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Pope names new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos, Salvador

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.

Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, pictured in a 2015 photo, is one of five new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a June 28 consistory. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, pictured in a 2015 photo, is one of five new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a June 28 consistory. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73.

After briefly talking about the day’s Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter’s Square in reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch, the normal procedure at the noon prayer, Pope Francis made his announcement.

The five new cardinals coming from “different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe,” Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome “expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome,” which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, “presides in charity over all the churches.”

Pope Francis said that June 29, the day after the consistory and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals would concelebrate a Mass with him, the entire College of Cardinals and new archbishops from around the world.

“We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul,” Pope Francis said, praying that with St. Peter they would be authentic servants of communion in the church and that with St. Paul they would be “joyful proclaimers of the Gospel.”

The pope also prayed that “with their witness and their counsel,” the new cardinals would “support me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, pastor of the universal church.”

With five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will have 227 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of electors exceeds by one the limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI. The next cardinal to turn 80 will be Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who will celebrate his birthday Feb. 3.

The Vatican released brief biographical notes about the five who will be inducted into the college in June:

  • Cardinal-designate Zerbo was born Dec. 27, 1943, in Segou and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1971. He earned a license in Scripture studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and then returned to Mali as a pastor and professor at the seminary in Bamako.

Ordained a bishop in 1988, he served first as auxiliary bishop of Bamako and then was named bishop of Mopti. He has led the Archdiocese of Bamako since 1998.

According to the Vatican, “he played an active role in the Mali peace negotiations” and has worked for solidarity and reconciliation among the nation’s citizens.

  • Cardinal-designate Omella was born in the small town of Cretas April 21, 1946, and did his seminary studies in Zaragoza as well as Louvain, Belgium, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1970. In addition to parish work in Spain, he spent a year as a missionary in then-Zaire, now Congo.

Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza and later as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon, then bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logrorio. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Barcelona in 2015.

He has long been a member of the Spanish bishops’ commission for social questions and served two terms as commission president. He is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

  • Cardinal-designate Arborelius hosted Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in October as part of an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Born in Sweden Sept. 24, 1949, he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 20. A few years later, he entered the Discalced Carmelites, took vows in 1977 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979.

Ordained bishop of Stockholm in 1998, he became the first native Swedish bishop in Sweden since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, according to the Vatican.

  • Cardinal-designate Mangkhanekhoun was born April 8, 1944, in Laos. The Vatican did not say in what city, but did say he was educated and did seminary studies in Laos and Canada.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 by the apostolic vicar of Vientiane, he was instrumental in training catechists and was known for his pastoral visits to remote mountain villages.

In October 2000, he was named apostolic vicar of Pakse and was ordained a bishop six months later. Since February, he also has served as apostolic administrator of Vientiane, which currently is without a bishop.

  • Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez was born Sept. 3, 1942, in Sociedad, El Salvador. He studied at San Jose de la Montana Seminary in San Salvador, earned a degree in social communications and studied at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 in San Miguel and served overlapping and sometimes simultaneous terms as the bishop’s secretary, pastor of a parish and director of the diocesan radio station. From 1977 to 1982, he served as rector of San Jose de la Montafia Seminary in San Salvador, a position that brought him into regular contact and close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980.

He was named auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982. Currently, in addition to his duties as auxiliary bishop, he serves as pastor of the Church of St. Francis in the capital, president of Caritas El Salvador and president of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Search for common ground will be key to pope’s May 24 meeting with Trump

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Despite a few pointed comments in the past and fundamental differences on issues such as immigration, economic policy, military spending and climate change, sparks are not expected to fly May 24 when Pope Francis welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump to the Vatican.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis are scheduled to meet at the Vatican May 24. (CNS/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis are scheduled to meet at the Vatican May 24. (CNS/Reuters)

The two will have a private conversation, with interpreters present, and while anything is possible, protocol dictates that the joint statement issued after the meeting will describe it as “cordial.”

Going into the meeting, Pope Francis made it clear he hoped it would be.

On Pope Francis’ flight back to Rome from Portugal May 13, a reporter asked him, “What are you expecting from a meeting with a head of state who seems to think and act in a way contrary to your own?”

The pope replied, “I never make a judgment about people without hearing them first. It is something I feel I should not do. When we speak to each other, things will come out. I will say what I think; he will say what he thinks. But I have never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

Pope Francis said he would look first for areas of agreement and shared principles, his basic recipe for creating “a culture of encounter.”

“There are always doors that are not closed,” the pope said about his meeting with Trump. “We have to find doors that are at least a little open in order to go in and speak about things we have in common and go forward. Step by step.”

The key, he said, is “respect for the other, saying what we think, but with respect, walking together. Someone sees things in a certain way: say so, be honest in what each of us thinks.”

Honesty, even if not completely diplomatic, characterized a couple of pointed remarks Pope Francis and then-presidential candidate Trump made in reference to the other’s positions.

Flying in February 2016 to Rome from Mexico, where he had just paid homage to people who have lost their lives trying to cross into the United States, Pope Francis was asked about candidate Trump’s promise to build a wall the entire length of the border.

“A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever it may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian,” the pope said. He added that he would not tell anyone how to vote and that he would “have to see if he said these things, and thus I will give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Trump responded by saying that the Mexican government had given Pope Francis only “one side of the story” and was “using the pope as a pawn.”

Also, he said, “for a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now.”

Efforts to protect freedom of conscience for employers and health-care workers and the need to defend religious freedom are likely to be a starting point for finding common ground.

A discussion about religious persecution could open the door to Pope Francis restating his conviction of the moral obligation to welcome strangers, especially those fleeing persecution, terrorism, war and abject poverty.

Protecting the unborn is another common concern and would provide an opening for Trump to talk about his Supreme Court nominee and his steps to halt funding of abortions overseas. It also would give Pope Francis an opening to talk about the protection of all life, especially the weakest, with health care, education, job opportunities and a clean environment where people can thrive.

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Ideological ‘fanatics of things that aren’t clear,’ divide the church, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians who turn doctrine into ideology commit a grave mistake that upsets souls and divides the church, Pope Francis said.

From the beginning, there have been people in the church who preach “without any mandate” and become “fanatics of things that aren’t clear,” the pope said May 19 in his homily during Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS/Reuters)

“This is the problem: When the doctrine of the church, the one from the Gospel, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit — because Jesus said, ‘He will teach you and remind you of what I have taught’ — when that doctrine becomes ideology. And this is the greatest mistake of these people,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (15:22-31), in which, after much debate, the apostles and presbyters send representatives to allay the concerns of the gentile converts after they were ordered by overzealous believers to follow Jewish practices if they wished to be saved.

However, the apostles ruled that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond” abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols and from strangled animals, blood and unlawful marriages.

The initial debate about how to deal with the gentiles, the pope said, was between “the group of the apostles who wanted to discuss the problem and the others who go and create problems.”

“They divide, they divide the church, they say that what the apostles preach is not what Jesus said, that it isn’t the truth,” he said.

Those who sow discord and “divide the Christian community,” the pope said, do so because their “hearts are closed to the work of the Holy Spirit.”

These individuals, he added, “weren’t believers, they were ideologues.”

Pope Francis said the exhortation sent to the gentiles by Peter and the other apostles encourages all Christians to be unafraid before “the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.”

“The church has its own magisterium, the magisterium of the pope (and) the bishops,” and it must follow along the path “that comes from Jesus’ preaching and the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Doctrine, he said, unites the Christian community because it is “always open, always free” while “ideology divides.”

 

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fatima seers become church’s youngest non-martyred saints

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

The Marian apparitions began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 10-year-old cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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At Fatima, Pope asks Christians to honor Mary of the Gospels, not a ‘plaster statue’

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Catholic News Service

FATIMA, Portugal — Mary’s example of believing and following Jesus is what matters most; she cannot be some image “of our own making” who Christians barter with for mercy, Pope Francis said.

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, the pope asked tens of thousands of pilgrims May 12 to reflect on “which Mary” they choose to venerate, “the virgin Mary from the Gospel” or “one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God?”

Pope Francis arrives to bless candles at the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 12. The pope was making a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize two of the young seers. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to bless candles at the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal May 12. The pope was making a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize two of the young seers. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Is the Mary they honor “a woman blessed because she believed always and everywhere in God’s words or a ‘plaster statue’ from whom we beg favors at little cost?” he asked.

As the sun set at the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, pilgrims held thousands of lit candles, filling the square with a fiery light before Pope Francis led them in praying the rosary.

The pope already had visited the shrine earlier in the evening, arriving by helicopter from Monte Real air base. Excited crowds, waving flags and white handkerchiefs, cheered as he arrived in his popemobile.

He then made his way to the Little Chapel of the Apparitions where Mary appeared to three shepherd children May 13, 1917. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church.

The festive cheering of the crowd turned to near absolute silence as the pope spent several minutes with his head bowed and hands clasped in prayer, occasionally looking up at the statue of Mary venerated by his predecessors and millions of devotees across the globe.

Pope Francis then recited a prayer he wrote, an expanded version of the traditional “Salve Regina” (“Hail Holy Queen”).

Alternating his verses with a choral refrain venerating the “Queen of the Rosary of Fatima,” the pope consecrated himself to Mary and entrusted to her intercession a suffering humanity where blood “is shed in the wars tearing our world apart.”

Begging Mary’s assistance, the pope prayed that believers would “tear down all walls and overcome all boundaries, going to all peripheries, there revealing God’s justice and peace.”

“In the depths of your being, in your immaculate heart, you keep the sorrows of the human family, as they mourn and weep in this valley of tears,” the pope prayed.

He also presented himself before the image of Mary as “a bishop robed in white,” a reference to the third secret revealed to the children at Fatima. Published 83 years after the Fatima apparitions, the vision described the image of a “bishop dressed in white” shot down amid the rubble of a ruined city.

The official Vatican interpretation, discussed with the visionary Sister Lucia dos Santos before its publication, was that it referred to the persecution of Christians in the 20th century and, specifically, to the 1981 assassination attempt on the life of St. John Paul II.

As Blessed Paul VI and retired Pope Benedict XVI did before him, Pope Francis placed a small silver vase containing 24-karat gold roses at the foot of the statue. Embedded in the statue’s crown is one of the bullets used in the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981.

Returning to the little chapel for a nighttime vigil, Pope Francis reminded pilgrims to pray, as Mary taught the children at Fatima, for “those most in need” of God’s mercy.

“On each of the destitute and outcast robbed of the present, on each of the excluded and abandoned denied a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice refused a past, may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Pope Francis held up Mary as a “model of evangelization,” particularly because Christian men and women can look at her and see that “humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong.”

Those who emphasize God’s punishment of sinners, he said, commit “a great injustice” to him by not recognizing that sinners “are forgiven by his mercy.”

“Mercy has to be put before judgment,” he said, “and, in any case, God’s judgment will always be rendered in the light of his mercy.”

“With Mary, may each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything,” he said.

     

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Pope Francis begins pilgrimage to Fatima, a ‘time of prayer’

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Catholic News Service

LEIRIA, Portugal — Pope Francis said his two-day pilgrimage to Fatima would be a time of prayer and encounter with Jesus and Mary.

The visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima “is a bit special,” he told reporters aboard his flight from Rome May 12. “It is a journey of prayer, an encounter with the Lord and the holy Mother of God.”

Pope Francis greets a girl after arriving May 12 at Monte Real air base in Leiria, Portugal. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a girl after arriving May 12 at Monte Real air base in Leiria, Portugal. (CNS/Paul Haring)

After a three-hour flight, during which Pope Francis greeted each of the 69 journalists traveling with him, the papal plane landed at Monte Real air base, about 25 miles from Fatima.

The pope’s trip was planned for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions to three shepherd children in Fatima.

On the actual anniversary, May 13, Pope Francis was to canonize two of the three young seers, Blessed Jacinta Marto and her brother Blessed Francisco Marto, making them the youngest non-martyred saints in the Catholic Church.

Arriving at the military base, the pope was welcomed by Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and held a brief private meeting with him at the base. He also visited the base chapel and blessed sick members of military families.

Before leaving his residence at the Vatican that morning, the pope met with six women, who “had been through tough times,” said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman. Two were pregnant and several were migrants. They all brought their children with them to meet the pope.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and the pope’s closest collaborator, said Pope Francis’ visit would “express his own love and devotion to Mary” and his great respect for the Marian devotion of Catholics around the world.

In the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children, Pope Francis sees an example of the Mary described by the Magnificat, the biblical hymn of praise for the great things God has done through her, Cardinal Parolin told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

At Fatima, “Our Lady of the Rosary appeared not to the rich or powerful, nor to people who were influential, but to children,” he said. The children were from simple families and were illiterate, “like the least of society or, to use the terminology of the pope, the discarded of society. And Mary wanted to favor this category of people, giving the little shepherds a countercultural message.”

In 1917, World War I was raging and people and public discourse was filled with words of hatred, vengeance and hostility, the cardinal said. “Mary, on the other hand, spoke of love, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and giving oneself to others. It was a total reversal of all the values, or anti-values, that prevailed at that time.”

The two lessons Pope Francis draws from Fatima for the world today, he said, are the need to value the least of one’s brothers and sisters and the need “to live those authentic values that can be the basis for peaceful coexistence and solidarity within a nation and among countries.”

Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, also writing in the Vatican newspaper, said the Fatima message has touched so many people around the world for generations because it spoke and continues to speak about strengthening faith when the world around one is in turmoil.

The messages given by Our Lady of Fatima to the three children in 1917, the bishop said, spoke of “the two world wars and the suffering of humanity, with a specific mention of nations like Russia; the persecution of the church with the mention of the martyrs of the 20th century and of the pope himself; and of the great cause of peace among people.”

“All of that,” Bishop Marto said, “was accompanied by a very strong warning to not resign oneself to those situations as if they were normal” and not to give into a sense that evil will determine human destiny. It is possible to defeat evil by starting with the conversion of hearts to God, prayer and reparation for sins.”

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Pope: Spirit helps church see wrongs in death penalty, slavery

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Faith is a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, who helps the church grow in understanding the sinful nature of once-accepted practices like slavery and the death penalty, Pope Francis said.

While people once even used religious reasons to justify practices such as slavery, the death penalty and “wars of religion,” over time the Holy Spirit has deepened the church’s understanding of the Gospel, the pope said May 11 in his homily during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Slavery “is a mortal sin; today we say this. Back then, some would say that this could be done because these people did not have a soul,” he said. The number of people enslaved today is “even more, but at least we know that it is a mortal sin. The same goes for the death penalty; for a time, it was normal. Today, we say that the death penalty is inadmissible.”

Reflecting on the day’s first reading in which St. Paul recounts God’s works throughout history, Pope Francis said the Lord “guides his people in good times and in bad times, through freedom and slavery.”

Like the people of Israel, he said, God also guides the church along the path toward the fullness of time “with many saints and many sinners; between grace and sin.”

It is those saints, some well-known and others who are “hidden,” who “clarify faith and clarify morals,” the pope said.

However, Christians who choose to stop along the path “become a prisoner in a stable, like a donkey,” and end up not deepening their faith and understanding God’s love in their own lives, he said.

Individually, he said, each person also is moving toward the fullness of their own time, the point when they die and come face to face with the Lord.

When Catholics go to confession, he said, they should consider not only the shame they feel for their sins, but they should recognize that confession as another step they need to make in preparation for meeting the Lord.

“Asking God’s forgiveness is not automatic,” he said.

By understanding their sins and asking God for forgiveness, Christians will discover that they are part of “a people on the way and that one day, perhaps today, tomorrow or in 30 years, I will find myself face to face with that Lord who never leaves us alone, who accompanies us on the way.”

“This is the great work of God’s mercy,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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