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Pope: Catholics, Methodists can strengthen each other through shared witness of faith

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholics and Methodists can strengthen each other through a shared witness of faith, especially through acts of love toward the poor and the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

The mutual call to holiness shared by both communities “is necessarily a call to communion with others, too,” the pope said Oct. 19. Read more »

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says on World Food Day

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

“War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let’s avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease,” and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Pope Francis is pictured next to a statue of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September 2015 while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. During a visit to the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Oct. 16, the pope presented the marble statue as a gift to the organization. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO’s Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme “Changing the future of migration.”

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only “if we go to the root of the problem” — conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

“Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts,” he said, “and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament” as well as stop the “terrible plague of arms trafficking.”

“What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?” he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments, like the Paris Agreement, are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately “some are backing away” from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

“We cannot resign ourselves to saying, ‘Someone else will do it,’” he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption, particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is “a false solution” given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

“Cutting back is easy,” he said, but “sharing requires conversion and this is demanding.”

“We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn’t go beyond emergency aid,” the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others, particularly the most vulnerable, in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy’s lifeless body.

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Sesquicentennial Pilgrimage April 16-26, 2018

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Dialog Editor

 

Diocesan pilgrims will stop at Annecy, Rome, Assisi

 

Frankly speaking, the Diocese of Wilmington’s 150th Anniversary Pilgrimage to Annecy and Rome next spring will be all about Francis. Four leaders of the church named Francis, that is, will highlight the journey — Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Pope Francis, St. Francis de Sales and St. Francis of Assisi.

Bishop Malooly will lead the diocesan pilgrimage from April 16-26 next year starting in Annecy, France, where Francis de Sales, the patron saint of the diocese, ministered. Read more »

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Frescoed chambers restored in Rome’s Catacombs of St. Domitilla

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10-miles of tunnels believed to be world’s oldest Christian cemetery

Catholic News Service

ROME — Under a mown hayfield, whose dried-out stalks crunch underfoot, lies the four-level labyrinth of the early Christian Catacombs of St. Domitilla.

Jesus is seated on a throne with his disciples at his side in this fresco seen during the unveiling of two newly restored burial chambers in the Christian catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome May 30. The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are believed to be the world's oldest Christian cemetery. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Jesus is seated on a throne with his disciples at his side in this fresco seen during the unveiling of two newly restored burial chambers in the Christian catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome May 30. The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are believed to be the world’s oldest Christian cemetery. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

Ten miles of tunnels, carved out of soft volcanic tuff rock, snake and fork out in a dizzying number of different directions. Luckily, capsule bulbs of lights strung sparsely overhead work like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs leading to the sought-after destination: two newly restored burial chambers not yet open to the public.

The sprawling catacomb complex has about 70 burial chambers, or cubicula, but only 10 have been restored, said Barbara Mazzei, who oversaw the restoration of the chambers’ frescoes.

She led a group of reporters to see the finished results May 30. They were unveiled by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, which oversees the upkeep and preservation of more than 100 early Christian catacombs scattered all over Italy.

The Catacombs of St. Domitilla are believed to be the world’s oldest existing Christian cemetery and are among the largest in Italy with a total of some 150,000 burial spots.

The majority are small niches carved into the tunnel walls for poorer Christians; the niches were sealed with a slab of marble or walled up with brick. The round and sumptuously decorated cubicula rooms were built by wealthier families and trade cooperatives, whose members pooled their money for a more dignified resting place.

The newest restoration work was done on the chambers for the city’s bakers, who ran a lucrative state-supported industry of ferrying grain into Rome and making and distributing bread, which was considered something every Roman had a right to with a daily ration.

Bernardino Bartocci, president of the modern city’s association of bread makers, told Catholic News Service he attended the unveiling as a sign of how bakers continue to be and “have always been united as a group, like a big family.”

The importance and spiritual significance of bread is evident throughout Christian beliefs, he said, and the early Christian bakers proudly displayed the glories of their craft on the ceiling’s frescoes.

Pagan symbolism, such as depictions of the four seasons or a peacock representing the afterlife, together with biblical scenes are integrated without contradiction, Mazzei said.

The unifying motif is salvation and the deliverance from death as is underlined by the varied depictions of Noah in his ark welcoming back the dove, Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of Isaac, Jonah and the whale, and the multiplication of the fishes and loaves, she said.

Restorers used lasers to send pulses of precise frequencies to selectively remove specific substances — soot, algae and calcium carbonate — without damaging the color pigments and underlying surfaces, she said.

Despite the seven years of meticulous work to reveal the frescoes’ original splendor, restorers intentionally left the graffiti and autographs penned by visitors from the 1600s and 1700s.

The most prolific selfie-signature seen throughout the complex was “Bosio,” left by Antonio Bosio, a Maltese-born lawyer and scholar who discovered this and many more abandoned catacombs in Rome.

His intense exploratory spirit and stunning discoveries earned him the name, “the Christopher Columbus of the catacombs,” Mazzei said.

He also struck a new path for modern archaeology in which the focus switched from discovering pieces for collectors to understanding what those objects could have meant and disclosed about the past.

He also inadvertently revealed an abundant source of bones to feed the “martyr-mania” raging at the time, she said. He mistakenly believed the dead were all early Christian martyrs, when instead, they were simply devoted faithful who sought to be buried close to the site’s original two martyrs: Sts. Nereus and Achilleus.

While the bakers’ cubicula were to remain closed to the public, a small museum by the catacombs’ main entrance was to open in June to showcase marble busts, ornately sculpted sarcophagi and simple slabs marking the daily lives and legacies of some of the church’s early Christians. 

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter @CarolGlatz.

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Vatican Letter: Catholic and Pentecostals celebrating Pentecost with pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ very public friendship with and overtures to Pentecostal and evangelical leaders is a high-profile reflection of a relationship that already existed at the grass roots between Catholic charismatics and some of their Spirit-filled neighbors, leaders of the renewal said. Read more »

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Christian witness requires action, pope says during parish visit

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Being a real Christian does not mean being a saint, but giving witness to Jesus in word and, especially, deed, Pope Francis told members of a parish on the eastern edge of Rome.

Spending more than three hours Jan. 15 at the parish of St. Mary in the Setteville neighborhood, Pope Francis had the same basic message for the children and youths as he did for the parish as a whole: “Christian witness is done with three things: words, the heart and the hands.”

Pope Francis greets a child in the crowd outside the church after celebrating Mass at the parish of St. Mary in the Setteville neighborhood of Rome Jan. 15. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a child in the crowd outside the church after celebrating Mass at the parish of St. Mary in the Setteville neighborhood of Rome Jan. 15. (CNS /Paul Haring)

As is his custom for parish visits in the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis arrived in the late afternoon and held separate meetings with the children and teenagers from the religious education program and Scout groups; with the parents of the 45 babies baptized in the parish over the past year; with a group of parishioners who are sick or have disabilities; and with the parish council and more than 100 parishioners active in parish activities.

Before celebrating Mass, he heard the confessions of four parishioners. The Vatican press office said they were the young couple who care for the 50-year-old assistant pastor, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; a young man from the parish post-confirmation program; and the father of a sick child.

In response to the questions of the parish young people, Pope Francis insisted, “If I say I am Catholic and go to Mass every Sunday with my parents, but I don’t speak (about Jesus), I don’t help my grandparents, don’t help the poor, don’t visit the sick, then it is not witness and it is useless.”

“It is nothing other than being a parrot-Christian — words, words, words,” he said. Christian witness requires action.

Celebrating Mass with a standing-room-only congregation and hundreds of people watching on jumbo screens outside, Pope Francis focused on the witness of St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus as the Messiah.

Many of the first people to follow Jesus, including some of the first apostles, had been followers of St. John the Baptist. “How did they meet Jesus?” the pope asked. “Because there was a witness,” who told them Jesus was the one. “It is the same in our lives.”

Faith is not like being “the fan of a team” or “having a philosophy” or just following a set of rules, he said. “Being a Christian is first of all giving witness to Jesus.”

Christianity has spread throughout the world because people have given witness in word and deed to Jesus as savior. Sometimes, he said, the witness was given in small ways and other times through the great witness of martyrdom.

“The apostles didn’t take a course to learn to be witnesses of Jesus,” the pope said. Instead, they followed him and listened to him and tried to imitate him.

“But they were sinners,” he said. “All 12 of them” as the Gospels recount. They experienced pride and jealousy and “when Jesus was taken, they all ran away.”

“Peter, the first pope, denied Jesus,” he said. But they were witnesses to Jesus because they recognized their sinfulness and that their salvation came not from anything they did, but from Jesus’ love and sacrifice. “They allowed themselves to be saved.”

“Being a witness does not mean being a saint, but being a poor man or poor woman who says, ‘Yes, I am a sinner, but Jesus is lord and I will try to witness to him every day and to correct my life and follow the correct path,’” he said.

One sin the Gospels did not accuse the apostles of, the pope said, is gossip. “They didn’t speak ill of each other.”

“Do you want a perfect parish?” Pope Francis asked the people. “Then no gossip. None. If you have something against another, tell him or her directly.”

The pope returned to the theme at the end of Mass. After final blessing, he told them, “Don’t forget to pray for me and no gossip.”

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At children’s hospital, pope warns of a cancer in ‘sickness industry’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Corrupt business practices that seek to profit from the sick and the dying are a cancer to hospitals entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable, especially children, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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All Souls feast is a hopeful reminder of the resurrection, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Visiting a cemetery on the feast of All Souls can evoke feelings of loss and sadness, but for Christians marking the feast, it also is an affirmation of hope in the resurrection, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis leaves after celebrating Mass in Rome's Prima Porta cemetery Nov. 2, the feast of All Souls. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-ALL-SOULS Nov. 2, 2016.

Pope Francis leaves after celebrating Mass in Rome’s Prima Porta cemetery Nov. 2, the feast of All Souls. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Through his death on the cross, Jesus “opened for us the door of hope where we will contemplate God,” the pope said Nov. 2 at an evening Mass amid the tombs of Rome’s Prima Porta cemetery.

“The hope of the resurrection never fails us,” the pope said. “The first one who walked this path was Jesus. We will walk the path he has walked.”

As the sun set among scattered gray clouds, hundreds of people attending the Mass were seated along the cemetery walkway, surrounded by the burial plots of countless loved ones. Just before beginning the Mass, Pope Francis, dressed in a purple chasuble, laid roses in front of a tomb within the walls of the cemetery’s mausoleum.

Reflecting on the feast day’s first reading from the Book of Job, the pope noted that in the midst of suffering and darkness, “Job proclaims hope.”

“As for me, I know that my vindicator lives and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust. I will see for myself; my own eyes, not another’s, will behold him,” Job says.

Although visiting the tombs of loved ones who have passed away and realizing that death will come for each person can bring feelings of sadness, the pope said that the act of bringing flowers to a cemetery is also a sign of joyful hope in the afterlife.

The feast of All Souls takes on a “dual meaning” where “sadness is mixed with hope,” he said.

“We return home today with this dual memory: the memory of the past, of our loved ones who have gone and the memory of the future, the path we will go on with the certainty and with the assurance that came from Jesus’ lips: ‘I will raise him up on the last day,’” the pope said.

Italians, taking advantage of the Nov. 1 public holiday celebrating All Saints, traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones, often tidying up their graves and laying fresh flowers on the eve of the feast of All Souls.

Before concluding the Mass, Pope Francis blessed the tombs, while reciting a prayer to God that he would “comfort those in the pain of separation” and that those who have died will “one day participate in the paschal victory of your son.”

 

      Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Australian police question a cardinal in Rome

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Australian police questioned Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell, who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, was “voluntarily interviewed” by Victoria police in late October, said a statement Oct. 26 from the cardinal’s office.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Jane Dempster, EPA)

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding accusations of alleged sexual abuse. (CNS photo/Jane Dempster, EPA)

“The cardinal repeats his previous rejection of all and every allegation of sexual abuse and will continue to cooperate with Victoria police until the investigation is finalized,” the statement said.

Allegations surfaced in July in a report by Australia’s ABC featuring several people who accused Cardinal Pell of sexual assault; at least one of the accusations had been found to be unsubstantiated by an Australian court in 2002.

At the time, Cardinal Pell dismissed the accusations as “nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign” and a statement issued by his office said that “claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong.”

Pope Francis weighed in on the controversial allegations one week after the report aired, saying they were unclear and in “the hands of investigators.”

Speaking to journalists aboard his return flight from Krakow, Poland, July 31, the pope warned against deeming alleged accusations true or false before they are investigated thoroughly.

“If I would give a verdict for or against Cardinal Pell, it would not be good because I would judge prematurely,” he said. “We should wait for justice and not judge beforehand (or) a verdict by the press, a verdict based on gossip.”

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Oct. 26 that he believed Pope Francis knew about the Victoria police questioning the cardinal. The spokesman also referred reporters to the pope’s comments in July and to the strong statements of denial issued by Cardinal Pell’s office.

 

 

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Before St. Ignatius’ tomb, Jesuits begin process to choose new superior

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Jesuits gathered in Rome to elect a new superior general were invited to draw on “the audacity of the improbable” during a Mass to open their general congregation.

The order’s voting delegates, the outgoing Jesuit superior, Father Adolfo Nicolas, and Jesuits living in Rome celebrated the Mass at Rome’s Church of the Gesu Oct. 2, before the tomb of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Jesuit delegates attend the opening Mass for the general congregation of the Society of Jesus at the Church of the Gesu in Rome Oct. 2. Jesuit delegates from around the world are meeting in Rome to elect a new superior general. (CNS photo/Don Doll, S.J.)

Jesuit delegates attend the opening Mass for the general congregation of the Society of Jesus at the Church of the Gesu in Rome Oct. 2. Jesuit delegates from around the world are meeting in Rome to elect a new superior general. (CNS photo/Don Doll, S.J.)

The principal celebrant at the Mass was Father Bruno Cadore, superior general of the Dominicans. He said in his homily that the Society of Jesus is called “to dare the audacity of the ‘improbable’” along with the “evangelical willingness to do it with the humility” of knowing everything depends on God.

In the day’s Gospel reading, the apostles’ request to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith,” was an apt and beautiful prayer for opening the general congregation, the Dominican priest said.

Jesus teaches faith is necessary, even if it is “as modest in appearance as a mustard seed,” he said. Disciples must remember they remain “unworthy servants” while they dare to aim for the incredible and seemingly impossible, such as rebuilding and renewing a broken world.

The audacity of evangelization is about pointing people to the one who “has done the improbable when he destroyed death and made life and immortality shine through the Gospel.”

Jesus still invites everyone to make themselves servants of a table, “a table of sinners, a table of welcome for all to which are invited the blind and the lame, Pharisees and publicans, adulterers and good people,” he said.

He also urged the Jesuits to find the strength and creativity of fidelity to the Holy Spirit “as he leads us to encounter and to listen to the other.”

The current superior, Father Adolfo Nicolas, formally presented his resignation Oct. 3 and named U.S. Father James E. Grummer, provincial of the Wisconsin Province, to be vicar general of the Jesuits for the period up until a new superior general is elected, probably around Oct. 10.

Father Nicolas announced in 2014 that he would tender his resignation this year after more than eight years in office. He turned 80 in April.

Like the pope, the superior general of the Jesuits is elected for life, although the Jesuit constitutions include provisions for the superior general to resign. In 2008, Father Nicolas succeeded Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who resigned at age 79.

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