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On All Saints Day, Pope proposes new Beatitudes for modern Christians

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Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — The saints are blessed because they were faithful and meek and cared for others, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a woman before celebrating Mass at the Swedbank Stadium in Malmo, Sweden, Nov. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a woman before celebrating Mass at the Swedbank Stadium in Malmo, Sweden, Nov. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the end of an ecumenical trip to Sweden, Pope Francis celebrated the feast of All Saints Nov. 1 with a Catholic Mass in a Malmo stadium. He highlighted the lives of the Swedish saints, Elizabeth Hesselblad and Bridget of Vadstena, who “prayed and worked to create bonds of unity and fellowship between Christians.”

The best description of the saints, in fact, their “identity card,” the pope said, is found in the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

And, he said, as Christian saints have done throughout the ages, Christ’s followers today are called “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.”

New situations require new energy and a new commitment, he said, and then he offered a new list of Beatitudes for modern Christians:

  • “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
  • “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
  • “Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
  • “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • “Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”

“All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness,” Pope Francis said. “Surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”

Registered Catholics in Sweden number about 115,000, just over 1 percent of the population. But with recent waves of immigration, especially from Chaldean Catholic communities in Iraq, local church officials believe the number of Catholics is double the reported figure.

Reflecting the multicultural makeup of the Catholic Church in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, the prayer intentions at Mass were read in Spanish, Arabic, English, German and Polish, as well as in Swedish.

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Catholics, Lutherans pledge to serve the poor and refugees together

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Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — The ice rink and the penalty boxes were gone from Malmo Arena Oct. 31 as Catholics and Lutherans filled the stands and promised to work together for peace, particularly in Syria, and for justice, especially for refugees.

Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, during an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The event opened a year marking the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, during an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The event opened a year marking the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation continued their ecumenical commemoration of Reformation Day in an arena that usually hosts hockey games. But kicking off a year of events to culminate in the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the arena was transformed into a venue for song and witness.

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, called on all Christians to join their voices in prayer and in pressuring their governments to stop the bloodshed and destruction in his homeland.

The bishop, who is president of Caritas Syria, announced that Christian humanitarian work in his country would follow the motto: “Become Christians Together,” focusing on how serving Christ must include serving others, especially the poorest and most needy.

A centerpiece of the Malmo event was the signing of a “declaration of intent” by the heads of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities, and the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service. The two organizations promised to “witness and act together,” supporting one another, including by serving the victims of war in Syria and Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

Religion, Bishop Audo said, “should encourage us to defend the human values of dignity, solidarity and seeking the common good.”

The stories told in Malmo include those of a young Indian woman working to educate people about climate change, the Sudanese refugee runner who carried the flag for the Olympic Refugee Team, the head of Caritas Colombia working for peace and a woman from Burundi who adopted and sheltered seven children during her country’s genocidal rampage in the 1990s.

Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land, co-hosting the event with the pope, also spoke as a refugee, the son of Palestinians from Beersheba. “All refugees are my brothers and sisters,” he said.

“I ask each of you to pray for my country and for the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “Pray that God’s will of justice will be done. Pray that Jerusalem would be a city shared by three religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and two peoples — Palestinians and Israelis.”

Praising the Caritas-World Service agreement, Bishop Younan said, “I am proud to answer God’s call with you so the world can see how Lutherans and Catholics love one another and serve their neighbors so the world may believe.”

Pope Francis told the crowd in the arena that the ecumenical agreement is a fruit of 50 years of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue and its affirmations of a common faith and a common baptism in Jesus. He prayed that it would unleash a “revolution of tenderness.”

Aleppo, he said, has been “brought to its knees by war” and is a place where “even the most fundamental rights are treated with contempt and trampled underfoot.”

Every person in Syria “is in our hearts and prayers,” the pope added. “Let us implore the grace of heartfelt conversion for those responsible for the fate of that region.”

Marguerite Barankitse, the woman from Burundi who spoke about adopting and sheltering children, had told the pope that everyone around her, including her family members, thinks she is crazy.

“Please,” she told the crowd in English, “do you accept to be crazy like me?”

Bishop Younan told her, “We want to be crazy like you, crazy in our love.”

In his response, Pope Francis encouraged her as well. “Of course,” he said, “it is the craziness of love for God and our neighbor. We need more of this craziness, illuminated by faith and confidence in God’s providence.”

 

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Pope joins Lutheran leaders in prayer marking 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation

By

Catholic News Service

LUND, Sweden — Urging Catholics and Lutherans to take decisive steps toward unity, Pope Francis nevertheless offered no new openings to the idea of sharing Communion before full unity is achieved.

Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst,” the pope said Oct. 31 during an ecumenical prayer service in the Lutherans’ Lund cathedral, which was built as a Catholic cathedral in the 11th century.

With the prayer service, Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation launched a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary in 2017 of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church.

For Pope Francis and the Vatican, Catholics are called to commemorate the event by focusing on concrete ways to express and strengthen the doctrinal agreements reached by Catholic and Lutheran theologians over the past 50 years. The most appropriate way to mark the anniversary, they said, was with common prayer and renewed commitments to working together to help the poor and promote justice.

The Lutherans agree, but many also saw the joint commemoration as a moment to recognize that the joint agreements on issues of faith over the past 50 years mean it is appropriate now to expand occasions when eucharistic sharing is possible.

The Catholic Church has insisted that regular sharing of the Eucharist will be possible only when divided Christians have attained full unity.

In his homily at the Lund cathedral, the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, expressed his hope for shared Communion sooner.

While in the past Catholics and Lutherans sometimes carried stones to throw at each other, he said, that is no longer possible
“now that we know who we are in Christ.” The stones cannot be used “to raise walls of separation and exclusion” either, he said.

“Jesus Christ calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation,” he said, using stones for “building bridges so that we can draw closer to each other, houses where we can meet together and tables, yes, tables, where we can share the bread and the wine, the presence of Jesus Christ who has never left us and who calls us to abide in him so the world may believe.”

A joint statement signed in Lund by Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, said, “Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

Particularly referring to Catholic-Lutheran married couples, the two leaders’ statement said, “We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ.”

However, they did not authorize further opportunities for shared Communion, but expressed longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”

Pope Francis began the service praying that the Holy Spirit would “help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the church through the Reformation.” In an interview released Oct 28, he said those gifts were greater appreciation of the Bible as God’s word and an acknowledgement that members of the church are called to a process of ongoing reform.

The service was punctuated with music from around the world, including a Kyrie or “Lord Have Mercy” in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Catholic and Lutheran leaders took turns asking God’s forgiveness for maintaining divisions, “bearing false witness” against each other and allowing political and economic interests to exacerbate the wounds in the body of Christ.

Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala, the first woman to serve as primate of Sweden, read the Gospel at the service.

In his homily, Pope Francis insisted that Catholics and Lutherans must “look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness.”

The division among Christians, he said, goes against Christ’s will for his disciples, weakens their ability to serve the world and often makes it difficult for others to believe Christianity is a religion of peace and fraternity.

The Gospel reading at the service, from John 15, was about Jesus being the vine and his disciples being the branches. In his homily, Rev. Junge said that too often over the past 499 years, Catholics and Lutherans saw each other “as branches separated from the true vine, Christ.”

Yet, he said, “Jesus never forgot us, even when we seemed to have forgotten him, losing ourselves in violent and hateful actions.”

After 50 years of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, Rev. Junge said, “we acknowledge that there is much more that unites us than that which separates us. We are branches of the same vine. We are one in baptism.”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

 

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Priests celebrate Masses outdoors after massive earthquake in Italy

By

Catholic News Service

ROME — Priests in central Italy were instructed to celebrate Mass outdoors following another devastating earthquake that rocked the region and brought one its most spiritually and historically significant churches tumbling down.

Earthquake victims rest in a shelter Oct. 30 in Caldarola, Italy. Thousands of people in central Italy have spent the night in cars, tents and temporary shelters following the fourth earthquake in the area in three months. (CNS photo/Cristiano Chiodi, EPA)

Earthquake victims rest in a shelter Oct. 30 in Caldarola, Italy. Thousands of people in central Italy have spent the night in cars, tents and temporary shelters following the fourth earthquake in the area in three months. (CNS photo/Cristiano Chiodi, EPA)

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve advised priests to not celebrate Mass indoors over the next several days, including Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, which is also a national holiday in Italy.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Norcia in the early morning Oct. 30 and reduced the Basilica of St. Benedict to rubble.

At the noonday Angelus Oct. 30, Pope Francis prayed for the “the wounded and the families that have suffered major damage as well as for the personnel involved in rescue efforts and in aiding the victims.

“May the Risen Lord give them strength and Our Lady watch over them,” the pope said.

The Benedictine monks of Norcia assisted in relief efforts as well as helping to guide anxious residents to the town’s main square and lead them in prayer.

“After offering spiritual support to the people in town following this morning’s intense earthquake, the entire monastic community is together again at our mountain monastery which overlooks a now fractured Norcia,” the monks said in a message posted on their blog.

Following the destruction of the basilica built atop the birthplace of their founder, the Benedictine monks said they hoped the image of the destroyed church may “serve to illustrate the power of this earthquake and the urgency we monks feel to seek out those who need the Sacraments on this difficult day for Italy.”

While there were no deaths and some 20 reported injuries, it was the strongest quake in Italy since 1980 when a 6.9 earthquake struck the southern region of Campania.

The quake was felt along much of the Italian peninsula including 100 miles away in Rome, forcing city officials to close subways and several churches in order to assess any damage. Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi also ordered schools to be closed the following day while the safety of the buildings was checked.

Vatican firefighters assessed potential damage to the four major papal basilicas in Rome, which were later reported to be safe and open to the public.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope arrives in Sweden for what he calls important ecumenical event

October 31st, 2016 Posted in International News, Vatican News Tags: ,

By

Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — Under a thick gray sky, Pope Francis was welcomed to Sweden with a small formal ceremony, which conveyed by its brevity that the trip was not a formal state visit, but had another purpose.

Pope Francis walks next to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as he arrives at the international airport in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The pope is making a two-day visit to Sweden to attend events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis walks next to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as he arrives at the international airport in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The pope is making a two-day visit to Sweden to attend events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Flying to Malmo Oct. 31, Pope Francis told reporters that the trip was a “very important ecclesial event” because of its ecumenical focus. He also asked that the journalists help in explaining the trip “so that people understand it well.”

Arriving at the Malmo airport, he was greeted by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and by Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, as well as by the country’s lone Catholic bishop, Bishop Anders Arborelius of Sweden.

A military band played the Vatican and Swedish national anthems as the pope and prime minister stood facing Sweden’s flag, which is blue with a yellow cross. Members of the general public were not present for the welcoming ceremony.

The pope met briefly in an airport VIP lounge with Prime Minister Lofven before traveling to Igelosa, a medical research center outside Lund, which transformed a room in its conference center into the papal residence for his 26-hour stay in Sweden.

After an early lunch, Pope Francis was to travel to Kungshuset in Lund for a meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia and their children and grandchildren.

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U.S. archbishop, pilgrims were celebrating Mass in Norcia when earthquakes struck

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Catholic News Service

ROME — U.S. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck.

“I had no sooner finished (the vesting) prayer to be protected from the assaults of Satan when bang: It just hit and it hit with a vengeance. It didn’t last very long, but it really shook the building we were in,” Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, told Catholic News Service in Rome the next morning.

A collapsed church is seen Oct. 27 after an earthquake in Borgo Sant'Antonio near Visso, Italy. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore., was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A collapsed church is seen Oct. 27 after an earthquake in Borgo Sant’Antonio near Visso, Italy. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore., was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

No casualties were reported from the quakes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an earthquake measuring 5.5 struck shortly after 7 p.m. local time and a 6.1 magnitude quake followed two hours later. Both were centered in Italy’s Marche region, not far from Norcia.

Archbishop Sample and other Portland pilgrims were visiting Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, during a trip to Italy for the fifth annual Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, an international gathering for Catholics devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass.

Speaking by telephone from Norcia, the archbishop said that despite feeling aftershocks during the Mass, he finished celebrating and was already in his hotel room when the second earthquake struck.

Although things seem to calm down, “there were a number of aftershocks” throughout the night, he said.

“I think about three times during the night, I was halfway out of bed to get to the door,” he said. “I confess, I’m a bit of a chicken and I slept in my clothes last night in case I had to run outside; I wanted to be properly attired. It was not the most restful night.”

While Archbishop Sample was with the Benedictine monks, he said another group from Portland, led by Father John Boyle, also had “a harrowing experience” during the earthquake while celebrating Mass in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia.

“Father Boyle was just beginning the preparatory prayers for holy Communion when it hit and he took shelter underneath the altar and instructed the other pilgrims to take cover under the pews,” the archbishop said.

When the earthquake ended, Archbishop Sample said, the pilgrims went outside the church and Father Boyle brought them Communion.

The archbishop said that Father Boyle found it “very moving to see the people kneeling on the ground to receive holy Communion; it was beautiful.” After Mass, several monks helped retrieve the pilgrim’s personal items from the church before they returned to their hotel.

Pope Francis took to social media to express his solidarity with those affected, tweeting: “I am close in prayer to the people struck by the new earthquake in central Italy.”

The earthquakes, which came two months after a powerful quake devastated several towns in the region, left several churches with major damage.

Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, reported that one of the destroyed buildings was the 13th-century church of San Salvatore in Campi, just outside the center of Norcia.

The church “no longer exists,” Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia told Avvenire. “I’m trying to contact the pastor but communications are interrupted at this time.”

The rose window of Sant’ Eutizio Abbey, one of Italy’s oldest monasteries dating back to the 5th century, also collapsed following the first earthquake.

The 6.1 quake Oct. 26, the U.S. Geological Survey said, “is currently the largest aftershock” of the Aug. 24 quake that struck central Italy. The epicenter of the August earthquake was close to Norcia; with a magnitude of 6.2, it caused the deaths of close to 300 people.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Once Iraq recaptures Mosul, people will still need help, says archbishop

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Catholic News Service

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The military operation to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group is not the only solution needed to get life back to normal, said Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil.

The Chaldean Catholic archbishop, who has called for such intervention in the past, said the solution was a package. People must “think again about the education, about the curriculum, about all the violent acts that happened during the last years.” Read more »

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In Turkey, Iraqi Christians waiting for resettlement live in limbo

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Catholic News Service

 

ISTANBUL (CNS) — Yako Hanna, 36, always keeps an eye on his phone waiting for a call that would change his life.

“Anytime it rings, you think it is the U.N., so you have to be careful. Even if you go to the bathroom, you have to take your mobile with you,” Hanna said, referring to the call he might receive from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, which is handling his resettlement application to Australia, where he has relatives. Read more »

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Memorial marking where Moses saw Promised Land reopens in Jordan

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Catholic News Service

 

MOUNT NEBO, Jordan — The Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo has reopened its doors to the public amid festivities, after nearly a decade of restoration.

Believed by ancient tradition to be the site where Moses saw the Promised Land and died, a church and monastery are perched atop this 3,300-foot rugged mountain facing the northern end of the Dead Sea. It has drawn Christian pilgrims throughout the centuries and is considered one of the most important pilgrimage, tourist, and archaeological sites in Jordan and the Holy Land. Read more »

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Jesuits elect Venezuelan as new head of order

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, a member of the Jesuits’ Venezuelan province, was elected the first non-European superior general of the Society of Jesus Oct. 14.

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, right, the new superior general of the Society of Jesus, greets the previous superior general, Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, after his election in Rome Oct. 14. Father Sosa, 67, is a member of the Jesuits' Venezuelan province. (CNS photo/Don Doll, S.J.)

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, right, the new superior general of the Society of Jesus, greets the previous superior general, Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, after his election in Rome Oct. 14. Father Sosa, 67, is a member of the Jesuits’ Venezuelan province. (CNS photo/Don Doll, S.J.)

The 212 voting delegates to the Jesuit general congregation elected Father Sosa, 67. He succeeds Father Adolfo Nicolas, 80, who had asked to resign because of his age.

Pope Francis was informed of the election of Father Sosa before the Jesuits announced it publicly.

The election came after four days of prayer, silence and quiet one-on-one conversations among the voting delegates, who were chosen to represent the more than 16,000 Jesuits around the world.

In an interview Oct. 7 about the pre-election phase of the congregation, Father Sosa said delegates gathered come from different countries, but they share a common culture linked to their experience of the Ignatian spiritual exercises and practices of discernment. “We have a long tradition and a strong desire to listen to the same voice, that is the voice of the Holy Spirit,” he said in an interview published on the Jesuits’ gc36.org website.

Father Sosa was born in Caracas, Nov. 12, 1948. He joined the Jesuits in 1966 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977.

Prior to the election, he was Father Nicolas’ delegate for the international houses and works of the Society of Jesus in Rome. He has a doctorate in political science from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He speaks Spanish, Italian, English and understands French, according to a press release from the Jesuits.

The resignation of Father Nicolas and the election of Father Sosa came during the order’s 36th general congregation, which began Oct. 2. After the election, the gathering was to continue as delegates focus on questions of Jesuit identity and governance, vocations, mission and collaboration with the laity.

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