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Vatican official hopes Trump will change his climate and immigration policies

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican hopes that U.S. bishops and others will continue to raise their voices in defense of the obligation to fight climate change and, in time, can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to change his position, a top Vatican official said.

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told a group of reporters March 30 that there is concern at the Vatican over Trump’s policies, including on the environment.

Trump’s position on immigration and his efforts to roll back U.S. commitments on environmental regulations are “a challenge for us,” said the cardinal, whose office works on both questions and is charged with assisting bishops around the world as they promote Catholic social teaching.

Still, he said, “we are full of hope that things can change.”

The first sign of hope, he said, is the growing number of “dissenting voices,” who are calling attention to the scientific facts surrounding climate change and the ethical obligation to act to protect the environment for current and future generations.

“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge, and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions,” the cardinal said.

“Various American bishops have already spoken about the president’s position, and this could have an influence,” he said. Perhaps, Trump will come to see that not all the promises he made in the campaign would be good for the country, he added.

A change in position is not impossible, Cardinal Turkson said. “There is another superpower, China, that is rethinking its position” and has allocated funds for programs to reduce dangerous emissions. “One hopes it is not only because it is a country with ever more smog and pollution.”

The cardinal’s remarks came a day after the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Trump’s executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the committee, said in a statement March 29 the order fails to offer a “sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation.”

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.

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Pope Francis: Real Christian hope is rooted in faith

March 30th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hope is not built on people’s predictions, assurances or line of reasoning, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Real Christian hope “is not based on our word, but on God’s Word” and promises of salvation and eternal life, the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 29.

Continuing a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope, the pope looked at how Abraham’s faith is held up as a model for everyone in the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (4:16-25).

Despite all logic — Abraham was old and his wife infertile — Abraham “believed, hoping against hope that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’” which shows how faith is so closely connected to hope, the pope said.

“Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances,” he said; real hope arises “where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for.”

True hope “is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope” because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

“This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest part,” he said, because from a human point of view, that promise seems “unsure and unforeseeable.”

Looking at the people gathered for the general audience, the pope asked them if they really believed in God’s love for them and his promise of eternal life.

“There is only one price” to be paid for this, he said. “Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God’s power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is.”

Just “open your heart to faith and he will do the rest,” he added.

Mary, too, believed in the unbelievable when the angel told her she would become the mother of God, the pope said in remarks to pilgrims from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly Iraq.

Like Mary, they are called to embrace that which they do not understand God is doing, and to open their hearts and minds to him, so that his will may be done, he said.

He later launched an appeal for more to be done to protect civilians in Iraq, reaffirming his prayers for civilians trapped in parts of Mosul and those displaced by war.

The pope also greeted a delegation of Iraqi authorities representing Shiites and Sunnis, and one representing Christians and other religious minorities, who were accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, the strength of union, prosperity in harmony,” the pope said.

He encouraged them to continue their efforts and invited people to pray that “Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity through reconciliation and harmony among its diverse ethnic and religious communities.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Loving families are key to bringing joy, mercy to world, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urges families to discover God’s love and be generous, forgiving, patient, helpful and respectful.

This is a promotional image for World Meeting of Families to be held Aug. 21-26, 2018, in Dublin. The theme of the meeting is "The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World." (CNS illustration/World Meeting of Families)

This is a promotional image for World Meeting of Families to be held Aug. 21-26, 2018, in Dublin. The theme of the meeting is “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” (CNS illustration/World Meeting of Families)

Family life will be better if people use the words “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” every day, he said, and the world will be a better place if the church reaches out to the imperfect and the wounded.

The pope’s reflection was part of a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, which is helping plan the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Aug. 21-26, 2018. The Vatican released the text of the pope’s letter March 30.

When asked about the pope’s plans to attend the event next year, Cardinal Farrell told reporters at a Vatican news conference, “We hope. I can’t say absolutely” since it depends on the pope’s schedule, but the pope has expressed his desire to go.

The letter was meant to help Catholic families and parishes around the world prepare for the gathering, which will focus on the theme, “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” The pope said he hoped the event would help families reflect on and share his apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia.”

“Does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also, does the family continue to be good news for today’s world?” the pope asked.

The answer is, “yes,” he said, because God’s love is his “yes” to all of creation and a ‘“’yes’ to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God’s ‘yes’ and his commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love.”

“Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God’s love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers,” he said.

Making sure family life is “based on love, for love and in love” means “giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘I’m sorry.’”

Every day, people experience fragility and weakness, Pope Francis said. All families and pastors need humility so they will become better disciples and teachers, better at helping and being helped, and able to accompany and embrace all people of goodwill.

“I dream of an outbound church, not a self-referential one, a church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as love, which is mercy,” he said.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters that the pope’s letter shows the clear, central role families have in the pope’s great dream of renewal of the church and society.

“The family is called to be a place of encounter with that divine mercy which heals and liberates,” he said. The family is where spouses learn to love “not in vague romantic terms but in terms of their everyday realities and difficulties.”

“The pope’s vision of the mission of the family does not attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown,” the archbishop said. “Families need a church which is with them, accompanying them in a process of discernment and integration though helping them to respond with a ‘yes’ to the divine love.”

Happy, loving families should be recognized and be a resource for the renewal of the church and world, he said.

But the church, Archbishop Martin said, also must be “a place where those who have failed can experience not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord which can lift them up to begin again to realize their own dream even if only imperfectly.”

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Pope asks children in Milan to promise Jesus they will never be bullies

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Catholic News Service

MILAN — Pope Francis asked 45,000 children preparing for confirmation to promise Jesus they would never engage in bullying.

Turning stern during a lively and laughter-filled encounter March 25, Pope Francis told the youngsters he was very worried about the growing phenomenon of bullying.

Pope Francis embraces a girl during an encounter with children preparing for confirmation at San Siro stadium in Milan March 25. The pope was making a one-day visit to Milan. (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato)

Pope Francis embraces a girl during an encounter with children preparing for confirmation at San Siro stadium in Milan March 25. The pope was making a one-day visit to Milan. (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato)

He asked them to be silent and reflect on if there were times when they made fun of someone for how they looked or behaved. And, as a condition of their confirmation, he made them promise Jesus that they would never tease or bully anyone.

The pope ended his daylong visit to Milan by participating in an expanded version of the archdiocese’s annual encounter for pre-teens preparing for confirmation. An estimated 78,000 people filled the city’s famed San Siro soccer stadium; the archdiocese expects to confirm about 45,000 young people this year.

A boy named Davide asked the pope, “When you were our age, what helped your friendship with Jesus grow?”

First of all, the pope said, it was his grandparents. One of his grandfathers was a carpenter, who told him Jesus learned carpentry from St. Joseph, so whenever the pope saw his grandfather work, he thought of Jesus. The other grandfather taught him to always say something to Jesus before going to sleep, even if it was just, “Good night, Jesus.”

His grandmothers and his mother, the pope said, were the ones who taught him to pray. He told the kids that even if their grandparents “don’t know how to use a computer or have a smartphone,” they have a lot to teach them.

Playing with friends taught him joy and how to get along with others, which is part of faith, the pope said. And going to Mass and to the parish oratory also strengthened his faith because “being with others is important.”

A couple of parents, who introduced themselves as Monica and Alberto, asked the pope’s advice on educating their three children in the faith.

Pope Francis borrowed little Davide’s question and asked the parents to close their eyes and think of the people who transmitted the faith to them and helped it grow.

“Your children watch you continually,” the pope said. “Even if you don’t notice, they observe everything and learn from it,” especially in how parents handle tensions, joys and sorrows.

He also encouraged families to go to Mass together and then, if the weather is nice, to go to a park and play together. “This is beautiful and will help you live the commandment to keep the Lord’s day holy.”

An essential part of handing on the faith, he said, is teaching children the meaning of solidarity and engaging them in the parents’ acts of charity and solidarity with the poor. “Faith grows with charity and charity grows with faith,” he said.

Before going to the soccer stadium, Pope Francis celebrated an afternoon Mass for the feast of the Annunciation in Milan’s Monza Park.

The annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary took place in her home in a small town in the middle of no where, which is a sign that God desired to meet his people “in places we normally would not expect,” the pope said in his homily.

Just as “the joy of salvation began in the daily life of a young woman’s home in Nazareth,” he said, God wants to be welcomed into and given life in the homes of all people.

God is indifferent to no one, the pope said, and “no situation will be deprived of his presence.”

Tens of thousands of people gathered on a warm spring day for the Mass amid the new leaves and fragile buds on the trees of the park.

Pope Francis used Milan’s Ambrosian rite, a Mass that differs slightly from the Latin rite used in most parts of the world. Some of the differences included the pope blessing each of the readers and not only the deacon who proclaimed the Gospel, and the Creed being sung after the offertory, rather than after the homily.

In his homily, the pope said that like Mary at the Annunciation, people today naturally wonder how God’s promises could be fulfilled. “But how can this be?” Mary asked.

The same question arises “at a time so filled with speculation. There’s speculation on the poor and migrants, speculation on the young and their future,” the pope said. “While pain knocks on many doors, while young people are increasingly unsatisfied by the lack of real opportunities, speculation is abundant everywhere.”

Finding and living the joy of the Gospel, he said, is possible only following the path the Angel Gabriel led Mary on when he told her she would bear God’s son. People must remember the great things God has done and remember that they belong to the people of God, a community that “is not afraid to welcome those in need because they know the Lord is present in them.”

Finally, he said, they must have faith in the “possibility of the impossible,” demonstrating the same “audacious faith” that Mary showed.

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In Milan, pope lunches with prisoners, visits poor neighborhood

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Catholic News Service

Visiting Milan, the center of Italian fashion and finance, Pope Francis spent the morning of March 25 with the poor and those who minister to them.

Pope Francis eats lunch during a visit to San Vittore prison in Milan March 25. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis eats lunch during a visit to San Vittore prison in Milan March 25. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

He had lunch at the city’s historic San Vittore prison, where all 893 inmates, men and women, are awaiting trial.

But Pope Francis began his visit on the outskirts of the city, at the “White Houses,” a housing development for the poor built in the 1970s. Three families welcomed the pope into their apartments: Stefano Pasquale, 59, who is ill and cared for by his 57-year-old wife, Dorotee; a Muslim couple and their three children from Morocco; and the Onetes.

Nuccio Onete, 82, was home for the pope’s visit, but his wife, Adele, was hospitalized with pneumonia three days earlier, so the pope called her on the telephone.

The people of the neighborhood gave Pope Francis a handmade white stole, which he put on before addressing the crowd.

The fact that it was homemade, he said, “makes it much more precious and is a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from the people and is at the service of the people. My priesthood, like that of your pastor and the other priests who work here, is a gift of Christ, but one sewn by you, by the people, with your faith, your struggles, your prayers and your tears.”

Arriving next at Milan’s massive Gothic cathedral, Pope Francis met with the archdiocese’s pastoral workers and responded to questions from a priest, a permanent deacon and a religious sister, urging them to trust in God, hold on to their joy and share the good news of Christ with everyone they meet.

“We should not fear challenges,” he said. “It is good that they exist” and Christians must “grab them, like a bull, by the horns.”

Challenges “are a sign of a living faith, of a living community that seeks the Lord and keeps its eyes and heart open.”

Asked by Father Gabriele Gioia about evangelization efforts that do not seem to result in “catching fish,” Pope Francis said the work of an evangelizer — of all Christians — is to set out and cast the nets. “It’s the Lord who catches the fish.”

Preoccupation with numbers is never a good thing, Pope Francis said.

Responding to Ursuline Sister Paola Paganoni, who spoke of the challenge of reaching out when so many orders are experiencing an aging and declining membership, the pope spoke as a Jesuit, saying, “The majority of our founding fathers and mothers never thought they’d be a multitude.”

Rather, he said, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to the real needs of their time and “to build the church like leaven in the dough, like salt and light for the world.”

Just think, he said, a dish with too much salt would be inedible. And, “I’ve never seen a pizzamaker who took a half kilo of yeast and 100 grams of flour to make a pizza. No, it has to be the opposite” proportion. Christians must be concerned with being leaven in society more than with being a majority.

It is not up to the pope to tell religious orders what their focus should be, he said. They must look to their founding charisms and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in all they do, he said, “ignite the hope that has been extinguished and weakened by a society that has become insensitive to the pain of others. Our fragility as congregations can make us more attentive to the many forms of fragility that surround us and transform them into spaces of blessing.”

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Vatican’s child protection panel seeks new ways to be informed by abuse survivors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors.

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a “central topic” of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it “expressed strong support for her continuing work” to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.

“Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father,” the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican.

Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines.

In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis’ letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse,” the pope wrote Feb. 2, 2015.

Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “guidelines template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said.

 

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Remember shattered walls of past divisions, pope tells European Union leaders

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront the challenges Europeans face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said.

While the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a “united and open Europe,” free of the “walls and divisions” erected after World War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, as they arrive March 24 for the European Union summit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, as they arrive March 24 for the European Union summit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the ‘dangers’ of our time, beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones,” he said.

Pope Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

Signed March 25, 1957, the treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War II. The agreements laid the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union.

Entering the “Sala Regia” of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo’s fresco, The Last Judgment.

In his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced to “a remembrance of things past,” but should motivate a desire “to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.”

“The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence,” he said.

At the heart of the founding fathers’ creation of a united Europe, the pope continued, was concern for the human person, who after years of bloodshed held on “to faith in the possibility of a better future.”

“That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive, economic and financial needs,” he said.

But despite achievements in forging unity and solidarity, Pope Francis said, Europe today suffers from a “lapse of memory” where peace is now “regarded as superfluous.”

To regain the peace attained in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise “the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.”

“The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers,” the pope said.

The economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family “and established social models” and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to discern and assess rather than “engender fear and profound confusion.”

“Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it,” the pope said. “It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”

Europe, he added, will find new hope “when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions” in order to stem “the growing split between the citizenry and the European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the union.”

The migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to refuse to give in to fear and “false forms of security,” while posing a much deeper question to the continent’s citizens.

“What kind of culture does Europe propose today?” he asked, adding that the fear of migrants “has its root cause in the loss of ideals.”

“Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”

By defending families, investing in development and peace and defending the family and life “in all its sacredness,” Europe can once again find new ways to steer its course, Pope Francis told the European heads of state.

“As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of ideals and concrete actions,” the pope said. “This will mean being unafraid to make practical decisions capable of responding to people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.”

 

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Pope recognizes miracle attributed to Fatima visionaries

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, thus paving the way for their canonization.

Pope Francis signed the decree for the causes of Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto during a meeting March 23 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Vatican said.  

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

Pilgrims walk on their knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Rafael Marchante, Reuters)

The recognition of the miracle makes it likely that the canonization ceremony for the two children will be scheduled soon. The cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation must vote to recommend their canonization and then the pope would convene the cardinals resident in Rome for a consistory to approve the sainthood.

Many people are hoping Pope Francis will preside over the canonization ceremony during his visit to Fatima May 12-13.

The pilgrimage will mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their 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.

A year after the apparitions, both of the Marto children became ill during an influenza epidemic that plagued Europe. Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9.

Francisco and Jacinta’s cause for canonization was stalled for decades due to a debate on whether non-martyred children have the capacity to understand heroic virtues at a young age. However, in 1979, St. John Paul II allowed their cause to proceed; he declared them venerable in 1989 and beatified them in 2000.

Their cousin Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and, later, obtained permission to enter the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97.

Following her death, Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period before her sainthood cause could open. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13, 2017, and forwarded the information to the Vatican.

Also March 23, Pope Francis signed other decrees recognizing miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues in six other causes, the Vatican said.

The pope also approved the bishops’ and cardinals’ vote to canonize two Brazilian priests — Blessed Andre de Soveral and Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro — as well as Mateus Moreira and 27 laypeople, who were killed in 1645 as violence broke out between Portuguese Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in Brazil.

Pope Francis also approved the vote to canonize three young Mexican martyrs, known as the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who were among the first native converts in Mexico. Known only by their first names —Cristobal, Antonio and Juan — they were killed in 1529 for rejecting idolatry and polygamy in the name of their faith.

In addition, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Franciscan Claretian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who died in 1995 after being stabbed 54 times, apparently because of her work helping poor women in India organize themselves. With the signing of the decree, a date can be set for her beatification.

 

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World needs those who can bring God’s hope, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is built on patiently enduring everything life brings and knowing how to see God’s presence and love everywhere, Pope Francis said.

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God “never tires of loving us” as he “takes care of us, dressing our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy, meaning, he consoles us and he never tires of consoling us,” the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 22.

The pope also invited all Catholics to “rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation” during the Lenten season. The pope asked people to make time for confession to “experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the father,” who welcomes and forgives everyone.

During his main audience talk, the pope continued a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope. In the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (15:1-5), he said that it is “by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

This endurance or perseverance, the pope said, is the patient ability to remain faithful and steadfast even when dealing with the most unbearable burdens. It is persevering even when “we would be tempted to judge unfavorably and give up on everything and everyone.”

The encouragement or consolation St. Paul talks about, the pope said, is “the grace to know how to grasp and show the presence and compassionate action of God in every situation, even in one greatly marked by disappointment and suffering.”

When St. Paul says, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak,” he isn’t separating the Christian community into a special class of those who are “strong” and a group of “second-class citizens” who are weak, the pope said.

In actuality, the strong are those who experience and understand their fragility and know they need the support and comfort of others, he said. And when people are experiencing their fragility and vulnerability, they “can always offer a smile or hand to a brother or sister in need,” showing them strength.

It’s about people offering one another what they can and knowing that the truly strong one is Christ, who takes care of everyone. “In fact, we all need to be carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and to feel surrounded by his tender and caring gaze,” Pope Francis said.

That strength to endure and find encouragement all comes from God and his sacred Scriptures, the pope said, not from one’s own efforts.

The closer people are to God with prayer and reading the Bible, the more they will have the energy and feel the responsibility to go to those in need, “to console them and give them strength.”

The aim of serving others then will not be to feel proud of oneself, he said, but to “please our neighbor for the good, for building up,” as the Apostle Paul says.

People will realize they are “a channel for broadcasting the Lord’s gifts and, in that way, concretely become a sower of hope,” the pope said.

Planting seeds of hope “is needed today. It’s not easy,” Pope Francis said. But with Christ at the center of one’s life, it will be him who “gives us the strength, the patience, the hope and the consolation” needed to live in harmony.

At the end of the general audience, the pope highlighted that the day also marked World Water Day, established by the United Nations 25 years ago.

The pope greeted participants attending the conference, “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome March 22.

He said he was “happy this meeting is taking place” as part of continued joint efforts to raise awareness about “the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone.”

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Don’t treat the confessional like a dry cleaners, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The confessional is a place where one can go to humbly seek forgiveness; it is not a dry cleaners where one goes to remove the occasional stain, Pope Francis said.

A World Youth Day pilgrim becomes emotional as Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, hears her confession in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. While forgiveness is "a difficult mystery" to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of "bank transaction," Pope Francis said during his March 21 morning Mass. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A World Youth Day pilgrim becomes emotional as Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, England, hears her confession in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. While forgiveness is “a difficult mystery” to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of “bank transaction,” Pope Francis said during his March 21 morning Mass. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

While forgiveness is “God’s great work of mercy,” Christians can take for granted the power of the sacrament of reconciliation and confess while being “unable to be ashamed” of their sins, the pope said March 21 in his homily during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“You did not go there ashamed of what you did. You saw some stains on your conscience and you were mistaken because you believed the confessional was a dry cleaners to remove stains,” he said.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Daniel in which the people of Israel humbly beg God to pardon their sins, the pope said shame was “the first step” in seeking forgiveness.  

However, he noted, the Gospel reading from St. Matthew recounts Jesus’ parable of the ungrateful servant who, although forgiven of a debt, refused to show the same mercy to another.

While forgiveness is “a difficult mystery” to comprehend, the Gospel helps Christians understand that going to confession is more than just making some kind of “bank transaction,” the pope said.

“If you are not aware of being forgiven you will never be able to forgive, never,” he said. “There is always that attitude of wanting to take others to task. Forgiveness is total. But it can only be done when I feel my sin, when I am ashamed and ask forgiveness of God and feel forgiven by the father so I can forgive.”

Like the ungrateful servant in Jesus’ parable, Christians can be tempted to leave the confessional thinking that “we got away with it.” This feeling, the pope said, is “the hypocrisy of stealing forgiveness, a pretend forgiveness.”

For this reason, he added, it is important to “ask for the grace of shame before God.”

“It is a great grace! To be ashamed of our own sins and thus receive forgiveness and the grace of generosity to give to others because if the Lord has forgiven me so much, who am I to not forgive?” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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