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Pope prays for dialogue, reconciliation in Jerusalem

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land to “moderation and dialogue” as tensions continued around a key site in Jerusalem that is sacred to members of both faiths.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem's Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem’s Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

After reciting the Angelus July 23, the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday prayer to join him in asking the Lord to inspire reconciliation and peace in the region.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since July 14 when three Israeli Arabs armed with knives and guns killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the site the Jews call Temple Mount and the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif. The site includes the Western Wall and Al Aqsa mosque.

In his main Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the weeds among the wheat from the Sunday Gospel reading.

The farmer in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew tells his workers not to pull up all the weeds because they might uproot the wheat, but to wait until the harvest when the wheat and weeds can be separated.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all the evil, only God can do that,” the pope said.

Human beings are called to the “difficult exercise of discernment” in choosing between good and what is evil, he said, and when they fail, which all people do sometimes, the church stands ready to help with the grace of baptism and of confession.

Like the farmer in the parable, the pope said, God calls Christians to be patient as they await the harvest.

“Patience means preferring a church that is leaven in the dough, that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty washing the clothes of its children, rather than being a church of the ‘pure,’ who insist on judging beforehand who is in the kingdom of God and who isn’t.”

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Pope calls for prayers for Syrian victims of terrorist attacks

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pray for victims of recent terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal.

At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit “beloved Syria” May 23, causing the death of “defenseless civilians.”

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian targets, which included a hospital.

Before leading the “Hail Mary,” the pope asked that everyone pray for the “eternal repose of the victims, solace for the relatives” and that God would “convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction.”

Also at the audience, the pope marked International Missing Children’s Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise people’s awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children.

“It is the duty of everyone to protect children, most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant behaviors,” the pope said.

He said he hoped civil and religious leaders could “rattle” people’s consciences and raise awareness so that no one would be indifferent to the problem of children who are “alone, exploited and removed from their families and social context, children who cannot grow up in peace and look to the future with hope.”

He invited everyone to pray that every missing child would be “returned to the affection of their own loved ones.”

According to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 8 million children around the world go missing every year. These children face increased danger of falling victim to abuse, exploitation and illegal activities, it said.

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Pope Francis prays in silence before Our Lady of Guadalupe image

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Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY — Pope Francis fulfilled his much-desired wish to pray in silence before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Pope Francis touches the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Feb. 13. The Marian image was rotated for the pope to pray in the "camarin" ("little room") behind the main altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis touches the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Feb. 13. The Marian image was rotated for the pope to pray in the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

After celebrating the first Mass of his papal trip to Mexico Feb. 13, the pope made his way to the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar of the basilica dedicated to Mary. The miraculous mantle, which normally faces the congregation, can be turned around to allow a closer and more private moment of veneration.

Laying a bouquet of yellow roses in front of the image, the pope sat down in prayerful silence with eyes closed and head bowed. After roughly 20 minutes, the pope stood up, laid his hand on the image and departed from the small room.

About 12,000 people packed the basilica for the papal Mass and another 30,000 were watching on screens set up in the outer courtyard. Built in 1976, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located near Tepeyac hill, the site of Mary’s apparitions to St. Juan Diego in 1531. With some 12 million people visiting each year, it is Catholicism’s most popular Marian shrine.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s humility in saying “yes” to God’s will, he said, is a response “which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet others.”

That very humility also led her to appear to a poor indigenous man, he said. “Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel, like him, ‘worthless,’” the pope said.

Recalling the miraculous appearance of Mary’s image, Pope Francis noted that through such a miracle, “Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is.”

The pope said that despite the indigenous saint’s feelings of inadequacy, Mary chose him to “oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this shrine.”

“In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine: the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures,” he said.

God’s true shrine, he added, is the life of his children, especially young people without a future, the elderly who are often unacknowledged and forgotten and families lacking even the most basic necessities.

“The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that those who suffer do not weep in vain and their sufferings are a silent prayer that rises to heaven, “always finding a place in Mary’s mantle.”

Like St. Juan Diego, Christians are called to be Mary’s ambassadors and console those who are overwhelmed by trials and sufferings, he said.

“‘Am I not your mother? Am I not here with you?’ Mary says this to us again. Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters,” the pope said.

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Pope prays for Nepal’s quake victims, Caritas provides aid

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis offered his prayers to all those affected by a deadly earthquake in Nepal and encouraged rescue and emergency workers in their efforts.

People carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after an earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25. More than 3,600 people were known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu. (CNS photo/Navesh Chitrakar, Reuters)

People carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after an earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25. More than 3,600 people were known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu. (CNS photo/Navesh Chitrakar, Reuters)

More than 3,600 people were known to have been killed and more than 6,500 others injured after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit a mountainous region near Kathmandu April 25. The devastation included not just buildings collapsing from the tremors, but also people and villages being buried by landslides and avalanches triggered by the quake and aftershocks. The number of casualties was expected to be much higher as rescue teams tried to make their way into more remote areas.

“I pray for the victims, those wounded and for all those who suffer because of this calamity,” Pope Francis said after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square April 26.

Before leading people in praying the Hail Mary together, he expressed his hope that those affected by the disaster would “have the support of fraternal solidarity.”

“Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake” and the damage it caused, said a telegram sent April 25 by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Bishop Paul Simick, apostolic vicar of Nepal.

The pope expressed his prayers and solidarity, and “he offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they continue their rescue efforts and assistance to those touched by this tragedy,” the telegram said.

Huge tent cities have sprung up in Kathmandu to shelter those whose homes have collapsed or been damaged and those who dare not return as strong aftershocks continue, Caritas Internationalis reported in press release April 27.

“We hope to go back to our house soon, but are hesitating because of the aftershocks,” said Renuka Magdalene Thakuri, 54, who sought shelter with other families in Assumption Church in Kathmandu.

Jesuit Father Pius Perumana, head of Caritas Nepal, said the Catholic charity has been supplying tarps, tents and food, and was trying to help protect people from the rain and cold.

“People are still trapped in buildings and we don’t know whether they are dead or alive,” Father Perumana told Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organization for more than 150 Catholic relief and development organizations around the world.

It said Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Caritas partner, was sending relief materials from north India and working with Caritas Nepal to procure additional relief materials locally and in India.

“What the people need immediately is shelter. Temperatures are dropping at night and there is also rain. Children are sleeping outside at night. It is really traumatic for them,” Father Perumana said.

Immediate shelter as well as water and sanitation were among the top priorities, Caritas Internationalis said.

Santosh Kumar Magar, 29, said he was attending the ordination of a new priest in Okhaldhunga, a remote part of eastern Nepal, when the earthquake hit.

“I came out of the room, and saw two, three houses falling down around me. Some of the animals died around the same time. The people were saved because all the villagers were gathered for the ordination,” he told Caritas.

A boy, identified as Ahmed, who was staying at the Assumption Church in Kathmandu with his family, said he “felt as if I was flying because my elder brother dragged (me) from the house to the street.”

“We came to the church because we know a lot of people here so we can be together and coordinate and help each other out. Now later I feel everything is going to be all right,” he told Caritas.

 

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One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI resigned

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In retirement, Pope Benedict XVI follows a daily schedule similar to that of any retired bishop or religious: He prays, reads, strolls, talks with people and offers them spiritual advice, the Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Benedict XVI turns away after making his final public appearance as pope in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb. 28. The pope blessed the people gathered in the town square after he arrived via helicopter from the Vatican. “I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he told the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although he “lives in a low-key way, without public attention, that does not mean he’s isolated or enclosed in a strict cloister,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

Marking the one-year anniversary of Pope Benedict’s resignation Feb. 11, Father Lombardi and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s longtime personal secretary, spoke about the very normal daily life of a man who is in the unusual position of being a retired pope.

Archbishop Ganswein, who continues as Pope Benedict’s personal secretary while also serving Pope Francis as prefect of the papal household, summarized the retired pope’s day as filled “with prayer most of all, with study, with personal correspondence and visits.”

“The day begins with Mass, then with the breviary, followed by breakfast,” he told Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic magazine. “The morning usually is dedicated to prayer and study, to the mail and to receiving guests.”

Archbishop Ganswein and the consecrated laywomen who assist the retired pope join him for lunch at 1:30, and a nap always follows, he said. Pope Benedict spends the afternoon dealing with his correspondence and listening to music until 4 p.m., when he and the archbishop recite the rosary while walking in the garden behind the former Vatican convent where he lives. They eat dinner at 7:30 and watch the evening news at 8.

Archbishop Ganswein said Pope Benedict had told him he was retiring long before the Feb. 11 announcement, but under the strictest secrecy. “Instinctively, I said, ‘’No, Holy Father, it’s not possible,’ but I realized immediately that he wasn’t communicating something he wanted to discuss, but a decision already made.”

The archbishop said the “VatiLeaks” scandal, which saw the publication of confidential papal correspondence and internal Vatican documents, “did not cause or even influence the resignation.”

“The pope did not flee a responsibility, but was courageous” enough to realize he no longer had the strength to carry out the papal ministry, he said.

Archbishop Ganswein also confirmed that Pope Francis and Pope Benedict speak frequently on the telephone and have done so since the evening Pope Francis was elected.

“I was in the Sistine Chapel to greet the new pope and promise him obedience,” the archbishop said. “Immediately, Pope Francis asked me about Pope Benedict and said he wanted to call him. I dialed the number and handed him the telephone.”

Father Lombardi said the pope and the retired pontiff have shown the world that there was nothing to fear with having Pope Benedict live in the Vatican while a new pope reigned. “The fact is that the papacy is a service and not a power,” he said. Pope Benedict “fulfilled his service before God and in good conscience passed the witness of this service to another.”

As for Pope Benedict’s daily routine, Father Lombardi said it is that of “an elderly religious.” He said the retired pope’s guests come for conversation, for dialogue and “ask his advice and spiritual support.”

 

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