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‘No greater love’ — Pope opens new ‘heroic act’ path to sainthood

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood — giving one’s life in a heroic act of loving service to others.

In a new apostolic letter, the pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of “an extreme act of charity.”

Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for seven new saints in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in October 2016. On July 11, the pope  approved a new pathway to possible sainthood — giving one’s life in a heroic act of loving service to others. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for seven new saints in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in October 2016. On July 11, the pope approved a new pathway to possible sainthood — giving one’s life in a heroic act of loving service to others. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The document, given “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication July 11, with the title “Maiorem hac dilectionem,” which comes from the Gospel according to St. John (15:13): “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the addition is meant “to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues.”

For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate “for interpreting all possible cases” of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, July 11.

According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of “offering of life” would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Free and willing offer of one’s life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
  • Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues, at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way, before having offered one’s life to others and until one’s death.
  • Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
  • A miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is needed for beatification.

Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new norms arise from the sainthood congregation wanting to look into the question of whether men and women who, “inspired by Christ’s example, freely and willingly offered and sacrificed their life” for others “in a supreme act of charity, which was the direct cause of death,” were worthy of beatification. For example, throughout history there have been Christians who willingly put themselves at risk and died of infection or disease because of aiding and serving others, he wrote.

Pope Francis approved the congregation carrying out an in-depth study of the new proposal in early 2014, the archbishop wrote. After extensive input, discussion and the work of experts, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes approved in 2016 “a new pathway for beatification of those who offered their lives with explicit and recognized Christian” reasons.

Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification.

Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with “new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

 

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Assassinated French priest joins procession of martyrs, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To kill in the name of God is satanic, Pope Francis said at a special requiem Mass for a French priest assassinated by youths claiming allegiance to the Islamic State.

Pope Francis celebrates a memorial Mass for Father Jacques Hamel in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican Sept. 14. Father Hamel, seen in the photo on the altar, was murdered while celebrating Mass in Rouen, France, July 26; the two killers claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis celebrates a memorial Mass for Father Jacques Hamel in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican Sept. 14. Father Hamel, seen in the photo on the altar, was murdered while celebrating Mass in Rouen, France, July 26; the two killers claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit on the cross, at the exact moment he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ’s cross. A good man, meek, brotherly and who always sought to make peace, was murdered as if he were a criminal. This is the satanic line of persecution,” the pope said Sept. 14 during a morning Mass in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen and Father Hamel’s sister, Roselyne Hamel, along with 80 pilgrims from the diocese joined Pope Francis for the Mass in memory of Father Hamel, who was killed July 26.

Two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while Father Hamel celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation.

Celebrating the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the pope entered the chapel dressed in a red chasuble, the color symbolizing martyrdom. He reverently bowed before the altar, where a picture of Father Hamel was placed in front of two lit candles.

Archbishop Lebrun said he had brought the photo and asked Pope Francis to sign it with a note for three religious women who had been with Father Hamel at Mass that day. The sisters care for the sick in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and were not able to join the pilgrimage to Rome.

Instead of signing the photo before Mass, the pope “immediately told me to put it on the altar,” the archbishop told reporters later. “At the end of Mass, when he was greeting everyone, he signed it and said to me, ‘You can put this photo in the church because he is “blessed” now, and if anyone says you aren’t allowed, tell them the pope gave you permission.’”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the mystery of Christ “who made himself a martyr for the salvation of men and women.”

“The history of Christian martyrdom,” he said, has continued from the first centuries until today, when “Christians are murdered, tortured, imprisoned and beheaded because they do not deny Jesus Christ.”

“In this history, we arrive to our Father Jacques. He is a part of this chain of martyrs. The Christians, who suffer today — be it in prison, in death or by torture, — for not denying Jesus Christ, show the very cruelty of this persecution. And this cruelty that asks for apostasy, we can say, is Satanic,” the pope said.

Nonetheless, the pope noted, Father Hamel accepted his martyrdom and in his final moments, “did not lose the lucidity to accuse and clearly say the name of his murderer. He clearly said, ‘Be gone, Satan.’”

“This example of courage, as well as the martyrdom of his own life when he gave himself to help others, to help create brotherhood, helps us to go forward without fear,” the pope said.

Father Hamel’s sister, Roselyne, told reporters after the Mass she is convinced that neither her brother nor Pope Francis were blaming Islam for the murders. “God is love,” Roselyn said, the assassins who “killed my brother did so in the name of a god who is not the God of Islam nor the God of Christianity.”

“The assassins, I think, acted under the influence of the devil, of Satan,” Archbishop Lebrun said. When Father Hamel said, “’Be gone, Satan,’ he had already been stabbed and was on the floor. His sister immediately gave me a correct interpretation: ‘Father Jacques did not believe these young men were the origin of this evil.’”

The archbishop said that since the murder there has been an obvious increase in fear among the people of the region and priests have reported receiving dozens of phone calls asking if it is safe to go to church. “But there are more people at Mass now,” he said.

“Jesus never said it was stupid to be afraid,” Archbishop Lebrun told reporters. When he tells his disciples, “Do not be afraid,” he is telling them to acknowledge their fear and overcome it with the strength of faith.

 

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden.

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Martyrdom is not a thing of the past, pope says at Mass

February 6th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Reading the Gospel account of St. John the Baptist’s death on the feast of St. Paul Miki and other Japanese martyrs, Pope Francis said his thoughts naturally turn to those Christians being persecuted and killed today because of their faith.

“When I read this passage, I muzst confess, I get emotional,” the pope said Feb. 6 during the morning Mass in the chapel of his residence.

Pope Francis leads his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 4. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis leads his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 4. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope gave two reasons why he is so moved by the passage from Mark’s Gospel about Herod ordering St. John the Baptist’s beheading: first, because of the situation of persecuted Christians today; and second, because it is a reminder that everyone, even the great prophets, will die.

“I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of today, those men, women and children who are persecuted, hated, chased from their homes, tortured and massacred,” he said. “This is not something from the past; it is happening today. Our martyrs are ending their lives under the corrupt authority of people who hate Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis said it is important to remember the modern martyrs and those facing persecution. Feb. 6 is the feast of St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were killed in Japan in 1597, the pope said. The stunning thing is that such persecution continues “in 2015!”

The pope told the small congregation in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives that the Gospel passage also reminds him that everyone is on the same path toward “the ground, where we all will end up.”

“I, too, will meet my end,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “No one can buy life. Whether we want to or not, we all are on the path toward the existential end of our lives. This, at least for me, makes me pray that at the end I will resemble, as closely as possible, Jesus Christ and his end.”

 

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