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At Mass, Jesus seeks to bring others with him to salvation, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — If people really understood that participating at Mass is witnessing Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, then maybe they would stop taking pictures, talking, making comments and acting as if it were some kind of show, Pope Francis said.

“This is Mass: to enter into Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension. When we go to Mass, it is as if we were going to Calvary, it’s the same,” the pope said Nov. 22 during his weekly general audience. Read more »

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Eucharist is reminder of God’s love, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God’s love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said.

The Eucharist should “heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism,” he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. “May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.”

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people, including children who made their first Communion this spring, gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away.

The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year.

Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze.

The truck had made its first appearance in 1994 when St. John Paul II began having difficulty walking. He and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI would ride on the truck, kneeling or sitting before the monstrance.

Elected at the age of 76, Pope Francis walked behind the truck for the 1-mile procession in 2013. But beginning in 2014, because of his difficulty walking long distances and in order to avoid drawing attention away from the Eucharist, he met the procession at St. Mary Major instead of participating in it.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the Eucharist “is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God’s love for us.”

Just as the Israelites were called to remember how God led them safely through the desert, he said, “remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation.”

“Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant,” Pope Francis said.

Remembering, he said, keeps people “mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.”

Pope Francis said it seems that today people’s ability to remember and be mindful is weakening.

“Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl,” he said. “We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories.”

But the focus on living for the moment, he said, often means living superficially and without a focus on “who we are and where we are going.”

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the pope said, reaches people even in their “fragmented lives,” reminding them how Christ was broken for their salvation and continues to offer himself in the “loving fragility” of the Eucharist.

“In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life,” he said.

“The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus’ words and deeds, the taste of his passion, the fragrance of his Spirit,” he said. “When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love.”

At the same time, the pope said, the Eucharist is a reminder that Christians are not isolated individuals but are called to receive Christ’s body together and to build up the body of the church.

“In experiencing this Eucharist,” he told those at the Mass, “let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love that makes us one body and leads us to unity.”

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In Eucharist, find strength to share bread and faith with others, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — A Corpus Christi procession should honor Christ’s gift of himself in the Eucharist, but also should be a pledge to share bread and faith with the people of the cities and towns where the processions take place, Pope Francis said.

Just as the “breaking of the bread” became the icon of the early Christian community, giving of oneself in order to nourish others spiritually and physically should be a sign of Christians today, the pope said May 26, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Pope Francis leads Benediction outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the feast of Corpus Christi in Rome May 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis leads Benediction outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the feast of Corpus Christi in Rome May 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On a warm spring evening, the pope’s celebration began with Mass outside Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran and was to be followed by a traditional Corpus Christi procession from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one mile away. Hundreds of members of parish and diocesan confraternities and sodalities — dressed in blue, brown, black or white capes and robes — joined the pope for Mass and would make the nighttime walk to St. Mary Major for eucharistic benediction with him.

“May this action of the eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command,” he said in his homily. The procession should be “an action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.”

In every celebration of the Eucharist, the pope said, the people place simple bread and wine into “poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit” and Jesus “gives us his body and his blood.”

The people’s gifts are an important part of the process, just as they were when Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish, Pope Francis said.

“It is Jesus,” he said, “who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish.”

“Jesus wanted it this way,” he said. Rather than letting the disciples send the people away to find food, Jesus wanted the disciples to “put at his disposal what little they had.”

“And there is another gesture: The pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people,” Pope Francis said.

The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish, he said, “signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood. And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.”

Later in the Mass, a couple with four children and a grandmother with her three grandchildren brought the gifts of bread and wine to the pope for consecration.

Pope Francis urged the crowd gathered on the lawn outside the basilica to consider all the holy men and women throughout history who have given their lives, “’broken themselves,” in order to nourish others.

“How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well,” he said. “How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated.”

The source of strength for such given, he said, is found in “the Eucharist, in the power of the risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”

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Archbishop Hebda named to head St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese

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Catholic News Service

St. PAUL, Minn. — Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda said his Holy Thursday appointment to head the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis highlights the connection between his new role and the Eucharist, priesthood and service.

Pope Francis has named Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda to head the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Hebda, who has been apostolic administrator of the Minnesota archdiocese since last June, is pictured in a 2015 photo. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

Pope Francis has named Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda to head the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Hebda, who has been apostolic administrator of the Minnesota archdiocese since last June, is pictured in a 2015 photo. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

“It’s the Eucharist that brings us together,” he told The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper. “The bishop is called to be that source of unity in his local church and where that takes place is at the table of the Lord.”

His appointment was announced in Washington March 24 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States. It comes nine months after the archbishop was named apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Hebda, 56, has been at the helm of the archdiocese as it has faced significant challenges, including bankruptcy and criminal and civil charges, since the June 2015 resignation of his predecessor, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche. An installation Mass is being planned for May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

Prior to the March 24 appointment, Archbishop Hebda was coadjutor archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, on track to automatically succeed Archbishop John J. Myers when he retires. Archbishop Myers turns 75 in July; canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope at that age.

Archbishop Hebda has been dividing his time between Newark and the Twin Cities, but made it clear at the onset of his duties in Minnesota that his priority was the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as long as he was its apostolic administrator.

The Pittsburgh native called the archbishop appointment to St. Paul and Minneapolis a shock, because he never seriously entertained the idea of staying in Minnesota, he said, even though many in the archdiocese said they hoped he would.

“I … knew that Pope Francis had already given me responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Newark, so really that’s what I’d been thinking of all along,” he said. “Monday evening (March 21) we had our chrism Mass in Newark, so I was already taking notes about what I would hope to do at next year’s chrism Mass. That was 12 hours before the nuncio called.”

Also shocking, he said, was the short time between Archbishop Vigano’s call March 22 and the Holy Thursday announcement of his appointment.

The urgency, he said, was related to the encouragement Pope Francis wanted to show the archdiocese, he said.

“I think the Holy Father really wanted to show his closeness to the archdiocese, which was going to have to go through the Triduum without an archbishop,” he said. “While that’s still going to happen, because I’m not the archbishop until the installation Mass on May 13, the Holy Father’s action was a great encouragement to me and resolved the unsettling uncertainty that so often reigns in the vacant see.”

The archbishop said much of his role has been consumed by administrative duties. However, he hosted 10 listening sessions throughout the archdiocese in October and November to gather information about the archdiocese’s strengths, challenges and hopes for its next archbishop, and compiled a report for Pope Francis to aid his decision making. A delegate from the nunciature, Msgr. Michael Morgan, also attended some of the sessions, calling them unprecedented in the process of selecting a bishop.

Typically, the nuncio seeks confidential input from some local leaders, including laypeople, Msgr. Morgan said, but never before on this scale. “This is the closest the church comes to direct democracy, you might say,” he said at the time.

Archbishop Hebda said he heard a range of views at the listening sessions that offered insights into the life of the archdiocese, which he expects to aid him as he transitions from apostolic administrator to archbishop. They also help him approach the role with humility.

“Remembering the qualities people had indicated that they would be looking for in the next archbishop, I’m somewhat intimidated to have been even considered for the post,” he said. “I remember at one of the sessions, somebody, after hearing all of the characteristics that people were looking for in their next bishop, said, ‘Basically you want this person to be able to walk on water.’ And somebody else piped in, ‘Well, at least not to drown.’ I’m hoping I can at least tread water and try to respond to those expectations.”

Among the challenges he’ll continue to face is the archdiocese’s bankruptcy, which it entered in January 2015 because of mounting claims of clerical sexual abuse, as well as criminal charges it faces related to a case of clerical sex abuse. Under Archbishop Hebda’s leadership, the archdiocese reached a settlement in December with Ramsey County on civil charges related to the same sex abuse case. The charges were filed simultaneously in June 2015.

“It’s a still long road that’s ahead of us. We’ve been … trying to deal with all of these things in a positive way that reflects who we are as church,” he said. “I suspect that other people would be a better judge for how well we’ve done, but can attest that I have experienced a lot of cooperation and even some affirmation. When we entered into the settlement agreement for the civil charges, for example, I had the sense that many people in the archdiocese thought that we were moving in the right direction even though there’s still much that needs to be worked out.”

Prior to his appointment to Newark in 2013, Archbishop Hebda was bishop of Gaylord, Michigan, from 2009 to 2013. From 1996 to 2009, he served in Rome in the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which is responsible for canon law, serving for six years as council undersecretary.

He was ordained a priest in 1989 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a law degree from Columbia University School of Law, and a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Eucharistic sharing is call to mission, to feeding the poor, Pope Francis says in Bolivia

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Catholic News Service

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — The Eucharist is a missionary sacrament; it calls people to give all they are and have to God, seek his blessing and then take his love to the world, Pope Francis said at the opening Mass for Bolivia’s national eucharistic congress.

Obeying Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me,” he said, “demands exchange, encounter and a genuine solidarity.” Read more »

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Don’t skip Sunday Mass, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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