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Justice Alito warns of infringements to freedom of religion

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Catholic News Service

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. — The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

The award to Alito was “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, “especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace.”

In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today.

A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city’s various churches, among them Old St. Mary’s, tracing back to the Revolution.

Part of freedom of religion is “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, urging his audience to “keep the flame burning.”

In an interview for the seminarians’ blog, “Seminarian Casual,” Alito said that “our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected.”

Which is why, he said, George Washington, shortly after his election as the nation’s first president “made a point of writing to minority religious groups, to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, the annual meeting of Quakers, the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, and to the nation’s tiny Catholic population.”

“Washington and other founders also saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government,” Alito added. “What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today.”

Regarding threats to religious freedom, the justice said, “There is cause for concern at the present time.”

He noted that in his dissent in the Obergefell decision in which the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, I anticipated that the decision would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

“I added, ‘I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

After Alito’s talk, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website, said the justice “was very inspiring.” “”He reminded us that of the rights imbedded in our Constitution, religious freedom is the most fundamental and it is not respected throughout the world today.”

Jim Godericci, who attended Concursus with his wife, Regina, who is a member of the seminary’s development committee of the seminary, found it encouraging that “there are still some people in the justice field who still have a God-fearing, God-respecting attitude.”

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, who has seminarians at St. Charles and is himself a graduate, appreciated the topic of religious freedom, especially the local flavor and historical perspective.

“It’s extremely important; so many of our citizens have no clue of the history of these issues,” he said. “The contemporary feeling is not the same as at the roots.”

 

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Eric Banecker contributed to this story.

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Seniors shine as Sals finish baseball regular season with a win

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For The Dialog

 

WILMINGTON – Salesianum got big contributions from its seniors in a 7-3 senior day win over Indian River on May 18. Senior Zach Miller had two hits and drove in three runs, and the Sals’ defense turned four double plays.

The Sals (12-6) got on the board first in the second inning. Joe Setting led off with a triple, and Quinn Cassidy walked and stole second base. Senior Brett Nordmeyer then hit a one-out single, driving in both runs. Read more »

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Worthy of belief? Prudence, pastoral concern guided Medjugorje commission, member says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — If the Catholic Church recognizes as “worthy of belief” only the initial alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, it would be the first time the church distinguished between phases of a single event, but it also would acknowledge that human beings and a host of complicating factors are involved, said a theological expert in Mariology. Read more »

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Top seed Archmere joined by Ursuline, St. Mark’s and Padua in girls lacrosse field

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For The Dialog

 

The girls’ lacrosse state tournament begins Thursday with four Catholic schools in the field of 10 teams. The Archmere Auks took the top seed thanks to winning their last 14 regular-season games.

The Auks (14-1) are led on offense by a pair of sophomores in Caroline Donovan and Kate Olsen. They also get key scoring from Riley DeBaecke and Delaney Dearing. The Auks’ defense has been stout this year, with seniors Lorin Donovan, Maggie Malloy and Camryn Howarth leading the way. Read more »

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God dreams big and ‘calls us by name,’ Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual’s pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said.

“He calls us by name and tells us, ‘Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,’” the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John’s account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb.

She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love.

In Mary Magdalene’s case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ’s death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.

Just as she is weeping near the tomb, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the pope said, even though she is stubbornly “blind” to recognizing the two angels and the Risen Christ.

Eventually, he said, “she discovers the most earth-shattering event in human history when she is finally called by name.”

“How beautiful it is to think that the first appearance of the Risen One, according to the Gospels, happened in such a personal way. That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and disappointment,” whose heart breaks “for us and who calls us by name,” he said.

Reading the Gospels, one can see how many people seek God, he said, “but the most extraordinary fact is that God was there in the first place,” long before, watching, worrying and wanting to bring relief.

Each and every person “is a story of love that God has written on this earth,” the pope said. “Each one of us is a story of God’s love” and he patiently waits and forgives each person.

Hearing God call her name revolutionized Mary Magdalene’s life just as it will revolutionize and transform the life of every man and woman, he said.

Christ’s resurrection brings a joy that does not come in dribs and drabs “with an eyedropper,” he said, but as “a waterfall” that will envelop one’s whole life.

The life of a Christian isn’t pervaded by “soft bliss, but by waves that knock everything over,” Pope Francis said. Think about it right now, he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “With the baggage of disappointments and defeat that each one of us carries in our heart, there is a God near us, calling us by name,” he said.

This God is not “inert,” he doesn’t bend to the whims of the world, and he will not let death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people have the last word.

“Our God,” the pope said, “is a dreamer, who dreams of the transformation of the world and achieved it with the mystery of the resurrection.”

The pope prayed that St. Mary Magdalene would help people listen to Jesus calling their name as they weep and mourn, and that they then venture forth with hearts filled with joy, proclaiming his living presence to others.

Having witnessed the Lord, “is our strength and our hope,” he said.

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Commission reportedly thought the first alleged visions at Medjugorje were real

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The commission that now-retired Pope Benedict XVI established to study the alleged apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to recognize as supernatural the first seven appearances of Mary in 1981.

The sun sets behind a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The sun sets behind a statue of Mary on Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

However, according to a report published by the website Vatican Insider, the commission was much more doubtful about the thousands of alleged visions that have occurred since July 4, 1981, and supposedly continue to this day.

Two of the 17 commission members and consultants thought the alleged visions after the period of June 24-July 3, 1981, were not supernatural, while the other members said it was not possible to make a judgment.

The commission said it was clear that the six alleged visionaries and a seventh who claims to have begun receiving messages from Mary in December 1982 were not given adequate spiritual support.

Vatican Insider published its piece on the report May 16, three days after Pope Francis spoke about some details of the report to journalists traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal.

The Vatican press office May 17 declined to comment on the Vatican Insider piece.

Speaking to journalists May 13, Pope Francis said that, regarding the Medjugorje commission’s work, “three things need to be distinguished.”

“About the first apparitions, when (the ‘seers’) were young, the report more or less says that the investigation needs to continue,” the pope said, according to the English translation posted on the Vatican website.

“Concerning the alleged current apparitions, the report expresses doubts,” he said. Furthermore, “personally, I am more ‘mischievous.’ I prefer Our Lady to be a mother, our mother, and not a telegraph operator who sends out a message every day at a certain time; this is not the mother of Jesus.”

Pope Francis said his “personal opinion” is that “these alleged apparitions have no great value.”

The real core of the commission’s report, he said, is “the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact” that thousands of pilgrims go to Medjugorje and are converted. “For this there is no magic wand; this spiritual-pastoral fact cannot be denied.”

The spiritual fruits of the pilgrimages, he said, are the reason why in February he appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the best ways to provide pastoral care to townspeople and the pilgrims.

According to Vatican Insider, 13 of the 14 commission members present at one meeting voted to recommend lifting the Vatican ban on official diocesan and parish pilgrimages to Medjugorje.

The commission also recommended turning the town’s parish Church of St. James into a pontifical shrine with Vatican oversight. The move, the commission said, would not signify recognition of the apparitions, but would acknowledge the faith and pastoral needs of the pilgrims while ensuring a proper accounting of the financial donations pilgrims leave.

The commission’s role was to make recommendations to the pope; its report is not an official church judgment on the apparitions. Pope Francis told reporters May 13 that “in the end, something will be said,” but he gave no timeline.

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After furor over ‘litmus test’ remarks, DNC chair to meet with Democrats for Life leader

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — After a furor erupted over his statement that the Democratic Party should support only those candidates who support legal abortion, Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez will meet with the head of Democrats for Life of America, Kristen Day.

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Democratic National Committee chairman Thomas Perez is seen outside the White House in Washington May 10. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Day, in a May 16 interview with Catholic News Service, said she had sought the meeting with Perez before he issued his statement prior to Democrat Heath Mello’s loss May 9 in the mayor’s race in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We’re still working on the date,” said Day, who added she had been able to meet with previous DNC chairs Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean, but not Perez’s predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Perez was criticized in pro-life circles when he said, “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable,” adding, “We must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who had given the invocation at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2012, called Perez’s remarks “disturbing.” The cardinal, who is chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic Party to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”

Many point to the flap as having contributed to the loss for Mello, a pro-life Democrat. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood had lashed out against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and deputy DNC chair Keith Ellison, for saying they would stump for Mello in Omaha, calling it “politically stupid.”

Day disputes that assertion. Demanding adherence to a right to abortion “got us to where we are today,” she said, with 38 of the 50 states having Republican electoral majorities, 27 of them under full GOP control, compared to just five states where Democrats have full control. “The numbers kind of speak for themselves,” she said. “And when we push pro-life Democrats out of the party, this is what happens.”

At the federal level, “this abortion litmus test has hurt us dramatically. If you look at 30 years ago in the United States House, we had 135 pro-life Democrats and a 292-seat majority. Today, we have 30. We can’t get the majority we want without electing pro-life Democrats. The number of pro-choice Democrats has stayed at about 185, 180. If we want to follow NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s strategy, we’re going to stay there” in the minority, Day said.

She added Mello didn’t help his own cause when he said he was “personally pro-life” after “NARAL came into the district and badgered him.” “It’s not a winning position. You can’t do that with any issue,” Day said. “It just sounds ridiculous. If you say, ‘I believe climate change is real but I’m not going to vote that way,’ or ‘I believe guns are harming society but I’m not going to vote for any gun control legislation,’ nobody would vote for you.”

The definition of “pro-life” is “different in different parts of the country,” Day told CNS. “In some districts, like in Michigan where I’m from, if you run in Detroit, running as pro-life won’t get you very far but if you run as a pro-life Democrat in the Upper Peninsula, you have a pretty good chance of winning, or in Bay City. The party needs people who match the district rather than finding people with California values and running them instead.”

Despite the recent controversy, or maybe because of it, “I expect it be a really good meeting,” Day said. “Actually with Dean, there were 18 of us. It was a pretty good dialogue.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Auks girls win 14th straight, earn top seed in lacrosse state tournament

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For The Dialog

 

GREENVILLE – The second-ranked Archmere girls lacrosse team had a great day on May 15. First the Auks defeated Tatnall, 19-9, then they earned the top seed in the state tournament that starts on Thursday.

Tatnall did strike first, as Erica Hager scored early to give the Hornets their only lead. The Auks(14-1) answered quickly as Delaney Dearing scored. Riley DeBaecke, Caroline Donovan, and Kate Olsen scored in succession to give the Auks a 4-1 lead. Donovan and Dearing each added a pair of goals to give the Auks an 8-2 lead. Read more »

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Pope’s opinion: Alleged apparitions at Medjugorje ‘don’t have much value’

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PORTUGAL — While the investigations into the very first alleged apparitions at Medjugorje in must continue, Pope Francis said he has doubts about claims that Mary continues to appear in the village of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Asked May 13 about the authenticity of the Marian apparitions, which reportedly began in 1981, the pope referred to the findings of a commission chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired papal vicar of Rome.

Pope Francis listens to a question from Joana Haderer of LUSA as he speaks with journalists aboard his flight from Portugal to Rome May 13. The pope made a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the young seers. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis listens to a question from Joana Haderer of LUSA as he speaks with journalists aboard his flight from Portugal to Rome May 13. The pope made a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the young seers. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse,” the pope told reporters traveling with him from Fatima, Portugal. “I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time.”

“This isn’t Jesus’ mother,” he said. “And these alleged apparitions don’t have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, ‘Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?’ No!”

Three of the six young people who originally claimed to have seen Mary in Medjugorje in June 1981 say she continues to appear to them each day; the other three say Mary appears to them once a year now.

A diocesan commission studied the alleged apparitions in 1982-1984 and again in 1984-1986 with more members; and the then-Yugoslavian bishops’ conference studied them from 1987 to 1990. All three commissions concluded that they could not affirm that a supernatural event was occurring in the town.

Despite his personal doubts, the pope said that the “spiritual and pastoral facts cannot be denied: People go there and convert, people who find God, who change their lives. There isn’t magic there,” he said.

In February, Pope Francis appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Medjugorje each year. He told reporters those people deserve spiritual care and support.

Also during the in-flight news conference, the pope was asked about his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, who will visit the Vatican May 24 as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Specifically asked how he would speak to a head of state with clearly opposing views on issues such as immigration, the pope said he would never “make a judgment about a person without listening to him first.”

“There are always doors that aren’t closed. Look for the doors that at least are a little bit open, enter and speak about things held in common and go forward, step by step,” the pope said. “Peace is artisanal; it is made every day. Even friendship among people, mutual knowledge and esteem are made every day,” he said.

Pope Francis also was asked about the resignation of Marie Collins, one of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

She left the commission March 1, citing the reluctance of members of the Roman Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the commission’s work.

The pope praised Collins’ work on the commission and her continuing role in training bishops to deal with abuse allegations.

As for her reasons for leaving the commission, Pope Francis said, “she is a little bit right because there are so many cases that are delayed.”

However, the pope said the delays in handling cases are due to the need to draft new legislation and to the fact that there are few people capable of handling cases of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, he added, are looking “for new people.”

“We are going forward, but Marie Collins was right about some things,” he said. “We also are moving forward, but there are least 2,000 cases piled up.”

Asked about continuing discussions to fully reconcile the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X with the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said he is patient. “I don’t like to rush things.”

He has made overtures to the faithful attached to the society by recognizing the validity of absolution granted by SSPX priests and the validity of marriages they celebrate, but the Vatican still is waiting for the society’s leadership to sign a document affirming certain teachings of the church.

“This isn’t a problem of winners and losers,” the pope said; it is about “brothers who should walk together, looking for ways to take steps forward.”

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Fatima seers become church’s youngest non-martyred saints

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Catholic News Service

FATIMA, Portugal — Standing before the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Pope Francis canonized two shepherd children who saw Mary at Fatima, but more importantly, he said, they heeded the call to pray for sinners and trust in the Lord.

“We declare and define Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto as saints,” the pope said May 13 as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims broke out in applause before he finished speaking.

Pope Francis walks in a procession as he blesses the sick with the Eucharist at the conclusion of the canonization Mass of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima seers, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 13. The Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis walks in a procession as he blesses the sick with the Eucharist at the conclusion of the canonization Mass of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima seers, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 13. The Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917. (CNS /Paul Haring)

The relics of the young shepherd children, encased in two thin golden crosses, were placed in front of the famed statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the “lady dressed in white” as the siblings and their cousin described her.

The Marian apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old 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.

After contracting influenza, Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.

The children, beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000, are now the youngest non-martyrs to be declared saints by the Catholic Church.

Before his arrival at the shrine, the pope met privately with Portuguese Prime Minster Antonio Costa and then made his way into the sanctuary that houses the tombs of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta and their cousin Lucia, who died in 2005 at the age of 97. The diocesan phase of her sainthood cause concluded in February and now is under study at the Vatican.

Pope Francis stood for several minutes in front of the tombs with his eyes closed and head bowed.

In his homily at the canonization Mass, the pope reflected on the brief lives of the young sibling saints, who are often remembered more for the apparitions rather than for their holy lives.

But it is Mary’s message and example, rather than an apparition, is important, he told the crowd, which Portuguese authorities estimated at about 500,000 people.

“The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven,” the pope said.

Instead, he continued, Mary’s messages to the young children were a warning to all people about leading “a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in his creatures.”

“Such a life, frequently proposed and imposed, risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us,” the pope said.

The hopeful message of Fatima, he said, is that men and women have a mother and like children clinging to her, “we live in the hope that rests on Jesus.”

Pope Francis called on the pilgrims to follow the example of heroic virtue lived by St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, particularly their insistent prayer for sinners and their adoration of “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

This continual presence of God taught to them by Mary, he said, “was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.”

By following their example, the pope said, Christians can become “a source of hope for others” and counter “the indifference that chills the heart” and “worsens our myopia.”

“We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives,” he said.

It is with the light of hope, the pope added, that the church can radiate “the true face of Jesus” and reach out to those in need.

“Thus, may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love,” he said.

Addressing the sick before concluding the Mass, Pope Francis said that Christ understands the “meaning of sorrow and pain” and, through the church, offers comfort to the afflicted just as it did for Sts. Francisco and Jacinta in their final moments.

“That is the church’s ministry: the church asks the Lord to comfort the afflicted like yourselves, and he comforts you, even in ways you cannot see. He comforts you in the depths of your hearts and he comforts you with the gift of strength,” the pope said.

The “hidden Jesus” the young shepherds adored in the Eucharist is also present “in the wounds of our brothers and sisters” where Christians can adore, seek and recognize Christ.

Pope Francis encouraged the sick present at Mass to “live their lives as a gift” and to not think of themselves simply “as the recipients of charitable solidarity” but rather “a spiritual resource, an asset to every Christian community.”

“”Do not be ashamed of being a precious treasure of the church,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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