feb. 14, following a two-day meeting of the world’s cardinals that will discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, among other issues.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, made the announcement Dec. 11. The names of the new cardinals are likely to be announced in mid-January, he said.

New cardinals participate in a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 22, 2014. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will create new cardinals Feb. 14. The names of the new cardinals are likely to be announced in mid-January, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

New cardinals participate in a consistory at which Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 22, 2014. The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will create new cardinals Feb. 14. The names of the new cardinals are likely to be announced in mid-January, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

If Pope Francis respects the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80 and, therefore, eligible to vote for a pope, he will have 10 such openings in February.

As of Dec. 11, the College of Cardinals had 208 members, 112 of whom were under 80. Retired Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta will turn 80 Dec. 20 and Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo has his 80th birthday Jan. 3.

On the same occasion, Pope Francis may also follow precedent by creating a number of cardinals over the age of 80, churchmen being honored for their contributions to theology or other service to the church.

In accordance with recent tradition, the pope will bestow red hats on the new cardinals Feb. 14 and then celebrate Mass with them in St. Peter’s Basilica the next day.

His creation of new cardinals will follow a consistory or meeting of the entire College of Cardinals Feb. 12-13. In February 2014, the pope called such a meeting to discuss the theme of the family, as part of the preparation for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the subject held in October.

The theme for the next consistory has not been set yet, Father Lombardi said, but the Council of Cardinals advising the pope on reform of the Vatican bureaucracy will brief their fellow cardinals on their progress in drafting a new constitution for the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.

The spokesman echoed a recent statement by the pope that the reform process was moving slowly, and would not be completed before 2016.

The nine-member council, known as the C9, will meet for its usual bimonthly session Feb. 9-11. Its previous meeting took place Dec. 9-11.

The cardinals’ meetings will come on the heels of a meeting of the papal Commission for the Protection of Minors, which coordinates the church’s efforts to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

The commission, which is headed by U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, currently has nine members, including its secretary, U.S. Father Robert W. Oliver. Father Lombardi said the membership will have doubled to 18 by the February meeting, in an effort to expand representation beyond Europe and North America. The names of the nine new members have not be published.

 

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Pope concerned about Syriac Catholics fleeing violence in Mideast

December 12th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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CatholicNews Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis expressed his concern for members of the Syriac Catholic Church who have had to flee from the “inhumanity” unfolding in the Middle East.

“Many have fled to find refuge from an inhumanity that throws entire populations onto the streets, leaving them without any means for survival,” he said Dec. 12 in a special audience with Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and about 350 of his faithful from the Syriac Catholic Church.

The audience, made up of bishops, priests and laity from the Eastern-rite church, came after the bishops’ annual synod, which was held in Rome Dec. 8-10. Participants came from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Holy Land, as well as from the diaspora communities in Europe and North and South America.

The pope offered his prayers and encouragement, especially for those from “Iraq and Syria, who are living a time of great suffering and fear in the face of violence.”

“The difficult situation in the Middle East has caused and continues to cause the movement of faithful from your church to the eparchies of the diaspora, and this brings you new pastoral challenges,” he said, such as how to remain faithful to one’s traditions while adapting and contributing to new cultural settings.

Having so many faithful move abroad “impoverishes the Christian presence in the Middle East, land of the prophets, of the first preachers of the Gospel, of martyrs and many saints, the cradle of hermitages and monasticism,” Pope Francis said.

The changes have meant the bishops have had to reflect on the “the situation of their eparchies, which need zealous pastors as well as courageous faithful, capable of proclaiming the Gospel, through discussions that are not always easy with people of different ethnicities and religions,” the pope said.

Patriarch Younan said a major focus of their synod was on priestly formation since their communities have faced so much upheaval.

“For example, just the Eparchy of Mosul has seen one bishop and 25 priests flee” along with 15,000 Syriac Catholics when Islamic State fighters swept through northern Iraq in August.

“Many of them live with the refugees now and we want to take this difficult situation into serious consideration,” he said in an interview with the website theologhia.com.

He said the Syriac Catholic community has been the minority community hit hardest by the violence in Iraq. “We were 40 percent of the population” in the Nineveh plain, which has been “completely emptied of Christians.”

He said 60,000 members of the community fled, many of them to Kurdistan. However, unlike the Chaldean Catholics, who have their patriarchate in Baghdad, the Syriac Catholics “have no eparchies of support. Therefore we are literally displaced.”

“We have no more structures. For that reason, our people live in tents in a situation of terrible precariousness.”

The latest violence now means that more than one-third of the Syriac Catholic community “has been uprooted and is in diaspora. And only God knows when we will return and if we will return.”

 

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