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Happy are the ‘losers,’ the poor in spirit, pope tells young people


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The “poor in spirit,” the pure and the merciful, whom Jesus described as “blessed,” are the same people the world considers to be “losers,” Pope Francis told Catholic young people.

Pope Francis meets with young people during his visit to Sardinia last fall. CNS/Paul Haring

But Jesus offers his followers the true path to happiness, and faith in him “will allow you to expose and reject the low-cost offers and approaches all around you,” the pope said in his message for World Youth Day 2014.

The message, released Feb. 6 at the Vatican, focused on the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Pope Francis has chosen the beatitudes from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew as the themes for World Youth Day 2014-2016. This year and next, World Youth Day will be celebrated on a local level, on Palm Sunday at the Vatican, and in 2016 it will be an international gathering in Krakow, Poland.

The pope told young people that in April, he will canonize Blessed John Paul II, who began the international celebrations and will be “the great patron of the World Youth Days.”

“To be blessed means to be happy,” the pope said. “In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and thinking small when it comes to the meaning of life.

“Think big instead,” he told young people. “Open your hearts.”

“Young people who choose Christ are strong: They are fed by his word and they do not need to stuff themselves” with money, possessions and fleeting pleasure, the pope said.

“Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy,” he said.

Explaining how true happiness includes being “poor in spirit,” the pope said he knew it seemed strange to link happiness and poverty.

But, he said, in the Bible being poor isn’t just about having few material possessions. “It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The ‘anawim’ (God’s poor) trust in the Lord, and they know they can count on him.”

The pope said his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, “understood perfectly the secret of the beatitude” and demonstrated that by living “in imitation of Christ in his poverty and in love for the poor.”

To be poor in spirit, the pope told young people, they must learn to be free or detached from material things, living simply, being concerned about the essentials, but “learning to do without all those unneeded extras.”

Poverty in spirit also requires “a conversion in the way we see the poor,” which means meeting them, listening to them, caring for them and offering them both material and spiritual assistance, he said.

Living according to the beatitude also means recognizing that the poor “have much to offer us and to teach us,” particularly that “people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank.”

Looking to Mary, particularly in the Magnificat, the pope told young people, “the joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God.”

The text of Pope Francis’ message in English is available at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/messages/youth/documents/papa-francesco_20140121_messaggio-giovani_2014_en.html.


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Don’t skip Sunday Mass, Pope Francis says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It’s so important to go to Mass every Sunday because that’s where people receive Christ who saves, forgives and unites everyone to his father, church and each other, Pope Francis said.

It’s also “important that children are well prepared for first Communion because … after baptism and confirmation it is the first step toward belonging strongly, really strongly, to Jesus Christ,” he said Feb. 5 at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope continued a series of talks on the sacraments of Christian initiation, focusing on the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life of the church.

“In fact, every authentic journey of faith, communion and witness springs from this sacrament of love,” he said.

The pope began his audience talk by greeting the estimated 13,000 people huddled under umbrellas and raincoats as heavy rain beat down on St. Peter’s Square.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning, but not good day, huh? It’s a bit nasty,” he said.

The pope also prayed, at the end of the audience, for all those in Tuscany and Rome affected by severe flooding caused by days of heavy rain.

To help visiting pilgrims who were ill or with disabilities and their caregivers keep warm and dry in the bad weather, the pope said he had them go indoors to the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall to watch the audience on the big screens set up inside.

The pope arrived about 25 minutes later than his usual start time in the square because, as he later explained, he first had gone to greet those pilgrims seated inside the hall.

In his catechesis, Pope Francis said that by celebrating the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, “we participate in the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.”

“By making himself broken bread for us, the Lord Jesus pours out to us all of his mercy and his love, renewing our heart, our existence and our way of relating to him and our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Taking part in the Eucharist “conforms us in a unique and profound way to Christ,” he said, granting Christians a foretaste of full communion with God in heaven, “where with all the saints we will have the unimaginable joy of contemplating God face to face.”

“We will never thank the Lord enough for the gift he gave us with the Eucharist,” the pope said.

“It’s such a great gift and that’s why it’s so important to go to Mass on Sundays,” he said.

Mass is a time “not just to pray, but to receive Communion, this bread that is the body of Christ that saves us, forgives us, reunites us to the father. It’s beautiful to do this.”

Mass on Sundays is particularly important, he said, because “it is the day of the resurrection of the Lord, and with the Eucharist we feel our own belonging to the church, to the people of God, to the body of God, to Jesus Christ.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis met and spoke briefly with Lidia Guerrero, the mother of Victor Saldano, an Argentine national who has been on death row in Texas since 1996. Guerrero was accompanied by a representative of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is active in the fight against the death penalty.

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Queen Elizabeth to visit Pope Francis at Vatican on April 3


Catholic News Service

The Queen of England will visit Pope Francis at the Vatican in April, Buckingham Palace announced.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II waves from a carriage as she leaves the Palace of Westminster after a lunch to mark her diamond jubilee in London last June.

A Feb. 4 statement said Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will meet the pope on April 3.

The queen and prince will visit Rome at the invitation of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, the statement said.

It said the royal couple would attend a private lunch hosted by the president at the presidential palace, then would have an audience with the pope at the Vatican.

The 87-year-old queen, who has reigned since 1952, was the first British sovereign to welcome a pope to England when she greeted Blessed Pope John Paul II in London in 1982.

In 2010, Queen Elizabeth also welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to Britain when he arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, on the first stop of a tour that concluded with the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman.

The visit to Rome will be the first overseas trip for the royal couple for three years, a period in which Prince Philip, 92, has been troubled by ill health.

The queen is the constitutional head of the British state and is also the supreme governor of the Church of England.

The London-based Daily Mail newspaper, which broke the story ahead of the announcement by Buckingham Palace, speculated that the royal visit would strengthen ties between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

It also said Pope Francis would not receive the queen and the duke in the Vatican state apartments but in the three modestly furnished rooms that the pontiff occupies in the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse.


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The church without religious sisters is ‘unthinkable,’ pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A church without religious sisters would be “unthinkable,” Pope Francis said, honoring the contributions consecrated men and women make to the church and society.

Nuns sing during a prayer service for men and women religious at St. Anthony High School in South Huntington, N.Y. CNS file

“Every consecrated person is a gift to the people of God on pilgrimage,” he said Feb. 2, reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square. The pope had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the church marks as the World Day for Consecrated Life.

“There is such a great need for their presence, which reinforces and renews the commitment to spreading the Gospel, Christian education, charity for the neediest, contemplative prayer, the human and spiritual formation of the young and families, and the commitment to justice and peace in the human family,” the pope said.

Straying from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people gathered in the square: “Think what would happen if there weren’t any sisters, if there weren’t any sisters in the hospitals, no sisters in the missions, no sisters in the schools. Think what the church would be like without sisters. No, that’s unthinkable.”

Consecrated life is a gift that moves the church forward, he said.

“These women who consecrate their lives to carrying forward the message of Jesus — they’re great,” he added.

Pope Francis asked all Catholics to pray “that many young people would respond ‘yes’’ to the Lord when he calls them to consecrate themselves totally to him.”

The earlier liturgy for the feast of the presentation, once widely known as “Candlemas,” began with dozens of sisters, brothers and religious priests carrying lighted candles into St. Peter’s Basilica ahead of the pope.

In his homily, he urged religious to allow the joy of the Holy Spirit to guide both their observance of their communities’ rules and their willingness to be prophetic.

Religious must “never be rigid or closed, but always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens and who leads and invites us to go out toward the horizon,” he said.

Within religious communities, the pope said, the elderly should communicate their wisdom to the young and the young should accept “this patrimony of experience and wisdom and carry it forward, not to preserve it in a museum — no, no, no — but to continue it and bring it to bear on the challenges that life poses.”



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Pope Francis call for promotion of life at every stage

February 3rd, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on all Catholics to welcome, serve and respect life, whether still unborn or approaching its natural end.

He asked that everyone, each in his or her own “particular role and sphere, feel called to love and serve life, to welcome it, respect it and promote it, especially when it is fragile and needs attention and care, from the mother’s womb to its end on this earth.”

The pope’s remarks came after reciting the Sunday Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 2, which was designated in Italy as the Day for Life.

The pope encouraged all associations and movements involved in “the defense and promotion of life” to continue their work.

He also quoted a statement by Italian bishops that “every child has the face of the Lord, lover of life, a gift for families and society.”

He thanked those in the Diocese of Rome who organized the annual Day for Life celebration, as well as university professors who organized seminars and conferences on “current difficulties linked to childbirth.”


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Pope’s morning homily: Temptation is a fact of life; no one is immune to sin

January 31st, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Temptation is a normal part of life’s struggle, and anyone who claims to be immune from it is either a little angel visiting from heaven or “a bit of an idiot,” Pope Francis said.

The biggest problem in the world, in fact, isn’t temptation or sin, rather it is people deluding themselves that they’re not sinners and losing any sense of sin, he said Jan. 31 during his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

“All of us are sinners and all of us are tempted; temptation is our daily bread,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

“If someone tells us, ‘Well, I have never been tempted,’” that person is either “a cherub or a bit of an idiot, right?” he said.

The battle against sin and temptation “is normal in life,” he said, because the devil is always up to something “and he wants victory.”

The pope reflected on the day’s reading from the Second Book of Samuel, in which David commits adultery with Bathsheba and then has her husband, Uriah the Hittite, killed in battle as a last resort to avoid trouble with Uriah for having impregnated Bathsheba.

“The most serious problem in this reading isn’t so much the temptation and the sin” of adultery, the pope said, “but how David behaves.” He doesn’t see what he’s done as a sin, but as a problem to fix, the pope said.

In the “Our Father,” Christians pray to the Lord “thy kingdom come,” he said. But when people lose all sense of sin, he said, they also lose the sense that God, his glory and kingdom must be at the center of their daily life.

What emerges instead is a vision of man as “super powerful, in which ‘I can do anything.’”

“Salvation will not come through our cunning, our shrewdness” or savvy in wheeling and dealing, he said. “Salvation will come from the grace of God” and praying daily for that grace.

Many people like Uriah end up paying a high price for other people’s pride and for Christians who are too self-assured to see and confess their sin, he said.

“This human pride, also when I see the danger that it’s happening to me, the danger of losing the sense of sin, it’s good for me to think about the many Uriahs throughout history, the many Uriahs who today suffer from our Christian mediocrity when we lose the sense of sin and let the kingdom of God fall,” the pope said.


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Church must always protect children against abuse, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Children and young people must always be protected against sexual abuse and always find adequate support in the church community, Pope Francis told the Vatican doctrinal office dealing with suspected cases of sexual abuse by clergy.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith should also look at ways to collaborate with a new papal advisory commission on abuse, which, the pope said, he wants to be an exemplary model for child protection.

“I want to thank you for your dedication to dealing with the delicate set of problems concerning the so-called most grave crimes, in particular cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics,” Pope Francis said in a written speech Jan. 31.

He called on the congregation, which was given exclusive jurisdiction over a number of these most serious crimes in 2001, to focus on “the well-being of children and young people, who in the Christian community must always be protected and supported in their human and spiritual growth,” he said.

The pope asked the doctrinal office to also study ways it could cooperate with the special commission for the protection of young people he established in December.

While the pope has yet to name who will be on the new advisory commission, he said in his speech that he wants the new body to be “exemplary for everyone who is charged with promoting the well-being of children.”

Less than a month after his March 13 election, Pope Francis met with the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal-designate Gerhard Muller, reaffirming the importance of continuing “to act decisively concerning cases of sexual abuse,” according to a Vatican statement.

The pope wanted the congregation to continue promoting measures to protect children; to offer care and help for victims; to implement necessary procedures against those found guilty; and to have bishops’ conferences formulate and implement appropriate directives for child protection, the statement had said.

The pope’s meeting and speech Jan. 31 addressed Cardinal-designate Muller and members, advisers and other people taking part in the congregation’s plenary assembly.

Pope Francis asked the congregation to work in such a way that “the criteria of faith prevail in the words and practice of the church.”

The faith needs to shine “in its simplicity and original purity,” he said, so God may appear in all his glory and bring people to Christ.

Unfortunately there has always existed “the temptation to interpret doctrine in an ideological sense or to reduce it to a collection of abstract and crystallized theories,” he said.

Instead, “doctrine has the sole aim of serving the life of the people of God and is meant to ensure our faith has a sure foundation.”

However, the temptation is still great for people to “to appropriate for ourselves the gifts of salvation that comes from God, to domesticate them, perhaps also with good intentions, according to the views and spirit of the world.”

Safeguarding the purity and integrity of the faith is “a very delicate task” and must be done in collaboration and with a spirit of communion with local pastors and the doctrinal offices of the world’s bishops’ conferences, he said.

The congregation tries to maintain “constructive, respectful and patient dialogue” in its work, the pope noted. If truth demands fidelity, he said, fidelity “always grows in charity and brotherly assistance for those who are called to mature or clarify their convictions.”

Dialogue, communion and collegiality with all parties are key, he added.

“I am certain that the more collegiality will be the actual way we work, the more the light of our faith will shine before the world,” he said.

He also noted the plenary reflected on an issue retired Pope Benedict XVI had designated for further study: the need to look more closely at people’s faith and the sacrament of marriage.

In a January 2013 speech to the Roman Rota, the now-retired pope asked for closer reflection on the impact a person’s lack of faith in God could have on the validity of marriage.


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Pope tells Notre Dame trustees that Catholic identity must be clear


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic universities must give “uncompromising” and “unambiguous” witness to church teaching and defend themselves from all efforts to dilute their Catholic identity, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, during a meeting with members of the board of trustees and other Notre Dame officials at the Vatican Jan. 30. Catholic universities must give “uncompromising” and “unambiguous” witness to church teaching and defend themselves from all efforts to dilute their Catholic identity, Pope Francis said in his address at the meeting. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Catholic universities, “by their very nature, are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life,” he said in an audience with members of the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame and other officials.

The pope met Jan. 30 with some 130 people representing the Indiana-based Catholic university, who were in Rome for the inauguration of the university’s new Rome center.

Speaking in Italian, Pope Francis praised the university, saying it “has made an outstanding contribution to the church in your country through its commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth and virtue.”

He said the institution’s original vision, guided by its religious founders of the Congregation of Holy Cross, “remains, in the changed circumstances of the 21st century, central to the university’s distinctive identity and its service to the church and American society.”

Catholic identity and missionary discipleship are critical, the pope said, and need to be evident in the way Catholics live and in the workings of all Catholic institutions.

Catholic universities play a special role in being faithful missionaries of the Gospel because of their commitment to showing the compatibility of faith and reason, and showing how the Christian message offers people a fuller, more authentic human life, he said.

“Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors,” he said.

“It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness,” he said.

The pope then looked up from his prepared text and told his audience in Italian, “This is important: Your own identity, as it was intended from the beginning, to defend it, preserve it, carry it forward,” he said.

Though the pope made no references to any controversies, the University of Notre Dame had reignited a heated debate about maintaining the Catholic identity of U.S. Catholic institutions of higher education when it invited President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary law degree in 2009.

Several U.S. bishops and other critics said Obama’s support of legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research made him an inappropriate choice to be commencement speaker at a Catholic university.

More recently, a Notre Dame professor, Gary Gutting, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times Jan. 23 calling on Pope Francis to rethink the church’s absolute opposition to abortion. In many cases, abortions are immoral, the Catholic professor of philosophy said, but “this by no means implies that most abortions actually performed are immoral,” particularly in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or when the life of the mother is in danger.

A group of university alumni have also expressed concern about the institution’s decision to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires employer-provided health insurance to include coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations and other types of birth control opponents say can induce an abortion, while the university continues its lawsuit against the mandate.

In the homily at Mass in the chapel of his residence that morning, Pope Francis focused on the importance of humility and fidelity to the church and its teaching.

“The first fruit of baptism is to make you belong to the church, to the people of God,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

That’s why it is “absurd” to imagine a Christian who loves Christ, but doesn’t love, listen to or stay close to his church, he said.

People who follow the Gospel their own way without the church are living “a fantasy,” he said, “an absurd dichotomy.”

Humility is needed to feel part of the church, he said, because a person who isn’t humble “will hear what she or he likes” and not what God and the church really say.

“We receive the Gospel message as a gift and we have to pass it on as a gift, but not as something that is ours; what we give is a gift received” from Jesus, the pope said.

People need to be faithful “to the church, to its teaching, to the Creed, to doctrine, to safeguard doctrine” as they seek to live it and hand it on to others, he said.

Christians don’t “become masters of the Gospel, masters of received doctrine, to use it as we like,” he said.


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Pope names interim leader of Vatican financial watchdog agency


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, a canon lawyer and head of the Vatican human resources office, interim president of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority after accepting the resignation of Cardinal Attilio Nicora.

The pope accepted Cardinal Nicora’s request “to be relieved of his position,” the Vatican said in a Jan. 30 announcement. Cardinal Nicora, 76, was appointed president of the financial watchdog agency when it was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

The Financial Intelligence Authority monitors the financial and commercial activity of all Vatican entities, including the so-called Vatican bank and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, which Cardinal Nicora led as president from 2002 until 2011. The administration handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio and its real estate holdings.

Pope Benedict established the Financial Intelligence Authority to ensure Vatican offices and agencies could not be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism and to bring Vatican financial transactions into line with international standards.

Bishop Corbellini has worked at the Vatican since 1985, when he was assigned to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. In 1992, he became head of the legal department in the office governing Vatican City State and, a year later, he was named vice secretary of the office. Pope Benedict named him a bishop and head of the Vatican labor office in 2009.

In announcing Pope Francis’ decision that Bishop Corbellini would be interim president of the Financial Intelligence Authority, the Vatican said he would continue as head of the Vatican labor office. He also continues as president of the disciplinary commission of the Roman Curia, a commission that evaluates disciplinary action taken against Vatican employees.



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Pope at audience: Make sure your children are confirmed

January 29th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Many Catholic parents go to great lengths to ensure their children are baptized, and they must make similar efforts to see that their children are confirmed, Pope Francis said.

Without confirmation, he said, young people will remain halfway on the path of Christian maturity and membership in the church.

Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 29. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Confirmation “unites us more solidly to Christ. It completes our bond with the church,” Pope Francis said Jan. 29 at his weekly general audience.

The sacrament “gives us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of his cross,” the pope said.

Confirmation solidifies and increases the grace given at baptism, “which is why it’s important to make sure our children and young people receive this sacrament. We all make sure that our children are baptized, which is good, but perhaps we’re not quite so diligent in making sure they are confirmed.”

“If you have a child or young person at home who hasn’t been confirmed and is the right age to receive the sacrament, do everything possible to make sure it happens,” he said.

Especially for those who were baptized as infants, the pope said, confirmation is a time to affirm one’s personal decision to follow Christ and to be a member of his church.

Pope Francis told the crowd, estimated by the Vatican at about 25,000 people, that the Holy Spirit, “so important for the Christian life,” is given to believers in a special way through confirmation.

The Bible and Catholic tradition speak of seven specific gifts of the Holy Spirit, the pope said, but he promised not to give the crowd a pop quiz by asking people to list them. Instead, he gave the answers: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

Through the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said, “Christ himself is present in us and takes form in our lives. Through us, he is the one, listen carefully, he is the one who prays, forgives, spreads hope and consolation, serves our brothers and sisters, draws close to the needy and the least, creates unity and sows peace.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis greeted members of an Italian national association dedicated to fighting usury and loan sharking. When a family can’t eat because they are paying exorbitant interest rates, he said, “This is not Christian. This is not humane.”



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