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Vatican Letter: No church for old men: Cardinals are grandfathers, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church is not a “gerontocracy” ruled by old men, 80-year-old Pope Francis said; “we aren’t old men, we are grandfathers.”

“We are grandfathers called to dream and to give our dreams to the young people of today. They need it so that from our dreams, they can draw the strength to prophesy and carry out their task,” the pope told about 50 members of the College of Cardinals.

Pope Francis, center, arrives to celebrate Mass with about 50 cardinals in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 27. The Mass marked the pope's 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis, center, arrives to celebrate Mass with about 50 cardinals in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 27. The Mass marked the pope’s 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop June 27, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Most of the cardinals present were officials of the Roman Curia or retired curial officials living in Rome. Many of them needed assistance up and down the small steps to the altar at Communion time.

The Mass was celebrated the day before Pope Francis was to create five new cardinals: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, 74.

With an average age of 71.6 years, the new cardinals would lower by two months the average age of the entire College of Cardinals. However, the new members would increase slightly the average age of the cardinal electors, the group of those under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

On the day of the pope’s anniversary Mass, the average age of the 116 cardinal electors was 71 years, four months and 15 days; the five new members would raise the average by 11 days.

Before the new members were added, the entire College of Cardinals had 220 members and an average age of 78 years, five months and 23 days. The five new members would lower the average to 78 years, three months and one day.

None of the new cardinals, though, are as old as the patriarch Abraham was when God called him to leave his home and set out for a new land.

The Bible says Abraham was 75 years old when he got the call, the pope noted at his anniversary Mass. “He was more or less our age. He was about to retire.”

At 75, “with the weight of old age, that old age that brings aches, illness,” Abraham heard God call him “as if he were a scout,” the pope said. God tells him, “Go. Look. And hope.”

God says the same thing to the pope and the cardinals, he said. “He tells us that now is not the time to shut down our lives or to end our stories.”

Instead, the pope told the cardinals, God continues to call each of them to keep moving forward and continues to give each of them a mission.

And every mission, he said, involves the three imperatives God gave Abraham: “Get up. Look. Hope.”

God tells Abraham, “Get up. Walk. Don’t stay still. You have a task, a mission, and you must carry it out walking. Don’t stay seated,” the pope said.

Abraham’s tent is a key symbol in the story, he said. The only thing Abraham built solidly was an altar “to adore the one who ordered him to get up and to set out.” His tent was his mobile shelter.

“Someone who does not like us would say that we are the gerontocracy of the church,” the pope told the cardinals. “He doesn’t understand what he is saying.”

The cardinals are not just old men, but are grandfathers in the church, the pope said. “If we don’t feel like we are, we must ask for that grace.”

As grandfathers, the cardinals should know that their grandchildren are watching them and looking to them, he continued. They must help young people find meaning in their lives by sharing their experiences.

For that to happen, the pope said, the cardinals cannot be focused on “the melancholy of our story,” but must be dreamers who continue to look to the future with hope, knowing that God continues to act in human history.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Eucharist is reminder of God’s love, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God’s love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said.

The Eucharist should “heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism,” he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. “May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.”

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people, including children who made their first Communion this spring, gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away.

The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year.

Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze.

The truck had made its first appearance in 1994 when St. John Paul II began having difficulty walking. He and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI would ride on the truck, kneeling or sitting before the monstrance.

Elected at the age of 76, Pope Francis walked behind the truck for the 1-mile procession in 2013. But beginning in 2014, because of his difficulty walking long distances and in order to avoid drawing attention away from the Eucharist, he met the procession at St. Mary Major instead of participating in it.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the Eucharist “is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God’s love for us.”

Just as the Israelites were called to remember how God led them safely through the desert, he said, “remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation.”

“Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant,” Pope Francis said.

Remembering, he said, keeps people “mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.”

Pope Francis said it seems that today people’s ability to remember and be mindful is weakening.

“Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl,” he said. “We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories.”

But the focus on living for the moment, he said, often means living superficially and without a focus on “who we are and where we are going.”

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the pope said, reaches people even in their “fragmented lives,” reminding them how Christ was broken for their salvation and continues to offer himself in the “loving fragility” of the Eucharist.

“In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life,” he said.

“The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus’ words and deeds, the taste of his passion, the fragrance of his Spirit,” he said. “When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love.”

At the same time, the pope said, the Eucharist is a reminder that Christians are not isolated individuals but are called to receive Christ’s body together and to build up the body of the church.

“In experiencing this Eucharist,” he told those at the Mass, “let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love that makes us one body and leads us to unity.”

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Vatican statistics: 1.28 billion Catholics in world, 1,808 Catholics per priest in U.S.

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The health of the Catholic Church can be measured in many ways, and the Vatican has a special office just for that purpose.

The Central Statistics Office, which operates under the Vatican Secretariat of State, conducts a variety of studies for the Roman Curia throughout the year. But one of the office’s biggest projects is compiling the annual, 500-page Statistical Yearbook of the Church. Read more »

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Pope Francis, Rabbi Skorka join effort to promote friendship across faiths

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Reaching out to people of other religions can be both challenging and enriching for individuals and is the only hope for true peace in the world, said a variety of religious leaders, including Pope Francis. Read more »

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Pope Francis demands Nigerian priests accept diocese’s bishop or be suspended

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is giving priests belonging to the Diocese of Ahiara, Nigeria, 30 days to write a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the bishop appointed for their diocese or they will be suspended.

The papal text in English was posted June 9 on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference. Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja told Catholic News Service the same day that the text was what Pope Francis said. The Vatican press office released the text June 10.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, right, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference, posted a letter on his blog from Pope Francis that gives priests of the Diocese of Ahiara 30 days promising obedience to the pope and accepting the bishop appointed to their diocese. (CNS EPA)

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, right, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, has posted a letter on his blog from Pope Francis that gives priests of the Diocese of Ahiara, Nigeria,  30 days to promise  obedience to the pope and to accept the bishop appointed to their diocese. (CNS EPA)

Nigerian church leaders had met Pope Francis June 8 to discuss the situation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed bishop of Ahiara by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but who has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests, apparently by the majority of priests.

Initially the Vatican issued only a short communique on the meeting with the pope, describing the situation in the diocese as “unacceptable” and saying the pope “reserved the right to take appropriate measures.”

The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke is not a local priest.

In the full text posted later, Pope Francis told the Nigerian leaders, “I think that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord.” The pope also referred to “the parable of the murderous tenants” in Matthew 21:33-44.

“Whoever was opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the diocese wants to destroy the church. This is forbidden,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said he even had considered “suppressing the diocese, but then I thought that the church is a mother and cannot abandon her many children.”

Instead, he said, every priest of the diocese, whether residing in Nigeria or abroad, is to write a letter to him asking for forgiveness because “we all must share this common sorrow.”

Each priest’s letter, he said, “must clearly manifest total obedience to the pope” and indicate a willingness “to accept the bishop whom the pope sends and has appointed.”

“The letter must be sent within 30 days, from today to July 9th, 2017. Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended ‘a divinis’ and will lose his current office,” the pope said, according to the posts.

“This seems very hard, but why must the pope do this?” Pope Francis asked. “Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences.”

Bishop Okpaleke, the contested bishop, also met the pope and was joined in Rome by other Nigerian bishops and a handful of priests making an unusual kind of visit “ad limina apostolorum” (to the threshold of the apostles) in early June.

While “ad limina” visits usually are done in national groups, the Vatican communique described the Ahiara diocesan visit using the same term. It noted that the nine-person delegation prayed at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul and in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

They also participated in a private celebration of the Mass June 8 with Pope Francis. The Vatican did not say if the pope gave a homily.

Later in the day, the pope held a private audience with the group. Members also had met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and with Cardinal Fernando Filoni and other top officials from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to examine what the Vatican called the “painful situation of the church in Ahiara.”

When Bishop Okpaleke was appointed to the diocese, the announcement was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy.

Nevertheless, he was ordained a bishop in May 2013, although the ordination took place not in the Ahiara diocese, but at a seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri.

Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo state in southern Nigeria. Bishop Okpaleke is from Anambra state, which borders Imo to the north.

A petition to Pope Benedict launched by the “Coalition of Igbo Catholics” said, “That no priest of Mbaise origin is a bishop today … is mind boggling. Mbaise has embraced, enhanced the growth of and sacrificed for the Catholic Church, has more priests per capita than any other diocese in Nigeria and certainly more than enough pool of priests qualified to become the next bishop of the episcopal see of Ahiara diocese, Mbaise.”

According to the Vatican, the diocese has close to 423,000 Catholics and 110 diocesan priests.

Trying to calm the situation, in July 2013 Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Onaiyekan to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese, and the following December he sent Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, then-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to Ahiara to listen to the concerns of the diocesan priests and local laity.

Cardinal Onaiyekan joined Bishop Okpaleke on the “ad limina” visit to Rome, as did Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri and Archbishop Kaigama. Three priests, a religious sister and a traditional elder also made the trip

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Tens of thousands of people at funeral procession for Ukrainian cardinal

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Saying he was moved by reports of tens of thousands of people gathering for a funeral procession for Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who died May 31, Pope Francis sent a second message of condolence to the cardinal’s successor.

Mourners accompany the body of Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar in a procession through the streets of Lviv June 3 before his body was returned to Kiev for his June 5 funeral Mass and burial. Cardinal Husar died May 31 at the age of 84. (CNS/Roman Baluk, Reuters)

Mourners accompany the body of Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar in a procession through the streets of Lviv June 3 before his body was returned to Kiev for his June 5 funeral Mass and burial. Cardinal Husar died May 31 at the age of 84. (CNS/Roman Baluk, Reuters)

Being grateful for Cardinal Husar’s “unique, religious and social presence in the history of Ukraine, I invite all of you to be faithful to his constant teaching and total abandonment to providence,” the pope wrote June 5, the day of the cardinal’s funeral in Kiev and two days after the massive procession in Lviv.

“Continue to feel his smile and his caress,” Pope Francis wrote to Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych.

Addressing the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church as “Beatitude,” the pope said he had been informed of “the extraordinary influx of people who came in these days to pay homage to the mortal remains of the cardinal.”

“This presence is an eloquent sign of who he was: one of the highest and most respected moral authorities of the Ukrainian people in recent decades,” the pope said.

Pope Francis, who knew Archbishop Shevchuk when both were bishops in Argentina, also offered his personal condolences to the archbishop “to comfort you in the loss of one who was a father and spiritual guide to you.”

Huge crowds gathered outside St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, the one-time seat of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, for the funeral procession. They watched a video of the cardinal speaking about the church and faith, and then thousands of them set off through the streets of Cardinal Husar’s hometown, stopping occasionally for Bible readings, prayers and musical tributes.

With his coffin placed on an artillery gun carriage laden with flowers, the procession through Lviv last two hours. Government officials and representatives of other churches also joined the procession.

Pope Francis said he knew Cardinal Husar was a father for the entire Ukrainian Catholic Church and that he “gathered the inheritance of the ‘catacombs'” where the church was forced to live for four decades under communism.

The cardinal not only gave the church back many of its structures, but he gave it “especially the joy of its history founded on faith through and beyond every suffering.”

When old age and bad health led him to resign in 2011, the pope said, “his presence among the people changed style, but, if possible, became even more intense and richer.”

His reflections and talks, shared on television, the radio and through his blog, showed him to be a “master of wisdom. His speech was simple, understandable to all, but very profound,” the pope said. “His was the wisdom of the Gospel, it was the bread of the word of God broken for the simple, the suffering and for all those who were searching for dignity.”

 

 

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Pentecost is celebration of unity in diversity, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Holy Spirit continues to give Christians different gifts and to call them to share those gifts with each other in a community marked by forgiveness and “unity in diversity,” Pope Francis said on Pentecost.

“In a way both creative and unexpected,” the pope said, the Holy Spirit “generates diversity, for in every age he causes new and varied charisms to blossom. Then he brings about unity: he joins together, gathers and restores harmony.”

Pope Francis prays during a Pentecost vigil marking the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal at the Circus Maximus in Rome June 3. Next to the pope are Gilberto Barbosa from Brazil and Patti Gallagher Mansfield, a participant in the 1967 Pittsburgh retreat that marked the beginning of the Charismatic renewal. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prays during a Pentecost vigil marking the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal at the Circus Maximus in Rome June 3. Next to the pope are Gilberto Barbosa from Brazil and Patti Gallagher Mansfield, a participant in the 1967 Pittsburgh retreat that marked the beginning of the Charismatic renewal. (CNS /Paul Haring)

With tens of thousands of Catholic charismatics from around the world and with dozens of Pentecostal and evangelical leaders present, Pope Francis celebrated Pentecost Mass June 4 in St. Peter’s Square and concluded a five-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said Christians can block the unity in diversity desired by the Holy Spirit by focusing on their differences rather than on what they share.

“This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others,” he said.

“When this happens,” the pope said, “we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the church” and taking pride in being “Christians of the ‘right’ or the ‘left’ before being on the side of Jesus.”

The other temptation, he said, is to seek unity without tolerating diversity. “Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike.”

When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost, he said, the first gift the Spirit brought was forgiveness for their sins and the grace to forgive others.

“Here we see the beginning of the church, the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness,” he said.

Forgiveness “preserves unity despite everything, prevents collapse and consolidates and strengthens,” he said. “Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh.”

Pope Francis began his Pentecost celebrations at an ecumenical vigil June 3 with some 50,000 Catholic charismatics and Pentecostals from more than 125 countries gathered for praise and worship at the site of the ancient Roman Circus Maximus.

Although less exuberantly, the pope, too, sang with his hands cupped open or with his hands raised. He stood between Michelle Moran, president of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, and Patti Mansfield, who was present when the Catholic charismatic renewal was born. In February 1967 Mansfield was one of the Duquesne University students, who experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit during a retreat.

The charismatic renewal is “a current of grace,” Pope Francis told the crowd at the Circus Maximus. “It is a work that was born — Catholic? No. It was born ecumenical,” with similar results in many denominations and with Pentecostals providing support and education to new Catholic charismatics.

“It was born ecumenical because it is the Holy Spirit who creates unity,” the pope said. The Holy Spirit drew Catholics and Pentecostals together to profess that Jesus is Lord and “to proclaim together the Father’s love for all his children.”

In ancient Rome, Pope Francis said, Christians were martyred in the Circus Maximus “for the entertainment of those watching.” He urged the crowd to remember how many Christians are being killed for their faith today and to recognize that their murderers are not asking them their denomination, just whether or not they are Christian.

If those who want to kill Christians believe they are one, he said, it is urgent that Christians be “united by the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer and in action on behalf of those who are weaker.”

“Walk together. Work together. Love each other,” Pope Francis told them.

Being baptized in the Spirit and knowing how to praise God, he said, “are not enough” if Christians don’t also help those in need.

An Italian Pentecostal pastor, Giovanni Traettino, a friend of Pope Francis’ since they met at an ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006, told the crowd that as Christians grow in their love for God, they should simultaneously grow in love for one another.

“The movement of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Pentecostal movement, has in its DNA, its life in the Holy Spirit, the vocation to build Christian unity,” he said.

Pentecostals and Catholic charismatics have not always gotten along, Traettino said. But “the election of Pope Francis clearly opened a new season, especially in relations with us.”

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, offered a reflection also focusing on the ecumenical vocation of the charismatic renewal.

How many of the divisions among Christians “have been due to the desire to make a name for ourselves or for our own church more than for God,” he asked. “A renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not be possible without a collective movement of repentance on the part of all Christians.”

Tens of thousands of people gathered for hours of song and prayer before the pope arrived. As Rome’s summer sun beat down on the pilgrims, Elaine Pollard and Sandra Mobley from Holy Cross parish in Brooklyn, New York, found space in the shade under one of the few trees on the edge of the crowd. They had traveled to Rome with group of 88 people.

Both women are lifelong Catholics who discovered the charismatic renewal in 1989. Pollard said she has stayed with it “because my whole life changed. The first night I went I wasn’t impressed.” That was a Saturday and when she went to work on Monday, “I started to hum one of the songs and my heart just broke open, like living water” flowing forth. “It changed my whole life.”

As she spoke to Catholic News Service, the choir on stage started singing, “10,000 Reasons,” a song of praise. Pollard started to cry.

“We were singing this song when my husband died” 15 months ago, she said. He was in the hospital, dying, and her adopted daughter started singing it. Other relatives, who couldn’t be there in person, were connected by Skype and they were singing it, too, as he passed away.

It is still difficult, she said, but “he wanted me to come and be here.”

Kaye and George Balsam and Terry Mroz from St. Gabriel the Archangel parish in McKinney, Texas, were at the Circus Maximus as part of a 130-person pilgrimage that visited the Holy Land before arriving in Rome for the Pentecost celebrations.

The trip was George’s first with charismatics and he was enthused. “This is what we need to reinvent the church,” he said. Getting people excited about the faith is what is needed if “we want the church to get straightened out and stop losing people,” he said.

Mroz said, “We receive baptism as babies and then we’re confirmed,” but so many people experience the sacraments only as “ritual” and are unaware of the power the sacraments hold. The charismatic renewal “reawakens those gifts you received at baptism and confirmation. Until you get the Holy Spirit, you don’t get this reawakening. That’s what it is, a reawakening of the gifts given you before.”

 

Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz.

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Vatican Letter: Catholic and Pentecostals celebrating Pentecost with pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ very public friendship with and overtures to Pentecostal and evangelical leaders is a high-profile reflection of a relationship that already existed at the grass roots between Catholic charismatics and some of their Spirit-filled neighbors, leaders of the renewal said. Read more »

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Christians share hope, not ‘vinegar of bitterness,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to be “sowers of hope,” consoling and defending the poor and anyone in need, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets artists from Cirque du Soleil during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 31. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As Christians prepared to celebrate Pentecost June 4, Pope Francis used his weekly general audience May 31 to speak about the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the hope of believers and to send them forth to instill hope in others.

Sowing bitterness or perplexity, he said, “isn’t Christian and if you do this, you aren’t Christian. Sow hope. Spread the oil of hope, diffuse the perfume of hope and not the vinegar of bitterness and hopelessness.”

In his Letter to the Romans (15:13), St. Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Having an abundance of hope, Pope Francis said, means not only hoping that when life is over one will be with God. It also means having the strength today to continue hoping “even when there is less human reason for hoping.”

“Hope truly is like a sail,” the pope said. “It gathers the wind of the Spirit and transforms it into a driving force that pushes the boat out to sea or to the shore, depending on circumstances.”

“It pushes us to go forward, always forward,” he said. The Holy Spirit “makes us feel like pilgrims and strangers and does not allow us to sit back and become a sedentary people.”

Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit as a “paraclete,” a provider of consolation and a defense, the pope said, and those who have been blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in turn called to console and defend others.

“Console and defend like the Holy Spirit does for each of us who are here in the square. Console and defend,” he said. “We must be the same for the neediest, the discarded, those who need it most, those who suffer most. Console and defend.”

Saying, “This seems strange, but it’s true,” Pope Francis noted how St. Paul also taught that the Holy Spirit gives hope to all of creation, which is “groaning in labor pains” but expectant in hope. “This pushes us to respect creation: one cannot sully a painting without offending the artist who created it.”

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Pope, Trudeau discuss reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous people

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he asked Pope Francis to help Canadians “move forward on a real reconciliation” with the country’s indigenous people “by issuing an apology” on behalf of the Catholic Church for its role in harming their communities.

Pope Francis meets Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a private audience at the Vatican May 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis meets Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a private audience at the Vatican May 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The prime minister spoke to a handful of reporters in Rome’s Villa Borghese Park May 29 after having had a 36-minute private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

“He reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world, fighting for them,” the prime minister said, adding the pope said that “he looked forward to working with me and with the Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together.”

The 2015 report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which focused on past treatment of the indigenous communities and concrete steps for a future of greater inclusion, included a recommendation that the pope come to Canada to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for its participation in the residential schools for indigenous children.

While the idea behind the schools was to promote the greater integration of indigenous communities into modern Canadian life, the schools, many run by Catholic religious orders, led to a situation in which many children were torn from their families, lost their native language and cultures and often suffered abuse.

Trudeau told reporters he invited the pope to go to Canada “in the coming years,” but added no further details about such a trip.

The Vatican meeting, Trudeau said, was an opportunity to have “a deeply personal and wide-ranging, thoughtful conversation with the leader of my own faith.”

For its part, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the prime minister’s meetings with the pope and with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, included “the themes of integration and reconciliation, as well as religious freedom and current ethical issues.”

Trudeau, who is Catholic, and the bishops of Canada work closely on fighting climate change and on welcoming and assisting refugees, especially from Syria. However, the bishops have sharp differences with the prime minister over a variety of issues related to the sanctity of human life and the family.

In early March Trudeau’s government announced it would “invest” $650 million (US$483 million) over three years to provide abortion and other services in the developing world. The president of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, reacted by calling the policy “a reprehensible example of Western cultural imperialism.”

The bishops also have been working diligently to promote palliative care and a recognition of the sacredness of life of those who are dying as well as the right of medical personnel to conscientiously object to participating in practices they oppose on religious grounds. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2015 that people who are “grievously and irremediably ill” have a right to medical assistance in dying.

After the closed-door meeting, Trudeau introduced his wife, Sophie Gregoire, and his delegation to the pope before exchanging gifts with him.

Trudeau gave the pope an edition of the six-volume “Relations des Jesuites de la Nouvelle-France,” a collection of 17th-century reports from Jesuit missionaries in what is now Canada. Trudeau told the Jesuit pope the volumes are an “essential tool for historians” in understanding the early history of the country. He also gave the pope framed samples of a Jesuit’s dictionary of Montagnais Innu, the language of an indigenous community in Canada.

Pope Francis, appreciating the gift, told the prime minister, “it was a custom of the Jesuits” to compile such dictionaries when they began missions in new lands.

The pope gave Trudeau the gold medallion minted for the fourth year of his pontificate (2016-17), which features an “embrace” as “a symbol of forgiveness, joy and mutual acceptance,” according to the Vatican’s description. It also refers to the passage from Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Pope Francis is aware of the current situation in Canada and the concerns of the bishops on all the issues mentioned by Trudeau to the press and in the Vatican communique. From March to May Pope Francis spent hours listening to the bishops, who made their ad limina visits to the Vatican in four groups.

While all the bishops of Canada have not formally invited the pope to Canada, during the visits several of the groups explained the situation of Canada’s indigenous peoples, the history of the residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Some of the bishops said they were told Pope Francis would consider a trip in 2018 or 2019. A final decision would require input from the whole Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in dialogue with the Vatican.

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