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Remember shattered walls of past divisions, pope tells European Union leaders

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront the challenges Europeans face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said.

While the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a “united and open Europe,” free of the “walls and divisions” erected after World War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, as they arrive March 24 for the European Union summit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, as they arrive March 24 for the European Union summit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the ‘dangers’ of our time, beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones,” he said.

Pope Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

Signed March 25, 1957, the treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War II. The agreements laid the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union.

Entering the “Sala Regia” of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo’s fresco, The Last Judgment.

In his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced to “a remembrance of things past,” but should motivate a desire “to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.”

“The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence,” he said.

At the heart of the founding fathers’ creation of a united Europe, the pope continued, was concern for the human person, who after years of bloodshed held on “to faith in the possibility of a better future.”

“That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive, economic and financial needs,” he said.

But despite achievements in forging unity and solidarity, Pope Francis said, Europe today suffers from a “lapse of memory” where peace is now “regarded as superfluous.”

To regain the peace attained in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise “the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.”

“The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers,” the pope said.

The economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family “and established social models” and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to discern and assess rather than “engender fear and profound confusion.”

“Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it,” the pope said. “It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”

Europe, he added, will find new hope “when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions” in order to stem “the growing split between the citizenry and the European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the union.”

The migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to refuse to give in to fear and “false forms of security,” while posing a much deeper question to the continent’s citizens.

“What kind of culture does Europe propose today?” he asked, adding that the fear of migrants “has its root cause in the loss of ideals.”

“Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”

By defending families, investing in development and peace and defending the family and life “in all its sacredness,” Europe can once again find new ways to steer its course, Pope Francis told the European heads of state.

“As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of ideals and concrete actions,” the pope said. “This will mean being unafraid to make practical decisions capable of responding to people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.”

 

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Pope recognizes miracle attributed to Fatima visionaries

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, thus paving the way for their canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for the causes of Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto during a meeting March 23 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Vatican said.  

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

The recognition of the miracle makes it likely that the canonization ceremony for the two children will be scheduled soon. The cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation must vote to recommend their canonization and then the pope would convene the cardinals resident in Rome for a consistory to approve the sainthood.

Many people are hoping Pope Francis will preside over the canonization ceremony during his visit to Fatima May 12-13.

The pilgrimage will mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

A year after the apparitions, both of the Marto children became ill during an influenza epidemic that plagued Europe. Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.

Francisco and Jacinta’s cause for canonization was stalled for decades due to a debate on whether non-martyred children have the capacity to understand heroic virtues at a young age. However, in 1979, St. John Paul II allowed their cause to proceed; he declared them venerable in 1989 and beatified them in 2000.

Their cousin Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and, later, obtained permission to enter the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

Following her death, Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period before her sainthood cause could open. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13, 2017, and forwarded the information to the Vatican.

Also March 23, Pope Francis signed other decrees recognizing miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues in six other causes, the Vatican said.

The pope also approved the bishops’ and cardinals’ vote to canonize two Brazilian priests — Blessed Andre de Soveral and Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro — as well as Mateus Moreira and 27 laypeople, who were killed in 1645 as violence broke out between Portuguese Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in Brazil.

Pope Francis also approved the vote to canonize three young Mexican martyrs, known as the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who were among the first native converts in Mexico. Known only by their first names —Cristobal, Antonio and Juan — they were killed in 1529 for rejecting idolatry and polygamy in the name of their faith.

In addition, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Franciscan Claretian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who died in 1995 after being stabbed 54 times, apparently because of her work helping poor women in India organize themselves. With the signing of the decree, a date can be set for her beatification.

 

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Don’t treat the confessional like a dry cleaners, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The confessional is a place where one can go to humbly seek forgiveness; it is not a dry cleaners where one goes to remove the occasional stain, Pope Francis said.

A World Youth Day pilgrim becomes emotional as Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, hears her confession in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. While forgiveness is "a difficult mystery" to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of "bank transaction," Pope Francis said during his March 21 morning Mass. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A World Youth Day pilgrim becomes emotional as Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, hears her confession in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. While forgiveness is “a difficult mystery” to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of “bank transaction,” Pope Francis said during his March 21 morning Mass. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

While forgiveness is “God’s great work of mercy,” Christians can take for granted the power of the sacrament of reconciliation and confess while being “unable to be ashamed” of their sins, the pope said March 21 in his homily during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“You did not go there ashamed of what you did. You saw some stains on your conscience and you were mistaken because you believed the confessional was a dry cleaners to remove stains,” he said.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Daniel in which the people of Israel humbly beg God to pardon their sins, the pope said shame was “the first step” in seeking forgiveness.  

However, he noted, the Gospel reading from St. Matthew recounts Jesus’ parable of the ungrateful servant who, although forgiven of a debt, refused to show the same mercy to another.

While forgiveness is “a difficult mystery” to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of “bank transaction,” the pope said.

“If you are not aware of being forgiven you will never be able to forgive, never,” he said. “There is always that attitude of wanting to take others to task. Forgiveness is total. But it can only be done when I feel my sin, when I am ashamed and ask forgiveness of God and feel forgiven by the father so I can forgive.”

Like the ungrateful servant in Jesus’ parable, Christians can be tempted to leave the confessional thinking that “we got away with it.” This feeling, the pope said, is “the hypocrisy of stealing forgiveness, a pretend forgiveness.”

For this reason, he added, it is important to “ask for the grace of shame before God.”

“It is a great grace! To be ashamed of our own sins and thus receive forgiveness and the grace of generosity to give to others because if the Lord has forgiven me so much, who am I to not forgive?” he said.

 

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Vatican releases pope’s schedule for May visit to Fatima

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis will lead the evening recitation of rosary and celebrate Mass on the anniversary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima when he visits Portugal May 12-13.

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd in 2016 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis visit Portugal May 12-13. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is carried through a crowd in 2016 at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope Francis visit Portugal May 12-13. (CNS photo/Paulo Chunho, EPA)

The pope will make the two-day pilgrimage to the site where Mary appeared to three shepherd children May 13, 1917. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

During his visit, the pope also will meet with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and have lunch with the bishops of Portugal.

Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit the Marian shrine, following in the footsteps of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who each made visits on a May 13 to mark the anniversary of the first apparition.

Here is the schedule for the pope’s trip to Fatima as released by the Vatican March 20. All times are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Friday, May 12 (Rome, Fatima)

  • 2 p.m. (8 a.m.) Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
  • 4:20 p.m. (11:20 a.m.) Arrival at Monte Real air base in Leiria, Portugal. Welcoming ceremony.
  • 4:35 p.m. (11:35 a.m.) Private meeting with the president of Portugal at the Monte Real Air Base.
  • 4:55 p.m. (11:55 a.m.) Visit to the Monte Real air base chapel.
  • 5:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.) Transfer by helicopter to Fatima stadium.
  • 5:35 p.m. (12:35 p.m.) Arrival at Fatima stadium and transfer to the shrine.
  • 6:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) Visit and prayer at the Little Chapel of the Apparitions.
  • 9:30 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Blessing of the candles at the chapel. Speech by pope and recitation of the rosary.

Saturday, May 13

  • 9:10 a.m. (4:10 a.m.) Meeting with prime minister of Portugal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel house in Fatima.
  • 9:40 a.m. (4:40 a.m.) Visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima.
  • 10 a.m. (5 a.m.) Outdoor Mass at the basilica. Homily by pope. Greeting by pope to the sick.
  • 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m.) Lunch with the bishops of Portugal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel house in Fatima.
  • 2:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at the Monte Real air base.
  • 3 p.m. (10 a.m.) Departure for Rome.
  • 7:05 p.m. (1:05 p.m.) Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

 

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St. Joseph was a dreamer of quiet strength, pope says at Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church and Jesus’ earthly father, was a “dreamer capable of accepting the task” entrusted to him by God, Pope Francis said.

“This man takes God’s promise and brings it forward in silence with strength; he brings it forward so that whatever God wants is fulfilled,” the pope said March 20 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Statues of Mary, the child Jesus and St. Joseph are seen as Pope Francis celebrates Mass at St. Mary Josefa Parish in Rome Feb. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Statues of Mary, the child Jesus and St. Joseph are seen as Pope Francis celebrates Mass at St. Mary Josefa Parish in Rome Feb. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Because the March 19 feast of St. Joseph fell on a Sunday this year, the liturgical commemoration of the feast was moved to March 20.

St. Joseph, the pope said in his homily, provides an example needed “in this time where there is a strong sense of orphanhood.”

By marrying Mary, Joseph ensures that Jesus is born of the House of David and provides him with an earthly father and with a stable family.

The biblical St. Joseph is “a man who doesn’t speak but obeys, a man of tenderness, a man capable of fulfilling his promises so that they become solid, secure,” he said.

Christians, especially young people, should follow the example of St. Joseph who was not afraid to listen to his dreams like when he was told in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and again when he was told to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

When “we dream great things, beautiful things, we draw close to God’s dream, the things that God dreams for us,” the pope said.

“May he give young people, because he, too, was young, the ability to dream, to risk and to take on difficult tasks that they have seen in their dreams,” Pope Francis said.

The pope also spoke about the feast during his Sunday Angelus address March 19, which is celebrated as Fathers’ Day in Italy. Pope Francis led the crowds in St. Peter’s Square in applauding fathers everyone.

Pope Francis told the crowd about the beatification March 18 of Blessed Josef Mayr-Nusser, an Italian layman and father who was sentenced to death for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

He died of dysentery on the way to the Dachau concentration camp Feb. 24, 1945.

Like St. Joseph, Blessed Mayr-Nusser is a “model for the lay faithful, especially for fathers, who we remember with great affection today,” the pope said.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well.

The “tiring and tedious work” of drawing water from a well, the pope explained, mirrored the Samaritan woman’s fruitless efforts to quench her thirst “for affection and a full life” by having had five husbands.

“Perhaps we are going in search of wells whose waters do not quench us. When we forget the true water, we go in search of wells that do not have clean water,” the pope said.

The Lenten season, he added, is a time for Christians to renew the grace of baptism and to “quench our thirst at the source of the word of God and of his Holy Spirit.”

 

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Pope Francis talks criticisms, populism in interview with German weekly

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When facing criticism, a sense of humor and the grace to remain at peace are always the best response, Pope Francis said in an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper.

In the interview, published March 8 online and in print March 9, the pope laughed and said the Roman dialect featured in posters that were plastered around the Rome city center criticizing him “was great.”

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 1.In an interview he gave to a German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, published March 8, the pope addressed his response to criticisms and the current populism trend.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 1.In an interview he gave to a German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, published March 8, the pope addressed his response to criticisms and the current populism trend. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The poster, featuring a stern-faced picture of the pope, said: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored cardinals … but where is your mercy?”

“There is this prayer, which is attributed to (St.) Thomas More, that I pray every day: ‘Lord, give me a sense of humor!’ The Lord preserves my peace and gives me a great sense of humor,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican Radio released a brief summary with selected quotes from the nearly 6,000-word interview, in which the pope discussed several issues and events.

Order of Malta

Among the areas of discussion was his relationship with Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, current patron of the Order of Malta, who is often viewed as one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics.

The pope denied rumors that Cardinal Burke was sent to Guam as a form of “exile” to be the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana.

Instead, he was chosen, the pope said, because the former head of the Vatican’s highest court is “an excellent jurist” and the allegations were “terrible incidents.” He said he was grateful for the cardinal’s service to address “a serious abuse case.”

“I do not regard Cardinal Burke as an adversary,” the pope said.

The pope was asked about the recent change of leadership at the Knights of Malta, in which Fra Matthew Festing, the former grand master, resigned at the pope’s request, after the order’s forced ouster of its grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

While Cardinal Burke remained the order’s patron, the pope appointed Archbishop Angelo Becciu as his special delegate and sole spokesman to the Knights of Malta.

“The problem with the Order of Malta was more that (Cardinal Burke) was unable to deal with it,” he said. “I have not removed his title of patron. He is still the patron of the Order of Malta.”

The pope suggested it was a question of “clearing things up a bit in the order, and that is why I sent a delegate with a different charism than (Cardinal) Burke.”

Pope Francis has been an outspoken in his criticism against populist rhetoric that views refugees escaping war, violence and poverty as “unworthy of our attention, a rival or someone to be bent to our will.”

Rise of populism

When asked by Die Zeit about the rise of populism, particularly from those on the right of the political spectrum , the pope said he uses the word “populism” in the sense defined in Latin America as way “to use the people” to gain power.

Recalling Germany’s history, the pope said Adolf Hitler rose to power promising to return Germany to its former glory after a serious economic crisis.

“He convinced the people that he could. Populism always needs a messiah and a justification: ‘We preserve the identity of the people!’” the pope said.

“Great politicians,” such as Germany’s first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer and former French Prime Minister Robert Schuman, envisioned a Europe united in brotherhood, and that “had nothing to do with populism,” he said.

“These men had the gift of serving their country without placing themselves in the center, and this made them great leaders. They did not have to be a messiah. Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century has shown,” Pope Francis said.

Other topics the pope touched on in the interview included the shortage of priests and the possibility of female deacons.

“The call for priests represents a problem, an enormous problem,” especially in Germany and Switzerland, he said.

“The problem is the lack of vocations. And the church must solve this problem,” the pope said.

He expressed the view that an increase in prayer and outreach to youth could change the situation.

“The Lord has told us: Pray! That is what’s lacking: prayer. And also lacking is the work with young people who are seeking direction. Service to others is missing” and low birth rates are also a factor, said the pope. “Working with young people is difficult, but it is essential, because youth long for it.”

He added that youths are the ones who lose most in many modern societies because of a lack of employment.

Asked whether the vow of celibacy could be optional for the priesthood, but not for higher offices like bishop or cardinal, the pope said, making clerical celibacy optional “is not the solution.”

When asked about ordaining married men of proven virtue, known in Latin as “viri probati,” Pope Francis replied that was a topic, like others, theologians needed to study more in depth.

“Then we must determine what tasks they could undertake, for example in remote communities,” he said.

Women deacons?

Pope Francis spoke about the commission studying women deacons and the exact roles they played in early church history. The commission is an ongoing project, he said, dedicated to open dialogue.

“It was about exploring the subject, and not to open a door” on automatic approval, Pope Francis said of the commission.

“This is the task of theology; it must research to get to the foundation of things, always. That also goes for the study of the sacred Scriptures. … What does that mean today? Truth is to have no fear. That is what historical truth and scientific truth tell us: Do not be afraid! That makes us free.”

Pope Francis also discussed his personal faith experiences and beliefs about God’s mercy, saying that an individual’s faith grows throughout a lifetime.

“Faith is a gift. It will give itself,” said the pope, adding that faith is to be prayed for.

“He said he does not like to be idealized by others, saying that idealizing a person leads to aggression.

“I am a sinner and I am fallible,” he said. “When I am idealized, I feel attacked.”

He said that he views himself as a normal person trying to do his best.

He also added that he does not become angry at people who disagree with his opinions and believes that diverse opinions are good for the world.

“Since I was elected pope, I have never lost my peace. I can understand if some people do not like my own way of going about things, and that is completely normal,” said Pope Francis.

“Everyone may have their own opinion. That is legitimate and humane and enriching,” he said.

Travel plans

In response to a question, Pope Francis said he is not able to visit Germany this year for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, despite an invitation from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The appointment calendar is very full this year,” he told Die Zeit.

Asked whether he would visit Russia, China, India or other countries perhaps this year, Pope Francis replied: “To Russia I cannot travel, because then I would also have to travel to Ukraine.

Even more important would be a trip to South Sudan, but I don’t believe that is possible. Also, a trip to the Congo was planned, but that will also not work with (President Joseph) Kabila. So, remaining on the program are India, Bangladesh and Colombia, one day for Fatima in Portugal, and as far as I know, a trip to Egypt is being studied. Sounds like a full calendar, right?”

Contributing to this story were Zita Fletcher in Germany and Carol Glatz in Rome.

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Vatican forum encourages women’s voices of faith in the church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Women and men from around the globe gathered for an event inside Vatican City that celebrated and encouraged the need for women’s voices to be heard in the church and in the world.

The annual Voices of Faith conference was held March 8, coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day.

Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering March 8 at the Vatican. The event, held on International Women's Day, had the theme "Stirring the Waters-Making the Impossible Possible." (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering March 8 at the Vatican. The event, held on International Women’s Day, had the theme “Stirring the Waters-Making the Impossible Possible.” (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

According to its website, the Voices of Faith event “provides what has been a notably absent, the voices of Catholic women and their capacity to exercise authority within and outside the church and faith that emerges not from abstract theological ideals but in confronting the reality of the poor.”

The event featured several guest speakers, including Dr. Mireille Twayigira, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and twin sisters Nagham and Shadan, whose last name was not given; the two are refugees from Homs, Syria, who work with Jesuit Refugee Services helping others forced to flee violence in their homeland.

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, superior general of the Society of Jesus, said in the opening address for the conference, that women and men of faith need to stand together in today’s difficult political and social climate.

Faith, he said, gives the audacity “to seek the impossible, as nothing is impossible for God.”

The participation of women is also necessary in positions of leadership, especially in areas of conflict such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Colombia, he said.

While it is “hard to imagine peace, can we have the audacity to dream to bring peace to these countries?” he asked.

Among the examples of the need for the voice of women in the political spectrum, Father Sosa cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel who “has been the most courageous and visionary leader in Europe.”

“She had the compassion to look at those who were in need and the vision to see that they would make a contribution to Germany and Europe,” he said.

He also cited the example of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, for bringing peace and reconciliation “to her war-torn country in a way that for most men would be impossible.”

Although Pope Francis has voiced his support for broader participation of women’s voices in the decisions of the Catholic Church, Father Sosa acknowledged “that the fullness of women’s participation in the church has not yet arrived.”

“We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of women,” he said. However, their “inclusion, which will bring the gift of resilience and collaboration, remains stymied.”

Among the presenters at an afternoon panel discussion was Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that sponsored the “Nuns on the Bus” tour in the United States.

Sister Campbell explained it was “essential for women to work for peace” and social justice, particularly for the poor and the marginalized, and she praised Pope Francis’ efforts to bring their plight to the forefront of Catholic social teaching.

“We rejoice in ‘Laudato Si’;’ that (says) care for the earth and care for the poor come from the same reality of exploitation of both and that until we learn to end the exploitation, we will not care for those at the margins, we will not care for our earth. And that is what moves me in such a deep way,” she said.

Highlighting four virtues young women need to make their voices heard, Sister Campbell said that joy and a holy curiosity to “listen, ask questions and learn from others” was important.

She also encouraged women to engage in “sacred gossip,” explaining the need to share the stories they have learned from others so that those stories “can multiply” in others.

Finally, Sister Campbell also called on women to pray so that they discover what their role is within the body of Christ.

Recalling a moment of prayer, Sister Campbell said she “realized that my role is to be stomach acid in the body of Christ.”

“That is because I’m called to nourish, to break down food, release energy. But I can be toxic in large quantities so I need to be contained. But if we each do our part, then the body is whole and it all gets done. So, I urge you to do your part,” she said.

 

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Humility need to recognize God’s voice in others, priest tells pope and Curia during retreat

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Humility is needed in order to recognize the voice of God in others, especially those who are perceived to be weak or subject to prejudice, a Franciscan friar told Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia during their Lenten retreat.

Pope Francis prays during a March 6-11 Lenten retreat in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis prays during a March 6-11 Lenten retreat in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

God not only speaks through Jesus, but also speaks to him through Peter, who recognizes Christ as the Messiah “by revelation,” Franciscan Father Giulio Michelini said March 6, according to Vatican Radio.

“Do I have the humility to listen to Peter? Do we have the humility to listen to one another, paying attention to prejudices that we certainly have, but attentive to receive that which God wants to say despite, perhaps, my closures? Do I listen to the voice of others, perhaps weak, or do I only listen to my voice?” he asked.

The pope and top members of the Roman Curia attended their annual Lenten retreat March 5-10 at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome.

Father Michelini was chosen by Pope Francis to lead meditations on the Gospel of Matthew’s description of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Franciscan delivered two meditations March 6, with the first reflecting on “Peter’s confession and Jesus’ path toward Jerusalem.”

According to Vatican Radio, Father Michelini called on the 74 people present for the retreat to reflect on the criteria on which they base their discernment and whether “I place myself and my personal benefit before the kingdom of God.”

To listen and act upon God’s will, he said, Christians must have “courage to go into the deep to follow Jesus Christ, taking into account that this involves carrying the cross.”

Jesus, he added, not only proclaimed the joy of the resurrection “but also trial” when he said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

In the afternoon, Father Michelini delivered his second meditation, “Jesus’ last words and the beginning of the Passion.”

He explained that the reading of Christ’s Passion reveals two distinct types of logic: Jesus, an observant Jewish layman preparing to celebrate the Passover, and the high priests, who are concerned with the outward appearance of the feast but, at the same time, “prepare to murder an innocent man.”

The question Christians must ask themselves, he said, is if they are “sacred professionals resorting to compromise in order to save the facade, the institution at the expense of individual rights.”

“This is about an attitude that loses the right perspective, believing they are serving God,’ Father Michelini said.

 

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Consult the Bible as often as you use a cellphone, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians should care about reading God’s messages in the Bible as much as they care about checking messages on their cellphones, Pope Francis said.

As Christ did in the desert when tempted by Satan, men and women can defend themselves from temptation with the word of God if they “read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it” into their lives, he said before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 5.

Pope Francis attends the first day of his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome, March 5. The pope and top members of the Roman Curia are on retreat from March 5-10. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis attends the first day of his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome, March 5. The pope and top members of the Roman Curia are on retreat from March 5-10. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

“What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?” the pope asked the crowd.

The pope’s reflection centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Matthew. 4:1-11) in which Jesus is tempted by the devil while fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his ministry.

Satan, he said, attempts to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his message and to undermine his divinity by tempting him twice to perform miracles like “a magician” and lastly, by adoring “the devil in order to have dominion over the world.”

“Through this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation, because he knows that through that path evil will be defeated, and take him on the false shortcut of success and glory,” the pope said.

However, Jesus deflects “the poisonous arrows of the devil” not with his own words but “only with the Word of God.”

Christians, the pope continued, are called to follow Jesus’ footsteps and “confront the spiritual combat against the evil one” through the power of God’s word which has the “strength to defeat Satan.”

“The Bible contains the word of God, which is always relevant and effective. Someone once said: What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones? What would happen if we always brought it with us, or at least a small pocket-sized Gospel?” he asked.

While the comparison between the Bible and a cellphone is “paradoxical,” he added, it is something that all Christians are called to reflect on during the Lenten season.

“If we have the Word of God always in our hearts, no temptation could separate us from God and no obstacle would deviate us from the path of good,” the pope said.

After praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful in the square, Pope Francis asked for prayers before departing for a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia.

Lent, he said, “is the path of the people of God toward Easter, a path of conversion, of fighting evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and works of charity,” Pope Francis said. “I wish everyone a fruitful Lenten journey,” he said.

 

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Cardinal calls alleged Vatican resistance to child protection a ‘cliché’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal chief dismissed accusations that some Vatican officials are resisting recommendations on best practices for protecting children and vulnerable adults from clergy sex abuse.

Marie Collins of Ireland, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, is pictured in a 2014 photo. Collins was one of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. She left her position over what she described as resistance in Vatican offices against implementing recommendations for protecting people from abuse. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz) See VATICAN-ABUSE-RESIGNATION-COLLINS March 1, 2017..

Marie Collins of Ireland, above, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse,resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minor March 1, citing what she called resistance from Vatican offices. Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has dismissed the accusation as a cliché.(CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

“I think this cliché must be put to an end: the idea that the pope, who wants the reform, is on one side and, on the other, a group of resisters who want to block it,” said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The congregation is charged with carrying out canonical trials and seeking justice for victims of clerical abuse, while local bishops and heads of religious orders must care for their pastoral needs, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published March 5.

Cardinal Muller responded to complaints made by Marie Collins, who resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors March 1, citing what she described as resistance coming from Vatican offices against implementing recommendations.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines, but also refused to respond to letters from victims.

Collins said the refusal “to implement one of the simplest recommendations the commission has put forward to date” was the last straw that led to her resignation.

While acknowledging that personal care of victims is important, Cardinal Muller said Collins’ accusations “are based on a misunderstanding” and that bishops and religious superiors “who are closer” to victims of clergy sex abuse are charged with their pastoral care.

“When a letter arrives, we always ask the bishop that he take pastoral care of the victim, clarifying that the congregation will do everything possible to do justice. It is a misunderstanding that this dicastery, in Rome,” can be aware of everything happening in all the dioceses and religious orders in the world, the cardinal said.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he added, “acts as the supreme apostolic tribunal” on matters dealing with clerical abuse.

“All our collaborators humanly suffer with the victims of abuse. Our task is to do everything possible to do justice and avoid further crimes,” he said.

Through the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the cardinal said, Pope Francis “wished to offer an exemplary service” as a help for the church and the world in dealing with the scourge of child sex abuse.

“Pedophilia is monstrous crime as well as a grave sin. We must remember Jesus’ words to the children and his condemnation against those who harm them,” Cardinal Muller said.

 

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