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On feast of Assumption, pope entrusts victims of disasters, conflict, social tension to Mary

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a week in which natural disasters, war and racial conflicts dominated the headlines, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would bring peace to a divided world.

After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, the pope asked Mary to obtain “for everyone consolation and a future of serenity and harmony.”

Pope Francis gives a blessing during his Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“To Mary, Queen of Peace, who we contemplate today in the glory of paradise, I entrust once again the anxieties and sorrows of the people who suffer in many parts of the world due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 15.

Pope Francis did not name any specific location, but as he spoke, the search for survivors continued in Sierra Leone after a devastating mudslide engulfed the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, killing more than 300 people. Flooding and landslides also struck southern Nepal, killing at least 70 people.

In Charlottesville, Va., clashes between white nationalists and protesters resulted in the death of three people, including a 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group protesting the white nationalist rally.

In his main Angelus talk, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.

The joy felt by Elizabeth and the child in her womb reflects the interior joy Christians feel in Christ’s presence, the pope said. “When Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from their hearts because the invisible yet real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything!”

In response, Mary proclaims the Magnificat, her hymn of praise to God for his great works. Pope Francis said it is the hymn of “humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary, like her husband Joseph as well as the town where they live, Nazareth.”

God accomplishes “great things with humble people,” the pope said, inviting people in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on the state of their own humility.

“Humility is like an empty space that leaves room for God. A humble person is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. This is the greatness of humility,” he said.

The joy Mary brings because she brings Jesus to the world gives all Christians “a new ability to pass through the most painful and difficult moments with faith” as well as the “ability to be merciful, to forgive, understand and support each other.”

“Mary is a model of virtue and faith,” Pope Francis said. “We ask her to protect and sustain us that we may have a faith that is strong, joyful and merciful. May she help us to become saints, to meet her one day in paradise.”

     

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Venezuelan cardinal rejects U.S. military intervention

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Venezuelan cardinal rejected the possibility of foreign intervention in the country following U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to pursue a military option.

“The crisis we Venezuelans are suffering is so serious that now an external problem arises: the threats of a military option by President Trump,” Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas said.

Demonstrators gather at a roadblock July 26 to protest President Nicolas Maduro’s government. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

The cardinal spoke Aug. 13 after celebrating the 150th anniversary of the consecration of his archdiocese’s cathedral Aug. 13. He rejected the assertion that foreign military intervention could solve the crisis Venezuela is experiencing.

“I, and I am sure all the Venezuelan bishops, reject all foreign military interference, such as the Cuban one present for some time in Venezuela,” Cardinal Urosa said, “and I do not agree with the threat of a military option.”

After a meeting Aug. 11 with Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, Trump told journalists that a military intervention was “certainly something that we could pursue.”

“Venezuela is a mess. It is very dangerous mess and a very sad situation,” Trump said. “The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

Elections for seats on a constituent assembly were held in Venezuela July 30 amid massive protests and international outcry. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s push for the assembly, comprised mainly of his supporters and designed to rewrite the nation’s constitution, has led to violent demonstrations in which more than 100 people have died.

Cardinal Urosa said a foreign military intervention would not solve the real problem, which is a “social, political and economic crisis we suffer that is becoming more serious.”

“The ones who must solve this current crisis are we Venezuelans and especially the government that created it,” the cardinal said.

     

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Cling to the Lord for security, not horoscopes, pope says

August 14th, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When passing through the storm of life’s difficult moments, Christians must latch on to Christ and not the false sense of security offered by psychics and soothsayers, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to pilgrims before reciting the Angelus Aug. 13, Pope Francis talked about the day’s Gospel passage, which recounts the story of Jesus walking on water. Jesus tells St. Peter to come to him, but his lack of faith when walking on the water toward Jesus during a storm leads to him slowly to start sinking in the sea.

A parrot of a Pakistani fortuneteller holds a fortune letter in Karachi, Pakistan, in this file photo. (CNS photo/Akhtar Soomro, EPA)

Christians today, Pope Francis said, also can doubt the assurance of Christ’s presence when confronting life’s “turbulent and hostile waters.”

“When we do not cling to the word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortunetellers to have more security, we begin to sink,” the pope said.

Although most Romans escape the city during the summer, hundreds of pilgrims still made their way to St. Peter’s Square, waving banners and flags while cheering loudly as the pope appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said the Sunday Gospel reading invites all Christians to reflect on their faith “both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, even the faith of all us here today in the square.”

St. Peter’s request that Jesus call him, his moment of doubt and his subsequent cry for Jesus to save him, the pope said, “resembles our desire to feel close to the Lord, but also the fear and anguish that accompanies the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal frailty and external difficulty.”

“Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his word doesn’t open a path where everything is easy and calm; it doesn’t take away life’s storms,” the pope said. “Faith gives us the security of a presence, Jesus’ presence, which pushes us to overcome existential storms, and the assurance of a hand that grabs us to help us face the difficulties, showing us the way even when it is dark.”

The image of the boat in troubled waters, he added, also can represent the church, which throughout history has faced storms that “threaten to overwhelm her.”

What saves the church is not “courage or the quality of its members,” but rather “faith in Christ and his word.”

“In short, faith is not an escape from life’s problems but sustains it along the journey and gives it meaning,” Pope Francis said.

     

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Pope prays for victims of deadly attacks in Nigeria and Central African Republic

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called for an end to violence against Christians following deadly attacks in two African countries. Read more »

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Ex-Vatican diplomat: U.S., North Korea must return to negotiating table

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The United States and North Korea must return to the negotiating table and focus on improving the quality of life of their people rather than on the might of their advanced weaponry, said a former Vatican diplomat. Read more »

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Pope Francis saddened by ‘perfect’ Catholics who scorn others

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God did not choose perfect people to form his church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

The Gospel of Luke’s account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a “clear separation” between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis blesses a woman during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 9 . (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis blesses a woman during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 9 . (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect,” the pope said. “And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad.”

Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus’ “scandalous gesture” of forgiving the sinful woman.

The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.

Although Jesus’ love toward the sick and the marginalized “baffles his contemporaries,” it reveals God’s heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.

“How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes, or better yet, with the heart of God, meaning with hope,” he said. But “Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices.”

Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God’s unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.

By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn’t seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but rather offers “people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love,” the pope said.

The church is a people formed “of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God,” Pope Francis said. Christians are “all poor sinners” who need God’s mercy, “which strengthens us and gives us hope.”

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American have a new parish to call home in Rome

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Catholic News Service

ROME — After years in exile from the church they had called home for the past 95 years, the American Catholic community in Rome moved to a new church they can finally call their own.

Paulist Father Greg Apparcel, pastor of the parish for U.S. Catholics in Rome, stands outside St. Patrick's Church in Rome Aug. 7. After leaving the Church of Santa Susanna, which American Catholics had called its parish since 1922, the community will now call St. Patrick's home. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

Paulist Father Greg Apparcel, pastor of the parish for U.S. Catholics in Rome, stands outside St. Patrick’s Church in Rome Aug. 7. After leaving the Church of Santa Susanna, which American Catholics had called its parish since 1922, the community will now call St. Patrick’s home. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

Located just a few steps away from the U.S. Embassy to Italy, St. Patrick’s Church is the new official “mission for the care of souls for U.S. faithful residing in Rome,” said Paulist Father Greg Apparcel, rector of St. Patrick’s.

U.S. Catholics in Rome, guided by the Paulist Fathers, had called the Church of Santa Susanna their parish since 1922. But the cloistered Cistercian nuns, who have had a presence at the historic parish since 1587, found the American presence distracting and made various attempts over the years to evict them.

“I tried to understand their position,” Father Apparcel said Aug. 7. “It was their home, and they felt we invaded their home. We felt it was our home, (but) they didn’t agree with that.”

While there was no dispute regarding the ownership of Santa Susanna, the pastoral responsibility of the church had belonged to the Paulist priests for decades. In 2012, however, tensions rose when several large signs were placed in the church that stated the Cistercians owned the church.

Father Apparcel said that he appealed to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, who in turn asked Pope Francis to intervene in the matter and allow the American community to return to the parish.

However, the Paulist priest said, “we were discouraged from coming back there because the Cistercian community owns the church, and they felt that they just wanted it to be them.”

Instead, the Vatican encouraged Father Apparcel to move to St. Patrick’s Church, a parish run by Augustinian priests from Ireland who decided in 2012 to leave their ministry in Rome due to “a lack of priests.”

Several meetings between the Paulist Fathers and the Augustinian community led to an agreement that the church would become the new parish for American Catholics residing in Rome. The Augustinian community, Father Apparcel added, leased to the U.S. community the church and a hall currently being renovated to house offices, a library and classrooms “rent-free.”

“They have been incredibly generous and hospitable to us. No question about it,”” the Paulist priest said.

While the disagreement with the Cistercian nuns at Santa Susanna left relations at times strained, Father Apparcel said there are no hard feelings between the two communities.

“We had a very nice, very friendly conversation,” he said. “They said they had nothing but good feelings for the Paulist Fathers and the American community. And (they) offered their prayers and asked us to pray for them. They were sincere.”

The nearly 400 families that make up the American parish in Rome, Father Apparcel added, are also “relieved” that they finally have their own church rather than attending in Mass in different parishes.

Despite the odds, Father Apparcel cared for the spiritual needs for the flock during that five-year period, often racing from one parish to another to celebrate Mass in English while Santa Susanna remained closed to the American community.

“I’ve gone through all the emotions from A-Z. The first year was really rough because I felt like, ‘How much worse can it get?’ I mean, basically, you’re kicked out of your church,” he said. “In the beginning, I felt like I was a failure, that it was my fault.”

However, with the support of his parishioners and Paulist Father Steve Bossi, his good friend and vice rector of the parish, Father Apparcel said he realized that “even though we weren’t altogether in one place, we were still an identifiable Catholic community in Rome.”

“This is a really visible example of the fact that the church is not a building, that the people are the church, that the community existed and even thrived during this period,” Father Apparcel said. “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t have a church. Though I’m glad we do now.”

 

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At least 11 killed during a Sunday Mass in Nigeria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent his condolences to the victims and survivors of a deadly shooting that occurred during Mass Aug. 6 at a parish in Nigeria.

Nigerians look at blood and clothing at the scene of a deadly shooting by unknown gunmen Aug. 6 at St. Philip's Catholic Church in Ozubulu. Pope Francis said he was "deeply saddened" after at least 11 people were killed and more a dozen others wounded when a gunman opened fire on worshippers that day. (CNS photo/Mike Agada, EPA)

Nigerians look at blood and clothing at the scene of a deadly shooting by unknown gunmen Aug. 6 at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu. Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” after at least 11 people were killed and more a dozen others wounded when a gunman opened fire on worshippers that day. (CNS photo/Mike Agada, EPA)

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, expressed the pope’s sentiments in a message dated Aug. 7 to Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke of Nnewi.

Pope Francis, the message said, was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack” in St. Philip’s Catholic Church in Ozubulu, a town located in the Nigerian southern state of Anambra.

According to the Nigerian newspaper, The Vanguard, witnesses say a gunman entered during an early morning Sunday Mass and opened fire during the prayer of the faithful.

The BBC and other news outlets reported Aug. 7 that at least 11 people were killed and as many as 18 others wounded as they attempted to flee the carnage. While no suspects have been caught, authorities believe the target was a young businessman involved in a drug deal gone wrong.

The pope extended “heartfelt condolences” to the faithful of the diocese, especially “the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy.”

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Ancient order, troubled times: Order of Malta focuses on renewal

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Catholic News Service

ROME — For more than 900 years, the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta has seen its fair share of victories, defeats and institutional changes. Read more »

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Vatican shuts down fountains as Rome deals with drought

July 25th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While Rome reels from one of its worst droughts in decades, the Vatican is doing its part to conserve water by shutting down the city-state’s 100 fountains.

The office governing Vatican City State announced July 25 that the drought has “led the Holy See to take measures aimed at saving water” by shutting down fountains in St. Peter’s Square, throughout the Vatican Gardens and in the territory of the state.

A Vatican worker cleans one of the fountains in St. Peter's Square July 25 after the Vatican turned off the water in the fountain to prevent waste as Rome considers water-rationing plans in the midst of a drought. (CNS/Cindy Wooden).

A Vatican worker cleans one of the fountains in St. Peter’s Square July 25 after the Vatican turned off the water in the fountain to prevent waste as Rome considers water-rationing plans in the midst of a drought. (CNS/Cindy
Wooden).

“The decision is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis, who reminds us in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’’ how ‘the habit of wasting and discarding’ has reached unprecedented levels while ‘fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,’” the office said.

The prolonged drought has forced officials from the Lazio region of Italy to halt pumping water from Lake Bracciano, located roughly 19 miles north of Rome. Less than usual rainfalls in the past two years have steadily depleted the lake, which provides 8 percent of the city’s water supply.

In an interview with Italian news outlet Tgcom24, Nicola Zingaretti, the region’s president, said the lake’s water level has “fallen too much and we risk an environmental disaster.”

While the drought forced Rome city officials to shut down some of Rome’s public drinking fountains in June, it may lead to strict water rationing for the city’s estimated 1.5 million residents.

City officials may also take the Vatican’s lead and shut down water pouring down from Rome’s many ancient fountains.

Pilgrims and visitors alike have marveled at the majestic fountains of St. Peter’s Square that have cascaded water for centuries since their construction in the 17th century.

While the source of water was once provided from an ancient Roman aqueduct, the two fountains, as well as 10 percent of Vatican City State’s 100 fountains “recirculate water currently,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service in a July 25 email.

Others, he added, “will eventually be transformed in order to recirculate” the same water rather than let it be wasted by running into the drainage or sewer system.

Burke told CNS that the Vatican’s move to switch off the fountains located within its territory is “a way to show a good example” in conserving water as the city deals with the crisis.

“We’re not going to be able to solve Rome’s water problem this summer, but we can do our part,” Burke said. “This is the Vatican putting ‘Laudato Si’’ into action. Let’s not waste water.”

 

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