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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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Priests celebrate Masses outdoors after massive earthquake in Italy

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Priests in central Italy were instructed to celebrate Mass outdoors following another devastating earthquake that rocked the region and brought one its most spiritually and historically significant churches tumbling down.

Earthquake victims rest in a shelter Oct. 30 in Caldarola, Italy. Thousands of people in central Italy have spent the night in cars, tents and temporary shelters following the fourth earthquake in the area in three months. (CNS photo/Cristiano Chiodi, EPA)

Earthquake victims rest in a shelter Oct. 30 in Caldarola, Italy. Thousands of people in central Italy have spent the night in cars, tents and temporary shelters following the fourth earthquake in the area in three months. (CNS photo/Cristiano Chiodi, EPA)

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve advised priests to not celebrate Mass indoors over the next several days, including Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, which is also a national holiday in Italy.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Norcia in the early morning Oct. 30 and reduced the Basilica of St. Benedict to rubble.

At the noonday Angelus Oct. 30, Pope Francis prayed for the “the wounded and the families that have suffered major damage as well as for the personnel involved in rescue efforts and in aiding the victims.

“May the Risen Lord give them strength and Our Lady watch over them,” the pope said.

The Benedictine monks of Norcia assisted in relief efforts as well as helping to guide anxious residents to the town’s main square and lead them in prayer.

“After offering spiritual support to the people in town following this morning’s intense earthquake, the entire monastic community is together again at our mountain monastery which overlooks a now fractured Norcia,” the monks said in a message posted on their blog.

Following the destruction of the basilica built atop the birthplace of their founder, the Benedictine monks said they hoped the image of the destroyed church may “serve to illustrate the power of this earthquake and the urgency we monks feel to seek out those who need the Sacraments on this difficult day for Italy.”

While there were no deaths and some 20 reported injuries, it was the strongest quake in Italy since 1980 when a 6.9 earthquake struck the southern region of Campania.

The quake was felt along much of the Italian peninsula including 100 miles away in Rome, forcing city officials to close subways and several churches in order to assess any damage. Rome’s mayor Virginia Raggi also ordered schools to be closed the following day while the safety of the buildings was checked.

Vatican firefighters assessed potential damage to the four major papal basilicas in Rome, which were later reported to be safe and open to the public.

 

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U.S. archbishop, pilgrims were celebrating Mass in Norcia when earthquakes struck

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Catholic News Service

ROME — U.S. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck.

“I had no sooner finished (the vesting) prayer to be protected from the assaults of Satan when bang: It just hit and it hit with a vengeance. It didn’t last very long, but it really shook the building we were in,” Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, told Catholic News Service in Rome the next morning.

A collapsed church is seen Oct. 27 after an earthquake in Borgo Sant'Antonio near Visso, Italy. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore., was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A collapsed church is seen Oct. 27 after an earthquake in Borgo Sant’Antonio near Visso, Italy. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Ore., was preparing to celebrate Mass Oct. 26 with Benedictine monks in Norcia when the first of two powerful earthquakes struck. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

No casualties were reported from the quakes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an earthquake measuring 5.5 struck shortly after 7 p.m. local time and a 6.1 magnitude quake followed two hours later. Both were centered in Italy’s Marche region, not far from Norcia.

Archbishop Sample and other Portland pilgrims were visiting Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, during a trip to Italy for the fifth annual Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, an international gathering for Catholics devoted to the extraordinary form of the Mass.

Speaking by telephone from Norcia, the archbishop said that despite feeling aftershocks during the Mass, he finished celebrating and was already in his hotel room when the second earthquake struck.

Although things seem to calm down, “there were a number of aftershocks” throughout the night, he said.

“I think about three times during the night, I was halfway out of bed to get to the door,” he said. “I confess, I’m a bit of a chicken and I slept in my clothes last night in case I had to run outside; I wanted to be properly attired. It was not the most restful night.”

While Archbishop Sample was with the Benedictine monks, he said another group from Portland, led by Father John Boyle, also had “a harrowing experience” during the earthquake while celebrating Mass in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia.

“Father Boyle was just beginning the preparatory prayers for holy Communion when it hit and he took shelter underneath the altar and instructed the other pilgrims to take cover under the pews,” the archbishop said.

When the earthquake ended, Archbishop Sample said, the pilgrims went outside the church and Father Boyle brought them Communion.

The archbishop said that Father Boyle found it “very moving to see the people kneeling on the ground to receive holy Communion; it was beautiful.” After Mass, several monks helped retrieve the pilgrim’s personal items from the church before they returned to their hotel.

Pope Francis took to social media to express his solidarity with those affected, tweeting: “I am close in prayer to the people struck by the new earthquake in central Italy.”

The earthquakes, which came two months after a powerful quake devastated several towns in the region, left several churches with major damage.

Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, reported that one of the destroyed buildings was the 13th-century church of San Salvatore in Campi, just outside the center of Norcia.

The church “no longer exists,” Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia told Avvenire. “I’m trying to contact the pastor but communications are interrupted at this time.”

The rose window of Sant’ Eutizio Abbey, one of Italy’s oldest monasteries dating back to the 5th century, also collapsed following the first earthquake.

The 6.1 quake Oct. 26, the U.S. Geological Survey said, “is currently the largest aftershock” of the Aug. 24 quake that struck central Italy. The epicenter of the August earthquake was close to Norcia; with a magnitude of 6.2, it caused the deaths of close to 300 people.

 

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Archbishop of Canterbury: Failure of ecumenism would imprison mercy

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Catholic News Service

ASSISI, Italy — Churches that are not reconciled with one another weaken the experience of mercy that unites believers to God and with each other, Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury said.

By not reconciling with one other, “our worship is diminished and our capacity to grow close together with God

Pope Francis exchanges greetings with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, as he arrives for an interfaith peace gathering at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The peace gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter in Assisi in 1986. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis exchanges greetings with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, as he arrives for an interfaith peace gathering at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The peace gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter in Assisi in 1986. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

is reduced,” he said Sept. 20 in Assisi during a discussion on ecumenism.

“The failure of ecumenism imprisons mercy and prevents its liberation and its power with one another,” he said.

Speaking before Pope Francis arrived in Assisi for an interreligious peace meeting, Archbishop Welby joined other Christian leaders exploring how love, charity and mercy help foster peace and unity among Christian denominations.

Mercy is the “engine of reconciliation,” Archbishop Welby said, and it is “the source of our capacity for the evangelization of the world in which we live.”

“Mercy begins with the mercy that each of us experiences in the sacrament of reconciliation; the knowledge that we ourselves are accepted,” he said.

Suffering and martyrdom, the archbishop added, also unite Christians and are a visible sign of ecumenism for the world.

“If we do not suffer together, we do not know the meaning of the ecumenism of mercy,” he said. “When they kill us, they do not ask if we are Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic or Orthodox; we are one in Christ for them. So why are we divided when they are not killing us?”

Echoing Jesus’ prayer “that they may be one so that the world may know that I come from the Father,” Archbishop Welby said that the evangelization of the world “depends on that ecumenism of mercy.”

While they may have theological differences, he said, Christians must learn to “disagree well” and “learn to love one another with good disagreement.”

Evangelization depends on the visible sign of love and unity. If not, churches will be unable “to carry out Jesus’ command to go out into the world,” he said.

“It depends on the world seeing visibly that we belong to one another and that we love one another,” Archbishop Welby said. “Without that, we have nothing to say to a world that is incapable of resolving its own differences.”

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Pope leads 11,000 pilgrims praying rosary for Italy’s earthquake victims

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hearing the mayor of Amatrice in central Italy say his town no longer exists and knowing there were children who died Aug. 24 in the earthquakes that struck the region, Pope Francis turned his weekly general audience into a prayer service.

A man walks amid rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice, Italy, Aug. 24. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

A man walks amid rubble following an earthquake in Amatrice, Italy, Aug. 24. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Beginning the audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said he had prepared a normal audience talk on how the merciful Jesus is close to people, but given the devastation in central Italy, he decided to lead the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology reported the first quake, which registered a magnitude 6.0, struck at 3:36 a.m. with an epicenter about 100 miles northeast of Rome between the towns of Accumoli and Amatrice. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude was 6.2 and the epicenter was closer to Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict.

Smaller quakes — at least two of which registered more than 5.0 — continued for several hours after the main quake. By early afternoon, the death toll had reached 38 but was expected to rise.

As emergency workers began digging people out from under the rubble of collapsed buildings and the number of verified deaths climbed, Pope Francis arrived in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience.

“Hearing the news of the earthquake that has struck central Italy and devastated entire areas, leaving many dead and wounded, I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and my closeness” to everyone in the earthquake zone, especially those who lost loved ones and “those who are still shaken by fear and terror,” the pope said.

“Having heard the mayor of Amatrice say, ‘The town no longer exists,’ and knowing that there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened,” Pope Francis said.

The pope thanked all the volunteers and emergency workers who were trying to rescue victims people trapped under the rubble.

Assuring the people in the region of the prayers and “the embrace of the whole church,” the pope asked the estimated 11,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square to join him in praying that “the Lord Jesus, who is always moved by human suffering, would console the brokenhearted and give them peace.”

At the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, a community growing in fame because of its prayer life and brewery, the 15 monks and five guests were already awake when the first quake hit, Benedictine Father Benedict Nivakoff told Catholic News Service. Aug. 24 is the feast of St. Bartholomew and “on feast days we get up earlier” to pray, he said.

“All of the monks and the monks’ guests are safe,” he said. But the Basilica of St. Benedict suffered “considerable structural damage,” and the monastery will need repairs as well.

Within a half hour of the first quake, Father Nivakoff said, the square outside the monastery was filled with people “because it is the safest place in town, around the statue of St. Benedict.”

While no buildings collapsed, it is obvious that many homes are no longer habitable, he said. The monks have set up a reception desk to help meet their neighbors’ needs.

The basilica, he said, is closed pending an inspection by civil engineers, who were to arrive the afternoon of Aug. 24. However, Father Nivakoff said, “the facade seems to have detached” from the rest of the building and major repairs are likely.

Assisi is just 45 miles from Norcia and, according to Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, the quake was felt strongly at the convent and basilica that suffered major damage from an earthquake in 1997.

Father Fortunato told the Italian news agency ANSA that the quake woke all the friars, many of whom ran to the Basilica of St. Francis. No damage was visible, he said.

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Pope Francis consoles women rescued from sex traffickers

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Continuing his Year of Mercy practice of going one Friday a month to visit people facing special struggles, Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a community helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution.

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis sits with members of the Pope John XXIII Community in Rome Aug.12. The pontiff paid a surprise visit to the community that is helping 20 young women get their lives back together after being rescued from prostitution. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The pope visited the house operated by the John XXIII Community in northeast Rome the afternoon of Aug. 12. The community members, the Vatican said, were “20 women liberated from the slavery of the prostitution racket. Six of them come from Romania, four from Albania, seven from Nigeria and one each from Tunisia, Italy and Ukraine.”

The women’s average age is 30, said a Vatican press statement. “All of them have endured serious physical violence” and are now being protected.

One of the young women, identified only as East European, told Vatican Radio she never dreamed she would be able to see the pope up close and “tell my story to a holy person like him. I was very emotional and kept crying because I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.”

The young woman said she told the pope that she had been offered a job as a caregiver in Italy, but the offer was fake. Instead, “they kept me locked in an apartment for two weeks, drugged me, tied me up and the men, they did what they wanted with my body.”

She said she was taken to Italy in the trunk of a car and forced into prostitution. When she disobeyed her traffickers, she was beaten, cut with a knife and burned with cigarettes.

When volunteers from the John XXIII Community started visiting her on the streets, she said, not only did she not believe she could escape, but she did not think she was worth saving. “You feel like a sack of trash” thrown on the side of the road, she said.

According to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis asked forgiveness of the women on behalf of all the men who had used and abused them and for the governments that continue to do little to stop human trafficking.

“You are witnesses of resurrection,” the pope told them.

Pope Francis’ visit, the Vatican said, is another call to combat human trafficking, a reality the pope has described as “a crime against humanity” and “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ.”

The pope’s “Mercy Friday” visits are part of his personal observance of the Holy Year of Mercy; while leaders of the communities and structures he is visiting are given some advance notice, there is no publicity and no open press availability. Usually, the Vatican releases a few photographs and sometimes a short video clip afterward.

Since January, the pope has visited a home for the aged and a home for people in a persistent vegetative state; a community for recovering drug addicts; a refugee center near Rome and a refugee camp in Greece; a L’Arche community; and a home for sick and aged priests.

The Vatican includes among the Mercy Friday practice several of Pope Francis’ activities the last Friday of July in Poland: his visit to the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp and to a pediatric hospital and his attendance at the World Youth Day Way of the Cross service, which involved young Iraqis and Syrians as well as youths from other war-torn countries and difficult situations.

 

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Forgive others and find peace, Pope Francis says at Assisi

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ASSISI, Italy — Celebrating how God’s mercy has been experienced for 800 years in a tiny stone church in Assisi, Pope Francis said people need to experience God’s forgiveness and start learning how to forgive others. Read more »

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Dive into world’s problems with courage, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Dive into the world’s problems with courage and help people turn their lives of desolation into abundance and hope, Pope Francis said.

“You must take life as it comes. It’s like being the goalie in soccer. Grab the ball wherever they kick it,” he told people gathered in a Rome park for an Earth Day event.

Pope Francis smiles as he attends an Earth Day celebration April 24 at Villa Borghese Garden in Rome. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis smiles as he attends an Earth Day celebration April 24 at Villa Borghese Garden in Rome. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

“We must not be afraid of life, afraid of conflict,” he said April 24, because it is only by confronting challenges head-on and together that they can be solved.

Making a surprise late afternoon visit to Rome’s Villa Borghese park, the pope spoke to more than 3,000 people attending a four-day event sponsored by the Focolare Movement and Earth Day Italy.

In conjunction with the celebration of Earth Day April 22, the Focolare Movement tried to create a “village” in the park in the center of Rome to promote ways for people to live together in friendship and solidarity and with respect for the environment.

After listening to some of the speakers talk about their experiences helping others, Pope Francis said their work was a “miracle” in which they helped transform “deserts into forests.”

The arid, lifeless world of the desert can be found “in all of our hearts,” in cities, on the margins of society and even in exclusive, gated communities – “it’s terrible, the desert is there, too,” he said.

“But we must not be afraid to go into the desert in order to transform it into a forest,” bringing about abundant life, even if it is a bit “messy.”

“But that’s the way life is,” he said.

The only way to understand the world’s problems and feel compassion is to get close to those in need, the pope said.

“It’s a risk, but it is also an opportunity, for me and for the person I draw near to.”

Helping others must be “free” without expecting anything in return, he said. The Christian sense of “gratuity” is not to be forgotten “in this world where it seems if you don’t pay, you can’t live.”

Instead of people being the focus of the economy and the world, “they have been driven out and we have a beautiful god, the god of money at the center” of it all, he said.

Pope Francis praised the Focolare Movement’s work in Italy to help people who are addicted to gaming machines. “In Buenos Aires, I saw elderly women who would go to the bank to cash their pension check and then immediately go to the casino,” he recalled.

He asked that everyone complete “an assignment” as they return home: to notice people’s faces as they walk down the street.

Some people will look withdrawn or worried, he said. They are missing “a smile, tenderness” because they lack a kind of friendship or fellowship among people in the community.

Creating a remedy for the lack of fellowship requires the generosity, respect and courage to come together, to work out problems and to forgive, he said, no matter what people’s background or religion is. “We all have something in common; we are all human.”

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Preach hope, not a faith mixed with fear, priest tells pope and curia on Lenten retreat

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus’ call to be the salt of the earth is a reminder to his disciples to preach hope and life and not be wrapped up in dogmatic conundrums, a Servite priest told the pope and Vatican officials.

“We are salt that has lost its flavor if we are not resolute men, if we are not free from masks and fear. People want to receive fragments of life from Jesus’ disciples, not fragments of doctrine,” Servite Father Ermes Ronchi said.

Pope Francis arrives for a weeklong Lenten retreat, flanked by Father Valdir Jose De Castro, superior general of the Society of St. Paul, Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the papal household and several senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy, March 6. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis arrives for a weeklong Lenten retreat, flanked by Father Valdir Jose De Castro, superior general of the Society of St. Paul, Msgr. Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the papal household and several senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, Italy, March 6. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

The Italian priest, who is a member of Rome’s Pontifical “Marianum” theological faculty, was chosen by Pope Francis to lead the Lenten retreat of the Roman Curia; he chose to preach on the theme: “The bare questions of the Gospel.”

The March 6-11 retreat was held at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome.

In his morning meditation March 7, Father Ronchi spoke about fear, which entered the world after Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s hiding out of fear of God’s wrath, he said, indicates the effect of sin, which keeps the possibility of mercy far from him. For Christians, he added, this fear “produces a sad Christianity, a God without joy.”

“In this sense, the enemy of fear is not courage but faith,” he said.

Reflecting on the passage in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus calms the storm, Father Ronchi said that fear initially drives the disciples on the boat to “almost command” God to act and save them from doom.

However, he added, “God does not take us out of the storm but supports us within the storm.”

The church, which “for a long time has transmitted a faith mixed with fear,” is called instead to free men and women from the fear of God like “the angels have done through sacred history.”

“Be angels who free (people) from fear,” Father Ronchi told the Vatican officials.

In the afternoon, Father Ronchi focused on the Bible passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which he says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?”

The Servite priest told Vatican officials that the imagery of the salt, which dissipates in order to season, reflects the mission of a church that “gives of itself and melts away.”

“Salt and light are not intended to perpetuate themselves but to pour themselves out. And so it is with the church: It is not an end, but a means to make person’s life better and more beautiful,” he said.

Father Ronchi chose to reflect on the church’s mission to give a true witness to Jesus on the retreat’s third day March 8. Drawing from the Gospel reading on Peter’s profession of faith, the Italian theologian said Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?” is a query that “digs into the soul.”

“The answer Jesus is looking for are not words. He is looking for people. Not definitions but engagements,” he said. “Jesus does not give lessons, he does not suggest answers; he gently leads you to look inside of yourself.”

Jesus’ question, he continued, is striking given that he “does not indoctrinate anyone” nor compels the disciples to give a “prepackaged response.” Peter’s answer that Christ “is the son of the living God” is a witness that “Christ is living within us.”

“Our heart can become either God’s cradle or his tomb,” he said.

Jesus’ ordering of the disciples “to tell no one that he was the Messiah,” Father Ronchi said, extends to the church, which sometimes has preached a “deformed” perception of God and is called to preach through their own personal witness.

“We clergy look all the same: the same gestures, words and clothes. But people are asking us to ‘Give me an experience of God.’ Jesus is not what I say of him but what I live from him. We are not mediators between God and humanity; the true mediator is Jesus,” he said.

 

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Police in Italy and Kosovo say suspected terrorists threatened pope

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BRESCIA, Italy — Italian State Police in Brescia, working with their counterparts in Kosovo, announced Dec. 1 that they had taken action against four Kosovars they believed to be terrorist risks and who, police said, made threats on social media against Pope Francis.

Pope Francis pauses while answering questions from journalists aboard his flight from Bangui, Central African Republic, to Rome Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis pauses while answering questions from journalists aboard his flight from Bangui, Central African Republic, to Rome Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The four are accused by police of publishing messages “against the person of the Holy Father,” and saying, “Remember, there will not be another pope after this one; he will be the last.”

One of the four was arrested in Kosovo, the police in Brescia said. Two were expelled from Italy and a fourth was placed on a terrorism “watch list” and his travel documents were confiscated.

The four were active on a Facebook group that indicated they had or aspired to have connections to Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a terrorist believed to be the leader of Muslims from the Balkan states fighting for the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, the Brescia police statement said. The four also posted photos of themselves “with weapons and in poses characteristic of combatants of the so-called Islamic State.”

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