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‘I strive to continue’ — Retired Pope Benedict says he felt a ‘duty’ to resign

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Retired Pope Benedict XVI said in an interview that he felt a “duty” to resign from the papacy because of his declining health and the rigorous demands of papal travel. Read more »

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Vatican newspaper calls pope’s document on family life ‘authoritative church teaching’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family is an example of the “ordinary magisterium,” papal teaching, to which Catholics are obliged to give “religious submission of will and intellect,” said an article in the Vatican newspaper.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis's  apostolic exhortation,  "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See stories to come.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis’ audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Father Salvador Pie-Ninot, a well-known professor of ecclesiology, said that while Pope Francis did not invoke his teaching authority in a definitive way in the document, it meets all the criteria for being an example of the “ordinary magisterium” to which all members of the church should respond with “the basic attitude of sincere acceptance and practical implementation.”

The Spanish priest’s article in L’Osservatore Romano Aug. 23 came in response to questions raised about the formal weight of the pope’s document, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

For instance, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has said on several occasions that the document is “a mixture of opinion and doctrine.”

Father Pie-Ninot said he examined the document in light of the 1990 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the vocation of the theologian.

The instruction, issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, explained three levels of church teaching with the corresponding levels of assent they require.

The top levels are: “Infallible pronouncements,” which require an assent of faith as being divinely revealed; and teaching proposed “in a definitive way,” which is “strictly and intimately connected with revelation” and “must be firmly accepted and held.”

A teaching is an example of “ordinary magisterium,” according to the instruction, “when the magisterium, not intending to act ‘definitively,’ teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect.”

“Amoris Laetitia” falls into the third category, Father Pie-Ninot said, adding the 1990 instruction’s statement that examples of ordinary magisterium can occur when the pope intervenes “in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements.”

The instruction notes that “it often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent,” although, as the Spanish priest said, the instruction insists that even then one must assume that “divine assistance” was given to the pope.

Accepting “Amoris Laetitia” as authoritative church teaching, Father Pie-Ninot said, applies also to the document’s “most significant words” about the possibility of people divorced and remarried without an annulment receiving Communion in limited circumstances.

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Narrow gate of mercy difficult to enter with bloated pride, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The “narrow gate” to salvation described by Jesus isn’t narrow because God is oppressive, but because pride bloats Christians and prevents them from entering God’s merciful embrace, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis leads the Angelus in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 21. (CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA)

Pope Francis leads the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 21. (CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA)

Christians “must seize the opportunities of salvation” and not waste time on trivial things before the gate is closed, the pope said before reciting the Angelus prayer Aug. 22.

“If God is good and loves us, why does he close the gate at some point?” the pope asked visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The reason, he said, is because “our life is not a video game or a soap opera; our life is serious and the goal to achieve is important: eternal salvation.”

In the day’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls on his followers to “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

By using the imagery of the narrow gate, Jesus tells his listeners that the question of how many will be saved is not as important as knowing “which path leads to salvation,” the pope said.

Having a humble and faithful heart in need of God’s forgiveness, he added, allows Christians to enter the gate that, while wide open, remains too small for those swollen by pride and fear.

“It is a narrow gate to restrict our pride and our fear; it is a wide open gate because God welcomes us without distinction. And the salvation he gives us is a never-ending stream of mercy that breaks down every barrier and opens up surprising perspectives of light and peace,” he said.

Jesus, he continued, offers an invitation to cross this threshold and is “waiting for each one of us, no matter what sin we have committed, to embrace us, to offer us his forgiveness.”

Upon passing the gate, Christians can experience an “authentic change” that allows them to shed “worldly behaviors, selfishness and closures.”

Pope Francis led pilgrims in a moment of silence to reflect on those things that “we have inside and that prevent us from passing through the gate.” He also asked them to reflect on the “wide open door of God’s mercy” that leads to a path of salvation for those who wish to experience his love.

“It is the love which saves, the love that already here on earth is a source of blessing for those who, in meekness, patience and justice, forget themselves and give of themselves to others, especially to the weakest,” the pope said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis led the crowd in the square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims of a suicide bombing in Turkey the night before. At least 50 people were killed and dozens wounded when a suspected suicide bomber, who was reported to be between 12 and 14 years old, detonated his explosives at a wedding party in Gaziantep.

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French president meets with pope to thank him for this words after terrorist attacks

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with French President Francois Hollande, who said he felt it necessary to thank the pope in person for his words after the slaying of a French priest and other terrorist attacks in France.

The president arrived in Rome Aug. 17 and went directly to the French national church, St. Louis, to visit a

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with French President Francois Hollande at the Vatican Aug. 17. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with French President Francois Hollande at the Vatican Aug. 17. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

chapel set up as a place of prayer for the victims of terrorism.

The chapel honors the memory of the 130 people who died during the November attacks in Paris, the 84 who died in Nice July 14 and Father Jacques Hamel, who was brutally murdered as he celebrated Mass July 26. Father Hamel’s killers claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.

After the priest’s murder, Hollande had phoned the pope, telling him that “when a priest is attacked, all of France is wounded.” Pope Francis, traveling to Poland the next day, told reporters he appreciated Hollande’s call, reaching out to him “as a brother.”

Hollande and the pope reportedly spent about 40 minutes meeting privately. The president also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the Vatican provided no details of the discussion. However, it did say that as a gift, Pope Francis gave Hollande a bronze medallion inscribed with the words, “The desert will become a garden,” referencing the prophet Isaiah.

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Pope names Dallas bishop to head new Vatican office for laity, family life – updated

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has named Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas to head the Vatican’s new office for laity, family and life.

The Dublin-born bishop will celebrate his 69th birthday Sept. 2, the day after the new Vatican office officially begins its work.

Pope Francis has named Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell to lead a new Vatican office for laity and family life. (CNS photo/Ron Heflin, The Texas Catholic)

Pope Francis has named Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell to lead a new Vatican office for laity and family life. (CNS photo/Ron Heflin, The Texas Catholic)

In a statement a few hours after his appointment was announced in Rome, Bishop Farrell said he was “extremely humbled” Pope Francis chose him to lead the new office.

“I look forward to being part of the important work of the universal church in the promotion of the laity and the apostolate of the laity and for the pastoral care of the family in accordance with the pope’s recent apostolic exhortation,’Amoris Laetitia,’ (‘The Joy of Love’), and the support of human life,” he said.

At the same time, Bishop Farrell said he had “mixed emotions” about leaving Dallas, its people and priests.

The Dallas Bishop Farrell is the brother of Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Both brothers were ordained to the priesthood for the Legionaries of Christ, but the Dallas bishop was later incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington and served as an auxiliary bishop there 2002-2007.

When the Dallas bishop arrives in Rome, it will be the first time the two brothers have ever ministered in the same city, the Vatican’s Bishop Farrell told Catholic News Service Aug. 17. The appointment “was a huge surprise to me and a huge surprise, of course, to him. But he has such a long experience of pastoral work and administration as well,” he added.

Pope Francis, in a brief apostolic letter formally establishing the new
Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said the office should respond “to the situations of our age and adapt to the needs of the universal church.”

The church, as an “attentive mother,” must show special care and concern for the lay faithful, for families and for the sacredness of human life, he wrote in the letter, which was released Aug. 17. “We want to offer them support and help so that they would be active witnesses of the Gospel in our age and an expression of the goodness of the Redeemer.”

Pope Francis created the new office by combining the pontifical councils for the laity and for the family. Statutes for the new office, published in June, said it was being established “for the promotion of the life and apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the family and its mission according to God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”

Its new head, Bishop Farrell, has been bishop of Dallas since 2007. Before that, he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington. He currently serves as treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Pontifical Council for the Family had been headed by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, 71, since 2012. Pope Francis appointed him chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity had been led since 2003 by Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, 71. The Vatican did not announce his new assignment.

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Pope Francis consoles women rescued from sex traffickers

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Continuing his Year of Mercy practice of going one Friday a month to visit people facing special struggles, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a community helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution.

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope visited the house operated by the John XXIII Community in northeast Rome the afternoon of Aug. 12. The community members, the Vatican said, were “20 women liberated from the slavery of the prostitution racket. Six of them come from Romania, four from Albania, seven from Nigeria and one each from Tunisia, Italy and Ukraine.”

The women’s average age is 30, said a Vatican press statement. “All of them have endured serious physical violence” and are now being protected.

One of the young women, identified only as East European, told Vatican Radio she never dreamed she would be able to see the pope up close and “tell my story to a holy person like him. I was very emotional and kept crying because I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.”

The young woman said she told the pope that she had been offered a job as a caregiver in Italy, but the offer was fake. Instead, “they kept me locked in an apartment for two weeks, drugged me, tied me up and the men, they did what they wanted with my body.”

She said she was taken to Italy in the trunk of a car and forced into prostitution. When she disobeyed her traffickers, she was beaten, cut with a knife and burned with cigarettes.

When volunteers from the John XXIII Community started visiting her on the streets, she said, not only did she not believe she could escape, but she did not think she was worth saving. “You feel like a sack of trash” thrown on the side of the road, she said.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis asked forgiveness of the women on behalf of all the men who had used and abused them and for the governments that continue to do little to stop human trafficking.

“You are witnesses of resurrection,” the pope told them.

Pope Francis’ visit, the Vatican said, is another call to combat human trafficking, a reality the pope has described as “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.”

The pope’s “Mercy Friday” visits are part of his personal observance of the Holy Year of Mercy; while leaders of the communities and structures he is visiting are given some advance notice, there is no publicity and no open press availability. Usually, the Vatican releases a few photographs and sometimes a short video clip afterward.

Since January, the pope has visited a home for the aged and a home for people in a persistent vegetative state; a community for recovering drug addicts; a refugee center near Rome and a refugee camp in Greece; a L’Arche community; and a home for sick and aged priests.

The Vatican includes among the Mercy Friday practice several of Pope Francis’ activities the last Friday of July in Poland: his visit to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp and to a pediatric hospital and his attendance at the World Youth Day Way of the Cross service, which involved young Iraqis and Syrians as well as youths from other war-torn countries and difficult situations.

 

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On feast of the Assumption: Pope prays for exploited women

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating the feast of the Assumption just three days after visiting a group of young women rescued from the sex trade, Pope Francis prayed for all exploited women and girls.

“The Lord bows down to the lowly in order to raise them up as is proclaimed in the Magnificat,” Mary’s hymn of praise to God, the pope said Aug. 15.

Women carry bricks on their heads in Habigonj, Bangladesh, March 25, 2015. Pope Francis prayed for all exploited women and girls during the feast of the Assumption at the Vatican Aug. 15. (CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA)

Women carry bricks on their heads in Habigonj, Bangladesh, March 25, 2015. Pope Francis prayed for all exploited women and girls during the feast of the Assumption at the Vatican Aug. 15. (CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA)

“Mary’s canticle leads us to think of many painful situations today and particularly those of women overpowered by the burdens of life and the drama of violence, women who are slaves of the abuse of the powerful, girls forced into inhuman work, women forced to surrender body and spirit to the greed of men,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered to pray the Angelus with him.

The pope prayed that exploited women soon would be able to live “a life of peace, justice and love in expectation of the day they finally will feel held by hands that do not humiliate them, but tenderly lift them and lead them on the path to life.”

Pope Francis also prayed on the feast day that Mary would intercede to bring “compassion, understanding and agreement” to the many places in the world experiencing war and violent conflicts.

“My thoughts particularly go to the inhabitants of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently struck by new massacres,” he said, referring to reports that suspected rebels killed 42 people in the town of Beni Aug. 13. Such massacres, he said, have been occurring for months in “shameful silence.”

Thousands of people also gathered under the window of the Apostolic Palace Aug. 14 for the Angelus prayer with the pope. In his Sunday Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus’ words in the day’s Gospel reading: “I have come to set the earth on fire.”

“The fire Jesus is speaking about is the fire of the Holy Spirit present and alive in us from the day of our baptism,” the pope said. “This fire is a creative force that purifies and renews, burning away every human misery, every selfishness, every sin, transforming us from within.”

To renew the world and build the kingdom of God, he said, the fire must start in the hearts and lives of individuals. “It does not start from the head; it starts from the heart.”

The Holy Spirit gives those with open hearts “the boldness and fervor to proclaim Jesus and his consoling message of mercy and salvation, navigating on the open sea without fear,” the pope said.

Without the Holy Spirit’s help, he said, the Christian community would “let itself be held back by fear and calculation,” preferring to play it safe.

The church, Pope Francis said, “does not need bureaucrats and diligent functionaries, but passionate missionaries consumed with the drive to bring everyone the consoling word of Jesus and his grace.”

“The apostolic courage that the Holy Spirit lights in us like a fire helps us overcome walls and barriers, makes us creative and pushes us to set out on unexplored or uncomfortable paths, offering hope to all we meet,” the pope said.

Expressing his admiration for priests, religious and lay missionaries who devote, and even risk, their lives to share the Gospel, Pope Francis said the need is greater than ever for Christians willing to allow their hearts to be moved with compassion and reach out to those suffering material and spiritual poverty. Evangelization and mission, he said, need “the healing rhythm of closeness.”

 

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Pope Francis invites Syrian refugees to lunch with him

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At a luncheon that was part reunion and part progress report, Pope Francis invited 21 Syrian refugees to join him at the Vatican Aug. 11. Read more »

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God’s gift of mercy must be shared with others, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God’s mercy is infectious and must be shared with others, Pope Francis said.

Mercy is “a journey that departs from the heart to arrive at the hands,” the pope said Aug. 10 at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he arrives to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 10. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he arrives to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 10. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, giving renewed hope not just to the woman and her son, but to all.

“The powerful word of Jesus can make us rise again and takes us, too, from death to life,” the pope said. “His word revives us, gives hope, refreshes weary hearts and opens us to a vision of the world and of life that goes beyond suffering and death.”

Pope Francis ended his main talk by insisting that “Jesus watches you, heals you with his mercy and says, ‘Arise,’ and your heart is new.”

“And what do I do now with this new heart healed by Jesus?” he asked. “I do the works of mercy with my hands and I try to help, to heal the many who are in need. Mercy is a journey that departs from the heart and arrives at the hands, at the works of mercy.”

Greeting Italian visitors at the end of the audience, the pope returned to his point about how the experience of mercy must lead Christians to concrete acts of mercy toward others.

Recently, he said, a bishop told him that in his cathedral, there is not just one Holy Door designated for the Year of Mercy, but two.

One Holy Door is an entrance, the doorway people pass through to ask for God’s forgiveness and receive it in the sacraments. The other door is an exit, “to go out and bring God’s mercy to others with the works of mercy. This bishop is intelligent, isn’t he?” the pope said.

“In our hearts we receive the mercy of Jesus, who gives us pardon because God forgives everything, everything,” the pope said. “He raises us up. He gives us new life and he also infects us with his compassion. From our hearts forgiven and healed, and with the compassion of Jesus, the journey toward our hands begins, that it, toward the works of mercy.”

 

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Pope Francis’ getaway is a walk in the park and visits to convents outside Rome

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis “snuck” out of the Vatican Aug. 9 for a drive, a walk in the woods and lunch with an Italian bishop at a small convent.

Long after the pope had returned to the Vatican from two small towns near Rieti, about 50 miles northeast of Rome, the Vatican confirmed the pope had made a private visit to the area.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis was accompanied by Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti in his visits to a convent of the Sisters of the Reparation of the Holy Face in Carsoli and the Franciscan convent of St. Filippa Mareri in Borgo San Pietro.

A local newspaper, writing about the visit to Carsoli, said Pope Francis greeted each of the sisters before heading to their chapel to pray with them and Bishop Pompili. After the prayers, the pope and bishop went for a walk around the wooded, park-like property, returning for lunch at noon sharp.

“He tasted and appreciated all the dishes prepared by the sisters and complimented them,” according to the Aquila edition of the newspaper Il Centro.

St. John Paul II regularly left the Vatican unannounced. In his early years, he would spend an afternoon skiing or hiking. As he aged, he would go for picnics in the hills and visits to little churches and convents. Such private escapes seem to be much rarer for Pope Francis; at least, they have not been reported.

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