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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

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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.

 

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Vatican makes gravitational waves an opportunity to support science and truth

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Science and religion are not at odds but are united in the continuing search for truth in unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos.

An artistís rendition of a supermassive black hole found at the center of many galaxies is seen in this April 16, 2015, European Southern Observatory image. (CNS photo/European Southern Observatory via EPA) See VATICAN-OBSERVATORY-CONFERENCE May 8, 2017.

An artistís rendition of a supermassive black hole found at the center of many galaxies is seen in this April 16, 2015, European Southern Observatory image. (CNS
photo/European Southern Observatory via EPA) See VATICAN-OBSERVATORY-CONFERENCE May 8, 2017.

The scientific conference titled, “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities,” is an opportunity to show that “the church supports good science,” said Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory.

“We are hoping that this meeting will also be an encounter of people with very different opinions but very close friendships that come from having the same common desire to understand the truth of the universe and how we can understand that truth,” he told journalists May 8.

Renowned experts from around the world were to meet at Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo for the May 9-12 conference, which seeks to bring together science and religion in the continuing search for truth in understanding the mysteries of the universe, he said.

The 2016 discovery of the existence of gravitational waves, predicted nearly 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, was to be one of the topics of discussion. The discovery could open a new chapter in understanding celestial events and black hole regions in the universe, something that previously could only be hypothesized.

The conference also will celebrate the scientific legacy of Msgr. George Lemaitre, one of the fathers of the theory that the expanding universe could be traced to an origin point, also known as the “Big Bang theory.”

As historic as Msgr. Lemaitre’s theory was, Brother Consolmagno said, the Belgian priest was also mindful that the God’s creation of the universe wasn’t just a one-time occurrence but an event “that occurs continually.”

“If you look at God as merely the thing that started the Big Bang, you reduce God to a nature god, like Jupiter throwing lightning bolts,” he said. “That is not the God we as Christians believe in. We must believe in a God who is supernatural and we then recognize God is who is responsible for the existence of the universe and our science tells us how he did it.”

Dr. Alfio Bonanno, an Italian cosmologist at the National Institute for Astrophysics, told journalists that the conference also aims to dispel the “myth” that religion fears science, because the search for truth “will bring us to God.”

“We should not be afraid. Fear is not from God. Rather, we should go in search of this truth because truth, if we have this attitude of humility which was (Msgr.) Lemaitre’s attitude — we can also change our ideological preconceptions,” he said.

“The search for truth is what unites us,” Brother Consolmagno added. “Those of us who are religious will recognize in the truth the presence of God, but you don’t have to make that theological leap to have a desire to know truth.”

“The first step in recognizing the truth is that you don’t already have it,” he said, adding that people cannot consider themselves good scientists nor good religious people “if we think that our work is done.”

Regarding intelligent design, Brother Consolmagno said that its original intention as a way of looking at the universe and seeing “the design of a good God” has been misused.

“If you mean that you can use our scientific ignorance as a way proving the existence of God, that would not be a God I would want to believe in,” he said.

God, he continued, is not something one arrives to at the end of scientific research, but rather its starting point. In that way, “we then can see the hand of God in how we observe the universe.”

“I am afraid of a God that could be proved by science because I know my science well enough to not trust it,” the director of the Vatican Observatory said.

Brother Consolmagno said it was important for scientists who are believers to make their science known to their fellow parishioners and remind them that “science was an invention of the medieval universities that the church founded.”

“The logic of science comes out of the logic of theology and if there is a rivalry, it’s a sibling rivalry,” he said. “We need to know that it’s a crime against science to say, ‘only atheists can do it’ because that would eliminate so many wonderful people from so many different religions who could contribute so much to science.”

 

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Pope urges Venezuela’s bishops to stay close to suffering people

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While violent protests continue to break out in the streets of Venezuela, Pope Francis urged the country’s bishops to remain close to the poor and needy.

“My dear brothers, I encourage you to not allow the beloved children of Venezuela to be overcome by mistrust or despair, for these are the evils that penetrate people’s hearts when they do not see prospects for the future,” the pope wrote in a letter May 5 to the country’s bishops.

Demonstrators rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3. Two days later, Pope Francis urged the country's bishops to remain close to the poor and needy. (CNS/ Reuters)

Demonstrators rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3. Two days later, Pope Francis urged the country’s bishops to remain close to the poor and needy. (CNS/ Reuters)

Venezuela has descended into chaos after years of food shortages and economic turmoil under embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Despite expressing a willingness to negotiate with the opposition, he has been accused of tightening his grip on power and suppressing any threat to his rule.

Protests began after March 29, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled to dissolve the country’s parliament, in which the opposition had a two-thirds majority following the 2015 elections. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro.

Although the Supreme Court restored parliament’s authority after local and international outcry, protests against Maduro’s government continued to escalate.

Venezuela’s bishops have been vocal against the dire conditions and denounced the government’s attempts to change the constitution in order to remain in power, saying that the plan seeks to impose “a totalitarian, militaristic, police, violent and repressive system that has given rise to the evils suffered by our country today.”

“We make our own the pain of the Venezuelan people and say: ‘Enough of so much repression!’” the bishops said in a letter published May 5.

The bishops also called on the people to continue “to raise their voice in protest without falling into the game of those who, while generating violence, want to bring the country into greater confrontation in order to aggravate the situation and stay in power.”

According to Reuters, as of May 6 the protests had resulted the deaths of 37 people, including a 20-year-old demonstrator who was shot in the head.

In his letter to the bishops, Pope Francis said that he is “following the situation of the beloved Venezuelan people with great concern” and the rising numbers of people killed or wounded “do not help to solve the problems, but only provoke more suffering and pain.”

He thanked the Venezuelan bishops for their “continued call to avoid any form of violence, to respect citizens’ rights and to defend human dignity and fundamental rights.”

The pope also conveyed his solidarity with the nation’s priests, religious men and women and laypeople who “suffer for lack of food and medicine,” noting that “some even have endured personal attacks and violent acts in their churches.”

“I wish to express my solidarity with each of you and thank you for your closeness to the flock entrusted to you, especially with the poorest and neediest, as well as for your initiatives to promote solidarity and generosity among Venezuelans,” he said.

Calling on the nation’s bishops and clergy to continue promoting peace, Pope Francis urged them to remain united, adding that “communion among yourselves and your priests will enlighten them to find the right path.”

“I offer my prayers to the risen Lord so that he may pour upon you, my dear brothers, and over the beloved people of Venezuela his abundant Easter gifts of peace which he himself, victorious over death, granted the apostles, freeing them from all fear,” he said.

     

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope ordains 10, calls on priests to lighten burdens of Christ’s people

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VATICAN CITY — A priest who does not willingly embrace Christ’s cross and who does not try to lighten the burdens of his people is not worthy of the name, Pope Francis told 10 men he was about to ordain.

“A priest who perhaps has studied a lot of theology and has one, two or three degrees, but has not learned to carry the cross of Christ is useless,” the pope said May 7. “He might be a good academic, a good professor, but not a priest.”

During Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis ordained six priests for the Diocese of Rome and one each for the

Pope Francis ordains 10 priests for the Diocese of Rome during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 7. (CNS photo/Maria Grazie Picciarella, pool)

Pope Francis ordains 10 priests for the Diocese of Rome during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 7. (CNS photo/Maria Grazie Picciarella, pool)

Brothers of Our Lady of Mercy, the Peru-based Family of Disciples, the Apostolic Prefecture of Azerbaijan and the Diocese of Nocera Inferiore-Sarno, Italy. The men were between the ages of 26 and 38.

Pope Francis used the prescribed homily for the ordination although, as usual, he added comments.

To the admonition that priests nourish their people with sound doctrine, Pope Francis added a request that they speak simply and clearly.

“Don’t give homilies that are too intellectual and elaborate,” he said. “Speak simply, speak to people’s hearts, and this preaching will be true nourishment.”

Pope Francis asked the new priests to be particularly merciful with penitents in the confessional. “Don’t lay on the shoulders of the faithful burdens that they cannot carry and that you couldn’t either. That is the reason Jesus rebuked the doctors of the law and called them hypocrites.”

“You were chosen by the Lord not to advance your career, but to carry out this service,” the pope told the men. “Please, don’t be ‘lords,’” but pastors who model their service on Jesus, the good shepherd.

Shortly after the Mass, before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer at noon, Pope Francis told visitors in St. Peter’s Square that Jesus expressed his authority in service, leading his flock “by giving his life and not asking others to sacrifice theirs.”

“One can trust such a leader, like the sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd, because they know that with him they will be led to good and abundant pastures,” the pope said.

Before giving his blessing to an estimated 25,000 people gathered in the square below, Pope Francis invited four of the newly ordained Rome priests to his window. They joined him in blessing the crowd below.

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Pope Francis to meet President Trump at Vatican May 24

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis May 24 as part of his first foreign trip as president.

White House officials said the visit will be part of a trip that will include stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia before Trump attends a NATO meeting in Brussels May 25 and the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily May 26-27. Read more »

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