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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

August 14th, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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Pope Francis saddened by ‘perfect’ Catholics who scorn others

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pope tells Belgian religious order to stop offering euthanasia to patients

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Catholic News Service

Pope Francis has given a Belgian religious order until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to psychiatric patients.

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Brother Rene Stockman, superior general of the order, said the pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican demand that the Brothers of Charity, which runs 15 centers for psychiatric patients across Belgium, must reverse its policy by the end of August.

Brothers who serve on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, also must each sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

Brothers who refuse to sign will face sanctions under canon law, while the group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the church if it fails to change its policy.

The group, he added, must no longer consider euthanasia as a solution to human suffering under any circumstances.

The order, issued at the beginning of August, follows repeated requests for the group to drop its new policy of permitting doctors to perform the euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.

It also follows a joint investigation by the Vatican’s congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Brother Stockman, who had opposed the group’s euthanasia policy, said the ultimatum was devised by the two congregations and has the support of the pope.

“The Holy Father was formally informed about it and was also informed about the steps to be taken,” he said in an Aug. 8 email.

The ultimatum, he said, meant the group’s policies must be underpinned by a belief that “repect for human life is absolute.”

Brother Stockman said that if the group refused to bow to the ultimatum “then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity.”

He said if any of the brothers refused to sign the letter upholding Catholic teaching against euthanasia, “then also we will start the correct procedure foreseen in canon law.”

The Belgian bishops and the nuncio to Belgium have been informed about the ultimatum, he added.

Brother Stockman, a psychiatric care specialist, had turned to the Vatican in the spring after the Brothers of Charity group rejected a formal request from him to reverse the new policy.

The group also snubbed the Belgian bishops by formally implementing its euthanasia policy in June, just weeks after the bishops declared they would not accept euthanasia in Catholic institutions.

The group has also ignored a statement of church teaching forbidding euthanasia. The statement, written and signed by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former head of the doctrinal congregation, was sent to the Brothers of Charity Group members. A copy of the document has been obtained Catholic News Service.

Father Peter Joseph Triest, whose cause for beatification was opened in 2001, founded the Brothers of Charity in Ghent, Belgium, in 1807. Their charism is to serve the elderly and mentally ill.

Today, the group is considered the most important provider of mental health care services in the Flanders region of Belgium, where they serve 5,000 patients a year.

About 12 psychiatric patients in the care of the Brothers are believed to have asked for euthanasia over the past year, with two transferred elsewhere to receive the injections to end their lives.

The group first announced its euthanasia policy in March, saying it wished to harmonize the practices of the centers with the Belgian law on euthanasia passed in 2003, the year after the Netherlands became the first country to permit the practice since Nazi Germany.

Technically, euthanasia in Belgium remains an offense, with the law protecting doctors from prosecution only if they abide by specific criteria, but increasingly lethal injections are given to the disabled and mentally ill. Since 2014 “emancipated children” have also qualified for euthanasia.

The group’s change in policy came about a year after a private Catholic rest home in Diest, Belgium, was fined $6,600 for refusing the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman suffering from lung cancer.

Catholic News Service has approached the Brothers of Charity Group for a comment.

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Vacation time should be prayer time, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Summertime can and should be a time for extra prayer, a moment of peace that allows Christians to savor the joy of their relationship with Jesus and find new strength to reach out with love to others, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis prays at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica Aug. 6, the 39th anniversary of Pope Paul's death. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano).

Pope Francis prays at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica Aug. 6, the 39th anniversary of Pope Paul’s death. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano).

Before reciting the Angelus Aug. 6, the feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Francis talked about the Gospel story of the disciples going up Mount Tabor with Jesus, “detaching themselves from mundane things” and contemplating the transfigured Lord.

Today, too, Christ’s disciples need to “rediscover the pacifying and regenerating silence” that comes from prayer and meditating on a Gospel passage.

“When we put ourselves in this situation, with the Bible in hand, in silence, we begin to feel this interior beauty, this joy that the word of God generates in us,” the pope said.

With high temperatures still plaguing Rome and most of southern Europe, many tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square came armed with umbrellas or bought paper parasols from wandering venders outside the square.

Pope Francis said he knew the students in the square were in the midst of their summer holidays and many of the other people in the square were on vacation. He told them, “It’s important that in the period of rest and breaking away from daily concerns, you restore the energies of your body and soul, deepening your spiritual journey.”

The disciples who saw Jesus’ transfigured, he said, were changed by the event and descended the mountain, back into their daily lives, “with eyes and hearts transfigured by their encounter with the Lord. We, too, can follow this path.”

An encounter with the Lord, he said, should inspire further steps of conversion and a greater witness of charity.

“Transformed by the presence of Christ and by the warmth of his words, we will be a concrete sign of the life-giving love of God for all our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer, find themselves alone and abandoned, are sick, and for the multitude of men and women who, in different parts of the world, are humiliated by injustice, abuse and violence.”

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would watch over people on vacation, but also that she would care for “those who cannot take a vacation because they are impeded by age, health or work, by economic difficulties or other problems.”

Earlier that morning, Pope Francis went to the grotto under St. Peter’s Basilica to pray at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI, who died Aug. 6, 1978.

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Christians are oriented toward hope and light, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The ancient practice of orienting church buildings East to West, with the entrance facing West and the altar toward the East, was symbolic of the connection that exists between light and hope, Pope Francis said.

“What does it mean to be a Christian? It means looking toward the light, continuing to make a profession of faith in the light, even when the world is wrapped in the night and darkness,” Pope Francis said Aug. 2 at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli after performing with the choir "Voices of Haiti" during the pontiff's weekly audience in Paul VI hall Aug. 2 at the Vatican. (CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli after performing with the choir “Voices of Haiti” during the pontiff’s weekly audience in Paul VI hall Aug. 2 at the Vatican. (CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

With temperatures moving toward a forecasted 100 degrees, the pope resumed his audiences indoors after a month’s hiatus. He also resumed his series of audience talks about Christian hope.

He began by explaining how in ancient times the physical setting of a church building held symbolic importance for believers because the sun sets in the West, “where the light dies,” but rises in the East, where “the dawn reminds us of Christ, the sun risen from on high.”

In fact, he said, using the “language of the cosmos,” it was customary to have those about to be baptized proclaim their renunciation of Satan facing West and their profession of faith in God facing East.

Pope Francis did not touch on the debate about whether priests should celebrate Mass facing East, with their backs to the people, but focused on light as a symbol of Christian hope.

“Christians are not exempt from the darkness, either external or even internal,” he said. “They do not live outside the world, but because of the grace of Christ received though baptism, they are men and women who are oriented: they do not believe in the darkness, but in the light of day; they do not succumb to the night, but hope in the dawn; they are not defeated by death, but long for resurrection; they are not crushed by evil because they always trust in the infinite possibilities of goodness.”

Receiving the light of Christ at baptism, he said, Christians are called to be true “Christophers” or Christ-bearers, “especially to those who are going through situations of mourning, desperation, darkness and hatred.”

Christians who truly bear the light of Christ’s hope, he said, can be identified by the light in their eyes and by their serenity “even on the most complicated days.”

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Pope Francis asks prayers for victims of ‘perverse plague’ of trafficking

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Human trafficking is “brutal, savage and criminal,” Pope Francis said, but often it seems like people see it as a sad, but normal fact of life.

Dutch police search a Spanish truck at the border after nine immigrants were rescued from the freezer of the vehicle in early February in Hazeldonk, Netherlands. The truck driver was arrested as a suspect of human trafficking. (CNS photo/Marcel van Dorst - MaRicMedia, EPA)

Dutch police search a Spanish truck at the border after nine immigrants were rescued from the freezer of the vehicle in early February in Hazeldonk, Netherlands. The truck driver was arrested as a suspect of human trafficking. (CNS photo/Marcel van Dorst – MaRicMedia, EPA)

“I want to call everyone to make a commitment to seeing that this perverse plague, a modern form of slavery, is effectively countered,” the pope said July 30, the U.N.’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

After reciting the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked them to join him in praying a “Hail Mary” so that Jesus’ mother would “support the victims of trafficking and convert the hearts of traffickers.”

In his main Angelus address, Pope Francis focused on the parables from the day’s Gospel reading: the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price.

Both parables involve “searching and sacrifice,” the pope said. Neither the person who found the treasure in the field nor the merchant who found the pearl would have made their discoveries if they were not looking for something, and both of them sell all they have to purchase their treasure.

The point of the parables, he said, is that “the kingdom of God is offered to all.It is a gift, a grace but it is not given on a silver platter. It requires dynamism; it involves seeking, walking, getting busy.”

Jesus is the hidden treasure, the pope said, and once people discover him they are called to put following him before all else.

“It’s not a matter of despising all else, but of subordinating it to Jesus, giving him first place,” the pope said. “A disciple of Christ is not one who is deprived of something essential, but one who has found much more, has found the full joy that only the Lord can give.”

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Share the Journey — Pope Francis wants Catholics to meet migrants or refugees and listen to their stories

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — No matter the position one takes on national migration policy, Pope Francis, Caritas Internationalis and national Catholic charities across the globe want Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story. Read more »

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Vatican shuts down fountains as Rome deals with drought

July 25th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Pope prays for dialogue, reconciliation in Jerusalem

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land to “moderation and dialogue” as tensions continued around a key site in Jerusalem that is sacred to members of both faiths.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem's Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem’s Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

After reciting the Angelus July 23, the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday prayer to join him in asking the Lord to inspire reconciliation and peace in the region.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since July 14 when three Israeli Arabs armed with knives and guns killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the site the Jews call Temple Mount and the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif. The site includes the Western Wall and Al Aqsa mosque.

In his main Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the weeds among the wheat from the Sunday Gospel reading.

The farmer in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew tells his workers not to pull up all the weeds because they might uproot the wheat, but to wait until the harvest when the wheat and weeds can be separated.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all the evil, only God can do that,” the pope said.

Human beings are called to the “difficult exercise of discernment” in choosing between good and what is evil, he said, and when they fail, which all people do sometimes, the church stands ready to help with the grace of baptism and of confession.

Like the farmer in the parable, the pope said, God calls Christians to be patient as they await the harvest.

“Patience means preferring a church that is leaven in the dough, that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty washing the clothes of its children, rather than being a church of the ‘pure,’ who insist on judging beforehand who is in the kingdom of God and who isn’t.”

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