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Papal preacher: Victory belongs to one who triumphs over self, not others

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus came to the world not just to teach, but to radically change human hearts that have hardened from sin, the preacher of the papal household said during a service commemorating Christ’s death on the cross.

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters,” but God, through the son, offers the world “a heart of flesh,” Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said in the homily.

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion April 14 in St. Peter’s Basilica, which began with a silent procession down the central nave under dim lighting to emphasize the solemnity of the ceremony.

The pope then lay prostrate on the floor before the main altar of the basilica, his head resting upon his clasped hands on a red pillow, in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. As is customary, the papal household’s preacher gave the homily.

Father Cantalamessa said the motto of the Carthusian monks, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” (The cross is steady while the world is turning), represents Christ and his cross standing firm, not against the world, which is always in flux, “but for the world, to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is and that will be in human history.”

Jesus came not to condemn sinners, who “are creatures of God and preserve their dignity,” but to admonish the sin, which is the “result of one’s passions and of the ‘devil’s envy,’” he said.

Today’s world seems especially “fluid,” he continued, with no fixed moorings, no undisputed values, where “everything is in flux, even the distinction between sexes.”

The cross standing in and over the world as represented in the monks’ coat of arms, he said, is the “mainmast that holds the boat afloat in the undulation of the world” and marks the “definitive and irreversible ‘no’ of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies — to all that we call ‘evil,’ and at the same it is equally the irreversible ‘yes’ to love, truth, and goodness.”

No one should ever give up hope, he said, because “the cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

Father Cantalamessa said, “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings,” who each possess some varying degree of “a heart of darkness,” a heart hardened by sin.

The Bible calls it a heart of stone, he said, which is the heart of those who ignore God’s will and others’ pain; it is someone, for example, who “accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by the instincts of the flesh and is ready to kill or to lead a double life.”

It is also the heart of the church’s ministers and practicing Christians who “still live fundamentally ‘for ourselves’ and not ‘for the Lord,’” he said.

When Christ died, the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs were opened. These signs also indicate, the papal preacher said, “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

Quoting St. Leo the Great, the preacher said people’s earthly nature should tremble at the suffering of the savior, “the rocks — the hearts of unbelievers — should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart.”

The heart of flesh God promised “is now present in the world” and in receiving the Eucharist, “we firmly believe his very heart comes to beat inside of us as well.”

He asked the assembly to gaze upon the cross and implore, like the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” so “we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified, that is, reconciled with God, and if it’s necessary, with our cross.’”

After the homily, the assembly venerated the cross, which was carried down the central nave and held before the pope, who kissed and caressed it.

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Pope washes feet of 12 prison inmates at Holy Thursday Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a gesture of service toward marginalized people, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including three women and a man who is converting from Islam to Catholicism.

Although in Jesus’ time, washing the feet of one’s guests was performed by slaves, Jesus “reverses” this role, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper April 13 at a prison 45 miles from Rome.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“He came into this world to serve, to serve us. He came to make himself a slave for us, to give his life for us and to love us to the end,” he said.

Pope Francis made his way by car to a penitentiary in Paliano, which houses 70 men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or accomplices.

To protect the safety and security of the prisoners, only a live audio feed of the pope’s homily was provided by Vatican Radio as well as selected photographs released by the Vatican.

The Vatican said April 13 that among the 12 inmates who participated in the foot washing ceremony, “two are sentenced to life imprisonment and all the others should finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073.”

In his brief homily, which he delivered off-the-cuff, the pope said that upon his arrival, people greeted him saying, “‘Here comes the pope, the head of the church.'”

“Jesus is the head of the church. The pope is merely the image of Jesus, and I want to do the same as he did. In this ceremony, the pastor washes the feet of the faithful. (The role) reverses: The one who seems to be the greatest must do the work of a slave,” he said.

This gesture, he continued, is meant to “sow love among us” and that the faithful, even those in prison, can imitate Christ in the same manner.

“I ask that if you can perform a help or a service for your companion here in prison, do it. This is love, this is like washing the feet. It means being the servant of the other,” the pope said.

Recalling another Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them must be at the service of others, Pope Francis said Christ put his words into action by washing his disciple’s feet and “it is what Jesus does with us.”

“For this reason, during this ceremony, let us think about Jesus. This isn’t a folkloric ceremony. It is a gesture to remind us of what Jesus gave us. After this, he took bread and gave us his body; he took wine and gave us his blood. This is the love of God,” the pope said.

Vatican Radio reported that several other inmates took an active role in the liturgy, including four who served as altar servers. Other inmates prepared homemade gifts for the pope, among them were two dessert cakes, a handcrafted wooden cross and fresh vegetables grown in the prison garden.

The evening Mass was the second of two Holy Thursday liturgies for Pope Francis. The first was a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

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Love Jesus in all who suffer, pope says on Palm Sunday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus does not ask that people only contemplate his image, but that they also recognize and love him concretely in all people who suffer like he did, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesus is “present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own. They suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases. They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike,” the pope said April 9 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.

In his noon Angelus address, the pope also decried recent terrorist attacks in Sweden and Egypt, calling on “those who sow terror, violence and death,” including arms’ manufacturers and dealers, to change their ways.

In his prayers for those affected by the attacks, the pope also expressed his deepest condolences to “my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros, the Coptic church and the entire beloved Egyptian nation,” which the pope was scheduled to visit April 28-29.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens more injured April 9 in an Orthodox church north of Cairo as Coptic Christians gathered for Palm Sunday Mass; the attack in Sweden occurred two days earlier when a truck ran through a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15 others.

The pope also prayed for all people affected by war, which he called, a “disgrace of humanity.”

Tens of thousands of people carrying palms and olive branches joined the pope during a solemn procession in St. Peter’s Square under a bright, warm sun for the beginning of Holy Week.

The pope, cardinal and bishops were dressed in red vestments, the color of the Passion, and carried large “palmurelli,” bleached and intricately woven and braided palm branches. Hundreds of young people led the procession into St. Peter’s Square and later, youths from Poland handed the World Youth Day cross to young representatives from Panama, where the next international gathering will be held in January in 2019.

In his homily, the pope said that the day’s celebration was “bittersweet.”

“It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time” because the Mass celebrates the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem as the people and disciples acclaim him as king, and yet, the Gospel gives the account of his passion and death on the cross.

Jesus accepts the hosannas coming from of the crowd, but he “knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry, ‘Crucify him!’” the pope said.

Jesus “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs or in the videos that circulate on the internet,” but to recognize that he is present in those who suffer today, including “women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

“Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved,” the pope said.

We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem as the true Messiah, who is a servant of God and humanity, the pope said. He is not a dreamer peddling illusions, a “new age” prophet or con man; he takes on the sins and sufferings of humanity with his passion.

Jesus never promised honor and success would come to those who follow him, rather, the path to final victory requires picking up the cross and carrying it every day, Pope Francis said.

“Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily,” he said.

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Saving lives must be first concern of immigration policy, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The defense of the life, dignity and human rights of migrants and refugees must come before any other question when enacting migration policies, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis meets refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, in April 2016. In an interview with an Italian government journal, the pope said his visit to Lesbos and his 2013 visit to Lampedusa, Italy, were meant to show that all religions want "to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land." (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis meets refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, in April 2016. In an interview with an Italian government journal, the pope said his visit to Lesbos and his 2013 visit to Lampedusa, Italy, were meant to show that all religions want “to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The defense of human beings knows no limits,” the pope said in an interview with the journal of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

“Those in power,” he said, “must be both far-sighted and coherent in watchful respect for fundamental human rights, as well as in trying to end the causes which force civilians to flee.”

Of course, he said, a safe and humane approach to handling the current global migration crisis requires international cooperation and policies that “respect both those who welcome and those who are welcomed.”

Newcomers must respect the laws of their host countries and be assisted in integrating into the life of their new communities, he said in the interview published April 7. And members of the receiving community must be educated to understand the real causes of migration and the desperate situations of those who feel forced to flee their homes.

The news media play a big role, Pope Francis said. They should explain the human rights violations, violence, poverty and catastrophes that lead so many people to flee.

But, especially, he said, the media must report responsibly and not simply “indulge in negative stereotypes when talking about migrants and refugees.”

“Just think of the unfair terms often used to describe migrants and refugees,” the pope said. “How often do we hear people talk of ‘illegals’ as a synonym for migrants? This is unfair. It is based on a false premise, and it pushes public opinion toward negative judgments.”

Asked about his 2016 trip to refugee camps in Lesbos, Greece, with leaders of the Orthodox Church, Pope Francis said it was a sign of “fraternal responsibility.”

“We are all united in wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land,” the pope said. “There is no difference of creed that can outweigh this wish, in fact, quite the contrary.”

Pope Francis said he wished the political leaders of every nation would show the same kind of joint concern for “the cries of the many innocents who ask only for a chance to save their own lives.”

As for anti-immigrant feelings and fears among some Europeans, the pope urged people to remember what Europe was like after World War II.

Millions of Europeans immigrated to South America or the United States, he said. “It was not an easy experience for them, either. They had the burden of being seen as foreigners, arriving from afar with no knowledge of the local language.

“The process of integration wasn’t easy, but for the most part it ended in success,” Pope Francis said.

Countries that have grown and thrived over the centuries by accepting and integrating newcomers cannot forget that experience or pretend it will not be repeated today, he said.

For example, “Europeans contributed greatly to the growth of trans-Atlantic societies,” those in North and South America. “This is always the case: Any exchange of culture and knowledge is a source of wealth and should be valued as such.”

Members of the Catholic Church have an even greater obligation to recognize the value of welcoming newcomers, Pope Francis said. “We can see the peaceful integration of people from other cultures as a kind of reflection of its Catholicism. A unity which accepts ethnic or cultural diversity constitutes a dimension of church life, which in the spirit of Pentecost is open to all. open to embracing everyone.”

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Make room for kindness, not hopeless ‘mafia’ mentality, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hope cannot remain hidden within but must break free to overcome vengeful, mafia-like mentalities with mercy and humility, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Christians must give witness to hope through their lives as Jesus did and make room for him in their hearts to fight evil by doing good to others, even their enemies, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 5.

“The mafiosi think that evil can be overcome by evil. They take revenge; they do so many things that we all know. But they do not know what humility, mercy and meekness are. And why? Because the mafiosi have no hope,” he said.

Arriving in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made his way through the crowd of 15,000 people, greeting individuals and even making a quick stop to sip some mate tea offered by a group of pilgrims from his native Argentina.

Arriving at the stage, the pope spotted a familiar face among the Argentine pilgrims, and warmly embraced an elderly woman and spoke to her while other people in the group reached out to touch him.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a verse from the First Letter of St. Peter, in which the apostle calls on Christians to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

The “secret” to understanding this hope, the pope said, is that it is rooted in the paschal mystery of Christ’s victory over death.

“Our hope is not a concept nor a sentiment; it is not phone call or a pile of riches,” he said. “No, our hope is a person, it is the Lord Jesus who we recognize alive and present in us and in our brothers and sisters.”

A person who lacks hope, the pope added, is incapable of giving or receiving the “consolation of forgiveness” and unable to make room for Christ in their hearts.

St. Peter’s assertion that “it is better to suffer for doing good” than doing evil, he continued, doesn’t mean that it is good to suffer, but that suffering for the sake of good means “that we are in communion with the Lord.”

Christians who wish to follow Jesus’ example are called to love and do good, even to “those who do not wish us well or even harm us,” Pope Francis said.

“It is the proclamation of God’s love, an immeasurable love that is unending, that is never lacking and constitutes the very foundation of our hope,” he said.

 

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Pope Francis condemns shocking chemical massacre in Syria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis strongly condemned a shocking chemical attack in Syria that left some 70 people, including at least 10 children, dead.

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria's rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

“We are horrified by the latest events in Syria. I strongly deplore the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday in the Idlib province, where dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed,” the pope said April 5 before concluding his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Images of dead men, women and children lying on the streets provoked international outrage following the attack April 4 in a rebel-held area.

Western leaders have accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country’s military of perpetrating the attack, based on reports that warplanes dropped chemical bombs in the early morning.

According to The New York Times, the Syrian military denied attacking the town and said the attack was caused by insurgents who blame the Syrian government for similar attacks “every time they fail to achieve the goals of their sponsors.”

Pope Francis encouraged those helping with relief efforts in Idlib province, and he appealed to world leaders to put an end to the violence.

“I appeal to the conscience of those who have political responsibility at the local and international level, so that this tragedy may come to an end and relief may come to that beloved population who for too long have been devastated by war,” the pope said.

The attack occurred the same day representatives from more than 70 countries were gathering in Brussels for an April 4-5 conference on resolving the humanitarian crisis in Syria and to discuss ways to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, was among the representatives and addressed the conference April 5.

The Holy See, he said, “remains deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering, affecting millions of innocent children and other civilians who remain deprived of essential humanitarian aid, medical facilities and education.”

He called for humanitarian laws to “be fully respected,” especially “with regard to the protection of civilian populations” and the “conditions and treatment of prisoners.”

“The Holy See invites all parties to the Syrian conflict to spare no effort to end the seemingly endless cycle of violence, to restore that sense of solidarity that is the basis of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

The pope also said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the bombing of a metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, that killed 14 people and left 50 wounded.

Chaos erupted April 3 when a bomb was detonated in a subway train. Police said the bomber was Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan. Following the attack, security forces said a second bomb was found at a nearby station, but it had failed to explode.

“As I entrust to God’s mercy those who have tragically died, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all who suffer because of this tragic event,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Pope Francis meets Prince Charles at the Vatican

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, met April 4 with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The pope and the British royals spoke privately for 27 minutes. The Vatican did not issue a statement about the topics covered in the private conversation.

Pope Francis talks with Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Pope Francis talks with Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Following their private meeting, Prince Charles introduced the 15 members of a delegation accompanying him. Among them was Arthur Edwards, a Catholic who has served as the official photographer of the royal household.

“He is an important man. He has followed us for 40 years,” the prince told Pope Francis.

After the presentation, Prince Charles confessed to the pope that it was “difficult to know what to give your Holiness.”

He presented the pope with a gift basket full of produce from the Royal Gardens at Highgrove, their private residence.

“It may come in handy. Somebody else might like it. It’s all homemade things I produce,” Prince Charles told the pope.

“It’s very good,” the duchess added.

For his part, Pope Francis presented Prince Charles with a bronze sculpture of an olive branch in a white box and told him that it was “a symbol of peace.”

“Wherever you go, may you be a man of peace,” he told the prince.

“I’ll do my best,” Prince Charles replied.

Pope Francis also gave the royal couple hardbound copies of two apostolic exhortations, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) and “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). He also gave them a copy of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” his 2015 encyclical on the environment.

“These are works of mine,” Pope Francis said, to which the prince jokingly replied: “Are they in English?”

Laughing, the pope responded, “Yes.”

“You are very generous. A great treat,” Prince Charles said.

After meeting the pope, the royal couple met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. According to the British embassy to the Holy See, “The environment was a theme of the visit, and His Royal Highness joined a round-table discussion with senior Holy See officials on the subject.”

Before meeting the pope, the prince and duchess were given a private tour of the Vatican Secret Archives, where they were welcomed by Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Vatican Library.

The royal couple were shown original rare documents relating to the once-complicated history between the Catholic Church and Britain.

Among the documents they were shown was the last letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution in 1587 for treason.

They were also shown a letter written in 1555 by Queen Mary I and King Philip II regarding the restoration of the Catholic Church in England.

 

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U.S. bishop remembers Martin Luther King at Vatican meeting

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote the “integral human development” of all peoples is a work that must continue today in the world and in the Catholic Church, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, told participants at a Vatican conference.

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois. (CNS file/c Georgetown University)

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois. (CNS file/c Georgetown University)

Bishop Braxton moderated a panel discussion April 4 at the conference marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical on development, “Populorum Progressio.”

Closing the afternoon panel, the bishop reminded participants that it was the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. King, “who was only 39 years old when he was cruelly slain in the midst of trying to bring about a more integral human development for all people in the United States, especially people of color.”

“The racial divide in the United States and, sadly, in the Catholic Church in the United States is not something of the past. It is very much something of the present,” the bishop said.

Bishop Braxton told conference participants that as one of only six active African-American diocesan bishops in the United States and the only one present at the Vatican conference, he wanted to “call attention to the significance of this day,” the anniversary of Rev. King’s slaying in 1968.

The bishop described Rev. King as “the conscience of the United States, the nonviolent prophet challenging the sin and the heresy of racism and apartheid-like segregation and prejudice in the United States.”

Many people in Europe, he said, seem to think the election of Barack Obama to two terms as U.S. president signaled “an end to the racial divide in the United States. However, the racial divide has not been bridged fully; we do not live in a post-racial society in the United States or in the Catholic Church.”

Integral human development and progress in ensuring all people enjoy the benefits of well-being are still needed for members of minority communities in the United States, just as in most countries around the globe, he said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of the full, integral human development of all people, especially, in the United States for people of color,” the bishop said. “He died with that dream deferred.”

All Catholics everywhere, he said, need to follow “these simple imperatives: listen, learn, think, pray and act.”

“Christ needs us all,” Bishop Braxton said. “He needs our eyes to continue to see. He needs our ears to continue to hear. He needs our mouths to continue to speak. He needs our hands to continue to work. He needs our feet to continue to walk. He needs our bodies to continue to serve. And he needs our hearts to continue to love.”

 

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Wounds of past trials can strengthen the future, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — While the wounds of past trials have healed, the scars that remain will serve as a reminder of strength and courage for future generations, Pope Francis told survivors of an earthquake.

Visiting Carpi and Mirandola April 2, nearly five years after a 5.8-quake rocked the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, the pope said his visit was a sign of “closeness and encouragement” as the people continue to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

“Looking at these scars, you will have the strength to grow and to make your children grow in that dignity, in that strength, in that spirit of hope, in that courage that you had in the moment you received those wounds,” he said.

The pope spoke to the survivors, who were gathered in the small square outside the Mirandola cathedral, which is still covered in scaffolding and where broken stones are still piled on the ground.

Before addressing the people, he laid a bouquet of yellow and white flowers on the cathedral’s main altar, closing his eyes in prayer then lifting his hand in blessing.

Pope Francis told the people of Mirandola that he wanted to remember the victims, their families and all those “who continue to live in precarious situations.”

“May the Lord let each one of you feel his support,” the pope said. “I wanted to leave on the altar of the cathedral a bouquet of flowers in memory of those who died in the earthquake.”

The pope’s visit to the region began earlier in the day when he arrived by helicopter in the neighboring town of Carpi, which also was devastated by the 2012 earthquake.

Thousands of people, many who had been gathered since dawn, packed the central square as the pope, riding in his popemobile, waved to the excited well-wishers.

Celebrating Mass in the square, the pope said the Sunday Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a reminder of the “God of life, who conquers death.”

The pope noted that even Jesus, who prays and weeps at the tomb, shares in the sufferings of those who mourn when “everything seems finished.”

“This is the heart of God: far from evil, yet close to those who suffer. He doesn’t make evil magically disappear but shares in the suffering, he makes it his own and transforms it.”

However, the pope continued, Jesus does not let himself be led by the sadness of his friend’s death nor allow himself to “be captured by the emotional, resigned environment surrounding him.” Instead, he prays with confidence to God.

“Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thought and progress crash like flies on a window, Jesus offers us the example of how to act,” he said. “He does not escape the suffering that pertains to this life, instead he doesn’t let himself be imprisoned by pessimism.”

The image of Jesus standing in front of the tomb, the pope said, represents a “great encounter-conflict” in that one side represents the despair brought on by human mortality and the other side represents the hope given by Christ who is victorious over death.

Christians, he added, are called to decide in their own lives which side they want to be on.

“You can be either on the side of the tomb or the side of Jesus. There are those who let themselves be closed in sadness and those who are open to hope. There are those who remain trapped under the wreckage of life and those, like you, who with the help of God raise the wreckage and build with patient hope,” the pope said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis encouraged the people of Carpi to not fall into the temptation of remaining alone, disheartened and in mourning like those who gave up hope after Lazarus’ death.

“This is the atmosphere of the tomb,” the pope said. “The Lord wants to open the path of life, that of the encounter with him, of trusting in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the path of ‘Get up! Get up! Come forth!’ This is what the Lord asks of us and he is close to us so we can do it.”

 

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Pope to seminarians: ‘Shun careerism,’ live with simplicity, austerity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Do not settle for a worry-free, comfortable life with an unhealthy attachment to money and an ambitious heart yearning for honors, Pope Francis told seminarians studying in Rome.

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain, during an audience with seminarians and faculty of the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph at the Vatican April 1. Cardinal Blazquez Perez is patron of the seminary in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, Spain, during an audience with seminarians and faculty of the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph at the Vatican April 1. Cardinal Blazquez Perez is patron of the seminary in Rome. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“I’m telling you this as a brother, father and friend. Please, shun ecclesial careerism. It is a plague. Avoid it,” he said April 1 during an audience at the Vatican with students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph in Rome. The college was celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding.

Everything hinges on loving the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, he said, citing the Gospel of Mark (12:30).

That is what determines whether a person will be able to say “yes” to Jesus or turn one’s back on him like the rich young man did in the Gospels, he said.

“You cannot settle for leading an orderly and comfortable life that lets you live without worry unless you feel the need to cultivate a spirit of poverty rooted in the heart of Christ,” the pope said.

Priests must have “an appropriate relationship with the world and earthly goods” if they are to gain authentic freedom as children of God, he said.

“Do not forget this: the devil always comes in through the pocket, always.”

Give thanks for what one possesses, he said, and “generously and willingly renounce the superfluous in order to be near the poor and weak.”

While Pope Francis said he wasn’t asking them to “sell their shirt” like Blessed Manuel Domingo y Sol, the college founder, asked people to be willing to do, the pope said he was asking them to be witnesses to Jesus through a lifestyle based on “simplicity and austerity” so as to be “credible proponents of a true social justice.”

Priestly formation cannot depend solely on academic formation, which breeds “all the ideologies that infect the church with every type of clerical academicism.”

Studies must intertwine academic, spiritual, community and apostolic formation all together, and when one of these four legs is missing, he said, “formation begins to limp and the priest ends up paralyzed.”

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